What's next for Adobe Lightroom? Predictions for 2023 and beyond
Photo by Peter Herrmann on Unsplash

What's next for Adobe Lightroom? Predictions for 2023 and beyond

Thoughts about new features and functionality that may (or may not) be coming to Adobe Lightroom, Lightroom Classic and Camera Raw

Recently I received an email from Adobe asking me to participate in a user survey about their products. Normally I ignore emails like these, but they happened to catch me while traveling and feeling a bit bored, so I thought...hell, why not?

To my surprise, the survey contained quite a lot of information about what Adobe may be planning for Lightroom.

In the survey, Adobe asked a bunch of questions about Lightroom Classic versus Lightroom, including which I prefer, which I use more, which is better for different tasks, etc. But then the survey shifted to new features ideas with the following multiple choice answers:

  • I would be disappointed if Adobe spent time on this
  • I am not interested, it doesn't really benefit me
  • I am interested and would be excited to see this
  • I want this now!

Here are the feature ideas from the survey along my answers and thoughts.

#1 — Color improvements: deeper color capabilities that give more control and help with color harmonization

My answer: I want this now!

Their description is rather vague, but reading between the lines, I think what Adobe is alluding to here is the use of artificial intelligence to intelligently modify color hue, saturation and luminosity (and perhaps the shadow, midtone and highlight wheels in the color grading panel as well) to achieve specific creative looks. Could be something where background colors automatically change to complement the color of a subject, or something to that effect. Hard to tell what exactly they're describing, but anything that makes editing color easier and more intuitive is all good with me.

#2 — Personalized edit style: suggest adjustments based on my previous edits

My answer: I am interested and would be excited to see this

I feel like I've seen this functionality in some other product or plugin, but this sounds like a time-saving tool that could "learn" how a Lightroom user typically edits their images over time. How heavy their contrast typically is, how they set their black and white points, split toning, vignette, and other adjustments. Perhaps Lightroom could offer a menu of "looks" built from prior edits, with previews to automatically apply to new images. Probably wouldn't be one-click-and-done, but at least a good head start.

#3 — GIFs: convert a series of images or short video clips into a high resolution GIF

My answer: I would be disappointed if Adobe spent time on this

I feel that there are already plenty of applications and services out there for creating GIFs (including Photoshop and Premiere), so I'm not sure why Lightroom would offer it. I'd rather see this added to Adobe Bridge.

#4 — Background removal: remove part or entire background of an image

My answer: I am interested and would be excited to see this

If there was a "I am interested, but not for me" option, I would have picked that. Not the type of feature I would use all that frequently, but could see being popular with product and portrait photographers. Could see this being implemented as another AI masking tool similar to "Select Sky" and "Select Subject" currently in Lightroom.

#5 — Adaptive Auto Tone: enhancements to Auto Tone that can apply adapted edits based on the contents or histogram of [an] image

My answer: I am interested and would be excited to see this

This sounds to me like the auto adjustment tools in DxO Photo Lab, a different raw photo editing application I produced a video about a while back. Assuming Adobe does something similar, Lightroom could automatically adjust lighting, brighten skin tone, lift shadows and/or lower highlights, increase midtone contrast, or other options that simplify and automate edits. Could be a great feature for new users.

#6 — Simple text: Adding text to a photo, to create a caption or meme, etc

My answer: I am not interested, it doesn't really benefit me

Perhaps this would be helpful to photographers who need to append annotations or notes for clients to their exported images, but I can't see myself using it. Does however sound like a more useful tool than the Web and Slideshow interfaces currently in Lightroom Classic (does anyone still use those?)

#7 — Distraction identification: Automatically detect distractions in photos and make suggestions for removal or suppression

My answer: I am interested and would be excited to see this

My answer to this prompted a follow-up question asking what kind of distractions I most commonly remove, including options for dirt and dust, telephone poles, birds and insects, skin wrinkles, trash and lampposts, text and logos on clothing, etc. I envision this being implemented as a single "Remove distractions" button and menu option, with configurable options to control what Lightroom should look for (and ignore).

#8 — Current features: Focus product team effort on addressing existing features (improve performance, increase speed, consistency across app, or other areas where the experience could be better)

My answer: I want this now!

This doesn't strike me as a particularly sincere question (who doesn't want better speed, performance, etc?), but rather an attempt to gauge how interesting the aforementioned feature ideas were in relation to the current state of the product.

Overall, it appears that Adobe is pushing further into AI and expanding Lightroom's "intelligent" editing capabilities. One thing Adobe didn't ask about in this survey — but I proposed as an answer to a separate question — was to put effort into modernizing Lightroom Classic's interface to be more in-line with the look and feel of other CC apps, and remove outdated functionality (eg, Slideshow and Web).

Perhaps a singular "Adobe Lightroom" (no more "Classic") application that incorporates all features from both apps in a single application? I have to think Adobe must be tired of continuing to commit development resources to both apps, maintaining and updating their code with each update, so it wouldn't surprise me to see them move in this direction.

Whatever happens in the future, it will certainly be interesting to watch!

What do you think Adobe will do? How would you answer the same questions? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Here's the video version of this post.