Lightroom Tips

Is Lightroom the Darkroom?

Over the years I’ve heard (and probably even said it myself) that Lightroom is the “digital darkroom”. Lately, the whole digital darkroom thing has got me thinking though. Are we doing anyone justice by keeping the word “darkroom” around in our current world of digital photography and equating Lightroom (and post processing) to it? You can’t argue that, for the majority of people, the traditional darkroom simply doesn’t exist anymore.

Does it depend on the age group? If I’m teaching a group of people my age-ish (37) and up then maybe it does make sense. We’ve seen the darkroom, shot film and know what it’s all about. Those concepts probably help a lot of people understand newer technologies by comparing them to something they’re used to. But does it help newcomers into the photography field to know all this?

My kids growing up today (and really anyone born within the last 10-15 years) will never know what film or the darkroom were. They wouldn’t even know what it looks like. Do we force it on them like we force history lessons on them? My 14 year old nephew is interested in photography but the last thing he wants is stories of “Back in my day, we had to (insert your film/darkroom story here)”. It it wrong that he just wants to have fun with it. And just how important is it for people to know how hard things were “back in the day”.

Lot’s of questions I know. I guess my main question to you is this: does it make sense to call Lightroom the “digital darkroom” and does it make sense today, to equate anything to the darkroom (or “film” and “negatives” for that matter)?



  1. Gayna 24 July, 2010 at 17:55 Reply

    I posted this question before on July 14th but I can’t find it or an answer here so I’ll try again.
    Can I publish a website page made in Lightroom 2 to my existng website? I’m hoping to change my whole site to one made in Lightroom but I would like to make it a page at a time for now.
    Also, does Lightroom’s website creator automatically size the pixels of my images for the web or do I do that somewhere in the web section? Are they automatically reduced to 70 dpi?

  2. Jim R 21 July, 2010 at 00:14 Reply

    I still use a 4×5 view camera and scan the negs at 3200 dpi and then use lightroom as my darkroom.So to me it is still a “Darkroom”,a lot cheaper than 20 or 30 thousand for a digital back of the same size.I doubt if I am the only one who scans negatives and does the burning, dodge and other adjustments with Lightroom.

  3. Les Booth 20 July, 2010 at 16:40 Reply

    If the point of using the word ‘darkroom’ is to instruct TECHNICALLY, How To Do photography, the darkroom may be quaint, but it’s not relative to the photographic process today.

    However, if the word ‘darkroom’ is used to instruct HISTORICALLY, How To Do photography, then it is not only relative, but essential to the understanding.

    I, too am one of the ‘older folks’. I’m 58 and I cut my teeth on film when I was 5 years old. I entered my first ‘darkroom’ at 10 and was immediately ‘hooked’. I didn’t actually develop my first roll of film until I was 19; first print at 23. But in the 20 years I spent in the ‘wet/dry darkroom of black/white film development and printing; and the occasional color printing foray; I loved the experience.

    I found the replacement for my love of the darkroom experience in 1989; five years before I found I could no longer work in a darkroom, again; ever.

    In 1989 I discovered what would become Photoshop and in 1994 I found I had developed a toxic allergy to the chemicals used in the darkroom. Thus, my transition to the use of the so-called, ‘digital darkroom’ was both chosen and forced.

    I do not miss the chemicals, cost and frustration of the film lab: either shooting or developing. But I would not trade the knowledge and experienced developed under their tutelage for anything. They DO make a difference.

    I just hope the loss is NOT in the historical legacy of where and how photography began. I know from first-hand personal experience, the deep cost of ignoring the wisdom in following historical direction. I should have realized that Eugene Smith and I followed the same path of darkroom abuse and would likewise reap the same rewards. But in my rush of youth, I did not consider it. Period. Mr. Smith accrued a boatload of awards and total banishment from the darkroom. Me, I just slew a boatload of attempts at ‘greatness’ and also received total banishment from the darkroom.

    Regardless of the beginning and middle, it is the end where we all find commonality.

    I’m not sure how one can totally bridge the information and experience gap – now growing around us – without some loss in the process. This is a problem with being at the ‘edge of a technology transition’. There are losses and gains; both range wildly to either side of the equation.

    It is, in this realm, that exists the job of the ‘keepers of the legacy’. I call them Heritagekeepers.

    These are the members of an older generation, who work to archive the components of a legacy – whose variety are are as diverse as humanity itself – in the care of those who appreciate it, while those who do not yet possess such a caring, grow into the time when they will care; and will be very glad there were those who cared, for them.

    How costly will a transition from analog photography to digital photography become? It is as yet, unclear.

    If we are wise in our transition, we can reduce the most serious cost: human historical loss. If we pay attention to the dues requirement and learn to NOT!! ‘…toss the baby out with the bathwater.’, we will do a great service to those generations to follow.

    If we do not. Then we just add another burdensome cost upon the next generations.

  4. Sue H. 19 July, 2010 at 23:48 Reply

    I grew up in the age of film, thought I never worked in a darkroom myself. But maybe it’s because I’m a computer geek, I only used the term “digital darkroom” for maybe a few months in the early days of digital photography. Over the last several years, I naturally progressed to the term “post processing”.

  5. Wojciech 19 July, 2010 at 18:27 Reply

    I’m 25 i do photography for 3 years and something but first steps were analog with darkroom and i still consider them my best. not only because i used a torture camera zenit but mainly i used darkroom. so much fun, expectation, failure, dissapointment but mostly hard work and when job is finished – pride

    thats why when using lightroom i feel different and i’m glad it has a different name, cause for me darkroom is darkroom, not my bedroom with comfy chair and a laptop:)

  6. Randy Becker 18 July, 2010 at 10:57 Reply

    I believe using the term “Darkroom” is still very appropriate. Just because most people do not use one really doesn’t matter. The term has been around for so long that I believe it is firmly embedded in the public consciousness. Especially for anyone in photography. The history of our field is very important in understanding how we got to where we are now. Adobe even continues to use “darkroom” terms in their software titles. Just because the term is traditional doesn’t mean it is not needed. “Tradition is not the worship of ashes but rather the preservation of fire.”

  7. Iza 16 July, 2010 at 06:36 Reply

    I think keeping comparing Lightroom (or Photoshop, or any other software) to wet darkroom keeps reminding everybody that digital photography did not “invent” all the photo-improving techniques. That you could take an image and turn it into something else without computers (just look how Ansel Adams went from the negative to print!), now you can only do it quicker and, well, cleaner. In my opinion it helps keep perspective.

  8. James Edwards (Birmingham UK) 16 July, 2010 at 06:35 Reply

    I’m always interested in this type of debate.

    As an ‘older’ photographer and qualified chemist,and having moved from playing around with smelly chemicals to murdering pixels, I can say that:-

    1) it is comfortable to carry forward terms from wet chemistry processes to digital processes, especially when you can establish correlations between both. It provide me with a confidence that ‘Digital’ did not mean abandoning hard earned experience with imaging.

    2) on a wider note, we all use historical references to inform modern communicatio.n. Some become commonplace and get used when the original meaning has been lost in the mists of time, others just fade away. You cannot however ‘legislate’ to remove what might appear to be redundadnt terms, its just not in our nature to comply.

