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Lightroom: Origins and challenges for Adobe Creative suite

Lightroom is undoubtedly the most popular photo editing software among photographers and image professionals. Developed by Adobe Systems, this tool has the advantage of being compatible with both Microsoft’s Windows operating system and Apple’s famous Mac. Designed to support a large number of images and photos, Lightroom is the perfect software for managing and editing different types of files (RAW, etc.).

But, do you know what lies behind the Lightroom story? Who invented this software? More importantly, what is the purpose of this particular tool among all the software in the Adobe Creative suite? Let’s delve deeper.

Table of contents

The origins of Lightroom software

Lightroom was created on the initiative of Mark Hamburg, in 1999, a developer who was already working on the big brother of the software: Photoshop. Its aim was to offer the features commonly used by photographers on this tool, while allowing them to acquire software within their reach in terms of price and ergonomics.

Lightroom, or the "Shadowland" project

Initially, the Lightroom project’s code name was "Shadowland", but everything changed quickly when Hamburg joined forces with other members of the Adobe Creative suite team.

Based largely on the Lua programming language, Adobe Lightroom began its journey with a first version presented in 2003. However, it was in 2004 that the Shadowland project took a new turn, when Mark Hamburg was joined by former colleagues who had already served at Adobe for the development of Photoshop.

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A Lightroom beta version in 2006

It was not until January 2006 that a beta version of Lightroom was released to the public. The latter then specifically targeted Mac users. However, this was the first time in Adobe’s corporate history that software that was still in development had been released to the market and could benefit from live feedback from the public. Later, the company repeated the experience with Photoshop CS3.

In January 2007, the sale of the first version of Lightroom was announced, followed by a second version in April 2008, which included a multitude of new features: local corrections, multi-screen support, 64-bit support, etc.

All in all, just over 11 versions of Adobe Lightroom came one after the other between 2007 and 2021 (the year of release of the current version 11). However, since 2019, a parallel version of Lightroom, with fewer options, has been available to the public. However, the old version has not disappeared from the Adobe catalog, since it is still available under the name Lightroom Classic.

Lightroom: a complementary tool from the Adobe Creative suite

Now, Lightroom (CC and Classic) is really considered to be a flagship software program of the Adobe Creative suite, and especially as a complementary tool to Photoshop for everything that concerns photo editing. Adobe even offers these two programs in a single subscription for photographers. This allows image professionals to use the tool that works best for them, even though Photoshop has far more advanced settings and features than Lightroom CC and Classic.

The main features of Lightroom

To use Lightroom, you must obviously start by adding photos to it. While the import can be done manually, photo by photo, it is also possible to import an entire folder. Once in the software, Lightroom allows the user to create a collection with their files, but also to bookmark them, rate them with a star system, organize them by keywords, etc.

Of course, the main function of Lightroom is photo editing. However, unlike its older brother Photoshop, the options remain limited. However, we must keep in mind that Lightroom’s core strength is to offer features for the general public, especially when it comes to Lightroom CC. The editing feature remains quite comprehensive for amateur or experienced photographers, and in general, for all those who do not necessarily want to engage in overly complicated image processing. There are essential settings, such as:

  • The adjustment of brightness or contrast;
  • The accentuation of shadows;
  • The color balance;
  • etc.


In addition to these basic photo editing settings, Lightroom also offers some more sophisticated options, such as local corrections. It is therefore possible to use a small part of the image to correct another part and hide a specific element. While the use of this feature requires a little more mastery of the software, it is nonetheless affordable and easy to handle.

Finally, the possibility of exporting the modified photos once the editing is done allows you to downsize the original file and download lighter images.

The advantages of Lightroom software

As we have just seen, whether importing files photo by photo or via entire folders, Adobe Lightroom can function as a creative catalog for all images. Its organisational system makes it easy to navigate and access your work in just a few clicks. It’s all these reasons that make Lightroom one of photographers’ favorite software.

However, it is also important to know that this tool works on the cloud and that the photo editing it performs takes the form of simple instructions. Except when exported by need, as we saw above, modified images are not saved back to the computer’s hard drive. Lightroom simply keeps the editing settings in memory, in order to reapply them on demand. For comparison, Photoshop requires saving a file or exporting the modified photo in order to keep the edit. In the latter case, the processing of dozens of photos may then require a large amount of storage space (on the computer, an external disk, etc.).

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Lightroom or Photoshop: which software to choose?

When it comes to choosing between Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop, the answer is not so obvious. Indeed, these two tools are not aimed at the same audience or the same users. Of course, Lightroom Classic offers more advanced settings than Lightroom CC, which is intended for the general public, but in both cases, these programs are less complete, especially for creative people, than Photoshop can be.

For photographers who need to do a bit of image processing, without necessarily having to embark on a complex editing overhaul, Adobe Lightroom is undoubtedly the most appropriate choice. Conversely, photographers who incorporate creative edits into their photos will quickly start to feel cramped with Lightroom Classic features and settings (and even more so with Lightroom CC). In the latter case, the use of Photoshop therefore seems more appropriate, although this software is much more difficult to master than Lightroom.

Choosing which software to use therefore depends on the user’s level of expertise and needs. However, in the vast majority of photo editing cases, Lightroom is quite sufficient. It would therefore be a mistake to underestimate it. This tool is also used by many professionals, and professional or amateur photographers.

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