The Lightroom catalog
1 The Lightroom catalog
|Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is built atop a database architecture that relies on a centralized catalog to house information about your still images and video files.|
One of the most common questions I'm asked about Adobe Photoshop Lightroom from new (and sometimes not so new) users is, 'Why do you have to import photos to the catalog first before you are able to edit them?' The answer to this question goes right to the heart of Lightroom's approach to information storage and retrieval, which to my mind more adequately addresses the needs of today's photographer. In this article I'll lay out the basic principles of image management in Lightroom and explain how this approach can actually make the task of locating your images more efficient.
Image browser vs. database manager
As computer users who've come of age during the PC revolution, we have grown accustomed to the idea that everything needs to be sorted into folders, and indeed folder hierarchies have become the primary means of organization. This file directory management approach may make sense with task-specific Word documents but becomes extremely limiting when applied to large collections of less easily-defined images. Yet this is exactly how image browser software, like Adobe Bridge operate. For all their admittedly useful features, they simply browse the existing folder structure on your hard drive.
And my chief complaint about sorting images by folders is the very real problem of determining just which folder they should go in. Someone once told me about an underwater photographer who maintained a small photo library of his work. When adding new transparencies, he would have dupes made so that a photograph of say, a diver with a shark could be filed in one set of physical folders labeled ‘sharks’, another named ‘divers’ and another broken down by ‘location’. This physical duplication was necessary in order to make the library system work effectively, but no one would call it efficient. Yet there are people who work this way with digital files precisely because they are not using a database-driven management system.
|Here is an example of an underwater photo (in this instance a photo shot by Jeff Schewe). It makes sense to categorize this by the location it was shot in, the presence of a diver, as well as the coral featured in the foreground. In the folder-based example I mentioned above this could involve duplicating the master image several times. Using digital asset management software such as Phase One Media Pro or Lightroom, however, there is no need to create physical duplicates.|
I can't count the number of times I have sat through a seminar where the instructor has come unstuck when relying on folder/browser navigation to locate their demo files. Meanwhile, the audience waits impatiently while the instructor sifts through a complex hierarchy structure of folders known only to himself. Sound familiar?
Database management programs designed specifically for photographs were developed to tame such chaos. One of the first and most well-known was iView Media Pro. The company behind it was acquired, first by Microsoft which renamed it Expression Media, but is now developed by Phase One and sold as Phase One Media Pro. Extensis Portfolio was another option available, but it was the launch in 2005 of Aperture from Apple that showed how one could combine the power of a database with image editing tools to provide an all-in-one solution for photographers. Adobe's entry, in the form of Lightroom, launched soon after.
|Point a browser-based app like Adobe Bridge (shown here) at a folder on your hard drive and you'll see everything that’s on the computer.||By contrast, the Lightroom Import dialog, pointed at the same folder, only shows the three JPEGs files located there.|
What all these database-driven apps have in common is that you have to explicitly import media files into the program, adding them to an app-specific catalog, which is the primary holder of all your image data. This process, while it may seem an unnecessary step, is required in order to build a catalog of files made up exclusively of the images and videos you have deemed relevant. One under-appreciated aspect of the import process is that when you select a directory containing many different types of data, i.e., music files, spreadsheets or Word documents, the software filters out any file formats it does not support. This can work to your advantage as you only see the files you'd actually consider working with and don't have to bother wading through irrelevant files.
Metadata: Your new best friend
Instead of relying on a folder structure to sort your images you can manage your photos much more effectively by using keyword and EXIF metadata. Metadata - literally data about your data - is vital to managing any collection of digital files. In fact, placing an image inside a descriptively named folder amounts to a very rudimentary type of metadata; an identifier that can be used to help locate the data stored in that folder.
Keywording is a very robust form of user-generated metadata that allows you to apply multiple descriptive tags to an individual file. Let’s return to the underwater photographer example I mentioned earlier. This guy could choose to replicate his film library system by placing duplicate image files in multiple folders that could be read by a file browser. With a database-driven cataloging program, however, he would only need to import one master image and then use the cataloging software to append multiple keyword metadata tags to identify the image. With a program like Lightroom it is fairly easy to create varied collections of photos in which multiple instances of a single master photo appear in more than one collection. No files are duplicated on your hard drive. The single master image is simply referenced multiple times by the catalog. Edit that master image later on, say by converting it from color to BW, and the new version is automatically propagated in every collection. That's about as close to a free lunch as you'll get.
|Here is a photo of a male model I shot in Italy. My Lightroom catalog contains only a single master file but the image belongs to five separate collections (virtual folders). You can't do this in a folder-based management system without creating duplicates, or at least aliases, of the original digital file.|
Crucially, once you start getting into the habit of tagging your photos with metadata, it then becomes easier to find them. Imagine trying to locate an image on someone else’s computer using a folder browsing method only. You could start by looking inside the My Pictures folder, but where would you look next? For that matter how successful are you at navigating your own Pictures folder? We have all struggled at times to locate a specific file that we know is on the computer system somewhere.
