Addendum to Yesterday’s Post About Leaving Lightroom

Two redeeming bits of news for RawTherapee (even though one of them means there’s still something to be solved before I can switch completely to this new bit of software).

  1. When updated to the latest RawTherapee (the version in Fedora 21’s official repositories is old), the issue with pink images disappears
  2. RawTherapee is indeed preserving the metadata in the JPEG. The problem is that it’s doing so in a manner that Digikam does not read through the exiv2 library. I’ve filed a bug report and hopefully this can be resolved. Once that’s done, I’d be able to leave Adobe Lightroom behind. If I wanted to, I could use the new software now, safe in the knowledge that the metadata was being written, but until it’s time to replace my photo hard drive (later this year), I won’t be moving the photos over to Linux.

Thinking About Moving Away from Adobe Lightroom

Last Fall I started considering moving away from Lightroom after having used it for nearly a decade. Back then I was making use of the student price to actually be able to afford it. Competition from Apple Aperture and other programs caused it to eventually drop to $150 per version. But Adobe seemed to be moving more and more towards a subscription-only model. Lightroom is still available standalone, but it appears the rest of the CS suite (including, for example, Photoshop) are on the treadmill now. While there are surely some benefits to being able to rent Photoshop and Adobe’s awesome video editing software when you need to do a project rather than for a thousand-plus fee, one way I’ve afforded Lightroom is not upgrading every year. So while it’s cheaper to pay monthly than buying outright (at the prices they had when they went subscription), I rarely found the upgrades worth is and so was able to save some money. I started considering alternatives. But I’d had Lightroom 5 on my wishlist and someone bought it for me for Christmas. So I figured I’d be a Lightroom user for a few more years.

The problem is that Lightroom 5 is horrible. Without providing any noticeable improvements over 3, it is so slow and memory-intensive compared to 3. Things just take forever and that delay costs me free time. A coworker says his experience is the same with Lightroom post version 3. But can I do what I need to do with Linux?

It certainly has some benefits. For one, I get to use my dual monitor setup to perhaps light-table the images at a larger size. The btrfs file system has matured a lot and it has natural protections against bit rot (even moreso if you have a RAID1 or greater setup). Finally, the software is free in all senses of the word. Even if performance is no better than Lightroom, I’m saving myself about $150 every 1-2 years (assuming they don’t end up forcing the subscription model as they’ve done with the Creative Suite).

Yesterday I posted my typical Adobe Lightroom RAW workflow. If I can keep it mostly the same, that helps in not wasting my time on  a learning curve. But perhaps there’s room for a new workflow. So I googled and I posted on forums and experimented. First off, the reason I always create JPEGs of my DNGs is so that people can see my files even if they don’t use Lightroom or Photoshop. Basically, JPEGs are everywhere so I am sure that my descendants will have access to the photos. But I discovered something about Dolphin, the KDE file manager – it can already see DNGs!

DNGs are visible in Dolphin
DNGs are visible in Dolphin

So they’d be able to see the photos. And also I’m sure with a very quick Google search they’d find a multitude of open source projects that could produce a JPEG for printing. So, whether or not I leave Adobe Lightroom, I’m definitely no longer creating JPEGs of anything but the best photos – the ones I’d either post to flickr or my blog. Also, now that Lightroom has caught up with Digikam and can see videos, I’ve had issues with trying to do exports and other operations on video files in the same folder as pictures. I may end up making a sub-folder for videos.

So, let me first present what happened yesterday when I played around with some DNGs – the same ones I used in the post on my Lightroom workflow. They imported into Digikam without any issues.

DNGs in Digikam
DNGs in Digikam
DNGs in Digikam 1
DNGs in Digikam 1

The image I see is the embedded JPEG – the camera’s estimate of what it might look like after processing. I tried some editing of the DNGs, but it was an exercise in frustration. Without reading the documentation, it looks as though the image is already converted from RAW and you’re making changes to the embedded JPEG. I will need to take a look at the documentation if I want to figure out what I need to do there to edit the RAW file before doing stuff in Digikam.

