Jan 9, 2006

The Shadowland/Lightroom Development Story

The development of Adobe Lightroom, code named Shadowland, was not something Adobe started after Apple announced Aperture. The Shadowland project has been going on for years.

How do I know that Adobe has been working on Shadowland for so long?

Because that’s how long I’ve been working on it.

Back in October of 2002 Mark Hamburg sent me a little developmental application he called PixelToy (breaking his own rule, there was an innercap) and jokingly refered to as “SchewePaint”.

After leaving the Photoshop development team he worked on a concept application based upon painting with snapshots which used no layers. Mark had developed the History feature of Photoshop to more or less to suit me so he believed that I was uniquely suited to look at his new “toy”.

The original PixelToy floating palette was rather reminiscent of Kai Krause’s UI design-something Mark actually laughed about. (See the PSN story on Where’s Kai Now.) Ironically, Mark ended up choosing Phil Clevenger (Kai’s former UI designer) to work on UI design for Shadowland after going through some other designers (myself included).

Phil Clevenger
Photo by George Jardine

The original PixelToy application

Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
It its original incarnation, shapshots were taken after image adjustments were made by punching the adjustment buttons. The adjustments could then be painted in from the snapshots.

Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
The next build of PixelToy dropped the floating palette in exchange for the slide out panel for adjustments. The concept was still to make adjustments, do a snapshot and then paint them in.


Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
An early developmental application called Shuffle was coded by Mark to determine the feasibility of organizing images as though they were slides on a lightbox.

At the time, late 2002, Mark was in Adobe’s Digital Media Lab under the direction of Greg Gilley working on experimental development primarily directed towards Mark’s then increasing interest in digital photography. Greg had already gotten highly interested in digital photography and that had leaked over to Mark.

Greg Gilley
Photo by Jeff Schewe

In December of 2002, Mark, UI designer Sandy Alves, project lead Andrei Herasimchuk and Thomas Knoll visited my studio for a couple of days of brainstorming product ideas directed towards photographers. During that meeting I expressed the importance of developing an application to deal with lots of images easily and efficiently instead of an application used for spending a great deal of time on a single image-in the 1990′s it was all about how long an imaging artist spent working on an image, the new millenium dictated an application designed to spend as little time as possible working on many images.

And…the time spent should be more enjoyable for photographers than working in a complicated application like Photoshop.

For various reasons, Mark was no longer working on Photoshop and his desire to develop his own application for digital imaging went down the path that lead to Shadowland, uh, I mean Lightroom.

From Mark: “I don’t know that it’s so much that I wanted to do my own digital imaging app as that I felt that I had done Photoshop and it was time to see what the world held beyond Photoshop. With Greg really pushing me to look at photography and with a lot of leftover ideas from Photoshop that had been at most partially explored — e.g., snapshot painting — it seemed like an interesting challenge to create a digital imaging app that wasn’t Photoshop.

Shadowland is a musical reference to K. D. Lang’s 1988 album Shadowland.

Mark has a history of choosing code names based upon musical references.


The early development of Shadowland was a bit rocky-to say the least.

Adobe just didn’t know how or where to position Shadowland in the ecosphere that is known as Photoshop.

A great deal of time was spent researching to determine exactly what Photographers needed and wanted. Mark, Sandy, Andrei and researcher Grace Kim made a lot of site visits to photography studios all over the country. There they interviewed a wide variety of photographers-some famous and some just regular hard working folks-from all walks of photography. The aim was to identify where the current pain points were with digital and to design innovative solutions to relieve the pain…

On one particular site visit to Greg Gorman’s studio, Mark got a rather rude awakening-he personally had to deal with gigs of images that he shot. Greg, shooting with a Canon 1Ds, shot about 4 gigs of images during the course of the shoot day. Mark, shooting with a Canon 10D, (smaller raw file sizes) shot about 4 gigs of shots of Greg shooting as well as the models; Andrew and Kevin Atherton-twin gymnasts from the Cirque du Soleil show Varekai. Mark also shot Greg’s studio and anything he could think of to aim his camera at. Mark learned firsthand the difficulties of dealing with tons of RAW images.

Mark shoots Greg shooting the models.

Mark’s actual shot from his camera.

Mark did this shot of Grace Kim (left), Sandy Alves (right) and myself (center-in case you didn’t figure this out yourself). I’m not sure what the fascination is with the beard…

Mark got this shot of me shooting Greg.

Mark took this shot of the models under natural light in Greg’s studio. I processed it into B&W-I’m not sure Mark remembers he gave me copies of his files.

