A Moving Experience

By Mark

I hope everyone had a happy Easter.

Sometimes we take the basics for granted and need to take a step back in order to get our bearings.   Lightroom is intended to allow photographers to spend more time working with our pictures and less time trying to manage the computer storing them.   Often people who learned on other systems where they had to manage remembering where all the pictures are stored can be frustrated when they can’t find their images.  Here are a few reminders that LR has plenty of tools to help.  Let’s start with a few pointers.  It really doesn’t matter where your images are physically stored to LR. You can have images scattered across multiple external drives or CDs or other media.  LR is a database which tracks a pointer to the actual file, but what you see on your screen is a very small smart preview of your picture.  All of the editing details and the metadata are part of that database.  This is part of what makes it so fast; you aren’t actually doing anything to your image until you export it.  Everything else is pure math.   For convenience sake though we STRONGLY recommend that you keep all your images in a single folder. 

Let’s take a half step back first and look at some fundamentals of Navigation in LR.

The left side of the Library screen gives you your major organizational functions.

·       Navigator shows only the current selected image

·       Catalog shows the summary information for the current catalog as well as some of the most common tools such as Quick Collection and Previous Import

·       Folders display the physical locations for the images in your catalog

·       Collections represent your own choice for logical groupings of images in your catalog

Publish Services are predefined methods for sharing your images onto common Social Media platforms.

We are going to focus on the Folders Panel.    I keep my Pictures in a cleverly titled top level folder called Marks Lightroom Photographs.  

Below that level they are grouped by Decade, as I have a lot of old family photos and am the archivist for the entire extended family.  Within each decade I set up a new folder every year and then adjust my import preset to automatically add each download to a new folder.  For the record there is no requirement to do this.  LR tracks the data from the cameras and it knows when the images were shot.  This is just how I like to see them.

Occasionally folders will wind up temporarily in my C: drive.  It is a solid state drive and relatively small, so I try not to have any files or documents beyond the OS and program files stored there.  It slows down the drive.  Now if I were to go out to Windows and move them, then LR would lose track of them and I would have to re-link the files.  Fortunately that is not necessary.

All you need to do is drag those folders to the location you want inside LR.  It moves them and doesn’t lose them.

For this blog I moved two folders-03-31 and 04-05 onto my C: drive.  I just dragged them into my 2015 folder and problem solved.

Another common question is how to find where a picture is located when you are looking at it.  Pretty simple, just right click on the image itself and this menu will open up.  

You can choose to see the LR folder or have the location open up in Windows explorer.   That is pretty easy and pretty helpful.  

Funny Bunny Napkins

Funny Bunny Napkins

Old Familiar Places

By Roger (6 April 2015)

I love to travel with my camera. If you're looking for someone to travel far and often, I'll volunteer. I've been lucky enough to move from city to city around the US and to several in other countries. I really love to visit historic locations and lived, for six years, in a city that was more than 2,000 years old. It is such a thrill to see new places; have unique experiences; and meet new people. You want to put all of it into your camera.

Narrow streets of a medieval town, Poznan, Poland

Narrow streets of a medieval town, Poznan, Poland

At the same time, don't forgo frequent visits to a nearby location. There are many advantages to photographing in an area you are familiar with.

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

For me, a good example is Williamsburg, Virginia. It's just a couple of hours from where we live now, and we used to live even closer. Both of my daughters graduated from the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg. Mark and I led the Worldwide Photowalk there for three years. I've walked the streets of Williamsburg many, many times. I know I will be back there, again.

If you've never been there, you might be overwhelmed by the whole spectacle. The walk around it is about 2 miles, and some of the best attractions for photographers are not obvious. The weather may not be favorable to make the photographs you hoped for. You probably don't have time to investigate all the locations and displays. There is never enough time.

Because of my familiarity with the town, I have favorite spots: locations where something is always going on; locations that have great photo subjects and backgrounds; locations to watch and photograph people.

I didn't see this shot the first time I visited.

I didn't see this shot the first time I visited.

The first time you visit a new location, you feel compelled to bring all your gear, so you're ready for everything. (Or is that just me?) Carrying a heavy load of gear will slow you down and give you back problems. These distractions can impact your ability to get the shot you want. For places I visit frequently, I know which lenses worked best and which ones to leave at home. The whole experience is different when you know you can re-visit a location. I don't feel bad if I can't get the shot I planned – I'll just put that on my list for the next visit.

Also, if you pay attention during your post-processing, you'll notice things that can help you on your next visit. We have a somewhat famous cherry blossom festival, here in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Mark and I have been to it a few times. Most people cram around the far side of the Reflecting Pool, wherever they can find a space, and point their cameras at the Jefferson Memorial. The sun rises behind the memorial, so it's a pretty shot.

