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Giving Up and Using Lightroom

How I finally gave in and joined every other photographer by using Lightroom.

If you’re a photographer you use Lightroom. Yes. I know. We all do. Except I didn’t until very recently. I didn’t like it, it was no help with an iPad only workflow, and I was not going to pay Adobe a subscription. But then I did.

And it’s so good. I started to feel annoyed with myself for holding out so long, until I realised it was only a couple of month ago that it got the features on the iPad that made it so good.

So What Was I Using Before?

Apple Photos. It was good enough, and the convenience of having all my photos with me everywhere and available to any app that wanted to use a photo was too much to give up. Still is – I still plan to export everything decent into Photos too. The problem was the workflow for culling and editing.

Culling? Going through the hundreds of photos you’ve taken while on a shoot, and picking out the good ones. If you don’t take many photos, it doesn’t sound like something that would be difficult. Flick through the 20 or 30 photos you took that day, and send the good ones to your friends. Done. It’s a bit different if you’ve taken 500 or 1,000. I reasonably often do that in one shoot, and many photographers do a lot more. Wedding photographers can easily take 2,000 or more in a day. Going through that many takes time. And if each one takes a few seconds longer than it should, it can take a lot of time.

With Photos, flicking through them was easy enough. But to mark the good ones and the bad ones (‘picks’ and ‘rejects’) took far too much doing. It doesn’t have any sort of ‘flags’ like that, so I had to improvise. The best ones, I’d add to a temporary album to build them into a list, then move them all together into an album next to the one with everything in it. The rejects? I just kept them. I knew I should delete the real rubbish, to save space, but it took too long. Each of those ‘picks’ meant tapping ‘share’, tapping ‘add to album’, then tapping the ‘tmp’ album.

Editing wasn’t so bad. The editing tools in iPadOS (or iOS 13) are pretty decent, and the ‘presets’ or ‘filters’ are quite good too. But if I needed to remove something from the photo, like a distracting twig or a stray lump of mascara, I’d have to use Affinity Photo, which meant exporting to there, doing the edits, then importing back into Photos.

How Lightroom is Better

Getting the photos into Lightroom in the first place is about the same. But culling is so much faster. Flick through the photos just the same way. But to flag a photo as a ‘pick’, just swipe a finger upwards on the right side of the screen. Or downwards to reject. The left side of the screen does star ratings – just swipe to change the rating. Getting through 100+ photos only takes a few minutes. Way less time than I’d spend in Photos doing the same thing.

Editing one photo isn’t much different to Photos, really, though the tools are a lot more flexible, and you can save your own presets. Make a style you like? Save it, and apply it to other photos with a couple of taps.

When you’re editing a batch of photos, though, things get much better. Usually, in a shoot, there are a whole lot of photos that are all pretty similar. Often, you want to editing them all pretty much the same way. Easy. Do the first one. Select it, and ‘copy’. Select all the others, and ‘paste’. Lightroom copies the same settings over to all the other photos in a batch.

I’m pretty sure it would be an understatement to say I can deal with a batch of photos in a tenth of the time now.

Exporting

This was where things had got tricky. To use photos on PigPog, I export them all at a standard size. Then I give them all a standard name, with a number on the end of each photo. That makes it possible to find the photos again later in WordPress. If they’re all called ‘DSC00253’ and such like, I can’t find a photo of Lauren, or of a Mini, when I want to use one again.

Photos doesn’t let you choose a size when exporting. Exporting a batch using Shortcuts should work, but in practice, it just doesn’t work at all if you select more than a few photos at once. Affinity Photo has a batch routine, which could do the resizing as I wanted it, but left them all with the original file names from the camera. I’d sort of got a workaround by doing that, then using File Browser Go to rename them. But it meant a lot of manual steps and moving files around.

Welp, turns out Lightroom does all that too. Export at specified size and quality, naming the files as it goes.

No Problems, Then?

Oh, I wouldn’t say that. Importing form Photos to Lightroom takes too long. And it tends to crash partway through large imports, so I have to retry them multiple times. It’s taken me eight goes to get a batch into Lightroom, which is pretty annoying. Sometimes exports just fail to export some of the files, and only usually bothers to tell me it failed. So I have to check afterwards to make sure the right number of files actually got exported. The interface is mostly functional rather than actually pretty. I got the subscription that included the Mac version of Lightroom CC, and that’s terrible. Can’t even drag and drop photos into it. You have to import them from a dialog box that thinks it can browse the Photos library, but just sits there trying. I gave up – it’s actually worse than the iPad version to use.

Extra space is expensive. It would also cost me twice as much to add Photoshop, but since I only really use my iPad, that’s not worth worrying about – I don’t think I’ve seen anyone attempt to claim Photoshop on the iPad is even close to being as good as Affinity Photo, so I’ll stick to that. If the workflow between Lightroom and Photoshop is slick enough when Photoshop finally gets enough features to be useful, maybe it’ll be worth considering.

Intended Workflow

I haven’t actually done a shoot since starting this, as the weather has been pretty bad, but my plan goes something like this for new shoots:

  • Import into Lightroom straight from the camera or SD card.
  • Go through the album, marking picks and rejects.
  • Edit the picks.
  • Export the picks ready for PigPog and for delivery to the model if it’s a modelling shoot.
  • Export full-sized photos for everything but rejects into Photos. At this point, I have copies in two separate clouds, which makes for a decent enough backup system.
  • Delete the rejects.

If I later start to run short of space in Creative Cloud, I can always delete old shoots from Lightroom and just keep them in Photos. 1Tb should last me quite a while, though, especially if I’m deleting the really bad shots and duplicates.

Conclusion

Yes, there are some negatives, but being able to process a batch of hundreds of photos in a tenth of the time (probably less, really, that’s just a guess) is very much worth it. I love my photography, but it’s a hobby for me, so something that saves so much time with it means I can actually take more photos, and create more posts here.

4 replies on “Giving Up and Using Lightroom”

Hi T-Bird – depends what you’d call low cost, really, but the package I’m using is around $10 a month. The iPad-only account with a lot less storage is half that, but still isn’t what most would call ‘low cost’. Worth it if you’re doing a lot of photography, especially taking a lot of photos at a time, but not so much so if you just take a few.

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