Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lightroom Article Part 4: Outputting Your Images

As usual, my Blog postings contain two or more topics – at least one of a general nature where I share some images I’ve created, and one a more technical topic, of interest to those who are trying to pick up some photography or photo-editing tips and techniques. I seem to have two distinct audiences within the 100 or so people who are now regularly reading my Blog. The personal ones, friends who enjoy seeing what I’m up to and like seeing some pictures; and the photographer types. My technical topics are really directed at the ‘enthusiast’ who wants to get more out of their images. They’re probably a little basic for anyone higher up the food chain, although I have to admit that I’m always amazed at the little bits and pieces I pick up here and there that enhance my own efforts.
I get sporadic feedback, usually by email. Nothing makes an author feel better than the knowledge that people are actually reading what we write, and how they feel about it, good or bad. Sure, email me. Or post a comment on the Blog itself so others can see it as well.
Do you want to attend an outdoor photography workshop this Spring?

Last year, I tried to organize a workshop up here in the Haliburton Highlands, but some medical issues jumped up and bit me, so that didn’t happen. It’s time to start thinking about this year, so I’ll put it out there and ask you to contact me if you’re interested. Nothing is yet inscribed in stone, so it’s your input that will determine what we do. I’d also like to touch on a little photo-trip I have in mind.
What — This is about outdoor photography. Hopefully the weather will make it easy, but we can’t control that.
We’ll shoot some pictures at dawn, come back and review quickly, go back out and shoot some more, come back again, maybe go out at dusk and then sit together and look at some images on the projector.
This is a peer-to-peer thing. We want to learn from each other. I’ll facilitate by setting some goals and assignments and structure, and so on.
Why — Photo enthusiasts all have different skills and we broaden our comfort zone by stretching outside it and learning from others.
Where — Red Umbrella Road, just North of Minden, ON. There’s an inn called, appropriately, the “Red Umbrella Inn” which has reasonable accommodations and services.
When   around the middle of May. A couple of reasons: the snow should be gone by then (!), the bugs aren’t out yet, there are bazillions of trilliums, people are already out playing in the white water preserve… and there’s a decent chance of reasonable weather (although that shouldn’t stop us!).
How — The workshop should run from Friday night, or maybe early Saturday morning, until Sunday afternoon. The idea is to get together on Friday evening and lay out the plan of what we’re going to do over the weekend, review some basic concepts and hand out some assignments. Why it starts on Friday is because the best time to shoot is at either end of the day, which would include dawn on Saturday. I’ll structure it so that if necessary, people can join later in the day on Saturday. We’ll shoot some pictures, come back and review quickly, go back out and shoot some more, come back again, maybe go out at dusk and then sit together and look at some images on the projector. Sunday, we do it again.
Everyone knows I’m a Photoshop (and Lightroom) fan. This is NOT about photoediting. Sure, you’re going to want to enhance images later, but we want to look at raw images that came out of the camera (I don’t mean RAW, I mean raw. Obviously we’ll have to convert them to view them in a slideshow of some kind. You can shoot in RAW if you want, but you don’t have to).
Who — digital photoenthusiasts. One challenge with workshops like this is to keep it relevant for all the participants. So if there’s someone there who us using a point-and-shoot camera and doesn’t even know what an f/stop is and there’s another participant who is regularly published in National Geographic, well you can see that it would be hard to challenge the one person without overwhelming the other.
So my goal is to narrow the range: I’m looking for people who own Digital SLR’s, have at least a basic knowledge of concepts, and are familiar with their own equipment. I’m not saying no to people outside either end of this range: but we’ll have to try to find a way to accommodate you  before agreeing to have you join us. Maybe we’ll run two different sessions.
How much — It’ll cost you $100 plus accommodations and food. My goal is to work in small groups, not more than 5 people with one facilitator, but we’ll switch around.
So who’s interested? I’m just collecting names for now. Email me with who you are, how to reach you (email/phone), where you think you stand, experience wise, and basically what kind of equipment you have. If you’re a new photographer and want to learn at a more basic level, email me too: we’ll design a worthwhile session for you as well!
I don’t want to use the word “safari” or the word “expedition”… that implies too much. I want to go on vacation this summer and take my camera. OK, I want to take my camera on a trip this summer. Where? I don’t know yet, but I’m thinking by car around Lake Superior, or maybe back to Newfoundland (I love it there!) or, if the Lottery Gods are kind to me, Ireland and Scotland (if they’re REALLY good, New Zealand! Africa!).
The trip revolves around taking pictures, but not crazy (get up every day at 4am to hike in the dark to capture that dawn shot of a grizzly bear catching a fish). I said NOT like that. But it’s about taking pictures.
When? July. How long? A couple of weeks.
Anyway, I’ve done these trips alone in the past, but would not be against having a like-minded travelling companion. It’s fun and challenging to share. Interested? Email me.
Some images
It’s been about a week since I’ve actuated my shutter at all. This time of year, there’s not a lot of exciting stuff out there to shoot. Last weekend, I headed up to Dorset because I heard there was a festival going on but that was on Saturday and I got there on Sunday.
I did, however, come across these guys on snowmobiles doing a really dangerous technique called “water skipping”. A snowmobile will run over open water if you keep your speed up. It’s scary to watch, though. This first shot shows the venue: there’s a channel with fast flowing open water under the bridge, joining the two parts of the lake. I’m guessing there’s about 500m (about 1/4 mile) of open water. On the left is Robinson’s General Store and on the right, the Fiery Grill (a great place for lunch!). Behind me, the sun was setting directly in line with the channel.

I started on the narrow bridge and tried some shots up-sun, and turned around to get the scenic shot. With the angle of the sun behind me, the water reflected the dark blue of the sky. I exposed for the scene using the matrix or averaging mode (I don’t remember which) and I set exposure compensation up one stop to get nice white snow. Although some of it is blown out a bit, I was able to compensate in Lightroom and even burn in a little to get some detail back.
The rider came back. I had time to switch to the long lens and capture a nice tight shot of him coming at me, with a nice down angle and a long rooster tail behind him. I chose to crop tightly, to put him in the “thirds” position with lots of visual space for him to be moving into. I experimented with exposure, wanting to get some motion in the water spray, but keeping the sled in focus by panning slightly with him. All I got was a 3-shot burst, remember he was moving at probably 100kph.

I took a few more shots from the high angle, then walked down to the water’s edge to try for more action. These were tough, with the bright sun behind the riders. I switched lenses and to spot metering. Again I left the 1-stop exposure bias. I took a series of shots panning with the rider, even though the shutter speed was fairly high. Autofocusing, even with continuous tracking on was a challenge at these speeds. That’s an argument for replacing my 24-120 lens with the pro-series 24-70 which is not only an f/2.8 lens, but also has the faster Silent Wave Motor in it for autofocusing. That said, this shot was at 120mm. I guess I could have left the big lens on.

Now I moved to the highway bridge you can see in the first picture. I wanted to frame the action with the attractive curved narrow bridge. The challenge was, shooting directly into the sun. Even my spot meter couldn’t compensate enough. Here’s a shot with the bridge,

And here’s a silhouette into the sun – 1/8000 second at f/8! There wasn’t much colour so I made it a monochrome shot.

So change your shooting position, lens, metering… you’ll get completely different shots!
That night, I thought I’d try to get some pictures of a cappuccino made with my new machine. It was late – midnight – so I didn’t want to drag out a background or the light tent. I just threw a white towel behind the machine and even used the texture in some shots. The image I like best is this one, where I burned out the background and cropped tightly.

I’m going to use this as an example in my lightroom article, which is coming, right NOW!

Lightroom Article part 4 – outputting your images

What we’re doing here is documenting my conversion to LR, with a focus on “WHY” one would make certain choices, not “WHAT” or “HOW”. For how to use the program correctly, pick up Scott Kelby’s book “The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 book for Digital Photographers” which is available at You don’t have to be a NAPP member to buy the book, but if you do join NAPP, you’ll get a discount and all kinds of other benefits, including a subscription to Photoshop User magazine which is worth its weight in gold. If you decide to join NAPP, use this link so I get my brownie points!

You might also consider contacting Jim Camelford at Jim is the local LR guru and not only does he teach LR courses but he imparts a great deal of wisdom about the right way of doing things.
This series of articles looks at three of LR’s strengths: “Organizing your pictures”, “Editing your Images” and “Creating Output Files”. LR does many things well, but these three were the factors that convinced me to convert to LR. Combined with Photoshop (PS) LR provides an elegant way to handle your workflow, whether you’re a high volume user or just starting to delve into the world of Digital Photography.
These articles are intended for those who have converted to LR or are considering doing so and want to start it the right way from the beginning. Or those who might need a little convincing!


Summary of Part 3: Editing your images

Last time I talked about the concept of LR as it relates to editing your images. Here’s a summary:

  • LR is not PS. It will not replace Photoshop as your high end photoediting program but it will handle 90% of your images and you can pop out to PS and come back seamlessly.
  • Virtually everything you do in LR is non-destructive because you’re not actually changing your images, you’re changing a database listing of modifications to your pictures.
  • There are some very neat tools in the LR Develop module that work intuitively and simply
  • You can work on the image as a whole or just on a selected portion of it
  • You can synchronize changes for a collection of images by changing one then applying the changes to the rest of the group.
Part 4: Outputting your images

This article presents an overview of the export function in LR.
 This is the fourth article in this series dealing with why I switched to Lightroom and talking about some of the things I learned while making the change. This one is about how to do something with those images you’ve painstakingly worked on.

Here’s the starting point for this article: you have a subset of pictures in LR which you’ve finished working on and you want to do something with them now. Makes sense — you didn’t spend all that time for nothing! So I’m going to assume that you have a bunch of pictures that you want to do THE SAME THING with. For instance, you want to send them out to a service bureau for printing, or you want to post them on your online gallery for others to enjoy, or you want to use them in a slideshow, or prepare them for use in your upcoming book or produce high quality art prints to sell to your adoring public, or enter them in a photo contest… or all of the above!

Now most of these uses require different parameters. For example: if you want to make an 8x10 print at Costco, you probably want (OK, you DO want) an image which is 1920 px wide by 2400 px high at 240 dpi, which is sharpened for glossy paper (if that’s what you’re ordering). If you want to submit the same image to the GTCCC for their upcoming competition, the image has to fit within a 1024x1024 px box, be sharpened for screen viewing and have the resolution set to 72ppi (I don’t want to get technical. Please don’t tell me I’ve used “dpi” and “ppi” in the wrong context… you know what I mean!). To print these images on a real printing press, they need to be converted to CMYK (I dealt with this in an earlier Blog article – look it up!) and set to 300dpi.

The above paragraph has to do with why I said that you wanted to do “THE SAME THING” with the group of pictures you’ve selected for output. LR can easily do all of these things but not all at the same time. So just for example purposes, let’s assume you want to prepare a bunch of pictures for the Richmond Hill Camera Club, which has a great projector and they’ve set their requirements at 1280px wide x 1024 px high x 72dpi. Your pictures have to fit in a box that size. You probably saved them in a collection or marked them with a colour label, or something. You have them onscreen in LR, you’ve selected the ones you want.

OK, now hold onto your chair because this is hard. Open the “Export” dialogue from the LR file menu. Tell it where you want to save the pictures to (say a folder called “RHPhoto contest pictures”), what filename convention you want to use (often just accept the existing filename), what format it should be in (JPEG?), the image sizing (resize to fit in 1280x1024x72), tick off “sharpen for screen” and turn off the watermark. Now click “Export”. All done!

Suppose you want to post the same pictures in your online gallery. These would go at full size and you want to make sure your watermark is there to make it difficult for someone to steal them and use them on the front page of the Toronto Sun without paying you for them. Now I’m going to get complicated, so think about this carefully. There’s more than one way to do this, but let me deal with the most common one first. Suppose you want to save the pictures in a folder on your computer and upload them manually later on. Here’s what you do:

Open the “Export” dialogue. It remembers the settings you used last time. Tell it where to store the pictures (you can create a folder easily in the dialogue – say “Files for uploading to my online gallery”). Unclick the “resize to fit…” box. Click the “watermark” box. Now click “Export”. You’re done. That was tough! Go get yourself a glass of single malt scotch to celebrate. Get me one too!

As I said, there are several ways to do this. For instance, if you subscribe to an online photosharing service (Smugmug, FlickR, etc) there are preset plugins available, usually free, that not only set the parameters for your pictures, but will skip the step of creating a local folder and connect you directly to your gallery and upload the pictures there. It’s totally seamless and is one of the big reasons I like using LR – no muss, no fuss, just click and it’s done! There are similar plugins available, for instance, if you want to send pictures to Costco for printing. The plugins are generally either free or very very cheap.

If you have some webspace and want to put your own gallery up, LR has some neat presets that let you do that too: click on the “web” module and select which of the viewers you prefer. When you’re ready, click “Export” (this time use the “Export” button at the bottom right of the screen).

OK, get the picture? LR has quick and easy methods for sending your pictures wherever you want (even if you want to email them to someone. Now that one isn’t quite as painless and there have been some comments, especially by MAChead Aperture users. On PC, LR requires that you have an email program installed, and you need to install the app to use it: go to and click on “Other Goodies” and download the MAPI Mailer. Do what it tells you to do in the ReadMe file.)

Anyway do you get the concept? As I’ve been saying, Lightroom doesn’t contain your image files: it has a catalog of links to your images and changes you’ve made. The original images are still there, untouched. So there are export presets in LR that will send copies of your files wherever you specify, modified according to what you want it to do.

Here’s an example. I took a picture of a cappuccino fresh out of my new machine. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with it, there were several ways to frame it and what to do about the background? So I created two “virtual copies” (in the Develop module, right click the picture and select “create virtual copy”. Tough, huh? Now you can change them separately and the resulting images are independent of one another.

