What Jessie Did Next...

...being the inane ramblings of a mundane Yorkshire bird.

Tag: lightroom

Since I wrote about Lightroom 4 speed issues on the Mac, I’ve installed version 4.2 and done quite a few big shoots including gigs and a wedding; there’s been no shortage of images to process.

Regrettably, it appears the LR4 fixes involving Time Machine and recreation of the catalogue had only a temporary effect and the software has reverted back to its previous slow behaviour. On a shoot of 1200 images this makes it painful to sort through and has an extremely negative impact on my workflow.

There seems to be little alternative out there though (at least, not a solution where I can seamlessly move the catalogue across) so I’m just going to have to stick it out for the moment. This annoys me – it’s yonks since Adobe put out Lightroom 4 and still these problems. It’s very very tedious.

If you were considering a leap to Lightroom 4, I’d advise you not to. Stick with Lightroom 3 if you can, or suffer the consequences 🙁

You might have noticed over the years but I take a lot of photographs, and like many photographers I keep them in a catalogue on a computer: this catalogue allows me to find photos quickly and easily, and also apply retouching, colour changes, and all that sort of thing. The application I use is called Adobe Lightroom and I’ve been a user since version 2 back in 2009. Now with over 110,000 photographs in the catalogue spanning 34 years you might say I’m a power-user.

When Lightroom 4 was released in Spring 2012 I pre-ordered it, but as with critical applications within my workflow I wanted a few days to get my head around it before using it ‘in anger’. I’m glad I did, because quite quickly it became apparent there were major problems with it – principally, the speed of the software. It’d lag for 30 seconds switching between modules, and using the sliders to alter an image was almost impossible. I reverted back to Lightroom 3.6 which worked perfectly, as did everything else on my laptop.

Sidenote: for the benefit of the hardware nerds out there my main machine is a MacBook Pro Core i7 2.66GHz model (MacBookPro6,1), with a 512GB SSD, 8G RAM, running (at the moment) OS X 10.7.4. It’s not the most recent MacBook Pro, but it’s a 2010 model which with updates has no problems with anything else.

Time passed and I bought a new camera: a Canon EOS 5D Mark III. This wasn’t supported by Lightroom 3! Indeed, it took Adobe until version 4.1 before Lightroom could read its RAW files so I suppose you could say I was forced to upgrade. I bit the bullet, installed the software and predictably the speed problems returned: a photoshoot which I would have previously been able to sort in a lunchtime would take me 4 or 5 hours simply because of the lag when picking images to retouch (the ‘triage’ stage of sorting a shoot). The whole experience became incredibly frustrating and a solution was needed. Adobe released a beta of Lightroom 4.2 which made no difference.

Googling around led to plenty of other people with the same problems, and even Adobe acknowledging there was a problem but there was no solution. I got naffed off, and decided to do some investigating of my own. So here’s what I did, and what it fixed (touch wood, so far):

A Solution Of Sorts
The first thing I did was try and blitz the Preferences files. This has been known to work for Windows users, but of course the Mac version is different – at least that bit is. I’ll save you some time and tell you now that it didn’t do a dicky bird other than freak my copy of Lightroom out, so I ended up reinstating the plist files.

Then a friend suggested recreating the catalogue (cheers Gaz!). My LR4 catalogue came via a port from LR2 to LR3 over the past few updates. First thing I did was create a new catalogue and import everything from the old catalogue in to the new one via File -> Import From Another Catalog. It took a while but gave me a clean catalogue which sorta worked a bit better – still not massively fast, but faster.

The real paydirt came with Time Machine though. In common with a lot of Mac users I have a small external disk which I use to keep backups, handled by the OS. In addition to that there’s a sort-of journalling system which handles versions and Time Machine when the external disk isn’t connected (and incidentally will explain disk space discrepancies – you can read more about the phenomenon here).When I added ~/Library/Caches to the backup exclusions, LR4 was back to the speed I’d have expected.

To do this, click on your Time Machine icon (on the menubar, it’s the little clock with the arrow going backwards), and thenOptions on your Time Machine screen. It’ll allow you to exclude particular directories from the backup.