Mark shot me under the same light, unfortunately, the body doesn’t seem to have the same impact.

I then got Mark to stand in and shot him.

Mark hit the wall when he had to deal with downloading all those cards and dealing with all the files. Grace takes a moment to ponder the problems of photographers.

Mark and the models and Sandy watch as Greg makes his selects. Greg, shooting both RAW plus JPEG was able to use iView MediaPro for selection editing (far faster than Photoshop’s File Browser) and made rapid edits in Camera Raw to get final prints for the models before they left the studio. It was proof that what photographers needed was a fast way to get a lot of files edited down to selects, corrected and printed, ASAP.

Of course, after a hard day’s work we all went up to Greg’s house for dinner-of course wine to start.

Greg had invited a few other friends, on the left, Graham Nash and on the far right Mac Holbert; partners in Nash Editions. To the right of Greg is Steve Gorman, Greg’s brother and owner of Gorman Framing. Useful to have a brother in the framing biz, huh Greg?

Also stopping by was Seth Resnick and Jamie Spritzer. Seth and Jamie happened to be in LA for one of his D-65 Workshops so Greg invited them over to meet Mark and the Shadowland crew. Look at Seth’s hair…this was his pre-Miami slicked back Eastcoast look, check out my Antarctica Expedition to see what Seth’s hair looks like after a year on the beach.

One of the treats of going to Greg’s house for dinner is that Greg loves to cook. This time however, the foie gras got a bit “smokey”.

The smoke actually came rolling out of the kitchen-those of us in the dining room became a bit concerned.

Robb Carr, Greg’s digital retoucher was also invited to come meet Mark.

Here is Robb bending Mark’s ear a bit. Mark actually loves the attention…

Seth talks to Sandy about the problems of digital workflow.

Mac and Sandy listen to Seth-Seth can get going pretty good talking about “workslow”.

Grace wanted to have me take a shot of her with Graham.

So did Sandy-she wanted a print to prove to her husband she met Graham. I guess I really should make a print for Sandy now that I’ve found these shots.

As might be expected, Seth-a wine lover-got a little buzzed.

Mark decided to take a late-night plunge in Greg’s pool.

Mark and the Shadowland crew made a lot of site visits to determine, on a task based system, those things photographers really needed to accomplish that Photoshop and even Bridge with Camera Raw can’t quite provide. That is what Shadowland, er, Lightroom is all about. But the difficulties surrounding Shadowland persisted. Sandy left the team-she and her husband moved out of Santa Clara up to the mountains outside of Lake Tahoe and she decided to quit the commute. Andrei got a bit fed up and left to start Involution Studios, his design firm. Mark also had to try to recruit additional engineering help-he couldn’t do it all himself.

Andrei Herasimchuk
Photo by Jeff Schewe

During a trip to Adobe Minneapolis to evaluate how to deal with the Adobe ImageReady code, he met one of the senior engineers on the ImageReady team, Troy Gaul. Troy and Melissa Gaul struck up a good working relationship with Mark (something that isn’t always so easy) and Troy, Melissa and some of the other former ImageReady engineers (called the Minnesota Phats) signed on to start working with Hamburg-Mark finally had an engineering team.

But with the loss of Andrei, Mark didn’t have a “product manger”. Enter George Jardine. George was an ex-Adobe guy who had worked with Russell Preston Brown in the mid 1990′s evangalizing Photoshop. George had a commercial photo background from working in at Shigeta-Wright Studios in Chicago (ironically just down the street from my studio-although we never met till much later).

George Jardine
Photo by Douglas J. Martin

Months and months went by while Mark, George and Grace Kim tried to nail down a feature set for Shadowland and try to develop a product position within the Adobe pro-imaging product line. The development continued-slowly-with new builds being sent out to a small select group of early alpha testers. Some of us were Adobe “regulars” such as Martin Evening, Katrin Eismann and myself (Photoshop alpha testers) and some new testers where brought on to represent a non-Photoshop centric photographer’s view. But development was difficult without a strong voice in the UI design of Shadowland.

During a visit to Adobe I had dinner with Mark Hamburg. He was lamenting the fact that the UI, something he felt strongly should be non-Photoshop in design, needed a jumpstart. He wanted to get a UI designer to bring new ideas and innovative designs to the team. I shocked him by offering my services as the UI designer on Shadowland. Of course, I had no actual work experience as a UI desginer…but I had worked extensively with the Photoshop UI design team for years and I knew a little something about working with Mark.

Click on the image to see the full dialog in a new window.
This was an early prototype compare module mockup I did for Mark.

