Posted by: In: Lightroom, Post Processing 27 Nov 2014 3 comments Tags: ,

Welcome to part 1 of an unknown length series(!) detailing how to go about organising photos in a sensible fashion.

If you’re anything like me, you take your camera out, you come home, you upload them all into Lightroom, you might go through and delete the rubbish, and maybe you then get called down to spend some time with your family. Repeat this over a few weeks, months or years and you soon end up with a huge catalogue of images that you “might someday” get round to properly organising. When that day finally arrives, you feel overwhelmed by the task because you’ve got x years worth of badly organised, unkeyworded images spread across different folders. Some are great and they have a star. The rest you’re not sure about but don’t want to delete them because… well… you might need them. The problem is that your Lightroom is chock full of images and it’s hard to see what’s good and what’s bad. So you do something else other than organising photos. I don’t blame you. That’s exactly how I felt and so I decided to do something about it. I did a bit of research on the web, and came up with this process which actually worked!

Main caveat: This post is NOT intended for professional photographers who shoot for a living, and also not intended for people who are already great at organising! This isn’t the “right” way to do it either. This is simply an overview of how I did it, and of how I can now find the images I want. The biggest part of this whole process is learning the ability to self-critique.

Let’s get cracking…

Before We Start Organising

Before you start making any changes though, my advice is to back up your stuff. More importantly, your settings, configurations and your photos!

Isavemetadataf you have already done work on images in Lightroom and want to save this work, you need to save those changes within the LR application. If you don’t do this regularly, then go into your catalogue(s) and do CTRL+A to select all your images followed by a CTRL+S to save the metadata. This will force save things like ratings, labels, keywords, flagging and anything else you’ve done to the image files. We’ll be stripping most of this when we re-organise so you might ask why bother? Well, this just gives you a “saved state” to go back to if everything goes wrong.

Once your work is saved, you can move your photos and Lightroom settings somewhere safe. I’d suggest a remote hard drive, but moving them to a safe part of your hard drive is ok too. I just dumped a backup copy of my entire “Pictures” folder to my external hard drive. I also moved copies of my catalogues.

In Lightroom, a catalogue is just that. It’s a pictorial representation of all the photos in it. I could have 5000 photos on my hard drive but only 500 in my catalogue. So when I open the catalogue, I only see 500 photos. The other 4500 are still there on the drive, but I can’t view or do anything with them in Lightroom unless I import them.

You can see the location of your catalogue by clicking Edit>Catalog Settings. Under the “General” tab you can see the location. Clicking “Show” will take you to that folder in Explorer and you can copy/paste it to the same backup location as your photos.

The last thing you might want to back up are your Lightroom settings. These will remain until you completely uninstall Lightroom from your PC. The work we’re doing won’t require a re-install of Lightroom, but it’s probably good practise to back this stuff up anyway. Losing your presets can be a pain!

Lightroom settings are found in Users>YourName>App Data>Roaming>Adobe>Lightroom.

So there are three things that make up your image collection.

1. The Photos: These have the actual image data, and all the metadata (when the photo was taken, EXIF data, keywords, etc)

2. The Catalogue: A collection of settings in LR that apply to a group of photos. (Pointers to the photos in that catalogue, smart filters, preview sizes, etc)

3. Lightroom itself: All the settings that remain constant all the time (Export functions, filter presets, develop presets etc)

Once you have a safe backup of all the data and you’re in a position to be able to restore everything in case of disaster, you’re ready to make a start. The first thing we’re going to do before we even open Lightroom is sort out our images into a decent folder structure.

Folder Structure

folder_strucTo the right here, I’ve got an image of my folder structure. Yours may look a lot different!

I like to keep all my pictures in one place, no matter what they are. So my actual digital photos that I’ve taken sit alongside all sorts of other stuff.

I have a folder for each years worth of images, and then separate folders broken down as follows.

