Sep 26, 2008

"Pay Me Now, or Pay Me Later..."

Lightroom 2 Library Module Catalogs Folders Collections

You might say, "What's Michael Phelps got to do with Lightroom 2?"

Pay Me Now…

It's wrapped up in the pay me now side of this equation... Michael went to Beijing with lots of training under his belt. If you don't believe so, just look at those awesome abs!

Have you trained for digital photography’s terrible gigabyte data onslaught?
What's a gigabyte onslaught?
It's those thousands of images you get to look through to decide which ones you need to work on to create award-winning images or quickly pick out images for your client. It's also the gigabytes and eventually terabytes of external, off-line hard drive space which have a pristine backup of your original image. And, it never ends as long as you want to take pictures...

As long as you've got enough CF cards and backup capabilities, you can wander around anywhere and take digital pictures to your hearts content for as long as you like. That's what I did for four years, from point-and-shoot to prosumer DSLR as I grew into digital photography. Unfortunately, early software and my laziness contributed to a pay me later attitude.

With advent of Lightroom 2, Adobe has a slick way of importing images, adding site-specific metadata, adding keywords, and reviewing to see which images are important.

Pay Me Later…

A newbie to this due diligence workflow process, I had some 21,000 images. At a minimum, they needed copyright and site-specific metadata. At the max - quickly find all time favorites. I needed to be able to easily and quickly view them to roughcut the goobers (Texan for get rid of the crap).

It's a mind boggling process.
I can only sit hunched in one position so many hours a day staring at a calibrated screen, doing visual compares between lousy, good, better, and best as well as adding preliminary keywords. Fond of bracketed HDR panoramas, some of this job was exceedingly repetitious. Slowly learning what not to shoot, much early work wouldn't fit the exacting criteria for award-winning photography.

The first job was to import a folder full of raw images with basic copyright metadata. I had pre-grouped folders containing thousands of images into years. With 138 GB of images, I started in a folder for 2004. Many of these landscape images are New Mexico; so I used a keyword format nm_place. The nm_ format could apply to any state in the Four Corners area of the Southwestern United States (co_, ut_, az_ …). As they appeared, I would coin other key word formats for specifics. At the least, this was only a preliminary cut.

I found five hours a day was about all the concentrated attention I could give such as mind-sapping project. Yet, doggedly, I continued for seven days - finally paring down the image count from 21,000 to 13,000. And... Phase 1 was done

Then, thanks to the bright software designers at Adobe, I discovered I still had some 3300 images without keywords and cleaned up that problem. Never fear; although you can't directly delete images when you're looking at Without Keyword in Collections, LR2 lets you perform a Show Folder, which opens the specific folder where the individual images occur. Reopen your external hard drive (My Book E), open this folder, and go through the delete process.

Lightroom 2 Library Catalog lrcat and lrdata

Here's the Windows XP folder structure for my main Lightroom 2 catalog (Lightroom 2 catalog.lrcat and preview folder Lightroom 2 catalog previews.lrdata) when this taxing job was done... 13,000 images take 4.2 GB of space where's a catalog takes 0.13 gigabytes.

Fortunately, LR2 is very good at letting me look at each image in Loupe space, with an adjacent keyword panel open for metadata creation. If I didn't like an image, simply hit X and it would be rejected. At the end of any particular folder, Ctrl-Backspace would allow me to delete the rejected images. If I saw a whole sequence I didn't like, I could choose Delete Photos and throw them away. Or, I could choose Shift X and walk through a sequence before using Ctrl-Backspace. It helps to keep Filmstrip View open - you can see what you're rejected.

The really nice thing about Lightroom 2 is the transportable catalog; in one place on your main drive, you compile previews, metadata, keywords, and other aspects of your digital photography. This catalog can be transferred to your laptop or vice versa. Because it compiles previews in a database, you can actually look at a picture while you add metadata although external hard drives which created that picture are either off-line or a studio. If you've been on a long shoot, just take the revised catalog from your laptop and put it on your desktop. Then, either update with new image information or catalog revisions from your daily grind.

In other words, get a lot of your work done on your laptop during the day, then shoot that next exciting batch of award winners at dawn and dusk.

Hey, did you forget about Michael?
Michael is the most highly awarded gold medalist ever to attend Olympics. He got there because he was determined, trained hard, performed well, and won.

May I suggest you do the same with digital photography workflow! Use Lightroom 2, import your images and create a copyright. This copyright will carry forward to all subsequent images. Sort them later and add distinctive keywords.
That way, when you get home, with your deliberate workflow steps, you can quickly rank and pick winners for further work, with brilliant new adjustment tools from Lightroom 2. Or, when available in the next month or so, the panoply of additional digital development features in Adobe Photoshop CS4.

Train yourself, enjoy a dutiful workflow, and you too, can have award-winning images and happy clients!

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