Category Archives: Post Processing

Lightroom Plugin Analyzes Metadata

I discovered a very cool plugin for Lightroom from Lightroom Analytics that takes your metadata and gives you all types of cool graphs.  It involves installing a plugin into Lightroom to export the meta data for the selected images.  You then open up a HMTL page and drag the exported data into the finder, and you are all done with a lot of graphs.

I recently acquired a full frame Nikon D800 and was wondering what lens I should buy.   To see what I have been using, in Lightroom I used the filter to see all of the thousands of images taken with the D300 and exported the metadata using this plugin.  Then I dragged the produced file into their webpage and it produced all types of graphs, including the above one.

I then looked at one of the other graphs it produced to see what focal lengths I actually used and I saw this graph, that reported them in actual focal length and also equivalent full frame.  Click the images to see enlarged.

RealFocalLength

From these charts I see that I like to shoot very wide, from the widest I had (18 mm for 35 mm equivalent) up to about 100 mm.  There were several items in the telephoto range, mostly at 300 mm, but not as many as very wide.  From this I decided to get a mid range zoom and an ultra wide zoom .

Next I looked at what apertures I was using and what shutter speeds.  The program produced these charts.

AperatureUsed

Most of the time I was stopped down to 5.6 or smaller so spending the extra money and weight penalty to get the f2.8 pro lenses maybe was not needed.  I opted for the level between the pro and consumer and purchased the Nikon 16-35 mm f4 and the Nikon 24-120 mm f4.

By using the metadata from my past photography I can better understand what type of equipment will best serve me when switching to the full frame format camera.

To cover the longer reach, I brought of our retirement my 200 mm f4 prime lens and will give that a try.  With 36 megapixels on the Nikon D800, you can easily crop if you need to get more reach.

There are many other graphs such as which camera body you are using the most (including smartphones), focal lengths, exposures, exposure bias, as well as details for each of the lenses.  Check it out.

HDR with a Single Image

The concept behind creating a HDR (high dynamic range) photo is to take several photos of the same image using varying exposures.  Then the images are used together with the right software to create a photo that captures more of the dynamic range that you would be able to do with a single photo.  This is best done with a tripod and a still image so the multiple photos are all the same.

Many times this is not possible.  We were driving along a Florida highway when the sun was setting.  There was no time to setup to take a photo and I was in the back seat anyway.  I captured a single image shooting through the windshield.  The picture looked nice, but as most sunset photos, the foreground was almost totally black.

After using Photoshop to remove some of the objects, using the content aware fill feature, I exported the image to Nik Software’s plug in HDR Efects Pro 2, selecting Tone Mapping (single image).  Selecting one of the presets this plug in offers, gave me a photo that was closer to what I recall see.  The effect may be a bit to much and it would be useful to reduce the amount of post processing, but I leave it as is to so you what is possible.

P1000515-Edit-2

The Computer is the Darkroom and Sometimes the Camera

When I was much younger I built a full dark room in the basement of our first home.  I fondly remember buying a Besler enlarger that would work with 33 mm and 120 film.  I would develop my own black and white film.  Although I would do mostly black and white prints where you could magically watch the print develop in the tray of developer chemical, I also would make some color prints using a drum where you poured the chemicals into the end while it rotated.  Any post processing I did was with a filter on the enlarger or using dogging and burning in while making the print.

How things have changed and the darkroom just doesn’t exist anymore for most all people.  Instead the computer is the darkroom and the tools we have are vastly superior what we could do with film.  It has gone to the extent that using CGI, many product “photos” are not really photos at all since no camera was used.  Instead the image was entirely created using only a computer.  Look at the following image of a Nikon DSLR.  Can you tell that this was created only with a computer?

keyshot1

This image was created using a program called called KeyShot by Luxion.  For more information visitthe KeyShot website gallery that currently has 13 pages full of these renders.  This brings me to my view of photography and the different aspects.  Many aspiring photographers spend most of their attention on the far right of the graphic below and talk mostly about the equipment.

what-make-for-great-photo

Needless to say, the highest quality camera and lens will not, by itself, create a great photograph.  Yes, the photo may be sharp, and well exposed, but could be rather uninteresting.  Needless to say, those who spend their energy talking only about their equipment don’t post may of their photos for the world to see.  They often spend more energy and time arguing why their brand or type of camera is better than they do with actually taking and post processing photos.

