Exporting for Web in Adobe Lightroom (Podcast 525)

Exporting for Web in Adobe Lightroom (Podcast 525)

This week, I’m going to walk you through how I add copyright information to my images in Adobe Lightroom, then export them for web with a watermark embedded.

Last week, based on a listener’s question, I showed you how you can do these things in Photoshop Elements, but honestly, as I spent way too long struggling with Elements, I realized that I simply had to follow up with an episode on how you do these simple tasks in Lightroom. I’ll go on to mention a new plugin that I’ve just started to using to optimize my images after I upload them to this WordPress based web site as well.

Adding Copyright Statement to Images

OK, so to quickly recap from last week, I mentioned that it’s possible to add the author’s (photographer’s) name and a copyright statement to images right there in the camera as you shoot them, by entering this data in the camera’s menus. At least this is possible with my Canon cameras, and I imagine it’s possible with pretty much every other camera on the market too.

I also mentioned that I can add this information more easily using Canon’s EOS Utilities application, that comes with the camera. Neither of these methods though supports adding the copyright symbol © to the text appended to images, so ultimately, I do this in Lightroom, and I’ll show you how in a moment.

Before that, I’d also like to reiterate my mantra that you save the most time in your digital workflow by doing everything that you need to do to your images as early as possible in your workflow. If you want to add or update the copyright information in your images, you can do it during import and then you never have to worry about this again for the life of your image.

Prepare Your Metadata Preset

Apply Metadata Preset During Import

Apply Metadata Preset During Import

What’s more, if we create a Metadata Preset that contains our copyright information, we can just select that and it will be automatically applied as we import our images until we change it, so let’s first look at how we create a preset.

In the import dialog in Lightroom, on the right there’s a section called Apply During Import. Under that, you’ll see a Metadata pulldown. Click that pulldown, and select New from the sub-menu. If you already have a Metadata preset that you use, but don’t have copyright information included, select Edit Presets.

In the dialog box that appears if it’s a new preset, give it a name, and if you are updating a preset, select if from the Preset pulldown. Then add your Copyright text, and Rights Usage Terms, and a URL to your copyright information page if you have one. When you are finished, hit the Create button if it’s a new preset, or select Update Preset “your preset name” from the Preset menu, then click the Done button.

Create or Update Metadata Preset

Create or Update Metadata Preset

After you return to the import dialog, your new or updated preset should be selected under the Metadata pulldown, but if it isn’t select it from the list. Now, as you import your images, the copyright information we just created will be added to all images that you import or add to your library from that point on, until you deselect the preset or select a different one.

You’ll notice that I include the year in my copyright statement, so I just have to remember to change this at the start of each new year. If you think you might forget to do so, create a reminder in your calendar or perhaps just don’t include the year in the copyright text, although it’s generally better to include the year.

To apply this preset to images that are already in your Lightroom catalog, simply select all of the images that you want to tag in the Library module, then select the Metadata preset that you just created or updated from the Preset pulldown under the Metadata panel in the right sidebar. Alternatively you can just right click the selected images, and select the Preset from the Metadata Presets sub-menu.

The beauty of this as well is that only fields that are checked when you create the preset will be updated, so you won’t over-write or clear any other data, unless it was in the copyright related fields of course. Also note that I leave the Copyright status as Unknown because I use this as a flat to show me which images I have actually registered with the Library of Congress. After registering them, I change this to Registered in the Library module.

Create an Export Preset

OK, so now that we have our images copyright tagged, we’re ready to export them for Web. Again, we’re going to create a preset for this, so that we can export with a couple of clicks from this point on. Anything that you think you’ll do more than once, just create a preset for. It will always help to speed up your workflow.

Also note that you can export as many images as you want in Lightroom. You just need to select the images that you want to export in the Library module, then for the first time, click the Export button in the bottom of the left sidebar, and you’ll see a dialog box like this. If Export To is not set to Hard Drive, select that, and then work down each pain selecting the settings that we’ll cover now.

