Goodbye Mr Damocles?

Lightroom 5.5 brings a hugely-surprising change to how Lightroom behaves once you stop subscribing or after a trial ends.

To appreciate the importance of the change, just imagine a couple of scenarios:

  • You might try Lightroom for 30 days, import and work on photos, then decide not to buy the program – but the trial ended before you had printed some pictures you had adjusted.
  • Potentially much more calamitous is if you had been subscribing to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, either the full version or the Photoshop+Lightroom bundle, and then stopped your subscription for whatever reason. You might have had a lot of hours or years tied up in Lightroom, but suddenly all your work would become inaccessible.

Adobe have now addressed what many regarded as a particularly-objectionable aspect of the subscription model, and it’s clear they have been thinking about this for some time – see John Nack’s post here. You can now breathe a lot more easily.

What Adobe have said

From the official statement from Adobe’s Tom Hogarty:

With the latest update to Lightroom 5.5 I believe we’ve also addressed a lingering concern in the community: What happens to my photographs after my membership ends?  With Lightroom 5.5, at the end of a membership, the desktop application will continue to launch and provide access to the photographs managed within Lightroom as well as the Slideshow, Web, Book or Print creations that we know many photographers painstakingly create. The Develop and Map modules have been disabled in order to signal the end of the membership and the need to renew in order to receive Adobe’s continuous innovation in those areas. Access to Lightroom mobile workflows will also cease to function.

Everything except Develop and Map


So even if Lightroom is no longer licensed, it will continue to open catalogues and almost all the important features will remain available. Adobe have also kept it nice and simple – Develop and Map are disabled, as is Mobile. But you can do everything else, and after a 30 day trial or a subscription expires you’ll continue to be able to use Lightroom to import new photos, find and organise them, apply keywords and other metadata, use them in books or slideshows, print and export them.

Quick Develop and Presets

What if you want to make more adjustments? Well, while you won’t be able to use the Develop module, you can still adjust your photos through Library’s Quick Develop panel or by applying presets – the only thing that’s really unavailable is cropping.

What do you think?

In fact, I’m actually quite surprised at what seems a very generous move. What do you think?


trafficI’m really not obsessed with traffic to this site, and I rarely look at the statistics, but because of my Moving from Aperture to Lightroom page I expected a spike in visitors after the news that Apple had finally stopped developing Aperture.

I won’t disclose exact numbers – and I’ll leave it to you to decide if that’s because of commercial confidentiality or embarrassment – but the spike was roughly 15 times the normal level and traffic now seems to be running at about 4 times what it was before. Thanks Apple PR.


Aperture to Lightroom

If you’re a refugee from Aperture, see my Moving from Aperture to Lightroom page

It’s been obvious for a while that Apple weren’t making any money from Aperture and were no longer investing in its development, but finally the sword has fallen. Apple To Cease Development Of Aperture:

With the introduction of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library, enabling you to safely store all of your photos in iCloud and access them from anywhere, there will be no new development of Aperture. When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS X.

Even before that announcement, consistently the most-visited page on this site was my Moving from Aperture to Lightroom.

If that’s what brought you here, moving to Lightroom is not too difficult a process. I’d just say that with these things the devil is always in the detail, so as well as reading the article  I would encourage Aperture refugees to read the comments where some of the individual insights might prove particularly helpful.



Syncomatic matches by capture time

I’ve 20140622_syncomaticjust updated my Syncomatic plug-in to version 2.0. This plugin synchronises Library metadata and Develop adjustments between pairs of files whose names match or from the top item of a stack to the other stacked items.

What’s new is that it now allows you to match files based on identical capture times.

The idea occurred when Victoria Bampton suggested a potential workflow involving Lightroom Mobile for users who want to import raw files directly to the iPad.

As I’m happy with the standard method of importing files to LR on the desktop,  I’ve never really thought about the problem or wondered about workarounds.

But others have. You can shoot raw+JPEG, import the JPEGs into Lightroom Mobile on the iPad, apply star ratings and flags, even make adjustments. When you return to your computer, you can import the raw files into Lightroom as normal, and LrM would automatically bring in the JPEGs which were processed in LrM. Unfortunately the JPEGs’ names no longer match the raw files. In her book Victoria suggests renaming the files, but quite sensibly asked me if Syncomatic could avoid that step.

So Syncomatic 2.0′s new capture time option allows you to sync the metadata from the JPEGs to the raw files.

Any thoughts?


One big folder?

Scott Kelby says put all images in one folder first. I want to stay with two folders is LR still appropriate?

Ignore Scott’s advice. In general, organising photos isn’t one of his strong points.

So, forget the idea about putting your images in one folder. It’s unnecessary. And yes, you can have two main folders, with subfolders beneath them.

However, the advice isn’t completely off-target and its real point is to avoid overcomplicating your folder system. Don’t have some pictures on this drive, others on that drive, others….oh, and the 2009 vacation are still on the old laptop. Don’t get anywhere near that kind of patchwork organisation. Instead a simple system of two main top level folders, and then a third next year when you need another disc, means that at any moment you can say all my pictures are under control, they’re all recorded in Lightroom, I know they’re all backed up, and I waste no time finding ones I need because they’re all in Lightroom. So if Scott’s “one folder” advice makes any sense, it’s about keeping your photos in as few places as makes sense.

Brush your mask

I wouldn’t normally link to Camera Raw 8.5 RC and DNG Converter 8.5 RC Now Available but notice this little addition to the graduated and radial filters:

  • Modify Graduated and Radial Filter masks with a brush:
    • After adding or selecting a Graduated or Radial Filter instance, click the new ‘Brush’ mode (next to existing ‘New’ and ‘Edit’ mode buttons) to reveal brush controls that allow you to modify the selected mask.
    • Use the ‘Brush +’ and ‘Brush -’ icon buttons in the brush controls pane to add to or erase from the selected mask.
    • Press the ‘Clear’ button to remove all brush modifications from the currently selected mask.

It’s a fair bet to say that this will come to Lightroom too.  So imagine you apply a graduated filter to darken the sky, but it also darkens a tree – this will allow you to avoid that happening.

Looking better?

Hopefully the site’s new look has settled down now. Do say if there’s anything wrong.

I’ve also just removed the “Elsewhere” section which showed recent posts on other good Lightroom sites. I’ll restore it if people say it was useful, but I can’t be bothered keeping it if those sites don’t reciprocate….


Long term thinking

Maybe the most common response to yesterday’s announcement of Lightroom Mobile has been annoyance at it being tied to a subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud. I won’t defend that other than by saying that it was pretty inevitable given Adobe’s sudden switch to subscription sales and also results from the nature of the service. But I did think it worth pointing you to some recent commentary on Adobe’s finances and in particular Forbes magazine’s response to an Economist puff piece about how the drop in Adobe’s profits since CC’s launch had been accompanied by a rise in its stock price. Steve Denning writes:

“Wall Street isn’t entirely stupid,” Roger Martin commented to me. “If a cogent argument is made for a different business model, then it will listen.  Most such company arguments lack cogency and that’s why they fall on entirely deaf ears. This is particularly interesting because it has long been thought that a traditional license-selling software company can’t cross the chasm into a Software as a Service (SAAS) model because the transitional hit on revenues is just too brutal. Once you get to the other side, it is great and arguably a superior model with a recurring revenue base. But it is brutal to build up that base. It’s important for Adobe to succeed because it will help Wall Street understand that it is doable. Others will then follow.”

While it’s heartening to see Wall Street for once not totally obsessed by the short-term, one can also ask: is this a bold, creative customer-friendly management decision, as The Economist suggests? Or could it be a desperation move in the form of a financial gadget that is aimed at covering up a lack of innovation?

I think it’s worth making a couple of other points. Notice the word “desperation”, which is quite similar to my view last year – Adobe may feel they have no alternative to going down the subscription route. Secondly, as a former corporate financial planning cubicle worker, innovation is just one approach to pressures on profitability – cost-cutting is another.

Lightroom for the pub?

Last September Adobe’s Tom Hogarty demonstrated a Lightroom app on the iPad, and a couple of months ago what looked like a draft announcement made a brief appearance on Adobe’s web site. It was promptly removed, but not before people had taken screenshots saying it would be available at $9.99 a month. That seemed a lot for an iPad app on its own, but it was clear something was coming and wasn’t too far away.

More recently Adobe had failed to released a Lightroom 5.4 Release Candidate at the same time as the corresponding betas of Adobe Camera Raw and the DNG Converter. Early adopters of the Nikon D4s and Fuji’s XT1 were left unable to process their shiny new raw files in Lightroom, and of course they blamed Adobe for their slowness rather than Nikon and Fuji for their failure to offer DNG as an option. I had a few emails asking why Adobe hadn’t rushed out a Lightroom 5.4 beta. Clearly, there was something unusual happening.

The answer came last night – 5.4 has been released with an iPad app, Lightroom mobile.

I quite like it, even if I think Adobe have made some avoidable mistakes, but I’m going to focus on the gotchas. After all, there will be enough gushing stuff elsewhere, or tap by tap instructions and even books on it. So it’s gotchas here….


The workflow is between the computer and the iPad – not, as some expect, from camera to iPad to computer

What it’s for

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking Lightroom mobile is any substitute for the full Lightroom experience. It isn’t and it doesn’t claim to be so. See this explanation of why the workflow isn’t camera > LrM > desktop.

Photo editing need not mean exactly the same work that you would do with all that desktop horsepower. The space for tablets is quick and dirty broad adjustments, done at your leisure in moments when you’re not chained to your computer. Doing broad adjustments on the iPad and (just-as-importantly) thinking about the picture’s needs, you can put your serious face on again later when you are back in front of your colour-managed monitor – all that’s left to do is the fine tuning.

Secondly, the app really isn’t just about editing. I find its best use is presentation – just running a quick slideshow on the TV or showing your pictures directly on the iPad. Yes, I know there are apps that do this (I have 3-4 of them), and it’s not rocket science to get pictures into them from LR via Dropbox or whatever (I figure it out afresh each time I tweak my iPad portfolios), but when IT-savvy people like me find that a pain…. None of these methods is remotely as simple as clicking a button next to the collection.

Third, its best use is for casual activity, just flicking through images when you’ve escaped from the desk and deciding which you like or not. Here Adobe dropped the ball – you can only use flags – but it can still be used.

So that’s why I think of it as Lightroom for the pub or for the train or for when you’re sitting in the garden. Use it for:

  • Basic panel adjustments
  • Pick and reject flags
  • Running slideshows on TV

“Read more”…

Is there an easier way to get text into Lightroom?

Coming soon to my ListView plug-in, automatic updating from Excel to Lightroom.

Direct link to video

So what do you think? Have you ever seen an easier way to get text data into Lightroom?

For the technically-minded it’s an Excel macro (I used to do a lot of work with Excel’s VBA programming language) which reads the spreadsheet and communicates directly with the open Lightroom catalogue. I’m not doing anything dubious like writing into Lightroom’s SQL database or XMP files either – automation is entirely via Adobe’s authorised method, the SDK.

The video shows an early version, and it now works with multiple columns.

I will need testers – ideally existing ListView users. It will only work with Lightroom 5 and you would need to one of the very latest versions of Excel – definitely Office 2011 on Mac as the previous version omitted VB. If you want to try it in advance of release, let me know by email or by adding a comment to this post.

Does it look OK?

I’m going to post something rather interesting later – a video showing Excel writing directly to Lightroom without any text files – but the other week I read an article on the BBC web site’s responsive redesign and so before recording the video I thought I’d do a quick bit of site redesign. And when you’re obviously smart enough to update the live site itself with pretty major changes, why bother taking the sensible method of making the changes in private on a test web site ? So naturally enough, I completely broke the site’s appearance on the iPad, and sorting it out took the whole morning. Great.

