So, What's Lightroom Again?

by James Duncan Davidson

Like Michah over on the Inside Aperture blog, I was surprised to see the InfoTrends RAW workflow tool survey numbers that John Nack of Adobe published last week. If you haven't seen them yet, they basically indicate that about 2/3rds of the serious photographers out there are still using Photoshop and the Camera RAW plugin as their main workflow.

On the one hand, Lightroom and Aperture reflect a way of working with digital photographs that's pretty new. Aperture opened up this market in late 2005 and Lightroom just shipped this year. In that light, the market penetration by Lightroom and Aperture is pretty impressive. On the Mac, Lightroom clocks in with a 26.6% of the survey responses, and Aperture at 5.5%. Pretty impressive really, especially with Lightroom doing so well in its first year as a released product.

On the other hand, for me—and I'd expect most people who have been working with either Aperture or Lightroom for more than six months—it seems almost crazy that there are photographers that are working with different tools. What's the deal with that? Don't they know what they are doing to themselves? Oh, the horror!

It's easy to forget that people fall into different categories when it comes to technology. There are the crazy ones who adopt as early as they can in the curve, and then keep on moving as fast as they can. That's me, an early adopter to a tee. And, it may be (probably is?) you. Then, there are those that keep their pulse on things and then jump when the cost/benefit analysis looks favorable. And, then the last group are those that want to use the time tested methods and are only willing to jump when all the bumps have been smoothed out.

I think that in the adoption of tools like Lightroom and Aperture, we're just starting to welcome people from these last two camps to the party. As evidence, Scott Kelby reports from his Photoshop CS3 Power Tour New York yesterday:

But what surprised me most was what turned out to be the #1 most-asked question of the day, which was, "What is Lightroom?" I kept referring to Lightroom throughout my first session (assuming everybody at least knew what it was), and as soon as the session was over, I had a line of people all asking what was this “Lightroom thing” I kept talking about.

Lightroom and Aperture are both early in their product development cycles, each still in their 1.x phase. As both the wider population of photographers hear about what you can do with these kinds of tools, and as they make the run towards 2.0 in the nearish future, I think we're going to see a lot more people ask the "What is Lightroom?" question. Followed quickly by "So, How does it help me?"

I think level of discussion on the digital photographic workflow is going to uptick another few notches over the next few months. Get ready for a lot more discussion on the matter in your own circle of photographer friends and out on the forums.


2007-11-08 00:15:29
As I will do my first public Lightroom presentation this evening, in front of people who are totally unaware of its philosophy and workflow, I expect a lot of questions as well.
I thinfk people still hesitate about jumping into Lightroom, because it requires a lot of changes, including the way of thinking, even the way you do photographs.