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What is that Exclamation Mark Below My Photo in Lightroom 4? If, When, and How to Upgrade to the New Process Version

If you have upgraded to Lightroom 4, when you look at photos in the Develop module that you had in a  previous version of Lightroom, you will see an exclamation point in the bottom right:

This is a signal to you that the photo is continuing to use your settings from the old (pre-Lightroom 4) processing technology. The photo therefore should look the same to you as it did as you had left it in the earlier version of Lightroom (worked or unworked), and you will have the same Develop controls as before (for example, Recovery and Fill Light in the Basic panel, instead of Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks.)

The new Lightroom 4 controls/technology are called Process Version 2012; the old Lightroom 3 controls/technology are called Process Version 2010. Both are built into Lightroom 4.  New photos you import into Lightroom 4, or photos that you never worked on in Lightroom 3 automatically use Process Version 2012. Photos that you worked on in Lightroom 3, however, start out in the old Process Version 2010, and you must choose whether to update them.

Forgive me for the length of this post, but before I explain how to update, I need to first explain IF and WHEN I think it is appropriate to update.

If you are done fixing and enhancing a photo, or you want to continue to use the Lightroom 3 controls to finish working on it, then there is no need to update the Process Version — simply ignore the exclamation point. However, you should know that the Lightroom 4 controls are more powerful — for example, you can recover more detail in highlights, and avoid some of the halo issues that Fill Light, Recovery and the old version of Clarity used to have.

When you do update the Process Version, Lightroom does its best to translate what you did with the Lightroom 3 sliders into the appropriate settings for the Lightroom 4 sliders, so that there is as little change to your photo as possible.  However, the math behind the sliders is so different, that often Lightroom simply cannot match the appearance before and after.  While some photos won’t change much, others will change very significantly — it depends on how extensive your Lightroom 3 work was.

Below are two examples. In this first one, I had done very modest Exposure, Contrast and Clarity adjustments in Lightroom 3. The translation from old to new Process Version is just about perfect — I see little if any difference.

Photo with only modest enhancements in Lightroom 3: Before and After Process Version Update


In this second example, I did very heavy adjustments in Lightroom 3: + 100 on Recovery, +100 on Fill Light, and significant Exposure, Brightness and Contrast as well. The update to the new Process Version, i.e. the translation from old to new isn’t bad, but it nevertheless significantly darkened my photo:


Photo Heavily Worked in Lightroom 3: Before and After Process Version Update


Does this mean that the new Process Version, i.e. the new Lightroom 4 technology and sliders, are bad, and you should never update?  Definitely not. The Lightroom 4 controls are more powerful and have fewer unintended side effects.  In the second photo above, after updating the process version and then working it with the Lightroom 4 controls,  I was able to get more detail in the clouds, more light into the shadows, and avoid odd halos along the tree line caused by using so much Lightroom 3 Recovery. Here is the photo zoomed in on the sky:

Photo Worked with Lightroom 3 PV Controls; Same Photo Worked with Lightroom 4 2012 PV Controls


What it does mean is that because updating to the new Process Version may significantly change my photo, I am only going to update photos if and when I am willing and ready to rework them.

To update, in the Develop module, simply click on the Exclamation Point to the bottom right of your photo.

You will get the following dialog box:


Because of the issues I have discussed, I highly recommend that you do not choose to update all your photos at onceUpdate All Filmstrip Photos would in fact update all photos you see in your filmstrip at once.  Instead, Update will just update the one photo selected.

Review Changes via Before/After will show you the old Process Version right next to the new one.  If you choose this option, after you click on Update and review the change, type the shortcut Y to get out of Before/After mode.

If you just updated and want to revert back to Process Version 2010, in the History panel click back to the step before Update Process Version (Temperature in my example below), or use the shortcut type Ctl/Cmd-Z, to undo this last step.

Reverting back to the old process version using History

At any time you can change Process Versions in the Camera Calibration panel:


Finally, just remember that until you update to the current Process Version, you will not have access to the new Basic Panel, adjustment brush and graduated filter controls, or the individual Red, Green and Blue channels in the Tone Curve panel point curve.  I have gotten many emails from folks asking me why their version of Lightroom 4 doesn’t have the new controls — now you know!

2017-06-28T20:58:00-07:00 March 14th, 2012|33 Comments


  1. Fritz Schafer March 14, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Wow! This helps a lot. I do have one question though. There has been a lot of talk about problems with the tone curve when updating to LR4. Does all of the above mean that it is OK to update to LR4 but just be careful when you update each image to Process 2012? I have been waiting to update.

    Thank you for this info!!!

    • Laura Shoe March 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm

      Hi Fritz, I am glad you enjoyed the article. The tone curve problem (flattening of point curve work) can occur whether or not you upgrade to the new process version, so if you used the point curve version of the tone curve in Lightroom 3, and you don’t want to risk losing that work as you upgrade to LR 4, I would still hold off until the bug is fixed. While Adobe does plan to offer a way to fix the issue even for those who have already upgraded their catalogs, unless you urgently need LR 4 for something, I would suggest erring on the side of caution.

  2. FedkaThe Convict March 14, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    I’m quite sure that’s an EXCLAMATION mark and not an Explanation mark.

    • Laura Shoe March 14, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      Yikes, I wonder how that happened! Thank you, Fedka!

  3. Rick March 16, 2012 at 11:39 am


    so I understand that you can update to 2012 version, and then just reselect 2010 version to go back if you don’t like what happened, correct?

    Could you also make a Virtual Copy and update that Virtual Copy to 20912, while leaving the original/master in 2010?

    Thanks, this is something I’d been wondering about and not seen much about!


    • Laura Shoe March 16, 2012 at 8:05 pm

      To clarify, Rick, let’s say you had some LIghtroom 3 Basic panel settings, and you update. If you decide otherwise and go back in History, or Ctl/Cmd-Z, you will be back to those exact LR 3 settings in PV 2010. If instead you don’t revert right away and at some point you use the Camera Calibration panel to switch process versions, you will be back in PV 2010, but you will have lost your earlier Basic panel settings. There is a translation process from 2010 to 2012, but not as you go from 2012 to 2010.

  4. Deb March 16, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    I am so glad to see your post about this since there has been many comments regarding this. Your post explains it clearly and definitely makes the transition to LR4 make more sense. Thank you for clearing this up.

    • Laura Shoe March 16, 2012 at 7:59 pm

      Glad to hear it, Deb!

  5. John Loomes March 18, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    I am working my way through your new Lightroom 4 Fundamentals and Beyond DVDs which I purchased a few days ago and so far I’m very impressed. I’m learning so much! I am a bit confused however as to whether I should be doing anything with my existing photos which I imported in Lightroom 3 but have not worked on yet. Your note above seems to suggest that photos that have not been worked on in Lightroom 3 automatically use Process Version 2012 but that doesn’t seem to be the case. When I highlight one of these photos in Library and then move to develop I see the old Lightroom 3 sliders although I know that I have done no developing work. Do I need to upgrade the photos in some way so that I can use the more powerful Lightroom 4 developing tools?

    • Laura Shoe March 19, 2012 at 10:45 am

      You’re right, John, it does seem that they need to be upgraded regardless of whether you have worked on them. In any case, whenever you see the exclamation point in the bottom right below your photo in Develop, Lightroom is telling you that if you want the new controls, you will need to update. If you have a whole folder of photos that you haven’t worked on and want to update, this is the one exception where I would then recommend choosing “Update All Filmstrip Photos.”

  6. Lars March 20, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    I have LR3 teacher student edition and have to buy the LR4 student teacher edition instead of just upgrade. How would you recommend I do this?

    • Lars March 20, 2012 at 4:05 pm

      I need to know if its just a matter of loading the LR4 install disk and following directions or is their something else I need to do?

      • Laura Shoe March 20, 2012 at 6:55 pm

        I would just follow their directions, Lars. It will ask you if you want to upgrade your LR 3 catalog, and you should choose to.

    • Laura Shoe March 20, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      I would talk to Adobe about this, Lars.

      • Lars March 20, 2012 at 8:53 pm

        Found out I should just install the LR4 upgrade. It’s no different in price.

  7. Jeff Macholz March 22, 2012 at 10:11 am


    Just found your site through LR4 facebook page. Regarding the 2012 process, I installed LR4 on my main computer last night and imported my LR3 cataloge. I noticed that if I make a change to an image and hit the reset button the exclamation point goes away, which I found interesting. I had to go to the drop down menu to reinstate the exclamation mark. Is this a known bug or is this normal. Thanks!

    • Laura Shoe March 22, 2012 at 3:23 pm

      Hi Jeff, that is normal — if you tell Lightroom “I want to start over”, i.e. hit Reset, Lightroom assumes you want to do so with the more powerful 2012 process version. Thank you for mentioning this!

  8. crhocker March 23, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    What about presets? I have some presets that I use on a regular basis and if I am happy with the 2012 process how can I make it so every time I synch that preset to a batch of photos that it will synch the 2012 process. I don’t want a bunch of exclamation marks every time I use that preset.



    • Laura Shoe March 26, 2012 at 7:09 am

      Hi Chuck, check the Process Version setting in the Preset dialog so that they will update.

  9. Ole K May 9, 2012 at 4:26 am

    (Hoping this thread is still running:) Hi, and thanks for the most detailed and clarifying article I’ve read on this issue so far.
    However, to make things clear: After having displayed Before/After side by side, do I HAVE to export the settings of my favorite version to the unpreferred one (using the arrows one or the other way), or is it enough to click on my favorite version, then “Y”, and LR will remember (and display) my chosen version the next time I open it in the develop mode?

    • Laura Shoe May 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      Hi Ole, if you are satisfied with the update, just close before/after mode (type Y). If you are not satisfied, type Ctl/Cmd-Z (EDIT>Undo) to undo the update (and close out of before/after mode by typing Y).

  10. Mark Fisher May 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    I am disappointed with this feature. I run through a lengthy process of editing and converting RAW to TIFF to DNG, so by the time I’m in LR, I usually do not modify photos. None of the DNGs modified by PV2012 were edited by or used presets from LR, yet applying the PV2012 moved sliders everywhere and each one modified REALLY looked poor. Why where there such drastic changes? Is there any process for changing these back other than one at a time?

    • Laura Shoe May 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      Hi Mark, I’m not clear why you would go raw -> TIFF -> DNG, but it sounds like if you didn’t edit the DNG’s in LR 3, you did edit the TIFFs in LR 3 or Camera Raw — and those changes are also in the DNG. The changes were probably drastic because you used a lot of fill light, but regardless, the translation simply isn’t perfect. As far as undoing a bunch at once, if you just did the update, you can do Ctl/Cmd-Z, but otherwise I believe you are out of luck — you can use Auto Sync and change the process version on all of them at once, but this won’t retranslate your work back to how you had the LR 3 sliders set. You will have to use the History panel, photo by photo.

  11. Brian Williamson October 16, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    IAM PRINTING THEM ALL- LOL >:)) Thanks your the Best

  12. Aaron October 16, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    One tip I’ve given to a lot of my students (I’m the Lightroom teacher at the main photo school here) is that they can also create virtual copies and just update one of them – either the master or the copy – to the 2012 version. It’s also worth pointing out that upgrading to 2012 goes in as a history step that can always be un-done. (and then they could undo, and create that virtual copy of the 2010 version first).


  13. keith January 13, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Fantastic info – thanks from Clearwater Beach !

    • Laura Shoe January 17, 2013 at 10:26 am

      You’re welcome, Keith!

  14. murat February 6, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    laura, this is once again very helpful info, thank you!
    one thing that i am still stuck with: i would like to move past the 2010 process, now that it’s been a while since it came out and i have (as have all my presets) adjusted to pv2012 fairly well. it seems that i always still have to do this manually for even new pictures after i import them to lr4 – isn’t there a way to have lr default to pv2012 still?
    thanks in advance!

    • Laura Shoe February 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      Hi Murat, if this is happening on new photos, I am betting that you are applying a Develop preset in the Import dialog, and that this preset is set to PV 2010. Otherwise they should definitely default to 2012.

      • murat February 7, 2013 at 2:11 pm

        right on it! i updated the preset i use while importing(didn’t even realize it was pv2010), and it’s gone now – thanks again laura!

  15. Becky May 3, 2013 at 7:55 am

    I recently upgraded to a Canon 5d Mark iii, which is not compatible with LR3, so I am upgrading to LR4. Is there anything I can do with my LR3 presets, to upgrade them to LR4?

  16. […] For more on Lightroom's “Process Versions”, see Laura Shoe's article: “What is that Exclamation Mark Below My Photo in Lightroom 4? If, When, and How to Upgrade to the New….” […]

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