The best of breed for open source RAW image manipulation on Linux at this point seems to be a fight between RawTherapee and DarkTable. Ideally, from the point of view of using Digikam to catalog my photos (with its many, many useful features), RawTherapee would be the best program. I would catalog (or, to use the right term, Digital Asset Management) in Digikam and use it for my phone and other JPEG-only cameras. I would send RAWs to RawTherapee for processing and then manage them within Digikam. On the plus side, I can already send the image to RawTherapee from within Digikam:

DNGs in Digikam - Open in RawTherapee
DNGs in Digikam – Open in RawTherapee

Out of the gate, this was not the situation. This is what my DNG looked like when opened in RAW:

DNGs in RawTherapee - weird pink tint or maybe white balance
DNGs in RawTherapee – weird pink tint or maybe white balance

So….that’s not exactly desirable. Darktable gives something more like what I expected, if a bit darker than the embedded JPEG (and I think Adobe Lightroom’s default interpretation):

DNGs in Darktable
DNGs in Darktable – closer to what I was expecting

That doesn’t mean RawTherapee is automatically out of the running. Even though DarkTable would probably be easier to pickup (as its interface apes Lightroom), it has a library of its own and I’d rather not duplicate things unless absolutely necessary.

Finally, unfortunately, the embedded JPEG did not update from within RawTherapee, meaning that I had to save out a PNG (or JPEG) of the changed I’d made to the DNG. In fact, I’m not sure the changes were written to the file, meaning if I opened up it up somewhere else when RawTherapee ceased to exist, it would no longer have my changes.

DNGs sent to edit with RawTherapee
DNGs sent to edit with RawTherapee

OK, OK, but that was just one day of futzing around. Let’s get a little more scientific. First of all, while DNG is certainly more portable thatn CR2 or any other proprietary file format, I’m happy to report that Dolphin can read it too. So if, for whatever reason, DNG conversion is a bust on Linux, I’m not too sunk.

CR2 and all the metadata that Dolphin can read from it
CR2 and all the metadata that Dolphin can read from it

Not bad, eh? Ok, let’s try a slightly more robust look at a workflow for Day 2. I’m going to attempt to use only Digikam and RawTherapee. I took some photos today outside as I figure that’ll provide a better idea of color balancing issues and am doing a comparison between Lightroom and RawTherapee; also I’m evaluating the work flow. Ok, let’s start off by looking at the files in Digikam.

Day 2 - DNG in Digikam
Day 2 – DNG in Digikam

It looks exactly as it does in Lightroom (I’ll show the comparison later) which makes sense as it’s working from the same embedded JPEG for its initial preview.  Now, what I would do in a real workflow is to tag the photos. I’ll do that now.

Day 2 - Tagging CR2 and DNG
Day 2 – Tagging CR2 and DNG

OK. So now I expect that if I send them to RawTherapee and back that I won’t lose the tags. Let’s see what happens. First, let’s open the DNG in RawTherapee.

Day 2 - DNG in RawTherapee
Day 2 – DNG in RawTherapee

There’s that strange pink again. Well, let’s see what we can do. So first of all, I try a spot white balance and we’re off to a good start.

Day 2 - DNG in RawTherapee after spot white balance
Day 2 – DNG in RawTherapee after spot white balance

Much better. So it appears that, by default, the white balance is off. Not a biggie, I’m sure I could save that as a default to apply to all photos. But it’s a bit hazy – a bit Holga-ish for my tastes. Let’s see what I can do about that.

Day 2 - DNG in RawTherapee metadata is there
Day 2 – DNG in RawTherapee metadata is there

I click a bit, unsure of how to get this photo not to look so faded. Ok, so I mess around with the sliders. Surely this is a program meant for those who want the utmost control over what’s going on to their raw files. Here’s how it looked in Lightroom:

Scarlett Running in Lightroom
Scarlett Running in Lightroom

Here’s what I got it to in RawTherapee:

Day 2 - Scarlett running in RawTherapee
Day 2 – Scarlett running in RawTherapee

I ended up with a way more contrast-y image. It’s not bad. It’s not hazy anymore. Not quite real life, but neither was Lightroom. I would have punched that one up a bit. Ok, so, workflow-wise here’s what I want: 1) I want the image’s embedded JPEG to update to reflect this. 2) I want the metadata to be intact not only on the DNG, but on any JPEGs I develop. Let’s see what happens:

Day 2 - Scarlett running after RawTherapee and back in Digikam
Day 2 – Scarlett running after RawTherapee and back in Digikam

Annoyingly it has lost the title and the tag. It kept the caption. I wonder if there’s a setting I missed in RawTherapee. The PNG doesn’t even get the caption copied over. I check the settings and it SHOULD be copying over:

Day 2 - RawTherapee settings
Day 2 – RawTherapee settings

Next I’ll try the CR2 in case RawTherapee is able to read that to be more like the embedded JPEG out of the box. Ah, now look at this!

