Lightroom Archives

Anyone using speech recognition with Lightroom?

Speech recognition seems to have been the coming technology since I don’t know when  – I seem to recall seeing DragonDictate in the late 90s – but it is one of those technologies that never seems to have arrived as a first-class way of entering information into a computer or getting it to do what you want. When I first booted up my new PC last year, I noticed that speech recognition was now built into Windows 7 and while it’s not at all bad, I probably don’t use it often enough to become really productive.

For an exercise, this morning I tried it with Lightroom and was quite surprised how well it allowed me to navigate around the program. For example I could move around the modules or select individual panels, but I kept hitting limitations – selecting one collection in the collection panel has been beyond me, as has activating the box in Keywording where you can type in words. On the other hand, once you are in the right context it’s possible to gain a . . .

Emailing from Lightroom

Here’s a quick summary of how to email files from Lightroom:

The built-in way is to export files as JPEGs to your hard drive, then attach the to an email. Neat, eh? 1990s retro computing enthusiasts line right up!
To email files directly from Lightroom, see Andréas Saudemon’s Mac-limited export plug-in Send By Mail Plug-in for Lightroom
For Windows and using an email client like Outlook see Steve Sutherland’s MapiMailer Email Export Plugin for Lightroom
For those using Gmail on Mac or Windows see Tim Armes’s LR/GMail

Wouldn’t it be easier to have File > Send as Email?


Last year PhaseOne finally acquired – “liberated” may be a better word –  Expression Media from Microsoft and gave it back its old name, MediaPro. I say “finally” because they had tried to add the original iView MediaPro cataloguing program to their CaptureOne raw conversion products back in 2006, and also because in those five years the post processing and cataloguing landscape has been transformed with the introduction of two major programs that combine those once-separate activities. To give an idea of how completely things have changed, I remember announcing Microsoft’s takeover to a trade show at Manchester United’s stadium, and since 2006 oil money has transformed City from a long-running joke into a pumped-up monster which might no longer need to call in Channel 4’s Time Team archaeologists to find any trophies (oh for the Arab spring to sweep away Abu Dhabi’s feudal rulers – that would be so City). Of course, some things stay the same and after Sunday’s demolition of Abramovitch’s expensive toy, United are on the verge of the 19th league title and another European Cup. . . .

List View – new Lightroom plug-in

Update: released here

It’s been bubbling away for a while, and some people saw it late last year, but in the next few days I’ll be releasing a new plug-in – List View.

It does exactly what the name suggests and provides a list view which some of us feel is sorely missed in Lightroom’s Library. After all, it’s a lot easier to review your metadata in a list than by scanning a grid of thumbnails.

The plug-in currently provides 3 different views. This is the standard view where each row has 2 lines per item for up to 30 pictures, while compact and expanded views show smaller or larger thumbnails. The thumbnails, incidentally, are drawn from the catalogue itself and therefore show each picture in its adjusted state.

Once List View is displayed, scrolling through thousands of items is blazing fast. Note all 10 columns can be changed in registered version – 8 disabled in trial.

Other things you can do with List View:

Change the information in any column
Save columns as presets
Sort by any column
Export metadata to a browser
Export metadata directly to Excel
Edit . . .

A perfect shot – in the foot?

No matter how much the Lightroom ethos is about designing a program for photographers from the ground up, there are still those atavistic folk who want to do things just as they suppose they’ve always done them. So every so often you’ll get people wanting Undo to be Alt-Ctrl-Z because it’s how Photoshop has always worked, forgetting that the vast majority of programs use Ctrl-Z. Others will demand point curves, with RGB channels too, crop tools that behave just like Photoshop, or even the ability to work in Lab mode (eek). And I suspect that’s the underlying – and questionable – reason why onOne has released a preview of “Perfect Layers“:

Perfect Layers is the fast and easy way to create layered files in Lightroom. With Perfect Layers you can create and edit multi-layered Photoshop files directly within Lightroom

For an idea of what you might do with the program, as well as Scott and Matt’s video on OnOne’s site, see Sean McCormack’s Quick look at Perfect Layers.

onOne’s product range has always puzzled me – a jumble of filters they’ve developed and . . .