By the way, they’re not independent of the original! If you edit the original in Photoshop, ALL of them change. In this case, I cleaned up some reflections on the original and all three pictures changed.

I haven’t created new pictures. Only new links to the original in LR. Now I reframed (cropped) them differently, did some work on the background of one of them and then selected them for export. Done!

Cropping is probably the best example, and if you’re used to cropping in other programs like PS, the concept is a little disconcerting. You’re not actually cropping your picture, you’re telling LR, “when you export this image, reframe it like this…”. So you don’t actually tell it how many pixels by how many pixels, you tell it what the aspect ratio should be – let’s say, 8x10. 8x10 what? Haven’t you been listening? 8x10 anything. 8,000,000 pixels by 10,000,000 pixels (OK, that’s an exaggeration!). 16”x20”. 4”x5”. 32”x40”. It doesn’t matter. You’ll tell it what actual size you want in pixels when you actually do the export.

Now if you’re like most people (or even like me, in this case!), you’ll be doing the same things over and over. Exporting for competition. Sending stuff to Costco for printing. Posting stuff to your website. Adding pictures to your Blog. So you can create a preset for each of those things in your export module. Just specify what you want LR to do with your photos, click “Add” and name your new preset so you can find it again. Next time, just click on the preset and LR sets all of those things for you! Don’t worry if you need to change something – you can easily override the settings and you can even re-save the preset if you’ve made a mistake or want to change it for future use.

Today I exported a bunch of images for this Blog entry. All I did was to select the pictures, choose the Faczen Image Blog preset that I had created and clicked “Export”. To do the screen capture below, I captured it, imported it to LR, chose the preset and exported it.

OK. Here’s a summary of what LR had done for me.

I’m able to take images that I’ve uploaded to my computer and create listings for them in LR so that I can find them again using keywords, flags, star and colour ratings, or even by where I shot them or which camera or lens I used.

I can make changes to what the images look like, either to the image as a whole or to a carefully selected portion of the image, then reframe it and tweak it whatever way I want without touching the original image. If I want, I can go to PS and add other effects and come back and do more non-destructive editing in LR

When I’m ready to export the images, for whatever purpose, I can do it with a few keystrokes and even make it match other images that I’ve chosen to export for the same purpose. I can export as many different versions of the same image that I can dream up with the same simple process. I have presets created for the exports that I do all the time: Blog, competitions, my Smugmug gallery, web images for my commercial sites, printing at Costco and for my Blurb books. I can send any picture to any of those destinations with a couple of keystrokes.

With all of this, there is only one original copy of my image in the computer (plus whatever backups I’ve chosen to make) that I can always go back to. So not only has Lightroom changed and accelerated my workflow, it has given me a mechanism to organize and control the thousands and thousands of images I’ve loaded into my computer or external drives.

Adobe has a new version of LR in the works: version 3. I haven’t tried it because it’s still in Beta and once you change over, its catalog is not backwards compatible: in other words, you can’t go back. So when they publish the full version, I’ll consider it. Although it’s not a cheap program, with educational discounts it’s quite affordable and in terms of all the work it’s going to save you, worth every penny.

Try it, you’ll like it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lightroom Article Part 3: the Develop Module: Editing Your Images

Today is part 3 of the Lightroom article, dealing with the “Develop” module, where you edit your photos. But before we get started, let me deal with a near disaster, and then talk about the preparation for the Dogsled shots I took yesterday.

Oops, I screwed up!

On Friday, I shot some headshots for some business colleagues who needed some pictures on our LeTip Networking website. New members get a page to briefly tell what they do, a little bio and a photo. For reference, the site is here. and it’s interesting what a range of services are available through this group.

On Saturday, I went to the PetFunFair. I had intended to introduce my Doggie First Aid kits (your dog’s a person too. He or she deserves to be safe, don’t you think?) Click here to see what’s available and if you mention this Blog in the comment field when ordering from the FAC First Aid website, I’ll give you a 20% discount off any regular priced item on the site. Anyway, I thought I’d shoot some pictures of dogs at the show but I was not in the right ‘place’ and my results were mediocre.

Sunday, I was up North and heard that the Sled Dog Derby was running at Pinestone in Haliburton, and I bundled up warmly and headed out to shoot some pictures. I was there last year and got some very cool images then as well, so I thought I’d try again. I shot over 250 frames, some of which were quite interesting, in my humble opinion.

I had 3 days of pictures on the compact flash card in my camera. When I started to upload them to the computer, I decided I wanted to see the sled dog images first (I'm into instant gratification!), and I wanted to keyword them separately so I switched off the other groups and uploaded the February 14th pictures. I completely forgot about the other ones.

You know what’s coming, right? I forgot. Later, I put the card back in the camera and hit “Format”. Bye bye headshots and funfair pictures. Why did I format it? Well I wanted to shoot a few shots of a bread I actually baked myself (pre-made dough, though, and frozen. Still it came out great!)

No, that's not on my diet. Unless I don't swallow. Hot and fresh, how can I not eat it! Thanks to Alison for telling me about these breads!
Also, it’s better to reformat these flash cards rather than just deleting the files. Less problems with the cards. Anyway, I posted a note about my screwup on the RHCC newsgroup and I got a couple of answers and suggestions.

Generally when you reformat computer memory, you’re not actually erasing files. Normally, you are erasing the index that tells the computer where to find the files, and telling it that the space where the files are is not occupied, it’s available to be reused. Using fancy software and sometimes expensive techniques, you can often recover some or maybe all of the files you thought were gone. That’s a good lesson if you have stuff on a hard drive you don’t want anyone to be able to see.

Anyway, both Jim and Harvey pointed me at recovery software. I used the one Harvey suggested: it’s designed to work with SanDisk CF cards. There are some limitations on the free version, but it works. I was able to recover all but the first few images (which I had overwritten with pictures of bread). Thank you, Harvey. Here’s the download site for that software:

So almost a big “oops”. Hope you don’t need to do the same thing!

Be Prepared

When you’re going out to shoot an event, you should do at least a little pre-planning. Otherwise when that perfect shot opportunity comes up, you may miss it. Or even worse, get home to discover that you blew it because the camera was set wrong.

For example, I was shooting on the tripod the other day and had turned off the VR (lens stabilization) because it actually messes up the focus when you’re shooting longer exposures. If you’re shooting marginal shots – and everything is marginal when you have the 400mm lens on – the VR is almost essential. So I don’t want to forget to turn it back on again.

The same thing is true of many of the other controls on the camera. I wouldn’t have to think about this if I were using a point-and-shoot but I have a DSLR so that I can adjust things. Other controls that I frequently change are metering method, ISO, exposure compensation and autofocus control. A mistake I’ve made is to have bracketing set on. I think I’m shooting proper exposures but only one out of 3 or 5 is correct.

So the message is, have a “default” setting for all your camera controls. Then be sure to set everything back to normal at the end of every shoot. That way you know exactly where you’re starting from next time out.

