August 10, 2008
Tom Hogarty is the product manager for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. To coincide with the recent official release of Lightroom 2, Lightroom-news carried out an interview with Tom to find our more about the thinking behind Lightroom 2 and his role in it’s development.
LRN: Can you tell us a little about about your background before you started work at Adobe and when you first got involved with Lightroom?
TH: Before joining Adobe I worked in New York’s commercial photography market helping professional photographers transition from film to digital. I joined the Photoshop team in 2005 and began my role as Lightroom Product Manager at the end of 2005 in anticipation of Lightroom’s first public beta.
LRN: Is your job made more difficult with the various Lightroom team members split between working in Minneapolis and San Jose?
TH: A distributed team environment can definitely be difficult at times. In order to keep up the flow of knowledge, hallway conversations are replaced by email threads that can quickly fill your inbox. For those times when we really need to sit down in a room together, I try to make sure it’s warmer than -10 degrees F in Minnesota.
LRN: There is a long list of new features in Lightroom 2. Just how much work has gone into creating this new version of Lightroom?
TH: We have an amazing team in that they’ve been able to be incredibly responsive to our customers with a significant 1.1 update and subsequent camera support enhancements while working on a groundbreaking version 2 of Lightroom all in a very short period of time. It’s a significant amount of work for a relatively small team and I believe they deserve quite a bit of praise for their efforts.
LRN: I imagine the first thing Lightroom users will notice is the big difference between the Lightroom 2 beta interface and that used in the final shipping version. It must be quite liberating to have the freedom to make independent design decisions about the look of the Lightroom interface.
TH: I really appreciate the flexibility we’ve had to innovate outside of the evolutionary improvements that are taking place within the Creative Suite or Photoshop. This isn’t to say that a product like Photoshop isn’t making great strides in improving their interface or user experience but there are certain design constraints that Lightroom is able to break in order to satisfy the photographic workflow with as much efficiency and elegance possible. Phil Clevenger recently discussed this process in an interview with Lightroom’s product marketing manager, Frederick Johnson.
LRN: Version 2 of Lightroom is enabled for 64-bit for Mac and PC. Did this require much additional engineering work?
TH: Enabling 64-bit support in Lightroom for Mac and PC certainly wasn’t as easy as opening up the code and flipping a “64-bit = on” switch. It takes a good deal of foresight to see where the technology platforms are going and building for the future. The fact that Lightroom was the first professional universal binary application on the Mac and the first significant 64-bit application is an indication of careful planning and diligence not necessarily brute strength during one particular cycle. One of the other factors that many folks forget about is the testing effort required to support these additional platforms. Lightroom currently supports Windows XP, Vista, OS X 10.4 and 10.5. Adding 64-bit support is effectively increasing the number of operating systems we support by 50% and there’s a great deal of testing required to certify each platform.
LRN: John Nack caused quite a stir on his blog site when he pre-announced that the next version of Photoshop will be 64-bit for PC only.
TH: John’s blog is usually pretty good about causing a stir. It’s great that we’re able to have such an open dialog with our customers.
LRN: Some of the most notable new features in version 2 are the localized adjustments: the adjustment brush and graduated filter tools. Comparisons have been made with the brush tool in Aperture 2.1. What would you say is different, or better about the approach adopted in Lightroom 2?
TH: The local corrections in Lightroom 2 are a continuation of the non-destructive editing that’s already available within Lightroom. The adjustments can be copied/pasted, stored as metadata with the file and revisited time and time again without impacting the integrity of the file or future adjustments. Aperture’s local corrections and plug-in architecture is based on an external-editor model where the original file needs to be “baked” into a TIFF or PSD before additional edits can be applied, essentially setting all of their global non-destructive edits in concrete. This not only duplicates the amount of disk space required for that image but also destroys the creative workflow when you need to return to one of your original adjustments like exposure or white balance.
