Adobe Lightroom 5: The New Low Hanging Fruit

As much as I Love Lightroom, it also frustrates me at times. Yes, I have a few gripes about the development toolset (why no granular HSL setting in the local adjustment brush, for one) But my biggest headache has to do with one of Lightroom’s core functions as a Digital Asset Manager. It should be so much better at managing assets. No, really! It all comes down to automation; or lack thereof it. A great D.A.M. should help me be more efficient, and that means adapting and automating as much of my workflow as possible. Not a whole lot has changed in this area since version 1.0. Here are a few things that in my mind, should be at the very top of Adobe’s (and Apple’s) Low Hanging Fruit checklist.
The Family Tree of Your Assets
In Lightroom You can manually create stacks. And that’s a neat trick; useful for grouping virtual copies or bracketed exposures for HDR processing. But let’s shift into high gear with automated workflow tools, shall we? Lets start by having Lightroom automate the tagging and grouping of “Masters” “Working Files” and “Prints”. Lightroom should be able to do this on the fly without me even thinking about it.
A modern digital workflow is distilled down to the concept of Masters & Prints. The Masters are your original digital “negatives” or unedited images. Be it a “RAW”/“DNG” format or a “jpg”, these digital negatives need to be tagged and marked as “Masters”. Additionally, exported “TIFFs”, “PSDs”, and “jpgs" should be be marked or tagged as “Prints” or “Working Files” respectively.
Export to Photoshop? By definition, that would be a “Working File”. Export to web via export presets? That’s a “Print”, even though it’s optimized for the web. You’re printing
for the web. So let’s treat it that way in terms of organization. Export a high quality jpg for an actual paper printer? Yep, thats a “Print”! Want to export a batch of “Working Files”? instead of just one at a time? Then your preset would dictate this based on your settings.
Along with these hierarchal tags, Lightroom should by default add these to your catalog, keep track of where these assets are going, how many of these assets you’ve exported, at what resolutions, and so on. Lightroom should be able to link these assets to with your Master negatives accordingly no matter where they are physically. At a glance, you should be able to see exactly what you have.
If you exported to a USB stick, and now that stick has gone away to the client? Well, then Lightroom should be able to detect that these versions have been ejected from your local system, and you can tell Lightroom to no longer keep track of these assets if you wish, or merely journal the export in your Master file’s history.
A few of you might already be thinking; but Lightroom already has a “add to catalog” checkbox. Yes, that’s true. However, it wasn’t designed with this kind of a Parent-Child image relationship in mind. With the exception of exporting, or round-tripping over to Photoshop, these exports are essentially treated as completely separate entities. Prints essentially become orphan files, with no ties to their parents. They are in a completely different folder, sometimes on a different drive. Sometimes they are on a different computer over the network.
Why is this important? Why do we want to keep track of all this? For one, it’s completely unnecessary to keep duplicate copies or Prints that you can easily recreate from your Masters. So why not delete the cruft and save some dive space? Jpgs are relatively tiny, but a few hundred to a few thousand do begin to add up. It’s also nice to know exactly what you’ve done with your files, and create a logged journal of where everything has gone.
Did you make any license deals to a client? Did you actually export this image to the client? How about portfolio copies to your talent? Did you upload a version to Flickr? Why can’t Lightroom keep track of that too, because I certainly won’t remember two years from now. It would be fantastic if Lightroom could help you manage your projects. What if Lightroom could help you cull together a year end report of what you’ve done? Isn’t that what a D.A.M. is for.
Archive Images to Offline
Am I the only one who would expect a D.A.M. program to also offer features to properly archive and keep track of old projects? Just because my assets are not “Online” doesn’t mean I should no longer be able to track and search for them. Lightroom should use a variant of it’s new Offline Editing Previews for long term archiving with visual preview files and complete, searchable metadata. If I need to find an image that I put into the archives, Lightroom should be able to help me track down exactly where that file is, and import it back into online status until I’m ready to archive it again.
Organizing Based on Resolution
Lightroom should be able to organize and group your images based on resolution. This is something I’m surprised isn’t present in Lightroom right now! I can organize by file date, date added, file name, aspect ratio But I can’t group by resolution? Are you kidding me? Even if only by a resolution range, this feature should exist!!
Finding Duplicates
Where is the killer feature that can automatically scan my images to find duplicates, even if those duplicates are of different formats, resolutions, or filenames? This basically goes back into the “Family Tree” concept. But I have existing photos that obviously predate this currently non-existing feature. So how do I cull together the existing assets in my catalog that happen to be duplicates in different folders, hard drives, and the like?
Automating basic keywords
Add “red” to images with strong red overtones.
Add “dog” to photos that obviously contain a dog.
Online stock photography sites such as Shutterstock; Google Image search, Facebook, and even iPhoto have been developing search algorithms that offer up basic keyword suggestions based on image analyzation. Automatically add “green” or “red” to images with strong green or red tones. Facial recognition. It’s time this technology started to spread to Lightroom.
Ok so maybe detecting your dog isn’t exactly reliable with today’s technology yet. But that is the way of the future, and Adobe might as well start practicing. Searching your own catalog can be a powerfully useful thing. Sure we can manually add keywords now. The keywording tools are actually fairly decent; as long as you are self motivated enough to use them. Even if you are, you’re probably not going to think of everything. A little help from the software can go a long way.
To Infinity
I hope the good folk at Adobe are on their toes back in the R&D lab. Apple has already started to wade down this road with face detection. Sure Aperture is stagnant. But so was Final Cut Studio for three years. And so was the Mac Pro. For three years. And so was iWork. In fact Aperture is likely stagnant because all the other ProApps were higher up on the To Do list. If there is one good thing that Apple does, it’s taking what was learned from the development of one product and applying those lessons to everything else.
In addition, lets not disregard Google as a worthy future cloud-based Lightroom foe. They seem to be stepping into the world of cloud based photography even further every month. Dare I say, even Yahoo could be poised to enter the cloud market if they so choose. Flickr is a valuable asset that could muscle back to the top of the world in the cloud based services era, though for now there is no sign of that happening.
Maybe Lightroom just feels stagnant right now
because Adobe is hard at work behind the scenes building the foundation for the next big frontier. I can only hope.
© 2017 Ryan G. Poirier Make Contact