I can’t think of any particular downside to this as cache files are usually temporary, but I’m sure another Mac fanboi will correct me in the comments if this isn’t the case. As it is, it seems to have fixed it for me so far and I’ve been using Lightroom heavily for the past day or so. Whether it gets slower in time I don’t know and I’ll post an update if it does so. But I do hope this helps other frustrated Mac photogs out there!

So in what is now an annual event, once more I plonked myself behind the camera taking photos in Santa’s grotto at Wrenthorpe Primary School (previous instalments are documented from from 2009 and 2008).

Refresher: it entailed taking pics of Santa and kids after they’d just got their gifts. The ‘grotto’ is a little side-room with ‘fireplace’ and obligatory sled full of toys, and a sideroom where I hid until required to take pics plus the computer operator could sit to print the images. The first time we did it there were about 180 pics and around 250 kids so it’s not something to be done lightly.

This year I repeated last year’s setup with one important change: Adobe Lightroom 3 now has a ‘tethering’ feature. This means you can plug your camera direct into the computer with a USB cable, take a pic and LR3 will process and make available the photo immediately; the new print function also enables two pics to be selected and I can immediately slap two 6×4 photos on one piece of A4 with all colour modifications. Much quicker, and lots less messing around.

I had a willing assistant in Alex, a lovely lass who’d never used a Mac or LR3 but still cottoned onto the process pretty quickly. I reckon that with a little practice I could probably do it all on my own, really.

The other (minor) change was in the off-body aerial flashgun. I used a 420ex last year on a stand with a remote trigger, but this year used a 250W strobe with an umbrella. Slightly less harsh, lots more control over intensity.

(I love Lightroom 3, it makes life so much easier…)

In a “you take photos don’t you?” moment a few weeks back, we got asked to do “official” photography for Ellie and Ben’s school across the road. The plan was for one of us to take photos of youngsters talking to Santa in his grotto, and then they got a photo each for Mum and Dad.

There’s a few problems with this though, headed by the fact I’d never done a shoot with a flashgun. Handily, I was already booked to take the 30D to Calumet on Friday morning for a clean so was able to pick their brains; I also walked out with a grip for the 30D since I’ll probably not be able to lay my hands on a 5D Mk2 until April 2009 (but that’s another story).

Next issue – the lab is a mile away. We could upload the pics but the connectivity in the school can’t be relied on and the restrictions are draconian including per-user upload/download quota which would be flattened by the 10th photo uploaded – reluctantly I fiddled with my 3G card and managed to get an upstream of about 30kbytes/s from the school making it roughly 2 minutes to get a photo to the lab. Phew. (Please note at this stage that if I was doing this more often, I’d probably invest in one of those portable pro-dye-sub printers).

I didn’t want to have to mess around with memory cards either so investigated hooking the camera up to the laptop. I’d not really used Canon’s software before but it was fun to see I could change settings on the camera remotely, trigger it to fire, all sorts of guff – which then got plonked into Canon’s own Imagebrowser software and given a filename of the child’s name and ticket. That plus a combination of a few hacked-up shell scripts meant I could largely automate the whole process from camera to lab, with time-from-shoot to it popping out the lab being around 5-10 minutes – God bless rsync.

So to summarise:

  1. Canon 30D takes photo, goes direct to computer via USB.
  2. Pick out a nice photo of the 4-5 I’ve taken and rename it with kid’s ticket and name.
  3. rsync chucks file to remote server over Vodafone 3G.
  4. Lab picks file up off remote server via rsync.
  5. Photo comes out of lab.
  6. Someone drives it to the school.

All within about 10 minutes (if you’re lucky and at the end of a batch anyway).

Nicky did the driving – wazzing to and fro from the lab and bringing prints, and apparently the kids helped. The only hitch was when I realised my camera’s USB cable didn’t stretch from laptop to grotto, but that was resolved with a couple of long USBA-B cables and a USB hub in the middle, which I only stepped on, er, twice. The biggest disaster to happen would probably have been if the 3G fell back to GPRS, but I found a reasonable point in the vestibule next to the grotto where I could blu-tak the 3G dongle to the wall and get a good signal.

All in all a good effort and largely a success.