Camera Raw, Lightroom Classic & Desktop | October 2021

Adobe  ‘Max 2021’ saw the announcement of Camera Raw 14, Lightroom Classic 11 and Lightroom Desktop 5. We’ve come to expect that each new version includes new features and this time round is no exception. New features shared across all of the applications, including iOS and Android mobile apps are: a new masking engine, camera matching profiles for Canon CR3 files, plus additional camera and lens support. There are also number of new or enhanced features specific to Lightroom Classic and others specific to the Desktop and mobile apps. I’ve identified the new features that apply to each below.

Masking (Camera Raw, Lightroom Classic & Cloud Ecosystem)

Adobe pre-announced the new masking feature in late September, thus giving customers an early insight into the improvements it would bring to their editing workflow. The new masking feature is a significant reworking of the Selective/Local Adjustments of previous versions. Adobe have also stated that the work involved also lays a foundation for additional capabilities to come some time in the future. Additionally, they have also implemented several customer feature requests submitted over the years. These include the ability to organise masks in a named list, toggle on/off individual masks, invert masks (including brushes), and mix and match mask types to form a single complex mask.

Range Masks, which were previously only available in Camera Raw and Lightroom Classic are now included in Lightroom Desktop and mobile apps, albeit with the benefit of a new more powerful interface, and it doesn’t stop there. Adobe have also incorporated Photoshop’s machine learning-driven ‘smart’ selection features such as ‘Select Subject’ and ‘Select Sky’. As with selective and local edits/adjustments in previous versions of Camera Raw, Lightroom Classic, etc, the Masking features are non-destructive.

In below screenshots, I show the basic Masking UI followed by an example that involves building up a relatively complex mask.

The first pair of screenshots shows the UI for the mask types along with the the supported adjustments. Note that the masking panels can be docked to the side of the existing panels, left floating or docked within the existing adjustments stack.

Moving on to the example. The first screenshot in below sequence is the original image. I wanted to darken the sky and foreground rocks plus brighten the tree.

For the second screenshot I chose the ‘Select Sky’ mask from the options list. The AI masking engine selected the sky with ease.

For the third screenshot I used the ‘Select Subject’ option. In this example, it also selected parts of the sky. Using the Luminance Range mask allowed me to sample the sky that I didn’t want this particular mask to affect when I made my adjustments. I also used the redesigned Luminance Range slider tool to fine-tune the selection.

For the fourth screenshot I first used ‘Color Range’ to sample the foreground. However, as expected, parts of the tree also shared the same colour and were therefore included in the mask. To remove the tree from the mask, I chose ‘Subtract’ and ‘Subject’.

Finally, I adjusted the adjustment slider settings on a mask by mask basis.

In this latest iteration, the range masks now work globally, although using the add and subtract controls they can still be applied within a gradient, just as before. As such, we no longer need to create a range mask as part of a graduate or radial filter. There is also greater control over the luminance range’s falloff, although this may cause some irritation/confusion on first use.

The data (bitmap files) associated with ‘sky’ and ‘subject’ masks is stored in a Lightroom Classic catalog data container (lrcat-data) or in the case of Camera Raw, a secondary sidecar file (.acr) or within DNG files if they are your preferred file format. To avoid losing ‘sky’ and ‘subject’ data It is essential that you do not delete the ‘lrcat-data’ container or ‘.acr’ sidecar.

For users who prefer to use keyboard shortcuts rather than a mouse or pen, Adobe have provided an extensive set of shortcuts specific to masking. These can be accessed by clicking on the ? button at top right corner of the mask panel.

Masks can be copied / pasted or synced to other images. There is no restriction on the type of masks that can be copied / pasted or synced, although in the case of file to file copy /paste / sync, the procedure for ‘sky’ and ‘subject’ masks requires that you ‘Update’ the mask. This step is not required if the source file is a Virtual Copy.

