Syncomatic and LrMobile

SyncomaticI’ve just updated my Syncomatic plug-in to version 2.0.

The plugin already syncs Library metadata and Develop adjustments between files with:

  • Matching names
  • Within the same (folder) stack

But I was recently surprised to hear that people were trying to use it with LrMobile, so I added a new matching criterion:

  • Capture time

I’m happy with the standard method of importing files to LR on the desktop,  and then to Lr Mobile, and I travel with a laptop. So I’ve never really thought about the problem of travelling with only an iPad and trying to process raw files with it.

But others have been shooting raw+JPEG, importing the JPEGs into Lightroom Mobile on the iPad, applying star ratings and flags, and making some adjustments. After getting back to a real computer, they import the raw files into Lightroom as normal, and Lr Mobile would automatically bring in the JPEGs which were processed on the road.

Unfortunately these JPEGs’ names no longer match the raw files. So in her book Victoria suggests renaming the files, which would allow Syncomatic to copy Library and Develop work from the JPEGs to the raw files, but quite sensibly she asked me if Syncomatic could avoid that messy renaming step. After all, the JPEGs’ capture times matched those of the raw files.

So Syncomatic 2.0’s new capture time option allows you to use the capture time to sync metadata and adjustments from JPEGs imported directly into Lr Mobile, and copy the work to the corresponding raw files.

Isn’t it nice when people bring you great ideas?

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. Forget the idea about putting your images in one folder, if it’s indeed what he says, and you can certainly have two or more main folders with subfolders beneath them.

In general, I think it’s fair to say that for all his many strengths, advice on organising photos isn’t one of Kelby’s strong points. But the idea of putting everything in a single folder seems so ludicrous I find it hard to believe he’s not been misquoted.

However, the advice isn’t completely off-target if you re-interpret it to mean avoiding overcomplicated folder systems. After all, every so often I encounter someone who says he has some pictures on this drive, others on that drive, others….oh, and the 2009 vacation are still on the old laptop. If you have anything like that kind of patchwork “organisation” of your photos, trouble is lurking somewhere down the line.

Instead a simple system of one or 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, you know they’re all backed up, and you waste no time finding ones you need because they’re all in Lightroom. So if Scott does advise “one folder”, it’s all about keeping your photos in as few places as you can, no more.

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….

What it’s for


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

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

A reason to subscribe?

One of the most obvious points is that Lightroom Mobile is only available with a Creative Cloud subscription. The leaked $9.99 per month standalone app had never looked credible, and including Mobile as part of the CC subscription always made much more sense.

  • For one thing, on a technical level some kind of cloud or network would be required to sync photos between desktop and iPad. Allowing users to sync via Dropbox or via a local network might be technically feasible, but would it be economic? In any case, sync is too critical to Mobile for the service to be outside Adobe’s control.
  • Just as important, you’ve got to see the iPad app as a benefit for existing subscribers and an inducement to subscribe to the CC. Whatever people think of subscription-limited software, that’s the way Adobe wants to drive its customers – and there’s got to be carrot as well as stick.

Only for iPad?

As someone who owns an iPad 2, I am pleased Adobe decided to Mobile would be supported on any iPads capable of running iOS 7, but plenty of people have questioned the lack of an Android version. Well, I certainly can’t be categorised as pro-Apple – quite the contrary – and yet I think it’s quote easy to defend the decision.

The truth is that whatever the wider ratio of Android and iOS tablets may be, the iPad is overwhelmingly the most common tablet owned by Lightroom users. As evidence for that statement, take this site’s stats which show 60% of mobile visitors here use iPads, 23% iPhones, and the top Android device, the Galaxy, accounts for just 3%. These stats are remarkably similar to Victoria Bampton’s Lightroom Queen site and Lightroom Forums, and I don’t think it’s unlikely that they must be equally representative of the Lightroom user base. After all, you’d have to be pretty weird to spend time on any of these sites if you weren’t a Lightroom user. So it’s a fair bet that upwards of 60% of tablet-owning Lightroom users have iPads, and I’ve no doubt Adobe have done plenty of market research along similar lines. Limiting Mobile to the iPad, at least for now, will be a cold business decision.

Pressing Reset

Before moving on to look at the features, it’s worth giving a tip for older iPad users, or users of older iPads. We all know image processing loves as much memory as it can throw at pictures, but the iPad 2 only has a 512k chip which has been upgraded in the latest generations of iPad. So if you  have an iPad 2 and experience crashes with Mobile (or any other app), there may be “low memory errors”. If you want to look at them, they will be listed in the iPad’s log files in Settings > General > About > Diagnostics & Usage > Diagnostics & Usage. But in any case, if you experience crashes I strongly recommend resetting the iPad. It doesn’t do any harm and may well solve low memory crashes caused by Lightroom mobile or any other app.


Basic panel adjustments are available by dragging the slider along the bottom of the image. In many ways it’s remarkable.

An unbalanced set of features?

I like the features that Mobile offers. You can:

  • View images with the results of all the adjustments you’ve made in Lightroom Desktop
  • Apply basic panel adjustments by dragging sliders
  • Apply Adobe’s built-in presets
  • Apply pick / reject flags
  • Create new collections
  • Automatically sync pictures from the camera roll (it’s how I got the screenshots here)
  • Automatically sync your Mobile edits with Lightroom back to your desktop

Yet while that’s a handy set of features, I am rather disappointed that they appear unbalanced – saying it’s only a 1.0 is not that great an excuse, is it?

So what do I mean by “unbalanced”?

Well, it’s not that I expect to replicate Lightroom Desktop on the iPad. Apart from the lack of horsepower, I simply don’t think people use iPads in circumstances where they expect as powerful a range of features as on a proper computer. You’re in the pub, on a train, pretending to be sociable by sitting with the family as they watch some talent show on the television etc – and to be honest you’re only pretending not to be watching that drivel. I think it makes sense to limit adjustments to those found in the Basic panel.

And there’s plenty you can accomplish with these Basic panel adjustments and Adobe’s built-in presets. You can’t do proper B&W, or use your own presets, and the 1.0 excuse can apply to gradients and local adjustment brushwork which would seem very suitable to touch screens. But for the kind of editing you might do on the iPad, Adobe have provided a good range of adjustments.


Lightroom Mobile includes the Basic panel adjustments from Develop but only allows you to flag pictures – not rate them or apply other metadata. It’s as if if offers the features that are the most difficult to code, but fails to provide the easy stuff.

The imbalance is that you wouldn’t just use iPad time for making basic adjustments – you’d do Library as well as Develop tasks. While you’re enjoying your second pint, or when they changes channel for the other talent show, you can happily review your pictures and decide which to keep or reject. So Mobile lets you swipe up and down to apply pick or reject flags – great. But that’s all it offers.

The lack of star ratings seems a glaring omission as I think people typically use flags and ratings in concert, and it’s good that Adobe are going to add ratings. Flags identify which pictures to keep or reject, and then star ratings further refine the keepers. Coloured labels are a less serious omission, but I find it hard to explain why they aren’t there.

Similarly I doubt people would use iPads for much metadata entry. Applying keywords seems too serious for iPad time, but you can’t even edit existing captions or fix typos.

It’s all Develop, not much Library. The technically-difficult features are there, but the quick win Library features are very thin,  and that’s why I continue to feel the app is unbalanced.

What good is it if there’s no colour management?

The iPad doesn’t offer colour management, so you are going to be disappointed if you expect to use Lightroom Mobile to fine tune your pictures. That doesn’t make the app useless, as I’m sure some will claim.

Mobile is for the kind of quick and dirty adjustments you do when you’re half drunk or stuck waiting for the train home. You don’t do those? Well, I don’t really believe you, or at least I don’t think you’re representative. Most people do have time away from the computer when they can make rough adjustments and try things, and it’s pretty sweet to get back to the big computer and see those adjustments have been automatically applied to the pictures. A bit of sophisticated colour-managed fine tuning and you’re done. So it’s about making the most of your time.


Running slideshows on the TV is nothing particularly new, and you can easily use a laptop to show pictures directly from Lightroom itself, but something I particularly like about Lightroom Mobile is using it for slideshows. Unlike the laptop, the iPad is rarely out of reach and is much less obtrusive. As I have an Apple TV, it’s just 3 or 4 swipes and the pictures are on my 40″ screen.

Mystery meat navigation


Look for the three dots in the collection’s bottom right corner. Tap them and the panel flips over and provides access to its settings. Enable Offline Editing is probably the most useful and downloads the smart previews (boiled down versions of your originals) directly onto your iPad.

I’ve always argued that Lightroom’s interface is unhelpfully gloomy, and Lightroom Mobile retains the same grey-on-grey tones.

Also, like a lot of touch apps it adopts a “mystery meat” approach to navigation. The result is that a lot of its features are harder to discover – or read – than they might be.

Learn your gestures

Lightroom Mobile, like any touch-driven interface, is driven by swipes and taps – “gestures”. So another big tip is to make an effort to learn your gestures.


Hidden in the app’s settings is a list of gestures. You can also reset the tips here.

But this is where “mystery meat” bites back. Lightroom Mobile’s gestures are nicely highlighted the first time you use the app, but only the first time, and afterwards it’s very easy to forget the tricks and it’s not obvious where to find a list.

In fact you need to tap your account info at the app’s top left. This opens the settings – see what I mean about mystery meat – and you get access to a list of gesture shortcuts. It’s in very small grey text on slightly darker grey text, so

Where to get it

Lightroom mobile is available on the Apple App Store. You need:

  • iPad 2 and above
  • iOS 7

Is there an easier way to get text into Lightroom?

Updated video

Coming soon to my ListView plug-in, automatic updating from Excel to Lightroom. Have you ever seen an easier way to get text data into Lightroom?

For the technically-minded, it’s an Excel macro which reads the spreadsheet and communicates directly with the open Lightroom catalogue. In my former life as a financial IT consultant I used to do a lot of work with Excel’s VBA programming language, and the use of a custom formula is very similar to how Excel communicates with many business systems, so I’m confident it’s a solution which will work.

It’s worth adding that I’m not doing anything dubious like hacking into Lightroom’s SQL database or XMP files – the automation is entirely via Adobe’s authorised method, the SDK.

I will need testers – ideally existing ListView users. It will only work with Lightroom 5 and you would need to have 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.


See List View 1.73 imports from Excel

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, updated July 2015.

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 don’t dismiss the need to back up your work. Backup is good, of course, but you have to think it through and ensure it is appropriate.

A false sense of security

Let’s say that you did decide to back up the DNG any time the metadata changes. One obvious downside is that repeatedly backing up the image is going to put a strain on your backup resources.

But the more fundamental problem is that these backed-up DNGs don’t include up all your Lightroom work, just the settings that Lightroom saves as XMP metadata. This data is intended for sharing information with other programs, not backup, and it omits 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.

What to do?

1. 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 all your Lightroom work fully covered.

2. Back up new DNGs

With a DNG-based workflow you back up new DNGs. This “virgin” backup is what safeguards your photos, and you don’t then need to worry about the “working” DNGs which are shown in your catalogue. It doesn’t matter if Lightroom writes metadata to these “working DNGs”, because the work is backed up by your catalogue backup and the pictures are covered by your “virgin” backup copies.

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

Separate “virgin” DNGs from the “working” DNGs

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

But the solution really isn’t difficult – the hard thing is seeing through the assertions that backup 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!

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.

Grayscale mode and droplets

Why is it not possible to save tif files in Grayscale Mode from LR?

droplet0Because it’s not needed by many people, and I certainly can’t remember when I last needed to do so.  Not for years anyway, and there’s much more demand from a group of users for exporting to CMYK, for example.

What’s more those who really need Grayscale Mode are usually those who also have Photoshop and can create an action or droplet:

  1. In PS, create a new RGB document
  2. Record an action with one step – Image > Mode > Grayscale
  3. In PS, File > Automate > Create Droplet
  4. Save Droplet In should be your computer’s desktop
  5. In the Play section, point it to your action
  6. In Destination, choose Save and Close
  7. In Lightroom, Preferences, Presets, click Show LR Presets folder
  8. You should now be in Finder/Explorer
  9. Go into this Lightroom folder and Export Actions
  10. Move the Droplet from the desktop and into this folder
  11. Restart LR
  12. Select one or more pictures
  13. File > Export
  14. At the bottom of the Export dialog, notice the Post Processing section
  15. From its dropdown list, choose your Droplet and click OK
  16. Run the export

Once the files have been exported by LR, PS should open them, make them Grayscale Mode, and save and close them.

What’s more, any action can be saved as a droplet and run from Lightroom using the same method.



In Photoshop, convert your action into a droplet



In Lightroom, choose your droplet from the Post Processing steps



New book – Digital Photo Workflow


My latest book is published today, October 7 – just in time for Christmas (!).

Digital Photo Workflow (Made Easy) is a short book that tries to cover everything and to make it look easy – or at least make it the obvious way to work. That’s quite an ambitious scope and one that may seem beyond 128 pages, but I often find that learning soon grinds to a halt once it’s smothered by how much detail one can offer in a larger volume. Instead this book is more about appreciating the overall tasks, fitting them together, and equipping the reader with guidance about best practice.