The Jefferson Memorial, with a crescent moon

The Jefferson Memorial, with a crescent moon

I've post-processed many photos from here and have had time to reflect on what I should have done better. Our photo group is headed there in a couple of weeks, so I went out, this past weekend, to verify a certain spot that gives me an angle most will miss. I took several reference shots, zoomed in, with just the memorial. No one else was there because the blossoms are still buds. The blossoms are later than usual due to our cold winter. Can you see the detail I wanted in the photo below?

I hope those clouds are there in two weeks.

I hope those clouds are there in two weeks.

When you arrive at the proper time for this shot, it is still dark. Which makes sense, right? You can't catch the sunrise behind the memorial if arrive when it's light out. You can't see into the rotunda that early. I want to be able to see old TJ between the columns, with the sunrise as a backlight. Because I've been there several times, I know this location. New photographers won't even know to look for it. This is another advantage to going back to a location several times. I found this view when I was post-processing the 2013 photo. That time, I just got lucky in my choice of location. Luck is not something you should plan on when making photographs.

100% zoom

100% zoom

So, don't be afraid to go back to a location more than once. The more familiar places offer opportunities to improve on your skills; allow you to be more relaxed; and give you time. Time to thoroughly think through and make the photo you want – although, my offer to travel some place new still stands. Have fun.

Organize Yourself Further

By Roger (9 August 2014)

We left off, last week, deciding where to physically put our photo files. I recommend you put them all in one master folder. Decide how, or if, you want to use any sub-folders inside the master folder. We haven't started importing all the files, just located them in a single place to make them easier to find and back-up. 

Organization  doesn't have to be onerous. It's a simple matter of thinking through your options and choosing what works best for you.  The workflow that fits you best will allow you to maintain control over all your photos and implement it naturally.

For best results, organization.

For best results, organization.

Before we begin to import the photos into Lightroom, we have a similar decision to the one we made about file location: Do you want one catalog or multiple catalogs?

The Lightroom catalog is the database of your photo and video files. It does not contain your photo files, it links to their hard drive location and shows you a preview of the image. Backing up your photo files is different than backing up your Lightroom catalog. You need to do both. For the most efficient back-up strategy, I just put the Lightroom catalog into the same “Photos” folder as my photo files. You can make a sub-folder for the Lightroom files if you want to keep them all together. When my computer backs up the folder “Photos”, it backs up my files and my catalogs.

The question still remains: one or multiple catalogs? If you put everything into one big catalog, you can view, develop, and add amplifying information to your photos, without ever needing to open a different catalog. Adobe says there is no limit to the number of photos you can put into one catalog, and I've never seen it reach a limit. I have heard people say that performance gets sluggish after 100,000, but you never know if they had an old computer, with only 4GB of RAM. I believe Mark uses only one catalog since he is a big fan of creating collections inside Lightroom.

To me, the disadvantage of one catalog is the mixing of photos when I don't want them mixed. I have a main catalog and a family catalog. I receive lots of photos from my family – and I didn't make them – so I don't want them in my main catalog. Yes, I put the actual photographer into my metadata and could sort things out in one catalog, but I don't find it a problem switching between Lightroom catalogs. When my family members sit at my computer to look at photos, they usually aren't looking at my landscapes. They want to see photos of family members.

The main disadvantage to my method is when family members' photos were made in conjunction with other event photos. What if you went on a fun trip and were accompanied by family? Do I put all the photos in my main catalog, family catalog, or separate them when I import them to Lightroom? You decide, but I separate them. For example, my grandchildren went with me to one of the Gettysburg sesquicentennial shoots. If I wanted to make a slide show of everything that happened that day, I would have to get the photos from two different catalogs. I put the cavalry charges in my main catalog and the ones with the kids petting the horses in the family catalog. It makes the most sense to me, and, really, how often would I create a slide show? To date, the family has never asked me if I can create one, so everyone can spend the evening with my photos. ;-)

Cute snapshot from Gettysburg, but I don't want it in my main LR catalog.

Cute snapshot from Gettysburg, but I don't want it in my main LR catalog.

Have you decided on your approach to organize everything? Good, now stick to it for six months before you implement any big changes to your workflow. You can change your mind, but changing everything around is a waste of time that you could be using for making new photos. Whatever your plan, thinking through your options will make the task easier.