Set all your controls back to their normal settings after every shoot.

Plan Ahead

So I’m going out to shoot the Haliburton Dog Sled Derby at the Pinestone Inn. I’d been there last year and got some good shots, so when I heard it was on this weekend, I headed over. Now I’m shooting outdoors, against the snow, in (luckily) overcast conditions (shooting in bright sunlight sucks). Your camera meter wants to make everything 18% grey, not white so generally your shots are going to be underexposed. So I set my exposure compensation to +1 stop knowing that I could compensate to a certain extent in Lightroom if I did happen to blow out some highlights.

I just uploaded an edited version of this image. When I looked at the Blog, I thought the blacks weren't strong enough, so I went back into Lightroom, changed it, and uploaded the new version. Took me 30 seconds. That's the beauty of Lightroom, which I'm going to address in my next article on outputting images.

By the way, I wish there were more space – some space – at the front of the sled. I saw this guy kick his leg up like that and swung the camera up just in time to see him do it again, just once. I was shooting with the 400mm lens and I had no time to zoom out or try to reframe the image. There's extra negative space behind the sled, but none in front.
It’s pretty bright out. I like to shoot at f/11 if I can since it gives me the sharpest images. With my normal lens on (24-120), ISO 200 gives me around 1/250 second or faster. Not bad, since I have VR in that lens and have been known to handhold even down to 1/10 second. But what if I want to use my 200mm, with the telextender for a net of 400mm? The rule of thumb is to shoot faster than 1/the focal length, in this case, 1/400 second. Even that is marginal with that lens. How do we achieve that at f/11? By setting the ISO higher. A little experimentation and I settled on an ISO of 640.

With dog sleds coming right at me, I needed to set my autofocus to ‘continuous’. But I discovered that with the normal lens, set up about 10m from the start line, my autofocus couldn’t keep up with my 6 frame per second high speed burst mode. Only one shot in three was in focus. So I moved back and put the 70-200mm lens on. It has a faster focusing motor anyway. That worked. And with the longer perspective, focusing was nowhere near as critical (stopped down. Even at that distance, shooting at f/2.8 gives you very little depth of field).

Here are a few more images from yesterday. To see more, go to my February Smugmug gallery on line here.

Lightroom Article part 3: Editing your images in the Develop module


What we’re doing here is documenting my conversion to LR, with a focus on “WHY” one would make certain choices, not “WHAT” or “HOW”. For how to use the program correctly, pick up Scott Kelby’s book “The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 book for Digital Photographers” which is available at You don’t have to be a NAPP member to buy the book, but if you do join NAPP, you’ll get a discount and all kinds of other benefits, including a subscription to Photoshop User magazine which is worth its weight in gold. If you decide to join NAPP, use this link so I get my brownie points!

You might also consider contacting Jim Camelford at Jim is the local LR guru and not only does he teach LR courses but he imparts a great deal of wisdom about the right way of doing things.

This series of articles looks at three of LR’s strengths: “Organizing your pictures”, “Editing your Images” and “Creating Output Files”. LR does many things well, but these three were the factors that convinced me to convert to LR. Combined with Photoshop (PS) LR provides an elegant way to handle your workflow, whether you’re a high volume user or just starting to delve into the world of Digital Photography.

These articles are intended for those who have converted to LR or are considering doing so and want to start it the right way from the beginning. Or those who might need a little convincing!


Summary of Part 2: Importing your images

Last time I talked about the concept of LR as it relates to importing your images. Here’s a summary:

  • Automate your import procedures by setting LR as the default program whenever you plug a flash card or camera into the computer
  • By setting up the import dialogue correctly, you can virtually eliminate any manual intervention during importing if you wish. However you may want to direct your images to a particular folder or add some master keywords at this point.
  • Wherever possible, create a backup automatically
  • Get rid of rejected images right away.
  • Create a scheme for flagging, labelling and rating images. By following it immediately after import, you can save a lot of time.
  • Save the “keepers” in a Collection, and keyword them logically right away.
 Part 3: Editing your images

This article presents an overview of the photoediting strengths and capabilities of LR.

Newsflash: Lightroom is not Photoshop.

LR will not replace PS as a high end photoediting program. That said, it will replace most of the other programs you might be using. I was astounded to realize how much less frequently I use PS now that I’m a LR convert.

A little history here. If you read my introduction, you know that I’m not a formally trained anything. I’ve dabbled with PS ever since it first came out in the early 90’s, but I really have no clue what I’m doing! OK, well maybe a little… I understand the concepts, I can work out how to apply them to images and achieve what I want (correct or otherwise) and I spend a Hell of a lot of time working on images in PS. I’ve been criticized for that: and rightly so. Instead of being diligent about what is or is not in a picture, or making sure of the exposure or composition (not much you can do about focus – yet!), I take pictures with the idea, “oh, I can fix it later in PS”. When I come in from a day’s casual shooting, I’ll probably spend 6 or 8 hours in PS on images I like and I may spend that long on one single image if I really like it and I get anal about doing the best I can.

The extensive background editing in this image is obvious. This kind of work cannot be done in Lightroom. There was also some dodging done on the student's face and the instructor and student were slightly enlarged to increase their presence in the image. If you want to learn to ride a motorcycle or scooter, there's no better place in the world to take the course than Humber College in Toronto. Click here to link to their website.
LR has changed my mindset. Now what I do is classify my images (read the previous article), then I work on the ones I like the best or that bubble to the top as being the most important. One of the things that LR does really well is to let you work in batches – on more than one image at a time.

Here’s an example: you shot a whole bunch of pictures out in the snow and everything is dingy and gray because you forgot to set your exposure compensation (come on, you know what I’m talking about. Your camera meter wants to set everything to 18% gray, not white). So you can pick one typical shot in the bunch, change the exposure values (and other stuff, we’ll see soon), and then apply those changes to ALL the pictures in the group with what, 3 keystrokes?

“But”, you say, “They’re not all exactly the same. What if I blow out some highlights? What if I WANT that image to be high key?”

That, dear reader, is the beauty of LR. You’re not actually changing your image files: you’re changing an instruction set of changes attached to your image. And you could easily throw out or just as easily change those instructions after the fact. You knew that. I told you that before. More than once. Weren’t you listening?

So not only does LR let you make changes to a single image or a whole batch of images, but it does it NON-DESTRUCTIVELY. Let me repeat myself: NON-DESTRUCTIVELY. Everything you do in LR is reversible. You can’t make a misteak. You can always fix it (did you catch the humour? Sure you did).