I think Mark was shocked…both that I would offer myself but that he was considering it. Seems I did impress him by turning around the mockup on a flight back from San Jose and that I had some skills mocking up UI and usability. But ultimately he wanted somebody with a known track record and experience doing UI design in tough development situations. He turned to Phil Clevenger, formerly of MetaCreations. Phil earned his UI design bones by having to deal with Kai Krause-who could also sometimes be hard to work with.

Kai’s Soap 2 splash screen-released in 1998.

Soap 2 Desktop view.

For the last year, it’s been a struggle for the Shadowland development team. Not only was Adobe fixated on finishing the Macromedia acquisition but Team Photoshop was working to get Photoshop CS2 with Adobe Bridge 1.0 launched. It’s fair to say that some thought engineering resources used on Shadowland might better be used on Photoshop. The internal struggle also had to deal with the fact that Apple was working on Aperture and the odds were good that it would beat Lightroom to the marketplace.

During the PhotoPlus Expo in New York during October of 2005, Shadowland had a pretty up/down existence. First, the Aperture announcement (Adobe knew it was coming) caught a lot of attention in the photo community. Apple is always great at doing product launches and Aperture was getting a lot of attention. On the other hand, Hamburg and the Shadowland team had to deal with the fact that they would not be first to market a high-end application to professional photographers. However their contention-that an application designed for pros could be a reality-was proven. In many respects, Aperture actually helped save Lightroom. It gave the dev team and all of Adobe a target to shoot at-and the engineers at Adobe are nothing if not competitive (as well as being pretty darn talented).

So, here we are at the official announcement of Adobe Lightroom. Adobe chose to go an unusual route (for Adobe) and offer what is arguably a work-in-progress project up to the photographic community for review and comment. Time will tell if that approach will work. I think it will. It’s really hard to develop an entirely new application from the ground up without a lot of feedback and involvement by what will be the application’s end users-which in today’s climate of corporate secrecy is tough.

I personally really like Lightroom and the direction it’s headed-but of course, I’m biased. Don’t get me wrong, I still like Photoshop…I’m pretty good at Photoshop. But Photoshop is an application with many masters used by many different types of users in a lot of different industries. It’s also a huge application, not only from the code base but from the complexity of use. It’s tough for photographers-some of them old graybeards-to learn all the ins and outs of working with Photoshop. Add the complexity of a new application, Adobe Bridge and the powerful but complex interaction between Bridge, Camera Raw and Photoshop and you have a lot of photographers whose eyes spend a lot of time glazed over.

I’m also really glad that the professional photographic community is finally getting the attention of not one, but two big players in the computer software biz. I’m tickled to death that Apple and Adobe are paying us so much attention.

So, the best thing for pro photographers to do is test the waters, check out the various options out there. Lightroom is a free download, so all you lose is a bit of bandwidth to get it. Working with it is far easier than learning something like Photoshop. Spend a little time playing and see if you like what you see. If you have strong ideas or opinions about where Lightroom should go, check out the Lightroom user forums. You’ll find a lot of the Lightroom development team there was well some of the early testers like Bruce Fraser, Katrin Eismann, Martin Evening, Seth Resnick and others. I’ll be around too, see ya there.

Oh, one last thought, if you have some friends who just KNOW that Lightroom is just a knee-jerky reaction to Apple’s Aperture, tell them to read this story. Applications take years to build…

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated at 5:55 PM on 1/10/06 to correct several small errors.

53 Responses to “The Shadowland/Lightroom Development Story”

  1. Mark Says:

    “Oh, one last thought, if you have some friends who just KNOW that Lightroom is just a knee-jerky reaction to Apple’s Aperture, tell them to read this story. Applications take years to build…”

    So, Aperture must also have been in development for years, too!

    How can this not be seen as a “knee-jerky” reaction to Aperture? When did Adobe last release a new product as a public beta a year ahead of availability?

    And why only on Mac – if it’s been years in development a Windows version would also be available!

    For so many years of development there’s not a lot boast about.

  2. Mike Early Says:

    Thanks for the historical perspective Jeff. And, I agree it is great to have two large companies focusing on the needs of us photographers!

  3. Andrew Rodney Says:

    Jeff is too modest. The inside name for some time was ScheweLand…

  4. Toke Says:

    I hope Lightroom will be totally self-contained and not the clunky patchwork that is the Imageready – Photoshop – Bridge combo (I work with Photoshop every day along with plenty of hardcore PSD users, and none of them use Bridge – none of them know what to use it for..). That is what I like about Aperture. What I don’t like is that Aperture tries to re-invent the old-school Photoshop controls in a bad way, and is not as speedy as iView.