At the other end is the artistic aspect where those with the right skills know how to capture a great photograph or video by using the right techniques.  They understand the principles of depth of field and lighting.  The may go out in the early morning or late evening to get the right shot.

Where these two extremes can come together, the meeting of the technical and artistic, is in the area of post processing.  Today that means a good computer and the right software, along with some computer skills and some artistic abilities.

Post Processing Software

In this middle ground, this is what works best for me.

  • Lightroom (Adobe).  This one of the best programs of it’s kind.  It not only handles all the organizing of your photos but now includes many tools for post processing.  I find that 90% of the time, this is all I need from moving the image from the camera, to post processing, to generated an image for the end use.  Although version 4 has improved it’s handling of video images, it still lacks significantly in that area, but when it comes to handle JPEG or RAW images, it excels.
  • Photoshop (Adobe).  Still the kind of image editors.  For those times when I need to go beyond the abilities of Lightroom, from within Lightroom I will choose to edit in Photoshop.  That will create a virtual copy and you still will have the original and the edited version showing in Lightroom.
  • Nik Software (Google).  Google bought this company and recently reduced it’s prices.  It has several modules that provide some fantastic post processing abilities with less effort that would be required using only Photoshop.
  • Final Cut Pro (Apple).  For video editing I find this the best software for myself.  There are both simpler and more sophisticated approaches, but for me this is the program to use.

For some this might be overkill while for others it might not be enough, but for me, this is all I use or feel I need.

 

 

Nik Software Now Affordable

I have long been intrigued by the suite of software that Nik Software offered. They had modules from everything like HDR to stunning Black and White. The problem was that their software was just too pricey for me, with each of there modules costing $100 or more, plus if you wanted the versions that worked with Photoshop rather than Lightroom that cost extra.

The good news is that Google has purchased Nik Software and has dramatically lowered the price. Rather than selling each of the six modules separately, it is all one suite together for $149. And there is one installer so it works with all the supported applications that you own, in my case both Lightroom and Photoshop.  I found a discount code “WBEEM” that saved me an additional $22, although I don’t know how long that code will be valid.  With only a short time experimenting with this software, I have included some examples below.

Sydney Harbor

I took this photo with a Nikon D300.   I really liked the photo but in this area you don’t usually get the breathtaking skies that I might find in some other areas of the world.  These examples show what I was able to do with Nik software.

Nik offers effects that range from very subtle to obviously over done and unrealistic.  I tried to to pick some examples somewhat in the middle.  For each effect you can make adjustments.

 Original

FJK201201-1010153

HDR Efex Pro 2 (using single image)

FJK201201-1010153-Edit-3

Color Efex Pro 4

FJK201201-1010153-Edit-5

Silver Efex Pro 2

FJK201201-1010153-Edit-4

New Zealand Sounds

As we cruised through the Sounds of New Zealand the view was magical.  As is too often the case, when you capture the image with a camera, it doesn’t look quite like what you remember.  This photo was taken with a Nikon D300 and using Nik Software, I was able to get an image with only a few clicks that better represented what I thought I was viewing.

Original

FJK201202-6115

HDR Efex Pro 2 (using single image)

FJK201202-6115-Edit

For a extensive introduction to all the modules in the Nik software collection and and an overview of how to use them, here is a 60 minute YouTube video.