Nice segue, huh? I went from, “you can work on batches of images” to “NON-DESTRUCTIVE EDITING”. Here’s an example of DESTRUCTIVE Editing. You’re working on a picture in PS or some other editing program and you decide it would be cropped a certain way. Say as a portrait orientation 8x12. You crop it (actually you’re “Reframing” it, which is why the shortcut for that function in LR is “R” not “C”, something Jim Camelford pointed out to me the other day!). You spend HOURS retouching it. You go into PS, you create layer after layer, you paint, you burn and dodge, you clone, you heal, you create layer masks, you make a whole new sky or redraw eyes completely. You love it. You put the picture up somewhere on your gallery or on the NAPP members site and it gets chosen as the “Image of the Week”. Two weeks later you get a phone call from the editor of National Geographic who says, “I love your image, we’d like to use it for a two page spread pano pullout for an upcoming issue. But we need it in Landscape format”.

Uh-oh. You have to go back to the original image to re-reframe it. And you lose ALL those changes and artistic hours you put in. Can you even remember what you did? Can you recreate it at all?

Suppose this was your final image, but you wanted to go back to the one on the bottom and still keep all your edits, changes, etc. You can do it in LR, even 6 months after the fact. Closing the program does not lose the history!
OK, that was the best spur-of-the-moment example I could think of. Oh, and National Geographic? My contact info is at Call any time.

A bit of a weak example because we all know (we do, don’t we?) that cropping is one of the LAST things we should ever do to an image, but maybe I got my point across anyway. What is the actual LAST thing, by the way? Output sharpening. To find out why, you’ll have to wait for my next article. Or you could research it on your own!

Anyway, here’s my point: EVEN CROPPING IS NONDESTRUCTIVE IN LR! You can change it at any time. And the stuff you cropped out ARE STILL THERE! (I use caps when I’m excited).

Again: You did a lot of work on this image. You cropped the one on the top out but now you want to go back to the one on the bottom. One click of the mouse in LR.
Okay. I’m not going to tell you HOW to edit your images in LR. Kelby, or Camelford, or someone else can tell you about that. I’m not the greatest at it anyway, but I’m pretty good on the concepts. So let’s talk concepts.

Up to version 2 of LR, everything you could do to an image affected the whole image. Exposure, contrast, black levels, white balancing, all that stuff, was “Global”. In Version 2, LR introduced the adjustment brush and a couple of other tools that worked on a portion of your image. Now we have some “Local” adjustment capabilities in LR. They’re pretty damned good. As I said at the beginning, I go into PS much less frequently now.

What I like about LR’s tools is that they’re much more subtle than the ones in PS. You can go nuts in PS. You can change that red ‘vette to a chrome yellow one. The best I could do in LR was to make it more of an orange colour. I guess the operative word in my mind, describing the controls in LR, is “soft”. Somehow the resulting image is a little more believable than the one you went crazy with in PS.

You can do both, of course. Using the same example as the picture above, I wanted to get rid of some of the stuff that took away from the image, like the sign on the pole, the post just left of centre, some stuff on the ground, the branch at the left edge… so I opened the image in PS (through the LR menu), created a new layer, did all that editing on the new layer, while I was at it, I used the burn tool to darken the wood of the pole and bring out the dark foreground branches and greenery.

Now if you simply save the edited image as a .psd file, and you return to LR, you would see both the original and the new version there. Opening the .psd in PS again, you’d see all the layers, although the history is gone. That’s why I work on layers in PS – I could just delete the layer and I’d be back to the original image. LR will, by the way, offer you options about which version of the image to open when you go to PS.

This was an example of using both programs to edit an image, choosing the best tools from each one. I got away from concepts, didn’t I? Well yes and no. The concept is, edit first in LR, then go to PS for the niggly little stuff and the off-the-wall creative, then take it back into LR to finish it.

One caveat: when you bring an image back into LR from PS, it creates a separate file. That new file does NOT contain all the LR history, it's a fresh copy imported from PS. So here's where the concept breaks down. You can get back to the original LR file with all it's changes, you can get back to the PS file as it was when you imported it to PS and of course if you worked in layers, you can roll back by deleting layers, but you do not have a continuous reversible history.

If you're very sneaky, suppose you wanted to backtrack to some point in LR and change or remove some sort of adjustment, then do the same edits in PS. The only way would be to open BOTH documents in PS (the new snapshot from LR and the original with all the PS edits), and then drag layers from one to the other. That doesn't always work unless you were really careful.

If you’ve used Adobe Camera RAW, the tools in LR will seem familiar. Actually, they’re the same. LR uses the same engine as ACR. Non-destructive editing is also available in ACR, but there’s no history. No way to go back part way – if you don’t like what you’ve saved, you can simply throw out the sidecar file – the .xmp file – and you’re back to the original.

Let’s look at some of the editing tools in LR. This is by no means an exhaustive or detailed look, just a few highlights.

Starting at the top in the Develop module, there’s the “Basic” tool set. These sliders determine the overall look of the image – exposure, contrast, black and white recovery levels and white balance. There’s a “Presence” section which you should not overlook: these three sliders can have a huge effect on your image. Look what happens when you pull the clarity slider to the left:

Seriously. That's all I did. Just the clarity slider.

Below that is the “Tone Curve”. Like curves in PS, you can control different areas. The steeper the curve is, the higher the contrast. But this one is soft and you can’t adjust stuff as much as PS. By the way, the “Targeted Adjustment Tool” – the little doohickey at top left beside the curve – allows you to adjust the curve by dragging in the image itself. Try it – it’s cool!

You can make subtle (and maybe not so subtle) colour adjustments in the “HSL” and “Split Toning” areas. Sharpening, Noise Reduction and Chromatic Aberration are dealt with in the “Detail” area. You can create vignettes in the next section – two different ways: for the image as a whole or applied dynamically to whatever your crop area looks like. This is a real breakthrough because in the past you had to come back to do this after you reframe your image (crop). Then there’s a “Camera Calibration” section so you can make the edited image you’re looking at match what you see on the back of your higher end camera.

All of the adjustment tools I just mentioned work Globally. On the whole image. In practice, if I were editing a picture, first I would adjust the colour balance and exposure, then tweak the curves, add some colour adjustment, sharpen it and then do the other stuff. All exactly in the order that LR presents it to you. Now I’m ready to work on individual spots in the image. The toolbar just below the histogram shows you a handful of tools. The one on the right is the “Adjustment Brush”. What you do is paint an area (use the “O” key to see what you’re painting) then you can apply a bunch of different adjustments to the area you just painted. The graduated screen’s good for skies and the like, although I had great luck using it as a “fill” light in a portrait. The spot removal took is effective too. Click it, don’t drag it. Check it out, or R.T.F.M. (read the F’in manual!).

You can selectively adjust clarity. Think “portraits”. Think about smooth skin without blemishes, but retaining the sharp pinpoint focus on the eyes and the detail in the hair. Like this:

You need to blow these up to see the difference. And I wouldn't output an image like the one on the right, I was just using it to illustrate the effect of the tool.

By the way, if you don’t like the “O” thing (everyone likes the “O” thing. A little humour...), just pull the exposure slider to the left when painting and you can see the areas you select darken as you paint. Then set it back to zero when you’re done.

