Adobe Lightroom – its history and our love affair with it

The Journey of Adobe Lightroom: Origins, History, and Photographers’ Best Friend?


Lightroom software box


Adobe Lightroom, officially known as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, is a powerful image editing and organising software that is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite.  The origins of Adobe Lightroom can be traced back to the early 2000s.  Its development was a collaborative effort among Adobe’s team of engineers and designers, led by Mark Hamburg, who is often credited as the primary inventor of Lightroom.

Mark Hamburg was a key figure in the development of Adobe Photoshop, one of the most popular and widely used image editing software in the world. In the early 2000s, Mark recognised a growing need for a dedicated photography workflow solution that could efficiently handle large numbers of high-resolution digital images. He began working on a project codenamed “Shadowland” within Adobe.

Mark Hamburg, original designer of Lightroom

Mark Hamburg, primary creator of Lightroom

In collaboration with other Adobe employees, including Thomas Knoll (the co-creator of Photoshop) and the product manager Kevin Connor, Mark Hamburg and his team worked to create a tool that could offer a more focused and streamlined workflow for photographers. The result of this work was Adobe Lightroom, which was first released as a public beta in January 2006.

Lightroom is designed to help photographers organise, edit, and share their photos more effectively. Its modular, non-destructive approach to editing and organising images has made it an essential tool for many professional and amateur photographers alike. Since its inception, Adobe Lightroom has seen multiple updates and improvements, further solidifying its place as a leading software for digital photography workflow management.


First Release and Early Success

On February 19, 2007, Adobe officially released Lightroom 1.0, which was met with positive reviews and quickly gained traction among professional and amateur photographers alike. Lightroom’s modular design, intuitive interface, and robust editing capabilities made it stand out from other image management software of the time.

In particular, the introduction of non-destructive editing in Lightroom was a game-changer for photographers. This feature allowed users to apply adjustments and edits to their images without affecting the original file. Instead, the changes were saved in a separate file, leaving the original image intact. This enabled photographers to experiment with edits freely and easily revert to the original version if needed.

Over the years, Adobe continued to refine and expand the features offered in Lightroom. The software quickly evolved from a simple image management tool to a comprehensive suite for photographers.


Some significant milestones in Lightroom’s development include:

  1. Lightroom 2 (2008) – Introduced localised editing tools, such as the adjustment brush and graduated filter, which allowed users to selectively edit parts of an image
  2. Lightroom 3 (2010) – Improved performance and noise reduction, along with lens correction tools, made it easier for photographers to perfect their images.
  3. Lightroom 5 (2013) – Introduced the radial filter, advanced healing brush, and a range of improvements to existing tools.
  4. Lightroom 6/CC (2015) – Launched alongside Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription service, Lightroom CC introduced facial recognition, HDR, and panorama merging capabilities.



The Shift to Subscription Model and Mobile Integration

In 2013, Adobe made a controversial decision to shift from selling perpetual licenses for its software to a subscription-based model with the launch of Adobe Creative Cloud. This change meant that users would no longer purchase the software outright but would pay a monthly fee for access to Adobe’s suite of applications.

While this change sparked debate and initial resistance from some users, the subscription model allowed Adobe to provide more frequent updates and improvements to its software, including Lightroom. Additionally, this change paved the way for better integration with mobile devices, as users could sync their images and edits across multiple devices using the cloud.

In 2014, Adobe released Lightroom Mobile, which brought many of the desktop application’s features to smartphones and tablets. This allowed photographers to edit and manage their images on the go and provided seamless integration with their desktop workflows.


In 2017, Adobe made another significant change to the Lightroom ecosystem by introducing two distinct versions of the software: Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic.

Lightroom CC is a cloud-based version of the software, designed to be lightweight and fully integrated with Adobe’s Creative Cloud. This version provides a more streamlined experience, allowing photographers to access and edit their images from any device with an internet connection. It also offers automatic cloud backup and synchronisation, making it an ideal solution for photographers who need to collaborate or work on multiple devices.Logo - Adobe Lightroom

On the other hand, Lightroom Classic remains a desktop-focused application, providing the familiar interface and comprehensive features that many professional photographers have come to rely on.  Adobe continues to update and support both versions of the software, allowing users to choose the version that best suits their needs and preferences.


Less Popular Cloud Version

The cloud-based Lightroom has not proved to be as popular as Adobe had hoped… and still today, most photographers prefer to use Adobe Lightroom Classic.