    3) finally, regarding the specifuc term ‘dark room’. From a purely technical point of view I would argue there is still some merit in retaining this as ‘digital dark room’. After all we do, (don’t we?), invest considerable effort in removing strong backlights, ensuring strong colours etc are not on the walls and ‘calibrate’ our monitors, but mostly, keep the ambient lighting low, (while not actually red or ‘dark’), when processing digital images?

  9. Andrew 15 July, 2010 at 17:11 Reply

    Why not leave the analogy? We seem to readily throw away everything these days and it’s a nice callback to where it all begun.

  10. Tom Z 15 July, 2010 at 14:44 Reply

    Just like in the “old days” of my darkroom work I still put on the music, I still get immersed in the work, and still don’t want to be disturbed. There is a bit of difference with dodging and burning.

  11. Benny 15 July, 2010 at 14:09 Reply

    I do think it’s important to know the history of photography, and to have an understanding of how old processes worked. But at some point it’s impractical to cling on to old terminology, just as it’s impractical to still use a darkroom. In the 90’s did they teach classes on making daguerreotypes? Probably not, because current technology has replaced it.

  12. Dennis Moyes 15 July, 2010 at 13:57 Reply

    If it leads to stupid phrases like “capture” instead of “take a picture” then we should leave the terminology alone!

  13. Mike Forsberg 15 July, 2010 at 07:31 Reply

    In fact Lightroom (or similar) in effect is the digital darkroom – for best results you need to turn out the lights just like the old days!!

  14. John Berry 14 July, 2010 at 23:59 Reply

    I like “Post Production” and “Post Processing” but I also like the idea of honoring the past by using (adapting) terminology and saying “Digital Darkroom”.

    I was talking to a friend about developing film in a darkroom and his son, who at 8 is getting really interested in photography asked what I meant by “developing film in a darkroom”. I explained the process to him and he had an appalled look on his face. “You used chemicals in a room with no light to develop photos?” “And if someone opened the door the photos would get ruined?” As he asked questions he started to become intrigued. Now my friend is cursing me because he has an appointment scheduled with a plumber so that he can build a small darkroom in his basement. He is a good dad.

    But it really shows how far we have come. Most boys (sorry girls) I grew up with had, by their early teens, some exposure to a darkroom in school or at home (50’s and 60’s). Now we need to explain this quaint old custom as if we come from a foreign land.

  15. Fresh 14 July, 2010 at 21:59 Reply

    I think it is a great term and adds value to the fact that post processing in not any different than darkroom work. With everyone always says that digital photos are manipulated and that analog photos are an art that has been lost. Case in point Ansel Adams was a master at photo manipulation, so if we look at thing in that way it help quite the naysayers. Keep using digital darkroom oh and film is not dead and your kids will be using it when they are grown up because it will be artful and nostalgic.

  16. deke 14 July, 2010 at 21:29 Reply

    There is little to no difference between Lightroom and the Darkroom of yore. With one exception which I’ll unveil in a moment. Both are dark, mysterious, lonely, quiet, and intoxicating realms within which to absorb oneself for great lengths of creativity. In both we are “Writing with Light”. One uses pixels, the other silver crystals and chemicals. In both we aim for the same thing … that one print that relates to the viewer on levels we never thought existed.

    The difference between them is only of a tactile experiential nature. The darkroom is like making and eating your own bread … it even smells good! Lightroom is like thinking your own bread and not having to waste time kneading, smelling and tasting. Both ways you get something to be very proud of … but they’re completely different experiences.

  17. Ben 14 July, 2010 at 21:01 Reply

    I first walked into a darkroom when I was 13 years old. I’m 52 years old now. As some folks point out, the darkroom is a concept. Anybody remember “changing bags”, for loading film onto spools for developing, or putting onto a bulk loader? What’s that? Doesn’t matter. The nuances of printing on different papers within the same brand? The subtler tones of Agfa paper vs the higher contrast of Kodak papers? Cutting masks? Darkroom work is technical as much as it is artistic.

    So, too in the Lightroom world. I think post production is a misnomer. I think more and more images will not start in the camera, which post production implies. Just as the darkroom is a place of creation, so is the Lightroom (or Aperture).

    Photoshop has become a verb. It’s common to hear, that was “photoshoped”…it could be with anybody’s product. I’d be happy to speak of an image being “lightroomed”, or just plain “edited”. Aren’t these all ways of saying image manipulation. An image comes in one side and a different image goes out the other side. Might be nice for folks to come up with a term for the act of image manipulation. Right now, the term most widely used is “photoshopping’. How about a new word, something synthetic, that can stand for the entire category and also be a verb and a noun?

  18. KLC 14 July, 2010 at 18:21 Reply

    I’m 56 and got into photography about 5 years ago when we bought our first digital camera. I’ve never been in a darkroom and my eyes glaze over when the oldtimers lecture the young whippersnappers about how much they learned about photography in the good old days when they had to walk 5 miles to school in thigh deep snow in order to develop their pictures.

    I think your comments make a lot of sense to anyone, no matter their age, who is starting out.

  19. Kajo 14 July, 2010 at 17:57 Reply

    HI Matt,
    interesting topic and I totally agree with you. Even myself (30) who has seen a dark room once at school when I was 12 years old, have no relation to this era anymore. It is so long ago, I can hardly remember it.
    There definitely is a generation gap and you and I are both part of a generation who does not have strong ties to the dark room era anymore.
    Using this kind of terminology only helps the older, non-computer savvy generation to understand what it is that we (can) do with the technology from today.
    In my workshops I never use the word digital darkroom. It has no meaning to me, and never did.

    Greetings from Sydney!


  20. Stefan 14 July, 2010 at 16:59 Reply

    I spent this morning in the Rainbow River with one of my friends Nikonos cameras. Stopped by Walmart and was told they no longer process film inhouse, i’ll have to send it off to get it back next week! I think this drives your point home! They all just stared at me with the film in my hand! WOW!

  21. Tomharg 14 July, 2010 at 15:36 Reply

    Matt, you’ve hit on one of my pet peeves in the computer world. In computers, “experts” tend to name processes and procedures by something THEY are familiar with and not something meaningful to those learning the system. Thus, programmers name things with terms they are used to but that don’t mean anything, or mean something else, to neophytes. This gets in the way of learning because the student has to learn new terms or new, quite different, definitions for old terms (“mapping” for example).

    When Photoshop came along, the professional photographers and programmers did the same thing, and it gets in the way of learning how to use the program. Some examples: in the darkroom, to “burn” was to mask everything but a small area of the print paper to allow more light from the enlarger on that area to make it darker; to “dodge” was to mask an area to keep light from hitting it to make the print lighter. At least that’s how I remember it from the last time I was in a darkroom 50 years ago. This made sense when going from negative to a positive image. Pro darkroom people have no problem with those terms in Photoshop, but neophytes do because “burning” means just the opposite of what it seems, and action of “dodging” doesn’t match peoples usual understanding of the word. Then we have “exposure” and “brightness,” which seem to mean the same thing but don’t, and in fact, seem to mean different things to different experts! “Digital negative” means something to film photographers, of course, but is counter-intuitive to newbies: what’s negative about it, is there a digital positive somewhere?

