Saturday, March 17, 2007

Lightroom 1.0 - The Library

Back in August of last year, I wrote about my initial impressions of the Adobe Lightroom beta. Since then, I've spent quite a bit of time working with the beta, and have really grown to like it. A few weeks ago, Adobe finally released the 1.0 version of Lightroom. As an owner of Pixmantec RawShooter Pro, I was entited to a free copy of Lightroom, so I downloaded it and have started to dig in.

General Improvements

First off, the 1.0 release is a dramatic improvement over the beta versions. The preformance issues are mostly gone. While not quite as fast as RawShooter was, it is definitely more than usable on my machine (AMD Athlon XP 2500+, 1GB RAM).

Other than the performance improvements, there were a ton of functionality improvements in 1.0. In the Library, you can remove panels you aren't interested in, so they don't get in the way. The kind-of-awkward Shoots panel (where each photo must belong to exactly 1 shoot) has been replaced by a more sensible Folders panel. Of course, all of your lightroom beta Shoots get migrated to the Collections area, so you don't lose anything.


There is now a Metadata Browser that allows you to find photos based on certain sets of metadata. For example, you can find all photos shot with your 70-200mm lens, or shot with a specific camera, or in a specific city. What's nice is that the Metadata can be selected in combinations, and can even be joined with the keywords. This makes it easy to look for things such as "all photos shot between Dec 1, 2005 and Feb 12, 2006, in the state of Michigan, using either my 12-24mm or 18-55mm lenses, containing the keywords water and sunset".

While the flexibility of this is very impressive, its not a fully complete query tool. While you can ask for all photos from 2004 that were also shot in Michigan, you cannot ask for all photos from 2004 OR shot in Michigan. Likewise, The keyword searching is also not complete. You can do a lot of things. You can search against the keywords, the exif data, the metadata, and various other options. You can search for any or all values. You can search for fields that start with a certain value. You can even use the exclamation point (!) to perform negative searching..."water, people, !sunset" gets you all photos keyworded with both "water" and "people", but excludes those that also contain the keyword "sunset". However, what you can NOT do is any type of complex boolean searching, such as "(orange and fruit) or apple".


In the beta version, there was 1 way to rank photos: stars. Now there are 3 ways: stars, flags, and color labels. You can also filter images with a combination of these (all photos with 2 or more star and either the Red or Yellow label). You can use the flags to pick out all the photos you want to delete, and then review them all at once before actually deleting. You can also use flags to iteratively narrow down a collection of photos to pick out the few you like best.

How to best use these features is still an issue I'm looking into. In fact, I've started a thread on the adobe forums discussing how other people make use of these features. I've gotten some good suggestions, such as using the color flags to denote different stages of evaluating the images (ex: Red = new image that hasn't been looked at, Yellow = Needs some work on adjustments, Green = this image is done, etc).

Digging into this is a more elaborate topic (and a topic which I don't yet have a good enough answer to), so I'll probably address this specifically in a future post.

Other Improvements

After all of this, I'm not even through with describing the new features of the Library view. To go through the rest somewhat quickly:

  • The toolbar is now customizable, so you can choose which tools you want to see

  • There is a keyword stamping tool, so you can scan the images and click on any to apply a keyword to it.

  • It now supports implied keywords, so that applying the keyword of "eagle" automatically implies the keyword "bird"

  • You can choose from various subsets of Metadata to be displayed. Also, although you can't build your own custom metadata subset within Lightroom, it DOES support custom sets, and someone figured out the file format and setup a website to help build one (Adobe Lightroom: Custom Metadata-Viewer Presets)

  • You can choose multiple images and "stack" them together to appear as 1 image. This is great for bracketed exposures, panoramic shots, etc.

  • You can make a virtual copy of an image and apply different parameters to the copy without changing the original settings. This is similar to RawShooter's snapshot option, but more powerful (since you can apply different metadata to each virtual copy).


Of course, with all the good, there are a few issues that aren't all that great:

  • Using the "Find" panel to search for images can be pretty slow and the user interface can grind to a hault for a while (depending on what you search for).

  • The left and right hand panels STILL don't have any way to lock them in position, and thus every now and then I still open or close one on accident when trying to use a scrollbar right next to the edge of the screen.

  • The new virtual copies feature (while nice) doesn't work in the Collection or Keyword views, and it doesn't work if the images are in different folders on the hard drive.

  • Modifying metadata (country, state, city, location, etc) can be incredibly slow.


And finally, there are (of course) the inevitable bugs here and there:

  • If you edit 2 metadata fields in a row, sometimes the textbox loses focus a second after you start editing the second field. As a result, an incomplete value will be applied to all the photos. To make this even more annoying, as I previously mentioned, editing metadata can be incredibly slow, so now you have to sit through it twice.

  • The program seems to perform some sort of time zone calculations on the EXIF timestamps. There is apparently a bug somewhere in there, because some people (myself included) are having problems with the timestamp being an hour off, depending on whether the photo was shot during DST and whether or not the computers clock is current in DST. The behavior even seems to be different for different cameras. The photos from my Digital Rebel and my wife's Digital Rebel XT both exhibit the bug, but they exhibit it in different ways.


Now that I'm more or less done with the Library part (at least for now), next up is the Develop panel. However, this is been a bit long, so I'll save that for a future post. I will give you a little teaser, though: the changes in the Develop part, while not quite as numerous, are definitely very good and quite welcome.

I will say that I'm now very excited by this tool and all the potential it offers. I'm now trying to go back and organize 17000 photos from the last 3 years by applying country/state/city/location tags and giving them all keywords. That's going to take quite a while, though. here to read more!