Adobe Lightroom Photo Editing App Now Requires Monthly Fee

It was coming sooner or later. Adobe's popular photo sorting and editing program Lightroom is being grouped into the Creative Cloud suite of apps, meaning you'll now have to pay a monthly fee to use the latest version, instead of purchasing it outright. Announced today (April 21), Lightroom CC will be available for $9.99 a month as part of the Creative Cloud Photography plan, which also includes Photoshop CC.

Those who don't want to keep shelling out each month for Lightroom can opt for Lightroom 6, which Adobe is still selling as a "perpetual" (non-subscription) version for $150. But it will not get all the updates that the company rolls out year after year.

MORE: Which Version of Adobe Photoshop is Right for You?

The new Lightroom offers several new features, including HDR Merge, Panorama Merge, Facial Recognition (for sorting) and GPU performance enhancements.

HDR Merge lets photographers combine two or more pictures taken at different exposures into one for a more even exposure with wider dynamic range.

Panorama Merge stitches different shots of the same area into one seamless image, and you can merge the pictures regardless of direction: side by side or above and below. (Though this is a built-in feature on many cellphones, adding the capability to Lightroom allows photographers to create panoramas shot with very high-end cameras such as pro DSLRs.)

Previous versions of Lightroom already sorted photos by date, location and albums, but with Facial Recognition sorting, Lightroom CC makes it easier for you to find specific pictures of your friends or yourself. 

The program will automatically identify faces, and allow you to tag or name them as you would in Facebook. Over time, as the system learns your naming habits, it will start suggesting names for people it identifies.

Lightroom is the last of the major Adobe products to join the cloud-based subscription model. While it might seem like a ridiculous idea at first to have to continually pay to lease your program to keep using it, the low $10/month price might lure a larger audience into trying the software out. Plus, that allows people to pay for the program only when they need to use it. The software giant also announced in March a new Document Cloud offering, taking PDFs and document editing into the cloud.

Staff writer Cherlynn Low edits pictures on Photoshop. Follow her @cherlynnlow. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide on Facebook.

Cherlynn Low

Cherlynn is Deputy Editor, Reviews at Engadget and also leads the site's Google reporting. She graduated with a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University before joining Tom's Guide and its sister site LaptopMag as a staff writer, where she covered wearables, cameras, laptops, computers and smartphones, among many other subjects.