Thank you! Celebrating Darkroom’s 9th birthday
Nine years ago, we launched Darkroom. We are grateful to the hundreds of thousands of photographers who have been using Darkroom to edit their photos on the go. Thank you to those who have been with us for almost a decade and to all those who have supported our business. It's inspiring to see the millions of installs, shared photos, and installed presets every month.
A couple of weeks back, we had this year's first team meeting during which we finalized our plan for the year. We are extremely excited about what we have in store for you! First, let's provide some context, and then we'll delve into our plans for the year.
A brief history
Darkroom, launched in 2015, gained attention in the iPhone photography community by seamlessly integrating with Apple iCloud Photo. It introduced mobile-friendly curves and color tools, enabling photographers to create personalized presets on the go. Darkroom's intuitive interface and workflow efficiency set it apart, making pro desktop tools accessible and intuitive for photographers worldwide.
As Darkroom's popularity grew, we continued to innovate and introduced unique features like frames, depth editing, and video processing. In 2018, Darkroom expanded to the iPad, and in 2020, it received the Apple Design Award in recognition of its outstanding design and innovation. This honor made for an incredible year.
In 2021, we were excited to announce the arrival of Darkroom on Mac, three years after its launch on iPad. Since then, our commitment has been to deliver powerful new tools, including AI-backed Masks, Color Grading, and Preset Sharing & Discovery. We have also enhanced foundational tools such as clarity, improved highlights and shadows.
As of two weeks ago, you can now also use Darkroom on Apple Vision Pro with our compatible iPad app. It's amazing to see Darkroom running at room-scale. We’re excited to continue optimizing and iterating on our Vision Pro experience to make sure you have the best experience possible on all the platforms we support.
We want to take this opportunity to provide more insight into what has been happening behind the scenes and, more importantly, our future plans.
Our journey has been defined by our ability to provide a fast, simple, and efficient photo editing workflow. That is our obsession. This has been, and continues to be true for us 9 years later. If anything, we are more committed and excited than ever to continue building Darkroom, while staying true to those same core principles.
Over the years, we have built Darkroom on multiple platforms, added innovative features, and continuously kept up with the growing expectations of photographers. This growth in complexity has at times conflicted with our limited resources, as a bootstrapped and independent business, though that has never prevented us from stepping up to the challenge. We’ve actually gone through this before, in 2019, when we spent the whole year working on a new rendering engine that enabled support for iPad, macOS, and efficient RAW image processing. The result of that work were two years of incredible growth and power.
2023, was defined by the same narrative.
A New Render Engine
Aimed at addressing most of the serious issues reported by our customers we started rebuilding our image processing engine well over a year ago. This is the third time we have done this, each time based on the invaluable feedback from everybody, each time built on the learnings from hitting our limits, and each time unlocking a new era of possibilities.
We have recently made significant progress internally, reaching two major milestones. Firstly, we have developed a fully functional standalone app to showcase the processing performance and stability. Currently, we are in the process of integrating this new engine back into the main Darkroom app.
This new engine addresses various issues and brings about quality enhancements. Its primary focus is to ensure seamless viewing and editing experiences, providing high image quality regardless of the image size, type, or device limitations. Additionally, it grants us greater control over the rendering process, enabling us to improve our editing algorithms and develop new tools more efficiently. In the past, releases took too long and were performance-compromised because of our infra. The goal is to release at a faster pace, with a more stable baseline.
We're soon going to release Preset Sync, a major advancement to our preset tool. While it's not Edit Sync, which is the highly requested feature, making progress on one feature is making progress on the other. This release, along with last year’s Flag and Reject Sync established a syncing infrastructure for us. However, preset syncing took longer than anticipated since we had to rebuild the preset tool from the ground up to handle live updates when syncing presets in the background. This process provided valuable insights.
While preset syncing and backup are important, our goals go beyond that. We strive to offer comprehensive sync and backup support for all Darkroom data. This entails leveraging iCloud to improve photo management, editing, sharing, and the installation of presets across devices. We are proceeding with caution, thoroughly testing each phase to ensure the optimal implementation.
Last year we developed an internal version of Brushed Masks. It’s an important feature as it’s an important first step towards making retouching possible. However, Brushed Masks already strained our current render engine, affecting the app's performance and stability. To ensure a successful launch, we decided to postpone the final development of Brushed Masks until after releasing our new render engine. This delay will ensure a stable and high-performing launch.
We have made significant progress in this area, although you may not have noticed much of it as many of these changes were made behind the scenes.
- Last year, we completely rebuilt the Adjustments and Masks Tools to include Mask Previews.
- We also revamped our Album List, adding numerous new features and, most importantly, achieving consistency in the Album Lists across all your devices.
- Lastly, for Preset Sync, we completely overhauled the Preset Tool. However, as mentioned earlier, these changes may not be very noticeable to users as they were primarily made to support preset syncing.
By leveraging new technologies like Swift and SwiftUI to update our interface layer, we have established a solid foundation for a more intuitive and consistent user interface across all devices. These new tools are better tested and support the multi-platform reality of Darkroom.
We made investments last year that may not have shown external progress, but were necessary for future execution. We will keep adding value to Darkroom, especially for Darkroom+ members. Our goal is to ship more improvements, fixes, and smaller feature additions. We are also exploring new ideas for Darkroom features. While we can't promise anything now, we are committed to enhancing the app and providing a seamless editing experience. Thank you for your support and we'll keep you updated on any future developments.
Again, thank you!
Reflecting on Darkroom's journey, we appreciate the future. The next chapter brings plans and innovations for better editing and supporting creativity.
We sincerely thank our customers for their support and patience. Despite our mistakes and challenges, you have stayed with us, and we are grateful. Working on Darkroom is a privilege, and we are grateful to collaborate and create a tool that combines our passion for photography and an amazing app.
We are committed to delivering new features and staying in touch with you. We value your thoughts and feedback on our plans. Together, let's make 2024 a year of growth and creativity in Darkroom.
We also thank everyone who helped build Darkroom. Whether you were on the team or provided support as a family member, we appreciate the hard work and support. We wouldn't have come this far without you.