  1. Export_” folders are all generally empty. My Lightroom export presets are set up to export to these folders and when I’m done I remove them. “_Digital Frame” is the digital photo frame I bought for the in-laws. They’re not computer savvy, so when I shoot something I think they’d like, I just export to here. When they come over, and bring their USB stick, I just delete/replace with the new files. “_Photoshop”, “_Print” and “_Wallpapers” are all different quality exports.
  2. Assets are all my… Assets…. Website PNGs, icons, gifs, borders, textures, stock. All that stuff goes in here.
  3. Events are specific events. For example, my daughters’ proms resulted in a lot of photos. Weddings (there-as-a-guest) also generally get a lot of shots in them, and they clog up my catalogue. By having a “portfolio” folder, I send the absolute best to there and just basically archive the rest in Catalogues that will rarely be referenced again.
  4. Gaming is all my gaming screenshots. War Thunder and Kerbal Space Programme feature highly on here, and I have War Thunder skins and Battle for Wesnoth maps as well as Neverwinter Nights portraits. There’s a lot of gaming art here and as I will likely work on that separately, I don’t want it clogging my normal photo folders.
  5. iPhoneSync is for the phone.
  6. LR Catalogues is where all my catalogues sit. This was a mess before and I’m determined to keep it simple this time!!!
  7. Older Images are all my parents (and grandparents!) neg scans. From 1940 through to about 1985. There aren’t many of these.
  8. Portfolio is where I copy all my absolute best photos. I do this through Lightroom though and we’ll cover this in a later blog, so just set up an empty folder for it for now.
  9. Scans are literally document scans. They’re for household bills more than any artistic requirement, but Lightroom can make indexing and finding them very easy.
  10. Lastly, my blog screenies. These are just a dumping ground for the images (mostly screenshots) you see on the blog.

Within each folder there are some categories that have further folders. My 20XX folders all have a subsequent folder relating to the shoot, but it’s not required. Lightroom will be your sorting and “finding that picture” tool.

Once you’ve set up like this, you’re ready to get started. Because all our photos are now nicely organised, our whole cataloguing task can be broken down into bitesized chunks. When I first set this up, I did each year on one sitting in an evening. It was easy to remember where I was up to and the whole task was much more manageable.

Our next step is to look at Lightroom itself, the basic functions you might want to set up, and some talk about catalogue management. We’ll go through that in the next post (which you can find here when it’s up!)

(Edit – part 2 is here)


Posted by: In: Lightroom, Post Processing, Techniques 24 Nov 2014 2 comments Tags:


So… *cough* It’s been a while… *cough*. I’ve been putting off doing any updates mainly because of the amount of time that’s passed since I last wrote anything. However as usual –  my photography bug has gone full circle, and I’m getting back into things again. I’ve also been doing some teaching at the local college which has taken a fair bit of time but the course is done now until January, so I have a little time on my hands.

To start with, I’ve been looking at my workflow. Lightroom is my tool of choice for photo management and my whole folder system is a mess.

I have about ten catalogues – mostly all messed up and used for different ideas and projects. I have literally thousands of images shot since 2006 (when I went digital) not to mention the scanned negs…

It’s a daunting task to sort it all out, but after sitting down with a pen and paper and trying to come up with a plan, I think I’m there.

So over the next few weeks I’m going to document it here with some Lightroom workflow tips. Catalogue strategies, keywording strategies, and the basic concepts of thinning out a huge photo database. Hopefully this may help the budding photographer who has struggled with “too many” photos.

Here’s the basic process:

  • Save existing metadata
  • Back everything up!
  • Organise photos into proper folder structure
  • Build catalogue template
  • Create catalogue #1
    • Import everything
    • Add copyright metadata to all photos on import
    • 1st pass critique – delete the absolute rubbish
    • 2nd pass critique – remove the duplicate/similar images keeping only the best
    • 3rd pass – give 1 * to all the really outstanding photos
    • 4th pass – stamp “portfolio” / 5* images for passing to a Portfolio catalogue
    • Export portfolio images
    • Save metadata
    • Optimise catalogue
  • Create catalogue #2, etc etc.
  • Portfolio catalogue
    • Keywording
    • Markup for processing

It’s not a quick process. I’ve created a catalogue for each year. It’s far more manageable to do in chunks. I also have a catalogue for Screenshots, Old family photos (scanned negs) and a Portfolio catalogue.

