My colleague Victoria Bampton reminded me that February 19th marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of Lightroom 1.0. She has a wonderful post that takes a walk down the Lightroom memory lane highlighting some of the significant changes over the years. This got me thinking of what it was like working with Lightroom 1 back in 2007 … so I downloaded and installed Lightroom 1.4.1, grabbed a photo taken in 2007 and gave it a run through Lightroom 1. I decided to grab a less than perfect photo (of which I have many to choose from), one where the lighting was not great, and the ISO was high (well, high for 2007) to see what I could do with Lightroom 1 compared to what we can do now with Lightroom CC.
Well, the Import screen we have today may not be perfect, but it definitely is an improvement over the original version. Back then it was more of a dialog box, but it did the basic job of introducing photos to the catalog and providing the option to copy photos to a new location of our choosing. We could apply metadata and develop presets, keywords, and that was about it.
Wow, the Library module has changed quite a bit. I had forgotten about the Find and Metadata Browser panels, whose functionality evolved into the Library Filter we have now. The Keywords Tags panel on the left morphed into the Keyword List panel now on the right. The Library panel is now known as the Catalog panel. No Publish Services yet, and no Map module either.
The Develop module doesn’t have the Collections panel yet, and the Crop, Red Eye, and Spot Removal tools only existed in the Toolbar, as opposed to the Tool Strip we have now under the Histogram. That also means no local adjustments like Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filter, or Radial Filter. Sad!
Expanding the Basic panel reveals the old controls of the original process version, with Exposure, Recovery, Fill Light, Blacks, Brightness, and Contrast. The original process version didn’t do as good a job of recovering detail in the highlights and shadows, or at handling high ISO (only 800 in this image). Back then there was no such thing as negative Clarity either.
My son’s face was mostly in shadow, so I wanted to try to brighten that up, but with the high ISO I have to be careful about bringing out too much noise when brightening the image.
Moving on to the Detail panel I find that I don’t have as many adjustments as we do now, and the algorithm wasn’t as good as it is now either. Even with a lot of Luminance noise reduction there is still a fair bit of noise visible and I’ve really smoothed out the detail. Not a great combo, but the best I can do with these tools. At least there is the Masking slider so that I can avoid sharpening noise as much as possible.
We didn’t have profile corrections in the Lens Corrections panel back then, so only manual corrections are possible. This image didn’t really need much, but it was a reminder of something I take for granted these days.
The Camera Calibration panel lacked all of the camera style emulating options that we have now, so there isn’t anything I can choose here to attempt to mimic any in-camera style choices.
Selecting the Crop tool from the Toolbar, I cropped away some of the unnecessary black pixels in the background. Back then there wasn’t an easy way to flip the orientation of the crop rectangle (like switching from portrait to landscape orientation). Lot’s of little tweaks and changes like that have been very welcome.
After doing what I could do for this photo it was time to export a JPEG copy. The Export dialog hasn’t changed much at all in these last 10 years (hint to Adobe).
Back to the Present
Once I finished there, I re-edited that same photo in Lightroom CC, and what a relief it was to have all of the tools I depend on back at my disposal! The improved process version coupled with a portrait camera profile gave me a much better starting place. The much improved noise reduction and sharpening did a better job on that luminance noise and detail, but the big difference came from using the Radial Filter to selectively brighten my son’s face while simultaneously applying a little negative clarity as well as a little more positive noise reduction.
Looking at the two exported JPGs side-by-side in Photoshop shows a much smoother and even skin tone with brighter features and better detail. It still isn’t the best photo I ever took, but with all the progress Lightroom has made in the last 10 years it’s like it upgraded my camera from 2007 as well.
Happy birthday Lightroom. You’ve made a huge difference in my photographic workflow these last 10 years. Here’s to the next 10!
Rob writes the “Under the Loupe” column for Photoshop User Magazine, and is the author of many photography related books.