Photo File Naming Convention

We were visiting our son recently for our grandson Logan’s birthday.  Our son was showing us his Sony Playstation 3 where he had inserted a jump drive with his own childhood photos on it.  Years ago I had digitized many of my slide images and had come up with a file naming structure then.  The above image came up on the screen and the viewer showed the file name “1975A025S John, Jeff at Redfish Lake.jpg”.  At that instance I realized how important it was that I had used some type of good file naming structure back then because I would have never remembered when the photo was taken, that it was taken at Red Fish Lake and I might not even have been able to identify which child was in the picture.

In The Days of Film

Years ago it was relatively easy to manage the images I took. I usually would take 35 mm slides in those days and would just buy those bulk trays to store them sequentially. When I got them back from being developed, I would write on the slide cardboard holder the names of the people in the picture.  I created little dividers in my bulk trays to separate the slides by year.   When I used negative film, I would put the negatives in plastic sleeves and then include those in a binder.

Digitizing Film Images

Once I start to digitize some of these slides and negatives, I needed to come up with a naming convention for the file on the computer.  I decided to tie the digital image back to the original, which meant I needed to do some type of naming on the original slide or negative sleeve.  I started out by using two digits for the year, a letter from A to Z for which role it was and two digits of which frame, and a N or S if it was a slide or Negative. So if my image was 96A03N, to find the original I looked for the 3rd frame on the negative sleeve of the first role taken in 1996. It all worked okay back then but the images started to come more from digital cameras and less digitizing film. Still I stuck with this concept. I had to expand the year out to four digits and the sequence out to 3 digits, but I would name a file something like 2002A003D, which was a digital only image taken in 2002. The A was the first group and I would just add a sequence until I decided to go to another letter.

Following that I would add in text that contained who was in the photo and where it was taken.  So I would end up with something like “1995B009N Sara at Tokyo.jpg”.  When I first wanted to give the kids a CD with images they were in, I would search for all the images with their name in it because I had taken the time to insert the names right into the file name.

Computer Folder Structure

On my computer I would put 10 years of photos in one folder, with a separate sub folder for each year. So I had a folder 1990-99 with a sub folder 1999. That 1999 folder has only 185 images. I took a lot more pictures but have only digitized 185 of them.

Anyone who has a digital camera knows that the number of images taken is orders of magnitude more than with film. Last year I  took about 2,000 images. So I gave up grouping the years in 10 year increments and just have a folder for the year. Inside that I have a folder for each day that I have images. I have Adobe Lightroom setup to import images from my digital cameras and create those sub folders, based on the EXIF information in the file.  After import, inside Lightroom I rename the folder to include some descriptive name.

Others who use this approach name those sub folders with something descriptive such as “Visit to Beach”. But then that folder, might be towards the bottom while “Christmas” would be toward the top. I guess I am too structured for that so I use the month-day for the folder name and then add on that type of description, such as “06-23 Visit to the Beach”. Initially I also included the year in the folder name but thought that was redundant since that folder is inside a folder with the year on it.    Since you can always get the date from the files EXIF, I am not too worried about not putting the year for the folder name, as long as the parent folder has the year in it.

Individual File Naming

That brings me down to the individual file names.   When I was digitizing film, each file was a stand alone.  I could later change the name if I wanted and it would not matter.  Since I am now using Adobe Lightroom, which keeps a database of all the photos, any renaming I do must be done from within Lightoom or it will not know where the photo is located and I will have to manually match up each individual photo file or lose any edits I have done.

Initially I was just using the camera generated name. It seems like a lot of effort to rename every single image.  My thought was that on my computer I have the folder structure that tells me the date and subject, and using Ligthroom, I have entered keywords to identify all family members.  But then I thought about the recent experience with my son viewing his childhood photos on his TV.

