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Understanding Lightroom Process Versions

Lightroom process version opener

If you’ve used any earlier version of Lightroom and if you now use Lightroom 4 you need to know a bit about Process versions. In this post I’ll give you the basics of what you need to know which will explain why you see exclamation points by some of your images in the Develop module and why the new Lightroom 4 sliders sometimes disappear unexpectedly.

Process versions

In Lightroom 3 and again in Lightroom 4 the Lightroom Process version was updated. These process versions affect how your raw images are processed by Lightroom so it’s important to understand what they are and how they work.

Initially there was only one process version used in Lightroom 1 and Lightroom 2 so upgrading from one version of Lightroom to the next didn’t create any issues. The process version used in these versions was called Process 2003.

When Lightroom 3 was released it had a new process version called Process 2010. This process version had better rendering of the raw image and that meant better detail rendering, better noise reduction and better sharpening.

Because this new Process 2010 was so significantly improved, Adobe didn’t apply it by default to images in Lightroom 3 which had been processed using the older Process 2003. To have done so might have produced unwanted changes to images which had been already processed so it was left to each user’s discretion to apply the changes or not. Images newly imported into Lightroom 3 were processed using Process 2010.

Fast forward to Lightroom 4 and the situation is repeated. There is a new process version called Process 2012 in Lightroom 4. Images newly imported into Lightroom are processed with Process 2012, and those which were processed in an earlier version of Lightroom remain unchanged.

So What is the Exclamation Point

If you see an exclamation mark icon in the Develop module to the right of an image this indicates that it has applied to it a process version that isn’t the current version for the version of Lightroom you are using.

Lightroom process version 1

If you want to update an image, click the icon and select to update the image or select to update all the filmstrip photos. You can preview the changes before they are applied if desired.

Lightroom process version 2

It’s also possible to update images from the Develop module’s Camera Calibration panel. Here you simply select the desired process version from the Process list. The options are Process 2003, Process 2010 and Process 2012 (Current). In most cases, most users will choose to update the process version to the most current one.

Lightroom process version 3

Where did my Sliders go?

When Lightroom 4 was released the Develop module’s Basic panel was altered significantly. The sliders in that panel are now called by different names, they have different starting settings and they do different things to those in the earlier Lightroom versions. In short, the Basic panel adjustments in Lightroom 4 so significantly differ to those in Lightroom 3 that they aren’t interchangeable. Therein lies the explanation as to why your brand new sliders sometimes disappear and the older Lightroom 3 ones reappear – quite simply they do so when you are working on an image processed with an older process version.

Lightroom process version 4

So, if you have an image that has Process 2003 or Process 2010 applied to it, the Basic panel sliders will be those you are used to seeing in Lightroom 3 and earlier. If you’re working on a Process 2012 image the sliders are Lightroom 4 sliders. Updating the process version to the most current version will display the new sliders.

What this means to you

If you want the best processing for your images and if you want to see only one set of sliders in the Basic panel then go ahead and update all your images to Process 2012.

If you can see differences between the process versions and if you don’t want those changes applied to some or all of your images then you don’t have to update your images. It’s up to you to make the choice and you can do so for one or more of your images as and when you want to.

However, if you still have some Process 2003 or Process 2010 images in your Lightroom collection just be aware that Lightroom 4 sliders might disappear and be replaced by those from Lightroom 3 from time to time because of this.

Now it is over to you. Have you upgraded your older Process 2003 and Process 2010 images to Process 2012? If you didn’t what made you stay with the older version?

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Helen Bradley
Helen Bradley

is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

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