Lightroom Export Dialog

Lightroom Export Dialog

If you have a specific location that you know you’ll want to export your images to each time you use this preset,  select Specific folder under the Export Location > Export To field, then Choose your location. For my Web sized images I selected “Choose folder later (useful for presets)” and then I simply navigate to a folder to put the images in each time I do an Export. Lightroom remembers this folder as well, so it stays in that folder until you change it. For the Existing Files pulldown I tell Lightroom to ask me if I want to overwrite or not, if the same file is already in the folder.

Under the File Naming section I generally leave the filenames as they are, because I rename all of my files on import. Remember, the earlier you do something, the more time you save later.

Under the File Settings section I generally use JPEG for Web, and select sRGB for the Color Space, and I select 92 for the Quality. This tells Lightroom how much to compress the images. I’ve used 92 for many years now, as I read somewhere that it’s a good compression ratio to select if you want to reduce the file size by around a half, but have no risk of seeing any digital artifacts or crushed gradations in the image.

Now, you can often select a much heavier compression ratio, i.e. a smaller number here, but it requires that you manually continue to increase the compression while comparing your image to an uncompressed version to see if you can detect any difference. Then, once you detect some difference, increase the compression back to the previous amount and save your final copy. That is time consuming and so I’ve always just used 92. There are better ways to find the optimal compression settings automatically now though, so I’ll talk about that later.

The Image Sizing section is where we select how large or small we’re going to make our web sized images as we export them. As I mentioned last week, I use 1440 x 960 pixels. I feel this is a good size for people to still be able to enjoy the full quality of my images, but not quite big enough for people to be able to do much with. How big you make your images will depend on your comfort levels.

I must say though that I occasionally see people that are still resizing images at 640 or 480 pixels wide, and unless I have some kind of obligation to continue looking at those images, I generally just leave the site. I’d say that these days you need to have your images at least 80o pixels wide, and even then, it’s still better to include a larger image that the user can view by clicking on it if they’d like a better look at your work.

By selecting Width & Height from the pulldown, and typing in 1440 pixels wide and 960 pixels high, Lightroom will automatically make landscape orientation images 1440 pixels wide, and if they are 3:2 aspect ratio, they will also be 960 pixels wide. If it’s a panoramic image they will be 1440 pixels wide, but shorter in height.

If however, I export a portrait orientation image, it will still be exported at 960 pixels high, but the width will be 640 pixels. This is how I want it. I don’t want my portrait images to display too high, so this setting suits me fine. If you’d prefer that portrait images are exported the same hight as the width of your landscape orientation images, then select Long Edge from the pulldown, and just enter your required length. I also leave the resolution at 72 pixels per inch for now, as that’s still pretty much the standard for web use.

Under Output Sharpening, I turn on the Sharpen For checkbox, and select Screen and the amount Standard. Whenever you scale down your images they will become slightly softer after export, so it’s best to turn this option on to maintain the sharpness of your images.

Under Metadata I opt to include All Metadata. You can select just to include Copyright information, Copyright and Contact Info, or All Except Camera and Camera Raw Info. I just keep all Metadata. One important thing to keep in mind here is if you are exporting images that have been geotagged, you might want to strip that information off by turning on the Remove Location Info checkbox.

This is especially important if you have photos that you shot at home, such as with your iPhone, which automatically adds location information. If you leave that embedded in your photos, it could lead people to your home that you might not want a visit from, so keep this in mind when sharing images. It might even be better to create a second preset with this checkbox turned on, and add “Strip Location Info” or something like that in the preset name.

I also turn on the checkbox to Write Keywords as Lightroom Hierarchy, but I’m not sure if this is necessary any more. My old web site used to omit keywords if I didn’t turn this on, but I haven’t used that site for a number of years now, and have never checked if this is still necessary, that’s all.