In the digital world information about the photo can be located in one of three places:

  • The File Name – that is carried with the photo no matter where it goes and is readable by any device that can view images
  • The EXIF – embeded in each JPEG and RAW image is lots of information about which camera was used, shutter speed, etc.
  • External – Any sidecar file or database such as Adobe Lightroom that can contain such things as keywords

The further you move down the above chain the more likely you are not  able to retain that information many years later.  Obviously putting all you want into the file name is the safest, but that takes a lot of work, maybe too much considering how many digital images we shoot. That was understandable when people would search for a file by something in a file name as I did in the 1990s. But today we search visually, using some time of photo management software.  Using Lightroom, I can select the folder 2008 and see all the photos taken in this year.  Or I can select the folder “07-10 Crater Lake” and see the images taken on our visit to Crater Lake.  I don’t need to change all the file names. Instead, inside Lightroom I will use tags to find the images.

Placing the files for each day into a separate folder gathers together the folders that are usually associated with an event. Inside Adobe Lightroom, I can just click that folder in the navigation and see all the images.  This is a bit like the Events in iPhoto, but not quite as powerful since some events span multiple days and some days have multiple events.

Concerns About This Approach

The more we depend on software library programs such as iPhoto, Lightroom, or Adobe Photoshop Elements, the less likely we are to put into the folder structure and file name any useful information.  I was currently  using the camera generated name but that has very little information.  It only tells me which camera I used and the sequence of the image.  What happens if I want to change what program I use to manage my images.  Will all those tags I carefully entered, which are in the software database, be converted over. Information inside the EXIF should always be there since this is a standard.  Adobe does offer the option in Lightroom to create a side card file, so when you open it in another Adobe program, such as Photoshop, it can read that information.  But that means a bunch of additional files that only Adobe programs can read.

So I am changing my approach.  I will continue to use the same folder naming convention I have in the past, but I will use Adobe Lightroom to rename all my  images with a bit more information, but will retain the sequence number that was created by the camera.  This is important since I have uploaded many photos to an online service and I need to be able to find the original in the future.

After importing the recent photos, using Lightroom I selected all the photos in the “FJK 01-07 Logan Birthday Folder” and then issued this renaming command.

This renames each file with my initials (so I know who took the photo), the year/month, a bit of information about the subject and where taken, and the original sequence number.  With this small amount of effort, I ended up with the files named like this.

Yes, it is a longer file name than “_DSC2427.NEF” that was imported originally, but it contains a lot more information.  It seems a good compromise since it takes very little time.  The reason why I want to include the original file name sequence is because I have often uploaded the photos to some photo sharing site before I went back and renamed them.  This allows me to connect what is in the website and the original image.

Conclusion

Currently I am happy with the folder structure I am using.  I can easily find a group of photos as shown in this example that is from one year ago, at Logan’s first birthday.

This seems to be the simplest approach right now, but I have changed before and might well change again.  I am still considering if I am doing enough in terms or renaming individual files but doing more would require renaming individual files.  I believe I should go back and enter at least the names of the people in the file name, but that is a lot of work.  It is just that I have some prints of my ancestors and I don’t know who they are because no one wrote the names on the back of the print.  But for now, I would rather spend the time taking pictures so this subject is not yet closed.

Adobe Camera Profiles for Lightroom

Post Processing of RAW Images

This discussion is specifically about the post processing of RAW images (See my prior posting on Shooting Raw Images).   One of the issues of shooting images in RAW, is that often post processing is needed since processing can not occur inside the camera.  When a camera outputs a JPEG image the camera itself will do some processing, depending on how the manufacture setup things and the setting selected by the user.

The parameters for this processing is guarded by too many camera manufactures who seemed more interested in selling their software than supporting the users. Adobe has provide some excellent software applications for post processing RAW images, including Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Photoshop and more recently Adobe Lightroom.  One of the weaknesses of these products is their inability to read the in camera setting and apply those during post processing.  People would therefore often feel that RAW images looked too flat and were not vivid enough.

If you have your Nikon DSLR set on “Vivid” for example and shoot in both RAW + JPEG, when you open both images in Photoshop, the JEPG image, which had the in camera processing, will appear much more vivid than the RAW image.  If you open the same two images in the Nikon program Capture NX, then it would read the in camera setting and apply it to the RAW image so the output would look much closer to the JPEG.