    My initial reaction to the Lightview announcement was “hmmm… it’s gonna get clunky”. My initial reaction to Aperture was “it’s gonna be pretty – but patchy”

  5. alex kent Says:

    Mark; dude, that’s a bit scathing !
    i mean sure this beta release of Lightroom certainly appears to be a reaction to Aperture, but it’s just making sure that Adobe gets a bit of mind share early in the game.
    But obviously both apps took a long time to create.

    and you know what ? i don’t mind! it’s extremely cool that Adobe are for the time being giving it away (you think maybe this is a play on that fact that apple is basically charging you $500 plus a new g5 to use aperture!). and in the end competition will make both applications stronger.

  6. Ianus Keller Says:

    Very nice article. Especially the way you looked at photo shoots and shooting as part of the feature analysis.

    What I seem to be missing in the beta I tried the out today, is where the Lightroom itself can be found in the application. I see a grid, a strip and a compare, but not really the support for organizing a set of images.

    The earlier mockups of the “shuffle” and “desktop view” has been replaced by purely a grid overview.

  7. Carl Anderson Says:

    John Nack provides some insights into Lightroom on his blog:

    He is hinting at a price point between Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.

  8. Ellis Vener Says:

    Thanks for Lightroom , Jeff.

  9. Jeff Schewe Says:


    While I prolly had more to do with Lightroom than anybody else outside of Adobe, don’t thank me, thank Mark Hamburg (and Thomas Knoll). They are the ones who see the direction that photographers need an app to go and do the heavy lifting and design and engineering. I just sit back and piss&moan…


  10. Jeff Schewe Says:

    Just for the recond (and I say this in so many words in both articles) Lightroom and Aperture are both about the same age in dev years…read between the lines of what I wrote and you’ll see that Lightroom had a tough time at Adobe finding a home-that’s what retarded the development. But in no way is Lightroom a “reaction” to Aperture.

    Even the Public Preview idea for Lightroom’s first launch is over a year old-well before Adobe had an idea WHEN Aperture was to be released…

  11. BJN Says:

    It’s too bad the initial creative approach to the UI has been watered-down into such a conventional-looking application. The light table metaphor was a good direction (it’s the core of the UI appeal of Aperture) and what remains is doesn’t have the visual appeal nor does it have the at-a-glance utility.

  12. ewelch Says:

    Sorry that the Soap2 desktop (Shuffle) didn’t make it. It’s one of my favorite features of Aperture. That and I’ve already produced 14 books from Aperture. And it really makes the job easy. Could it be Apple’s patent of “piles” makes it difficult to implement?

    I downloaded Lightroom this morning and pointed it at a bunch of folders with photos. On my dual 2GHz G5, those suckers imported fast!

    Good job Jeff. You’ve made me put implementing Aperture at work on hold.

  13. jguillen Says:

    With all the respect to the diehard adobe fans I’ve lose my faith in adobe a long time ago, they are just doing business nowaday… If you take applications like Illustrator or the same photoshop those apps are bloated, feel like turtle, make my g5 too slowwww and now the have macromedia in house expect flash to be bloated too, i think adobe is not focus now, every 6 months they launch a CS version of their apps and you do not find enough features to jusfify the upgrade price… Bridge is a dead on arrive application, photoshop is to big and imageready was kill in action by Macromedia Fireworks, tell me what new features after effects (big one) none, just adding two or three features and a lot of US$ to the upgrade.

    About lightroom and aperture: listen to this: company like apple or adobe don’t change the user interface so drastically, see photoshop and then lightroom, they don’t belong to the same ecosystem, but instead of look to aperture and then to lightroom and you will see a lot of coincidences in the UI, so please, maybe adobe had the apps for years ready, just waiting for the right UI, and the appears Aperture and they consider Aperture’s UI correctly and create something similar.

    I won’t eat that!

    Adobe woke up from a monopoly dream and was because of apple, remember that apple is the unique company that can wake adobe up, take Premiere, now Aperture, microsoft can do that on adobe.

  14. Garon Says:

    Interesting. So, the belated 2006 ‘beta’ release of Lightroom is not simply a ‘non-reaction’ to Aperture, but is actually a ‘non-reaction’ by Adobe to what a devoted few within Adobe actually learned three years ago: that PS, even with ACR and despite Bridge, is NOT the product that digital photographers want or need for 99% of our workflow.

