photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Hell freezes over

coming to my senses?

in Product reviews , Sunday, August 30, 2015

I have spent a huge amount of time and effort over the years, not to mention a little money, trying to avoid using Adobe Lightroom. The various reasons for this include that I don’t much like the GUI (compared to Aperture, RIP), I don’t much like the library (compared to Aperture, RIP), and I’m uncomfortable with the Adobe subscription model. I also have a certain sense of antipathy towards the rather over the top, uncritical, fawning cheerleading which comes from so many on-line self-appointed gurus, all of whom have their book, or video, or workshop to sell, and all of whom have contributed, thanks to killer marketing skills from Adobe, to Lightroom’s supremacy. A successful symbiotic community, but not one which has done much service to the world of digital photography in general.

But is Lightroom itself actually all that bad? Well, no, it isn’t. It’s pretty good actually, but it is neither the Second Coming, nor is it without faults, nor is it as overwhelmingly superior as the shill wolf pack would have you believe. But looking at the combination of requirements that I have personally, I have to admit, finally, that avoiding it is like cutting off my nose to spite my face. So I’ve finally admitted that resistance is not only futile, but counterproductive as well.


I certainly wasn’t expecting to be looking at this, a few weeks ago.

The quality of the output from the Develop module tends to get widely derided these days on the interwebs, especially compared with CaptureOne. I’m not entirely sure why, but I suspect there is more than a grain of anti-Adobe sentiment behind this. The difference in quality, measured as resolution and definition, between all Raw converters on the market, is generally minimal. To my eyes Iridient Developer has a slight edge, but that may be down to its superlative sharpening tools. Yes, there are differences in colour rendition, but if you drill down a bit to understand why, then generally you can pretty much neutralise them. If utmost, 200% pixel peeping brick wall cat’s whiskers photography is your thing, then probably Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw is not what you need. But otherwise, the combination of features and sheer completeness of Adobe’s offering is difficult to ignore.

The Lightroom user interface still looks to me like it has overall design philosophy. Different modules, even tools within modules, look like they were designed and integrated by different people with little communication between themselves. Indeed, the different Modules behave more like separate applications linked together through a common launcher than parts of the same application. The essential weakness of the cumbersome modal design is betrayed by the Develop Module leaking into the Library Module by way of the Quick Develop tools. It’s a pity that either stubbornness, not-invented-here syndrome, or, most likely, be-suited MBAs clutching their ROI and P&L spreadsheets is preventing a major UI overhaul. And, think of all the income from the new editions of books, videos, etc!

But on balance the experience is positive. Compared with CaptureOne, the only real advantage that I find there is that the image adjustment tools are more intuitive and faster to use, and certain features such as perspective correction (especially), highlight recovery, and clarity control, are better. On the other hand Lightroom has far better support for camera calibration, and the sharpening tools are better. I prefer CaptureOne’s layer approach to Lightroom’s edit points, and I preferred Aperture’s local edits approach to both of these, but in the end the functionality is much the same.

The killer features in Lightroom are the Library, and, surprisingly, Lightroom Mobile. The Library is almost as good as Aperture’s. It is fast, smooth, and there are plenty of well designed metadata tools. The implementation of Stacks is a half-baked copy of Aperture’s (and really, it is, just look at when it was released in Lightroom), albeit more powerful than CaptureOne’s Versions, and the Smart Collections are weak compare to Aperture’s Smart Albums, but on balance, it is - now - the best on the market. Overall, compared with CaptureOne’s improving, but incomplete and laggy Catalog, Lightoom’s Library is much easier to use. And the other major plus for me, at least, is full support for large Photoshop and TIFF files, which means I can catalogue my film scans together with my Raw files. Aperture let me do this as well - indeed, the fact that Lightroom 1 had serious file size limitations was one major factor leading me to switch - but Lightroom actually is smoother.  The only “orphan” files I have now are Sigma Merrill Raws, but nobody supports those. The workaround of cataloging a proxy JPEG and using that to launch the X3F in Iridient Developer works just as well in Lightroom as in Aperture, or indeed CaptureOne.