Add Your Watermark

Last week I talked about the pros and cons of adding a watermark, so we won’t go into that again, but if you want to add one to your images, the Watermarking section is where we set that up. Turn on the Watermark checkbox, then from the pulldown select Edit Watermarks.

You can add a text or graphic based watermark. First, let’s look at how to create a text based watermark. These are actually now quite powerful watermark settings in Lightroom. After selecting Text as the Watermark Style, go ahead and type in the text that you want to embed in your image, in the large field at the bottom of this window (below).

Lightroom Text Watermark

Lightroom Text Watermark

You can select any text font on your system, and change the style and alignment. If you chose a mid-gray for the color, your watermark will be visible on most background colors, except the same mid-grey, although that’s unlikely to happen in nature. If you use gray text, then an opacity of 50% is probably fine. If you use black text, 30% is perhaps better, to avoid it becoming too striking. Unless striking is what you want of course.

Personally I like to add my watermark to the bottom left of the image, and inset it just a little. You get a preview of how your watermark looks right there in the dialog box, so tweak away until you like what you see, then Save or update your watermark with the pulldown menu in the top left of the window. If you want, you can of course make multiple watermarks and select them according to your images when you export, and also create various export presets as necessary. Remember, once they are created they are only a couple of clicks away.

As I mentioned, you can also create a Graphic based watermark based using your logo or other image file. I’m not going to go into detail on how I made my logo, but for the watermark, placed it onto a new Photoshop file for which I’d set the Background Contents as Transparent. Then when you have added text or your logo file, if you save it as a PNG file, you will be able to maintain the transparency, so that you will be able to see your image through the gaps in your logo. I made it a mid-gray, and added a light colored drop shadow in Photoshop as well, which helps it to stand out against a gray background, because the shadow is lighter than the text.

Lightroom Graphic Watermark

Lightroom Graphic Watermark

Because my logo was quite light and because I didn’t want the shadow to become too weak, for my graphic watermark I set the Opacity to 66%, as you see in the screenshot (above). Again, once you’ve tweaked the settings, save your new watermark from the pulldown in the top left, and then click the Done button, and you’ll be sent back to the Export dialog.

The last thing to select is what you’d like Lightroom to do after it’s finished processing your image in the Post-Processing section. I generally select Show in Finder for this option, because then I get a visual clue that Lightroom has completed the export, and I also have the exported images right there in an open Finder window for me to start using. You can also select Do Nothing, or open the exported image in another application.

Once you have finished entering all of your settings, it’s time to click the Add button in the bottom left corner of the Export window, and give your preset a name that means something to you. I call my Web export “1440px to Chosen Folder”.

From that point on, whenever I want to export an image for the Web, all I have to do is right click the image or multiple selected images, then go to the Export section of the right-click menu, and select the preset from the sub-menu. Because I have selected to choose a folder on export, I do have to tell Lightroom where to put the images, but then when I click OK, my images are resized and watermarked and dropped into my selected folder for me to upload to my web site, or Facebook, Google Plus, or anywhere else I share my images.

I should mention that some sites like Flickr and 500px do provide plugins for Lightroom that can make it easier to upload images directly to online services, but I don’t use any of these, so I’m not the best person to explain them to you. Plus, they are mostly just as easy as adding images to a collection, so they are pretty self-explanatory.

JPEGmini

As I mentioned earlier, there are a few other ways to optimize the size of your images rather than just selecting 92 from the Quality slider in the Export window. One option that I was very close to buying, and maybe still will, is JPEGmini. You can actually optimize a JPEG image size as a test or download trial versions of this at jpegmini.com and it works really well. I hear from the developers that it basically tries increasing more aggressive compression until it sees degradation in the image, then dials it back a bit and saves a copy. This is very time consuming if you try to do it yourself, but JPEGmini does this all in a fraction of a second, so it’s worth considering. It basically just plugs right into the Export dialog that we’ve been looking at today, so it would be an add-on to this process, rather than replacing it.

