#CreativeFriday – Notes from the field, editing and travelling with Lightroom 5

This weeks post is just a short one, as I am still on a Photographic Trip in the fast paced city of Mumbai. I have just completed a two week photographic trip of India’s colour festival known as Holi as well as Tribal villages in Gujarat. I think there is some great stuff and will be posting images and how to edit’s when I return back to the UK, Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC updates are really going to make the images look super.

This is the first real photographic trip I have been on since we released Lightroom 5 and the new features. There have been two features in Lightroom 5 that have really stood out on this trip, when it comes to working and reviewing images when away from the studio and in transit and I wanted to share them with you, just in case you are not aware or using them.

Photographic trips are pretty intense and usually require a lot of time in vehicles(of one type or another) or tents, when not shooting :-

  • The ability to add images and keyword on a daily basis.
  • Inclusion of GPS tracking data on image import.
  • Full Screen in Lightroom 5
  • Smart Previews
  • Back to the Studio planning

The ability to add images and keyword on a daily basis.

Ok this is standard stuff. However, every day there is a shoot going on and depending on the location could take a few hours or more to get there, there isn’t typically a lot of time in front of the computer to work on images. However, between getting back to the hotel and before heading out for dinner, there is usually a quick 10 minutes of upload and back up time. It turns out that actually moving to a smaller system has reduced my number of shots on a daily basis to around 450 rather than the 1500 that I used to shoot on a DSLR, primarily because I am manually focusing, setting the aperture (mostly under F4) and thinking about framing and exposure much more as part of the capture. Which results in card only taking 10 minutes or so and allows a little more time to include some keywords on the images as part of the bulk import into Lightroom.

Inclusion of GPS tracking data on image import.

I used to always struggle with names of villages in remote places around the globe and tracking locations (even the guides don’t always know the names sometimes), as well as being very disorientated when moving quickly from place to place. This could be an import part of a story that will help orient the viewer/reader, so I have found that accuracy of places names and spelling is an important data element. I decided to invest in a GPS module for this and future trips, and take the guess work out of the equation, and no longer have to guess these village names that are visited in a day and type them into Lightroom as part of an import mechanism (Love GPS data (well they say that it’s all about Location, Location, Location!)), (To have this feature working, you will need an internet connection and enable the Reverse Geocoding options, available in the Catalog settings dialog box).

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 16.38.00

(You may want to turn off the Export check box to keep the location safe).

Having the ability to include the GPS coordinates for each image really takes the guess work out in Lightroom, and even with a dodgy internet connection in Indian hotels, I can see immediately where the shots where taken, and include this data on the keyword meta data of the appropriate data.

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 15.30.07

Due to these workflow changes my upload and keywording for around 450 images now takes under 10 minutes ! This makes for a very happy travel photographer ! Time for Dinner.

Smart Previews

Whilst I am at dinner and the batteries are charging for the next day shoot, i’ll usually make use of the additional time and build Smart Previews for the images from within the Lightroom import module, or if i forget from within the Library module (explained below)

When you import in Lightroom there is a “File Handling” drop down option, positioned on the left hand side of the screen. Under here the “Build Smart Previews” can be found.

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 15.35.25


There is of course another way of creating Smart Previews, just in case you forget, or would like to create the Smart Previews on more than just this import, or even on selection of images. From within the Library module under the menu item, select Library / Previews / Build Smart Previews (there is also a discard Smart Previews as well, that will clear out any Smart Previews that you have built).

I get asked a lot of the time “When is the best time to use the Smart Previews option” ? Smart previews were designed to allow working on an image when the full version is not available (i.e. if the disk is powered down etc). I tend not to use Smart Previews at the studio as my drives will be turned on and everything is available. Also, the Smart Previews take up physical space, which is more than a standard preview and are stored next to the catalog  (Once of my folders is 27.5GB on the disk and 1.1GB as Smart Previews), In this case I would rather use the original image. This isn’t to say that i won’t use Smart Previews in the studio, but it will be a selective edit for when the images are not available.

