Lightroom

The End of an Era: Lightroom 6.14 is the last update for Lightroom 6

Adobe has just released Lightroom 6.14, the last update for Lightroom 6 users. Therefore, this blogpost is only relevant for those of you who are still on Lightroom 6. If you've already moved  to Lightroom Classic CC (the subscription version of Lightroom, this message does not apply to you).

What's new in Lightroom 6.14

Lightroom 6.14 doesn't bring any new features. Only a couple of bug fixes and some new camera and lens support. Among the new cameras, the Sony Alpha 7RIII and the iPhone X are probably the most noteworthy. 

What should I do when I buy a new camera in 2018?

Well, you have three options, basically. If you stick with Lightroom 6, you can use the free Adobe DNG converter, which will be able to convert your new camera's files to DNG files which you will subsequently be able to import into Lightroom 6.

The DNG converter workflow. Image © Adobe

The DNG converter workflow. Image © Adobe

The second option is to upgrade to Lightroom Classic CC, the subscription version of Lightroom. Not only will you have continuous camera support, but you'll also gain access to all the new features you have been missing out on for the last 2 years, since Lightroom 6 was introduced. You can find a comprehensive video review of all the features in these blog posts (English, Dutch).

Finally, your last option would be to leave the Lightroom ecosystem altogether and switch to one of the many competing applications, such as Capture One, On1 Photo Raw, Luminar and the like. Personally, I won't be making that switch any time soon, as the only true Lightroom alternative is Capture One in my opinion (because it has database functionality in addition to being a raw developer), and this application doesn't support the Fujifilm GFX. Maybe Capture One think it's too much of a threat for their Phase One Medium Format systems, which are three times as expensive. I personally don't.

How can I upgrade to Lightroom 6.14?

The best way to upgrade is to not use the Adobe Application Manager but to use the direct installer links you find here. This way, you won't accidentally install Lightroom Classic CC instead of the 6.14 update.

December Lightroom Update

A New (and much better) Auto Tone algorithm

Good news for those of you who use Lightroom through Adobe's subscription model (either the full Creative Cloud suite or the Photography plan, including Photoshop). Adobe has just released Lightroom Classic CC 7.1. There are a number of bug fixes in this release, including a fix for the bug where Loupedeck users could not use their Loupedeck in specific languages. There's also support for a couple of new cameras, including the Sony Alpha 7 RIII. But, perhaps most importantly, there is an interesting improved feature: the Auto option in the Tone section of the Basic panel has been completely reworked. Contrary to the old version, the tool can now also change Vibrance and Saturation and it is less prone to produce overexposed results. It uses machine-learning technology and a database of thousands of photographs (and their edits) to come up with a better automatic correction of your images. I was never a fan of the old Auto, because it seemed to be very hit or miss to me... The new Auto however is, although not perfect, quite an improvement. It's definitely worth trying out.

In the above example, Lightroom's Auto did a remarkable job of correcting this severely underexposed image.

A slightly less extreme example, where Lightroom's new Auto helped to reveal sky detail.

Delete Color Mask Sample Points

Another small new feature is that you can now Alt/Option click on an individual color sample in the new color range mask tool, to remove existing sample points. If you're unfamiliar with the range mask tool, this blog post tells you all about it and the other new features. It's one of my favourite features of the October Lightroom Classic CC update.

Lightroom D850 users will be happy to hear that there is now tethering support for their camera.

New features in Lightroom CC

The improved Auto technology is also in the new cloud-centric Lightroom CC App (and in Lightroom for iOS and Android, for that matter).  Lightroom CC also received some other new features, such as:

  • Tone Curve
  • Split Toning
  • The ability to edit the Capture Time
  • A Full Screen mode (Shortcut: F)

What about Lightroom 6?

If you're a Lightroom 6 user, this update isn't for you. Adobe have announced there will be one more update 'towards the end of the year'. There probably won't be any new features in this update, but there might be support for some extra cameras. If you buy a new camera next year, you'll have to convert its raw files to DNG using the Adobe DNG Converter, if you still want to process the files in Lightroom 6.

Review: Western Digital My Passport Ultra 3TB

As a photographer, you can never have enough storage space. Especially if you’re of the traveling kind and your laptop’s internal hard drive is limited.

I already reported about one of my favorite external drives for traveling, the WD My Passport Pro (review here).

Now a while back, WD introduced a new portable drive, the My Passport Ultra. There is also a Mac version of this drive, the My Passport for Mac. Except for the name, both are identical, it’s just that one is pre-formatted for Windows and the other is pre-formatted for Mac. The review copy WD sent me was an Ultra. As I use a Mac, I changed the formatting to HFS+. Easy enough.