  15. Jeff Schewe Says:

    jguillen , you are entitled to your opinion, but it’s either misguided or you’ve had a tough life…The upgrade schedule you refer to, 6 months, simply is not based upon reality. On average, Adobe apps get rev’ed on about an 18 month schedual, not 6 months. It may just seem like that if you are a slow upgrader which most pro’s can’t be.

    Adobe made no change to the direction of Lightroom in either function or UI as a result of Apple’s release of Aperature. The Public Preview has been the Adobe plan for Lightroom for at least a couple of years…

    If you know the people behind Lightroom and Aperture (and I do) you would know that it’s two teams of very talented engineers busting thier butts to do cool stuff. The lead engineer on Aperture used to work at Adobe…and is still fiends with the guy working on Lightroom.

    Most people on the outside incorrectly assume that big companies do things in a totally corporate manner and forget that there WOULD be no big company (either Apple or Adobe) without a bunch of talented, hard working folks driving cool stuff that the “suits’ turn around and sell.

  16. spencer norcross Says:

    who cares if lightroom is a reaction to aperature, what matters is that there are 2 competing programs that will spur ongoing development of this kind of app.

    that’s what good business do, identify needs and develop products.

    in my experience, both adobe and apple excel at this.

  17. Andrew Rodney Says:

    The thing that really upsets me about Aperture is there are just so many areas where I keep asking myself, what are these guys thinking? There’s some seriously cool work in Aperture but a share of bugs and dumb implementation. I hope they fix both.

    By releasing a public beta (which isn’t really even a beta), Adobe potentially solves both these Apple issues. I’d be pissed at paying $499 for Aperture in it’s current form. It should never have shipped as it is today (1.0.1) let alone 1.0.

  18. dswift Says:

    Downloaded Lightroom (8 megs?), sucked in a gig worth of raw files I shot last weekend (1ghz Powerbook), and it also loaded all my .xmp data. Fun to play with, light on its feet. Someone at Apple is very bummed.

    But let’s be honest about the beta release. No way would have Adobe released this beta if Aperture hadn’t come along. (Aside from the rare ACR update, when has Adobe ever released a beta?) Adobe had to, to stop people from investing in Aperture while Lightroom is being finished.

    To the anti-Bridge peanut gallery: huh? As a bulk raw shooter, the Pshop-Bridge-ACR mingling has given me back a lot of my life. It’s not perfect but man does it do nice work. At night. As I sleep.

  19. Jim Stokes Says:

    Aperture looked fine but when my year old powerbook, the one that broke the bank, would just barely run it well….I played with, the light room beta, this morning, wow a fine job there, very fast, loads folders and runs well. This is the way betas should be, my complements to all involved

  20. Jeff Schewe Says:

    dswift & others,

    The plan for Shadowland/Lightroom was always to do a public preview because this was a completely different product launch that what Adobe has done for years.

    But, there is precedence, ever hear about a program called Photoshop? For people on the west coast, Photoshop .87 (also called BarnyScan XP) was widely passed around as “beta”. There was no internet to allow downloading but a lot of people got their hands on it-oddly enough an 800K floppy dropped off at Apple by John Knoll was one of the main sources of Apple users in the area getting their first copy of Photoshop.

    So, speculation that Adobe “had” to release a public beta to ward off people buying Aperture is simply not true-that was the plan that had been discussed as far back as I remember.

    Now, as to the TIMING of Adobe’s announcement, I’ll “guess” that after PhotoExpo in NYC, Adobe may have upp’ed the development of the beta so Adobe COULD make an announcement at Macworld. I would also “guess” that PMA might have been the more logical time and place to announce Lightroom since Lightroom is directed at the pro photo market-and not a lot of pros go to Macworld anymore.

  21. Seetharananfan Says:

    I think it’s excellent that they are releasing a public beta and placing so much value on user input.

  22. Richard Marcellus Says:

    Hello Jeff, Thanks for the article.

    That party at Greg Gorman’s house looks very familiar. Was it the same night that Epson filmed one of their Print Academy episodes? At the time that I watched the Epson video, I did notice you making a cameo.

  23. Simon Fraser Says:

    Interesting. I notice that it’s written in Lua — want to explain that?

  24. WhiteDog Says:

    Considering what has been posted on some other blogs, like the Macworld forums, I shouldn’t be surprised at the knee-jerk negativity I see here.

    To begin with, the problem with drastically new and different interface designs is that they too often place style ahead of substance and are hard to learn and use. That’s probably why many of Kai’s apps were often praised and seldom used.

    Perhaps the reason Aperture and Lightroom look a bit bland and similar is that they are both task oriented and perform similar functions. This emphasis on usability is a plus in my book. Lightroom’s utility is enhanced further by the fact it uses the same keyboard shortcuts as Photoshop. The last thing I need is another set of keyboard shortcuts fumble with.