Anyway, I’m still fiddling with various details but please comment on anything that looks really wrong.

Making a photograph

Chuq Von Rospach’s post Photography Before and After — Sunrise at Merced National Wildlife Refuge describes the thought process behind editing one image that at first glance might not have seemed worth pursuing but came to be one of his favourites.

Make your processing workflow a habit. Poking at an image at random makes it harder to get a great image and impossible to reproduce the results on a different image later. You want to know what your workflow is and follow it, not spend time with each image wondering what to do next. As you teach yourself to follow a specific workflow checklist like the one above, you’ll find that “what do do next” will become obvious, and your processing speed will go up.

Reading this thoughtful article, I was reminded of Ansel Adams’s Examples: The Making Of 40 Photographs: Making of Forty Photographs. And as Ansel said “you don’t take a photograph, you make it”.

Running a droplet

Is it possible to make a droplet in PS so I can export from LR to the droplet and send the results back to LR?

Yes, and you can approach it a couple of ways. I’ll assume you know how to make a droplet.

One way is to save the droplet anywhere on your computer. You then set it up as an external editor on the Preferences > External Editing tab, and run it by selecting the images in LR and choosing Edit With – your droplet will be listed.

post_processing_stepA second method is in the Post Processing step. First save your droplet temporarily on the desktop, then go to the bottom of the File > Export dialog where there’s a dropdown box which has an option to Show the Export Actions folder in Explorer/Finder. Choose this option and you get to the Export Actions folder, which is where you put your droplet. It will be listed as a Post Processing Step the next time you do an export.

Whether the results are sent back to LR partly depends on your droplet, because you could write it so it saves copies of files which LR might not track. But Edit With (method 1) will automatically create a file in LR, while Post Processing Steps has an Add to Catalog option.

If you’re not sure what a droplet is, or why you might want to use one, there’s an example here.

More numbers

Comparing FY2013 with last year, you see Adobe sacrificing product sales for subscriptions.

Comparing the first 11 months of FY2013 with the same period last year, you see the hit Adobe are taking as they sacrifice product sales for subscriptions.

Adobe announced their FY2013 Q4 results yesterday and the headline, I suppose, must be that they have met their target of 1.25 subscribers by the year end:

Adobe exited Q4with 1 million 439 thousand paid Creative Cloud subscriptions, an increase of 402 thousand when compared to the number of subscriptions as of the end of Q3 fiscal year 2013, and enterprise adoption of Creative Cloud was stronger than expected.

And who is surprised? After all, Adobe’s management certainly aren’t so stupid that they would have offered up for public scrutiny a target that they didn’t believe – almost know – they would be able to exceed. We have no real idea about their private targets, their best and worst cases, but the main point is that in terms of their credibility with their investors they have reached first base (isn’t that phrase British English nowadays?). In any case, it’s important to remember that Adobe are playing a longer game – 4 million subscribers by 2015 – and even if they hadn’t hit this year’s stated target, they still have momentum in that direction.

I think there are other reasons for not going overboard about the subscription numbers. Unless I have missed something, the target or actual subscription numbers don’t seem to be broken down into suite and single app. So are the numbers bloated by more single app subscriptions than they need for their overall revenue targets? Secondly, the repeated extensions of the first year discount on the Photoshop + Lightroom package would also eat away at the revenue that those subscription numbers represent. In each case, other than their high stock price (which reflects the wider economy as well as investors’ confidence in future revenue streams), we have little way of being certain if they have indeed done well or not.

While I endured 20 years in a suit, I’m not sure I would inflict upon you the rest of the  Q4 and FY13 earnings call script and slides or other new documents on the investor relations page as I don’t see any more interesting detail, and I still can’t really decide whether Adobe are proceeding in this direction because of confidence and strength, or because they see no alternative for the future of the business. I do wonder what would Steve Jobs have said about Adobe’s increasing dependence on subscriptions?

Caption builder added to Search and Replace plugin

Anyone want to try a new feature that’s coming in my Search and Replace plugin? If so, it’s in this zip file.

The new feature is called “caption builder” and I hope its purpose is obvious – you can build up captions from other fields. You’d use an expression like “Scene in {stateProvince} with {title}, copyright {copyright}”. I’ll attach a list of field names below. What do you make of it?


This demo version also includes a couple of smaller but handy features on the Transfer tab:

  •  Transfer the folder path to keywords – this parses the folder path and turns the folder names into hierarchical keywords
  • Parse the caption to keywords – similar, but this adds each word as a keyword under the top level ~Caption keyword

One tip is that these can produce keywords such as “C:” or “and”, “the”, “with”. I don’t see a good way round this – other than the user marking those keywords as do not export. It also hits problems with compound terms like Buckingham Palace where you’d probably want keywords such as “Buckingham Palace” and “Palace” – but not “Buckingham” on its own since the building is nowhere near that town.

All three of these features come from user requests, so Search and Replace users, now is the time to ask Santa to add your own special request.

Oh no you don’t – DNG and panto season

It’s amazing how often some Lightroom users still assert that a disadvantage of the DNG file format is that any time the metadata changes in the DNG file, you have to backup the whole DNG file again (and again). This isn’t a disadvantage of DNG – it’s a failure to re-assess and think through your backup strategy.

So as it’s now pantomime season, a deep intake of breath please, and after me – OH NO YOU DON’T!

upon_exitTo explain, I certainly don’t dismiss the need to back up your ongoing work, but you really don’t need to keep backing up these DNG files simply because Lightroom has saved metadata to them.

For one thing, you wouldn’t be backing up all your work, just the portion that Lightroom saves as XMP metadata. This is intended for sharing information with other programs, not backup, and means you’d be missing flags, stacking, history steps, virtual copies, assignment to collections and published collections. So the backup value of these DNGs is quite a bit less than you might imagine.

Back up the catalogue

Instead back up your Lightroom catalogue routinely – mine are set to prompt me every time I exit the program – and that’s your Lightroom work fully covered.

What about the pictures?

With a DNG-based workflow you simply back up your new DNGs. Because these “virgin” copies are safeguarding your photos, you don’t actually have to worry about the “working” DNGs which are shown in your catalogue. The virgin DNGs are your backup.

If things did go wrong, this combination of the catalogue backups and the virgin copies of the DNGs means your work and your pictures can be recovered – 100%.

One problem is that people trust their backup programs. Often we just don’t take a moment to validate that they are indeed backing up what they are supposed to do, and how confident are we that we would know how to restore our work? And we apply the same kind of lazy thinking to DNG backups. We just think that updated DNGs must be backed up.

Separate “virgin” DNGs from the “working” DNGs

But the solution really isn’t difficult – the hard thing is seeing through the assertions that backing up is a disadvantage of DNGs. Maybe our backup software can’t distinguish new or virgin DNGs from existing files which have been updated? But an even easier way is to physically separate new or “virgin” DNGs from the “working” DNGs to which LR writes metadata. Put new DNGs on one drive or in one top level folder. Once these new DNGs are backed up, they can be moved over to the drive for working DNGs – which isn’t continually targeted by the backup program.

So while a DNG-based workflow can be attacked, you really have to choose ground that is much less shaky than the old backup argument. It’s a tired old pantomime dame, keeps getting rolled out and shoved centre stage. Next time you recognise it, just remember – it’s behind you!

How can I add multiple songs to a slideshow?

How can I add multiple songs to a slideshow? I have a 15 minute slideshow and need more music. What’s the trick?

There’s no easy trick. You can join the tracks in some audio editing software, but that’s it – you can only use one track in Lightroom.

So what do I actually do? I actually export JPEGs from Lightroom, import them in to Aperture (luckily I also have a Mac) and then I build the slideshow there. Utterly ridiculous, I know, but it works.