75000 raw files on a pack of cigarettes

The My Passport Pro is available in four colours. If you use more than one (e.g. one for data and one for backup), choosing different colours can help you tell the drives apart. 

The My Passport Pro is available in four colours. If you use more than one (e.g. one for data and one for backup), choosing different colours can help you tell the drives apart. 

Compared to the My Passport Pro with its built in dual drives and raid system, the My Passport Ultra technically is a lot simpler: inside is a typical 2.5 inch laptop drive (you have a choice between 0.5, 1, 2 and 3 TB). At 5400 rpm, the drive itself is no faster or slower than the majority of other small external drives. The interface is USB 3 (backwards compatible with USB 2). What really sets this drive apart is its size and weight, or rather lack thereof: the 3TB version I tested weighs less than 250 grams (0.5 pounds) and at 21 x 81 x 110 mm (0.83 x 3.21 x 4.33 inches) it is not much bigger than a pack of cigarettes. At an average of 40 Mb per raw file, this means it can contain 75000 raw photos. Seventy Five Thousand! On a drive that fits in a shirt pocket! There won't be any more room for those cigarettes then, but they're bad for your health anyway. The beauty is that it’s USB powered, so no need to lug around a power supply that sometimes weighs more than the actual drive.

Possible uses

As you know from this post, I use a separate SSD drive to store my Lightroom catalog on. But SSD memory is far too expensive and limited to store your actual images on. And that's where this My Passport Ultra comes in. There are a couple of ways to include the Ultra in a portable Lightroom workflow:

  1. If you are a high volume shooter, you can use it exclusively for image storage. As I mentioned, if you calculate at an average of 40 MB for a raw file, the drive will contain up to 75.000 of them. If you shoot JPEG only, you can easily multiply that by 5. Just make sure you make regular backups to another drive. You don't want to lose 75.000 images in one go! You could get another My Passport Ultra, obviously, but you could also opt for a cheaper, bigger external hard drive with a separate power supply which would cost about half. You would then leave the bulky backup drive at home (or in your hotel room) and take the My Passport Ultra with you when you go out the door. Never leave your backup drive and the drive with your originals together in your hotel room!
  2. If you normally store your images on your internal harddrive, you could use the Ultra as a small and lightweight backup-only drive, although in that case, you probably don't need the 3 TB model!
  3. Personally, I make a hybrid use of the drive: as I'm really paranoid about losing my images, especially while traveling, I import them to my My Passport Pro, which is set up in Raid 1. That means if one of both drives in the My Passport Pro fails, I still have my pictures. However, Raid 1 does not protect me from theft or fire or other damage, and that's where the My Passport Ultra comes in: I've split it into two partitions. One, 1 TB in size acts as a Time Machine backup for my MacBook Pro's internal 1 TB drive. The other, 2 TB in size acts as a backup for the My Passport Pro. I've attached some velcro to the back of the My Passport Ultra (and to the back of my laptop case) so I can easily attach the drive to my laptop when I'm working. 
The My Passport Pro which I reviewed separately contains two drives. You can set these up in Raid 0 (they act like one big, faster drive but when one drive fails, all data is lost), Raid 1 (everything you write on one drive is automatically mirrored to the second) or JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks) where they act as two different physical drives. The Pro has a Thunderbolt interface, which makes it more useful for Mac users than Windows users.

The My Passport Pro which I reviewed separately contains two drives. You can set these up in Raid 0 (they act like one big, faster drive but when one drive fails, all data is lost), Raid 1 (everything you write on one drive is automatically mirrored to the second) or JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks) where they act as two different physical drives. The Pro has a Thunderbolt interface, which makes it more useful for Mac users than Windows users.

The above use cases are just examples. I'm sure you can come up with your own ideas on how to use 3 TB of storage! 

Price

This drive exists in a 0.5, 1, 2 and 3 TB version. Personally, I don't know who would buy the 0.5 TB version unless you're a photographer with lots of self-restraint. The 3 TB version costs around € 200 / $ 200. You do pay a premium for the small form factor, but I find the price to be very reasonable, especially given its extreme portability.

My Passport Pro or My Passport Ultra?

The Pro and the Ultra are different drives for different needs. For me, the main advantage of the My Passport Pro lies in the fact that it saves to two drives automatically, offering an initial and automated backup. However, having said that, you still need a secondary backup of the data that's on a My Passport Pro. After all, the drive can get lost or stolen, too.

If you don't mind making your own backups (on my Macs, I use Shirtpocket's SuperDuper), for the price of one My Passport Pro 2+2 TB, you can buy two My Passport Ultra 3 TB drives, giving you more flexibility and more storage.