While it teaches you a lot about Lightroom, it doesn’t pretend to be a slider-by-slider manual. It’s a short book that tries to cover everything you need to know to get going, and the right way to do things. So instead of having a lengthy chapter on using multiple catalogues, for instance, instead it points the reader directly towards using a single catalogue and not fragmenting one’s workflow. It tells you about folders in Lightroom, but makes clear that you need to avoid the (natural) temptation to use folders to categorize your pictures. Folders store, keywords categorize. For those who won’t start using keywords because it’s too big a job, there’s some pretty brutal advice about the journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step. There’s a lot of best practice in there, but sweetened and expressed in familiar language. So it’s a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Once you know which direction to go, you can figure out the sliders and which buttons to press.


You can get the book from Amazon UK / USA or as an eBook (PDF) from Amazon UK or USA.

Breaking up is hard to do

One common question about Lightroom is the maximum number of images for a single catalogue, and it’s usually the result of some slowdowns and asked with the expectation of needing more than one catalogue once you reach a magic number.

The trouble is, Lightroom is designed and optimized for being used as a single catalogue – eg you can only use one catalogue at a time and there are no cross-catalogue searching features. While it may offer features to support more than one catalogue, those features are designed for specific workflows such as moving work between computers, and you will hit a variety of problems and limitations if you use them to spread your workflow across a number of catalogues and fragment control of your pictures. You can certainly make Lightroom work that way, but it’s not making the best of it.

Slowdowns tend to be unrelated to the number of images in a catalogue and the only thing that is consistently slower is backing it up, and that isn’t a problem since it’s done after you’ve finished work. If you do experience a slowdown, you need to look elsewhere for a reason, so see Adobe’s notes on optimizing performance and troubleshooting performance.  One option may be an “inbox” + master catalogue. New stuff will go into the inbox catalogue and you then periodically import it into the master and create a new inbox. But try running with one optimised catalogue and resolving the underlying problem. Above all, try optimising the large catalogue – that would be the first place to look.

While I recommend only using one catalogue (here, here, here and elsewhere), there are good reasons to use more than one and do so myself. In addition to my main catalogue which controls all my pictures, I also have another which controls a charity’s picture archive. I keep it completely separate – it catalogues only those pictures in a distinct set of folders which are never mixed with any others. I’ll also create temporary catalogues which might be for testing, demos, or working on the laptop. This is perfectly normal, and I’m not sure how you could use Lightroom otherwise, but it leaves no scope for confusion – my own workflow and pictures are controlled in a single Master Catalogue.lrcat.

Because it’s a difficult area, Peter Krogh of The DAM Book fame has released an ebook Multi-Catalog Workflow with Lightroom 5. It comes as a PDF supported by videos and covers a wide range of possibilities. I haven’t had the chance to read it in its entirety (been away and then absorbed in a DIY project), but I did like the idea of importing the videos into Lightroom so I could watch them in context. While others offer poor advice on using catalogues, Peter and I rarely disagree.

Downloading CS6

There are millions of Adobe’s customers who haven’t and perhaps won’t ever sign up to the Creative Cloud (I haven’t so far but may reluctantly do so). Back in May, 700,000 had decided it was the right choice for them and had chosen to subscribe, and while you can put a positive spin on Adobe now reaching 1 million subscribers (see FY2013 Q3 financial presentations) , you could also say that they’ve only put on another 300k since they denied customers any choice. That leaves 7 million Creative Suite customers to go, and for them life goes on.

One of those is a good friend who has always been a loyal Adobe customer and stayed up-to-date with Photoshop and Lightroom. He’s upgraded to every version but usually once he has seen a new tool which he believes he will use, and he sees little point subscribing to CC for its own sake and trusting Adobe will eventually introduce a feature he wants. His main computer is quite new, the operating system equally up-to-date, and I’m sure he’s not unusual in being perfectly happy continuing with CS6.

But while you may think it’ll be years before you can no longer run CS6, bumps in the road may come sooner than you imagine. In his case it was a pleasant surprise – someone offered him a new laptop – but he couldn’t find how to download it from Adobe and after wasting a couple of hours’ valuable time he was in a panic and called John.

