“Upgrading” Adjustments

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Today’s Question: I am upgrading from Lightroom 2 to version 4 on a new computer (I am a good bit behind, I know). I am trying to do some basic work on images that were uploaded in version 2 and put into version 4. I’m not clear on the ‘upgrade image’ button in the bottom right area. Should I automatically click on this?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Lightroom makes use of “Process Versions” to define the specific set of adjustments and algorithms available for an image, and you can change the Process Version for specific photos. In general it is advantageous to upgrade images processed with an older Process Version to the latest Process Version, though it is important to keep in mind that there may be some minor changes to the appearance of a photo when you make this change.

More Detail: When new adjustment features are added to a new version of Lightroom, a new Process Version is created to encapsulate those adjustments. In general it is advantageous to work in the most recent Process Version, so you have access to the latest features and algorithms for your photos.

The specific method of changing the Process Version varies in different versions of Lightroom, but you can find the Process popup in the Camera Calibration section at the bottom of the right panel in the Develop module. From this popup you can see the various Process Versions that are available, which currently include options for 2003, 2010, and 2012.

If you want to update the process version for multiple images, you can navigate to a specific location or apply a filter so that the images you want to update are shown on the Filmstrip. Then go to the Develop module, and click the alert symbol for the current image. This symbol will appear at the bottom-right of the photo in Lightroom 4, and below the Histogram display in Lightroom 5. When you click that symbol, you will be given the option of updating the current image to the latest Process Version, or updating all Filmstrip photos.

I recommend updating a single image to the latest Process Version as a test so you’ll see the degree to which the appearance of the photo changes based on the update. In most cases the changes will be minimal, and often represent a slight improvement in the image. But it is important to have a sense of this before committing to an update for multiple images.

But again, I generally feel it is advantageous to have the latest adjustment controls available, and also to have the latest algorithms for existing adjustments. Therefore, I usually prefer to update photos I’m working on to the latest Process Version.