Adobe has made two somewhat contradictory sounding statements in the Lightroom 3 Beta release notes that all users should be aware of: http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/lightroom3/releasenotes.pdf
1. Lightroom 3 beta will not upgrade Lightroom 1.x or Lightroom 2.x catalogs. The beta is intended to be used for testing and feedback purposes. Lightroom 1.x, 2.x and 3 beta libraries will be able to be migrated to the finished version of Lightroom 3.
2. Develop settings applied in Lightroom 3 beta are not guaranteed to transfer correctly to the final version of Lightroom 3.
So, like with Lightroom 2 Beta, there will be a function to migrate the data from a Lightroom 3 Beta catalog to a Lightroom 3 final release catalog, but they are covering themselves by saying that they won’t promise all the settings in the beta will transfer correctly (i.e. look the same) in the final version. One would hope this is because things will be improved in the final release, so this may not be a bad thing, but if you absolutely need things to look exactly the same the potential could exist that they won’t.
The way around that would be to export TIF or PSD copies from the Beta version so that the Beta rendering would be “baked” into the pixels of those copies, which could then be imported into the final version.
Obviously that would not be ideal on a large scale.
Now, this is all based on the assumption that the user will upgrade to the full version of Lightroom 3. It’s unlikely that there will be any functionality to import a Lightroom 3 Beta catalog into Lightroom 2. There was not any way to do that between Lightroom 2 Beta and Lightroom 1. Adobe generally does not provide backwards functionality. If someone chooses not to upgrade to the full version of Lightroom 3 then there are two options:
– export all developed files as TIF or PSD
– export all developed files as DNG (which will include Develop settings) and hope they process correctly in the latest Camera Raw plugin in Photoshop/Bridge.
Adobe makes it pretty clear in the LR3 Beta Release Notes that the beta should only be used for testing.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I didn’t bother to contact Adobe about this because their top Lightroom guy has had trouble giving me straight answers in the past. Suffice it to say we’ll all just have to see how this plays out, but it would be better if Adobe had a clearer path for LR3 beta users.