You know, SNAG-0003I’m really not surprised he found it difficult. I thought I knew my way around Adobe’s site and I don’t think they have deliberately hidden links to CS6, they’ve not gone out of their way to make it easy to download if you already own the software. It took me a quarter of an hour flapping around, looking at “my products”, following various CS6 links, and getting nowhere. Eventually I found it:

  • Look for the “Sign In” link on the right of the Adobe page and log into your Adobe account.
  • Then on the right hand side, look for the “Welcome, Your Name”  link.
  • It has a menu – go into My Orders.
  • In your order history, you should see your order for CS6 and a Download link is on the right.

Shelter from the Cloud?

If you’ve been using Photoshop as well as Lightroom, you may have been surprised and disappointed by Adobe’s behaviour earlier this year, offering customers the Hobson’s choice of subscribing for Photoshop or being unable to upgrade beyond CS6. For Photoshop newcomers the monthly subscription of $19.99 certainly eased the painful initial outlay of buying Adobe’s software, but existing customers were being offered a price rise disguised by a half-price discount during the first year, after which you pay the normal $19.99. What’s more, they would no longer own the CC software and it would stop working if you ever stopped paying, which would make it pretty difficult to fine tune your pictures. Not surprisingly, this deal wasn’t universally popular among photographers.

So now Adobe have made a concession to existing Photoshop CS customers – the Photoshop Photography Program.

If you own Photoshop CS3-CS6 and subscribe before the end of December,  Photoshop CC’s subscription will now be $9.99 / £8.54  per month and will include Lightroom, plus the 20Gb online storage space and the Behance web service. The monthly price is not a first year introductory discount but will be your normal price so long as you keep subscribing. Any subsequent price rises will be based on that figure.

Anyone who already subscribed to Photoshop CC will now get Lightroom too.

The benefits

It’s not a big step back by Adobe, and it is clear they are not about to abandon their decision to force customers over to their subscription model. But to look on the bright side, they have now tackled a number of problems. Existing Photoshop customers get more for the monthly subscription, not a disguised price hike, and Adobe have soothed the fear that the price will rise once they have a firm grip around your genitals.

Less incentive to innovate?

Of course, there are other big reasons why Adobe have not yet “convinced” people, to use their own expression. One is the belief that guaranteed revenue streams make companies grow lazy and reduce their incentive to produce innovative new features that make you want to upgrade. Obviously this won’t affect the motivation of individual software engineers, and external events may still lead to Adobe responding with new capabilities like the publishing to tablets which was added to InDesign CS6, but it’s hard to question the assumption that dependable revenues inevitably encourages cost-cutting and a less adventurous ethos. Business just works that way (my accounting background comes out again!) and you can only hope that Adobe escape that fate.

The exit strategy

But another big objection is most interesting in this case, and that is the “exit strategy” – what happens to Photoshop and your pictures when you stop subscribing? Previously, of course, you’d buy Photoshop and just expect it to keep going until a major change in the operating system or until you bought a new camera. But with a subscription-limited service, it’s more like electricity or water and sewerage – Photoshop will just stop working. Fair enough in contractual terms, but what about the photos you’ve edited? They are your intellectual property, not Adobe’s. How would you then print or share them, and especially if they needed fine tuning? If you have any sense of thinking ahead, was it ever sustainable to rent Photoshop on its own?

Plan for a proper copy of Lightroom

While it’s easy to welcome this Photoshop Photography Program deal in superficial terms, we’ve got to put aside the “good for photographers” fluff and “for the price of three lattes” hype (real coffee drinkers don’t drink overpriced latte). What’s important is that this deal gives you the subscription-limited Photoshop, you are not getting a proper copy of Lightroom either – if you stop subscribing, Lightroom will stop working. Ending your subscription will sacrifice the ability to fine tune work on layers and other Photoshop-only features, and at that point you’d need to buy a proper copy of Lightroom to adjust and output your pictures.

Whenever I stay in a hotel I always make a mental note of the fire exits – a result of when I had a day’s fire warden training – and I think it’s a pretty good analogy. If you subscribe, remember to look for the exit door.

Lightroom’s “next evolution”

See Tom Hogarty’s presentation starting 33 minutes into this recording of the Photoshop World keynote – see this Adobe demo of Lightroom synchronizing adjustments between computers via the cloud. It’s “the next evolution of Lightroom”.

As you’ll see, adjustments are passed between two devices – a laptop and an iPad – without the user needing to do anything. I’ve often seen people waste so much time copying xmp files around, and how little they are believe in the magical Export to Catalog / Import from Catalogue workflow, so you’ve got to welcome anything Adobe can do to improve the process of passing work between different devices. Presumably that synchronization is only going to be available via the Adobe Cloud.