So, you are probably wondering why I didn’t buy it? Well, the problem is that if I took my optimized images and upload them to WordPress, WordPress would by default automatically make a range of different sized images for various uses, and as it saves all of those new image files, it will apply a compression of 82%, and actually increase the size of the copies. This means that the only benefit from the optimization that people would see on my site would be when they click on images to view the full web sized image.

I saw some people online showing a line of code that you can add to WordPress to stop it from compressing images, but that’s misleading and doesn’t work. What it is actually doing is telling WordPress to compress images at 100%, so the images end up even larger than when they are compressed at 82%, which is the default compression. You could of course use the same line of code to increase the compression to a more aggressive percentage, but that could result in crunchy gradations and reduced quality in some images, so it’s too hit and miss.

JPEGmini Product Lineup

JPEGmini Product Lineup

I’ve not totally ruled out buying JPEGmini though, as I would like to use it to optimize the size of the full sized JPEG files that I export to add to Apple Photos, and then sync around all of my devices. It does look like a great way to do this, especially as it simply slots right into the Lightroom export dialog.

WP Smush Pro!

After further research, I actually decided to subscribe to WP Smush Pro which is part of the WPMU DEV team’s suite of WordPress plugins that you can find at wpmudev.org. It carries a monthly subscription fee which is currently $49 per month, although I’m currently optimizing every image on my site during their 14 day trial period. The suite contains a whole range of more than 100 other useful plugins though, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to stick around after my trial expires.

I did some tests though, and from what I saw, Smush Pro actually gets my files slightly smaller than JPEGmini, and because it works on my web server, it automatically optimizes every new image file as I upload it, including all of the new images that WordPress creates, and as I say, you can have Smush Pro go through your existing image library and optimize all of the images that you’ve already uploaded to WordPress as well.

Because it actually sends the images to the WPMU DEV web site for optimization, it’s a relatively slow process, but I started to optimize all 5,962 images on my Web site about five hours ago, and it’s already completed 1,300 of them, and saved me 760 megabytes of disk space by reducing image size by approximately 33%. I imagine at this rate, by the time the process has completed, it will have saved me around 3.5 GB of disk space.

[UPDATE: Just to let you know that the process finished fine, saving me 3GB of disk space by shrinking my images on average by 32%.]

This of course also means that the images will download faster for visitors for my site, and give me better SEO scores, because search engines like Google detect if images have been optimized or not, and rank sites higher if they have, so, it’s a great deal all round. Needless to say, I also did some pretty thorough tests to check that the images really were maintaining their quality, and so far, I’ve not been able to detect any visible degradation, so I’m pretty happy with my decision at this point. I’ll add a note right below this if that changes as the process completes.

By the way, just in case you also look into using Smush Pro, here is a screenshot of the settings I chose before I started the bulk smush operation.

WP Smush Pro Settings

WP Smush Pro Settings

OK, so that’s about it for today. I hope you found that useful. I’m actually about to start recording a video version of my popular Pixels 2 Pigment optimized digital workflow workshop that I have presented around the world as well as to small group here in my Tokyo studio, so if you might be interested in that, sign up for our newsletters and be among the first to hear when it becomes available.

 


Show Notes

WPMU DEV Package, with WP Smush Pro: https://premium.wpmudev.org/

JPEGmini: http://www.jpegmini.com

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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David duChemin on After the Camera (Podcast 506)

David duChemin on After the Camera (Podcast 506)

Today I bring you a conversation with my good friend David duChemin, to talk initially about his new series of 20 video tutorials called After the Camera. As you might imagine, we go on to talk about all kinds of stuff, some incredibly profound, and some lighthearted and fun.

I really enjoy talking with David, and I think you’re going to enjoy this conversation. You can pick up After the Camera here: https://mbp.ac/ddatc

David duChemin

David duChemin

There are no notes to share this week, as David and I had no agenda, but in addition to talking about After the Camera, we talked about our photographs being subjective views of the world, rather than accurate representations, at various levels.