Conclusion

I like the My Passport Ultra a lot. It's so small and lightweight that you can bring it with you wherever you go. The only disadvantage I could come up with is that the drive's housing isn't shock-resistant or weather-sealed, which would undoubtedly have added to the weight, size and... price! Other than that, if you’re looking for a lot of storage in a light small, convenient package, then look no further. Especially for laptop users this USB-powered drive combines convenience with ample storage without adding much bulk. Just as always, make sure to back up your data. No drive, regardless of the manufacturer, is failsafe. 


An advanced Smart Filter workflow with Alien Skin Exposure and Nik Software Viveza

If you follow this blog or if you've read some of my eBooks, you know I love working with plug-ins. For example, for film simulation I really like Alien Skin's Exposure. For local edits like dodging and burning, I like the Control Point technology found in Viveza by Nik Software. In this video, I'll show you a way to combine the best of both worlds, all while keeping your effects completely re-editable.

Now that is one cool workflow, isn't it? I actually forgot to mention yet another advantage of the Smart Filter workflow in the video: if you double-click on the icon in yellow (see screenshot below), you enter the Smart Filter's Blending Options. In that dialog box, you can not only change the Blending Mode for extra effect, but you can also reduce the Opacity to globally scale back the effect of the plug-in without having to dial back all of the individual sliders!

screenshotExposure.png

I hope you learned something from this 12 minute video. If you did, imagine what you could take away from 70+ hours of video tutorials (and over 10 eBooks, and hundreds of Lightroom presets): for only a couple of more days, you can take advantage of the 5 Day Deal, a unique bundle of photography training resources (including some 5 hours of video training by yours truly) that normally retails for over $3.300, but that can now be purchased for only $127! With 39 top-notch instructors like Zack Arias, David duChemin, Lindsay Adler and Joel Grimes and one über-geeky Belgian-with-a-strange-accent (that would be me) you're bound to learn a ton!

You can grab that bundle here and you're not only doing yourself and your photography a favour: 10 percent goes to charity. Last year's 5 Day Deal raised over $200.000 this way!

If you still need some convincing, check out yesterday's announcement post!

Using the Angelbird 512 GB SSD2go pocket as a Catalog Drive with Lightroom

The Angelbird 512 GB SSD2go Pocket

The SSD2go pocket is one of the smallest, lightest external Solid State Drives there is.

The SSD2go pocket is one of the smallest, lightest external Solid State Drives there is.

During a recent tradeshow, I came across the people of Angelbird Technologies. Angelbird is an SSD storage developer and manufacturer.

So amongst other SSD solutions, they develop and manufacture external external Solid State Drives (SSDs). 

I was immediately struck by the simple and elegant design of their SSD2go pocket. When I suggested the drive might be an interesting option for photographers to store their Lightroom catalog on, I was offered to try one out. This drive is about as small as it gets for an external drive: it measures a mere 89.0 x 69.9 x 10.4 mm (3.5 x 2. 75 x 0.41 inch) and weighs only 90 grams without the cable. Speaking of which, I was happy to see that Angelbird uses a different kind of USB3 cable: one that looks like the old, standard USB2 cables. The main advantage is that this type of cable fits much tighter in the drive's and your computer's USB port. As I use this drive a lot plugged into my laptop when I'm running Lightroom, this diminishes the risk of me accidentally pulling out the drive's cable. Especially with the intended use of the drive as a Lightroom catalog drive, this is a big one, as (accidentally) disconnecting a catalog drive when Lightroom is still running can wreck all kinds of havoc, including catalog corruption! Not with this drive: I can actually have the drive dangle from my laptop and it still won't disconnect!

The USB3 cable has a much tighter fit than regular USB3 cables which adds an extra protection against accidental data loss or Lightroom catalog corruption, caused by inadvertently pulling the cable out of the USB port.

The USB3 cable has a much tighter fit than regular USB3 cables which adds an extra protection against accidental data loss or Lightroom catalog corruption, caused by inadvertently pulling the cable out of the USB port.

I won't bore you with the technical details (you can find those on the Angelbird website), but suffice to say that the drive is really fast: how does a Sustained Read Speed of up to 450 MB/s and a Sustained Write Speed of up to 390 MB/s sound? The Angelbird people seem to put a lot of attention to details: there's a five year warranty (still, don't forget to back up as no company will give you your data back), the unit comes with two cables and you can choose two lines of custom engraving to appear on the back of the drive. This is more than a gimmick: I put my website and telephone number on there, in case I ever lose the drive (with that minute size, something to consider!). For the fashion-conscious: you can choose between 4 colours. Again, this can be handy to easily tell drives apart. 

