Posts Tagged ‘Lightroom’

My Biggest Hope for Lightroom 3

October 23, 2009

I posted the following to Terry White’s Tech Blog about Lightroom 3:

I am downloading the beta now in Bangkok, Thailand. My internet connection is very slow but I’ll get there.

My biggest question is about database capacity and performance. I’m approaching 50,000 images in LR 2 now and my catalog is about 1GB not counting the previews cache. That’s about one year’s work.

I want to be able to use one LR catalog for every photo I take for the rest of my life. If I have a powerful machine and sufficient disk, is this a reasonable expectation that LR will be able to support many hundreds of thousands of images?

The way I work I often need to go back to pictures I took years ago so splitting into multiple catalogs (e.g. 1 per year) would be very inconvenient.

Clearly database technology can handle that kind of task – e.g. MySQL – but I am not so sure about SQLite.

Thanks! I am looking forward to trying the new features.

I did not get an immediate response, although Terry is good about responding to other questions.

Adobe has been vague about performance and capacity in everything I have seen. The LR 3 beta is no exception. They say:

Lightroom has been stripped down to the “engine block” in order to rebuild a performance architecture that meets the needs of photographers with growing image collections and increasing megapixels.

But what does that mean? Did they change the SQLite database engine? What are their performance and scalability objectives for LR3?

Adobe has this appearance of openness with their blogs but I feel they don’t share much beyond the standard marketing-approved talking points.

As always I see both sides. I was nervous about talking publicly about performance and scalability when I worked for HP. There are so many variables and it’s easy for one’s words to come back to haunt you (and the company). But that is a long time ago and we should be better at it now.

Are my scalability expectations reasonable or not? I cannot believe I am unique.

Lightroom Import Behaviour Changed

July 10, 2009

Lightroom 2.4 has changed its behaviour when you tell it to back up imported files to an external drive and the drive isn’t on-line. In version 2.3 it raised an error before the import. Now it does the import and tells you afterwards.

Lightroom Import Results

Lightroom Import Results

I wrote a blog entry about how I found the old behaviour a bit annoying. Adobe must have heard me. I have not seen this change documented.

Sorry Adobe – this isn’t ideal either. If I forget to put my backup drive online before I do an import now the import goes ahead but I don’t have the files backed up. Since Lightroom doesn’t erase the files from the import medium (e.g. camera CF card) I can back the files up myself. But of course I am lazy and want to get on with processing the pictures so I probably won’t.

A better approach would be to put up a dialog box before the import saying something like:

Your backup drive O:\Lightroom\Import is not available. You can either put it online and press Proceed or press Continue to import without a backup.

Also – the new Import Results dialog stops Lightroom making its previews until I dismiss it. It would be better to get on with the previews in the background. Adobe ignored that part of my post.

Oh well.

Lightroom User Interface Annoyance

July 7, 2009

Most of the time I am happy with the Lightroom u.i. the designers obviously took a lot of trouble to study the way photographers work. They have tried to make it logical and have good performance.

The thing that annoys me the most is the way the folder-tree and keyword-tree views behave.

In both cases the branches of the tree open seemingly at random. For example if I add a new keyword to a hierarchy most (but not all) of the tree opens and the panel scrolls upwards.

The images below show before and after views when I added the keyword Taurus to the hierarchy.


Lightroom Adding Keyword 1


Lightroom Adding Keyword 3

When I scroll through the keyword list I find that almost every branch has expanded to its full depth.

I wonder if I am hitting an edge case as my keyword hierarchy is very complex.

So the Taurus I added is:


But the folder tree shows the same strange behaviours and I don’t have a very deep or complex folder hierarchy.

It feels like someone has gone running through my house opening all the doors and windows. It’s easy to close things, but I wish Lightroom would not bother. Maybe it thinks it is trying to be helpful.

Lightroom Import (Part 4)

June 27, 2009

These days I travel virtually since I don’t have the opportunity to travel in the real world. Sometimes I import to Lightroom photos I did not take from sites like Flickr.

If the original photographer has put keywords on her image then Lightroom attempts to import them. Sometimes it makes a real mess of it – as in the illustration above.

It failed to parse the keywords and made one very long one. This is the confirmation dialog box I got when I tried to delete it. I wonder if Lightroom can get a buffer overflow in this situation.

I think this shows what people complain about in the IPTC and XMP specifications – different photo apps are not truly inter-operable yet.

In my case I want to put my own keywords on my images. Even if Lightroom had parsed them correctly I would have deleted 95% of them. It did me a favour as I didn’t have to seek tham all out.

But what I want is an option in the Lightroom Import process not to import existing keywords from an image.

Sometimes I import photos I haven’t taken.

