Archive for the ‘Lightroom’ Category

Lightroom 2 – International pricing is a joke

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

So, Adobe finally released Version 2 of Lightroom. Adobe’s Tom Hoggarty has put together the official list of improvements at the Lightroom Journal.

I ordered Lightroom 2 on Friday but I have not seen the software yet, so I can not yet comment on the software quality of this release, or the coolness of the new features.

But as an international customer I can say that I feel ripped off by Adobe. The announcement on the official page read Upgrade to Lightroom 2 for $99. This is a price tag that is an “almost fair price”, considering that the software by now should be bug free (this time, really) and stuffed with new exciting features. I was ready to shell out the money for it. But I was surprised when I realized that Adobe won’t sell the software to me at $99. They won’t sell because I am from Germany. Huh?

As an international customer you are forced to buy at your respective local Adobe online store. And these stores -despite belonging to Adobe- can apparently set their own prices for each market. And for Germany the net price (ex VAT) is 99 Euros which converts to $154.20! That’s a hefty 55.8% markup for no (zero) additional value. I get the same software with the same functionality. I would even take a plain English version as I have no need for translated user interface. Still Adobe squeezes another $55 from me, and I can hear a devilish laughter coming from the Silicon Valley HQ.

This is grossly unfair. By the way, my complaint is not about the money. It is about the feeling of being ripped off, which certainly is not a good feeling. And I am not the only one feeling this way. This thread at the official Adobe user-to-user forum is quite eye opening if you ask me. While we’re at it, maybe Adobe also finds a way to sell Lightroom to users from Iceland?

One thing is certain: Unless Adobe changes its international pricing policy, I will refrain from buying any other upgrade from them. Photoshop has reached its end-of-life by now; further useful updates are not necessary any longer. Lightroom has a more powerful competitor in Apple’s Aperture. Too bad you need Apple hardware for this. But the next time Adobe wants money for a Lightroom update, I’ll switch to Apple. Please take my word for it. :-)

P.S.: Lightroom 2 review follows as soon as the package has been delivered.

Weddings: How to select photos for the couple?

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Susan asks on the excellent Flickr Wedding Photography board:

I shot my first wedding – alone – nearly two weeks ago. I have nearly 1300 photos, which I’ve been working on in Lightroom, a few at a time, and posting in a Flickr set to look at [...] I don’t know how to proceed.

This is a common problem among photographers who start to shoot weddings. The digital technology allows you to shoot everything, and you shoot everything. And once you’re back at the computer, you suddenly realize that you shot an awful lot of photos. And then you don’t know how to proceed. There are simply too much images.

The Wedding Photographer
The Wedding Photographer
Photo: FotoDawg/Flickr – Some rights reserved

In this post, I want to prepare you to shoot a wedding. If you are serious about wedding photography, you will have to adopt this workstyle, or something quite similar to it. Otherwise you will be unable to process the amount of images in the given (very limited) time. Let’s begin with the essentials:

Tip 1 – Always shoot RAW

If your camera supports RAW format, use it.

Sure, the format takes up more space on the memory card and on the harddisk, and it can not be handled as conveniently as JPEG, but the quality is waaay better. Plus, you have serious quality reserves for editing. This can be a lifebelt should things go badly wrong. (Yep, I’ve had a few situations where RAW actually saved me, and the clients did not notice anything.)

Tip 2 – Clean your equipment prior to the shooting

The time spent on cleaning your equipment prior to the big day is time invested wisely! While you can remove dust spots later on with Photoshop or Lightroom, it is smarter to not even have the dust spots in the first place. No dust spots = time saved at post processing time.

Tip 3 – Do not shoot everything

Yes, you have a digital camera with lots of memory. You are eager to not miss a moment. And you shoot like hell. But wait! Are the photos you are taking really good? Do they really transport an emotion or a crucial moment of the day? Do you really need the 36th shot of the couple sitting in front of the altar, motionless? If you think back to the old days of film – a roll of film was 36 exposures. Would you have spent a full roll of film for this series? If the answer is no, then think twice before you release the shutter.

You need to get a feeling for the right moments, and the right amount of pictures of that moment. This will help you to reduce the overall number of shots. It requires experience to capture the important shots, i.e. those shots that end up in the clients’ final selection (and frankly, nothing else matters). You will get there, too, but it will take time.

Tip 4 – Delete photos on location

So you have shot a couple of photos with the same setting, using the same light in the same location. Good. Now, in order to reduce the number of photos that you have to deal with, I strongly recommend to review all the photos as soon as possible on location, i.e. whenever there is a pause in the action, or while you are waiting for something. And then delete all the photos that you don’t like (aka “the bad ones”). Any bad photo deleted on location reduces the time for importing and rating later. That’s why your camera has a built-in display. :-)

Tip 5 – Use a batch software like Lightroom

The shooting is over. You bring home those images that you wanted to take and that passed your quick review on location. That are probably still a lot of pictures. Now you need a batch software, like Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture, to handle the photos. Photoshop CS3 is fine for editing low volumes, or for fine-tuning individual photos. But when facing 1,000+ photos it is not a big help for you (despite Photoshop’s Bridge).

You import all the photos into Lightroom (or Aperture) and do all the basic editing there.

Lightroom - Lights Out for Rating
Lightrooms “Lights out” function helps during the rating of photos
Photo & Screenshot: Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Tip 6 – Rate all pictures, and quickly

Right after the import has finished, I go through the whole set of images in Lightroom. I put away all the panels to maximize the image on the screen, and I put the background to dark or black using the [L] key. I want to see just the photos. My right hand rests on the arrow keys (to flip forth and back), while my left hand rests over the rating keys [1] to [5]. Here is how I rate the photos:

[X] Rejected. Mostly used for work from second shooters that has some serious problems, e.g. focus or composition. Also for all those “closed eyes” shots. Once the picture DVD is out, these will be deleted permanently. To me, it’s pretty much as if I deleted the photo on location. It just disappears. Gone forever.

[1] Mediocre. Why did I shoot that? I seldomly assign “1″, though. Usually, I delete these shots along with the rejected ones. No need to keep that crap.

[2] Below average. Shouldn’t have done this photo, but heck, I’ll keep it. What for? I don’t know. Not even I will look at these shots again in the future.

[3] Average. An okayish photo, but the clients won’t see this photo as there are better photos in the selection.

[4] Good, but not good enough. Often assigned to pictures that really are a “5″, but with other photos from the same series that are even better, some shots simply need to get a “4″.

[5] For the customer. This shot should end up in the final selection.

To me, it’s important to do the rating quickly and rather emotional. I try to not think about or analyze each individual image in depth. At 1,000 photos or more, there is no time for that (1,080 photos x 10 seconds = 3 hours!). I simply ask myself – will the couple enjoy this shot? Are they missing something if this shot is not in the final selection? Is it really good? And I try to be honest. There is no point in lying to yourself.

As soon as all the photos are rated, I apply the filter function to only show photos with a rating of [5]. Then I go once again through the set, even faster, just to see whether the balance in the selection is right. Are there any inconsistencies to the photo story, or are there obvious gaps? Are there still too many images of a single series?

Be honest. Be ruthless. Less pictures is better for everyone.

(By the way, you can do so much more with Lightroom. Take the color filters, for example. I use them to indicate second shooters’ images, so I can assign the correct photographer credits before mastering the image disk.)

Tip 7 – Batch edit the photos

Now the hard work begins. You go to “Develop” mode and (batch) edit all the images that survived your ruthless rating process with a 5-star-rating. Despite the tools Lightroom provides, this will take considerable time. At this point you will be glad that you shot RAW and that you cleaned your equipment prior to the shooting, see tips #1 and 2.

Even during editing I often decide to “downgrade” a photo from [5] to [4], thus effectively removing it from the final client selection.

When you are finished, let it rest for a day. Do something else. Take the camera and shoot another job, relax in the garden, go shopping. But do not touch Lightroom for at least 24 hours. Then go through the selection one last time and see whether your photos really make sense for the couple. Be harsh to yourself, in the name of the client! Remember – they will still get a suitable number of photos, and they shall only get the shots that you consider to be the best of the best.

Tip 8 – Get the photos out

You are done – almost. You export the photos from Lightroom to the desired format and burn a DVD. Maybe you design a nice cover? Then ship the thing off and let the couple haggle over which shot is best. ;-) You made sure that they only get the best, but it’s ultimately their call to make prints, or send the files off to family and friends.

Tip 9 – Clean up

The next job will come, sooner or later, so you can not have the files piling up on your hard disk! You better move the photo files to a place where they can stay for a long time, e.g. your network server, an external hard disk, or a set of DVDs. Lightroom will allow you to access the files even on the external hard disk should it be required.