    Then there is “post processing.” What the heck does that mean? Is this processing done after some other processing? What is that other processing then, taking the picture? Is there a “pre-processing”? Isn’t this just editing, as in editing something that has been written? Unlike most of the posters here, I’m not a “nothing but photography” professional, but I still use Lightroom and Photoshop to EDIT my photos, just as I use the tools in my word processor to edit my writing. I like using Lightroom and Photoshop because I can do things with my photos that I couldn’t do before without investing a lot of time and money in tools, but learning to use them has been difficult because of the often-obscure terminology (and I still only use about 5% of the Photoshop capabilities). I’ve been working with computers for over 25 years and I’m still waiting for software companies to twig to the fact that for many people, “learning the program” is difficult because of the obscure terminology.

    I believe you are spot on with his thoughts in this post, Matt. I’d love to see you influence Adobe to lead the software industry in making programs more easily understandable. Thanks for doing what you do!

    Tom Hargreaves

  22. Holly 14 July, 2010 at 15:35 Reply

    Its been great reading through all the comments on this one. Good conversation for sure. Seems like everyone has a valid point. Personally I don’t mind “digital darkroom”. My first real photography experience was in college with my 101 course. I also took the 102 and 103. We were taught film. And personally I loved being in the dark room with the chemicals watching the image appear on paper. Yeah I think we could all do without the smell but it taught me a lot. I was also an Art History minor so learning that end of it gave me a wonderful appreciation for it. I’ve really just recently started shooting for myself (in the last few years) and trying to relearn all those principles and apply it to digital, it can be daunting. Digital seems so easy compared to film. But digital also seems more overwhelming to me that film did. Maybe its because the skies the limit almost with digital. I’m still careful when I shoot too, just because the memory card will hold 1000’s of images doesn’t mean I need to shoot that many lol. I remember when learning with film we we took our time choosing subjects, setting our f-stops and choosing the speed of film we wanted because once you click that button thats it! Once that roll was shot you spent hours possibly days in the darkroom processing it.Now I can click away happily which can help me learn faster but also can hinder me from taking my time with things.

    For me anything worth doing is worth doing right and at least learning a little background information or history. I don’t see anything wrong with new terms but maybe mixing the two “digital darkroom” can satisfy most? Now maybe course wise we could just split it up. Starting younger kids in digital class with the understanding that they might enjoy the history class and the film class as well.

    Incidentally, I just bought two fine art prints from a film photographer at the last Fort Worth Arts Festival. I loved reading about how he created his photos with more traditional methods.

    I say digital darkroom all the way (even if I’m not a Lightroom user :P)

  23. Chris 14 July, 2010 at 15:32 Reply

    As soon as people stop saying ‘straight out of camera’, I’ll stop saying digital darkroom.

    If I took my film ‘straight of out my camera’, I’d I have nothing!

    • Carolyn Fahm 15 July, 2010 at 13:55 Reply

      Very well put. There seems to be an underlying premise – probably from people who never set foot in an actual darkroom – that film was more pure because “you didn’t do anything to it after removing it from the camera.” How false that assumption is!

      I live in the artful community of Providence, Rhode Island. One of the major gallery owners, a brilliant photographer in his own right, will not represent digital photographers at all. The other galleries do feature digital art but the viewer is always told “nothing was down to the image after capture.” Since the images are printed in enormous sizes it is clear that they have at the very least gone through some sort of print conversion somewhere. Perhaps by comparing Lightroom to a darkroom some of the the prejudice against digital fine art prints can be lessened.

  24. Jimmy 14 July, 2010 at 15:11 Reply

    I’ve only experienced the analog darkroom during a course which was fun but other than that, I’ve always sent my pictures to a lab as another commenter wrote above. I have no problems with the term digital darkroom but Lightroom is so much more to me than the develop module (which in my mind should be the darkroom module). For me, one of the most important module is the Library module which is a much needed area these days when more people than before shoot so many pictures. To have an easy way of maintaining all your pictures is – for me – allmost more important than processing them.

    -Jimmy, Stockholm, Sweden

  25. Dan 14 July, 2010 at 15:10 Reply

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I started with digital photography, began to hate it, and now I’m shooting film exclusively. I scan the negatives and archive them, using applications like Lightroom to organize and work with those scans. I’ve even had the fortune of going into a darkroom and making a few enlargements, which are way better than any print I’ve made from purely digital origins.

    You (and many others) are writing assuming that film is not only dead, but has been for a long time. Yet, you’re discounting all the people who are like me and are beginning to fall in love with the colors, quality, and fun of shooting film. I think that you’re likely to soon see a resurgence in the film community as people start rediscovering the benefits of an analogue medium that’s only been out of the mainstream for about ten years.

    In case you’re curious, I’m 26.

  26. Larry Loar 14 July, 2010 at 14:12 Reply


    Good food for thought! I would think that having an understanding of some of the terms that are still used in the software programs would be beneficial. Maybe it is because of this knowledge that I understand what dogging and burning means. Ask a lay person and they wouldn’t have a clue. Some of the newer people in photography might just know that it is to lighten or darken an area of the photograph. I still think it gives one a better understanding of what and maybe even where some of the terms are derived. IMHO. Larry (I know, I’m still older than you!) LOL

  27. Mike 14 July, 2010 at 12:37 Reply

    I was originally attracted to the Lightroom program because it instantly reminded me of a darkroom. The UI is designed to resemble a darkroom – beyond the obvious dark color comparison…the filmstrip, the “stations” to load up an sort the film, develop it, and print it.

    However, it is really the comparison of the function that does it for me. The darkroom, to me, is where I would gather up all of my film rolls, process them more or less in batch, then selectively enhance and print them.

    If the debate was around calling Photoshop a darkroom, I would agree that the comparison is a little too dated….

  28. matt 14 July, 2010 at 12:06 Reply

    I cannot find LR3 at any of the authorized reseller locations in my area (Tampa). Due to the purchasing system through the state, we may not purchase online. My beta is dead for two weeks now. Please advise.

    • Matt Kloskowski 14 July, 2010 at 13:51 Reply

      You posted this before Matt. Unfortunately I don’t have any suggestions for you. If you’ve called all the stores that may carry it and they don’t carry it then it sounds like your only alternative is to get some one to make an exception and purchase online.

      Sorry 🙂

      • Matt 16 July, 2010 at 19:19 Reply

        Thanks, Matt.
        It has been a staggeringly fast transition away from the traditional distribution channels. The biggest organizations are not so nimble. Thanks again for providing your 2¢.

