Monday, May 22, 2017

Accidental discoveries in lightroom

I’ve been using lightroom as my primary photo editor again on my travels, because my light HP spectre with its SSD drive have made lightroom fast enough again. There are things about lightroom that still hold me up and things about the way it has to organise everything in her own way that still frustrate me. In particular how to handle working copies.image in my case these are files being past onto third arty plug-ins like Nik Software Efex range, OnOne and Perfect Exposure. What happens is the little PCPlugin windows pop up and I can chose to  edit a copy with lightroom setting (the default and most common response), a copy without lightroom settings (seems to only works with jpeg files) or edit the original (except this doesn’t work with most plug-ins). Then there is a small dialogue area at the bottom which contains the file format you will use in the exchange (jpeg, Tiff or PSD).This is all fine and I’ve done it hundreds of times because I just press ok, but the annoying part is lightroom now takes the copy and the original to the very end of your photo series. If you have more than say 50 photos in you directory this can be a few screen’s scrolling away of forever removed on the film strip. It is a tedious interruption to my thoughts and concentration.imageI have found one work around, just change to a different folder in the library module and back to the folder you working in, and Voila the files are back in their normal order, but these is even more tedium and frustration. Ahhh!!! Then I notice after I had done this at least once (but sometimes twice) the photos where not copied to the end of the folder on the lightroom screen but arrive beside the original in the alphabetical/numerical order or the origin photo.

The next discovery, I’m sure must be documented somewhere, but I just haven’t found where, is that photos in subdirectory/folder get displayed in the parent directory. I came across this by accident. To get my autostitch panoramas I need to export my starter images (they are now often HDR and tiff format) into jpeg because autostitch only works with that format. So I normally export it to a specifically named directory over in my photo scrapbook. Unfortunately it doesn’t take long to forget where an image is in that confused space. imageAt some point while I was travelling, and probably late at night, I accidentally reset the the destination of export from lightroom from a specific location to same folder as original plus sending it to a defined subdirectory. Suddenly the export shows up beside the original? Not only that I could then create my panorama and import that back into lightroom in the sub directory/folder and it to shows up in the parent folder also. I don’t have to have duplicated files over in another scrapbook folder! Then I can stack the whole series behind the panorama (gaining a lot more organizational control of this folder)

Whilst I have been using lightroom for a long time, (I stopped upgrading from version 4.4) have read the manuals in detail and many guides I can not find ant documentation relevant to these discoveries/”features”. Coincidentally I did just watch an Ed Gregory You Tube video (below) that exploits this “feature” of photos in the sub directories/folders showing up in the directory above. 

I’m never a fan of fixed workflows, so you don’t have to follow his approach meticulously just be inspired and know you can use sub folders/directories to house various working and exported versions of the photos but still see all the photos grouped together in the parent folder/directory.

Here is what I adopted on my last trip that seems to work seamlessly for me. I still use picasa to load and do the preliminary culling of my photos and I load the photo into daily folders with the name format YYYY-MM-DD this means that they automatically get sorted into chronological order. Using picasa is way faster still compared to lightroom and because I still shot RAW+jpeg I can cull the RAW/Jpeg pair at the same time (you don’t see the jpeg file in lightroom). I can als “”touch up”, crop, email and post the jpeg to the web immediately is I want (eg email photos to the family). When I’m ready to post process I just point lightoom to import from this gallery. Doesn’t take long and lightroom has happily loaded the requited details into her catalogue and ready to be useful. This is when I rate my photos and I’m trying out the star rating idea present in Jeff Harman’s PhotoTaco podcast (Culling like a Pro) below.

The idea is to only use three stars, set lightroom to auto advance, and then just hit the 1 2 or 3 key on you keyboard. This works in both the library and develop modules but works best on library if you also want to swap between thumbnail and full screen view of just a few images. The important thing is to go through your entire days shots. Each time you rate a photo you will moved onto the next. With a little concentration on the image and one hand over the relevant keys you can become very fast at this.
StarOne Star is for the set up and background shots you want to keep but not process further
StarStarTwo Stars is for any average shot, they maybe nice but are not the best in the days shots
StarStarStarThree Stars are for those shots with great potential that warrant a bit more post processing.
You will undoubtedly find that the two stars make up the majority of your folder but that’s life. Any non stared images should be deleted now (but I normally get rid of those in picasa when I load the photos). If like me you do a daily backup now is the time to do it.

Post ProcessingNext I set the filter in lightroom on rating to plus 3 stars and I only have a few images to consider. Often I will also demote a few NQR (not quiet right) photos to further trim down what I need to do. Suddenly 2 hours post processing drudgery become 20 minutes of fun!

My adopted directory/folder structureThe final piece of magic that these discoveries lead to was using the subfolders to hold working and then exported versions, would allow me to see all the photos from one day in one place. I’m not sure if final should be a sub directory of Work (where I do my post processing) or a folder at the same level, Keeping my Final work separate and easily found is the important aspect here. I definitely need to have the option of separating the image size and finish (ie post processing sharpening) in he exported versions. I just have two sizes (small for the WEB or Full resolution for possible printing. My scrapbook mess is now obsolete! (not sure yet if I will try to back that diversity into this new structure, I suspect that will be too much work). There is some duplication of files, but they are at least stored more logically close to the original images. I also returned to using the colour labels to help understand the type of images within the daily (Parent) Directory/Folder. Yellow for HDR , Green for multi image panorama stitching or collage, Purple for family snaps, Red for images posted on the web.

I don’t want you to follow my process exactly but be inspired to simplify the way you organize your photos and/or reduce the time taken or tedium to give more time to be creative.

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