Camera Matching Profiles (Camera Raw, Lightroom Classic and Cloud Ecosystem)

They’ve been a long time coming, but at last, Camera Matching profiles for the following Canon EOS cameras that use the CR3 file format are available.

  • Canon EOS 1DX III
  • Canon EOS R3
  • Canon EOS R5
  • Canon EOS R6

Hopefully, the availability of these long awaited camera profiles signal that future Canon camera using the CR3 file format will be ‘fully’ supported.

Multitasking (Lightroom Classic)

The Library module is now capable of multitasking. With this change, catalog read operations, which in earlier versions were sequential resulted in blocking other catalog operations, which caused users a lot of fustration. For example, if you apply a preset to a set of images and want to navigate to a different set of images in different folder (i.e. a catalog read operation), then you can now do it simultaneously without having to wait for previous operations to complete. Another example of where blocking occurred was when renaming large numbers of files. In below screenshot, I show what happens in earlier versions if we try to change folders while the renaming process is ongoing. Obviously, this isn’t particularly helpful. However, with multitasking, changing folders during the renaming process means that grid area will be immediately populated and you can start the renaming process, then start the next Library task.

Metadata Panel (Lightroom Classic)

The Library module Metadata panel has been redesigned to give more control to the user. This redesign includes the following:

Active Image / All Images

  • When multiple images are selected, you now have the choice between seeing the metadata for the active image or for all images (same as that in older versions). This means that when a large number of images are selected and choosing ‘Target Photo’, you can avoid the long enumeration process that blocked other operations.
  • Above works in tandem with the Metadata > Show Metadata for Target Photo Only menu option.

Customize Metadata Default Panel

Another popular feature request that has been addressed in this release is the ability to create a custom metadata field list. Simply click on the ‘Customize’ button at the bottom of the Metadata Panel when ‘Default’ is selected in the pop-up menu. By selecting this option, you will be able to customise the metadata displayed in the default Metadata Panel for the selected image(s). However, care should be taken with the number of fields selected as too many can have an adverse impact on Library module performance.

The metadata fields within the panel can also be reordered to your preference

Edit-Only Mode

A new mode called ‘Edit-Only’ is now available within the Metadata panel. When enabled (i.e. click on eye icon at top left corner of panel) Edit-Only mode, you can edit all visible metadata fields in the Metadata panel for the selected Active Image or All Images. Note that no current metadata values are displayed in Edit-Only mode of Metadata panel.

Auto Save into XMP (Lightroom Classic)

With this release, Adobe have introduced enhancements for when ‘Automatically write changes into XMP’ option is enabled in Catalog Settings.

  • With this change, Develop module edits will be saved to the XMP sidecar file only after active image selection changes in Lightroom Classic or focus is moved to another application (e.g. Edit in Photoshop). This behaviour is unlike previous versions where every single edit operation was immediately saved into XMP. For example, in earlier versions, if you adjusted the exposure slider 10 times, the XMP sidecar file would be updated 10 times. The new behaviour is that XMP will be updated only once, with all the edits being written in one go.
  • Save to XMP sidecar is triggered automatically when there is any change in image metadata and the progress of save into XMP would be displayed in activity centre. There is no need to select the images manually.

Auto Save into XMP Progress bar

  • When enabled , you should be able to see the actual images count for which XMP writing is in- progress. However, this particular feature will likely only be visible when XMP writing is to a large number of files.

Auto Save into XMP Pause button

  • A ‘Saving XMP’ pause button has been added in activity centre to pause and resume the Auto Save into XMP.
  • This  button is only displayed when ‘Automatically write changes into XMP’ option is enabled in Catalog Settings.

I suspect above changes to XMP save behaviour will be welcomed by customers who would prefer to automatically save Develop module edits to the XMP sidecar but were deterred from doing so because of the significant performance hit that the previous behaviour caused.

Catalog Upgrades and Backups (Lightroom Classic)

Catalog updates and backups are not new to Lightroom Classic. However, with the introduction of the new masking feature, the upgrade and backup processes have become more complex, albeit still automatic.