Adobe Camera Specific Profiles

Adobe, has released camera specific profiles that approximate these in camera settings.  I have tried them with my Nikon D300 and they look very good.  To do a comparision, I opened the same RAW image in both Adobe Lightroom 2 and Nikon Capture NX and placed them side by side on the same monitor, then did a screen capture.  The intent here is just to look at the color adjustments. No other adjustments were made.

This first example this shows with Lightroom using the Adobe Lightroom Camera Specific “Vivid” profile on the left and Capture NX using the “Neutral” setting on the right. I start out to show you how this profile can change the image significantly.  You will see what you expect, the one on the left has more vivid colors.  To view each image enlarged, click on it.

Now I changed the Capture NX (image on the right) to use the Vivid setting.  If the Adobe profiles are good, then the colors of both images would be close.

Next I set both the Lightroom Image (left) and the Capture NX Image (right) to use the setting “D2X Mode 3”.  This is a setting offered in the Nikon D300 to approximate what the Nikon D2X would produce.

And the last comparison is both set to “Neutral”.

Based on this informal testing, I feel that Adobe has done a good job at creating the camera profile for the Nikon D300.  Considering that using Lightroom is a pleasure to use and much more power compared with the poor interface and slow Nikon Capture NX, I am excited about these camera profiles.  Some may feel that Capture NX still does a better job but for me I would not say so and if it did, not enough of a difference to struggle using the Nikon program.

How to Use the Camera Profiles

View this video for more information and how to download and install this camera profiles.  Note that these profiles only are working with RAW images and they only work with Lightroom version 2 and ACR 4.5.  However note that there is no longer any need to download the camera profiles separately. They are shipping with the latest Camera Raw update (5.2 at the time of this writing) and will be shipping with the next update of Lightroom (i.e., 2.2).

In Lightroom, in the Develop module, under the Camera Settings, you will see this drop down (but only if you are viewing a RAW image).

These are the options that you can get for the Nikon  D300.  Each camera has it’s own options.  I found it best to create a preset for the ones I wish to use the most.

View the above video for more information.  Also see the FAQs on the Adobe website.

Crater Lake Edited

I used the new localized features in Adobe Lightroom 2 to adjust areas in this photograph.  As taken, the site was too bright and parts of the rallen tree in the foreground were too dark.  I used both the gradient tool and the brush to adjust the exposure in some of the areas.

The easiest way to learn about these new tools is the free online Adobe Video Workshop.

The before and after comparison shows the impact of the changes.  Some might have been overdone, which is always a danger.  The top is the before.  This is sure a lot easier than the days when we tried to dodge and burn in a darkroom, but the concept is the same. Click on the image to view larger.

Shooting RAW Images

What are RAW Images

A digital camera takes the information from the sensor and converts that information into a JPEG image using the in-camera settings for such things as white balance, brightness, contrast and sharpness. Those settings are either selected by the photographer or are automatically selected. Digital SLR cameras offer the option of saving the information that comes off the image sensor and save it directly to the memory card before conversion to a JPEG file. Such an file is referred to as a RAW Image file.  If you choose to save  your images as only JPEG, then the internal workings of the camera will take all that data from the sensor, process it, and save the file as JPEG.  But a JPEG only haves 256 levels of brightness for each of the three RGB color channels (red, green and blue).  On the other hand the RAW image has 4096 levels of brightness for each color channel, so if you save only as JPEG you camera will throw away some information.

Unlike RGB files such as JPEG and TIFF files, there is no standard for RAW images and each camera has it’s own format. Even within one manufacturer there are differences between camera models. The RAW image contains information from the camera’s sensor plus other information such as white balance setting, exposure, sharpening settings, and any other in camera color adjustment settings. Exif data is also stored in the RAW image.

Do RAW Images Lack Punch?

