I have been using Lightroom since its initial public beta some years ago and I am very pleased with the software in general. It is designed for photographers and its editing capabilities have significantly improved over the years. Every new upgrade brought new features or improved the existing ones, except Lightroom 4. I have written about the problems as I saw them in several posts, I am not writing to repeat them. Instead I am thinking aloud hoping that some people who have a strong voice at Adobe may actually find some merit in repeating them, relaying them to the developers.
In addition to Lightroom, I am a Photoshop user and my workflow includes both Lightroom and Photoshop. What has been rock steady in Photoshop architecture is the way tools behave. If I open a Photoshop file with many adjustment layers it will look the same as it did in the previous versions. Curves adjustment layer does not change behavior from CS1 to CS6 in any appreciable way. The image looks the same. Which brings me to the structure in Lightroom which is nowhere near this level of stability. In fact, its tools manifest the stability of Jell-O nailed on a wall!
Don’t get me wrong, Lightroom 4 is a very good piece of software, for images that you import new that is. All the previous images in my Lightroom catalog, which has been upgraded to conform to the Lightroom 4 standards, constitute now one side of the split-personality of Lightroom. For them, I see Lightroom 3 controls, sliders, and they look the way they did before. That’s a good thing. However, if I change the process version to Lightroom 2012 most of these images look different, very often significantly different. That means a large portion of my earlier photographs will either not benefit from the improvements in Lightroom 4 or I will spend considerable time to bring them to a similar state as they were in process 2010. The automatic adjustments applied during the switch from 201o to 2012 process are not even close to bringing the image to the same, at least similar state from which I may seek some benefits from Lightroom 4 capabilities.
Given this Jell-O-like transition from 2012 to 2012 process I, and many users I’m sure, are putting up with this split personality Lightroom 4 forces us to accept. This is not a good thing at all. Because first, I need to remain proficient in Lightroom 3 to review and output photographs that started their lives in that environment, and I need to develop and retain proficiency in Lightroom 4 to edit my new photographs. Second, my concern is not limited to this split-personality disorder Lightroom 4 manifests now. I am concerned, very concerned that Adobe engineers will come up with ways that may even further add to the confusion. Imagine a situation where Lightroom 5 brings “better” adjustments that improve on Lightroom 4, but a reasonable auto conversion is again not possible. Now, we need to deal with versions 3, 4, and 5. This is a dangerous path for the software and a very counter productive one for the users. Why are more users not strongly voicing an opinion against this chaotic move? Are they that much in love with Lightroom, at least version 4? As for me, Photoshop CS6 is becoming a more active tool in my workflow. Because, I know they will not pull the rug under my feet with CS7.
I would like to hear reader opinions, ideas, messages … If the users do not speak, they lose their stake in the product. Let’s bring some level of stability to Lightroom architecture.