I think that the dependence on a physical file structure in the Library is pretty prehistoric, compared to Aperture’s fully virtual organisation, but the geek contingent could never live with the loss of explicit control that the virtual approach required, so we’re stuck in the past.  On a side note, recently I completely restructured my physical file organisation, to try to make it more convenient to PhotoSupreme’s needs.  Aperture didn’t skip a beat: together with MacOS, it noticed that the referenced files had moved, and just adjusted itself. CaptureOne, or Lightroom, would have just given up and died. But thanks to Apple shifting lock stock and barrel in to the luxury personal accessory market, we’ve lost all that innovation.

Ironically, my file structure is actually quite clumsy. This is due to an earlier period when I was using Lightroom 1, for about a year, until moving to Aperture 2.  I had to live with the file organisation imposed by Lightroom. Since this basically has never changed, re-importing into Lightroom CC was not a big deal. I did try the Aperture Importer: it’s not as good as CaptureOne’s by a long way, but not as bad as people say it is - it does actually work, albeit very, very slowly.  However, since all it really does is carry over some metadata, and that can just as easily be accomplished by writing metadata to original files or XMP sidecars, there’s little point in it. Takes forever and a day too, and the workflow is very badly designed.

I wasn’t expecting much from Lightroom Mobile, because it doesn’t do what I thought I wanted, i.e. remote editing and curation of the Library. It also gets a poor press, because it doesn’t do what a lot of people want, i.e. act as a front-end mobile file importer. What it actually does do is give you access to selected parts of your library which you have already created on the desktop, and, via “cloud” synchronisation, it then allows you to review and rate these, and to apply quite a high degree of image manipulation. On my new iPad Air 2, this works very well indeed, and actually, it turns out it is pretty close to what I wanted. Keywording would be nice to have, but what it does give me is enough to keep me constructively engaged during daily train commutes. Also, Lightroom Mobile supports importing and synchronisation of photos taken with iDevices. I haven’t tried that yet, but it is interesting. However, it does seem to conflict with a lot that Mylio provides. Mylio does do things that Lightroom Mobile does not, for example importing new files in the field and synchronising them with home and backup destinations, but several key things that it does do, and Lightroom does not, for example key wording, it does rather weakly.  I’m not really sure yet if Mylio is really needed in a Lightroom-centric workflow.

Finally, a CC subscription to Lightroom also brings Photoshop CC 2015, which has some useful additions for working with film scans, not the least being the Camera Raw plugin. I’d heard vaguely about this, but I didn’t really realise how useful it could be to be able to use ACR adjustments on a layer for film scans. Sure, there are other ways of doing everything in Photoshop, but the ACR toolset is specifically designed for photography, and makes everything much faster. And the fact that it swallows a 350Mb 16 bit XPan scan without a murmur is pretty impressive.

So, over the last months, I have invested a lot of time successively in PhotoSupreme, CaptureOne, and Mylio, and at this point pretty much discarded all of them in favour of Lightroom (maybe not Mylio, I may still have a use for that, but development seems to have slowed). It’s completely against current trends to switch FROM CaptureOne TO Lightroom, which, given my track record and general disposition, is probably as good a reason for doing it than any. Switching to Lightroom and writing a nice review about Jeff Schewe in the same month ? I must be going soft in the head.




Whaaaat ? Nice one. Not sure I’ll go there… After all these years studiously avoiding Lightroom. Hmmm. Gotta think. No, come on. Can’t be. Damn ! :-)))

By Bernard, on August 31, 2015

Well, I guess the Lightroom you adopted today isn’t the Lightroom you avoided years ago :-)
We all make decisions along the way that don’t have to hold true forever. Sometimes for external reasons (e. g. a product changes), sometimes for internal reasons (our views or priorities evolve).
We probably had a reason at the time to decide one way or the other. And at the time it may even have been the right decision ;-) But for today, things may look different…
Swimming against the trend sometimes pays off. And sometimes we’re fooling ourselves (at least then it’s ourselves, who’re doing the fooling ourselves bit :-) )
I’ve abandoned Lightroom because I didn’t like the obvious marketing tactics by Adobe to get us to subscribe to CC (“Introductory price - one month only!” - “Oh, hang on, we’ll extend the introductory offer for another month, but you’ll better hurry!” - “Ok, only because it’s Christmas you’ll still get the introductory offer for another month, but after that…” etc. etc.
Was it a decision based on my photographic needs? Not sure :-) But it was a decision. For now…
To end my philosophic rant with an actual question:
How did you like PhotoSupreme? (If you have a blog post covering that question you can simply link to that )
I conclude that you didn’t like it enough to keep it, but maybe it could work for me…
Knowing my tendency to change raw-converters every so often, I’m looking for a cataloging solution which is independent of a converter. Something to tag and rate images - and ideally those tags and star ratings would show up in Capture One, Lightroom, etc.