As digital cameras started to proliferate, we saw many of the camera manufactures build in their camera to digitally add more punch to the JPEG images.  Although this started back in the days of film, it was the movement to digital that allowed for much more in camera processing.  This is fine when the output in a JPEG where the camera can do the processing of the data off of the sensor.

With many cameras, when you shoot in RAW you can set the color adjustments in the camera.  These do not actually change the colors inside the raw image, but the camera setting is recorded there.  When you use the software that is sold by the camera manufacture, it will read what you set in camera and apply an equivalent of these settings to the RAW image.   Then when you create a JPEG from the RAW image it will look similar to what the camera would have produced a JPEG itself.

Digital Negatives

It may help to think of RAW image files as a digital negative. With a film negative you have all the information as recorded by the camera but they are not viewable directly but need to be processed before viewing or printing. So it is with RAW images, they need to be processed before you can view or print them. That process involves converting them to a RGB file such as JPEG or TIFF.

When a film photographer makes a print from their negative they would never think about throwing away their film negatives because those negatives contain information that is lost in making the print. Likewise the digital photographer would not want to discard their RAW images after converting them to a RGB file format such as JPEG.

Advantages of Shooting RAW Images

When taking the picture if only a RAW image is recorded, that file needs to be processed before using it. That is typically done on a computer using software that can read the RAW image and write a JPEG file. That would normally require an extra step for the photographer and for that reason many photographers just set their digital SLR cameras to record JPEG only. However capturing the RAW image has many advantages compared with saving only a JPEG image.

  • Higher image quality. Just as a film negative has more information that is contained in a print, a RAW image has more information that can be contained in a JPEG file.
  • More effective post processing. Using a computer program to convert a RAW image to a RGB file allows much better control over changing parameters such as white balance, contrast, brightness, sharpening.
  • Non-destructive edits. When you use a computer program to edit a RAW image you do not lose any of the original information. Any edits are stored either as data within the RAW image file (usually only if you are using software provided from the camera manufactuer) or in a sidecar file (as is done with Adobe products). Even if you crop the image, you can always go back to the RAW image and start over. If you crop a JPEG file, then the cropped area is lost forever.
  • You can use a lossless compression, or no compression, for the RAW image file. JPEG files use a lossy compression, which means some information is lost each time the file is edited and re-compressed

Disadvantages of Shooting RAW Images

  • Increased image size. RAW image file are usually 2-4 times larger than the JPEG file, or even more if their do not use any compression. Than means fewer images can be stored on a memory card and more hard disk space is used to store the images.
  • No standard. There is no standard for RAW image formats. I have both a Nikon D70 and a Nikon D300 digial SLR and both cameras use a different RAW image. So any software that is used to convert the image needs to be able to process a particular RAW image. Adobe has proposed a standard RAW format they call DNG for Digital Negative. So far the big manufacturers have not adopted it.
  • Post processing required. There is an increased time to process the image to a JPEG format that can be uploaded to a website or printed. However that is not as significant as it once was. With the great adoption of RAW image formats, you can now effectively use them directly. On a Mac computer you can view the images directly using the file browser (finder) and Windows offers add ins that can do the same. I can upload RAW images to my photo sharing site, Smugmug. The upload process does all the work to convert the RAW Image to a JPEG format for me. I use Adobe Lightroom and can export directly from there to SmugMug, having all the post processing applied to the RAW image before it is uploaded in a JPEG format.

Shooting RAW + JPEG

Many cameras offer the option to shoot both RAW and JPEG files at the same time so for each shot you get two images. This might sound like the best of all worlds. There are some disadvantages however. Two images will take even more space on the memory card. For my Nikon D300 camera the RAW image takes up about 13 mb using lossless compression and a JPEG Fine image takes up about 7 mb, so if I shoot RAW+JPEG Fine, each shot takes up about 20 Mb on the memory card and on the computer when transfered there. With the greatly lower prices on memory cards that is not as big of an issue as it once was.