    What I don’t see yet in Lightroom is an easy way to navigate folders. This remains one of Bridge’s strengths – though apparently some people haven’t bothered to learn how to use it. Because I jump frequently between projects, I find Bridge convenient and not at all difficult to use. Since Lightroom does not, like Aperture, depend on its own proprietary libraries alone, but can handle images in an external, already extant, filing system – as Bridge does – it has the potential to rival Bridge in power and flexibility. In particular, because in Lightroom I can save versions in the same location as the original, it will integrate much more easily than Aperture into a Photoshop workflow. However, to make this happen Lightroom will need to acquire the ability to open files in an external editor (it could be that it already has that capability and I just haven’t found it yet). Another feature I haven’t been able to find is a way to display a file’s metadata. I didn’t realize how important this had become – I use it all the time in Bridge – until I couldn’t find the file info I wanted in Lightroom.

    That said, I think it is off to a great start. I hope Adobe now dedicates the resources it deserves to its continued development.

  25. Seth Resnick Says:


    How many hours in Lightroom did it take to make my hair look like that:) I do remember Jamie, Greg and I seeing a large metor over downtown LA. I think after it passed something happened to my hair.



  26. Jeff Schewe Says:

    You have sharp eyes and a good memory…yep, Epson WAS filming Greg for the Epson Online video series. It was just happen stance that everything seemed to happen on that same day…

    Because Lightroom uses a database, it isn’t a “browser” like Bridge. You will need to import files into the database either with copy/move or by reference. So, Bridge like navigation won’t occur in Lightroom. That said, the power of the database will make Lightroom capable of doing things Bridge can’t do. I wouldn’t be surprised to see browsing like capability on Lightroom’s import…at some point, I would hope to see Bridge be able to browse images which a script to import images into Lightroom.

    LR can already open images in an external editor-but you must understand that so far all of Lightroom’s editing is metadata edits not rendered pixel edits. In that regard, it’s more like Camera Raw than an image editor.

    No meteor could have done that to your hair-that took the act of human intervention.

  27. Duncan McNeill Says:

    Very crisp interface, and not wishing to be a grouch- but as a long time iView MediaPro user ( as I see Greg to be also!)- what will Lightroom achieve that iVMP will not?
    or is this the case of the thirty ton gorilla seizing some of the jungle’s choicest fruits?

  28. Gerry Yaeger Says:

    Hi Jeff et All

    Great job and great product. I miss hanging with you dudes. See you soon.


  29. Rex Riley Says:

    Lightroom and Aperture suffered from development in the absence of an established market, i.e. digital photography. Kudos to Lightroom’s photo-enhancement engine that’s silky smoothe and efficient. Credit to both teams for their quality standards and innovative new solutions.

    We have two very capable applications in Lightroom and Aperture, the success of which will be determined by the quality of services developed around them.

    Adobe Lightroom first public release only on MacOS X is a direct response to Apple’s Aperture. That fact speaks for itself, in light of Adobe’s earlier decisions dropping support for the Mac platform in much of its software.

    Releasing Lightroom for Microsoft’s Windows puts Adobe at competitive disadvantage supporting two binaries. Apple will eat Adobe marketshare for lunch releasing Aperture enhancements 4:1 over Adobe incremental Lightroom dual Mac-PC releases.

    Add-on new services embedded in those new MacOS X Aperture releases that Lightroom user’s can’t get if they wanted, and you have the Apple shorterm strategy. Watch the Windows market erode when MacOS X applications on “INTEL” hardware enjoys benefits PC application can’t implement much less offer and you have Apple’s longterm strategy.

    Adobe will have to dive deep with Lightroom just to hold its professional niche while Apple rakes in Prosumers with less time to spend and everybit as much cash to throw at the problem.

  30. Jeff Schewe Says:


    If you understand Mac/Intel you would understand that from a hardware point of view Adobe will NOT have to run separate and dual chip optimizations…the chip set for both Mac OS X for Intel and the chip set for Windows (primarily Vista) on Intel will be _VERY_ similar. Both OS X and Vista will offer GPU excelleration (which is what Apple is using in Aperture and what Lightroom could also code for).

    Neither app will enjoy any particular advantage (other than Aperature is being developed in-house at Apple and will get OS level services before outside developers-not unlike the situation that got MSFT in trouble with the DOJ).

    No, the playing field for both Lightroom and Aperture are pretty level…may the best code (and usability/functionality) win.

  31. Stefan Says:

    that’s funny!