We’ll get cracking with the pre-work later in the week.

Have fun!

Fuji X-E1 @ 35mm. Long Legs & Short LegsWith my ownership of the Fuji X-E1 approaching 6 months, I thought I’d do an update post to let you know what I think now that I’ve had the camera for more than 5 minutes. You can read my original post a few days after purchasing the Fuji X-E1 here.

I’m not regretting it – that’s for sure! That was my biggest worry. Would I miss the features and speed of an SLR?

In a word – No.

It took a bit of getting used to, but I’m able to operate the little Fuji X-E1 with the same speed as my 50D. The only real problem is the issue of using the camera on full manual control (see below). I almost always now set the camera to AUTO ISO 6400, auto shutter speed and control aperture with the aperture ring. I then adjust the exposure using the exposure compensation wheel.

X-E1 vs X-Pro 1

Did I make the right choice? I don’t know for sure and can’t objectively state one way or another. I’ve not missed the OVF and if it’s pouring down outside I’m generally not going out in it for me, never mind my camera! Weather proofing therefore is not something I’ve missed. Locking shutter speed dial and a slightly smaller LCD screen are things I just haven’t noticed missing. I’ve not owned the X-Pro 1 so I can’t tell definitively, but I really cannot seen how the X-Pro 1 would have been a better choice for me.

Manual Control

Right. The problem with this is that the minimum shutter speed as decided by the camera is too slow for my hands. It’s as simple as that. In poor light, the camera will set its minumum shutter which seems to be the reciprocal of the (adjusted) focal length. This is 1/50sec for the 35mm. A simple ability to set the minimum shutter speed in AUTO mode would be of great help. This feature is oft asked for in Fuji forums so I’m not alone in this.

So why am I not shooting in full manual like I did on the Canon? It’s far too fiddly. Aperture is fine on the barrel of the lens. Shutter speed is annoying to change and physically awkward if you’ve got the camera held to your eye. The dial on the camera top is also in full stops which doesn’t give a lot of fine control. You can adjust in 1/3 stop increments, but that uses the controls on the back of the camera. Full manual control also means loss of the Exposure Compensation wheel.

On my 50D, ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed were all controlled easily via two thumb wheels that could be set to move in 1/3 stop increments. I could have the camera close to my eye and make 1/3 stop adjustments to either shutter speed or aperture very easily. It’s just not that easy on the Fuji X-E1, and it’s not something I can get used to. I can, however, live with it.

So How Would I Fix This?

In an ideal world, and assuming Fuji techs read this and think I’m awesome…

  • Keep aperture control on the lens barrel. For all lenses, also allow aperture to be controlled by the rear horizontal scroll wheel (like it does for the 27mm)
  • Keep shutter speed where it is, but when it’s set to a non-auto speed, allow the Exp Compensation wheel to adjust the shutter speed in smaller increments, don’t just disable it!
  • Allow the user to set a minumum shutter speed for any lens so that ISO will ramp up to compensate in Auto-ISO mode

This would make full manual shooting far quicker and less cumbersome than it is at the moment. It would also make it more usable in fast moving situations (street photography, events etc)

Other Changes

Other than the difficulties of manual control, the camera is a dream to use. It’s physically a lot smaller than the 50D and beefing this up with a thumb rest and a case that has a built in grip has really helped! I’m toying with the idea of a Sugru modification, but haven’t got round to that yet. The addition of a shiny red soft release has helped my fat fingers find the shutter button more easily too.

