Category: Photo Management

Notes on how to manage the thousands of digital images we accumulate.

First Look at OS X Photos – Pleasantly Surprised!

PhotosIconI’m a Lightroom user first and foremost but have used iPhoto extensively over the years for family snaps and for making books and calendars. I’ve also used Aperture for books and, more recently, Photos on iOS for snaps. iOS Photos is “fun” to use and surprisingly useful on an iPad despite not being able to tag or title photos (my pet peeve).

This morning, I’ve starting dabbling with Photos on OS X (10.10.3 Yosemite) – Apple’s most recent OS X upgrade, which is free) and am very pleasantly surprised with what I’ve seen so far. I was planning to spend only a few minutes with Photos, but became intrigued with its depth.

Many of the pundits have written off Photos (before really working with it) as a dumbed down Aperture that’s meant simply for iPhone and iPad photographers. Wrong! While it’s not an Aperture replacement, Photos is a very mature photo editing app that borrows the best from iPhoto/Aperture with a more modern UI and many tools that takes it well beyond the beginner stage.

While in this first iteration, Photos doesn’t have all the in-depth pro tools of Aperture, it is far superior to iPhoto. What I like best is that it is only as complicated as the user wants to make it. You can start off with the basics and gradually add complexity as you become more interested, technically savvy or daring. Did I mention Photos is FREE? And, better yet, it is a great improvement over than any other free photo editing app out there, the main contender being Picasa.

Photos-ScreenshotI am very pleased I can add Titles and Descriptions and keywords – which I couldn’t do in iOS Photos. But, I cannot geotag photos made with a non-GPS camera (my D800E, for example!). Photos will read GPS data and display photos on a map, but only if the GPS data is already baked in.

More importantly, though, the UI is elegant, at least far more so than LR or iPhoto, and cropping and straightening are easy – I especially like the auto-straighten feature. The beauty of Photos, though, is the variety of very powerful adjustment tools. I can turn on and off various Adjustments as needed (like LR), and I can use the “Save as Default” to keep the most used adjustments always visible. Adjustments also include a Histogram (which I turned off in the screenshot because I have Levels turned on).

Photos-AdjustmentsNow – take a closer look at the Levels: users can adjust them in quadrants similar to LR’s Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks. There are also Levels controls for each colour channel and for Luminance. In fact, each of the Adjustments have drop-down selectors to allow further refinements. While this can lead to more clicking than you are used to, the functionality is pleasantly surprising in a free app that’s supposed to be “dumbed down” (according to the photo editing snobs out int he ethos!)

Another surprise is how well the healing tool works – it’s more intuitive than LR and more along the lines of Aperture. While you cannot revisit and change or delete previous “heals” as you can in LR, I find the tool to be more accurate and you can preselect the source area with an Opt-click.

No doubt, there is far more here than the average user will ever use, but I see this as one of Photos strengths: users can grow into the app as they become more interested in furthering their photography or as they become more technically inclined.

Sadly, at this point, there are no adjustment brushes and gradients, so helpful in LR and Aperture. They would certainly make Photos more of a contender as a replacement.

As I have a book project on the go, I spent a few minutes with “Create > Book” (which I finally found under the “+” sign). Photos is much closer to Aperture in book creation than iPhoto ever was. There are far more choices available and options within each choice (perhaps too many for those who might be overwhelmed by choice). Page colours and photo layout options are greatly expanded from iPhoto (but still not customizable by, for example, moving and rotating), as are font selections. While this can lead to a dog’s breakfast of design, to someone who knows what they are doing, one can do a lot more to achieve even better results – certainly Photos has LR beat in this respect!

Photos-BookThe Book module in Photos also works much more smoothly than in iPhoto or Aperture. I do wish both the Page Options and Text Options windows can be open at the same time, but I’ve not found a way to do that (the screenshot is a compilation to show both). The window does change instantly from one to the other, but I find that distracting to the creative process.