How I Backup My Images – Microsoft SyncToy

June 25, 2009

I noted in a previous post that Lightroom abdicates responsibility for backing up your images. You have to work it out for yourself. My trusty Sony laptop’s hard drive crashed with no warning a couple of months ago. I could have lost everything from its 120GB drive but I was able to get almost everything back from my backups. Actually the hardest thing was finding all the applications and utilities I  had installed over the years – but that’s another story.

There are so many potential backup solutions out there that it is almost overwhelming particularly if you are not a computer professional. I was and i still get confused.

I think the main thing is to choose a backup solution and stick to it. If you buy something very powerful but complex it’s quite likely you will give up. More important than the consistency with which you use it.

I am now in the habit of doing my backups last thing before I go to bed. I kick them off, go to clean my teeth and usually everything is done when I come back to the PC. I achieve good dental and PC hygiene in five minutes.

The tool I chose is Microsoft SyncToy 2.0. It’s a free download from Microsoft here. I have a bit of a bias against Microsoft software in general. It is often too slow and complex for my simple needs. I think Microsoft has a digital asset  management solution that competes with Lightroom and ACDSee but I did not consider it because of my prejudice.

But SyncToy is one of Microsoft’s free Power Tools that are simple and designed to do one thing well. I recall reading that it was designed by a Microsoft employee who’s also a photographer to do just what I wanted – back up only those files that have changed since the last backup.

Note that SyncToy isn’t restricted to image files. I use it back up all my data.

I won’t bore you with the details of my setup – yours will be different. the important fact is that SyncToy lets you define directory pairs and to synchronize files between them. SyncToy refers to them as the left and the right directories. I think of the left directory as the one on my laptop (M:) and the right as the directory on the backup drive (N:).

Thus I synchronize the Lightroom-managed images on my TrueCrypt encrypted M: drive with a corresponding directory on my Seagate 320GB TrueCrypt encrypted portable USB drive that I mount as drive N:.

Here are two screenshots from my SyncToy installation. The first is the result of scanning my image directories and is a list of the files that SyncToy will copy.

Note that if you change the metadata of an image in Lightroom it writes the changes to the image in the XMP format. So if you fiddle around with your image organization and keywording, or you experiment with different develop presets Lightroom modifies your original file. It doesn’t modify the image data in the RAW, DNG or JPEG files but it does update the metadata.

If you make a virtual copy of an image Lightroom does not make a copy of the image – all that information is in your Lightroom catalog and the XMP.

The preview screen also tells you how many files it didn’t have to copy because they were unchanged.

The preview screen from SyncToy

The second screenshot is the result of a SyncToy run showing the number of files it copied and any errors.

The results screen from SyncToy

You get three choices for the “action” SyncToy takes on the files in your defined directory pairs. You choose them when you set up each directory pair and you can change them. Microsoft actually simplified SyncToy for its 2.0 release. I think there used to be five choices but they were very complex to explain. This may be the first time Microsoft has simplified its software in an update.

The choices are:

  • Synchronize. New and updated files are copied both ways. Renames and deletes on either side are repeated on the other. I don’t use this. It’s useful when you may be modifying files in both directories in the pair, but that is very bad practice. Keep your backup drive for backups only.
  • Echo. New and updated files are copied left to right. Renames and deletes on the left are repeated on the right. I don’t use this on my images because if I delete an image accidentally an Echo will delete the backup. I do have my Lightroom generated backup from my original import to fall back on but I will lose the metadata updates Lightroom wrote to the XMP.
  • Contribute. This is the one I use. New and updated files are copied left to right. Renames on the left are repeated on the right. No deletions.

There are other details of SyncToy’s operation I haven’t mentioned here but I want to keep this post short so I won’t go into them. I encourage you to download a copy yourself and try it. If it doesn’t work for you no worries – you have not wasted a satang.

When I got my new Compaq PC to replace the Sony first I installed TrueCrypt and mounted the USB backup drive. I crossed my fingers that a new TrueCrypt install on a new PC would recognize my encrypted drive. The new install was a later version and I had visions of compatibility problems. But no – TrueCrypt worked great and I didnt’t lose a byte of my images.

I copied all the files from the USB drive plus a backup of my Lightroom catalog, started Lightroom and it was like nothing had changed. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and I am sure my blood pressure dropped significantly.

The next thing I did was download a SyncToy and set up my directory pairs again so I could continue my backups.

SyncToy meets my needs and it has the great advantage of being free. Of course that means you don’t get much support if things go wrong but I have never had a problem with it in about three years of daily use.

Lightroom 2.4 is Available

June 24, 2009

The Adobe download site is here.

There’s nothing in the update that I need. I wish I was waiting for support for my Hasselblad! I have not experienced any of the bugs listed in the release notes.

Nevertheless I tried downloading it in the Thai evening – early morning in California – and the download was impossibly slow and eventually stopped completely. It’s 130MB + and internet speeds from Thailand are not great. I miss my cable modem from when I lived in California.