Lightroom Classic will upgrade your 10.x or older catalogs to 11 when first launched. However, as mentioned above, the Smart Selection generated masks along with the 3D LUT (from profiles) will be stored next to catalog in a folder named <CatalogName>.lrcat-data. This folder will also be added to catalog backup, as this data is needed for rendering user edits properly.

Catalog Workflows

With this release, updates to various catalog workflows have been made to accommodate masks. These are:

Catalog Import

Masks, corresponding to the images imported from the source catalog, will be copied to destination catalog’s ‘.lrcat-data’ folder.

Catalog Export

Masks, corresponding to the images exported from the source catalog, will be copied to exported catalog’s ‘.lrcat-data’ folder.

Catalog Backup

Unless it is empty (i.e. does not contain ‘sky’ and/or subject’ masks, the ‘.lrcat-data’ folder will be included while backing up the catalog (.lrcat)

Catalog Optimisation

The key changes to the optimisation process are:

  • Any mask which is not being referred to by any image will be removed during a catalog optimise operation. This reduces the possibility of orphaned masks and saves on storage space.
  • If a mask is being referred to by an image through current settings, before settings, snapshots, or history, it will not be removed during the cleanup.
  • Lightroom Classic now relaunches after completion of Optimise operation.

Library Filter (Lightroom Classic)

With this release, there’s an option to Filter by a Date in Metadata filter. Therefore, you can now filter images by a specific date in any year range. This is often referred to as ‘On this date…’ and has been a long requested feature.

Premium Presets II (Camera Raw, Lightroom Classic and Cloud Ecosystem)

The original set of Premium Presets that first shipped in the June 2021 releases were found to be extremely popular with customers, and Adobe have followed up with additional sets of Premium presets.

Recommended Presets (Lightroom Cloud Ecosystem)

The ‘Recommended Presets’ feature is new to the Presets panel of Lightroom Desktop and mobile. When you select the ‘Recommended’ tab in the Presets panel, Lightroom looks through the tens of thousands of customer presets that are available in the Discover section and uses cloud based Artificial Intelligence to suggest some that may work well with your particular image.

GPS Field (Lightroom Desktop)

There is a new GPS field in the Info panel. This field will display the coordinates if the selected photo already has coordinate metadata.

Sync Time Remaining (Lightroom Desktop)

When Lightroom Desktop is syncing photos it will now give you an estimate of how long it will take for the sync to complete. The estimate is displayed in the pop-up menu that you get when you click on the cloud icon in the upper right corner of the application window.

Crop Overlays (Lightroom Desktop)

Lightroom Desktop now has a variety of crop overlays, in addition to the default rule of thirds overlay. The crop overlay can be switched using the pop-up in the crop panel, or by pressing ‘O’ while the crop tool is active. Pressing ‘shift-O’ will cycle the orientation of the selected crop overlay.

Operating System Requirements

macOS

  • Support for macOS Mojave (10.14.x) has been dropped. The minimum macOS version supported is macOS Catalina (10.15).
  • You will not be able to install Lightroom Classic 11.0 or later builds on macOS Mojave (10.14.x).
  • If you are using macOS Mojave (10.14.x), Adobe recommend that you update your OS to at least macOS Catalina (10.15).

Windows

  • Support for Windows 10 v1903 has been dropped. The minimum Windows 10 version supported would v1909 (or later).
  • You will not be able to install Lightroom Classic 10.0 or later builds on Windows 10 v1903. Installation would be allowed on Windows Server 2016 or later.
  • If you are using Windows 10 v1903, Adobe recommend that you update your OS to at least Windows v1909.

New Camera & Lens Support

  • Details on camera support can be found here
  • Details on lens support can be found here

Bug Fixes

  • Lightroom Classic bug fixes listed here
  • Lightroom Desktop bug fixes listed here
  • Camera Raw bug fixes listed here

Disclosure: As an Adobe Community Professional I receive a free subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud.