What's it all about?

This blog is about photography and photoediting. Its purpose is to provide hints and tips and links to interesting and useful resources for digital photographers, regardless of their level of expertise or experience. It is aimed at people who use digital SLR cameras and who process their images using the latest versions of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

The author of this blog is Glenn Springer and you can read more about him at his web portal at faczen.com. Information on workshops, and links to everything is at photography.to. Glenn's original blog, which is an ongoing journal of his photographic meanderings goes back to 2006 and contains many additional hints and tips, as well as representative images that he has made. Gallery quality prints are available through his Smugmug gallery site. It is an interesting place to visit to see a variety of quality images, as well as an ongoing general journal of photos going back several years.

Photography workshops are scheduled every few weeks starting in the Spring. For an overview of what's happening, please visit the photography.to website.

The most recent blog post is below. Scroll down to the bottom to see the list of previous postings or search for any particular topic.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Color Label sets — an obscure Lightroom feature

Lightroom and Photoshop are such incredibly deep and rich programs that there are many features most people don't know about. Although they're documented, users have to dig deep to find them and sometimes when you dig deeply enough, you find a gem.

Color Label Sets is one of those features. Here's another powerful way to classify, organize and search for specific images or sets of images in LR. Scott Kelby touches on it in his LR3 book but doesn't really say how to use it, nor did he point out the pitfalls!

This one reared its ugly head when I discovered that I couldn't retrieve the images that I had labelled as "Completed Keepers"  in my 40,000 image LR database. The reason? Well, the other day I decided to do a little cleanup, so I happened to go into the Color Label Set menu item (you find it under the Metadata tab in the Library module). I had previously changed the labels associated with the color labels but not knowing any better, never saved them anywhere. Clearly, I had changed them more than once because, as I discovered to my horror, searching for a specific color label under Attribute only finds the ones with the current text title associated with it. I changed, for instance, the text associated with the green color label (you flag a photo green by hitting "8" in Library or at most places in Develop (not when you have a tool active!)). I changed it from "Editing Complete"  to "Ready to Export".  I changed a few others as well.

Then I went into my main image folder — my whole library — and in Attribute, searched for images flagged green. "NO PHOTOS MATCH THIS FILTER". WTF?

LR wasn't searching for "Green" labelled photos, it was searching for "Green (Ready to Export)"  photos, and there weren't any. Don't panic, roll back to last night's saved catalog backup. No change. See this feature is a global LR feature and not tied to a specific catalog. Now panic.

I eventually posted the issue on the NAPP forum and a few hours later, I had a response from Michael Hoffman, one of the forum moderators, with the solution. Under Library Filters, use the Metadata tab, then change one of the columns to "Label"  and the whole list of all the labels you've ever used appears. I could breathe again! Thanks, Mike.

Now I got to thinking: there are lots of ways to categorize images in LR but not really enough for all my purposes. For example, suppose I've completed editing some images, they're "Ready to Export".  Some of them are really good, they're going up on my SmugMug page, or to my Blog, or to be entered in competition, or... and some of them were not that successful — I want to mark that they're done but they're ordinary. I don't want to throw them away... I'd like to mark them as "Edited - Archive".  But I've used up all my color labels. Not so fast! Let's turn this sow's ear into a silk purse!

Create multiple Color Label Sets!

FIRST: So you don't lose the ability to find images you have already labelled, save your current color label set. In Library, go to Metadata then Color Label Sets and Edit.

Select the little arrow to the right in the preset heading

then "save current settings as new preset".

Now you can always get back to those labels and find all your old marked pictures by selecting that preset.

Now create a new set of color labels. Then save them as a new preset, like this example:

So when I import a bunch of images, and I want to flag some burst sequences that I intend to merge into HDR's, I simply change the color set I'm using, then hit "7" to flag them. Later, when I want to find them, I do the same thing — I change color label sets and search for yellow labelled images! Or I use the Metadata tab in the Library filter to find them:

Note: I created this color label set just to illustrate this article. Then I flagged a couple of random pictures just to test it. I'll go back and make some more logical sets later. I'm thinking one set for when I'm importing, one set for post-editing... etc.

BTW, here's a bonus: if you leave a color label name unchanged from one set to another, then you can find ALL of the images with that label. Notice the 930 images labelled "Completed".  They're from both sets.

You could also create color label sets for specific assignments, or jobs, or events... the possibilities are endless.

Just another obscure but powerful feature in Lightroom 3!

— 30 —

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lightroom Workflow

I recently participated in a discussion in which I described my Lightroom workflow in 4000 words or less (LOL). I thought it might be worthwhile repeating here.

This isn't everything I do, nor is it what I do 100% of the time (although I should). I thought it might help the relatively new Lightroom (LR) user to organize his or her procedures. It reads more complicated than it is. Look through it, and please add your thoughts and comments.

The beauty of both LR and PS are that there are 60 different ways to do things, none of them wrong. Whatever works: but the key is to stick with a system.


After a 'shoot', I import to LR in a dated subfolder hierarchy (Example: 2011/2011-08/august13) and flip through all the images quickly and rate them as follows:
  • First Pass
    • Images that deserve a second look get a "P" for 'Pick'.
    • Out of focus or just plain bad shots get an "X" and will get deleted from disk.
  • Second pass ("P" images only), or sometimes on the first pass
    • I rate very good, excellent and outstanding images "3", "4" and "5".
    • I rate images I intend to run HDR on "1". If an image stands out, I might also give it a "6" (red) for "EDIT NOW".
  • Now I go back and Keyword, if I didn't do it on import (if I have all shots from the same shoot on the import, I do it then. If they're mixed, I do it later).