    I just chatted with Kai Gradert (not Krause this time) and told him that my first impression of the Lightroom GUI was that some ideas and GUI elements were “taken” from MetaCreations software (Lightroom’s “modules” were called “rooms” then) and from Cooperating Systems’ fabulous HelloWorld application (Lightroom’s “panels”).

    Kai then told me that Phil was responsible for the GUI! And Phil, of course, did Cooperating Systems with Kai and other guys!

    The world is small … ;-)

    I like Lightroom a lot. There are some things I don’t like (see the forums) but, hey, we’re in beta1! I hope there’ll be much more until the final RC.

    Where can I apply as an official beta tester? ;-)

    Thanks for the insight, Jeff!! Enjoyed it very much! :-)

    Greetings from Bonn, Germany (almost from Kai [Krause this time]‘s ByteBurg),

  32. Stefan Says:

    Whoa! Look at this:

    Is it the same Phil that is pictured above? When was the above photo taken, Jeff?



  33. Jeff Schewe Says:


    Yep. . .same Phil. He just let his hair grow out.

    You can become an official “Beta Tester” by going to the Lightroom Beta at:

    Just download the beta and post bugs & feature requests at the Lightroom forums.

  34. Andrei Says:

    A few minor corrections.

    1) Sandy moved to outside the Lake Tahoe region of Sacremento. Not to New Mexico, which is where Taos is located.

    2) I was officially Project Lead, not a product manager on the project. I acted as a product manager for some duties, but I’m sure many inside Adobe would confirm, I was a horrible product manager. It’s not what I do. I knew that going in which is why I asked to given the title “project lead”, and not product manager.

    3) While the final resulting UI is indeed very much the work of Phil, the order in which you have written the article seems to imply it was Phil’s work all the way through, which is not the case. Phil was brought in after both Sandy and I left, but you’ve introduced Phil in the story of the article at the very beginning.

    4) Looking back on this, I’m sort of glad I had to leave L.A. the night before “the party.” The wife and I had our honeymoon weekend that required me to leave early. Given the evidence presented of that night in this article, I’m sure there would be some photos of me that I would have regretted. 8^)

    5) My name is mispelled once in the article as “Andre.” Eh.

    I look forward to using Lightroom to see how it all finally turned out.

  35. WhiteDog Says:

    I had forgotten the import reference aspect. This still leaves workflow issues with Photoshop unresolved. It may be that Lightroom, like Aperture, has too distinct a function to integrate gracefully with Photoshop. But, at least in respect to LR, to eschew Photoshop integration goes against one of the primary missions of the CS2 suite – to provide a better and smoother workflow between and among the component applications.

    As I understand it right now, when you open an image in Photoshop that has been edited in either Lightroom or Aperture, the sidecar data that contains the edit information is used to “process” the image, effectively flattening it and “destroying” the original. Might it be possible to adapt Photoshop to handle such images as smart objects, as it now does with imported Illustrator files, thus preserving the original file information?

    At the present time, in order to keep versions of an image in the same location, you need to save them in Photoshop; to keep track of these versions in LR you must then import them to the LR library where further organization may be necessary to corollate them with the original. I don’t know how feasible it might be, but it would be much less trouble if you had a Save to Lightroom option in Photoshop so that you could update the Lightroom library right after you save the file in Photoshop.

    There is also the question of whether or not you can access Lightroom library files in Bridge. If not, then we are still hanging on the horns of a dilemma – do we use Bridge to organize our files or Lightroom? Absent better integration of the two, there seems to be no good answer. Yes, LR serves the needs of Photographers who would rather avoid Photoshop altogether. For those of us who do use Photoshop, without better integration, Lightroom may be irrelevant.

  36. Stefan Says:

    nah, Jeff … these are public beta testers …

    I beta-tested several Bryce releases and in the end, we got the app for free as a thankyou. (Of course, we had to sign an NDA…)

    I *bet* this won’t happen with all the people that download the public beta1 of Lightroom these days… ;-)

    never mind. :-) I’m happy …

  37. Jeff Schewe Says:


    Ok….I corrected the name, the location and added a bit in the begining to clear up when Phil started the UI…as far as having pictures of you, no, not from that night, but I _DO_ have some pictures of you I _COULD_ post…


    You can access the Lightroom Library at any time if you point Bridge at the folder you’ve told Lightroom to save library files in.

  38. Brian Smith Says:

    Hmmm….It would appear that Lightroom lacks the power neccessary to sharpen what the wine done unsharpened at Gorman’s pool party..but since it’s still a just friggin beta, might I suggest adding a “SoberUpSharpen” filter…

  39. Robert Collins Says:

    For what these [Apature and Light Room] do, I find little need with what I do. What I like most about both is that both Companies are competing. As a user, I can’t loose!