I can wait to download it. The Adobe servers are sure to be heavily loaded.

It’s a pity that Adobe have to make users download 130MB mainly to support more cameras. Isn’t there an easier way of making updates more modular and smaller? Many big company vendors have the idea that downloads are always  fast and free: look at the number and size of Microsoft updates. That’s not true worldwide!

Paying For Lightroom Add-Ins

June 24, 2009

Today I decided to purchase the LR2Blog Lightoom add-in that I have been using in evaluation mode for a couple of weeks. The evaluation version is restricted to a maximum image size of 300px on the longest edge. That’s why some of the screenshots that I have posted here are a little hard to read.

I have no problem with paying for the useful functionality that these add-ins provide. I’ve happily paid for several of Jeff Friedl’s add-ins like the Flickr uploader that I use all the time.

Both Timothy Ames, the author of Lr2Blog and Jeff use PayPal to process payments. I think this is a good choice. I have a PayPal account and it is simple to use.

However, and there’s always a “however”, Tim’s implementation of the payment system is a bit frustrating. He requires payment in British Pounds. No problem there – PayPal converts automatically to pay from my US Dollar account and I think the exchange rate is competitive.

The first problem is that Tim requires an immediate confirmed payment whereas Jeff is more trusting. He allows a payment from my checking account (current account in the UK) which may take a few days to process. In the meantime he accepts the PayPal transaction id as proof of payment. That unlocks the full functionality of his add-in (for example a limit of 10 pictures per upload after a generous 6 week evaluation period).

Tim also restricts the functionality of Lr2Blog until you pay for it in contrast to Jeff’s method that downgrades the functionality a bit after the evaluation period.

For PayPal to make an immediate payment they either require a credit card number as backup or a credit balance in your PayPal account. I did not want to give PayPal my credit card information. I want to limit the number of entities that have that data and I don’t think it is necessary. So I had to do a transfer of funds from my bank account to a non-interest bearing PayPal account. That takes a few days and I only transferred a small amount to test the system.

I made the payment today and received a transaction id from PayPal. However, Tim’s add-ins don’t accept a PayPal transaction id. In his case a payment should kick off a process that sends me an email message with a separate serial number.

I did not receive the email message and several hours later I still haven’t. You can access a web page that attempts to get your serial number from the add-in. It takes either your PayPal transaction id or your email address. I entered the transaaction id and got an error message: “Sorry, No records have been found with that email address/transaction ID.”

I entered my email address and got a success message: “Thank you, an recapitulative email has been sent to …”. (Is recapitulative a word?)

But I didn’t get any messages so I still don’t have the prized serial number. I’ve tried this a number of times with the same results.

I am guessing there is some foul up in communications between Tim’s download site / PayPal and his server that produces serial numbers. I will probably get a flood of recapitulative emails soon. If I don’t I’ll have to try to contact Tim.

This is a bit frustrating but these things often are. I must remember that I am sitting in Bangkok Thailand trying to pay money to a developer in the UK from funds I have in the USA. That fact that it ever works is bordering on the miraculous.

My hat is off to Jeff Friedl for his smoother payment process. He must have some way of validating a PayPal transaction id in real time. He’s also a bit more trusting than Tim. If my payment fails I don’t know if he can cancel my registration.

Adobe has left the download and payment for add-ins very much up to the developer. I hate to think how much work Jeff and Tim had to do to support the “donationware” model. I wonder if it would be better for Adobe to develop an equivalent to the iPhone App Store. Amongst other things Apple handles all the payment processes in a standardized way for a cut of the proceeds. I wonder if Lightroom add-in developers and users would go for that?

Of course the Lightroom add-in market is minuscule compared with that for the iPhone and always will be. I guess Adobe do not think it is worth their investment for no more than a few hundreds of add-ins sold to Lightroom users in perhaps the tens of thousands worldwide.

How I Use Lightroom’s Labels & Flags

June 22, 2009

Lightroom gives you lots of ways to categorize your images. One of them is the colour label: red, yellow, green, blue or purple. An image can have only one label, or none.

I don’t think there is any consensus amongst photographers on how to use colour labels. This is how I use them:

  • RED - images that need more attention from me. I add this when I am categorizing a load of images in the Library module when I know an image needs more research. For example I may take a picture of a vehicle I don’t recognize and I’ll have to look it up on the web.
  • YELLOW - images that I intend to upload to my main Flickr account. I use this one mainly for images of Thailand and of vehicles. Once uploaded I clear the flag.
  • GREEN - images that I intend to upload to my secondary Flickr account. I use this one mainly for images of people.
  • BLUE - images that I intend to upload to my Picasa account.
  • PURPLE - images I need somebody’s help with. For example I may need someone who reads the Thai language to tell me what a sign says.