World’s greatest portrait? Nah. But that’s just me. How long did it take? 30 seconds. Did I have to create fancy PS layers and change blending modes and use Gaussian blurs and select fancy brush sets? Nope. Adjustment brush. Press “O” to see where you’re painting. Paint the areas I wanted to soften. Hold down “Alt” to un-paint the areas I shouldn’t have painted. Pull the clarity slider to the left. Click the adjustment brush or press “Enter” to finish. If I can do it, think how great you would be!

We come to the crop tool. I love how it works, but it’s different from the one in PS so you have to get used to it. You’re cropping to an aspect ratio, not to an actual size or pixel count. You choose the actual size later, when you export your images. Oh, and if you can’t figure out how to change from a portrait to a landscape orientation, you’re not alone! Drag along the longer dimension and it’ll flip the other way for you. I found it disconcerting that you drag the image around behind the cropping borders rather than dragging the cropped area around the image, but that took only a few minutes to get used to. The little angle tool and slider lets you rotate the image to straighten it up, or you can choose a vertical or horizontal surface in the image itself.

So. Convinced yet? Here’s the thing. You can do probably 90% of your photo editing without ever leaving LR. Everything reversible. Everything done live, without ever looking at the histogram (well… you really should. Especially look for those two little triangles at upper left and right. If they’re lit up, you’re either blowing out some whites, or filling in some blacks and losing detail. Use the “recovery” and the “blacks” sliders to fix it).

What do I do now? I hit “8” on the keyboard to mark the image “ready to export” and go on to the next one. When I’m done, I gather all the pictures I want to output and, well, you’ll have to wait until next time!

Next: Creating Output Files. 

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Lightroom article part 2: Importing your Images

Some feedback…
Several people have given me some feedback about my Blog. I love feedback, it makes me feel like I’m not writing into a vacuum. I’ll mention 3 in particular:
One person told me that she does drop by whenever I send an update notice. She’s non-technical and not a photographer but she says she enjoys looking at my pictures and reading about what’s going on (you know who you are! I’d love to get you on the other side of the lens some time!). Anyway, I try to include some non-technical stuff in every posting and as a reminder, most of the pictures I take are up on the monthly galleries if you want to see more than just the few I comment on in the Blog.
I had a response on the lens sharpness issue I mentioned last time. Thanks, Darren. I had forgotten about a great photography resource: the Ken Rockwell site. Ken evokes either love or hate, some people are really not impressed, but I think he does a lot of worthwhile research and is one of the first places to go when you’re thinking about buying new equipment or just want some hardware analysis. Here’s his page on how diffraction affects sharpness when you vary the aperture on a lens:
Another person wrote and asked when I’d be continuing the LR articles. I knew he was an active photographer, but I know him from another discipline so it never occurred to me that he is the ideal candidate for a switchover to LR, and was waiting to read what I had to say before committing. Coming up! The next chapter is below.
There’s lots of ways you can give me feedback: a place to comment at the bottom of each blog post, you could send me an email, tell me in person, call me… if you’re getting my updates and don’t really want them, let me know too! For what it’s worth, I’m seeing about 100 visits every time I put up a new posting.

How about getting together to shoot some pictures?. I have loose plans for a photo trip this summer (I don’t want to call it a “photosafari” or “photoexpedition”. The former is reserved for when and if I can get to Africa! The latter is kind of pretentious). I have no interest in doing weddings, but I know someone who loves to, so drop me a note and I’ll hook you up. If someone said, “would you like to go back to Newfoundland and spend a couple of weeks touring around shooting pictures”, I’d say “WHEN?”. I’m thinking probably the North Shore of Lake Superior this year; or if it works out, a trip to Ireland and/or Scotland. I don't know why — just a place I'd like to go. We’ll see. Get in touch if anyone wants to hook up and do some stuff.

I have a list of photo destinations I'd like to visit — do you? I'd love to hear from people and have a chance to compare lists. eMail me, and I'll compile something I can post here (I won't publish names).

By the way, the whole story of my 2006 motorcycle trip to Newfoundland is at the beginning of this blog, way back here. The other thing you might enjoy, if you haven't seen it, is the ProShow A/V presentation that I created. You can download it here (it's not that big in today's terms: about 35Mb if I recall, and it's safe). You will be asked to install the viewer software which is also safe and non-invasive. Turn your speakers on to enjoy the background music, and have a look! I'd go back there again in a heartbeat.

Here's an older image, dating back a couple of years that I finally got around to editing. It was taken somewhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway on a motorcycle holiday trip Iris and I took a couple of years ago.

There’s not an awful lot going on, the past few weeks. I spent a couple of days in Toronto, my usual business meeting and a great dinner with friends, as well as a visit with the kids in Uxbridge.

Computer Stuff
While I was in TO, I made arrangements for my father’s computer replacement to be delivered, which is the point of this paragraph. As I mentioned last week (oh, wait: I think I wrote it in the LR article that follows this!), his computer died. I think it was a motherboard thing which caused the power supply to blow, and the tech (a plug for Bob, “the Greek Geek” here: not only does he know what he’s doing, but he’s responsive, friendly, quick and inexpensive. If you need PC help, call Bob at AlphaONE Technologies (416) 528-3231 or email him at Be sure to tell him I sent you.

Anyway, my parents were lucky: the hard drive had not crashed so Bob was able to recover everything without too much hassle and get them back to where they were. Even a small change in layout or procedure is a problem for my folks (I hope I’m as sharp as them when I’m approaching 90, but you know, they’re kind of overwhelmed by the technology). But suppose the hard drive had crashed? They would have been totally lost. They’ve come to rely on the computer, not only for communications and recreation but also for keeping their financial records, correspondence, etc.

Here’s my point: I had backed up their data onto a flash drive a few weeks ago. Sure, a HD crash would have been a hassle, but not a total loss. YOU HAVE TO HAVE BACKUPS. I know, I know, I sound like a broken record, but damn it, it’s important.

In my LR articles, I deal with photo backups. I have some pretty good strategies (Jim, be quiet. No comments from the peanut gallery! Jim is much more diligent than I about backups!). I finally got around to buying another external drive on Friday: The WD MyBook drive has gone down in price again and I bought a 2Tb (that’s 2000 Gb, or 2,000,000 Mb!) drive for only $188 at Costco. The 1Tb version was $109. I figured that while I was at it, why not spring for the big guy.

I’m going to use it as my rotating second backup for my data and systems, and as my primary backup for my archived photos. I have 15,000 images already archived and another similar amount to go. It’ll take me a while to copy them in there, and get them keyworded and organized.

Great resource for business and personal services
I thought I’d take a second to talk about a business networking group I’m involved with, called “LeTip”. We get together every Friday morning (at an ungodly hour!) to exchange business referrals and to network. It’s a great social group as well. I mention them because whenever you do business with someone in that group, you know you’re getting professional and personal attention. It's  a great resource. If you’re involved in any kind of business, you should think about joining. There are chapters all over North America if you're not in the area. Even if you’re not, you’d be amazed at the range of services that my fellow LeTip members can provide. There’s a list here, but I have to tell you I use the services of at least a dozen of these people and it’s always been a great experience. Bob, the “Greek Geek” is one of them: the lawyer that prepared my wills and stuff is another, a printer, a courier… take a second to click the link and see what they can do for you! Let me know so I can get the referral credit. If you want to attend a meeting, you’re very welcome. Drop me a note and I’ll arrange it.

