Today’s Question: Regarding process versions in Lightroom Classic, when switching to a newer version it asks for permission to convert the catalog to the new version format. Does that automatically bring all the photos up to the current process version?
Tim’s Quick Answer: No, when you update the catalog for a new version of Lightroom Classic the process version for existing photos does not get updated.
More Detail: With some versions of Lightroom Classic the catalog needs to be updated to reflect changes or new features in the new version. In addition, with certain changes in the Develop module a new process version is added to reflect the changes. However, when you update a catalog for a new version of Lightroom Classic, the process version for existing photos is not changed.
You can think of the process version as representing a particular version of the Develop module. For example, with process version 1 you have sliders in the Tone area of the Basic section on the right panel in the Develop module of Exposure, Recovery, Fill Light, Blacks, Brightness, and Contrast. In process version 6 (the current process version) you instead have Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks.
In many cases changing from one process version to another can cause at least a minor (and sometimes significant) change in the appearance of an image. Therefore, when you update to a new version of Lightroom Classic that has a new process version, the process version for existing photos is not updated. This is to preserve the appearance of the underlying image.
If you want to take advantage of the latest features or processing options for an existing photo, you can update the process version to the latest version. In the Develop module if a photo is set to an older process version you’ll see a lightning bolt symbol in the Histogram section at the top of the right panel. That lightning bolt will appear at the bottom-right of the histogram if it is expanded, and to the left of the heading if the histogram is collapsed.
You can click on the lightning bolt icon to bring up a dialog that will enable you to update the process version, or you can choose the latest process version from the popup in the Calibration section of the right panel. Note, however, that you really only need to update the process version for images you want to adjust in the Develop module if you want to take advantage of the latest updates. For existing images there’s no real need to update the process version until you want to work with the image again in the Develop module (and even then doing so is optional).