Lr Classic Publishing vs. Backlight Publishing

In our newsletter, Backlight 3.1 First Look, I made this statement:

… the 3.1 update introduces the most impactful changes to Publisher since its introduction in Backlight 2, and finally sees it outpacing the Publish Services plugin for Lightroom Classic.

I’ve received a handful of inquiries about this, mostly people reading meaning into the statement that simply isn’t there. But I would like to clarify that here in the forum, where I can simply redirect inquiries to this answer, rather than continually repeating myself.

First and foremost, we are not discontinuing the Publish Services plugin for Lightroom Classic.

We recognize this is a valuable workflow tool for those amongst us using Lightroom Classic, and we intend to continue supporting that workflow for as long as possible.

That said, let’s take a moment to consider the reason for Backlight’s existence, as well as what’s going on with Lightroom.

Why does Backlight exist?

We had developed a pretty great toolset in CE4, running within Lightroom’s Web module. However, the Web module left us feeling constrained, and with an uncertain future for our product; more on this below.

Backlight was created as a proactive escape from Lightroom’s Web module, a way to ensure that our product would survive Adobe’s abandonment of the Web module, and of third-party developers.

What’s Going on with Lightroom?

There are two Lightroom applications: Lightroom, and Lightroom Classic.

Lightroom (formerly “Lightroom CC”) is pretty clearly the direction Adobe wants to go. It’s their cloud-based version of Lightroom, rebuilt from the ground up for desktop, tablet and mobile devices. It’s modern and slick, but it’s also a subset of its predecessor, with zero support for third-party plugins — no Publish Services, and no Web module.

Lightroom Classic (formerly “Lightroom”)— the Lightroom with Publish Services, with a Web module — continues to exist, a sort of zombie that just refuses to die. I really think Adobe would like it to die, if only their old-school users would accept migration to the new Lightroom. But photographers continue to push back on the cloud-based workflow, and the abandonment of tools they’ve grown accustomed to, for which Lightroom offers no replacement.

Time will wear down the stalwarts, I’m sorry to say. I honestly believe that Lightroom Classic will eventually disappear.

The Web module has received no significant updates in years. If anything, it seems to get a little more broken with each new release. Publish Services is legitimately cool, but has strict limitations and I don’t know for how long we’ll be able to rely on it being a thing. We’re certainly not keen to hang The Turning Gate’s entire existence on it.

And so, the answer is …

Make Backlight as standalone as possible.

I mean, we’ve been over this before. We stated this as our reasoning for creating Backlight 1 and abandoning the Web module. We stated it again when we released Backlight 2 with native publishing. And now I’m stating it yet again as we push Backlight publishing to the next level in the 3.1 update.

This also opens Backlight to users of other photo processing applications, including Capture One Pro, ON1 Photo Raw, etc. You can be a Backlight user, without being locked into Adobe. That’s amazing.

In fact, I’ve recently deleted Adobe software from my computer entirely. It’s given my laptop a new lease on life. Best computing decision I’ve made in 2020, hands down. If folks want to hear more about it, it’s a conversation I’m happy to have in a separate thread.

Let’s back things up a bit …

Once more, here’s what I said:

… the 3.1 update introduces the most impactful changes to Publisher since its introduction in Backlight 2, and finally sees it outpacing the Publish Services plugin for Lightroom Classic.

And also, we are not discontinuing the Publish Services plugin for Lightroom Classic.

And let’s talk specifically about some of the new features in Backlight 3.1.

Drag-and-drop ordering of album sets

This is an enhancement available to all users, and simply cannot be achieved within Lightroom’s Publish Services. And so, here’s an example where Backlight’s Publisher is now surpassing Lightroom’s Publish Services.

So, what about Lightroom users? Continue to publish images using Publish Services. Then log into Backlight, visit the Publisher, use it to reorder your albums. It’s a new feature in Backlight that’s available to everyone, and doesn’t not interfere with your use of Lightroom.

Setting cover images via the new “visual publisher interface”

You can continue to set your cover image using the file-name list in Lightroom, if you want to. I think it’s miserable, but we’re not able to make it an option on Lightroom’s thumbnails.

Again, you can publish from Lightroom, then log in to Backlight to make selections for the cover and hero images. Within Backlight, we can make this an intuitive, enjoyable experience!


If you’re in Lightroom, continue using Lightroom’s native watermarking features. They’re still a bit more robust than what Backlight is offering.

But for folks not using Lightroom — myself amongst them — Backlight now offers watermarking. One less reason that Capture One Pro users like me should need to keep Lightroom around just for publishing to Backlight.


Not to do with either publisher, but let’s shout out software updates. In Backlight 2, we introduced the Backlight Modules page and dead simple updates. Does anyone miss the nightmare that was updating CE4 to new versions? The update mechanism simply was not possible while our product lived in Lightroom’s Web module, and stands as a clear example where getting out of Lightroom has allowed for significant product improvement, and a better user experience.

At the end of the day …

… we want to keep pushing Backlight to new heights. And as much as we’re able, we intend to bring EVERYONE along for the ride. We want to continue to improve Backlight’s Publisher — it’s our belief that, eventually, it’s the only publisher we’ll have; and that’s likely to be Adobe’s decision when it happens — and so it behooves us to make it as good as it can be. Meanwhile, we’ll be supporting the Lightroom-based workflow for as long as we can.

Some things we can do in Publish Services are just better. If Lightroom is your jam, then nothing beats dragging images into collections and publishing those collections without leaving the software.

Some things are equally good in both places, like drag-and-drop reordering of images in albums.

Some things we can do in both places, but we’re able to craft a better experience for in Backlight, like selecting the album cover image.

Some things we cannot do in Publish Services at all, like the drag-and-drop reordering of albums and album sets. And that’s something all users — Lightroom and non-Lightroom alike — can log into Backlight to do. And if folks don’t want to log into Backlight, then they can ignore those features. No big deal.

Now, this has gotten to be very long, but I hope it clears everything up for everyone. We just want to make everything awesome.



Adding to Matt’s point about continuing with the LR Publisher Services as long as possible, Backlight 3.1 brings additional improvements to this workflow. Publisher now provides a setting to move the creation of smaller renditions to Backlight itself. So you will have the option of having LR create a single master rendition per photo with the resizing handled on the server. This makes for much faster publishing, on the scale of 2-3 times as fast as before, depending on your template settings.

We are also looking at improving our LR Plugin by offering a version that only works with the current version of Backlight. Our current plugin is compatible with all versions from CE4 to Backlight 3.1 and carries a lot of baggage with it. A possible way forward will be to create two versions of the plugin - one that brings with it compatibility from CE4, to support photographers still running older versions of our plugins, and another that only supports BL Latest (be it 3.1 or 4, whatever it may be), with improvements that can only be made by abandoning legacy support. Whatever the case, we will continue to support older versions of our plugins as long as is reasonably practical.

1 Like