  29. Tim 14 July, 2010 at 12:03 Reply

    When is the last time you threw a ball into a peach basket hung 10 feet on wall?
    They still call it Basketball.
    A 14-year-old doesn’t care what something is called. If their interested they just want to get there hands on it and play with it.
    As the older generation we can call it whatever we want, that’s the way things work. We didn’t have a choice in naming the things that came before us. If we call it the digital darkroom It’s a transition for the older generation to the younger generation.
    If you want the younger generation to catch on even quicker than they do now. We need to give it an acronym.
    ALDD – Adobe Lightroom Digital Darkroom
    APDD – Adobe Photoshop Digital Darkroom
    I think I’m over processing!
    I say give your nephew the ball and let him play and have fun. if the passion is there The history part will come later.
    When the questions come. That’s a great time to teach history.

  30. Robert Alescio 14 July, 2010 at 11:58 Reply

    I’ve had darkrooms, strained my eyes, and breathed the fumes, so I do know the difference. However, to me, ‘darkroom’ always described the operation of what went on behind the door rather than just the lighting condition. Shoot in RAW is very much like using film in that it requires processing. That process, turning an original capture into a printable, finished product, is the unbroken connection between yesterday and today.

    As far as the word ‘darkroom’ seeming anachronistic, well, just let language take its natural evolutionary course. Much of the English language is full of phrases and idioms from our agrarian past. They add color and meaning to today’s overly technical lingo.

  31. John 14 July, 2010 at 11:53 Reply

    I guess the question for me has always been does “post processing” make sense? Post of what? Shooting the picture? Then why isn’t is just processing?

    Why do we get ON a plane when we actually get IN a plane?

  32. William Chinn 14 July, 2010 at 11:43 Reply

    Darkroom, yes! Don’t sell the younger generation short, (yes, I’m an old geezer who loved his basement darkroom, but didn’t like the smell and the length of the process) they know about things from the past. Say manual transmissions / gear shifts, propellers on airplanes, grain on enlarged prints, and grandparents, and they can relate. When teaching myself Lightroom 1, 2, and 3 darkroom techniques were flashing through the cobwebs making their point. Principles of the Darkroom can be learned in 10 minutes, so asking the younger gen to relate is nothing compared to the complexities of a computer, memory cards, internet, Adobe pricing, Kelby humor, and Lightroom. Just remember what is said today, because when Lightroom 10 is replaced by LaserRoom beta a few years from now the question will be whether LR relates to the newbies.

  33. Elmar 14 July, 2010 at 11:15 Reply

    In the 1980’s and 1990’s I did develop films in a darkroom but I think, it’s more difficult to use computer programs if the program’s command names are metaphors to areas of expertise.

    It’s often better to describe the effect (making the image/parts of an image brighter) then using that metaphor terms (Exposure, Dodge/Burn, …). That does not mean the absence of terms, many are useful (Contrast etc.) and many not.

    It’s difficult to find a good name for a program, here another suggest: “Image Room” because Lightroom is much more than an image editor (“image processor”).

  34. Walter Beck 14 July, 2010 at 11:10 Reply

    Why are we upset about the use of darkroom and not concerned about usage of other terms and concepts related to “traditional methods of photography”. I use traditional in a historical sense.

    Even now as we are in a digital age we use ISO to refer to the amplification factor applied to the output of the digital sensors instead of using a term that reflects the actual function of “film speed” for digital cameras. We equivalence lens focal lengths to a traditional film size (35mm) when lens focal length is really a function of the sensor size.

    Why do we do this? Maybe because we need to have a reference to something that came in the past so that in our minds we can associate with concepts we understand. We do it with every change in technology.

    I see no problem with calling Lightroom a digital darkroom or an image processing software application (more correct in the digital age?) or even a name that has no associative context, like GIMP.

    To quote the immortal bard, “A rose by any other name is still a rose”. Think of the concept and not the name. I am 65 and when letting my grandkids use my digital cameras, I talk in current terms and not the “old days”. When I am shooting with my 35mm or medium format and they want to know what is different, I tell them. Its interesting how they automatically start doing the correct associations between the “traditional” and the new.


    B & B Photography

  35. Chet 14 July, 2010 at 11:07 Reply

    Isn’t that why Lightroom is called “Lightroom”. I always thought it was a great name.

    Anyway, I hated sitting down on a computer and editing pictures. For me photography is tactile and being on a computer isn’t. It’s just… work.

    However, when I first heard the term “Digital Darkroom” it just made sense to me. And although the actions are the same, I view “Digitally Processing” in a different light and it’s not such a chore for me anymore.

    In the past as a photographer, we could be pretty much done after the click.
    Today click and the picture is only partly done. These days digital processing is a large part of what is setting photographers (and pictures) apart from the masses.

    More is expected from photographers now and the Digital Darkroom (Processing) is so much more important than before.

    Of course Lightroom is the Darkroom… and a lot more.

  36. Logan Miller 14 July, 2010 at 10:57 Reply

    Great post today, Matt. I’d never thought about this subject like that. Yes, photography has a rich history and it should absolutely be studied – as history. If I were to teach the next generation of photographers, I’d keep it all digital. Why waste time training film processing techniques? We can explain we have ISO Speeds, dodging/burning, etc as necessary without actually processing film. Don’t get me wrong, I learned the basics of photography on film and have darkroom experience – which I really enjoyed. However, it’s time we move on to the future. Personally, I second the motion to use ‘post-processing.’


    • Logan Miller 14 July, 2010 at 11:03 Reply

      “…explain WHY we have…”

      PS I just got an email from Amazon with the subject line:
      “ Adobe Lightroom 3: Your Digital Darkroom?”

      How timely!

  37. KC 14 July, 2010 at 10:47 Reply

    As a previous employee of a private high school (network admin. & graphic/web designer), I was approached by the graphic arts teacher, asking if he thought it would be okay to dismantle the school’s darkroom and just teach digital, since that is what most kids have access to.

    I emphatically discouraged this line of thinking, and gave him my reasons:
    a) most kids have little more than a point-and-shoot, which means teaching shutter speed, aperture/f-stop, depth-of-field, etc. is near impossible;
    b) because of the ease of digital to make photographs without concern for having to get the shot right the first time—composition, pre-planning, judgement of light, etc. all become very difficult to encourage and teach
    c) when switching to digital, the settings and abilities in Lightroom and Photoshop make much more sense with a traditional darkroom background (e.g. dodge and burn)
    d) using SLR equipment will push—and allow—the students to be more creative, instead of just taking and developing snapshots

    In any educational setting, secondary or collegiate, I believe it is vitally important to the growth of the student, to provide the process of the traditional darkroom. It is only then that they can fully understand digital tools, be it camera or post-processing.

    I know that there will be several disagreements, but be honest: How many articles and references are there to throw-back methods or tools? Ansel Adams zone-system, tilt-shift technology from medium-format, etc., etc.

    I also know that there are many successful photographs, both amateur and professional, who never stepped foot in a traditional darkroom, or used a film-based SLR. And that’s okay, and I applaud them for their ability. But the fact remains that the tools that they are using required learning the methods, terminology, and skills of ‘yore.’ And again, when it comes to high school and college students, I believe that their initial experience with photography should be traditional methods, before fully understanding digital tools.

    Some might say that this is similar to having to know how an engine works before learning how to drive. Wrong analogy. It is more like learning how a simple two-stroke engine works, before diving into the complications of computer-based fuel-injected formula-1 car engine construction.