Let me be clear, though… Photos does not replace the professional options offered in Aperture or Lightroom (due to lack of brushes, gradients, history, B&W Split Toning, etc.) and I will continue to use LR for DAM and processing, but Photos will remain an important app for creating calendars (which my family loves each year) and for books.

My hat goes off to Apple for the improved UI, the great variety and depth to Adjustments and the much improved Books in Photos. Any improvement from here can only make an already very good product even better, and remember, it is FREE to Apple users.

New Website: Zenfolio or SmugMug (or Portfoliobox?)

SmugMugLogo Zenfolio LogoI’ve finally admitted to myself that my website is too much work to keep up in its current configuration. For years now, pride has gotten the better of me as I have done all the design and set-up myself, using Adobe GoLive at first, then migrating, quite successfully, to iWeb. However, with having to do all the “back end” work, the time needed to maintain the site and upload photos is far greater than I have. Lightroom Web module is also a bit disappointing in that to make one minor edit/additon/deletion, you need to upload the whole page – time consuming and inefficient. As well, I know my Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is poor and the site is beginning to look stale. It needs a refresh!

NOTE: If you are considering using SmugMug, please use the referral link at the end of this post. It will give you 20% off any of the services you choose (and it helps me, too = win-win!)

The Options

For the past few months I’ve been scanning the websites of photo portfolio hosting services, examining the myriad options – and there are many. I’ve have them narrowed down to two: ZenFolio and SmugMug, but I looked at many; here’s a summary:

  • PhotoBucket and Flickr: I have a Flickr account and use it regularly to upload recent work, but it is more of a depository for images, rather than a “capital G” Gallery; PhotoBucket is similar. While I like the modern look of both services, there isn’t the level of customization I’m looking for and at times, I’ve found Flickr to be a bit clunky in its implementation of slide shows and full screens. At $25 per year, Flickr a good deal, but not ideal. Photobucket, on the other hand, seems “scammy”, like they are trying to pull one over on you. On their homepage there is no mention of pricing, features or options, just a bunch of irrelevant small thumbnails. When you do get to pricing, it says 10GB, but then you read the small print to find it’s only 2GB, but uploading the app gives you 10GB. To me that’s not straightforward; it’s weaselling. No thanks.
  • Portfoliobox is perhaps the closest contender to Zenfolio and SmugMug, at least from my perspective. I think it’s the European influence of its styling that attracts me as well as its affinity to artists and creative professionals. Portfoliobox also has a no-nonsense choice of two accounts: free or $7.50/month. The only thing preventing me from heading in their direction is the lack of customization. I guess I’ve been spoiled having complete control for all these years that I still want some control, just not all of it.
  • 500px is similar to Flickr in that it is more of a depository of photos, but it has a much stronger “photo community” emphasis. I tried 500px for a while, but couldn’t be on it frequently enough to keep up with the “likes”. While I do some “liking” of photos in Flickr, gaining stature through “likes” as 500px does, is not my thing. Also, when my “Home” page is photos by other people, I can see it’s more about discovering other photos than working with my own. Flickr can be a bit like that, too. I don’t mind seeing other photographers’ work, but my goal with the site is to promote my own work.
  • PhotoShelter is a popular option amongst professional photographers. Even with its cheapest option at $10/month, it offers a complete store-front fulfilment option. But I’m not interested in having prints made by an outside company. I want to maintain the quality of my prints by doing my own archival fine art printing.
  • SqaureSpace has an excellent set of modern gallery templates that are photography-oriented so it caught my eye. But I also noticed it caters to businesses, restaurants and stores, so it’s not focussed exclusively on photography galleries. That’s not bad, I would just rather have the hosting service more focussed. Also, the plan that I would need is $16/month – rather steep when I don’t want the “Sell up to 20 products” option.
  • Now, FolioLink is photography and artist-oriented hosting service that is very modern and has a variety of options. In fact it is perhaps the premier service, but the price starts at $239/year and for your own domain, it’s another $30 – for up to 120 portfolio images. No thanks! My Scottish blood won’t allow it.
  • A note about WordPress. I use WordPress quite successfully for my blog. Yet, there are a number of photographers who use it as their gallery and website. Maybe I’m not flexible enough in my thinking or I just don’t know enough about WordPress, but I feel you should use the right tool for the job: a gallery site for galleries and a blog site for blogs. They have their specialities and I would rather work towards each of their strengths. Besides, although WordPress is free, if you want elegant design, you pay for it by purchasing templates. i would rather pay for the hosting and have the flexibility to change designs without having to completely revamp my website.
  • I also considered The Turning Gate (TTG). They have a series of options available for galleries and sales that work through the Lightroom Web module. Quite clever, actually, but given the limitations of the LR Web module, I have steered away. I also find the presentation of the Gallery page to be a bit “blocky” – not what I was looking for.

The Finalists

So that brings me to my two finalists: Zenfolio and SmugMug. I must admit to disliking the name SmugMug and preferring the name Zenfolio, but that’s a minor aesthetic point compared to what the two services offer.

But what does my website need? What, specifically am I looking for beyond modern-looking galleries? Here’s a list of “must haves”:

  • primarily, my website needs to host Galleries of images that I create/curate;
  • the site must also be flexible enough to allow keyword searches so that allow users may search based on their own needs and way fo thinking, not mine;
  • the host must offer modern, elegant designs with sizing from large monitors to tablets and phones. To me, “elegant design” means there is very little technology between the user and the website; it must be intuitive.
  • additional web pages with text are also necessary, such as an About page, plus pages describing my workshops and fine print sales;
  • the service must also allow uploads directly from Lightroom through the Publish Services. This is critical, as LR’s Publish Services provide me with a smooth workflow for managing titles, captions, keywords and galleries all from within Lightroom;
  • Most of all, however, the hosting service must be offered at a price reasonable enough to make it all worth it without including a lot of extras I won’t use.

Both ZenFolio and SmugMug offer these options at $60/year – very reasonable. They are actually quite similar, offering significant customization and a variety of pages. Zenfolio comes closer to a ready-made option with a Blog, About and Contact pages in addition to Gallery pages. I also appreciate the tree-style organization of the photos in Zenfolio and the ability to have “Collections” as well as folders. I’ve since learned of the same options in SmugMug, but they are not made as obvious as they are in Zenfolio.

It Takes Time!

This is one of the problems I have found in this investigation – it takes a huge amount of time. If I only went by the posted feature set and price, I could make my decision right away, but that’s what they want you to do, just like buying a car. It’s only when you look under the hood that you discover differences that could either make your efforts worth while or worthless – but yoiu won’t know until you actually work with it in depth for awhile.

For the last two weeks I’ve been hard at work using the free trials available for both services. ZenFolio certainly offers some real functionality and quite in-depth web design options. But I’ve found the interface to be a bit clunky. In particular, to make site changes, you go into a whole different side that is not seamless. SmugMug is similar, however I find the interface for page design more intuitive, once I became oriented to it. It is easy to see when you are making page changes, or site-wide changes. I do prefer ZenFolio’s easy-to-access organizational tree for photo galleries, but SmugMug is a close second.

ZenFolio Site
ZenFolio Site

One area of importance is how good their help is. I’m one to dive in and problem-solve. If I can’t probelm solve, I need to be able to find an answer; if that’s not possible, there needs to be someone available by email to help. I can happily report that I’ve worked with both Help Resources and Help Desks and have had excellent service. This included a rather protracted problem with the SmugMug Lightroom plugin, but it was easily solved and SmugMug extended my trial period.

Decision Time

So, the two services are rather identical except for one thing… The $60/year Zenfolio service is ideal, but I can’t use my own luxBorealis.com logo on Zenfolio unless I opt for the $140/year service. While this service also provides a store front for fulfilling print orders – the major difference to their $60/year service which does not – it’s a service I don’t need nor want. A logo is important, but it’s not worth $80 more.

SmugMug Site
SmugMug Site

SmugMug, on the other hand, for the same $60/year gives me exactly what I need. It has a lovely full-screen interface for my homepage that seems to work better than the Zenfolio equivalent. I also find navigation set-up and website customization much more straightforward. Another advantage to SmugMug is the limitless pages I can create with surprisingly flexible designs. It seems like a frivolous feature, but I particularly like SmugMug’s implementation of a keyword cloud – you will see it on any page on my site by scrolling down. Very interactive; very cool!

So, the decision has been made. I invite you to visit my SmugMug website and take it for a spin. Then, feel free to add your comments, either there at the SmugMug site or back here.

AND, in case you missed the note at the top, if you choose to use SmugMug, here is a referral code that gives you 20% off the service you choose – just click this link.

Lightroom 5 Smart Previews are the future!

SmartPreviewsI am enjoying the new features in Lightroom 5. Although not a significant upgrade from 4, there are a few very helpful tweaks. Specifically, the Radial Filter tool, the Healing Brush (still work to be done on this, but it looks like 5.2 may solve the issues) and the Automatic Perspective Correction (and associated tools) in Lens Corrections are great additions to LR. Each of these features have become part of my typical Lightroom workflow.

The major change in my workflow resulting from Lightroom 5, has been the adoption of Smart Previews. Regular Previews allow you to add Keywords and perform other Library functions, but you can’t do any processing in Develop without access to the original file. Having Smart Previews allows you to process and, to some extent,  export images without actually having the original image. You might think, “But where would the original image be? Shouldn’t it be on your computer?”. If I was working on a desktop computer with a huge hard drive then, yes, the original image would always be accessible and I would not need Smart Previews. However, I do all my work on a laptop.

Laptop hard drives are never big enough. I remember swapping out the 256MB hard drive on my MacBook Pro for a 500MB and I thought I had all the room in the world – NOT – especially with 43MB Nikon D800E raw files! Before Lightroom 5, I would keep all of my current year’s original files on the laptop for easy access as they would be the ones I use the most. These would be backed-up as part of my Time Machine back-up routine. Original files  from previous years were kept on a portable drive (and backed-up to a desktop drive) – something I could bring along with me and could be powered from the laptop itself. This was my system for a good five years.

Now, with Lightroom 5 and Smart Previews, I don’t keep any originals on the laptop – just Smart Previews. In fact, i just moved 101GB of 2013 photos over to the portable drive and replaced them with 356MB of Smart Previews. What a space saver! Even more of a space saver is that I don’t keep Smart Previews of every photograph – only my best – those starred 3 or above. Note: My LR catalogue resides on my laptop so I always have access to all my previous images. It is currently 22GB in size for 35,000+ photographs; 17GB of which are regular Previews.

My LR5 work flow goes like this:

  1. Import new images  via LR from the memory card into a 2013-TEMP folder on my laptop. Note: I could, at this time, use a checkbox in File Handling to have LR create Smart Previews of all the imported images, but I don’t need Smart Previews for all of them; I only want them for my “best of” images.
  2. After import, I compare, cull, select and edit as needed. This includes adding 3 stars to anything worth spending time on. Out of 100 shots, I may give 3 or more stars to 1/4 or 1/3 of them. Why don’t I toss out the others? I don’t know, I guess I’m a bit of a hoarder!
  3. Once I’m satisfied with the photographs I’m working with, I use Library Filter > Attribute to select the 3 stars and higher photos and make Smart Previews of them by selecting Library > Previews > Build Smart Previews. This can also be done in Library by clicking the icon below the Histogram called “Originals without Smart Previews”. A dialogue box will appear asking for confirmation.
  4. With the Smart Previews created, I move the folder with those images to the portable hard drive and back it up.
  5. I carry on working on my laptop processing images as if they are originals. When I re-connect the portable drive with the originals, the new info is automatically written to the originals. Brilliant, really!

I’ve just gone back to my 2012 photographs, selected 313 files and built Smart previews of them. The 84GB folder of all photos from 2012 was reduced to 387MB of Smart Previews. Now I’m going to each of my annual folders and doing the same.

This gives me all the convenience of processing originals without the need of having the portable drive attached. Working from an internal hard drive is always faster than a portable drive. So now I have the best of both worlds – except for one caveat… when I’m printing or exporting full-sized jpegs (or tiffs, etc.) I will still need to plug in the portable drive as the Smart Previews are only 2540 pixels on the longest side (due to be 2560 pixels with LR5.2).

The move from processing in Photoshop to processing in Lightroom has been a wonderful space saver in itself. I would much rather work with 43MB raw files than a 220MB Photoshop behemoth (and that’s without the addition of any Layers!). Now with even smaller Smart Previews, Adobe is making processing even better. [At least Adove is doing something right!]

What has spurned me on to doing this is a recent demo on The Grid with Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski by Lightroom guru Tom Hogarty showing Lightroom on an iPad. This is why Smart Previews have been introduced – to make Lightroom more light-weight for the limited space of tablets. I, for one, am looking forward to doing initial selects and edits and processing on iPad.

So, if Smart Previews fit into your workflow, have a look at Julieanne Kost’s video to give you a visual of how all of this works. You’ll find it at AdobeTV. If you have any questions – just send me an email – terry [at] luxborealis.com.

A great way to learn and master Lightroom is here

Coming in April – the Lightroom Visual Guide: a screen-by-screen, module-by-module look at how to make best use of Lightroom.

Lightroom is the tool digital photographers have been waiting for and in version 3, it has matured to become essential for any photographer shooting more than a few hundred images per year. It brings together the power of non-destructive editing based on Adobe Camera Raw with an extensive and powerful database for keeping track of tens of thousands of raw, jpeg, psd and tiff files & videos. But LR is not as easy as dragging a few sliders – there’s a learning curve to customizing your workflow for high quality, repeatable results. The Lightroom Visual Guide will get you there!

In PDF format for use on-screen or printed out, the Lightroom Visual Guide provides panel-by-panel and palette-by-palette assistance to make active use of the many buttons, menus, and options available. Each of the five modules – Library, Develop, Slideshow Print, Web – has dedicated pages with explanations of each of the many palettes and panels. As well, there are pages for setting-up LR preferences, identity plates, renaming templates, exporting and more.

In the Lightroom Visual Guide you’ll find pages dedicated to:

  • Preferences, Set-up & Customization
  • Import View
  • Library Module
  • Develop Module, Palettes & Adjustment Tools
  • Slideshow Module
  • Print Module and Printer settings
  • Web Module
  • Export Options
  • Black & White processing

Everything you need to be successful with Lightroom. And the best part of it is – until March 31st you can purchase the Lightroom Visual Guide PDF for the special pre-publication price of only $5.00.

Visit my website now to download a sample page and place your order. You will not find a simpler, more comprehensive way to finally master what has become the industry-standard for serious and professional digital photographers.

Low Price of Aperture a huge draw

I can’t believe the price of Aperture – since the opening of the new Mac App store, the price has dropped to $79. What a deal and definitely worth the investment if you have a Mac more recent than my MacBook Pro of 2008.

My main complaint with Aperture was its slow response at times – a product of my MacBook more than anything else. In fact, recently, I’ve noticed a slow down and spinning ball with Lightroom at times, to the point where I’ve had to do a Force Quit. Lightroom seems to hang when inadvertently going to Web Module for All Photographs (totally over 20,000).

What I love about Aperture it is fantastic healing brush – far superior to the lame “Spot Removal” in Lightroom. It’s worth having it around just for that feature – but then there are the superb Apple books – unparalleled in the publishing world except at double the price.

December Photo Newsletter is hot off the press!

This Month’s Article

It’s that time of year again – time to look back over the past 12 months to reflect on what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve left undone. I’m going to do a little of that here, but with a twist.

One of the great features of Lightroom, besides its intuitive Develop, Web, Print and Slideshow modules, is the Metadata section of the Library Module. I’ve been accused of over-analyzing situations, but this is one of those times when I think it’s helpful to throw a bit of analysis into an area that we’ve never really been able to before.