Photo wise, I haven’t really shot anything in a couple of weeks. It’s cold: I don’t really feel like going out and shooting pictures and I have a lot of computer seat time while I’m writing my LR articles, etc. Here are a few casual shots I took. There were a couple of others that I might use – one in particular that has an interesting sky I can use for dramatic effect in a composition some time. I went out in a snowstorm but there was too much water on the lens so the images didn’t work out. There’s one I’ve earmarked as a basis for a painting next time I feel like getting back into doing some.

"Closed for the winter". Wonder when I'll be swimming off this dock again! I'm thinking of entering this as a black-and-white photo in the upcoming club competition.

"Highway 35". I shot this when I went for a walk a few days ago. The loop down to the end of the road I'm on, then back along the highway is about 3 km. The dramatic lighting was enhanced by a graduated filter over the sky (I may have overdone it a bit... depends on the monitor). It was quite cold, the wet road was due to salting, so I was careful to keep the camera out of the spray.
I'm sure I can use the sky portion of this shot elsewhere. I accumulate shots like this, or great textures, for future use creating composite images.
OK. On to the next chapter in the Lightroom saga.

Lightroom article part 2: Importing your Images

What we’re doing here is documenting my conversion to LR, with a focus on “WHY” one would make certain choices, not “WHAT” or “HOW”. For how to use the program correctly, pick up Scott Kelby’s book “The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 book for Digital Photographers” which is available at You don’t have to be a NAPP member to buy the book, but if you do join NAPP, you’ll get a discount and all kinds of other benefits, including a subscription to Photoshop User magazine which is worth its weight in gold. If you decide to join NAPP, use this link so I get my brownie points!

You might also consider contacting Jim Camelford at Jim is the local LR guru and not only does he teach LR courses but he imparts a great deal of wisdom about the right way of doing things.

This series of articles looks at three of LR’s strengths: “Organizing your pictures”, “Editing your Images” and “Creating Output Files”. LR does many things well, but these three were the factors that convinced me to convert to LR. Combined with Photoshop (PS) LR provides an elegant way to handle your workflow, whether you’re a high volume user or just starting to delve into the world of Digital Photography.

These articles are intended for those who have converted to LR or are considering doing so and want to start it the right way from the beginning. Or those who might need a little convincing!


Summary of Part 1: Organizing your images

Last time I talked about the concept of LR as it relates to organizing your images. Here’s a summary:

  • LR is like those boxes of slides, negatives and prints you have in storage except it’s digital.
  • LR does not contain your images: it only contains database links to your images and a record of any changes you might have made to them within LR (or PS). You have to take care to store the images themselves in a logical and safe place.
  • LR can handle a huge database of images if you want it to, or you can break down your file into several catalogs.
  • To do a backup, you need to keep copies not only of your images but also of the .lrcat LR catalog file. To make it easier, you should keep your pictures within a master folder. Your backups MUST be on a different drive, hopefully in a different location, and you should have more than one of them.
  • You can search the LR database a variety of ways and should classify your images in as many different ways as you can think of. This includes assigning keywords, rating them with stars and colour keys and storing links to them in a variety of ‘collections’, so you can instantly find the picture or group of pictures you’re looking for.
 Part 2: Importing your images

This article is about what you need to think about when you’re importing your images into LR.


When I plug the CF card from my D300 into the card reader (or the SD card from my point-and-shoot, or the camera itself into a USB port on the laptop), I’ve set it so that LR opens and it’s set up to import the images.

You’re doing two things at once here: you’re actually copying the images to your computer, and you’re creating the listings for them within LR. AND, if you’re smart, you’re also creating a backup on another drive at the same time. Why not do it right away so you don’t have to think about it later?

Screen capture of Lightroom's import dialogue

 LR has presets that tell it what to do with the images – convert them to .dng files, copy them to a specific folder on the hard drive, and/or make a backup onto the external drive. I even have a smaller (40Gb) backup drive for the laptop. I automatically create two copies of all the images when I import them.

Converting files to another format is optional
The “.dng” file thing is again your call. I’m converting my RAW images (it doesn’t apply to jpegs), here’s why. I shoot almost everything in RAW format, except on the P&S camera which doesn’t support it. When you make changes to a RAW file (for instance a Nikon .NEF file), the changes are stored in an external file, known as a ‘sidecar’ file, typically named ‘the_same_filename.xmp’. LR may or may not generate this file right away depending how you’ve set it up.

So if you changed the model’s blouse to red from green, or whitened her teeth or removed that zit or cropped the image – any change – those changes are stored in the LR catalog and in the .xmp file if you’ve created one, but not in the original image. Now if you want to send that image to someone else, or keep another copy of the edited file somewhere, you have to keep a copy of the .xmp file too. This is the beauty of LR. You can always go back to the original image as it came out of the camera without any modification. With .dng files (“Digital Negative”, independent of camera brand), the information about the changes is kept in the same file. Technically, a .dng file is also supposed to be about 20% smaller than an original RAW file. So that’s why I’ve decided to convert all my .NEF files to .dng when I import them.

In the interest of keeping things organized, I create a new folder every month (‘2010-02’). Then I tell LR to import the pictures to a sub-folder within that month, which I usually name with the actual day (‘February 18’). Once a month I create a new folder and set LR to put the images there. I do exactly the same thing with the backup file, automatically writing it to the external drive. I use the same folder names.

I rename my images. I don’t use the sequence number generated by the camera because it’s meaningless, and because 9999 images from now, they’ll repeat! I usually incorporate the date in the filename. Some people add a description as well, LR will allow it but it means handling each picture individually. A typical filename would be 20100203-009.dng. Or if it was from a specific assignment, maybe 20100123FAC-063.dng (actually, the FAC ID shoots are an exception for me – I shoot them all as .jpg files because I run a PS action on them and I don’t need the RAW data. That may change).

This is also a good time to apply some preliminary keywords to the group of pictures. What do they have in common? Are they all winter shots at 12 Mile Lake? Give them keywords like “winter”, “12 Mile Lake”, etc. If only some of them contain snowmobiles, don’t add that yet. Were they all taken at the BAD Ride (motorcycle charity ride)? Key word “BAD Ride” but not motorcycle unless they were all shots of bikes. By the way, you can select only some of the images from your card or camera, if you want to give them common keywords, then go back and do it again for another batch with a different set of criteria. Or if you want to store them in a separate folder. Changing keywords later in LR is easy, so you can do it now or later.

Okay, click “import” and watch it go to work. When it’s done, all of your images have been copied to the appropriate place(s) and their listings have been generated in LR. AND you’ve already created a backup.