Day 2 - Scarlett and Tree in RawTherapee
Day 2 – Scarlett and Tree in RawTherapee
Scarlett and Tree in Lightroom
Scarlett and Tree in Lightroom

So if I want the easiest time possible with RawTherapee, I’d be best off not converting to DNG. At least not before processing the file! And perhaps it is because I converted to DNG 7.1 for the other photos?? This time I’m able to work just as I might in Lightroom, just adjust the vibrance a bit and it’s ready to go!

Day 2 - Scarlett and Tree in RawTherapee vibrance punch
Day 2 – Scarlett and Tree in RawTherapee vibrance punch

Now to export to JPEG:

Day 2 - Scarlett and Tree after RawTherapee in Digikam lost title and tags
Day 2 – Scarlett and Tree after RawTherapee in Digikam lost title and tags

Unfortunately, starting from a CR2 did not prevent the tags from being lost.

So, conclusions:

1. The most important aspect, tags and other metadata being preserved seems to be broken or missing. Or implemented in a way that doesn’t work with Digikam.

2. The embedded JPEG is not being saved to the DNG file or the CR2 file. Not the end of the world, but keeps Digikam from being as useful as it could be.

3. RawTherapee is complex, but can produce harmonious images when it has a good starting point (ie RAW, not DNG)

4. I didn’t really test DarkTable – may do so soon.

5. For now, looks like I’ll have to investigate before I can make the jump away from Adobe Lightroom.

My RAW Workflow in Adobe Lightroom 5

I wanted to record this as it may make future discussions on forums, mailing lists, and even on this blog make more sense.

For those who are sight impaired or have low bandwidth limitations, essentially:

  1. Import RAW files (And I forgot one important step – rename them!)
  2. Rate them
  3. Edit in Develop Module
  4. Create Virtual Copies if want to do things drastically different – like make the image black and white
  5. Export JPEGs
  6. Maybe upload to blog or flickr using flickr uploadr

Using Digikam from the Point of View of Lightroom User

Photos Remaining to be Scannned As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I’ve been into photography since I was five years old.  That’s when I got my first Kodak Instamatic camera and started shooting photos and creating photo albums.  I have about ten photo albums, with most of them coming from when I got to high school and could really afford film and developing.  Ever since I got my first digital camera in my second semester of college, the number of photos I’ve taken yearly has increased nearly exponentially.  Because I’m an organized person, I started off putting my photos into event-based folders.  Once I realized that’d quickly get unwieldy, I decided to put them in folders by date.  Eventually, software like Picassa, Lightroom, and digiKam came out which would have allowed me to continue to to organized my photos by event because they could read the metadata and reorganize them by date.  However, I’ve found that my system has two main benefits 1)my photos remain organized even if my descendants don’t have access to programs that can read the metadata on the photos.  2) it’s very easy for me to very quickly find a photo.  It would be somewhere like 2010->Jan 10->So and So’s Wedding.

That said, after having been involved in the semantic world via flickr, I’ve found tagging to be invaluable.  I tag my photos with as many relevant tags as possible so I can easily find photos of my brother, for example, in the future.  On my Windows computer I do this with Lightroom, Adobe’s photo management software.  Lightroom is an amazing piece of software engineering.  It is my go-to program for nearly 100% of what I do with photos.  The only time I use Photoshop now is when I need to do something complex like a collage or other bit of art that involves mashing together more than one photo.

Because photography is so important to me (the most important thing outside of family and religion), I foresee myself always using Lightroom in the near future.  Libre Software (aka Free and Open Source) has done some pretty amazing things.  Some of them, like Compiz have been innovations that the Closed Source have borrowed.  Others, like Firefox, took something that already existed and made it better.  Yet other bits of libre software provide ALMOST everything that the Closed Source version does – Libre Office or Blender.  But photography is a very technical, hard thing to program well.  There are PhDs involved over at Adobe.  And it’d be silly for me not to go with best of breed technology for my passion.

