Some changes going on around here...
28 Jan 2008

I think you all know how big of a fan of Capture One I am. I've been using it for a few years, and it makes tethered and remote capture super simple whether it's batch applying settings or making it braindead simple to convert images from Raw to a whole set of other formats. I usually output TIFF, 2 versions of JPEGs and sometimes thumbnails. Click, click, click, it's done and I almost never go into Photoshop for editing. All that came to a screeching halt recently with the addition of a new iMac to my studio and the soon-to-be upgrade to Leopard. It turns out, Capture One Pro won't work tethered with Canons (not sure about Nikons) on Leopard. I just want to note for the record, that Vista isn't the only OS with problems on upgrading, even if they don't have silly cool ads pointing fingers. Leopard is NOT all puppies and sunshine. But, anyway, that's besides the point. The real point is that between the lack of Leopard support along with the changes to Capture One 4, it seems I was going to need to be finding some new software. I had already been intent on trying a few new apps... something to manage my ever growing library of images. I'm starting to do some stock photography work with one (and maybe two) of the big rights managed agencies (Stockfood right now, and Jupiter Images' FoodPix as soon as I can get my act together) and so having a great way to keep track of what I've submitted to who is going to be critical.

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There are lots of apps that help you organize a large collection of photos, but I'm pretty picky when it comes to this sort of thing. When I was at Microsoft, we designed a product (Digital Image Library which influenced the design of the Vista photos functionality) to do this, and I've spent months thinking about the ideal way that I like to manage my images. Unfortunately, that product is aimed at people with far fewer photos than I have and it doesn't really scale to the degree I need it to. After giving a few apps a shot, including iView Media Pro (now Microsoft Expression Media), Aperture and Adobe Lightroom, I think I've settled on one. And surprise! It's Lightroom. The app I much disliked when I tested it in beta many months ago.
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At that point, Lightroom was pretty, but unworkably slow. I also found that the Raw editing capabilities ended up leaving me with some very weird looking images... they'd look fine in Lightroom, but the exported files looked horrible. The final released version seems to have none of these problems. It's quite zippy (of course, that may be in part my shiny new machine), and it solves more problems than I even needed it too. It's my new tethered shooting solution (although to be fair, it takes quite a few hacks to make this work as it isn't natively supported), and I quickly move from a series of shots to finished images all in the same app. My favorite feature, and one that Capture One was missing, is the ability to compare a few separate images side by side to help you pick exactly the right one. There is also a great before/after edits feature. If you are going to start using Lightroom (there is a 30 day free trial, so you can give it a go), there are a couple of hacks I recommend giving a try. First off, to shoot tethered you need to make sure you install the software that came with your camera. You'll actually be using that to do the communication with the camera. Setup that software to copy the captured photos to a specific folder. Then, you'll need to set Lightroom to automatically import from that folder (File->Auto Import). I have mine set to move the photos out of the capture folder into a folder called Auto Imported Photos (this is the default). Once you have that setup, and turned on (there is a toggle in the same menu), you can start shooting and the images will automatically start appearing. There are some downsides. First off, the most recent images isn't already selected, so it doesn't just come up on screen as you shoot. Boo. I seriously miss this feature in Capture One. Another missing feature? It doesn't automatically apply the settings from the last image. It's easy to do with just two clicks... in the develop frame, there is a button for Previous. But, one of the drawbacks of not actually having Lightroom support true tethered shooting is that you will have a few work arounds. On the plus side, the Auto Import settings do let you apply metadata automatically, which makes sure that you get your copyright data in each file... something I find myself often forgetting to do. You can also apply a set of keywords as you import. Neat. The next hack is to make up for another great Capture One feature... the ability to add a customizable watermark on export. Lightroom does actually have a watermark on export functionality, but you can't change the font or font size, and I found it too large for the photos that I want to post to my website. No worries, this one is a pretty easy one to solve using Photoshop actions. First of all, go to Lightroom Extra and download the Copyright watermark script found under Downloads->Other Goodies. Follow the instructions in the readme for installing the script into Photoshop. Then, you'll need to create your own action. This is a little tricky... but once the script is installed, you start to record a new action and then select the script in File->Scripts (it's called kw_addCopyright). Next, I add a color profile conversion... switching the image to Generic RGB which is helps my images look the same across web browsers. You don't have to do this, but if you are posting your photos to the web, I recommend it and this is as good of place to do it as anything. Then, finish up your action with a save. Next, you'll need to create a droplet (File->Automate->Create Droplet), pick the action you just created, and tell it to save & close. Now, you'll need to find your Lightroom Export Actions folder. On Mac, it's probably under Library->Application Support->LightRoom. Put the new action there. Now, it will appear in the Export dialog box Post Processing drop-down (if you don't see a drop-down there, you may need to scroll your window. It took me forever to realize that the window had a scroll bar...). Select that, and then when you export, the images will automatically run Photoshop and put whatever copyright text you had in your EXIF data in a nice, clean way. OK... I know that wasn't exactly simple... but hang with me, I'm not quite done yet. Now you'll have your image watermarked, but how do you change the font size? You'll have to go back to that script you installed for that, and change it there. This means its not exactly easy to change for different images, but most of the time my guess is that you won't have to do that. If you do, just make a copy of the script and a new action using the alternate script. Changing the font in the script is pretty simple though. You just need to open it in a text editor (or double click in Finder on Mac and it will open up in the built in script editor). It looks like this: // PARAMETERS YOU CAN ADJUST // var AUTO_SAVE = false; // AUTOMATICALLY FLATTEN AND SAVE // DISABLED BY DEFAULT var BOTTOM_OFFSET = 10; // PIXEL OFFSET FROM BOTTOM var RIGHT_OFFSET = 10; // PIXEL OFFSET FROM RIGHT var FONT = "Gotham-Medium"; // FONT NAME (SYSTEM ID, IE "Arial") var SIZE = 3; // FONT SIZE IN PIXELS var FRONT_OPACITY = 50; // OPACITY OF WHITE TOP LAYER var SHADOW_OPACITY = 30; // OPACITY OF BLACK BOTTOM LAYER var SHADOW_OFFSET = 1; // PIXEL OFFSET OF BOTTOM LAYER var EMBED_PROFILE = true; // EMBED COLOR PROFILE IN JPEG ‚ TRUE/FALSE var JPEG_QUALITY = 10; I'm sure I'll find others along the way. If you are already using Lightroom and have any hints, please feel free to share them in the comments!


(In case you were wondering, I am an Amazon affiliate, and purchases from links in this post to Amazon may earn me a nickel or two... so thanks!).

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