List View 1.84 Excel to Lightroom

Post updated 5 March 2016: I’ve just uploaded the next version of ListView and will release it officially when I’m happy it works correctly. If you want to try it though, I would welcome any feedback. Lr 5+ users get more standard-looking scrolling, and I’ve also introduced an option to create tab-separated export. But potentially the most exciting addition is an Excel add-in (included in the zip file) that can send metadata directly from Excel into Lightroom.

It’s important to say that this is a bonus feature only and that it is not suitable for everyone. You will need better-than-average Excel skills such as, for example, knowing how to edit macros. If you only have basic Excel skills, this tool is probably not for you and I cannot support you.

The Excel add-in works by adding a cell function =ListViewValue() to Excel. In your spreadsheet you just create cells with the =ListViewValue formulae and run a “Send to Lightroom” macro. The ListView plugin in Lightroom then receives the formulae values, searches for the photo (using the folder path or UUID) and updates the field in Lightroom. At present not every field is available, but I’m testing it with these important ones – caption, title, headline, country, state, city, location, label, rating, job, instructions, GPS, and keywords.

  • It will only be a bonus feature. It’s free with the plugin.
  • It’s only for those with good Excel skills and I won’t offer step by step instructions or support it.
  • Current versions of Excel is required.
  • I do not plan to make it work on older Excel versions
  • It will not run under the Excel 64 bit version which Microsoft don’t recommend for general use
  • It won’t work in El Capitan as Apple broke the method used to communicate with Lightroom

Some tips:

  • Keywords will be slower to import than other fields. As guidance:
    • 2 mins to update 1765 photos’ keywords where all keywords were already in the catalogue
    • 5 mins to update 1765 photos’ keywords where all the keywords also needed to be added to the catalogue
    • 25 secs to update 1765 photos’ ratings
  • listview_activity

    The Activity Center shows the import process’s detailed progress

    If sending keywords, try closing the Keyword List

  • Updating may be faster if you don’t have any images selected
  • Updating may be faster if the library Filter panel is not displayed

The idea comes from my former life as a financial IT consultant where I used to do lots of work with Excel’s VBA programming language and encountered a number of similar Excel add-ins which read and wrote to large business systems. So I’m confident it’s a workflow which could be popular, at least among Excel-savvy users. So try it, and let me know it works.

Aperture-like projects and Lightroom

How would I replicate my Aperture projects in Lightroom?

I think it’s helpful if you can try to remember that Lightroom’s Folders panel hasn’t got a real equivalent in Aperture. You don’t see the actual physical location of files in Aperture’s interface, and the nearest you get is the Relocate Originals menu command. This dialog box is for managing the physical location of files – not for managing projects or categorising your pictures. In Lightroom, the Folders panel may be a major element in the interface, but like Reorganise Masters it’s all about the physical location and safekeeping of your photos – the Folders panel is not about project organisation or categorisation.

So one can summarise how Lightroom’s main “containers” compare with those in Aperture:

  • Folders = (approx) Relocate Originals

  • Collection Sets + Collections = Projects, Albums, Books, Slideshows etc

projects

An Aperture-like project structure in Lightroom collections, not folders

So if Folders are not for project organisation in Lightroom, what about Collection Sets and Collections?

Well, it’s not very different from what you had in Aperture. For example:

  • I have an overall project called “Lake District”
  • All Lake District photos will share certain keywords like “Lake District”, so I gather them with a Smart Collection called “All photos”
  • There are other Smart Collections for a sub-project on mining, and another which groups all the Photoshopped versions
  • Notice how a Collection can contain books and other “output collections” like slideshows or web galleries
  • Like Aperture, here you don’t see which folders contain the pictures – for what it’s worth, they are in dozens of date-based folders

As a general observation, Lightroom users tend to make more use of traditional IPTC fields for structuring and organising their catalogues, and I’d recommend ex-Aperture users adopt this practice (if you ever leave Lightroom, IPTC fields are easier to take with you). For example, I’d recommend the Job field for project names – eg Lakeland sports, Grasmere Show 2014 etc.

But to conclude, you can have an Aperture-like project structure providing you don’t make the mistake of thinking Lightroom folders are Aperture projects. So I’ll repeat again:

  • Folders = (approx) Reorganise Masters

  • Collection Sets + Collections = Projects, Albums, Books, Slideshows etc

Traffic

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.

 

Goodbye Mr Damocles?

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

lr55_licencing

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?

Apple kills Aperture

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

It’s been obvious for a while that Apple couldn’t be making money from Aperture and that they were no longer investing in developing new versions, 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 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:
20140322_WBC548

“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

mobile_workflow

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.

IMG_0664

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.

IMG_0655

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.

Slideshow

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

mystery_meat

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.

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.

Update

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 (p17) – 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 January 2016.

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?

SNAG-0008

If you want to experiment with the custom codes feature, here is a zip file of sample files.

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.

 

droplet1

In Photoshop, convert your action into a droplet

 

droplet2

In Lightroom, choose your droplet from the Post Processing steps