With keywording the task becomes simple. If you know how to do a Google search you already know how to search by metadata. In my opinion, this is where the database/catalog method of managing your image library makes your life much easier.
Dec 9, 2015
Dec 3, 2015
Dec 16, 2015
Dec 7, 2015
|Rocks at Dawn by phucthang|
from The Rock
|Sarlat, France by poppyjk|
from Your City - Dinertime!
|Double Eagle by herbymel|
|Great White Egret vs Lizard by jose garcia|
from Strong - Weak
Fujifilm recently unveiled the second in its series of affordable cine lenses, the MK50-135mm T2.9. We got our hands on it for a couple days and took it for a spin.
Leica's first attempt at an M-series digital rangefinder was rough around the edges, but set a pattern for all of the cameras that came after it. In this week's Throwback Thursday, Barney remembers the M8.
No stranger to extreme situations, legendary climber and filmmaker Jimmy Chin talks to Outside Magazine about his career, and the challenge of filming Alex Honnold's rope-free solo climb of El Capitain.
A company backed by Android co-founder Andy Rubin is attempting to make video conferencing less terrible.
Rangefinder magazine asked five professional portrait and wedding photographers about posting on Instagram; no surprise, they got five different answers.
This captivating stop motion film was created by stripping away one layer of wood at a time. It's hard to look away.
It will enable users to simulate the presence of the sun, moon and Milky Way and see how they interact with an area's topography.
Since its introduction in November last year Instagram's live streaming feature has been used by millions, but videos could not be archived for watching at a later stage. A new update has now added the capability.
CopyTrack's study also found that the second most-stolen image is a woman wearing painted jeans. That's apparently a thing.
Forget expensive lenses with fancy coatings and special lens elements – photographer Robin de Puy took these portraits using just a water drop for a lens.
Adobe reports a record quarterly revenue of $1.77 billion for the second quarter fiscal year 2017 ended June 2, 2017.
Zeiss says its new lens is particularly suited for portrait photography but also a good all-rounder and can be used in video applications.
We present to you the top photos from the Kennel Club's 2017 Dog Photographer of the Year photo contest – take a look at 10 of the award-winning puppers.
In case you were looking for any more inspiration to go fly one.
Following a couple of successful Kickstarter campaigns, Videre 35mm's creator has re-tooled the camera with sturdier components and a simpler user assembly process.
The two hour long video covers everything an aspiring drone pilot needs to know.
This is what happens when a Canon 17-85mm F4-5.6 lens meets 60,000 PSI of water pressure. Spoiler Alert: the water jet always wins.
Andrew Harnik discusses the challenges – and rewarding moments – of a career making images for the Associated Press in his native DC.
The VMic Pro, VMic Recorder and VMic microphones are targeted at DSLR users who want to record high-quality audio.
While our full OnePlus 5 review is underway, we've put together a sample gallery with images that were taken with both the wide-angle and tele lens in a variety of lighting situations.
The OnePlus 5 main camera comes with a 1/2.8" 16MP Sony IMX 398 sensor and a fast F1.7 aperture. It is supported by a 2x tele-module featuring a 20MP 1/2.8" Sony IMX 350 sensor and F2.6 aperture.
In this video, Vincent Laforet explains why the RED 8K Weapon camera has mostly replaced his still cameras, and it's not all about resolution.
Dupe, Dupe Negative is not a pop song, and Newton's Rings are not NASA's next destination. If you've ever wondered what all that film terminology means, Kodak has you covered.
Fujifilm's X-A3 is the company's only offering to use a new 24MP sensor without their trademark X-Trans color filter array. We've had it out and about with a variety of lenses to see how it compares.
If you thought Nikon had the market cornered on expensive commemorative products, we've got news for you.
The simple drag-and-drop web app reveals the Lightroom edits applied to any JPEG, along with its associated EXIF data, provided that metadata is intact.
Danish photographers Ulrik Hasemann and Mathias Svold spent time documenting the 75,000 refugees currently in Serbia's capitol city. Most are young men from conflict zones in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
It takes a highly-skilled drone operator to execute a video like this in one take.
According to a report by Nikkei Ricoh is facing its biggest crisis ever and will have to cut costs in order to survive.
Air Koryo started flying in 1952, and much of its current fleet still dates from the 1960s. Danish commercial photographer Arthur Mebius has taken 24 flights on some of its oldest airplanes, so you don't have to.