So, where does this drive fit in in a Lightroom workflow?

Working with two computers and an ECD (External Catalog Drive) 

Quite a number of photographers have two computers: a laptop and a desktop. As you might know, you can’t put your Lightroom Catalog on a network drive. Prior to Lightroom 5, if you kept your catalog on the internal drive of your desktop and you wanted to edit (part of ) your images on the laptop, you had to export those images as a catalog to an external drive, attach that drive to your laptop, open the exported catalog on your laptop, edit the images, and then reimport that changed catalog back into your main catalog on your desktop via File > Import from Another Catalog. If this sounds convoluted, well, it’s because it is; it’s definitely something for more advanced users and not something that you would want to do a couple times a day. 

The alternative used to be that you could put your catalog and also your images on one or more external drives and then attach those to the computer you wanted to work with. But large external drives aren’t easily transportable, nor are they meant to be! And they tend to be slower, too.

Smart Previews to the rescue!

Smart Previews, introduced in Lightroom 5, offer a solution: the workflow consists of putting your catalog (and therefore the regular Previews and the Smart Previews) on a fast external drive (I call this the ECD for ‘External Catalog Drive) such as the Angelbird SSD2go pocket. The images themselves can then reside on the internal drive of your desktop computer, or on yet another external drive normally connected to that desktop computer. 

You then simply connect the ECD to the computer you want to work on at that moment. On your desktop computer, you will be working on the originals; on your laptop you will be working on the Smart Previews. 

In my personal workflow, my Lightroom catalog contains references to some 130,000 images. These are on a Drobo 5D where they take about 4 TB of hard drive space. The catalog, Previews and Smart Previews are on an external 512 GB SSD2go pocket. The Smart Previews ‘weigh’ only about 100 GB. I can control the size of the ‘regular’ Previews (which are larger than the Smart Previews) via the options in the File Handling tab found under Lightroom > Catalog Settings (Mac) or Edit > Catalog Settings (Windows). 

In my personal workflow, my Lightroom catalog contains references to some 130,000 images. These are on a Drobo 5D where they take about 4 TB of hard drive space. The catalog, Previews and Smart Previews are on an external 512 GB SSD2go pocket. The Smart Previews ‘weigh’ only about 100 GB. I can control the size of the ‘regular’ Previews (which are larger than the Smart Previews) via the options in the File Handling tab found under Lightroom > Catalog Settings (Mac) or Edit > Catalog Settings (Windows). 

When I want to work on my laptop, I will quit Lightroom on my desktop computer, disconnect the ECD, connect it to the laptop, start up Lightroom, open the catalog from the ECD and work on that. 

When I want to work on my laptop, I will quit Lightroom on my desktop computer, disconnect the ECD, connect it to the laptop, start up Lightroom, open the catalog from the ECD and work on that. 

When I’m finished working on the laptop, I will quit Lightroom, disconnect the ECD, reconnect to the desktop, start up Lightroom, open the catalog from the ECD, and all the edits I’ve made while working on my laptop will automatically be transferred to the high-resolution originals on my Drobo. 

When I’m finished working on the laptop, I will quit Lightroom, disconnect the ECD, reconnect to the desktop, start up Lightroom, open the catalog from the ECD, and all the edits I’ve made while working on my laptop will automatically be transferred to the high-resolution originals on my Drobo. 

 

POWER TIP: If you also put the Mac and Windows trial versions of Lightroom 5 (which you can download from the Adobe website) in a folder on your ECD, then you can literally open your catalog anywhere in the world, even if you don’t have your own computer on hand; just install the trial version on any (compatible) computer and you can get started!

Adding a 'Work in Progress' folder to the mix

If you have some spare space on your ECD, you can add a 'Work in Progress' folder: this is handy to store your latest images, or for example images you shoot while traveling. Once I no longer need the high resolution original raw files on the ECD, I simply move them - in Lightroom - to my Drobo, making room on the ECD for new 'work in progress' images.

If you have some spare space on your ECD, you can add a 'Work in Progress' folder: this is handy to store your latest images, or for example images you shoot while traveling. Once I no longer need the high resolution original raw files on the ECD, I simply move them - in Lightroom - to my Drobo, making room on the ECD for new 'work in progress' images.