After deletions, I have the following images in the LR database
  • No rating, no stars - junk that I don't have the heart to delete. I'm a packrat.
  • "P" rated, no stars - technically acceptable but really not interesting
  • "P" rated, 1 star - sequences to be merged into HDR's
  • "P" rated, 3-5 stars - the good stuff
  • "P" rated, red flagged (likely star rated too) - stuff I want to edit NOW.
I can select any of these groups in Library.


HDR Images
  • I currently create HDR's in one or more of 3 programs: NIK HDR Efex, Photomatix Pro and Photoshop CS5.
  • I generally get .tif files back from the first two, which I immediately reopen in CS5 and convert to .psd files. So I don't really care what they're named before I do that. NIK and Photomatix have different naming conventions, but I rename the files coming out of CS5.
  • I try to keep a vestige of the original filename, using the first one of the series of 3-7 images. I try (OK, I'll try harder!) to add HDR to the name - example: FAC_5233HDR.psd.
  • I try (!) to put the program used (HDR Efex, Photomatix, CS5HDR) in the keywords for searching purposes.
  • I rate with 3-5 stars (or if it's garbage, none)
  • I flag it with "7" (yellow) if I'm not finished editing it
  • I flag it with "8" (green) if it's ready to export.

Other Images
  • I have two kinds of files
    • Those I've edited in LR only - NEF files
    • Those I've exported to CS5 to edit - PSD files
    • I'll have a rare file that came from somewhere else as a JPG.
    • I flag it with "7" (yellow) if I'm not finished editing it
    • I flag it with "8" (green) if it's ready to export.


Exporting to a file
I have half-a-dozen presets in place depending on what purpose or location the export is going. It only takes a keystroke or two to modify them for specific use. They all go to their respective subfolders on the internal HD drive
  • Export for Blog: fit to 1280x1024 and add watermark
  • Export for DropBox: not resized, not watermarked.
  • Export for RHCC competition: 1280x1024, no watermark
  • Export to iPad 1024x1024 (the longest side becomes 1024px) no watermark. As part of the discussion, I came to realize that doubling the iPad screen size is a better idea so that the image looks better when zoomed in, so I'm changing that to 2048x2048.
  • Export to web 800x800, no watermark.
  • Export for NAPP 720x540, watermarked. These are the specs for the NAPP forum. I use the 800x800 format for uploading to my NAPP Portfolio.

Getting the images to the iPad is a pain in the a$$. I wish Apple would do something about this. Generally I transfer them to another folder in Dropbox and pick them up on the laptop (it's enabled as my iTunes machine), then move them into a dedicated subfolder that syncs with iTunes (feh. Ptooi). I could also pick them up individually via DropBox if I'm in a hurry, or if I can't connect the iPad to the computer. Advantage: they can be deleted from the iPad. Disadvantage: they can't be organized in folders.

Publishing to SmugMug

This works pretty well, assuming the folder on SmugMug has already been created. Technically, you can do that on the fly in LR but I've yet to be able to make that work. So I go to SmugMug, create the folder, then go back to LR and sync it and it finds the new folder.
  • Select the images you want to publish
  • Write captions (I like to caption the images on the gallery)
  • Drag them to the appropriate SmugMug publish collection
  • Click "Publish Now".

Publishing to Costco for printing
  • Select the images
  • Use "Export" because Costco doesn't show up under Publishing Services
  • Log into your Costco Account
  • Creating a folder is a pain in the neck. You always end up having to rename it later. Not important.
  • Click "Export".
  • Go to the Costco site (usually I have to log in again) and place your order
  • Pick up your pictures the next day.

  • Re-flag exported images with "9" (blue) for "Completed".

By the way, you can rename your color label sets or create a new preset via Library->Metadata->Color Label Sets. However this can create a problem for Lightroom. The program ties the Attribute search to the Color Label Set currently in use. So if you change the name associated with a color label, it may not be able to find it. With a tip from Michael Hoffman on the NAPP forum, He found a way to work around it, but I also turned the problem into an opportunity. Before you do anything else, go into LR and SAVE YOUR CURRENT SETTINGS AS A CUSTOM LABEL SET (same menu item). I'll document this procedure in a separate post (here).

  • All of my images are imported to my external 2Tb drive, and an automatic copy goes on the internal drive, in a folder called "Temporary Image Backups".
  • Every day, LR prompts me to do a catalog backup which also goes on the external 2Tb drive in the same folder
  • Once a week or so (when I'm being good) I run SyncToy and duplicate the Images folder onto a second external drive
  • Once a month I'll delete the 60-day old files from the internal drive.
  • Really critical stuff gets backed up elsewhere as well - multiple computers, the occasional thumb drive and, more frequently lately, up in the Dropbox cloud.

I know I need to address this some more. At the very least, another external 2Tb or 4Tb drive.

If I said I follow these procedures 100% of the time, I'd be lying. Sometimes I'll dive into an imported set of photos and start editing. But I'm going to give it 95%. Being able to find things later is one of the powers of Lightroom.