When you import .jpg files (like this batch which comes from my point-and-shoot camera) you can't convert them to .dng format
If you were just adding existing images to your LR catalog, it’s the same import dialog, but you would tell it not to copy or move the images.

Why do you want to keep your garbage? My 90-year old dad hasn’t figured this out yet – when he deletes an email or a file, he keeps them in the recycle bin. I don’t get it. Does he think this is a good place to store stuff? I finally convinced him to clean it out (somewhat) and I deleted over 6Gb of old garbage. His computer died this week and we’re replacing it, and I’m anticipating a call from him asking where some file or other that was in the trash on the old machine is! If it’s garbage, it’s garbage. THROW IT OUT. If it’s not garbage, for God’s sake, don’t put it in the trash! I don’t know why I have to tell you that, but for some reason, I do!
Sometimes my camera is on high speed – 6 frames/sec. By mistake, I shoot 3 pictures where I only wanted one. WHY KEEP THE OTHER 2? Or I shoot 12 shots of a subject, different exposures, different expression. Choose the best one (or ones) and TURF THE REST. Or that image is hopelessly under- or over-exposed, or you moved the camera, or it was out of focus. CHUCK IT OUT! You are NEVER, EVER going to want to see that picture again. DUMP IT.
Here’s another workflow hint. When I want to keep a temporary copy of something that I need for this session but will never need again, I name the file “temp” (or I include ‘temp’ at the beginning of the filename). For example, I’m creating a composite image in PS and I want to save an overlay separately while I work on the main file, but once it’s done I don’t need it any more. Or I want to store someone’s phone number so I can call them back after I’m done with the call I’m on. Or I’m grabbing some text somewhere to paste into the document I’m working on.

Later, when I’m cleaning out the computer and I come across a file named ‘temp_something’, I don’t have to give it a single thought. Garbage. I don’t have to open it to look at it, or remember what it was. Out.
Once I’ve imported them, I go through the images in LR. As I look through them, I hit “X” to mark them for deletion, “P” (picks) if I really like them, or I do nothing if I’m not sure. You can go through 300 pictures in about 3 minutes doing that. Then go back and select “delete rejected images” and be done with it. Use the “delete from disk” option. It only hurts for a second, you’ll feel better later. Come on, do it. TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE.

(PS: if you were listening, and you had your left brain engaged, you’d realize that when you did your import and created a backup, ALL the images are still there. You didn’t delete them when you took out the trash! But that’s like keeping stuff in the recycle bin…)

You could skip this step. But doing this makes it much easier to come back later. Sometimes I’m looking at my newly imported images and I get sidetracked. I need to go out of the program, or I want to look at another image somewhere. How do I get back to just the new images I was just working on? Select all the “picks” then save them to a Quick Collection. I can convert the Quick Collection to a permanent one later. By the way, you can drag images into other collections as well, without affecting anything else. Suppose you think one of those images might make a dandy art print. You can drag the image into a collection called ‘possible dandy art prints’ or even into a sub collection called, ‘I really like these!’. You can do this any time, and don’t forget, you’re not actually copying the image, you’re only creating a reference to it in the collection.

At this point, I go through the picks again, and look at quality. I’ll assign 1 to 5 stars to each image depending on its quality. Pictures that are part of a group also get a colour rating, usually red. For instance, I may have taken a sequence of 3 or 5 shots intending to merge them as an HDR image, or stitch them together for a panorama.

You may have a different set of criteria for the stars or the colour codes. You can even rename your colour codes so you know what they’re for without having to remember.

I use the following ratings:

  • Star Ratings

    • No star: ‘ho, hum’. This image wasn’t bad enough to warrant throwing it out, but I’ll probably never want to see it again.
    • One star: let me think about this one. I might want to look at it again. I’ll get back to you later.
    • Two stars: this is part of a set. A bunch of images that I might combine into a pano or HDR.
    • Three stars: I kinda like this image. It has potential, but I’ll have to do a bunch of work to use it for anything. I don’t feel like doing it now.
    • Four stars: Nice picture, I’m going to work on this one soon.
    • Five stars: I LOVE IT! I’m going to make $1000 selling this picture.

  • Colour codes:

    • Red: this one is hot. I’m going to come back to this one as soon as I’m finished my import workflow.
    • Yellow: I want to work on this one but after I’ve done all the red ones
    • Green: I finished editing this one and it’s ready to be exported or added to some collections
    • Blue: all done! This is a keeper and it’s all finished.
    • Purple: I don’t use this very much because there’s no keyboard shortcut to it. The 5 star ratings and the 4 colours above are created by hitting 1 – 9 on the keyboard. ‘0’ is reserved for removing the star rating (you need to go to the photo’ menu to remove the colour rating).
    So if I have a picture that I really, really like and I want to start working on editing it right away, I’ll give it a “5-6” rating (5 stars and red). Make sense?

    I just fell in the trap of writing about a “WHAT” instead of a “WHY”. OK, I wanted to share what I do, to get your brain cells churning and thinking about what classifications YOU might want to use. See? It really was a “WHY”!

    Now I go back and keyword the images. I could – sometimes I do – all of this in one pass, but I find it easier to focus on one function at a time. The keyword list can get very long – I heard of someone with literally thousands of keywords. I try to keep it tight. But I think about what criteria I might ever want to search by and when in doubt, add a keyword. For instance “snowmobile”. Or “ice fishing”. I don’t think I’ll ever need to find “Yellow Helmet”, but if you do, then go for it. It doesn’t cost anything except your time.

    You can select one or a group of images and add new keywords. If you start to type them in the circled field, LR will look for matches in your existing keyword list and finish them for you. It's a good idea to do it that way so you don't have close or mis-spelled keywords, for instance using "VW" sometimes and "Volkswagen" other times. You could also type them in the white box, or select them from your existing list or a list of recent suggestions.
    As I came back to re-read and edit this, an example came to mind. I took a picture of a red corvette in my driveway several years ago (not mine. I covet that car. A rebuilt ’75 with a 427 under the hood. One day…). I wanted to look at it again. If you were listening, I hadn’t imported it to LR yet because it pre-dates my 2008 cutoff. Or had I… it was in my group of “favourites”. OK, search keywords for “corvette”…

    AHA! There it is! And another shot, close-ups of the water drops beading on the waxed finish. See? You never know when you might want to search for a specific keyword. Here’s the ‘vette, by the way.

    Recap. Where are we?
    We’ve stored two copies of every picture in separate places. Information about them is in the master LR catalog. We named the images so we could track them chronologically. We deleted all the garbage. We flagged the ‘selects’ and we rated them. We colour coded them for further action. We added keywords to each picture so we can find them again.

    How long did it take? Call it 15-30 minutes for a day’s shooting. Or less if you stop part way through and decide to keyword later.

    So if I want to find all the fall colour pictures taken up in the Haliburton Highlands in the past two years that are sufficiently high quality to be considered for publication in my next book, I can! Easily.