Up until the release of photo library applications like Aperture and Lightroom, photographers could only get a rough idea of “how” they shoot – the lens or focal length and aperture used most often. Now, that data can be quantified.

Read on >> luxBorealis December Photo Newsletter

Lightroom Update

Now that I have over 25,000 images in various Lightroom catalogues, I can perhaps give you a better perspective on how well it’s keeping up.

In a word – amazingly well! Sorry, that’s two words.

Every time I open and work with Lightroom (3.x especially) and push it a little further, I discover nuances in its work flow or tools that make life easier. I am working on a draft of an article describing my Lightroom workflow that, once finished, should help photographers to better understand how and why it is better option than Photoshop (CS or Elements), Picasa, etc.

16.000+ images in one catalogue does not slow it down at all. I do not use a desktop workstation – only a MacBook Pro laptop. To save hard drive space, only my catalogue is on the hard drive – my photos are on a portable (3.5″) 500 GB external USB hard drive which is literally plug-and-play.

For the first time, I have all of my images at my fingertips – anyone or group of which can be called up by keyword or text search in a matter of seconds!! Brilliant!

Some of these images are raw files, tiffs and jpgs made 8 years ago on an early 5MP digital camera. They have come alive in a far superior way and in far fewer key strokes than when I first processed them through Photoshop. It is like re-discovering old negs!

I have a number of different catalogues: a luxBorealis catalogue for my fine art and stock images and a catalogue for each of my clients.

So far, I am, at the touch of a few keys, producing web galleries, prints, slideshows, Flickr uploads and email-sized images. These processes have been customized by creating and tweaking  a number of presets – perhaps Lightroom’s single greatest feature. While I have found presets on the ‘net, they have been most helpful in providing a starting point for fine tuning according to my tastes. The bottom line is that once you have something you like – create a preset of it. Then, when you tweak it to make it even better, right-click and “Update with Current Settings”.

Enough for now. I don’t own shares in Lightroom, nor am I paid by Adobe or anyone else for saying this, but I can’t help thinking how much more productive I am now that I am using Lightroom for processing my images..

Aperture vs Lightroom – Decision Time!

So the winner is…

I’ll get to that in a moment. This process of comparing the two apps has been a great learning process. Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses. What is unfortunate is that although both manage photos very well, surprisingly, neither of them has the processing side nailed down as well as technology current allows. In other words, what is arguable the whole point of this exercise – producing the highest-possible quality of photographs – is not done perfectly in either application.

Both apps are missing what I deem to be a key feature: Transformation. I am not much a city person, but when I photograph buildings, I want to correct the inherent perspective distortion. I don’t usually remove all of it as I do want the give the impression of size and distance. This is only possible in Photoshop. Even Photoshop Elements has it, so Lightroom and Aperture should have it as well!!!

Lightroom lacks a truly useful spotting brush; it is still back in the days of a round-only, spot-only dust removal system. I don;t have a problem with dust – my problem is with errant twigs and stems of grasses. Aperture’s Retouch brush is a true brush that allows you to work with long, thin distractions such as twigs, powerlines and hairs – even iPhoto, Apple’s free photo app, has this feature! C’mon Adobe – this is a no-brainer. Just add your Photoshop Healing Brush to Lightroom!! Again, even Elements has this feature – surely Lightroom should, too!

Aperture is slow to use. I can’t count the number of times I get a spinning ball waiting for full res images to load (MBP 15″ 2.4Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo w/ 4GB RAM and nothing else open!). If I have to wait like this I would never be able to wade through all my images. Aperture has a superior GUI, though; e.g. the image filmstrip comes up on the left side – proportionately, I have more left-right screen real estate so putting on the side makes better use of my space.

I also love Aperture’s brushes and their implementation. Anything can be a brush and can be painted in or out. However,  in Lightroom I find it helpful to be able to turn on or off the mask created through using the Adjustment Brush. As well, having multiple changes using one brush is very helpful; e.g. I can increase exposure and contrast and decrease saturation all in one easily editable brush.