My Pimped Fuji X-E1

My Pimped Fuji X-E1

The whole package is far lighter than my DSLR setup, and for landscape and street work, it’s wonderful. I’m not regretting the loss of all that weight. In terms of user-friendliness, I’ve found the menus more intuitive than my Canon and changing settings and formatting the memory card are a lot quicker.

JPEG vs Raw

I’m not good enough to shoot JPEGs. It’s sad but true. I often need to tweak White Balance or adjust highlights. Having the Raw files often helps with this and is far more forgiving than trying to alter a JPEG. So I’m back to Raw shooting. I did shoot Raw + JPEG for a while but ended up discarding the JPEGs if I needed to adjust in Lightroom. the whole thing became a bit of a faff, so now I just shoot in Raw.

Another downside of shooting Raw is that those wonderful in-camera JPEG presets are lost (unless you shoot Raw+JPEG). On the upside, there is a chap who is working on a whole bunch of Lightroom presets to emulate film. His Filmbot site is here. His plan is to keep these presets Open Source (i.e. Free!) so these could be a good place to start if you’re missing the JPEG presets. Personally I find the Filmbot Velvia emulation to be very different to the in-camera Velvia emulation so I do plan to have a look at creating some LR presets to try and replicate the in-camera modifications, but that’s a job for another day!

The Lenses

The primes (35 & 14) are awesome. I used to own a 10-20mm for my Canon 50D, and did wonder whether just moving to a fixed 14mm would be a problem. It isn’t! I can manage just fine with the single focal length. As to the 35mm, I’ve found that I think  I prefer that focal length (it’s an effective 52mm) as opposed to my old 50mm f1.4 which was effectively 80mm on my old Canon.

I’m also beginning to love the 18-55 too. I tend to have it set on auto aperture to avoid accidents with the aperture ring, which is good, because the 18-55 is my “I don’t-know-what-lens-I-need” lens. For walkabouts it’s fine.

Fuji X-E1 & 35mm lens with a new lens hood!

Fuji X-E1 & 35mm lens with a new lens hood!

I did get annoyed by the lens hood on the 35mm. It doesn’t reverse, it has a tendancy to slip off, and you can’t use a standard lens cap with it. It looks cool though which is why I persevered with it for a while. In the end though, I plumped for a cheap 52mm screw in hood that allows me to use a proper lens cap and doesn’t fall off in a stiff breeze. The cool factor is still there.

The Prom

#2 Daughter's Prom

Fuji X-E1 @ 35mm, f1.4, 1/60sec, ISO200

I shot #2 daughter’s prom on a mix of the 35mm and the 18-55. Most of the problems were due to faults between the floor and the shutter button. The Fuji X-E1 isn’t a fast camera for me, and I don’t have steady hands! AUTO ISO was a bit of a let down and caused generally low shutter speeds all around until I set the ISO to a fixed 800 which pushed the shutter speeds in general up. There were a few blurred shots though.

Panic was also a factor, with little time to get the shots off. In all honesty, I don’t think I did as good a job with #2 daughter’s prom as I did with #1 daughter 2 years ago shot on the 50D with a 24-105. However I think that if I were to shoot it today, I’d do a much better job now that I know the nuances of the Fuji X-E1 better. I’d also have shot in Raw which would have meant better results in post processing. The Grandparents were happy with them though so it wasn’t a disaster!

Overall Thoughts Fuji X-E1 vs DSLR

Yep. For me, the change was well worth it. More and more threads are cropping up these days with people asking what it’s like to downsize to the Fuji X system. There is no true answer to this, other than to say that some people (including me) have changed and absolutely not regretted it. I can take just as good a picture on my X-E1 as I ever could on my Canon. And as I said in my other post. I enjoy it far more these days.

Fuji X-E1 @ 35mm. Brent Lane, Crowton

Brent Lane, Crowton. Fuji X-E1 w/35mm f1.4 Lens. Flickr Explored, September 2013

Thanks for reading!