Lightroom 2

It’s a significant upgrade from Lightroom 1. Lightroom 1 didn’t make it past “fool around with it a bit” for me because it fell over when I fed it my entire photo tree. The 30 day trial is key — there’s almost no chance I would have picked LR v2 up without being able to try it “for real” for a while.

I’ve been feeling the pain of inadequate management tools for my slowly but inexorably increasing photos directory tree. My workflow prior to Lightroom was (is, since I haven’t really committed to LR yet):

  1. Shoot lots of photos.
  2. [Download all the pictures using Downloader Pro onto the laptop; manually copy them to an external disk.]
  3. [Look through them with Breezebrowser Pro.]
  4. At home, copy all the photos from the external disk to the desktop (or download them using Downloader Pro if the photo shooting if I was home the same day as I shot the photos, as in when I am not traveling)
  5. Sort through them in Breezebrowser Pro tagging the ones I like, using Photoshop and Camera Raw to prepare any I like to post or use for something. If they’re to post, ruthlessly edit down to very few with multiple passes in Breezebrowser untagging photos that do not make the cut. If they’re for family, the bar is a bit lower since I get flack when I shoot hundreds of shots and share .. four with them.
  6. Use CR/PS to open, crop, jigger exposure, sometimes edit; post and/or write to DVD-R appropriately.
  7. When I post, I add metadata (title, keywords) to the file using PS and carefully use the export path that preserves that and the EXIF metadata (not Save For Web…, but Save As…JPEG). This metadata can be consumed by both Flickr and my own photo album software. Lots of other things too.
  8. Once and a while I’d use Bridge to tag the entire shoot’s worth of photos with something to identify them later, but not usually because Bridge is just too slow even when fed only one directory/shoot’s worth of photos.

I didn’t have any good way to store or search on metadata across the whole tree. And the PS/BR/DL workflow is kind of clunky.

With Lightroom, once it’s all configured, it’s more like:

  1. Download using LR, having LR copy to the backup drive when applicable (*) According to forums, I have not set this up yet, but will certainly do so before the trial runs out..
  2. Sort, choose, tag photos in LR.
  3. Jigger exposure, crop all in LR for shots that make the cut.
  4. Export from LR with metadata intact. The only bummer about this bit is that when I used to do bulk exports, BreezeBrowser made it easy to just extract the embedded “thumbnail” in the raw file, which was much faster than converting the raw file and the “thumbnail” with my current cameras is 3MP or more, plenty for web.
  5. Metadata remains searchable and browsable far more easily than the huge tree of directories I have.

LR is not as fast as I’d like (BR is just crazy fast at display even when fed hundreds of shots in a directory) but it’s fast enough for its other wins to be very enticing. I need to put it on the laptop and see how it works as if I was traveling and then came home. Some forum surfing indicates this flow can be very nice.

Also the fact that it’s easy to Stack the original with any edited versions (in the rare cases I need more than LR’s built-in nondestructive edits like cropping or exposure/curves/etc) is very nice.

I’ve already unearthed some shots I liked but missed using my old workflow. One thing I really, really like about LR: it’s easy to configure it (with a performance cost) to always keep metadata with the actual photos (embedded in JPEGs, sidecar .XMP files for raw files). Some things don’t get represented this way (e.g. Stacks).

A big reason I’ve avoided tools like this for so long is I got thoroughly burned once by Thumbs+ when I spent an afternoon carefully adding metadata to all my photos which got stashed away in Thumbs+’s db .. and then it blew up and lost the db somehow. Not even my normally relatively diligent backup procedures saved me there (nightly).

It seems like a win. It’s big enough that I may need to pick up a book on it to really leverage it well, but even without anything other than a cursory surfing through some forums and its own help it’s looking like a big improvement to my workflow.