Interestingly the Label field in Lightroom isn’t an enumerated type but a text field. If you label an image Red the text “Red” is put in the field. You can also put your own arbitary text in the field. If you do this the label shows in White in the Library grid.

I wouldn’t advise anyone to put any data they care about as a text label. If you subsequently apply a colour label Lightroom overwrites the text in your label without warning. I’d like to have the option that Lightroom warns me in this case: “This image has a text label. Do you want to over-write it?”. Note I said option – if I know what I am doing I don’t want Lightroom warning me all the time.

How do you use colour labels in Lightroom?

Separate from colour labels are Lightroom’s two Flags: Picked and Rejected. I use the Picked flag as a temporary marker. For example if I am showing someone a range of images I’ll Pick the ones she wants printed or emailed.

I have not used the Rejected label much. I use the One Star rating for images that I’ll probably delete unless I find a compelling reason to keep it – a very bad photo of a unique vehicle for example.

Note that the Picked and Rejected flags are orthogonal. An image cannot be both picked and rejected. Also the keyboard shortcuts are not toggles. If I press P to Pick an image pressing P again does not un-pick it. I have to press U which turns off the Pick or Reject flag – whichever is set. (X is the keyboard shortcut for Reject).

It’s neat that you can assign colour labels, flags and star ratings in any module. So while I am showing someone an “Impromptu Slideshow” I can pick images for printing or emailing. Or if an image isn’t as good as I want when I am in the Develop module I can decrease its rating.

If you have virtual copies of an image each copy can have different ratings, labels and flags. This is useful if I have created more than one treatment of an image.

Seim Effects

June 22, 2009

I downloaded the free Seim Effects sampler of 7 “Power Workflow 2” Lightroom develop presets last night. Actually there’s 14 because he publishes separate presets for RAW and JPG files. (I don’t understand the reasons for that, but I am just getting started.)

I don’t have a lot to say about them yet as I am still learning what they can do. So far my favourite is the “Dark Vignette” effect. It’s more subtle than any vignetting I have experimented with in Lightroom.

Gavin’s marketing approach with its gushy testimonials is a bit jarring to me, a reserved Englishman. If I were marketing something similar I would position it as a way to “enhance your Lightroom skills” rather than as a one-click miracle. I think photographers who’ve invested in Lightroom are more sophisticated than that. I’d like something that helps me achieve my own “look” rather than adopting someone else’s – no matter how clever.

For example, I use a certain set of camera settings (actually separate ones for my Canon EOS-30D (Picture Styles) and my Nikon Coolpix P6000) and then try a minimal set of enhancements in Lightroom to achieve a look I am happy with. It’s the integration of the two that I find is most interesting. One of my beefs about Lightroom is that it doesn’t understand Canon Picture Styles.

Still, I think he’s got some good ideas and more power to him for bringing them to market and promoting the heck out of them. I hope his marketing approach works.

Later I’d like to think and do more about an integrated approach to image processing that starts in the camera – using its tools like Canon’s Picture Styles most effectively – and moving on to Lightroom and, as a last resort, Photoshop.

Good Discussion

June 19, 2009

There is a good discussion taking place on the Lightroom Killer Tips site. Read it here.

In brief, somebody created a tool that attempts to create a Lightroom develop preset from a photo posted to Flickr. It reads all the metadata including that which Lightroom write to the photo and reverse-engineers a preset that could have been used to create the image. That sounds like a neat trick to me but I didn’t for one second think that it would be so controversial.

Some parties threatened the author, Mike Wiacek, with legal action. Not surprsingly he was preturbed and he’s taken the tool down for now. Read about it here.

From all the comments I have read no one believes his tool is illegal anywhere but legal action, even if meritless can be expensive and time-consuming. I would have done the same thing if I was as clever as Mike.

Still, I had an uneasy feeling about the tool. Why? I posted the following comment to the original thread:

I’ve read some of the arguments, and while I agree that the tool isn’t a copyright law violation, but I still felt a little uneasy about it.

Then over dinner I came up with an analogy. What if I could buy a battery-powered probe in Costco that I could dip into my soup at a fine dining restaurant? This fantasy probe estimates the ingredients of the soup. When I get home I can plug the probe into my PC and advanced artificial intelligence software attempts to re-create the recipe.

I don’t think I have broken any laws by attempting to reverse-engineer the soup. And the result probably won’t be very good. But if I was the chef in the restaurant I’d still feel a bit violated.

In this case I think the critical step that troubles people is the attempt to create a preset that I can apply to my images with one click. That feels different to me than an exhaustive listing of the photo’s metadata.

But, as so many have stated, I can stop all this by removing the metadata before exporting the image to Flickr.

I like food analogies.

The discussion is ongoing and if you visit Matt’s site maybe he will have a new version up that will not attempt his trick on images that have been marked copyright on Flickr.

One of the many reason I like to live in Thailand is that people think of going to the law as a last resort, not as a first.


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