Slideshow has always been the weakest of the Lightroom modules, and in Adobe’s defence, part of the problem is that for a few years “slideshow” has come to mean a few different things. One meaning is little more than being able to run a slide show manually, like a Powerpoint presentation, and Lightroom is still stuck in this mode. At the other extreme, some mean fancy Proshow-style shows with menus and multiple movies, which is more like DVD authoring and perhaps overkill for Lightroom. But another of slideshow’s common meanings is effectively a standalone audiovisual movie, and in my view users rightly expect to be able to compose such slideshows in Lightroom. The expectations are not fancy, and they aren’t too far away from what we’ve always had, but it is pretty easy to pin down critical  key features that are missing. You want to use multiple sound tracks, co-ordinate slide durations to the soundtrack, and choose from a range of transition effects. Aperture 3 has done those things since it was released in 2010, and Lightroom 5 doesn’t. Its Slideshow got some big under-the-bonnet (“hood”) updates, so you just have to hope that such important features aren’t going to be neglected for too much longer.

5 reasons to rename your raw files

Why do you rename your source images? I’ve never renamed any RAW files.

I could probably go on for a while….

  1. Every photo should be uniquely identified, and camera-generated names don’t guarantee that happens. For example, _DSC1234 would repeat each time the camera passes 9999.
  2. Secondly, there’s nothing sacrosanct about the names added by the camera, so why not make it meaningful in a variety of contexts (eg Explorer or Finder) by adding the date and perhaps some text description?
  3. Third, it’s handy to provide clients with sequentially-numbered photos, rather than the jumbled alphanumeric file names generated by some cameras.
  4. Fourth, also giving clients sequentially-numbered photos means they don’t notice gaps and ask to see images which you may have deleted for whatever reason.
  5. Fifth, a scheme such as YYMMDD_1234 also helps you check the completeness of what’s in a folder. If the files are numbered 1-257, you know that you should have at least 257 pictures and that there’s a problem if 125, 126, 127 are missing.

“Make a second copy to”

Why does the second copy upon import go into a folder called “Imported on November-11-13” and not into a folder named to match the folder on the hard disk that was set as the Destination for the import?

second_copyIt’s because “Make a second copy to” is designed to store a second copy of your originals in a logical place, which means you’re safe to go and reformat / re-use your flash cards. What it’s not designed to be is your real, permanent backup.

The problem here is wishful thinking! People see the words “second copy” and eagerly imagine “backup”. But that’s just not its purpose. To repeat, it’s there to ensure the user has a second copy of the originals and can safely re-use the media cards – not replicate whatever folder and filenaming the user happens to choose upon import.

That may be jarring, but if it were to try to replicate the import it simply wouldn’t satisfy a few very common practices. For instance, many users rename photos after reviewing them in Library/Develop and deciding which they want to keep, or other users move images to different folders or rename folders. So any 1:1 correspondence with the import copies is so easily broken that it’s not at all stupid to use “Imported on YYMMDD” – which has the simple virtue of being factual.

So it’s best to understand what this “Make a second copy to” feature does, and not read something else into it. Use it for new imports, but don’t expect it to be more than a temporary safeguard. Once these new files have been picked up by your proper backup routine, you can then safely delete the Imported On folder.

Search Replace Transfer 1.47

I’ve just released version 1.47 of my Search Replace Transfer plugin. Apart from a couple of bug fixes, there are some new capabilities:

One is being able to insert a line break when doing an append or transfer. So for example you can add the filename to the caption, and keep it on a separate line.

Parse and Audit is for auditing your metadata entry. Previously it allowed you to see if important fields like the IPTC Title and Caption were empty – you could filter on “is empty” or “done”. You can still find the empty values, because it’s important to find titles and captions which you may have forgotten, but now all the “done” entries will be shown as the actual value contained in the field. It means you can now filter directly on the title or caption.

In addition, there are now 5 extra fields which you can define for auditing. This means you can choose from almost any EXIF/IPTC/Develop field, run the Parse and Audit command, and filter directly on that field. Here for example I’ve set up the Library Filter panel so I can filter on the Edit Count, or on the ISO, then examine the Exposure, Shadows or Luminance Smoothing adjustments.