  40. Allan White Says:

    Great and insightful article; very interesting read.

    What a long and crazy path to daylight this app has had!

    If the price point of Lightroom is below Aperture, then I think that will go a long way to it taking market share – especially if some of Aperture’s core flaws aren’t addressed (such as RAW conversion). I like the Aperture interface and workflow better. I don’t like the giant links at top (Library | Develop | etc. – we’re not children!), and there’s some other issues (sliders on the left?? Ack!).

    Still, it’s exciting to see a new app in this space! Watching with great interest.

  41. Sean McCormack Says:

    Great back story Jeff. Good to see you’re involved in some very current stuff. I enjoyed your section on the Photoshop Masters CD and found the included PDF very helpful. A lot of my RAW workflow comes from that and Kevin Ames in “The art of photographing Women”.
    Seeing those photo’s nearly makes me want to head over from Ireland for one of Greg masterclass weeks! I think I’ll put the money to a Canon 1D MkII or IDs even!

  42. Paul Gardner Says:

    I certinally hope that Adobe abandons “C++” in lightroom. This is a program that begs for a good assembly programmer to implement the algorythems. I know the bean counters love C++, but the ovehead kills the speed and bloats the program. Is Assembly dead at Adobe? Of course with Apple switching to Intel, the really fine Intel “C” compiler can also be used now. I know the UI developers are more “into” the look and feel, but don’t let the speed slip away in the coding process.
    Not flaming Apple but I left the Apple camp years ago and have never looked back. Where is my Windows version?

  43. Mart Says:

    Sorry if I missed it, but will there be a PC Beta version for us PC users?
    If yes is there a date?


  44. Alex Bachnick Says:

    Hey Jeff–
    I’ve been lurking in your shadows for years. I had a studio in Chicago from 1978-80, but moved to Minneapolis in 1980.
    I have followed your career since then, albeit, periodically. I took Seth’s D-65 workshop last spring, and have followed both of you since.
    Love the contributions you have made to Photoshop and Lightroom.
    Keep up the great work.
    Love your images from Antarctica, too.
    Have a terrific week,
    Alex Bachnick

  45. flavio Says:

    hi friends,
    i really enjoy your story. see graham nash again is fantastic. how about david crosby?
    lightroom is running fine on my powerbook G4 and i wonder how much it will cost, beside some more technical questions, such as more zoom possibilities, how to use the no destructive feature (i have not understood it yet) and some more. maybe in the official edition?

    but very nice black/white shoots!

    ciao, flavio

  46. Lars Ekdahl Says:

    Hello Jeff
    For a no English speaker does the acronym UI means User Interface here? Mostly it is for us foreigners “user information”

    Do hope the Windows version will come within the forseeable future

    /Lars Ekdahl

  47. Mike Koehler Says:


    Thank you so much for this background info. You guys have done a great job with Lightroom so far. Looking forward to the final version.

    Quick question – you may or may not know the answer – but was Lightroom written in Flex?


    Mike Koehler

  48. marlies schewe Says:

    hallo, I send this mail from germany, I am looking four my family in USA,the last letter is old.I find the name Jeff Schewe,is his family from germany?????Please send the mail to him. Marlies Schewe

  49. Jun Miranda Says:

    I know I am coming on board a bit late. But I live in the Philippines, that explains it. I am thinking of writing a review in my regular column that appears in a local newspaper so I decided to make a research on what has been said so far about LR. I am so glad I stumbled on this. Thanks for the backgrounder Jeff. That definitely cleared the misconception.

    Enough has been said about LR and Aperture, but for people like me who live in a third world country, price is always a consideration. I think Aperture is overpriced!

  50. Dave Cheatham Says:

    Seth, I think your hair is a good look! I thought it was a hairpiece. But on second look…it must be real!

    Dave Cheatham

  51. Roddy Says:

    Hey Jeff, thanks a million for the insight into the development of LR. A great read at that.

  52. DonRicklin Says:

    Thank you Jeff and the whole Shadowland/Lightroom Team. Here we are wth Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Officially announced and only awaiting it’s physical release on February 19th 2007.

    It has truely been a fun ride, starting wiht the Open Forums and Beta 1 through RCs and the GM.

    Thank you Adobe for making it all possible.


  53. Fort Myers Photographer Says:

    Great story Jeff! It is really cool to hear the background on a tool that is essential to so many photographers!

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