Hacking Lightroom CC – Editing Photos Locally Without Using Cloud

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If you remember my article, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from Adobe,” where I tried to make sense of Adobe’s latest announcements and how their new direction affected photographers, I was not very impressed with the new cloud-based Lightroom CC.

Here are a few quotes from the article:

“… after installing and playing with the new Lightroom CC, I realized that it is a half-finished product. It is a stripped-down version of Lightroom’s desktop version with many tools and modules missing (like Split Toning, Merge HDR and Merge Panorama, for example).”

“… I learned that Lightroom CC is not designed to work with Lightroom Classic and that users should pick one version and stick with it. This is when I realized that this application has no use to me in its current state.”

I still stand by everything I wrote in the article, but my opinion is slowly changing as I gradually implement Lightroom CC in my workflow. I am impressed with its speed, responsiveness and its modern UI design. Because of this, I find it to be an excellent tool for Lightroom Rapid Editing.

Let me explain.


The first discovery that triggered my interest was that Lightroom CC edits photos locally and not on the cloud as I initially thought.

After importing a photograph to Lightroom CC, the program uploads the photo to the cloud but it also keeps a copy on the hard drive. When you edit the photo, it synchronizes only the editing instructions in a tiny XML file.

Next, I discovered the option that instructs Lightroom CC to keep all imported images in their original locations.

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From that moment, I knew I would find a use for Lightroom CC.

Using Lightroom CC for Speed without the Cloud

Here is the workflow that I currently use.

Preventing Lightroom CC from Uploading and Synchronizing Photos with the Cloud

This is a simple hack. There is no way to disable the synchronization feature using Lightroom CC’s preferences.

Lightroom CC comes with 20GB of cloud space with every account. If you need more space, you must upgrade.

In all honesty, 1TB of cloud space is reasonably priced at only $4 extra per month. If I want to upgrade my account, it will cost me $14 per month for Photoshop CC, Lightroom Classic, Lightroom CC and 1TB of cloud storage. The price is not bad at all and is very tempting!

With my first import, I created a dummy album and filled it with old RAW images that I knew I would not use again. In 20 minutes or so, my quota of 20GB was maxed and Lightroom CC stopped uploading and synchronizing the remaining photos.

I received a tiny warning icon at the top right corner of the photogram:

Please add more storage to resume synch

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From this point forward, I used Lightroom CC as a desktop application.

Lightroom CC and Lightroom Rapid Editing

Because Lightroom CC was released without many essential tools, it is not an ideal tool for advanced editing.

But, do you know what it is perfect for?

Preset-based editing. I love how it works with Lightroom Rapid Editing.

First, you can use all your existing presets in Lightroom CC regardless of whether they are from PhotoTraces or your own creations.

Second, installing the presets is a simple two-step process. You click the “Open Presets Folder” from the Presets Panel. Then, you copy your presets to the right place.

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Third, because of the program’s speed and responsiveness, you do not have to click on each preset and wait for it to be applied. You simply mouse over the list of presets and see the results almost instantly at full-screen size!

I love it!

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The Positives

  • The application is fast and responsive.
  • I love the modern UI design that offers bigger editing sliders.
  • When you import new photos with existing edits from Lightroom Classic, Lightroom CC preserves everything. Even if Lightroom CC does not currently offer Split Toning adjustments, it carries over Split Toning edits from the other program.
  • Lightroom presets from Lightroom Classic work in Lightroom CC.
  • The process of importing presets to Lightroom CC is much simpler compared to older versions.
  • You can copy and paste editing adjustments from one photo to another.

The Negatives

  • When you edit photos in Lightroom CC, it creates a new temporary sidecar file (text file with editing instructions) and does not update the original file. This means that you end up with a new editing version of your photo that is different from the version in Lightroom Classic.
  • The copy and paste edit functionality does not work across applications (Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic). There is no way to synchronize the edits of the same photo in both applications.

To Wrap Things Up

I am excited with the new Lightroom CC. I expect Adobe to regularly update the program with new features and functionalities. I am also hoping that, in the future, I will find a better way to integrate Lightroom CC into my everyday photography workflow.

I will keep you updated.

by Viktor Elizarov
I am a travel photographer and educator from Montreal, Canada, and a founder of PhotoTraces. I travel around the world and share my experiences here. Feel free to check my Travel Portfolio and download Free Lightroom Presets.