I love the new Lightroom ecosystem, but one of the bigger challenges we face is storage as our libraries grow. That issue is compounded now that we are adding in Photoshop, Illustrator and other large file types as well. And the cost of storage with Adobe past 1TB is expensive and scalable. So, I have an idea of how to work with that.
In reality, most of us really only need the full resolution files available for projects we are actively working on, and perhaps for final photos we may want to subsequently export for printing or other uses. That leaves a whole host of photos that we don't need to have constantly available taking up space in our CC account. So, I am proposing the idea of an "Archive" Option that would allow for us to archive the full resolution versions of our images to an external drive.
The idea is simple at its core, though I don't underestimate the work involved to implement technically. The idea would be to support both online and offline photos using a simple switch to mark albums as either "Active" or "Archive". It is a variant of what Lightroom Classic can do. It does require an external hard drive so it would only be a feature on the desktop and iPad versions to start.
I am invisioning it working something like this:
- Lightroom keeps a catalog of all photos, regardless of where they are, just as Classic does today, and stores a Smart Preview in the catalog.
- If there is no external drive associated with Lightroom, then everything behaves just as it does today.
- If there is an external hard drive associated with Lightroom, then the Active/Archive switch becomes available.
- An Album can be marked as either "Active" or "Archive" which determines where the full resolution file is stored.
- Active - The full resolution photos are stored in Adobe Creative Cloud and the external drive, with the Smart Preview in the catalog.
- Archive - The full resolution photos are stored on the external hard drive only but the Smart Preview remains in the catalog.
- An Album can move from One state to another but will require access to the drive to do so.
There are certain cases we need to take into account of course. For example, what if a photo is in two albums, one that is Active and one that is Archive? In that case, as long as the image is in one Album marked Active, it is treated as Active and saved to the cloud. What if the offline drive isn't available? Well, that is the responsibility of the photographer to have it. Should you be able to edit a file that is in Archive? That would be a question around performance. What is the order of save priority for Active photos? It would depend on multiple factors, but the general idea is to save to cloud first.
Of course, this is just an initial idea, but I think it would go a long way to making our Creative Cloud storage last.
One last thought would be a variant of this idea where Adobe offers "Cold Storage" as an alternative archive option, which could replace or augment the offline storage.