    So, for now, I believe it is necessary to give distinction to the traditional darkroom, as it still plays a vital role in instruction.

    • Lyle 14 July, 2010 at 15:07 Reply

      Since you said there’d be disagreement, I’ll thrown mine in here.

      The iterative speed improvement between film processing, printing etc. and working digitally with near instant feeback is probably the greater value of teaching using digital techniques. Think of a tethered camera in a studio lighting class – with a projector throwing results up on the sidewall real time….

      And, you can teach/do all the things you noted from the film-age using digital gear just fine – if your ultimate focus is on the quality of the image and not the materials in the process.

      But, your points are well stated just the same… and some sound logic behind them.

      btw I have an almost new, seldom used Beseler 23C XL someone can have if they’ll come get it in metro Dallas.

      • KC 14 July, 2010 at 18:12 Reply

        And this is exactly what should happen, once students understand the basics. I should have been more clear in my post, that I would not expect a traditional film-based class to last more than a semester (high school level). Beyond that, I would expect a certain level of mastery, based on assignments, before moving to the next semester.

        I think my core reason for this is; after watching students for 15 years, I’ve come to determine that both they, and some instructors, find the quickest and easiest way to say that they have “covered” a topic in class. Without extremely careful planning and the monitoring of student progress, I think it is very difficult to comprehend the basics of photography for a generation of students (and adults) who think taking a picture involves holding up their cell phone. (Note: the administrator of this school became very frustrated with me when I would not use a photo he had taken with his cell phone. It looked fine on camera, but was extremely fuzzy and grainy on screen–and the end purpose was a print piece.)

        I also believe that this comes from my own experience in college, rushing through two black and white courses, doing as little as possible for the grade, not only due to time constraints, but also financial reasons. To this day, I kick myself for not being more self-aware, and taking the time necessary to take advantage of the class and lab time.

        I have actually worked out a basis for at least a year-long photography class, if not moved to a third quarter. As stated, basic would be taught first semester with basics (camera use, darkroom processing, composition, general lighting, etc.).

        The next semester would move to digital, with a short lesson plan on the differences between film and digital cameras, but mostly centered on Photoshop. During this same course, assignments would be given for basic portrait/still-life/studio shooting, to further enhance the student’s camera abilities.

        The third semester would primarily be field/assignment shooting (school events–sports, banquets, recitals, talent shows, etc.) for yearbook and various publication purposes. On the computer side, Lightroom would be the center of concentration, both for program use as well as the organization aspects (sorting, flagging, keywords, etc.).

        There is so much great technology that could be utilized in these advanced classes (such as the tethered shooting, immediate feedback via projector, etc.). While I believe a teacher could use these for demonstration of technique purposes, I still feel strongly that the students should begin at the beginning (especially the high school level).

      • KC 14 July, 2010 at 18:19 Reply

        As I finished the last section, an analogy came to mind, in related artistic fields: watercolor, oil painting, pencil/chalk/charcoal drawing, airbrushing, etc.

        Every single one of these mediums and skills can be done, and done well, via a Wacom tablet and a computer. While not a perfect analogy, I see traditional methods still holding strong. It could be because of the tangibility of the mediums (I struggle drawing on paper, let alone a computer). But a true understanding of the traditional process of these artistic areas is still necessary before moving to digital methods.

  38. Marcy 14 July, 2010 at 10:29 Reply

    I’m gonna take a wild guess and predict that all those in the older age groups, or just those who have had experience with darkrooms and been in them will say “YES! It makes sense!” and those of us who are newer to photography and never dealt with a darkroom or know the first thing about them, will say “meh, doesn’t mean anything to me.” ; )

    The thing is, the word “darkroom” has very strong meaning to certain people… and to many others, it means next to nothing. So alluding to it means nothing to us, does nothing, gives us nothing to compare to. I’m not sure there’s necessarily “harm” in using the word, but for those of us who started out in the digital age and are used to digital media, it’s a term that holds little meaning.

    (You can argue that that somehow makes us “lesser” as photographers, and I suppose if being a photographer means being an expert on all photo mediums that might be true, but it doesn’t have to take away from our enjoyment of photography or our skills with a camera.)

  39. Glenn Comeau 14 July, 2010 at 10:22 Reply

    My father was a photographer during WWII, I processed my first film when I was 7yrs old. I’ve had my photography studio for over 33yrs and still have the full color lab here in the back, even though I haven’t used it since I went fully digital in 2000. I know the “darkroom” and the only reason you needed a “darkroom” was to process light sensitive film and photo papers (no such thing as “darkroom magic”). Lightroom is NOT like or even close to what a darkroom was. Ansel Adams and Minor White had the key to successful photography whether it be film or digital, that was the “zone system”

    Today we can make prints without a darkroom, lightroom or photoshop. they may not look as good without lightroom or photoshop, but it still can be printed. I love the digital age and what we can do now in lightroom or photoshop, and I DON’T have to mix chemicals or get my hands wet.

    The question of Lightroom being compared to a darkroom is that they both had something to do with photography.

  40. IPBrian 14 July, 2010 at 10:04 Reply

    The English language is full of stuff like this…ie “dial the phone number” (phones haven’t have dials for decades). Records go platinum even though most people don’t buy records (sure in modern awards the CD goes platinum, but you still understand the context). Etc, etc, etc. I love how language gives us little gifts by taking us back to times past…and like I always say, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth”.

  41. William 14 July, 2010 at 09:53 Reply

    From my viewpoint, digital darkroom is perfect….several of the “no” comments have been made by those who have never had the wonderful exlperience of the real “wet darkroom”….I started at 12 years old and at 74 I still like the word “darkroom”. The word digital just brings everything in perspective….

  42. Lyle 14 July, 2010 at 09:35 Reply

    I don’t refer to a word processing program as a digital typewriter, and I don’t refer to digital processing programs as digital darkrooms… same way I don’t refer to digital asset managment as “digital glassine file drawers and lookup cards”. 🙂

    I spent WAY too many hours in a wet darkroom working as a news photographer in the 70’s to ever want to look back. I think my sinuses have finally recovered; gray matter, maybe not so much… (I used to get the worst headaches doing wet work in spite of good ventilation…)

    Perhaps one specific thing from that era that’s extremely useful is understanding the zone system and how to effect it digitally (sensor sensitivity range issues) – because it is very relevant. Nothing else is in my mind, but that was working with/around the limitations of tools/media too – so maybe it’s exactly the same in both worlds.

    Good post Matt.

  43. Steve Salt 14 July, 2010 at 09:22 Reply

    I haven’t used a darkroom since 8th grade in Industrial Arts class. And that just one week before we moved on to woodshop. It sounds like “darkroom” is becoming a sensitive subject to some, but as you said, it’s probably a generational thing.

    Photography is in a transition era. Some folks are holding on to terms and techniques from before. Some are looking forward to the future. And some are sitting in the now trying to embrace both directions.

    If nobody said “darkroom” around me, i wouldn’t miss it. it’s a Film thing. I agree with Holger [Tag!] and Debbi above, it’s part of history and we should know of it. Same with learning about historical photographers and painters and all kinds of art history. it can only make you better.