Ultimately, my decision is to use Lightroom for four main reasons:

  • Aperture is too slow in reacting to rather simple changes;
  • Lightroom allows Adjustment Brush “multi-tasking”;
  • Lightroom has a graduated filter – I use graduated filters frequently in landscape images;
  • Lightroom is backwards-compatible with all my previously-processed the raw files created using Bridge and ACR. Switching to Aperture would mean having to redo past images.

So, for those who have been following this saga, there you have it. It’s Lightroom – and, may I point out, Lightroom 2. I have downloaded Lightroom 3 Beta and will commit to it when it is a full version, but this comparison was actually between Lightroom 2 and Aperture 3 – rather telling.

In the near future, I will add a Lightroom workflow to give a sense of how I make use of the app.

UPDATE:

The new header was made from within Lightroom 2 using the LR/Mogrify2 plugin from Timothy Armes found at the Photographer’s Toolbox. Great app and it’s donationware, so please donate to Timothy to get full access to it. Wonderful as it is, I still needed Photoshop to create the luxBorealis.com in the font I chose as LR/Mogrify2 only recognizes .ttf fonts and doesn’t, as yet, add stokes to fonts. BTW it would be nice to have drop shadows for fonts and images, too (just in case you’r reading this, Timothy!)

UPDATE 2:

I’ve been taking a bit of heat from the Apple community about not supporting Aperture. Let me assure everyone that I am a staunch Apple supporter and have been for 20 years now, starting with a Mac Classic! I have used Mac and Windows for the same length of time and will always be a Mac.

More on Aperture and Lightroom

Okay – I’m still not satisfied with either.

I just finished an afternoon shoot of 100 shots – all done in raw. I have processed them using 3 different methods: ACR 5.x via Bridge; Lightroom 2.6 and Aperture 3.0. Here’s what I found:

  • In ACR 5.x I zipped through them – mostly because I am thoroughly familiar with the keyboard shortcuts. I did some Exposure correction, some Auto Exposure, some Adjustment Brush, some Graduated Mask very quickly and efficiently;
  • In Lightroom, I was slowed down slightly due to being less familiar with the keyboard shortcuts however I picked them up rather quickly, specifically K for Adjustment Brush and M for Graduated Filter
    • I did find Lightroom a bit frustrating in that I couldn’t simply tab to exposure values like I could in ACR – I had to trackpad over and click in the Exposure box. I found I could use the L and R cursor keys which sped things up somewhat, but I didn’t like the intervals as much
    • I also noticed that the scale for the Graduated Filter changed from whole numbers to decimal numbers – perhaps due to previous masks I created in ACR. It seems odd that the numerical value should change like this.
    • If I want to print jpegs to file, I should be able to save them to a different folder using the same filename – Lightroom won’t let me unless I “Export” the jpegs using a somewhat less sophisticated interface – similar to the ACR interface for saving images. While creating and running a Photoshop action through Bridge may sound intimidating – I can ensure exactly what my output will be like in every regard – but than I can through Export, yet similar to “Print to File” but with the bonus of keeping my naming structure.
    • I still can’t get used to the dark grey interface
    • on my MacBook Pro Intel 2.4GHz laptop, Lightroom still hesitates a few seconds before I can interact with each new raw image – there is no hesitation in ACR 5.x. In fact, ACR, the Adjustment Brush and GRaduated mask pins appear immediately
    • Perhaps it is my incompetence with the Lightroom interface, but I don’t find it intuitive to synchronize adjustments over a series of images without having to create a preset.
    • As with all computer monitors, I have more Left-Right real estate then Top-Bottom so I would like the thumbnails to be along the left like they are in ACR. I like the way they “Hide” along the bottom, but I don’t need the Presets found along the left as often as I need the Thumbnails.
  • In Aperture… WHERE IS THE GRADUATED FILTER?? I’ve just gotten so used to using it. This is pretty much a deal-killer for me using Aperture as a total solution. Also…
    • the Auto Exposure setting does a much better, cleaner job than in Lightroom
    • I don’t like the Hot-Cold cutoffs – even set at 100% I have clipping if any one colour is at 253 pixels. I would prefer to set the Hot and Cold thresholds to Luminance as I have done with the Histogram (why can’t the two settings be tied into one another?)
    • Perhaps it is my incompetence with the Aperture interface, but I don’t find it intuitive to synchronize adjustments over a series of images. With ACR and Lihtroom I set the adjustments for one image, select all and click on “Synchronize” to have one, some or all of the adjustments applied to the other images.
    • Perhaps it is the Browser that could use some work… When I select images,  I don’t see any change to indicate the images that are and are not selected. I iPhoto, a thin yellow line appears around the selected images – in Aperture, nothing. Even Lightroom the borders go light grey to indicate selected image.