There is also the added confusion of file management when you have two different files of the same image. If you rename the JPEG file and not the RAW file it is difficult to keep track of things. Some programs such as Adobe Lightroom do a very good job or recognizing that there is both a RAW image and a JPEG image with the same name, except different extensions, and shields you from the complexity of having two images.

Conclusion

So in conclusion I feel it is important to shoot all your pictures using the RAW Image format if your camera offers that option. Whether you take the extra step of shooting in plus JPEG, is a personal decision. If I had plenty of free disk space and was using a program such as Adobe Lightroom, I would probably shoot in RAW+Fine JPEG. There was a time I would shoot RAW + JPEG basic so I could upload the JPEGS to a website but that is not needed now since I can upload directly from the RAW images. If I was either lacking disk space or was using a photo library program that showed duplicate images with the potential confusion of handling both RAW and JPEG, I would shoot in RAW only and create JPEG files if I need to, such as doing online printing. What I would not recommend is shooting JPEG only. I don’t see sufficient advantages to compensate for the disadvantages.

Sharing Photos on the Web

Three Approaches to Photo Sharing

There are basically three approaches to sharing your photos online. You can upload your photos to a online photo sharing service, you can create your own galleries to be loaded onto your own website, or you might sign up for a blogging service and create a photo blog.

For the first category there are many options, both free and fee based. One of the most popular photo service is Flickr, operated by Yahoo. It offers free, but limited accounts and is supported by many programs. My only comment about Flickr is that I find it to be difficult to view images on it and does not have the best user interface. Personally I prefer the offering from SmugMug, which charges an annual fee but offers unlimited photo uploads.

If you would rather post your photos on your own website there are many tools that allow you to create galleries of your photos. What tool you might use depends on how you manage your photos on your computer. This artile is written for those who use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. If you use a Mac and the iPhoto program, I will write about those options in a seperate article.

If you wish to create a photo blog then you have the option of either installing blogging software, such as WordPress, on your own webiste or sign up for a free blog account at a place such as blogspot, operated by Google. This article is created on my own website using the WordPress software. I will not be covering photo blogs futher in this article but will focus on the online photo sharing sites and creating your own photo gallery for hosting on your own site.

Previously I wrote about the Web feature in Lightroom and how easy it is to create a web gallery. I decided to also try a program that I had used previously, JAlbum, and compare those two approaches with what I usually use, SmugMug.

I should also note that I shoot all my photos in RAW. I previously wrote about why you should shoot in RAW. The reason I mentioned this aspect is that any photos that are placed on a website need to be converted to another format, such as JPEG, before they are posted. That step has some bearing on the effort required to build a web gallery using Lightroom with RAW images.

Let’s start with the common things. I use Lightroom to import the photos and do some post processing. Some things I use Adobe Photoshop CS3 for, but in all cases, I am also using Lightroom for managing my photo library. Lightroom has some nice features to help you sort out which photos you wan to use, including marking a photo as a pick, assigning a rating, or creating a quick set.

Once I have the group of photos I want to publish to a website, then the different methods I could use include the following.

Online Photo Gallery

The simplest approach is to upload your photos to one of the online photo services. There are several advantages of using an online photo gallery:

  • No need to have a website
  • Offsite backup of your photos
  • Easy access since such sites have built in navigation to select you individual galleries and to navigate wthin each gallery
  • Easy sharing of images in items such as blogs or email.
  • Visitors can not only view your photos but can order prints if you allow them to.

I have an account with SmugMug which allows me unlimitted uploads. There are also free services including the popular Flickr as well as many other services. There is a Lightroom plugin that works with SmugMug. So all I need to do in Lightroom is to exported my images directly to SmugMug. See the dialog box below on who that is done.

The process handles any temporary conversion to JPEG files, using my Lightroom post processing, before uploading. Inside the dialog box I can create the album where to put the photos. Like othere services such as Flickr, SmugMug handles all the gallery creation and menuing system. So in a matter of less than a minute I am finished and can go walk away while the images are uploaded.