    Just like sensor size: I don’t own a camera with a full frame, and yet when i’m talking photography with someone [from film era] about a crop/composition or a lens, they have to immediately tell me the conversion, “well, on a full frame, this would actually…” let it go, man. It just doesn’t mean anything to some people.

  44. Libby 14 July, 2010 at 09:16 Reply

    Yes, it’s perfectly OK to continue the language of photography, even if the methods and mechanics have changed. They changed when glass plates evolved to film. They changed, too, when the Brownie was released, opening the doors of image capture to a much wider audience. The tradition that we follow today with sensors and media cards, software and hardware is an evolution of all of that and there’s nothing at all wrong with honoring our imaging past. Would we have our imaging present without it?

  45. James Bullard 14 July, 2010 at 08:57 Reply

    Hey, not so fast on declaring the darkroom dead. Ctein (the master color printer) still has a darkroom. Michael Johnston (The On-line Photographer) is building a new darkroom. I still have a darkroom. Admittedly film use is a fraction of what it was but it is still being made, people are still shooting & developing film. Some photographers are doing various crossover projects like scanning film to be printed digitally (me for one) or printing digital images on transparency material to make wet prints.

  46. Tregix 14 July, 2010 at 08:55 Reply

    Lightroom is only a part of the digital darkroom. Why? Well, simply because Lightroom does give you a print 😉 Moreover all the paper profile are not (yet?) created with Lighroom but by a specific software.

    However, if you don’t print (and most people don’t) then Lightroom is a digital darkroom.



  47. Sérgio 14 July, 2010 at 08:36 Reply

    Matt says: “Do we force it on them like we force history lessons on them?”

    Santayana replies: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

    • Ron 14 July, 2010 at 12:44 Reply

      Thank you Sir. You have hit on a very important aspect of Matt’s original statement.

      The portion that caught my eye was the use of the word, “force”. It is unfortunate, but Matt is correct…many times history does have to be forced upon the young. Just as we are living in bad times brought on by our having ignored the study of political history; we run the risk of losing our photographic heritage (people, photographers, techniques, images, etc.) if we do not offer and maintain all avenues to that history.

      Not using the term “Darkroom” is of little consequence until a student asks, “What’s a darkroom?”. As participants in a process that we all love, we should look upon that moment as one more opportunity to pass our love of photography to the next generation. We owe it to those who came before us…

  48. Joe 14 July, 2010 at 08:32 Reply

    To me, an experienced darkroom guy from the late 60s to mid 70s BW, the terminology that would made sense in conversation then and now would be to call Lightroom and Photoshop software the PhotoLab. I didn’t tell my wife I was going to the darkroom, I said I was stopping by the photolab for a few hours on the way home. The photo-lab was the place where you loaded your film in pint to quart sized stainless steel ‘tanks’ in an actual darkroom-one about the size of an old style phone booth, then in the light poured in various chemicals at specific temperatures for specific amounts of time, hung the developed film in a drying cabinet. Then cut it into to strips to fit your negative book and then took that into the printing darkroom using overhead projectors to compose and expose photo paper and run it through a set of chemicals to develop your shots.

    In other words the photo-lab is where you did everything to create the finished product, individual photograph or wedding book.

    Today: Lightroom, Photoshop, and Lumapix are for me anyway, the Photo-Lab!

    And I believe the term “Photo-Lab” is the most appropriate because it encompases all the things we did to produce a result then, and all the things we do to produce a result now!

  49. debi Anderson 14 July, 2010 at 08:27 Reply

    I think we ALL learn from History. I am 55 and I learned from my father’s day in the dark room which was way different from my time in the dark room. I agree with some of the comments above – that maybe it should be called the “analog darkroom or something like that”.

    But, just recently I came across AGAIN the true meanings of say a Daguerreotype and how Louis Dagerrotype created it, and how we can replicate it today.. How many kids born in the last few years even know who the heck he is?
    That history can’t be lost – just like in art history we can’t lose who Monet or Picasso was?

    It’s part of art, it’s part of history…. IMHO…debi

    • Matt Kloskowski 14 July, 2010 at 08:29 Reply

      Good statement Debi – we definitely can’t lose the appreciation of art history. So then, maybe the darkroom and film and the process around it should be put into a Photography/Art History class for photographers, rather than put in to practice for them as an actual class. After all, isn’t that the reason for art history classes for art students. To help them appreciate where we’ve come from in hopes to influence where they go in the future.

      Just a thought.

      • ReneG 20 July, 2010 at 12:57 Reply


        Matt, in 10-15 years from now, a student at your Seminar will raise his hand and ask you: “Why is it called Lightroom?”

  50. Shawn 14 July, 2010 at 08:25 Reply

    If you keep the lights down in the room in which you do your digital processing perhaps ‘darkroom’ is not so far off the mark. Or ‘dim-room’ perhaps.

    I believe that everybody should experience the traditional darkroom if only to realize that there was a day when photography was an expensive endeavour and that you had to be careful with composition, exposure and the actual printing of your work. You wanted as many keepers on that strip of film as you could achieve. Myself, I treat each shot as if I am shooting transparency film and so composition and exposure are of paramount importance because I am not tweaking anything in post and strictly running the image through proprietary software. I really don’t use LR for anything but it’s superior DAM capabilities, print and web modules. The price of the software is well spent based on those aspects alone.

    • Aaron 14 July, 2010 at 11:16 Reply

      I find the metaphor of a darkroom to be a kind of inoculation against the attitude that you describe here. That you resist “tweaking anything in post” suggests a certain disdain for digital processing, as if it were some bit of trickery applied to finished images rather than an organic part of the photography workflow. The metaphor of the darkroom, on the other hand, implies that LR or other digital post-production software is as integral to digital photography as was the bricks-and-mortar darkroom to film photography. Until it’s done, all you have is a bunch of negatives.

      Perhaps we can think of this metaphor another way. Letting my camera process internally the raw sensor data and spit it out in a JPEG is akin to taking my film to Target or CVS for development, where most important decisions are made by a computer; importing the raw file into LR and processing it there, on the other hand, gives the individual photographer the type of control that he or she would have had in an old-school darkroom (quite a bit more control, in fact, which might be where your discomfort comes from).

      Regardless of its resonance for the under-15 set, then, the metaphor of a darkroom seems most useful for persuading curmudgeonly film shooters that LR and PS aren’t black magic, and giving them permission to drop the old fallacy about never “tweaking anything in post.”

      • Shawn 14 July, 2010 at 12:44 Reply

        Actually, I feel no disdain towards digital processing nor do I experience any discomfort in performing it. Nor do I feel that most who choose to use these tools are not good photographers. I simply enjoy the challenge of making the image in camera and running the raw file through the camera’s proprietary software as is. I set my camera controls such as contrast, saturation and sharpness (much the same as one would choose their film) relative to the subject and lighting etc and exposure to aperture control and that’s that. I choose depth of field and point of focus as well in terms of the subject matter. Note that in my original post I stated that I treat digital as I would transparency film. Frankly, to compare my methods to Target or CVS development is out of line and an insult.