Blurb plug-in for Bookify

I’ll admit that I hadn’t even heard of Blurb’s Bookify and when I read their announcement of a Lightroom 3 to Bookify Plug-In I wasn’t particularly interested. Just another dumbed-down online service? Instead what I focussed on was the closing comment:

… very soon, we’ll be bringing you more exciting ways to use Lightroom and Blurb together – including integration with Blurb BookSmart®.

It’s a hint of the not-too-distant future – assuming books do survive, that is. As Lightroom becomes more and more dominant, so we’ll soon benefit from third parties like Blurb exploiting its extensibility, the SDK, to offer integrated book creation services. It’s taking some while to catch up with Aperture here, but do you really prefer a solution that depends on using software that forces you to buy one brand of computer and until recently only offered that same brand’s books? Or would you prefer the open market? It’s been a long time coming, but I look forward to what Blurb do next. My guess? A Publish service.

In the Export dialog you can define . . .

Using Dropbox to make Lightroom catalogues, presets and even preferences available on other computers

One promising approach is to use Mac aliases or Windows symbolic links (a bit like shortcuts). So for example, you would keep the catalogue itself in a Dropbox folder, but use aliases or symbolic links to store the catalogue’s previews separately in a folder that doesn’t get synchronised. When you move to the other computer, your catalogue will be available as soon as Dropbox’s sync operation has completed, just having to rebuild its previews which are stored locally. As always, the originals could be on a network address.

Not the first time either

A smoking gun?

Although mainly a PC user, I also have a Mac laptop and do like its AppleScript and Automator scripting/automation features. I’ve little doubt that if I only used Mac I would quickly find various ways of saving myself time – maybe enough to outweigh the time spent on the learning curve. Yet I’ve always been surprised that Lightroom users who are real Mac enthusiasts – you know the type, the wide-eyed evangelists – never seem remotely interested in these tools and rarely mention them. I’ve never been able to understood why not, but for Mac-using photographers Applescript and Automator remain well off the beaten track.

Now, in “the community of Lightroom talking heads” anyone can retread step-by-step Lightroom tutorials, and many will do them better than I. My style is to come up with far more than my fair share of ingenious workflows and original insights into the program. So a couple of weeks ago an interesting twist on the topic of AppleScript and Automator popped up in a forum, and I tweeted some thoughts beginning . . .

Silver Efex Pro 2

I’ve never been one who photographs in colour and occasionally dabbles with black and white. It’s very much the other way round, and I often look at pictures I’ve left in colour and think they’re rather monochrome anyway. But I’ve never seen doing a lot of b&w work as a reason why I would want to buy Nik’s Silver Efex Pro (SEP) or any of the other dedicated black and white plug-ins that it has now overshadowed. It’s not that I felt SEP1 deficient in any way – quite the contrary. SEP1 was a very polished piece of software, produced good results quickly (even if I doubted the film simulations), and I could certainly see why people liked it so much. I simply felt its price was steep, and I’ve not feel any real need for it.

Nonetheless, I was looking forward to seeing Silver Efex Pro 2 and these seem to be the new features:

History Browser – good, session-only and like Photoshop except with more detail,
Amplify Blacks and Amplify Whites – I remain neutral about this
Visual Presets – thumbnails on . . .

Complex file renaming in Lightroom made simple – thanks to the Search and Replace plug-in

Ever spend ages thinking up ways to convince someone a task is far from easy, and that they should just give up on the idea – and then the solution appears just as you were about to hit the Send button?

Well, the other night I had an interesting email from someone who has my Search and Replace plug-in for Lightroom:

… I need to remove text (“Scan_”) from the filename for images I scanned 4-5 years ago (and are now in my LR catalog). It appears [Search and Replace] does not work on filenames, only on metadata. Pre-LR catalog I used a utility to do bulk file name changes on folders of files, but that will be a problem with the LR catalog.

I could use the bulk filename changing tool, then delete the LR-cataloged-but-missing-image and then reimport the newly rename files. But it seems risky and I’d lose metadata for the images w/o XMP files.

It’s not at all unreasonable that users would want to replace certain text when doing a batch rename, and it’s a shame Lightroom didn’t include a similar . . .