However, I am investigating using digiKam on Linux for two reasons.  1) I can probably provide some great insight into where it’s going well and where it’s falling behind compared to Lightroom 2) I am copying my photos (just the JPEGs because I shoot RAW and that would take up too much space) to my Linux computer for use in GRAMPS.  GRAMPS is an AWESOME genealogy tool available on Linux.  And if they’re going to be there for GRAMPS, I may as well have them in a photo management program like digiKam so that I don’t need to turn on my Windows computer to look up where a photo of my brother might be.  (I tend to leave my Windows computer off if I’m not working on photography or playing video games)

One thing I haven’t tested yet, is that I HOPE (since I use KDE) that nepomuk is able to swallow up the metadata like tags, locations, etc from digiKam.  That would make nepomuk VERY useful to me so that I could search for a photo without even needing to open digiKam.

One important thing for Lightroom users (and this also probably applies to Apple’s product, Aperture):  Let’s say you want to preserve your tagging so that you don’t need to recreate that when moving your collection over from Lightroom to digiKam.  Depending on how you use Lightroom, the tags might not be embedded in the JPEG (or other file) metadata.  Usually with all the photos I’ve taken since getting Lightroom, whenever I add in tags or export to JPEG I always highlight all the files and hit control-S.  That writes the title, description, tags, etc to the file.  I hadn’t done that with my oldest images and when they ended up in digiKam, they didn’t have any tags.  So I just deleted them and added them back in after I saved the tags. For my entire library is took a few hours for Lightroom to write all the tags.

So, on to the comparison.  Here’s what digiKam looks like when I open it:

digiKam - startup
digiKam - startup

And here’s what Lightroom looks like when I open it:

Lightroom - startup
Lightroom - startup

If you ignore the cosmetic differences you’ll see that they’re essentially presenting the exact same information.  So, first of all, on the blog posts and digiKam’s own website it has the same cool dark greys as Lightroom.  Lightroom purposely chose those colors because full white or full black would taint your perception of the colors of your photos.  So my first order of business was to try and rectify that situation.  This is how you’d do it.

It’s pretty easy, you just go to Settings->Theme.  Then pick Obsidian Coast.  After I did that, it looks like this:

digiKam - With the Obsidian Coast Theme
digiKam - With the Obsidian Coast Theme

 

The above shot also shows the image in a bit of a zoom compared to Lightroom.  You might also want to compare two photos on a lightbox.  Here’s what it looks like in Lightroom:

Lightroom - lightbox
Lightroom - lightbox

And here’s what it looks like in digiKam:

digiKam - Light Table
digiKam - Light Table

The only thing I’m not sure of is why they decided that it should open up another window rather than staying in the same window as the main program.  I was going to say that I wasn’t sure how I’d display the exif data the way it’s shown in Lightroom.  But then I took a look at the panels on the left and the right and got them to look like this:

digiKam - Light Box with details
digiKam - Light Box with details

 

The most important part of Lightroom for me is the Develop module.  It’s where I do any editing that the photos may need.

Lightroom - develop
Lightroom - develop

In digiKam it looks like this:

digiKam - editor
digiKam - editor

Once again, it opens up another window.  I’m not sure what’s up with all these windows opening up.  It’s must more bare than Lightroom.  Rather than presenting all the tools at your disposal, you click on the select tool button.

digiKam - tools in the editor
digiKam - tools in the editor

More or less all the same options are there as in lightroom.  The biggest difference is that it seems to encourage tweaking in steps rather than going back and forth.  But I’m not going to quibble too much on interface choices.  It appears that all the same stuff can be done and the rest can be learned just as I did with Lightroom.  Now, there is one view in Lightroom that I find invaluable to my workflow.  It looks like this:

Lightroom - mutiphoto view
Lightroom - mutiphoto view

At first glance that just looks like thumbnail view.  But there’s a key difference – the photos shown there are photos that have been selected.  So that allows me to select a bunch of photos and, little by little, eliminate them from this view as I decide which ones to continue working on and which ones to abandon.  And as they are eliminated, the remaining photos grow larger and larger until it looks like the light box/light table.  It’s extremely powerful and there’s NO WAY I’d leave Lightroom for any program that didn’t have it.  So next is a module I almost never use because I don’t have clients and it runs too slowly for my wife’s attention span, the slideshow:

Lightroom - slideshow
Lightroom - slideshow

In the latest version they FINALLY added the ability to export it as a video file, but it came a bit too late and I’ve never really used it.  In digiKam, it works more or less the same with the simple one.  The advanced one gives you all kinds of great options.  Here’s the first section:

digikam - advanced slideshow main
digikam - advanced slideshow main

The soundtrack is pretty awesome because it tells you if you need more music:

digiKam - slideshow msuic
digiKam - slideshow msuic

and I think it’s awesome they have an effect called the Ken Burns effect.

digiKam - slideshow advanced
digiKam - slideshow advanced

digiKam doesn’t appear to have a way to export a video, but that’s no big deal.  Finally there’s the web module in Lightroom.  It’s the module I’ve used even less than the slideshow.

Lightroom - web
Lightroom - web

digiKam doesn’t really appear to have an analog.  They have a web export, but I don’t care too much.  If I were using it as a professional photographer to create web pages for my clients after a wedding, I might miss it, but I don’t care about this feature at all.

One feature I DO use a lot is the smart collections feature.  Looks like digiKam supports this via saved searches:

digiKam - saved searches
digiKam - saved searches

Now, I want to try a feature that digiKam has that Lightroom currently does not, the fuzzy search.  I let digiKam fingerprint my photos overnight.  Now I should be able to draw on the notepad on the left and it should find photos that match.  Here are the results from me trying to find beach photos:

digiKam - fuzzy search
digiKam - fuzzy search

It somewhat gets the idea – a lot of these are photos with a horizon, but only the bottom two even took place at the beach.  Here’s an attempt to find solo shots of people.  It actually does a pretty darned good job here:

digiKam - fuzzy search - trying to find a person
digiKam - fuzzy search - trying to find a person

I’m going to try two people and see what I get there.  That was a bit less successful.  Let’s see the image search mode.  I wasn’t able to find an image that didn’t just get a few that were like it or a bunch that weren’t.  Another cool feature that digiKam has that Lightroom doesn’t is face detection.  Let’s give that a shot!  First you have to tell the database to scan for faces.  That took 2 hours for the photos I had there.  Here’s what I got on the search:

digiKam - initial facial recognition page
digiKam - initial facial recognition page

So what next?  Well, when I highlight a photo:

digiKam - facial recognition "Who is this?"
digiKam - facial recognition "Who is this?"

So I tell it who that is….Daniel!  Then I hit the check-mark.  Now I have this on the left:

digiKam - facial recognition - Daniel
digiKam - facial recognition - Daniel

So now I click on Daniel.  And only that one photo was in there.  I wonder if I need to give it more samples.  Interestingly, when I moved to another Dan photo, it had him tagged – so it “knows” that’s Dan.  It’s probably just waiting for some confirmation.

digiKam recognizes Daniel!
digiKam recognizes Daniel!

So I click the check box on a few more photos.  It even recognizes profiles!

digiKam knows Dan from the side!
digiKam knows Dan from the side!

Hmm……it only appears to put in the ones I’ve already tagged.  Less useful than I thought.  But maybe I need to exit and come back in to activate it?  Still no dice.  Maybe someone can let me know in the comments if I’m doing something wrong.

Geotagging is yet another place where digiKam actually excels in comparison to the current version of Lightroom.  Here’s the default view leveraging KDE’s Marble technology to display the map:

digiKam - geotagged images
digiKam - geotagged images

Lightroom doesn’t have anything that comes close.  All it can do is open your photo in Google maps or Google Earth.  Perhaps this is one of the ways that open source tends to win because it can leverage pieces from other open source programs like is being done here.  I wonder if I can see the roads as well.  Ah, changing from Atlas map to Open Streetmap seems to be the key:

digiKam - geotagged displayed using marble and Open Streetmap
digiKam - geotagged displayed using marble and Open Streetmap

Let’s zoom in for some more fidelity:

digiKam - geotagged displayed with Marble zoomed in with Open StreetMap
digiKam - geotagged displayed with Marble zoomed in with Open StreetMap

Cool!  And if you don’t like Marble for some reason, you can also use Google Maps.