So where does this leave me? Well, I’m back to square one – that is, I’m not totally satisfied with either Lightroom or Aperture and I am not yet ready to move from Photoshop-Bridge-ACR to either. If anyone out there has some insights into this I would appreciate hearing from you.

    Getting closer to an Aperture-Lightroom Decision

    I’ve working both sides of the Aperture-Lightroom street as of late and am not totally satisfied with either – yet.

    For example, today I shot some RAW images and thought I would use both to see how they come up. Now, I’m not an entirely stupid person, but I did have some trouble working with IPTC data in both apps. In Aperture, I first had trouble even importing the images from a file that already existed on my hard drive (I uploaded the images through Bridge, first). It kept showing me an empty folder until I closed and re-opened Aperture. Secondly, IPTC data I thought I had added during import didn’t show. Adding it afterwards was no trouble.

    The trouble I had with Lightroom was that data I entered for one image would not copy to other images – syncing metadata just didn’t want to work. I also had trouble de-selecting images after doing a “Select All”. Very frustrating – especially when doing the same in Bridge/ACR is so easy.

    There are a few features that are driving me towards Aperture:

    1. I love the brighter interface of Aperture – I’ve set it to light grey with a white background. I find that if I use a grey or black background in my images, I don’t brighten them enough. Perhaps it’s my grounding in the wet darkroom, but I want to be able to compare the near white in my image to pure white which I get from the background. Lightroom comes across as “Darkroom” – with its dark grey facade, I feel like I am looking down a tunnel or through a cheap pair of binoculars at my image in middle between the Catalogue stuff on the left and the Adjustment panes on the right. So, for now, I am hiding the Catalogue panes in LR.
    2. I love how easy it is to switch between Library, Metadata and Adjustments in Aperture. W-W-W – it is also done with no delay, unlike LR which takes its time to switch modes.
    3. I have found one of the most intuitive ways of adding border and titles to, for my purposes, web images like the one here – a great plugin called BorderFX: http://www.iborderfx.com/. If you are still doing borders and titles with Photoshop – here’s a better way. It was one of the peeves with Aperture that Lightroom seemed to have the edge on (kind of) – but this is even better than LR’s print to file with it’s Identity Plate.
    4. I prefer Aperture’s adjustments and adjustment brushes to LRs in that you can add a brush for anything without leaving where you are.

    However, there are some aspects of Lightroom I like better:

    1. I like the hide-away panels in LR. I prefer editing in full screen mode with a clean desktop – as few distractions as possible. Aperture also gives me that, but having the hide-away filmstrip at the bottom of LR is helpful.
    2. I find creating Presets to be more intuitive in LR.
    3. Also the Print “mode” is wonderful to work with.

    One downer about Aperture is the very slow response time (on my Intel MacBook Duo Core 2.4GHz, 4GB ram) when using a number of operations – especially sharpening with the loupe open. OMG it’s slooooooooow!

    So, where am I going with this – I don’t know quite yet. Overall, Bridge + ACR is still more intuitive to me than either. I print enlargements using an online service and books using full resolution jpegs I import into iPhoto. My cataloguing systems does need an overhaul. I am still suing folders with YYYYMMDD-DescriptiveTitle despite all of my images being keyworded and described. So I am wasting the keywords if I can’t actually search a database for images with specific keywords – so one or t’other would be ideal for that.

    I think I need a few more weeks of playing.