        I believe that many have been brainwashed into believing that they MUST Photoshop or Lightroom or plug-in an image to get a stunning result. After experimenting for quite some time with both I chose to not use them. It certainly does not help that I found the results I got using these tools on my Olympus ORF files are inferior to what I achieve with Olympus Studio and a straight batch as shot. For some reason, proprietary algorithms I suspect, Adobe products just do not give me the results I want.

        You know, there is nothing wrong with being a purist, an attitude that finds it’s way into my kitchen as well. As far as I am concerned, people can go ahead and turn the sky purple and the grass yellow to their hearts content. If that is what one is after, more power to them. My preference is in the shooting, with my lungs full of fresh air and my eyes full of natural light, not at my desk in a dim room in front of a monitor. That is the main benefit of digital, it has taken the expense and time requirements of the traditional darkroom and made them unnecessary. Still, that is no reason to throw it all away and deprive one of the joy of watching that image appear on that 8X10 glossy paper if only to see how it was in the ‘old’ days.

  51. Marco 14 July, 2010 at 07:34 Reply

    The first thing I do is convert my NEFs to the Digital Negative format, better known as DNG.
    So if we have Digital Negatives, why not a digital darkroom?

    By the way: When I worked in a photolab, most of the machines where not even in darkrooms. Only changing paperrolls had to be done in a darkbox or a darkroom. And that is already some twenty years ago

  52. Peter 14 July, 2010 at 07:19 Reply

    Oh, So that’s what a darkroom is for. Obviously I have been confused by the movie scene in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008).

    Keep up the good work Matt!

  53. Ken. Cavaliere-Klick 14 July, 2010 at 07:09 Reply

    Digital darkroom sounds a bit more logical than “post production”. I’ve handled many of the old, wet, processes as well as film cameras of all types. That base of knowledge made it easy for me to transition to digital work and Lightroom.

    Lightroom manages to be more than a digital darkroom but I’d find it hard to describe it in a few catchy words. It’s an editor, a digital image file manager, a production tool and more. “Digital studio” or “digital lab” is not quite right either.

    • Benny 14 July, 2010 at 16:52 Reply

      Ken, your description is exactly why I feel like “Post Production” (or Post Processing) is the best term rather than “Digital Darkroom”. Lightroom has 5 modules, and only 2 resemble what a darkroom does. I think “Digital Darkroom” only helps digital immigrants understand the new process, but other than that it’s a pretty poor description.

  54. Holger Forchhammer 14 July, 2010 at 07:05 Reply

    “Digital Darkroom” for me is a suitable metaphor for two reasons:
    1. – as a homage to history, everybody should at least know there was a time with darkrooms
    2. – for the situation we are in working with “Lightroom” & Co. – we observe the colors on screen as different under different situations – colors change slightly depending on daylight or artificial light or a mixture of both. So it could make sense to have a kind of a “darkroom” even today with gray walls, equal lightconditions etc.

    “It it wrong that he just wants to have fun with it.” – ? – No and again no! For my understanding it is the most important thing, that kids have fun with it, that it is not too difficult, not too heavy, so that they can be creative … The interest in history comes later or with special problems, they have to solve.

    Best regards
    Holger, Germany

  55. Ben 14 July, 2010 at 06:35 Reply

    I think there are certain areas of the old age that help, and certain that can help depending on the way each individual thinks.

    My example being the sensor. It is hard to explain how a sensor reacts to light and captures the exposure.. However it is quite easy to say a bit of paper that reacts to light, the more light it gets the whiter is becomes etc etc. I think it makes it much easier to picture what is happening for the learner.

    I think a lot of people understand exposure in a physical light reacting on film way, not many understand how a sensor works the same way, and the jargon for explaining it sounds more technical and complicated.

    This then lends itself to help explain dodging/burning for expample.

    Some old world techniques tend to do nothing but confuse people and have no modern equivelant as such… for example, pushing/pulling film.

    • Marcy 14 July, 2010 at 10:36 Reply

      But see, using film/paper to explain the way light affects it only makes more sense to you because that’s what you’ve had experience with. To me, thinking of a piece of paper reacting to light makes as much sense as thinking about a sensor reacting to light. One does not seem “easier” to understand than the other. A lot of people *who have worked with film and seen it react to light in a darkroom* will understand things that way better. For those of us who are used to digital, sensors capturing light makes as much/more sense as trying to imagine film & photopaper at work.

  56. Glyn Dewis 14 July, 2010 at 06:34 Reply


    I’d never actually given this any thought until now but it’s really got me thinking.

    As a Pro Photographer who is (38ish) I never actually experienced the ‘Dark Room’ having been brought up on computers at school and in fact being the very first students to take computer studies as a school exam/qualification. My only experience with film apart from using my parents point and shoot was my very first SLR, a Canon Digital Rebel and even then I sent the film to a developers so I’m definitely a Digital Guy 🙂

    It’s always interesting to hear about the comparisons of the Dark Room and the now Digital Dark room for things such as dodging and burning etc but I guess the longer the comparison goes on, the less relevant it seems; almost like still comparing cars to horse drawn carriages…lol


  57. BarbarellaJ 14 July, 2010 at 06:29 Reply

    Seriously? No – comparing Lightroom or Photoshop to traditional darkrooms makes no sense to me.

    For the younger photographers out there, the traditional darkroom is a thing of a past. Not much longer and the first professionals out there will have been *born* after the demise of film.

    I just turned 35 – so we’re not that far apart agewise and I did grow up with film – and I only spend a single afternoon in a darkroom. The experience was interesting, I’ll give you that. But even if the equipment had been up to date in the 1970s, the whole experience felt decidedly historical to me.

    Darkrooms never really made it into my photographical experience. Back when I shot film, I send the film into a lab where they did their voodooo magic and the pictures came back: some good, some bad, some barely acceptable. Influencing the picture development by myself was a dream quickly drenched by the costs of a traditional darkroom.

    Yeah – a computer and photo editing software aren’t cheap. But I need the computer for my dayjob anyway and while Lightroom isn’t cheap, it is much cheaper than transforming a whole room into a darkroom (you need to have the cash for an expendable room at least), the developer, the chemicals (and being a chemist I really know which one of those I really, really want to breath in – especially if you’re a female who hasn’t decided against having kids yet).

    The bottom line is: not only for me but I bet for a lot of people that have really gotten into photography after aquiring a digital camera have no or nearly no experience of a digital darkroom. Listening to such comparisions…. to be truthful and risking to sound condescending: it ranges somewhere between cute, weird, funny, annoying and charming – depending on my mood and the way the comparision is delivered.

    • BarbarellaJ 14 July, 2010 at 06:30 Reply

      Argh – hit the post comment bottom to quickly… I meant “I know which chemicals I don’t want to breath in” of course… Is there no edit comment function to this board or am I just to befuddled to find it? In any case I blame the heat from the current heat wave melting my brain… 😉

  58. Burt 14 July, 2010 at 05:13 Reply

    My 17 y/o nephew took photography in school last year. They were not allowed to use digital cameras. They used film, and learned about darkrooms, enlargements, dodging, burning, etc.

