Whether and When Lightroom Users Should Install macOS Catalina


Lightroom Compatibility with macOS CatalinaApple last week released its new operating system for Macs, OS Catalina (10.15). In this article I will discuss known compatibility issues between Lightroom Classic and Catalina and between the cloud-based Lightroom and Catalina, and I’ll give you my two cents on when you should upgrade to Catalina.

In a nutshell, for those using the latest version of Lightroom Classic or the cloud-based Lightroom, there have been some issues with the Catalina update – a few of which have popped up after the launch of Catalina. While they aren’t big and there are workarounds for them, it’s most straightforward to hold off on upgrading until Adobe fixes them. Keep in mind also that an operating system update has the potential to impact any or all software applications and peripherals that you use, so in deciding when/whether to upgrade you should investigate known issues with other software you use, and make sure you are using the latest drivers for your peripherals, such as printers, scanners, and tablets (Wacom or other). Given the potential breadth of issues introduced with operating system updates, I think it’s generally a very good idea to hold off on updating your operating system for at least a few months to give software developers time to work out the kinks in their software and drivers that are discovered after Catalina’s release.

I will update this article if and when I become aware of other Lightroom issues caused by the Catalina update. (This article was updated on November 8, 2019.) For the latest information, please check back here rather than emailing me.

Lightroom Classic Logo Adobe is reporting only three known Catalina compatibility issues affecting Lightroom Classic:

  • When importing from an iPhone with your iPhone plugged into your computer, scrolling through the grid in the Import dialog can cause Lightroom to crash. Workaround: use Windows File Explorer / Mac FInder to copy photos from your iPhone to your computer, and then import the photos into Lightroom.
  • Tethering with Nikon cameras: if you turn your Nikon camera on after invoking tethered capture, Lightroom doesn’t detect the camera. Workaround: Turn your camera on before invoking tethered capture.
  • The Lens Profile Creator does not work under Catalina, since it is 32-bit and Catalina only supports 64-bit applications. Adobe is working on updating the app. That said, most of you don’t use this app. (The profiles that have been available in the Lens Corrections panel of Lightroom are still there.

In addition, the following issues have been reported in the forums:

If that workaround doesn’t work, then outside of Lightroom using Mac Finder, copy your images from your memory card to your computer and then import them.

  • File permission issues: if when exporting, receiving a message that Lightroom can’t write to the hard drive location chosen, or if in Lightroom you get “File Not Found” messages for images that are where they are supposed to be in Finder, then Lightroom may not have permission to view or work with your files. Go to System Preferences, and click on the Privacy tab. Click on the padlock in the bottom left to unlock it and log in with your computer password. Next, select Files and Folders, and give Lightroom Classic permission to access all folders. Finally, click on the padlock again to lock it.


Be sure to update Lightroom Classic to the newest version – 8.4.1. (UPDATE: 9.0 as of November, 2019). Some Catalina-related bugs were fixed in this latest update, before Catalina was released to the general public. Also, before upgrading to Catalina, uninstall old versions of Lightroom – due to the 32-bit installer issue I write about below, uninstalling them after upgrading to Catalina will require using the Adobe Cleaner tool – which is a lot more work.

Lightroom Classic LogoSince Adobe no longer supports Lightroom 6 and earlier versions, they have not tested them with Catalina. Nevertheless, they generally do work, as long as you have installed your version of Lightroom before upgrading to Catalina. However, as I wrote about in my Mac Users of Lightroom 6 and Earlier Versions: Don’t Install Mac OS Catalina! article, Catalina no longer supports 32-bit applications and the installers for these versions are 32-bit, so should you ever need to uninstall and reinstall Lightroom (if you encounter a Lightroom bug or a hard drive failure, for example), you won’t be able to – you’ll be permanently locked out. Same goes if you sign out (or get signed out) of Lightroom – you won’t be able to sign back in again. Therefore, for as long as you plan to to use your old version of Lightroom, I recommend that you not upgrade to Catalina.

If you’re ready to subscribe to Adobe’s Photography Plan so that you can upgrade your operating system to Catalina and use the latest version of Lightroom Classic, watch my How to Upgrade to Lightroom Classic video tutorial for complete guidance on the upgrade process, and click here to visit Adobe’s plan signup page.  Finally, my Creative Cloud FAQ article addresses common myths about subscribing to Adobe’s subscription plans.

Lightroom CC Logo

Lightroom CC

Cloud-based Lightroom 2.4.1 and later work with OS Catalina. To see what version you’re running, go to Help>System Info. If you’re not using at least 2.4.1, update (Help>Updates) before upgrading your operating system to Catalina, and if you have older versions still on your computer, uninstall them. If you are stuck using an earlier version of cloud-based Lightroom due to system requirements of newer versions, then do not upgrade to Catalina – you’ll face the same 32-bit installer issues I write about above in the Lightroom Classic section.

Known issues in Lightroom 2.4.1:

  • Migration of photos of Apple Photos to Lightroom (File > Migrate From… > Apple Photos Library) fails with “Migration was not successful” dialog. This is an Apple issue that Adobe is working with them on. In the meantime you can manually import photos from Apple Photos: find your Photos library file (usually in Pictures), then right-click and choose Show Package Contents. Copy the Masters folder to a new (temporary) location on your hard drive, then import them as you would other photos, using Lightroom’s Add Photos (Import) process.
  • The Lens Profile Creator does not work under Catalina, since it is 32-bit and Catalina only supports 64-bit applications. Adobe is working on updating the app. That said, most of you don’t use this app. (The profiles that have been available in the Optics panel of Lightroom are still there.
  • When launching Lightroom, a red banner appears on top stating /[volume name]/ is disconnected. Please reconnect to finish syncing. This is a sign that you have not yet updated to Lightroom 2.4.1 – doing so will resolve this issue.


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