The changes that we make in the digital darkroom is one area, but also how the image is changed according to the focal length of the lens we shoot with. David continued on to talk about the subject of “trusting the storyteller”, and I think this is such an important aspect in how we respond to a photographer’s work.

We also talk about the need to be more concerned about the quality of images and how printing them helps us to become more intentional with our photograph and post processing. We also discuss that we need to get over the need to select images from any given shoot just because we need to validate our efforts in making those images. It’s OK to get nothing if that’s how it works out, but we will hopefully learn something from the experience that will help us to do better in future.

Towards the end of our conversation we talk about the importance of our experiences as we enjoy this wonderful act of photography, and how which camera you are using has so little to do with how good a photographer you are going to be.

Anyway, to give you a taster of what After the Camera is all about, click the below image to jump to the trailer that David has created.

David duChemin After the Camera Trailer

And this image is linked to the free chapter that David has made available to give you a deeper feel for what After the Camera is all about. I really recommend you take a look at this, because it gives you a great feel for how you would be simply sitting with David for four and a half hours as he works on his photographs.

David duChemin Free Chapter

Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure

As I also mention towards the end of this episode, we have just started taking bookings for the 2017 Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure, from January 8 to the 20th, 2017. Hokkaido, the northern-most island of Japan is a minimalist winter landscape photographer’s dream, and this will be our third year running a dedicated landscape tour. For details and to book your place visit the tour page here: https://mbp.ac/hlpa

Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure 2017

 


Show Notes

After the Camera on Craft & Vision: https://mbp.ac/ddatc

You can find David here: http://davidduchemin.com/

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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Image Management Workflow for the Mobile Photographer (Podcast 466)

Image Management Workflow for the Mobile Photographer (Podcast 466)

Over the years I’ve developed and evolved a pretty sound file management workflow for working with Lightroom on multiple computers, both in the office and when I’m traveling. I’ve talked about various aspects of this in previous episodes, but I thought I’d report on my current image management workflow for the mobile photographer.

I’m going to explain how I currently manage my Lightroom catalog, settings and presets, and my photographs and video archives, including how I now move from one computer to another quite seamlessly, but first a little background.

Until now, I’ve kept my Lightroom catalog on the internal hard drive of my desktop and laptop computers, and synched between the two before I made any major changes to the library. This works and if you have a fast enough network, it’s not too much of a pain to sync your catalogs, but because the previews that Lightroom creates can often become quite a hefty chunk of data, I used to leave them out of the synchronisation, which means that I’d have to rebuild previews on the other computer before I could quickly view images. If I synchronised the image previews as well, it took quite a bit longer, and that can really slow you down when you need to move computers, which I sometimes do multiple times each day.

Preparation

My entire digital workflow revolves around Lightroom, so rather than synching the Lightroom catalog and my most recent work from computer to computer, I figured that it would be easier to just put it all on an external hard drive, and move that around. I’ve been doing this a while now, and never been happier with my workflow, which is why I decided to share this today. Let’s first look at what you need to put on that external hard drive to make this all work smoothly.

Lightroom Settings folder contents

Lightroom Settings folder contents

Firstly, I recommend that you set up Lightroom so that it saves all its presets with the catalog. This means when you move the Lightroom catalog all of your settings will go with it. If you don’t do this, you’ll still have to synch the settings around separately, which we want to avoid.

To make this change go to Lightroom’s Preferences, then under the Presets tab, turn on the “Store presets with this catalog” checkbox. You’ll now see a “Lightroom Settings” folder in the same location as your Lightroom catalog (right).

If you don’t know where your Lightroom catalog is, go to the Catalog Settings and you’ll see the path to your catalog under the General tab’s Information section. There is a “Show” button there. Click that, and check that your Lightroom settings are now with your catalog. This is also of course where you’ll need to go to copy your catalog to your external hard drive. (Just copy the entire Lightroom directory, including your Lightroom Catalog.lrcat file and your Lightroom Catalog Previews.lrdata file/folder to your external hard drive when you’re ready.)