Organize Yourself

By Roger (31 July 2014)

The other day, we were developing a Lightroom class and trying to figure out exactly what we wanted to say to help new photographers better understand the importance of organizing their workflow overall, but especially for Lightroom. (By the way, the latest version of Lightroom, 5.6, was released today.) This work needs to be thought out, to some degree, before you even begin to import your photos into Lightroom. I can hear you starting to question that, but let me finish. Lightroom can handle whatever kind of organization you create, but, the more you think it through, the better your system will work for you.

Seward, Alaska. I wouldn't want to lose this file.

Seward, Alaska. I wouldn't want to lose this file.

New photographers are too often looking for a one-size-fits-all checklist, and it just doesn't exist. You can find numerous organizational variations with every Lightroom user you talk to. However, there are some best practices you'll see repeated from experienced users. Use those if they make sense to you.

The fact that you can set things up in any number of ways can lead to indecision about which way is the “right” way. The right way is the way that make the most sense for you. The right way feels so right for you that you'll keep doing it, time after time. The right way is the way to keep you consistently able to find any of your photos, at the very time you need them, with minimal effort. Over the next couple of blogs, I'll give you some suggestions to help you decide what works best for you.

The first thing you need to decide, again, before you get started with importing photos, is where to put the files. My desktop computer came with two hard drives, so I keep the programs on one drive and data on the other. Your photos will quickly begin to grab hard drive space as you take more and more of them, so make sure you have a sizable drive to hold them. If your main computer is a laptop, I recommend you get an external drive (at least one terabyte) for home and a small, portable one if you travel.

Now that you have the designated data drive, you need to plot out your filing scheme. This is the closest thing to a rule I'll write about today – put all your photos into a single folder. Mine is cleverly called “Photos.” Name it whatever you want, but put all your photos into this folder. This makes back-ups easier because you can point your software to this one folder, and you can be confident you have all your files. If there is ever a time you don't use Lightroom to find your files, you'll at least know the folder to begin with. I, also, keep my Lightroom databases in this folder, but we aren't to that point, yet.

Technically, you could be done with your folders. You can put all the photo files into that one folder, and Lightroom can handle them all there. If you want a little more depth to your filing system, you can create sub-folders of your choosing. Most people do create sub-folders, and here is where things get varied.

My opinion is you should keep it as simple as possible in your sub-folders. You might think of subdividing your “Photos” folder in many ways: subject; camera; time; relationship; or themes. If you create a folder for family, a folder for friends, a folder for strangers, and a folder for landscapes, you've just complicated your import process. Let's say you shot some wonderful photos, during the family vacation trip from Virginia, visiting friends in Tennessee, en route to the Grand Canyon. Using highly detailed sub-folders, you'll have to divide all those photos into their individual locations. If you shot the photos in the raw format (which we strongly recommend), you can't even view them with your standard browser. You can do this when you open Lightroom, but you'll have to perform several import actions, instead of just one, since Lightroom will import your photos into only one folder at a time.

Just to show you how complicated this type of folder system becomes, into which folder will you put a photo of your kid, standing by your family friend, smiling in front of a sunset over the Grand Canyon? Please, don't say you'll put copies of photo in each folder!

You could put all of them into a "Vacation" sub-folder. But will you put next year's vacation photos into the same Vacation folder or will you create a new one? Maybe add the location to Vacation or the year.  How will you handle a vacation to several places on one trip? If you want this kind of sub-folder naming convention, try to think it through.

Even though you don't need any sub-folders under "Photos," many are just determined to have some kind of sub-folder structure – me included. My sub-folders are simply by year. It makes me feel better to do it this way because I've cataloged my photos by year since I started. I can't give you a better reason than that. However, one advantage to my system is that I only have to do one import action. I'm not a fan of lots of sub-folders, and this solution keeps the number lower than the one in the paragraphs above. I'm not telling you this is the only way or best way; it is just my way.

For full disclosure, I have two other sub-folders: Scans and Others. Inside “Scans,” I have my old negatives and slides. I, also, put in scans of old paper photographs of family. “Others” is where I put photos from other photographers. For example, my kids' wedding photographs; camera phone photos that were sent to me; or any other photos I've been given that aren't my work. They are all cataloged in Lightroom, and it could find them in my “Photos” folder. I just keep them in separate sub-folders because I like it that way.

Later, you can change or refine whatever filing system you decide on, but try to think through before you begin to minimize your hassles. At one time, I had sub-sub-folders in my yearly sub-folders for each month, but I soon realized they were superfluous and just kept one for each year.

So, take some time to think through your organization scheme before you try to implement it. Notice, we haven't even opened Lightroom, but I know where all my photos reside and simplified my back-up plan. We'll get into some Lightroom organization next week. Have fun!

Marion, Massachusetts

Marion, Massachusetts