Search and Replace – and check spelling?

I’m beginning to add a spell checking feature to my Search and Replace plug-in. If you want to say what would be important for your needs, please add comments to this post and I’ll see if I can implement the features you request.

There are two ways I may go. One, which I have tested on Windows, is to automate Word’s spelling feature. That’s messier on Mac so for that platform I would probably automate the OS-level spellchecker. This two-track approach would allow me to exploit corrections that the user has already made in Word, Outlook, Mac Mail etc. But it does involve platform-specific coding and would be much more work. The other alternative is to use a cross-platform library and Aspell has been recommended. I’d never heard of it, and I’ve no idea how good it is, but it may permit a simpler implementation. So that’s the route I plan to try first.

I’m probably going to initiate spell checking from a menu item (rather than intercepting the Export command) and will allow the user to specify which fields to target. . . .

Search Replace Transfer 1.30

Search Replace Transfer 1.30 fixes a bug, which 1.29 kindly introduced, but it also contains a new menu command – “Brute force” search which creates a regular or “dumb” collection and then adds images to it by performing a “brute force” search through the selected items or through the entire catalogue.

The intention is to fill in some gaps in Lightroom’s smart collection and searching capability. So it can search text fields like caption more precisely than Lightroom and it can also examine fields which Lightroom fails to search.

For example, let’s say you want to find all pictures in the catalogue which contain the exact phrase “red house” in the caption. Normally you might try a smart collection with a criterion such as “caption / contains all / red house” or “caption / contains words / red house”, but Lightroom would also identify pictures containing “girl in red dress in front of blue house” where “red” and “house” aren’t adjacent. So this command looks for “red house” as . . .

Lightroom – finding all images shot at a certain time of the year

Recently I’ve seen a number of Lightroom users asking how they could find all images shot at a certain time of the year.

Now, if you have your head screwed on you would have included seasons in your keywords. For instance, an image of snow might include “winter” in the keywords (unless you live at the North or South Poles) while a picture of cherry blossom might include the keyword “spring”. I’m not too keen on the idea of including the month as a keyword, though a case might be made for doing so.

But let’s say you’ve not used such keywords, but still want Lightroom to find all the pictures you’ve shot in the winter months. The best answer has been that you need to create a smart collection along the lines of “Capture Date” / “Is in the range” / “December 1st 2010 to January 31st 2011”, for example. That’s OK for one year, and then for a second year you’d add a line with similar criteria and just type over the years. By the time you get to three . . .

Pick flags in Lightroom

I was just helping out a newcomer to Lightroom with how to use the pick flags and the P U X shortcuts. As a reminder, I came up with this little panel end mark. Memorable enough?

The file should go in the Panel End Marks folder which you can find by right clicking in the bottom of Lightroom’s right panel.

Also see seeing stars for a similar approach to making your star ratings consistent.

Google StreetView inside Lightroom

That’s exactly what you see here! It’s actually a Google maps gallery with images displayed as thumbnails on the map. They’re clickable and reveal larger images with captions, and you can also switch to StreetView inside Lightroom’s Web or in the browser .

This is just a working proof of concept, but by the end of the day….

On reflection, when Aperture 3 came out I wrote that essentially its most prominent features were the result of bolting-on a couple of cheap wins – one being Google Maps. This drew predictable criticism from McCreate, a Pravda-style site for Mac-limited apps, but unfortunately I had based my assessment of the scale of the work on my having worked with Google Maps and I had taken an educated assessment of how little work the feature needed. If a limited implementation of Google Maps can be done by someone like me – not a trained programmer – what can a team achieve? And it also makes one very sad the feature isn’t already in Lightroom, doesn’t it?

And the point is….

See this interesting article by Michael Frye on Setting the White Point in Lightroom: A Comparison:

Since I advocate using the Point Curve in Lightroom to set a white point and black point, I sometimes get asked about the difference between doing this with the point curve, and doing it with the Blacks and Exposure sliders. The first part of the answer is that there is no difference—at least none that I can see—between using the Blacks slider and moving the lower-left end of the Point Curve to the right.

