My workflow has revolved around Photo Mechanic and Adobe Camera RAW for a lot of years now and, bit by bit, it has evolved along with those two key applications to become a slick and well-ordered professional process. Adobe have posted regular updates to their RAW converter pretty regularly and those updates have almost always been logical and very welcome. Occasionally they have made quite big changes and I have welcomed pretty much everything they’ve done. Until now.
The latest version, 12.3 wasn’t flagged-up in advance as being a major change and so I (stupidly) hit OK on the update without giving it too much thought. I was more than a little surprised when I opened my first set of RAW files to edit them because what I was seeing were a whole raft of changes that were, in my opinion, not needed and/or not wanted.
People with greater knowledge of Adobe’s plans than me have said that they have deliberately brought Camera RAW more in line with the develop module inside Lightroom and that lots of users had asked for this. Who are those users? Lightroom users? Surely they have missed the point here; very few people use both Camera RAW within Photoshop or Bridge and Lightroom because they have very different workflows – so why do they need to resemble one another more?
It just so happens that I have been using Lightroom a bit myself recently. Partly to try to understand why so many people whose opinion I value rave about it so much but mostly because of the way I have chosen to digitise my old negatives and the fact that Negative Lab Pro (the best plug-in for doing that) only works with Lightroom. There are, definitely, some nice touches within Lightroom’s RAW develop module that I have come to appreciate – not the least of which is the ability to re-order and/or hide elements of the module that you use a lot or rarely use at all and of course the ability to use the particular plug-in that I mentioned. You’d think that if Camera RAW was going to get the Lightroom makeover it would get the useful bits that might help you work smarter but no. Instead we have a new and unfamiliar set of tabs in different places, a tiny and out of the way save icon, a default window with thumbnails across the bottom (I know that can be changed) and there appears to be a bug or two that are making my life a little less wonderful.
I am sure that I will get used to the new workspace and my experimentation with Lightroom has helped but this halfway house update is just annoying and here is my biggest point; if you are going to make Photoshop and Bridge users work with something that looks and feels like a lightweight version of Lightroom why not give us the benefits as well as the downsides. Let me hide and re-order the elements on the right-hand pane like I can in Lightroom. Let me use Negative Lab Pro as a plug-in. Give me more export options and give me a better button to use them with.
There’s probably more and my other main gripe with Adobe is to ask why call this an update move from .2 to .3 and not actually call it what it is with some decent warnings – as a user this feels like a whole new version and I would like to have had some warning before having to spend time (which I luckily have right now but that’s immaterial) getting to know the new interface. At the end of the day my workflow isn’t going to change much, if at all. Equally, this is still a more suitable application than any of the others I have tried and tried again – including Lightroom. I have challenged myself to work with the default version of the new workspace to see if it is better because a couple of others have assured me that they prefer it and those are also people whose opinion I would always respect but I have to be honest and say that I’m not looking forward to the next big edit – whenever that it is!