“Why the new Google server farm could displace Adobe Lightroom?” Not my words… they’re Trey Ratcliff’s. He wrote a really interesting post on the new Google technology that was announced this week over on his blog and you should definitely go take a look at it. Trey’s been a hardcore Lightroom user for a while, so it’s interesting to see his take now that he’s fully moved over to the Google side of things.

Me being a big Lightroom guy, and the attention-grabbing-ness of Trey’s headline, I couldn’t let the post go unanswered. So I thought I’d write about my take on his thoughts… where I agree and where I disagree.

Lightroom is used by more than just pros.
DEFINITELY! My seminars/blog comments/emails/feedback show it, that Lightroom is used more and more by the “casual” photographer as Trey calls it. I totally agree and I think that’s a great thing. As Trey pointed out, that is indeed Adobe’s biggest growth opportunity if they want to get into the hobbyist/casual/pro-sumer space. I was recently a guest on a TV show on the Hallmark Channel called Home ad Family with Mark Steines. I demo’d some things that Lightroom can do and the feedback I got from it was enormous. Not from the pros though – this is a daytime show. It’s targeted toward the hobbyist photographer (mostly moms and families) who take pictures for fun – not pros who do it for a living.

People segment their photos into groups
Pro-like DSLR photos go in one group and “casual” photos go in another. I totally agree here. I think there’s a difference and I think we want to do different things with each group. I think when we pull out our DSLR we want a heave-duty program like Lightroom to process them. But we don’t spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on our DSLR camera equipment to just upload the photos to the cloud and let some one else (Google servers) process them for us. So I think Trey is dead on that those pro-like photos (even if you’re not a pro, but are serious about your photos) will still get processed by Lightroom.

Here’s where I disagree
While Trey makes mention about the whole distinction between pro and casual, I disagree that most people upload their iPhone (cell-phone) photos to Lightroom in the first place. When the word “casual” is used, my interpretation from his article was cell phone photos. I think those are basic family/travel documentation “snapshot” photos. Kinda like “I was here and this is who I was with”. Photos that are there simply there to preserve a moment. From the people I’ve talked to, they’re not uploading those photos in Lightroom anyway (some are but not most). In fact, they’re not doing anything with them but leaving them on their phone. But they’re important photos right? Most people have the last 5 years of their kids lives on their phone. It’d be disastrous to lose them. There’s definitely been a hole in the market for these types of photos. I don’t think people have really had a good solution for their casual phone photos, and I think Google’s new technology is a great fit. I just disagree with Trey that people were using Lightroom for this in the first place. Sadly, I don’t think they’ve been using anything, and are at a huge risk to lose them all.

While I do think that Trey is right that this is a great fit for those types of photos, I think the title of his post is more of an attention-grabber than anything – because he’s not talking about Lightroom’s core audience. Don’t get me wrong, he’s got great points and I agree there’s some awesome technology from Google there. Hell, it’s convinced me that I need to use it more. But Google’s server farms aren’t displacing Lightroom from it’s core audience of DSLR shooters (casual or pro) just yet (see the last paragraph for why I wrote “just yet”).

What Trey Wanted to See Next From Google?
Trey wanted to see some handy Snapseed-like controls from Google as well as some other cool effects that came from the Nik suite since Google purchased them last year. He also made mention of the ability to upload Raw files. Do I disagree with that? No way. Look how many followers Trey has on G+ (5+ MILLION followers – yowza!!!). He’s at every Google event and always seems to be at the Google HQ. He’s obviously VERY tight with them, so I read what Trey wants to see next from Google as a bit of foreshadowing of what will come next :-) All good stuff and I’d love to see it. Nik had great products and I think any Nik user out there is ready to know that their beloved plug-ins haven’t died, and will continue to have a future.

As for this all being bad news for Adobe, I agree and disagree. If Trey wrote this two weeks ago I would wholeheartedly disagree. I think there’s millions of DSLR shooters out there that Lightroom is definitely still the program for them to use. Cell-phone photo cloud editing won’t change that. However, Google’s news and Trey’s post comes a week or so after Adobe’s not-so-well received Creative Cloud announcement. After reading comments on my blog and many other websites, let’s just say many photographers aren’t diggin’ Adobe’s move. So much so that many have started thinking about jumping the Adobe ship and looking for other programs to edit photos with. This definitely leaves an opportunity open for other companies to come in and try to capture that market if Adobe doesn’t figure out a way to re-engage photographers with just the programs that they need. All I can say is that I’m not yet sure where it all leads, but it’s going to be one wild ride while we get there :-)

Have a great weekend.