    As you would expect with any teenager, he thought his teacher didn’t do a very good job of teaching, but he is now very familiar with the terms ‘darkroom’, etc. He now wants to learn Photoshop, so he can “do the darkroom without the dark” as he put it. 🙂

  59. Henk Backer 14 July, 2010 at 04:06 Reply

    My website is called “Digitale Doka” which is Dutch for digital darkroom and gives a lot of information on image enhancement exclusively in the Dutch language. Several applications refer to the variety of films in the old days and their different effects. I just mention DxO Optics Pro 6 and DxO FilmPack 2. NikSoftware has a long list of effects that refer back to the results in the old analog darkkroom. Don’t forget the list of Presets in Lightroom’s Develop module. Take into consideration that many books on the basics of photograpy refer to the analog era to explain various technical aspects.

    Yes, Lightroom – and especially version 3 – is the first application that fully deserves to be the DIGITAL DARKROOM.

  60. Tomv12 14 July, 2010 at 03:56 Reply

    I think the whole premise of your argument that the darkroom is irrelevant may be skewed. There are still plenty of people (including young people) using film whether it be 35mm, medium format or large format. Look at all the lomography websites and pin hole cameras being used.
    On a different note, darkroom is a term that has been used since the 1840s. A lot of the processes in Photoshop and Lighroom are derived from what was done originally in the darkroom. To call Lightroom and other programs a digital darkroom pays homage to that history. It would be similar to keeping terms like horsepower or candle power which could be deemed irrelevant.
    Just my 2c.

    • Matt Kloskowski 14 July, 2010 at 08:01 Reply

      I like your analogy. The horsepower, candle power comparison makes sense. I don’t think of it as much as paying homage to history though, as it is habit.
      As for being skewed, we’ll have to agree to disagree here. I don’t run into many photographers who still shoot film. I do see young people in college shooting film because their Photography 101 class makes them. But they all can’t wait to finish that class and get out and shoot the “real” way as they call it.
      I guess I’m trying to figure out if it’s right to start newcomers out in a field that they want to enjoy and have fun in, with a big history lesson. When we learn to drive a car we don’t learn on a horse drawn carriage.

      If I were heading up a photography department at a college, I’d make the first post-processing class all Lightroom. I’d say this is your next step. No Photoshop, no retouching, just Lightrooom.

      Thanks 🙂

      • Erik Turner 14 July, 2010 at 15:57 Reply

        I think the comparison to a horse and buggy is a stretch. You don’t gain anything by learning to drive a horse and buggy that applies to today’s cars. But if you learn on a film camera and especially learn in the darkroom about exposure and burning and dodging, than these lessons carry over directly, and will improve, your digital work. I did a mix of film and digital when I first took photography seriously, and I’m glad for the experience.

      • Pepe 20 July, 2010 at 12:46 Reply

        I totally agree with this analogy because I was born in the 70´s. So you can imagine: I heard to music on LP’s and cassettes, changed TV channels turning a knob, making phone calls turning a disc for each number dialed, learned to drive on a “standard transmission” car and yes, started taking pictures with a manual film camera. Even tough, I got seriously involved in photography until 2007, so I am of those that had never set a foot inside a darkroom. But I really admire the work and knowledge you have to use in there! I mean, going digital has its own tweaks and turns, but doing it “manually” and “wet” has its own special merits that should not be ignored. Say it is a tribute, say it is history, you name it! The real thing is that no LIGHTROOM would have existed ever without the knowledge base that came out form de REAL DARKROOM. And everyone who wants to know about photography should learn how the things were made in the past.
        Remember: It is always said that “we are the result of our history”

  61. Mark 14 July, 2010 at 03:45 Reply

    Good question, Matt.

    To use an analogy going into the history of processing *when you start* is about as much use as going into the history of computer design if a new student wants to learn how to write a website or code in Flash. *Eventually* there is a point in it (for example looking back at previous coding languages may help develop tighter coding or in imaging an appreciation of how density was adjusted might enable better digital output). But at that starting point? Nah. Pointless.

    I don’t even thing that calling it a lightroom (avoiding the brand with lower case L) is helpful as that is the opposite of a darkroom and was the place for mounting etc (in many cases the same room but a different bench and with the lights turned on).

    To me, far simpler to simply call it “post processing”.

    When someone has the desire to know about a technique that has a digital equivalent to a darkroom one introduce the detail (and just that detail) then. Not before.

  62. Ravegun 14 July, 2010 at 03:29 Reply

    For me Lightroom is somehow a digital darkroom because is digital and because in my room is dark when I work with it, but the resemblance stops here.

    Why is it called darkroom and not red-room? 🙂

    We should keep just the 35mm lens equivalent. I believe this is all it’s needed.

  63. Marly 14 July, 2010 at 03:16 Reply

    I totaly agree with needing to find new ways to explain photography. I was born in the eighties but started to learn photography only 3 years ago. It does not give me extra understanding if people start talking film and darkroom technics.

    for me lightroom is enhansing a picture by working on ‘all’ the pixels.

    ps sorry for my english, not native speaker

  64. Graeme 14 July, 2010 at 02:36 Reply

    I think that the term ‘digital darkroom’ is great, it’s even got alliteration, plus I can’t think of a better word – alternatives would probably come from trade names such as photoshopping an image.
    What I don’t think is useful is when the link goes deeper and people talk about dodge and burn etc, that’s when I think it gets misleading to the younger audience. But, being of the same age as you, what do I know!

    • Ravegun 14 July, 2010 at 03:33 Reply

      Excellent idea.
      You can start a story like “Back in the days when we had to take a picture, we went to the analogical lightroom and …”

      • Vicki 15 July, 2010 at 09:58 Reply

        Ravegun said: You can start a story like “Back in the days when we had to take a picture, we went to the analogical lightroom and …”

        Does that mean you no longer “take” pictures? What the heck are we doing?

  65. Wil 14 July, 2010 at 01:43 Reply

    I say yes, it makes sense .. to use the term darkroom. The core actions, the intended results and processes are very similar and definitely rooted “in the darkroom”. It implies an instantly recognizable label to what we do in the “no water allowed” monitor-a-glow room, though I’d have to concede young people have no first hand experience, but then the vast majority of the world have never set foot in a darkroom. They however do know the results, a picture. And, “digital darkroom” is a damn good name for it. It’s every bit as engaging as the old way. I think it’s even more magical and more fun, and more engaging. Spoken by one with a lot of hours spent on the hard floor of the old way.

    • Anthony 14 July, 2010 at 09:20 Reply

      No water allowed? Every darkroom I’ve ever been in that was set up to print photographs had plenty of water and processing chemicals. The typical set up was a dry side along one wall and a wet side along the opposite wall.

    • Anthony 14 July, 2010 at 22:29 Reply

      Ha, I completely read the post wrong! That said, I generally have a coffee or a beer next to my keyboard!

    • manjil 19 October, 2010 at 00:19 Reply

      i will say yes, caz in my view…. the name “lightroom” is given to remove the old tradition of developin a film in a “darkroom”. Light room is advance darkroom which is totally digital and easy to use

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