One Lightroom Catalog

Note that apart from a catalog with one image in that I use in an automated process to keep my printer from running unnecessary head cleaning processes, I have all of my images in a single Lightroom catalog. I currently have almost 300,000 images including some videos in my catalog, and it runs fine, so I like to keep them all in a single catalog.

This makes it easy to search across my entire library for images and build collections from absolutely anything I’ve shot. If you use multiple catalogs, you’ll need to decide which ones to use with this workflow, or just ensure that you move all of them to your external hard drive.

Drobo Mini

Drobo Mini

Drobo Mini

To ensure that Lightroom works as fast as it can with this portable workflow, I recently bought a Drobo Mini with 4 x 1TB 7200 rpm hard drives, and a Crucial 250GB mSATA Internal SSD which I put into the bottom of the Drobo Mini as an accelerator disk. This speeds up Drobos so much that as long as you are using Thunderbolt to connect them to your computer, you really just don’t have to worry about the hard drive speed. It’s not as fast as an internal SSD drive, but it’s fast enough to run Lightroom stress-free directly from the external hard drive.

You can also run Lightroom from slower portable hard drives, but I suggest that you use at least USB3.0 connected drives, such as the WD My Passport Ultra drives that I use in my ultra-light portable workflow when I simply cannot carry the weight of the Drobo Mini in addition to my MacBook Pro. This may be necessary especially when traveling overseas, as the one downside of the Drobo Mini is that it isn’t very, well, mini. It’s quite a hefty piece of kit to carry around in addition to a laptop.

[UPDATE Aug 1, 2015: Note that I’ve pretty much stopped using the Drobo Mini. Having to plug it into the power every time I wanted to use it became quite tiresome after a while. It’s also just too big for any kind of air travel. I have now started to use Western Digital My Passport Pro 4TB drives. These are Thunderbolt only, so won’t work on Windows at this point, but they are powered by the laptop, and they are slightly faster than the Drobo Mini, so I’m now using this as my main catalog hard drive, and they are small enough for air travel as well. I have two, with the second a straight backup of the first.]

Recent Work and Final Selects on External Drive

Lightroom Catalog Contents

Lightroom Catalog Contents (click to view details)

In addition to my Lightroom catalog and settings, I also keep my main archive of all of my best work to date, which I call my “Finals” or “Final Selects”, on my Drobo Mini, as well as all of the photographs and video that I’ve take during the current year. So basically most of what I need to access regularly is in one place and always available when I travel.

Main Archive on Drobo 5D

My main archive of all images and video that I’ve ever shot and not deleted is almost 7TB of data, so it’s not practical to keep all of this on my portable hard drive, and because I have every image that I thought was good enough to sell or show people in my Finals folder, it’s not even necessary.

I can still get to my raw images and any TIFF or PSD files that I might have also created from them, right there on my portable drive, so what I call my “Photo Originals” folder lives on my Drobo 5D attached to a desktop computer in my office studio. This is literally everything from every shoot I’ve done that didn’t get deleted.

Decide and Stick with Your Strategy

One thing that will cause you to get frustrated with a strategy like this, when you’re synchronising folders around and have photos in multiple places, is if you lose track of which copy is your main copy. As we can see in this screenshot (right) I have my Finals folder on both my Drobo Mini and my Drobo #1 drive (a Drobo 5D). The main reason I do this is so that it gets backed up into the cloud via Backblaze, and we’ll talk about that shortly, but it’s important to try to keep this as a backup copy, and not a working folder of images.