By Tilman Paulin, on September 01, 2015

I’m basically ignoring Adobe marketing, and really the subscription is no big deal. I used a 20% discount offer from Flickr which almost reduced the price to what they charge in the US.  Finally, I’ve decided I’d rather be doing constructive things rather than eternally try to find a better solution than Lightroom. There was one, but that’s gone now. And even then, with hindsight it’s clear that Aperture’s heyday was just after the release of v3.  After that it started falling off (still, Adobe are still quietly copying features, like brushing in/out adjustments).
The solution to keeping independent of a converter is twofold: 1, always write metadata to XMP sidecars. 2, export TIFFs from your converter.  Most metadata XMP metadata is recognised across applications.  I’m ok with 1, but frankly 2 is a bit prehistoric. You cut out a lot of flexibility that way, but then again, you also cut out a lot of indecision.  Me, I’m indecisive.
I have written a bit about PhotoSupreme, just type it into the search box, it should come up with the articles. PhotoSupreme is frustrating. On the one hand it is quite impressive, but on the other it has some very weird ways of working, and it is very confusing to start off with. Well, it was to me, anyway, especially it’s overlapping concept of keywords and labels. It can partly render CaptureOne corrections, but only if you use Sessions. It can’t read Catalogs. From a tagging / organisation point of view, it is pretty good, and it does implement Stacks, although with some seemingly pointless restrictions.  It’s got a GUI design and colour scheme which takes a while to recover from. It makes Lightroom look positively pleasant.
Basically it’s the best alternative to MediaPro I’ve seen so far, but although it is much more modern, MediaPro is still faster, and remains the reference of how to design a good DAM application, in my opinion.
But it isn’t fully integrated, and you do rely on it’s database not getting corrupted, and you’ll still need a RAW developer, and an application to print from, and perhaps to manage other exports, and finally… well, you know where this is heading.

By David Mantripp, on September 01, 2015

If you’re fully settled with CaptureOne, then I’d say stay there. I jumped basically because I realised that since I rely on Adobe for printing, I might just as well take the full package.  On balance I haven’t regretted it yet, although I do feel a bit depressed about the time I dedicated to processing a significant number of images in CaptureOne.
There is a different “look” between the two, though.  I slightly prefer C1’s, but not enough to persuade me.  On the other hand, C1’s perspective tools are way better, and I prefer it’s layers to Lightroom’s edit pins.  And I prefer C1’s GUI, although I’d prefer it a LOT more in mid-grey.

By David Mantripp, on September 01, 2015

the old game of pick your compromises… :)
Thanks for the reply! I’ll have a look for your PhotoSupreme bit!

By Tilman Paulin, on September 01, 2015

Well, I keep hesitating (you know the drill), but…
Basically my DAM needs are very basic, and so far C1 seems to be enough for them.
I also prefer C1’s GUI over Lightroom’s, and also long for some mid-grey (but I like that you can quickly set the bakground lighter or darker in the preferences; it is useful when assessing a picture).
As for the processing, I feel C1 is better (after your post, I fired up Lightroom again to have a look - although as always the best tool is the one to take the time to get proficient with). But I do think C1 is better for my Fuji files (I’m one of those luddites ;-), although not immediately as good as Irident, but Iridient misses local edits.
Finally, I don’t print myself. And I wish to restrict my Photoshop use to panoramas and “light” HDR/merging. So… I think C1 it is, at least until next week.
PS: Damn, did I just press the “buy” button on Ming’s site?

By Bernard, on September 02, 2015