There are a number of possible reasons…

  1. A lot of photographers have voiced their disapproval at what they see as Adobe’s attempt to force them into buying more and more cloud storage.   Once you exceed your allocation (as your collection of images increases), you’ll have to rent more… and keep paying this rent forever.
  2. People are comfortable with what they’re used to.  When you’ve been working with the desktop version for so long, it’s a hard ask, expecting people to change, especially when the system you have already works exceptionally well.
  3. Speed.  Uploading large numbers of huge RAW files takes time and if you’re working with .PSD files or TIFs with lots of layers, the file sizes can be ridiculously large.
  4. Dependability: Lightroom Classic is a desktop application that does not require an internet connection to work. This makes it a more dependable choice for photographers who need to access their images quickly and reliably, even when they are offline.

Overall, while the cloud version of Lightroom is useful for photographers who need to edit images on the go, many professional photographers still prefer the desktop version.

Lightroom workshop at Hampshire School of Photography with Kevin Ahronson

Students at one of our editing workshops

Lightroom Remains The Favourite Editing Tool

Adobe Lightroom has become the go-to editing software for many professional and amateur photographers worldwide, surpassing other image editing tools in popularity for various reasons.

Its features, its user-friendly interface and seamless integration with the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite contribute to Lightroom’s widespread adoption by photographers.

  1. Focused Workflow: Adobe Lightroom is specifically designed for photographers, providing a focused workflow that caters to their unique needs. Its modular design, with separate modules for Library, Develop, Map, Book, Slideshow, Print, and Web, allows photographers to manage, edit, and export their images in a more streamlined and efficient manner. This dedicated environment is better suited to the task of editing large volumes of photographs than other general-purpose image editing tools.
  2. Non-Destructive Editing: Lightroom’s non-destructive editing approach is a game-changer for photographers. It allows them to make changes and apply edits to their images without altering the original files. Instead, all adjustments are saved as metadata, enabling users to experiment with different edits without fear of permanently altering their photos. This feature allows photographers to work more creatively and with greater flexibility.
  3. Powerful Organisational Tools: Lightroom offers a robust set of tools to help photographers organise, search, and manage their images with ease. Features like Collections, Smart Collections, keywords, ratings, flags, and colour labels help photographers sort and categorise their work. The built-in search functionality allows users to find specific images quickly, streamlining the editing process and saving time.
  4. Presets and Synchronisation: The ability to create, save, and apply presets in Lightroom is another appealing feature for photographers. Users can quickly apply a specific style or adjustment to multiple images simultaneously, resulting in a consistent look and feel across a series of photos. Synchronisation tools also enable photographers to edit multiple photos simultaneously, ensuring a uniform aesthetic and saving time.
  5. Integration with other Adobe Products: As part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, Lightroom offers seamless integration with other Adobe applications, such as Photoshop and Premiere Pro. This compatibility makes it easy for photographers to access additional advanced editing tools, create composite images, or work on video projects without having to switch between multiple programs.
  6. Constant Updates and Improvements: Adobe consistently updates Lightroom, ensuring that it stays at the forefront of the industry with the latest features, bug fixes, and performance enhancements. This commitment to ongoing development means that photographers can always access the best tools and features to help them achieve their creative vision.
  7. Extensive Community and Learning Resources: Finally, Lightroom’s widespread adoption has led to the creation of an extensive community of users who share tips, tutorials, presets, and inspiration. This wealth of information and support helps photographers of all skill levels to learn, grow, and continually improve their work.



Adobe Lightroom’s dedicated workflow, non-destructive editing capabilities, organisational tools, integration with other Adobe applications, constant updates, and extensive community support have made it the preferred choice for many photographers over other image editing software options. Its powerful features and user-friendly interface have helped countless photographers streamline their workflows and create stunning images.

The journey of Adobe Lightroom from its early beginnings as a project codenamed “Shadowland” to its current status as a go-to solution for photographers worldwide is a testament to its continuous evolution and adaptation to the ever-changing needs of the photography community.

Despite many of Lightroom’s emerging competitors such as Capture One and Affinity, as well as the more specialist packages of Topaz Labs and the DxO Nik Collection, Lightroom holds its own – probably because of its ease of use, immense power, its superb library function, and of course, its excellent integration into Photoshop.

For under £10/month you get both, that’s a tremendous amount of software for a small amount of money.


Learn Lightroom

Throughout the year we run a number of editing courses at our training Centre in Fleet, Hampshire.  For the latest news on our Lightroom and Photoshop courses, [click here].



Kevin Ahronson

Kevin is a full-time professional photographer and has been teaching photography since 2009. He founded the Hampshire School of Photography where he runs photography workshops and gives one to one mentoring to photographers at all levels, from complete beginners through to those who want to turn professional

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: