Happy Birthday Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw!

Did you know that today in 1990 is when Photoshop 1.0 shipped? Yep, February 19th, 1990

Publishers Note: The following text and images are from Jeff Schewe.  No one I know is more familiar with the history of Photoshop, Lightroom and Adobe Camera RAW than Jeff.

Happy Birthday Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw!

It was 20 years ago on February 19th, a Wednesday, during the keynote speech at Photoshop World 2003 in the Los Angeles (California) Convention Center that the “Photoshop® Camera Raw Plug-in” was announced and released. The Camera Raw plug-in, usually referred to as Adobe Camera Raw or ACR, was a plug-in designed to allow photographers to process their raw capture files into Photoshop. At the time, this was a BFD! Prior to the release of ACR, photographers had to use proprietary software supplied by camera makers to process their raw files. It should be noted that camera companies, known for hardware, are NOT known for their software prowess.
Scott Kelby introduced Bryan Lamkin, senior vice president of Digital Imaging, to come up on stage and make the announcement that Camera Raw would be available as an online purchase and download for $99 for use in Photoshop 7.01. It was the first such online sale and fulfillment of software in Adobe’s history.
In addition to Bryan, Thomas Knoll was brought up on stage to briefly talk about Camera Raw. I was there, but I don’t really remember much of what Thomas said. He’s not the most willing public speaker and he kinda mumbled a bit about the ability of Camera Raw to process raw images. I think he did a short demo and then the announcement was over and other things happened on stage. But that moment was a really important moment in digital photography because of Thomas Knoll bringing his coding skill to solve the thorny problem of raw image processing.
Backtrack in time to a week in June of 2002 and ironically the same time that I was putting on an all day seminar in New York City called Digital Imaging for Photographers (DIFP). I had Bruce Fraser to talk about color management, Andrew Rodney to talk about scanning and printing and I talked about Photoshop and imaging aimed at photographers. I also arranged to have some friends on a panel discussion at the end of the day including; Barbara Bordnick, Douglas Dubler, Jay Maisel, Jack Reznicki, Melvin Sokolsky, and Stephen Wilkes. Some pretty big names, right? The irony is the biggest complaint from the panel as well as the audience of photographers was why the hell couldn’t Photoshop open raw files from digital cameras? Everybody agreed that the camera companies’ software sucked.
Since Adobe was a sponsor of the event, a Photoshop product manager was sent to learn what the hot topics of the day were from the New York photographers. Well, poor John Nack, a new PM, learned the hard way that Adobe was seriously needing some sort of solution to open raw files and they needed it in a hurry. Adobe even had begun negotiating to buy a company well known as a 3rdparty raw processor. But it seems Thomas was already on the way to providing a solution–a plugin he called Camera Raw.
Later in the summer, I talked with Thomas about Camera Raw. He wanted feedback on some of the technical aspects of the plug-in and offered to send a plug-in to test. The only problem was I didn’t have a D60, only a D30 and thus began one of the biggest thorns in Thomas’ and Adobe’s sides; each friggin’ camera needed it’s own friggin’ support which meant “somebody” had to decode every raw file format from every camera to add support in Camera Raw. Since Thomas didn’t have a D30, I offered to ride my motorcycle over to Ann Arbor, MI to let him shoot some raw files for decoding.
After my visit with Thomas, I arranged for a bunch of my photographer friends to get access to beta versions of Camera Raw to test. Seth Resnick, Greg Gorman, and many other Canon shooters and even a couple of Nikon shooters. We worked with Thomas to test out the processing controls and how best to optimize the final rendered image in Photoshop. But there were some political issues that came about that fall. While Camera Raw worked in Photoshop 7, there were some at Adobe that wanted to wait almost a year until Photoshop CS was due to be released. Well, that would be less than optimal…we wanted Camera Raw NOW! So a small contingent of testers and certain Adobe people (names withheld to protect the innocent-although Russel Brown comes to mind) prevailed upon the powers that be to put Camera Raw into the marketplace ASAP and heck, even charge for it. Which lead to Camera Raw being released on Wednesday, February 19th, 2003 at Photoshop World LA.
In preparing this post, I should point out that in 2020 I wrote an article for photoPXL about the birthday of digital imaging.  
It seems February 19th is a pretty important date in the history of digital imaging. To Thomas’ recollection, Photoshop 1.0 shipped on February 19th, 1990 and guess when Lightroom 1.0 shipped? If you guessed February 19th, you would be right. It was in 2007 and I was in Antarctica but a lot of the Lightroom beta testers and Thomas himself had a little birthday party on board our ship.
Included in this post are photos and screenshots of the original Photoshop Camera Raw splash screen as well as the current version 15.2. I’ve also included screen shots of Camera Raw 1.0 and 15.2 as well as the old File Browser in Photoshop 7.01 as well as the current version of Bridge. I threw in some additional photos for fun…
In case you are interested, here’s  DPReview’s article about the Camera Raw announcement. Amazing I can still find it! If you read it, you see that I’m mentioned in the press release from Adobe…
Here’s my quote:
“The coolest thing about the Photoshop Camera Raw plug-in is the white balance feature,” said Jeff Schewe, award-winning advertising photographer, and one of just 65 photographers worldwide to be named a Canon Explorer of Light. “Now photographers can adjust their images in terms familiar to them, quickly and accurately. Also, the ability to see a preview of the sharpening and smoothing is great. Photographers will love the raw format capabilities in this new plug-in.”
Of course, I’m not a Canon Explorer of Light anymore…but that’s a story for another day.
I must shout out a friend who helped make this post possible, Chris Cox. Chris is a former Photoshop engineer who I’ve known since before he even started at Adobe. In fact, I was visiting Adobe on Chris’ first day and got to see his shiny new employee badge!
I wanted to do screen shots of ACR 1.0 and the File Browser-which I’ve done in the past on an old G4 Mac laptop running Mac OS X 10.4.11 – the last version that can run System 9. I had Photoshop 7.01 installed and I had a Camera Raw plug-in in the folder but somehow, I overwrote the 1.0 version with a newer version and Photoshop 7 couldn’t open my Canon D30 raw files…SCREWED!
So, I texted a few guys (Thomas, Eric & Chris) and Chris got back to me in about 20 minutes. He emailed me a copy of Camera Raw 1.0 so I could do the screen shots.  Thanks Chris!

Kevin Raber on behalf of Jeff Schewe
February 2023
Jeff Schewe
Chicago, Illinois

Jeff Schewe has been an award winning Advertising Photographer in Chicago for over 30 years. He is accomplished in tabletop, location, portraiture and particularly accomplished in computer imaging. Jeff shoots a variety of subject matter and likes to control as much of the production as possible. He does this by making his own models, designing and building his own sets, painting backgrounds and employing computer imaging. He has been doing his own imaging for almost 20 years in house on his high-end Macintosh systems. Jeff Schewe has been described as a Photoshop Guru’s Guru. He’s on the inside of the development and testing of Photoshop, Camera Raw and Lightroom and has helped guide and direct many features since Photoshop 4.0. Short of some of the Photoshop engineers, there’s probably not many people who knows Photoshop like Jeff. As an indication of his skills and knowledge of fine art printing, he has been named an Epson Stylus Pro. He is a past Apple Master of the Medium and has been inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame (2006).

Article Type: News, Columns, MISC

Become A Supporter Of PhotoPXL

Become a member and gain access to our new features including high-resolution images, privacy options, higher photo upload limits, multi-photo uploads, night mode, and more!

PhotoPXL is an idea to create a place of community where those with a passion for photography can come to learn and share. We hope you enjoy your experience on our site and find a home here.

Your support is critical to the success and future of photoPXL. To bring you great content we depend on your support. Please consider helping us grow and broaden all aspects of what we do here.

Support PhotoPXL for as little as a $1. It takes only a minute. Thank You.

Be the first to know

Sign up for newsletter
  • Please check your spam and forum folders if you do not see our verification email.

Recent Posts