NB. You will need to manage the Smart Previews manually and discard them from the menu item under the Library module – Library / Previews / Discard Smart Previews. Lightroom will not automatically clean up the smart previews after a designed amount of time as it will for standard previews.

I will however, use Smart Previews all of the time when I am travelling or showing work to clients back home. Disk space on the computer is limited and don’t want to have 10GB+ of images just sat there, I also don’t want to have to plug in and carry additional hard drives with me all of the time. So Smart previews for me were the best thing in Lightroom 5. I am now able to Pick/Unpick, Rank, Quick Edits in Development mode, Full screen etc whilst on the go (planes, trains, cars and boats), and not risk the integrity of my images (or external drive due to a collision with an air hostess’s trolley for example).

Full Screen in Lightroom 5

Now that a Smart Preview of the image is available to me all of the time, even when the external drive is not, I can regulary review when ever the chance appears and not have to worry about plugging drives in, getting set up etc. Smart Previews are not full width and full resolution, infact they are highly lossy portable files, but give me an amazing representation when the original images when they are not available. I will typically use the new Full Screen mode ‘F’ key to Pick/Unpick and rank the images when on the go.

I personally find it liberating to be able to work on any image at any time when the external drive is not attached, however, if any work is done on any image then it’s import to make sure that you tell the external drive about it.

As an additional item, i’ll always make sure that the travel catalog as well as my master catalog in the studio has the Write XMP data to the side card file. This setting can be found under the Lightroom / Catalog Settings / Metadata tab – Automically write changes into XMP file (see below). This file is very important and would strongly suggest that it is turned on in all of your catalogs. It will ensure that any changes in Lightroom (keywords, development settings etc) are stored against the original image as well as in the Lightroom catalog. If anything was every to happen to the Lightroom catalog and you didn’t back it up, then this way will ensure that you keep any edits or changes. Lightroom will ensure that this file is up to date all of the time when the images are available (they may be disconnected, as in this post).

My workflow uses the DNG format as well as propriety RAW formats. For propriety RAW formats like Canon’s CR2 file or Fuji’s RAF format, the XMP file will sit next to the original file with the same name and a .XMP extension. As the DNG file is a container format, it works differently from the propriety file. It contains similar information, but can also contain other information as well (including original RAW file, meta data (XMP) files, plus others). The XMP file will be embedded into the DNG file and not along side it, this makes it easier for portability later, as only one file needs to move and not two.

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Once the External drive is next plugged into the computer (typically at the end of the shoot the next day), i’ll take the images that I have worked on (just by selecting either the root folder or the individual folder, depending on what’s been have changed, then selecting all of the images (modified or not), using CMD (Mac)/CTRL (PC) and A, then pressing CMD(Mac)/CTRL(PC)+S to save the metadata changes to the external disk.

You may have noticed that I have “Day2” on the meta data panel for the folder name. Whilst  away, I tend to use a simple Day 1, Day 2 system and at home a RAW 1, RAW2, which allows me to store the files from all of the cameras that I have shot with and keep track of which day I am on, but also fits into the main structure of my main catalog  with a simple folder rename.

(My master structure may look a little odd as nothing relates back to where I have been, the shoot or anything back to the physical world. My Lightroom and folder system relies on a commitment to key wording so it’s import for me to have this strict process within my workflow upon Import as well as additional key words once the images have been imported). More details can be found about this approach in the great book “The DAM Book, Digital Asset Management for Photographers – by Peter Krogh”.

Back to the Studio

Eventually when I get back to the studio, transfer of the data from my external drive to my master catalog is relatively simple. I just need to rename the folders to fit into the master folder structure, then copy everything from the external drive that was with me on the trip to the main drive. Then inside Lightroom I will either import the new folders using the import mechanism inside Lightroom or just synchronise the catalog to make sure that Lightroom has all of the changes.


“Getting ready to be painted at Holi.”





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