Unfortunately, whatever embedded video player it had would not my my .mov files from my old Kodak camera.  I went to Dolphin.  It played OK in Kaffiene.  It could not play in Dragon player.  It could not play in Dolphin’s built-in player which is probably what digiKam is using.  Of course it played fine in VLC.

So, while digging through the settings, it turns out that you can tell it to provide nepomuk with information.  Here’s what it has without digiKam telling nepomuk about the photos:

Dolphin and the info nepomuk has about this photo
Dolphin and the info nepomuk has about this photo

It’s pretty basic – the image size and when it was created.  For some reason it says 1996 which doesn’t make any sense!  So things can’t get any worse with digiKam telling it about the photo.  So I go to digiKam settings->configure digiKam.  And there’s a tab for metadata.  In there is a tab for nepomuk.  In there I check the box “Store metadata from digiKam in Nepomuk.  After that I click on “Fully Resynchronize again”.  Then I click OK.  I imagine that may take a bit to take effect.  Sure enough, I don’t see any effects at first.  And it’s possible that since I was still going the face scanning at the time that it didn’t do the Nepomuk sync.  Well, I triggered it again.  The Created date is still some strange, bogus date, but now it has the tags from digiKam and that’s great!

digiKam and Nepomuk working together!
digiKam and Nepomuk working together!

Now if there were a way to link those specific tags to people in my contacts in Kontact (and maybe I can) then we’re really starting to get the computer to be “smart”.

 

So, there are some features that digiKam has that aren’t even in Lightroom!  Those include fuzzy search, face detection, and integrated maps for geo-coded photos.  That’s surprising and exciting!  I was surprised to find out that it actually wins out in some categories.  Perhaps in a few revisions it will even be a perfect rival for Lightroom and Aperture.  In general, KDE software is pretty buggy on Windows, but if that’s fixed, Lightroom could end up with a free (both in terms of money AND source) competitor!  And I could see myself using some of these special features in digiKam over those in Lightroom even while using Lightroom for my main editing suite.  I have to say they’ve done an amazing job and digiKam is way better than I expected!

Apparently I mostly shoot wide

Heard about Jeffrey Friedl’s lens focal length plot plugin for Lightroom and decided to check it out.  Here’s what it produced from my entire library.

Apparently I mostly shoot wide
Apparently I mostly shoot wide

Nearly 60% of my photos are in the wide to short telephoto range and nearly 40% is exclusively wide.  Now, I do have SOME photos from others in my Lightroom catalog, but not enough to skew the results.  I would say the reason for the huge concentration of photos in the 33-82mm range comes from the kit lens and its equivalent focal length USM version that I shoot a lot of photos with.  The large concentration around the 308-330mm range comes from the 1.6x crop factor of my XT and XTi on the Tamron 55-200mm I use for wildlife photography.

I’m shocked that I have so many photos at the wide end in the sense that I wouldn’t have guessed that if you’d asked me.  But, at the same time, I’m not surprised in that it was the only range I had for a while, a lot of indoor photography needs to be on the wide side, and now I’m also experimenting with wide angle shots.

I am very surprised that a full 10% of the photos were taken with a prime lens.  It was a while before I got my 50mm macro lens and I only got my 50mm f/1.8 this summer.  But I guess, like everyone else, I really like the properties of the 50mm lenses (even if they have more of a field of view of 80mm on my XT and XTi).

Unsurprisingly, I spend nearly 50% of the time either on the most wide or most telephoto end of my lens.  This makes sense because of the way I do photography – I tend to either want to be really close up or really far away.  So I either want to be as wide or telephoto as possible.  This is one of the reasons so many people end up recommending primes.  Not only do they (on average) have better optical qualities than a zoom lens, but most people spend most of their time at one focal length of their zoom anyway.  So why not just go for a prime and get the best out of it?

If you have Lightroom, you should definitely install this plugin and see what it tells you about your photographic style.

