January 08, 2006

Introducing Project Lightroom

We’re extremely excited to introduce Beta 1 of Adobe® Lightroom™, our new pro photography workflow solution. If you haven’t yet done so, please swing by the Lightroom page on Adobe Labs to learn more & to grab the first preview version. In addition we’ve posted an introductory movie, also available as a podcast via iTunes.

This is anything but a traditional launch, or even a traditional dev cycle, for Adobe. It asks for new thinking not just from Adobe, but from customers as well.

First, the product isn’t finished, and that’s a good thing. Letting a preview version into the wild now lets us engage the broad photography community in a new way. It’s the nature of the beast that just about any 1.0 product will have some shortcomings and rough edges. The thing is, we’re not going to start charging for ours until you’ve had plenty of time to kick the tires & help shape the feature set.

Obviously Lightroom and Aperture aim to tackle a similar set of challenges, and one might say, “Well, you guys are just releasing this beta now because Aperture is in the market.” That’s not the case, actually, as we’ve been planning since early in the project to release a public preview. But even if we were spurred by the release of Aperture, so what? Isn’t it better to break new ground on openness?

Second, we’re not interested in a feature war, trying to pack in more knobs and switches than Photoshop, Aperture, or anyone else. The first public Lightroom release doesn’t contain all the features we’ve considered; in fact, it doesn’t even contain all the features we’ve built. Rather than going for the most features, we’re shooting for the right features

So, when sending us your feedback, you might pause for a moment and ask, “What do I really need? Is the benefit provided by Thing X greater than the complexity it would introduce?” We expect they’ll be things you dig & things you miss, and we want to hear about it. Most impactful, though, will be feedback that zeroes in on just what you find essential.

I frequently hear a few questions about Lightroom:

  1. Who’s it for?
  2. Does it replace Bridge?
  3. Will it be available on its own?
  4. Will it be available together with Photoshop?
  5. Will it be available for Windows or just for Mac?
  6. What will it cost?
  7. When can I get it?

Some answers, in order:

Q. Who’s it for?
A. We like to say that Lightroom is for people who want to spend more time behind the camera than in front of the computer. Many photographers are really technically sophisticated about their camera gear, but they don’t aspire to being computer experts. For the kind of tasks Lightroom tackles, they shouldn’t have to be. They need pro-level power in a fast, streamlined package.

Q. Does it replace Bridge?
A. In short, it depends on what you’re doing and how you like to work. Some shooters will want to use Lightroom together with Photoshop much as they use Bridge today. For them having an interface that’s 100% tuned to a photography workflow, plus Lightroom’s unique features, will mean they use it in place of Bridge. For others, however, the broad range of capabilities in Bridge (e.g. integration with the Suite, previewing PDF and InDesign docs, talking to workgroup management tools, etc.) will make it a better choice some or all of the time. That means we plan to keep enhancing Bridge’s photography workflow chops. You’ll be able to mix and match the tools to suit your needs.

Q. Will it be available on its own? Will it be available together with Photoshop?
A. Yes, Lightroom will be available on its own, and yes, we expect to make it available together with Photoshop. We greatly appreciate the investment pros have made in Photoshop, and we want to make it easy and affordable to keep moving forward.

Q. Will it be available for Windows or just for Mac?
A. Yes, we plan to ship Lightroom on both Windows and Mac. The Mac build happens to be ready to share now, so that’s what we’re putting out first.

Q. What will it cost?
A. We believe there’s a sweet spot between Photoshop Elements and Photoshop, and we expect Lightroom to come in between those tools.

Q. When can I get it?
A. Now! Head over to Adobe Labs and grab the first build. As to when we’ll offer a completed 1.0 version, that depends on your feedback, but we’re expecting to ship later in 2006.

As I say, we’re quite excited now that we can pull back the curtain & show you what we’ve been up to. For us to build the tool you want and need, your feedback is critical, so we hope you’ll visit the Project Lightroom page, click the Community tab, and let us know what you think. It’s going to be a great ride.

* To get the intro movie via iTunes, choose Advanced->Subscribe to Podcast, then paste in http://rss.adobe.com/www/special/light_room.rss

[Update: See also Jeff Schewe's detailed intro to Lightroom on PhotoshopNews.com, as well as his perspective on how Lightroom was developed. The newest episode of Photoshop TV shows off Lightroom (starting around the 20 minute/halfway mark), including some slick GPS integration (0:35 mark). And photographers Peter Krogh, Michael Reichmann, Dan Sroka, and Ian Lyons share their perspectives.]

Posted by John Nack at 10:44 PM on January 08, 2006
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