But there is a difference between using the Exposure slider to set a white point and doing it with the Point Curve. When Lightroom first came out Adobe said that pushing the Exposure slider to the right was the same as setting a white point with Levels or Curves in Photoshop, and everyone seems to have taken this as gospel. Maybe Adobe said that to justify not including Levels or a real point curve in early versions of Lightroom. But it’s not the . . .

B&W from different angles

There’s an interesting comparison of doing black and white in Capture One 6, Silver Efex 1, and Lightroom 3 by Mike at The Intuitive Lens. It’s a two parter with Capture One vs Silver Efex and then both vs Lightroom. I’m not sure it proves much, if anything, other than one if one tries to do so one can produce similar results in different products! Leaving settings at default is a little odd, and there’s no real attempt to use the b&w conversion process to separate neighbouring colours into distinct tones – eg those in the left woman’s blouse or between the brown briefcase in the foreground and the middle person’s red sweater. Why didn’t he use Lightroom’s targeted adjustment tool, for example? I’d argue that it alone produces better b&w images because you’re keeping your eyes on the image. But it is an interesting exercise.


See discussion here and here.

My view tends to be that there are no jacks of all trades and skilled hands can squeeze the same “objective quality” out of each app. So my emphasis is less . . .

Capture Time to Exif – released

Capture Time to Exif is essentially an in-Lightroom interface for Exiftool, Phil Harvey’s highly-respected “platform-independent Perl library plus command-line application for reading, writing and editing meta information in a wide variety of files”.

With Capture Time to Exif you can:

Update the Date Time Original EXIF field of scanned images. Lightroom’s filter panel and smart collections can then find the images by searching for when the pictures were originally taken rather than when they were digitised.

Write other EXIF and IPTC information such as the camera model and maker. You can enter whatever Exiftool command line arguments you choose.
Store frequently-used command line arguments as presets.
Write directly to TIF, PSD, JPEG, and DNG file formats

Writing to proprietary raw formats is disabled.

Generate a log file which can be run as a batch file in Shell/Terminal

Use this method if you really want to write to proprietary raw formats.

Capture Time to Exif is for Lightroom 3 on PC or Mac, and is available from Photographer’s Toolbox. The trial version is limited to 10 images at a time but is fully . . .

Update on the 20 minute wow

I’ve been asked – a little mischievously – why in yesterday’s 20 minute wow I don’t say more about Slideshow, Web and Print. A single word each? That good then?

Well, quite the contrary. I am not trying to pack every feature into a short presentation. The audience – existing Lightroom users and those questioning their current working practices – already know and take for granted that they can create impressive slideshows, web galleries, and prints. They don’t need showing exactly how you add keywords or adjust image brightness. Such features slip into the presentation “en passant”.

Instead it’s a 20 minute wow – bullet points to highlight great tools people may have overlooked or forgotten, and to distinguish Lightroom from Photoshop and other programs they may know.

So my emphasis on Lightroom for pictures in the plural, and a quick mention of Folder panel’s existence is all that’s needed to wake any Aperture users. AutoSync also touches those listeners, but it’s mainly there to show the huge productivity gains it offers and also because I’d also say most other Lightroom talking . . .

20 minute wow (as Orwell might have put it)

Someone, somewhere asked a good question about Lightroom. How would you wow a mixed group of existing users and other photographers when you’re allowed just 20 minutes?

20 minutes? At most? Without anyone asking you anything?

And let’s say we’re not dealing with thickos, but photographers including some who’ve never used Lightroom and other who already do, even some who pride themselves as “power users”. Well I bet someone* rips this off, but here are my bullet points :

First I run through Library

Remind people the raison d’etre of this kind of program is to manage large numbers of pictures, not just post processing
Metadata and organisation quickly send most people to sleep, so

Straight down the left panel. Folders show you always know where your pictures are (any Aperture users watching?)
Slide briefly across the bottom filmstrip (F6, drop down list of recent sources)
Up the right panel in a couple of parkour leaps. Keywording is there, templates too.
For now, that’s all the Library they can take. Move on.

Straight to Develop and straight to switching on Auto Sync mode

Drag a few sliders from Basic panel . . .