Now you can focus on the next job.

How to batch resize in Lightroom

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

A commonly asked question by the readers of this blog is – how do I batch resize in Lightroom?

As I have been with Lightroom since version 1.0, here are my tips for you, along with a bit of background information you might find useful.

1. Lightroom was not really made to “batch resize”

The typical workflow with Lightroom is to import the image files from disk or device, to make changes to them using Lightroom’s “Develop” mode, and then to export the finished photos into the desired format. It’s very simple: Import – modify – export. To understand this will help you to make best use of Lightroom, especially when working with RAW files.

During import, Lightroom copies the original files to the disk, but leaves them untouched during post processing. When you make changes to an image, the program remembers these changes in a separate file, so that you can always start over again with the original file should things really go wrong. When you are done with your post processing, Lightroom takes the original files and applies all the modifications you did to a copy of the file, and then saves this copy to a location specified by you. One of the export options is to specify a certain image size, so the image will be saved as a scaled down version. This resizing is really just the last step in a series of steps.

You see: the logic behind Lightroom makes it not the perfect batch resizing tool. But having said that, I also have to admit:

2. Lightroom still can do the job of “batch resizing”

2.1 How to use Lightroom to create a set of images that is smaller in size

And it’s rather easy now that you know how Lightroom works. If all you want to do is to scale down a bunch of JPEGs, then:

  • Import them from device or disk
    File > Import Photos from Disk…
  • In Library Mode, mark all of the imported photos
    Edit > Select All
  • Export them to the desired size
    File > Export…

In the Export dialogue, you can specify the Export Location, the output format and output quality (in case of JPEGs), the color space and the resizing options. And you are done.

2.2 How to use Lightroom to create a set of images that has a specific aspect ratio

If you have a certain set of images that you want to constraint to a certain size, this can be done with Lightroom by synchronizing the Crop Overlay:

  • Import the photos from device or disk
    File > Import Photos from Disk…
  • Select the first photo of the set, and go to Library Mode
  • Activate the Crop Overlay
  • Select the desired aspect ratio from the drop down menu, e.g. 4×6
  • Move the crop overlay to the desired location (optional)
  • In the film strip below the main window, mark all the other images where this aspect ratio shall be used (Lightroom will safely work with mixed image orientations, i.e. upright and panorama shots can be selected at the same time)
  • Click the “Sync…” button at the right bottom
  • In the “Synchronize Settings” window, activate “Aspect Ratio”, plus all the other settings you may want to copy from the first photo to all selected photos
  • Click the “Synchronize”button
  • For each image, check whether the Crop Overlay is indeed at the correct position, ensuring that no important parts of the image are chopped off (optional)
  • Export the selected images to the desired size
    File > Export…

And you are done.

Lightroom Performance

Friday, May 30th, 2008

While waiting for another set of photos being exported, I thought I check the performance of Lightroom again, just out of curiosity. The PC is the same as in the previous test, yet this test uses Lightroom 1.3 – which is not the latest version, I know, but a version that works OK for me.

From the photo shooting I selected 609 images, all available as Canon RAW files. 443 of these came from the 1ds mark II, 166 came from the 1d mark II N, i.e.:

a) 443 x 4992 x 3328 = 7,359,725,568 pixels to be processed
b) 166 x 3504 x 2336 = 1,358,767,104 pixels to be processed

This took 113 minutes, for a total of 8,718,492,672 pixels. In other words: Lightroom 1.3 exports about 1.29 megapixels per second, which is slightly slower than the 1.51 megapixel/second I got from Lightroom 1.1. From this I can calculate the average processing time for my cameras as:

Canon 1ds mark II = 12.9 seconds
Canon 1d mark II N = 6.4 seconds

These times turn out to be surprisingly accurate, as I manually stopped a few exports and got 13-something for the 1ds mark II files, and 7 seconds for the 1d mark II N.

Obviously, the time depends on the actions performed on the images, but as I tend to do very little heavy editing this should not change the overall result too much. Also, I am aware of this being a one-time examination and not a full-blown scientific study.

Now, where do I get a faster laptop? ;-)

P.S.: Tests were done using a Windows XP SP2 laptop with Intel Core Duo T2300E and 1 GB of memory.