LRN: One question I am sure a lot of people are going to ask is how can they maintain compatibility between the develop settings in Lightroom 2 and Adobe Camera Raw for Photoshop CS3. Will there be a Camera Raw update to address this?
TH: It’s important to understand that even though Lightroom doesn’t require that you install the Camera Raw plug-in, Lightroom is built on exactly the same code that is used in the plug-in. We’re absolutely committed to compatibility between the two applications and Camera Raw 4.5 has been updated today to address the new rendering options available within Lightroom 2. A file edited in Lightroom using any of the new correction tools will appear visually identical in Camera Raw 4.5 even though Camera Raw will be unable to make further adjustments to those new parameters.
LRN: The Library module has undergone a lot of changes with panels being renamed and moved, plus the Metadata Browser has now become the Library Filter bar. What was the rationale for making these big changes?
TH: While the public beta process for Lightroom 1 clearly identified areas of organizational functionality that photographers needed, it didn’t necessarily lead to the most concise layout. There was search, filter and metadata application tools located throughout the interface. In this release we’ve provided a much more refined approach. Once a “source” is selected in the left hand panel it can be refined further using the filter and search functionality available at the top of the grid view. Applying metadata or keywords is reserved for the right hand panel. One important note is that the timeline filter has been removed completely from Lightroom 2.0. One of the challenges in software development is knowing when a feature does not provide enough value to warrant the physical space in the interface and the incremental complexity created by including one more feature. This is particularly difficult when the feature was already available to customers. We’ll certainly return to the timeline feature in the future but only when we’re able to provide it in such a way that it merits the physical space it requires.
LRN: It’s also gratifying to see some of the work of our colleague, the late Bruce Fraser, make it into Lightroom 2.
TH: We are extremely fortunate to have had such a talented, passionate and intelligent individual focused on bringing out the best in Lightroom. Bruce’s influence continues to have an indelible effect on Lightroom’s development. In addition to his thoughts on the photographic workflow, Bruce and members of Pixel Genius provided critical consulting services in the area of output sharpening.
LRN: What else would you say are your favorite features in Lightroom 2?
TH: This is a tough one. For my own personal work the graduated filter adjustment is probably going to be the most utilized feature given that I shoot quite a few landscape images. I will say that the Photoshop integration for merging panorama images is a close second. I attend so many photography events and it’s quite easy to capture the entire scene with just a few images that can be easily merged together in Photoshop CS3.
LRN: You have helped foster a large community of Lightroom users, particularly on the user to user forums and public beta list. Would you say the feedback from users has had a strong influence on the program’s development?
TH: Absolutely. We received a lot of ‘tough love’ when the first public beta was released in January 2006 and I think we’ve been able to turn that into a very productive dialog with the photographic community.
LRN: If a regular Lightroom user wants to make some feature requests for Lightroom, what would be the best way for them to put their ideas forward? Do you have any tips or advice?
TH: The following page is a feature request form. When a feature request is submitted an email is delivered to my inbox. I read every single request and they do influence the feature prioritization process. It’s very important to explain why and how the request improves your workflow. http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/mmform/index.cfm?name=wishform
LRN: There were quite a few program updates following the release of Lightroom 1. Is this pattern likely to be repeated for Lightroom 2?
TH: I’m cautious about speculating on or discussing future updates but I think Lightroom is unique among Adobe products in its ability to continue providing value throughout the product cycle.
LRN: Can you mention any areas that you would like Lightroom to concentrate on next in a future update or version release?
TH: Again, I don’t like to speculate about the future but Lightroom’s development is driven by what our customers request, the evolution of available technology and our insights into the future of the industry. The one thing that’s certain is that it’s an exciting time to be a photographer.
LRN: Where might people go to see Lightroom 2 in action? Will Adobe be demoing the new version of Lightroom at any events coming up in the near future?
TH: Stay tuned on the Lightroom blog for links to tutorials and more information about upcoming events.
LRN: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.
TH: Thanks for the opportunity!