Technically, my Lightroom Catalog and previews could fit on a 256 GB model, yet, I opted for the larger size for two reasons: it gives me some extra headroom for when my catalog grows (each extra file I import means I need to put about a 5 MB 1:1 preview and a 1.5 MB Smart Preview on the ECD) but it also allows me to put a 'Work in Progress' folder on the ECD: this is especially useful if you want to be able to edit files not only in Lightroom but also in Photoshop. Smart Previews can only be edited in Lightroom. So, I make it a habit to import recent files to a 'Work in Progress' folder on the Angelbird SSD2go pocket. This allows me to edit them in Photoshop or plug-ins, even when I'm on my laptop!

Catalog Backups

One thing to watch out for is your catalog backup: make sure that you’re even more rigorous than otherwise when it comes to making backups because external drives of course run a higher risk of getting lost or stolen, or—in the case of the classical, rotating drives—to fail. So, save your catalog backups on the internal drive of the desktop or laptop (or alternating between both) and verify in the back-up dialog window whether Lightroom is indeed backing up to the correct drive. Now that Lightroom 6 compresses your catalog backups, this extra security costs you even less in terms of storage space.

Isn't Dropbox an alternative?

An alternative to using an ECD would be to store your catalog (and the Previews and Smart Previews) on Dropbox. However, that not only requires a paid subscription (the free accounts are too small to store anything but a minute catalog) and moreover, it requires rigourous attention to waiting for your catalog to sync across your systems before opening it up on the other machine. Otherwise, you risk opening an outdated catalog and the longer it takes to realize that, the bigger mess you're in. Also, synching larger catalogs and previews can take quite a while. Therefore, the Dropbox route is one I don't personally use nor particularly recommend.

A little bit of Velcro goes a long way

I've added some Velcro to the back of my MacBook's protective cover and to the back of the SSD2go. This way I can use and move my laptop around without worrying about the drive falling.

I've added some Velcro to the back of my MacBook's protective cover and to the back of the SSD2go. This way I can use and move my laptop around without worrying about the drive falling.

Even though, as mentioned before, the Angelbird's USB cables fit firmly in the USB port, I still want to avoid unnecessary mishandling of that port. That's why I've added some velcro on the Angelbird's back as well as on my laptop's protective cover. They loose some of their design cool, but it's just easier to transport both through the house as I go from one room to another.

Conclusion

For anyone looking for a fast and hassle-free external drive to put their Lightroom catalog on so they can use it in a multi-computer setup, the Angelbird SSD2go pocket is a great choice. It exists in 3 sizes up to 512 GB. Because you only store the catalog itself, the previews and the smart previews, those capacities will get you a long way. Even if you don't need the full 512 GB right now, having some extra room could be handy because you can use it to store your 'Work in Progress' as well. Add to that the light weight, small size, lightning fast transfer speeds and great looks and it's easy to see why the Angelbird is now my favourite external catalog drive for Lightroom.

Angelbird's SSD2go pocket is available from the Angelbird website as well as a list of international retailers (the bespoke engraving is only available through their website). Prices start as low as 169 € for the 128 GB model.


This is an adapted excerpt from my Lightroom 5 Up to Speed + Lightroom 6 Unmasked eBook bundle. Between them, these two eBooks offer over 400 pages of solid Lightroom advice, tips and tricks and case studies. The bundle is available for a mere CAD $20 through www.craftandvision.com. (Scroll down from the product page to add the bundle to your cart instead of the individual eBooks).

Wirelessly tethering your camera into Lightroom with an Eyefi MobiPro SD Card

In a previous blog post, I did a review about the new Eyefi MobiPro SD Card. You might want to read that blog post first before watching this video. One of the conclusions was that for real-life tethered shooting (e.g. in a studio), wirelessly sending over raw files is just too slow (unless you're paid by the hour). So, in this follow-up article, I want to investigate an alternative workflow, which is a lot more efficient. Basically, I use this technique to wirelessly tether my 3 year old Fujifilm X-Pro 1 into Lightroom and it works like a charm! You can pretty much use this technique with most cameras that use SD cards.

The main workflow is as follows:

  1. Set your camera up to shoot raw + JPG
  2. Only transfer the JPG files wirelessly from the Eyefi card to your computer (that's the default Eyefi setup anyway)
  3. Use Lightroom's Auto-Import feature to import the wirelessly transferred JPG files into Lightroom
  4. Make any edits, add star ratings, keywords and pick or reject flags to the JPG files during your tethered shoot
  5. At the end of the shoot, copy the raw files over from the SD card to the same Lightroom folder the jpg files are in, 'the old fashioned way', i.e. manually using Lightroom's regular Import dialog
  6. (And this is the magical part) Have Lightroom automatically synchronise any edits (except for cropping) and metadata from the jpg files to the corresponding raw files, using John Beardsworth's Syncomatic plugin.

That's the short and sweet version. You can get the full lowdown in this video.