Lightroom 2.0 – it just keeps getting better and better

The more I’ve been learning about Lightroom 2 (technically now at 2.3), the more I’ve been liking it!  First of all, I learned that – thanks to new camera profiles (also available in the latest camera raw software) – I can get my photos to start from where Canon’s own RAW software would have started.  I never realized it was a better choice than photoshop because I liked the photoshop workflow so much.  But now that I’ve played with the camera profiles in Lightroom, I realize that I’ve been selling my images short.

Second, I’ve been  reading The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 book and I’ve been learning quite a bit there.  Most recently I learned something that will save me A LOT of time in my photography workflow.  Lightroom has the DNG converter built in AND the ability to convert your RAW files and delete them.  But, not only that – it will also delete the sidecar XMP files.  So I can work on my files as soon as I transfter them from my memory card.  Then I can let the DNG conversion go on overnight.  Before I would first convert all of my photos, which might take an hour if it’d been a long shoot and THEN working on them.  So sometimes I was converting as many as 60 photos which were destined to be automatically deleted once I saw they were crap.  So once again, Lightroom changes my workflow for the better!

One more look at Adobe Lightroom (this time 2.3)

I just wanted to really elaborate on why I think Adobe Lightroom is a program any enthusiast to pro user should own.  Although, as I related here, LR has grown on me, going through the photos I shot at my cousin’s wedding has really cemented my love for Adobe’s product.  Here are my two favorite features.  You may want to open up the images in a new tab at full size so you can follow along.

Adobe Lightroom 2.3 - Metadata Sorting

My number one favorite feature is the nested metadata sorting.  This is really, really helpful.  First of all, after getting back from a weekend of shooting, the ability to split up my photos by the day is very useful for removing clutter and somewhat improving memory usage since LR doesn’t need to have so many photos available to me.  This was especially useful when I got back from a week in Hawaii.  Then the ability to filter by camera is nice, although I usually separate my folders by camera on my file system.  What’s really awesome is the ability to filter by lens.  I am a member of a few flickr groups dedicated to the lens used to take the photo.  They need to be tagged with the correct lens.  So I can just click on the lens, control-A and tag it.  Let me mention a few awesome things about this view as well.  It’s really, really easy to add keywords as you can see on the right.  With Bridge (at least CS 2 bridge) this requires selecting the files and then right-clicking and it’s just not as elegant, especially if the files have different keywords already.  The ability to see the ISO, shutter speed, and f-stop at a glance is also very useful and saves time from having to scroll through the EXIF data.  Finally, the ability to do rough edits on the exposure, tone, and white balance can be helpful for quick little fixes without launching the develop module.

Adobe Lightroom 2.3 - Comparison Mode

Second feature I love is the comparison feature.  (And survey view is tied for second as well!)  I just love being able to load up two photos side by side and be able to zoom in and out and compare everything about them.  For example, doing a quick comparison of these two cake photos shows me that the right photo is obviously the one to pick.  The left has a dirty, blank wall behind it while the second has the curtains and nicer surroundings.  Sure, you could just flip back and forth, but for a quick decision, nothing beats comparison mode.  And there’s no substitube for comparing two photos at the exact same area if you zoom in.  And survey mode can make it very easy for you to choose one photo from a series of nearly identical photos.

So, if you were wondering if Lightroom was useful if you have Photoshop, the answer is YES!  They are complimentary tools and, depending upon your needs, you may not even need to go to Photoshop for most of your photos if they don’t need too much touching up.

Adobe Lightroom 2: Further Use

So I did a test and found that as long as I save the metadata to the file, Adobe Bridge (even with CS2) can correctly read the changes.  So I decided to work in Lightroom to see if it was worth buying.  I can say that I am really loving it!  I’ve been able to adopt my usual RAW workflow with only some small changes.  Now I can’t see how I could ever work without LR!!  (It’s no wonder why Adobe gives a 30 day free trial!)

What do I like about LR?  It IS still a bit slower than I’d like, but overall not too bad.  I’m pretty sure I can make it work better if I tweak some settings.  I find the metadata editing to be a lot easier and requiring a lot less clicks.  I LOVE the side-by-side comparisons and survey mode.  I don’t know how I lived without that.  I also love the dimming of the lights.  That REALLY helps me focus on the photo.  At first, I thought it was just a gimmick.  And the metadata filters make working with the photos a LOT easier!