You Own Hosted Photo Gallery

Some do not want to use a online photo sharing site and would prefer to host on thier own webstie. There are some advantages to this approach including:

  • You can use your own identify
  • Extensive customization can be achieved on the gallery interface

But this approach also has many disadvantages:

  • You must have a website and use some of your disk space.
  • It usually requires several steps to first create the gallery and then upload it
  • It may be difficult to get a link of a particular photo to use in something like an email or blog
  • You have to create some way for users to navigate to your individual galleries, which might mean creating a HTML page with hard coded links.
  • Viewers can not usually order printes and may not be able to download the images, even if you want them to be able to.

Lightroom Generated Gallery

As I previously mentioned Ligthroom has a Web feature. This is also simple to use because once I have the photos selected, Ligthroom will create all the files needed for an online gallery, including JPEG files with the post processing, and the navigation for the website, and then upload them using FTP to my personal website.

There are limited templates to pick from and that galleries are rather straightforward. It takes a bit of extra effort compared with SmugMug, but when I am finished I have a stand alone gallery. It is not tied in with my other galleries so I would need to have my own index page I would need to edit so others can find my photos.

JAlbum Generated Gallery

The last method is the most time consuming and in many ways the one with the least desirable results. JAlubm is a free and excellent program. Because it is an open source program, developers have written many templates to choose from. I just picked one that came with the program. Starting with my selected photos in Ligthroom I had to first export the images to a JPEG file, saving them in a temporary location on my hard drive. I then needed to start JAlbum and import those same images. Creating the gallery is rather straightforward and once I am done the program will even FTP them to my website. But as was true with the Ligthroom created gallery, I end up with a stand alone gallery and it would be up to me to create some index page so people could find the gallery

Click on the links below to see how each gallery looks, all using the same group of photos.

Method
Ease of Use
Integrated Gallery
Photo Sharing Tools
End Result
SmugMug Excellent Yes, SmugMug handles all navigation Excellent, using in blogs, slideshows, ligthbox Excellent, well integrated with other galleries
Lightroom Gallery Very Good No, stand alone gallery Limited Very good, but limited templates
JAlbum Good No, stand alone gallery Limited Great selection of templates but many are quirky.

So when I look at what SmugMug offers me the easiest path to publishing my photos and provides a lot of other support such as the menuing system and ways to share individual photos in things such as a blog. So that is what I will continue to use. For those occasions where I feel the need to place a gallery on my own website I will use the Web feature in Lightroom.

Adobe Lightroom Web Feature

I was reviewing this tutorial from the Digital Photography Connection about the Web panel in Adobe Photoshop Ligthroom and wanted to give it a try.  I had just taken about 15 shots of our new one week old grandchild and the other grandchildren and thought they would be some good photos to use to create a web gallery.

I usually post my photos to a SmugMug account I have and able to do that directly from Lightroom.  But I liked the idea of creating my own web gallery.  I first did some quick processing of the photos using  Lightroom and then created a web gallery which I have posted here.

There are several templates you can select from.  I picked a Flash based one.  You can change all the titles, and the colors of the templates, saving those chagnes if you wish.  This template allows you to view individual pictures or run a slide show.

This again shows the power of Lightroom.  From the initial step of importing the photos from the camera, through post processing, to creating a web gallery, I was able to do all the steps right from within Lightroom.

I have used other software to create web galleries, such as the well done program JAlbum. Since I shoot in RAW and did some post processing.  To use a program like JAlbum I would need to use Lightroom to export all the photos with the changes I had made to JPEG files first.  I would then need to start up Jalbum and import those JPEG files.

By using Lightroom to create the web gallery, there was no need to export the photos as JPEG files and then reimport them.  That was all handled by the Web feature in Lightroom.  Looking at the files, I see it created various sizes of each photo, Large (980×650), Medium (780×520) and Small (678×450) along with thumbnails.  It also created the index.html file, the javascript files and a flash file.