Adobe Gives Lightroom New Facial Recognition and HDR Features, An Android Update, And More

The app for wrangling images is going way beyond basic photo organization.

Adobe is announcing an upgrade to Creative Cloud Photo, the cheapest version–$10 a month–of its pay-as-you-go creativity suite. In the case of Creative Cloud Photo, the suite has two core components: Lightroom and Photoshop. And the upgrade is really about meaty revisions to the Mac and Windows versions of Lightroom.


The line between Lightroom and Photoshop’s missions has always been a bit blurry. Basically, Lightroom is for organizing photos and performing quick tweaks that don’t take more than a few clicks, while Photoshop gives you all the detail-oriented image-editing tools you ever wanted, and then some. That concept doesn’t change in this update. Still, Adobe is upping the ante on what you can accomplish in Lightroom without much effort.

Among the new Lightroom features:

Facial recognition helps you identify and tag the people in your pictures, so you can quickly find photos with a particular individual. (If you move a photo out of the app–by uploading it to Facebook, for instance–the information about the people in it stays in Lightroom, so you don’t unwittingly associate a photo with a name.)

HDR merge can combine two or more images of the same scene taken at different exposures–such as with a camera’s bracketing feature–into one high dynamic-range photo in which nothing is too dark or too light.

Panorama merge does something similar to a feature built into many cameras and smartphones: It stitches multiple images into one ultrawide photo.

Filter brush lets you adjust where a graduated effect is applied to an image, which is handy if you want, for instance, to restrict it to the background and leave foreground objects untouched.


New slideshow features let you meld images and music in more sophisticated ways, including “Ken Burns” panning effects and transitions that are timed to the beats of a song.

Improved performance makes Lightroom anywhere from 122% to almost 8,000% faster, depending on the task and the type of Windows PC or Mac you’re using, according to Adobe.

A new version of Lightroom for Android tablets, along with the existing ones for iPhones, iPads, and Android phones.

Lightroom’s new facial recognition feature

As far as Adobe is concerned, the best way to get this new version of Lightroom is as part of Creative Cloud. The $10-per-month Creative Cloud Photo plan includes Mac, Windows, and mobile versions of Lightroom and Photoshop, plus a couple of newish mobile multimedia authoring tools–Voice and Slate–which you can also use for free in standalone form. The Creative Cloud service syncs all your photos between all the apps on all your devices.

In a move that wasn’t a given, Adobe is also selling the new version as a $149 piece of conventional packaged software under the name Lightroom 6. Most of the company’s creativity apps are no longer available in that form, which doesn’t include Photoshop or any of the connectivity that’s part of Creative Cloud. But–for now at least–Lightroom remains available in whatever way you want to buy it.


About the author

Harry McCracken is the technology editor for Fast Company, based in San Francisco. In past lives, he was editor at large for Time magazine, founder and editor of Technologizer, and editor of PC World.