Adobe Lightroom Initial Reaction Review

For quite some time I’ve been been struggling with the point of Adobe’s Lightroom.  Other than competing with Apple’s Aperture, it appears not to have a purpose.  Of course, right around the time Lightroom (LR) was hitting its stride, I stopped reading photography magazines.  The zine I loved the most was a British one published by the same company that puts out Linux Format Magazine.  Unfortunately, even with an exchange rate of $1:1 Britsh Pound (which isn’t the case), it’s still $90 per year.  So I may have missed lots of tutorial and explainer articles talking about why LR is such a great program.  My impression of it was of a Adobe Bridge and Camera Raw.  So I didn’t really see the point of paying $200 for that when those programs work just fine for me.  It also seemed to straddle some Photoshop territory and I just couldn’t figure it out.

Fast forward to today when something makes me think about LR.  I don’t know if it’s an article I saw this morning or something, but all of a sudden, I had an insatiable hunger to find out what LR was all about and why it had to much buzz.  As I mentioned here,  I’ve been refining the way I use Adobe’s products in my photography workflow.  In fact, ever since I really got used to Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera RAW (ACR), I almost never open Photoshop anymore.  Before my workflow with RAW with a HUGE hassle!  I would open up ACR, make adjustments and then open it up in Photoshop.  Then I would save a TIFF and a JPEG.  Now I just use the ACR built into Bridge and I output directly to JPEGs.  The only time I actually open up Photoshop is when I want to create a black and white photo, a diptych/triptych, or want to do some radical modifications to the photo.  (Such as collages, etc)

But what I’m missing is some functionality that exists in that little, free program from Google – Picassa.  And the main part of that functionality is the organization of photos.  Right now I tag all my photos in Bridge, but it’s just not as intuitive in Bridge to find all photos with a specific tag.  LR appears to solve that problem.

Also, according to reviews I’ve read online, LR should ALSO save me from having to go to Photoshop for a black and white photo.  Apparently with LR’s implementation of ACR, I should be able to achieve similar effects AND be able to do it with the RAW photo for a minimum level of quality-loss.  So, it seems that right now is the PERFECT time for me to be interested in LR.  I just got back from Hawaii where I took over 800 photos.  I’ve already tagged and rated them in Bridge before discovery of LR.  I’ve also worked on about the first 50-70 photos.  So now I’ll compare my normal workflow in Bridge to my workflow in LR and see whether or not it proves to be worth the extra $200.  Who knows, it might become the program in which I do 99.9% of my photography work.

Adobe Lightroom 2

I decided to import all of my photos.  It takes a few minutes per thousand photos that I import.  And I have 29027 photos.  It took 2.5 hours to import my entire library.  There are a lot of things I really liked.  The layout and work flow are impressive.  The EXIF reader is more accurate than the version of Bridge that I have.  Specifically, it does a much better job of reading the lens from the  big time.  Bridge b0rks this up big time.  Now for my gripes.

Adobe Lightroom 2 with some photos imported

First of all, the UI is a LOT slower than Bridge.  I really can’t realistically work with my photos at this speed.  This alone is enough to convince me not to spend $200.  But there’s more!  For example, when I’m in a quick collection I am unable to delete a photo from my hard drive.  This doesn’t make any sense.  You’d think that I would want to make, say, a collection of new photos, and then delete the ones I don’t like.  Usually, I move the DNGs into subfolders as I work on them.  However, if I select a folder, LR displays the subfolder.  Right now, the slowness is the biggest problem.  Its RAW-to-JPEG process is so CPU intensive that I have to type this sentence and then wait 2 minutes for it to appear.  This is not a problem with Bridge.

Adobe Lightroom 2 showing my latest photos

Well, I was able to make the sub-folders not show view a toggle option under the “library” menu.  Right now it looks like the biggest reason for me to not use LR is that the changes I make to the DNGs are not reflected in Bridge.  So if I end up not buying LR I will lose all my edits.  I’m updating Bridge in case that is helpful.  No, it turns out I would need to update to the latest Camera Raw and that would require me to update to Photoshop CS4.  I can’t really afford that.

So right now I’m not 100% sure what to do.  If I use Lightroom for now, then I will lose those settings if I don’t stick with the program.  And it only makes sense to stick with the program if I can update to Camera Raw 5.x which I can only do with Photoshop CS4.