I do sometimes just need to reference images or grab something quickly over the network, and because my iMac stays on all the time, from anywhere in my house I can connect to the Drobo and access my Final Selects. This is also why I keep this linked to Lightroom, but I don’t do any editing or create collections from the Drobo #1 drive, because it not only causes you to lose track of changes and break your Lightroom collections while you’re traveling, but you also have to sync your changes back to your main copy. This is doable quite easily, but I find it much better to not get into that, and my portable hard drive solution that we’re looking at today helps us to avoid this too.

Diagram #1 – Base Computer

OK, so I know that this will be heavy going without some form of graphical representation of what I’m talking about, so I’ve created a few diagrams for us to reference today as I explain this further. Let’s look first at my main computer. We all use at least one computer to work on our images, so this should be useful even if you don’t use a laptop in addition to your “base computer”.

Diagram #1 iMac with Drobo Mini

Diagram #1 iMac with Drobo Mini

Take a look at the first diagram (above) and see on the left that my workflow starts with transferring images from the camera to my portable hard drive, which is connected to my iMac. This could just as easily be a Windows machine. It’s not important what system you use. What’s important to note here is that my images go into a folder for my current year on my external hard drive, along with the Lightroom catalog and my settings and presets.

Diagram #2 – Local and Cloud Backup

As I mentioned, I keep my main photo and video archive, my “Photo Originals” folder on a Drobo 5D, which is always attached to my base computer. As soon as I’ve finished transferring images from my camera and have them renamed, and if time allows gone through and done my first quick edit of my images, then I copy the folder for that shoot to my Drobo 5D, here called Drobo #1.

Diagram #2 iMac with Drobos and Cloud Backup

Diagram #2 iMac with Drobos and Cloud Backup

As  you can also see from the diagram, because I have Backblaze set up on my iMac, as soon as I copy any new images to my Drobo 5D, they start to backup into the cloud. I will continue to synchronise changes to this Drobo 5D as I edit the images from my shoot, but I want to start to get my cloud backup started as quickly as possible. Any later changes will also sync into the cloud, so there’s little reason to wait on this, unless you are paying for data upload.

Diagram #3 – Second Backup for Paranoia’s Sake

There’s one last element of this base computer setup that I’d like to talk about before we move on, and that’s my second Drobo 5D which is purely for local backup purposes. I know this is a little paranoid, but bear with me. The Drobo 5D can have one hard disk fail without losing any data. If a hard disk fails, you simply pull it out and put a new hard disk in, and the Drobo automatically writes the necessary data back to the new hard drive, and you are safe against hard disk failures again.

In my paranoid mind though, that’s not enough to feel safe. I could have a second hard disk fail before my data is fully secured after replacing the first one, and the entire unit could fail too, leaving me with nothing local to fall back on. Assuming my Backblaze backup had already completed, I could of course download or have them send me my cloud backup on hard drives, but that takes time and I’d be panicking for days until my data was restored, so I just prefer to have a second local backup, as we see in this third diagram (below).

Diagram #3 - Second Drobo Mirrored Backup

Diagram #3 – Second Drobo Mirrored Backup

ChronoSync for File Synchronisation

For all of my file synchronisation I use ChronoSync from Econ Technologies. This is the only operating system specific part of my workflow that we’ll touch on today. ChronoSync is only for the Mac OS. When I used Windows, I used to use a command line tool called Robocopy, but I haven’t used that for years, so I won’t go into the Windows alternative today. If you have a great tool that you’d like to recommend for Windows, please drop a note in the comments section below.

ChronoSync is an incredibly powerful file synchronisation tool. It’s important that you actually read the help to avoid deleting files unintentionally, but once you have a good understanding of how it works, it can make life a lot easier. One of the reasons for this, is because you can save your synchronisation tasks and open them again later to rerun them. For example, after I’ve transferred my images from my camera to my Drobo Mini, to copy them to my Drobo 5D and start my Backblaze backup, I simply launch a saved Sync task that will look for anything that has been changed or deleted from my 2015 folder on my Drobo Mini (see below) and copy or delete it from my Drobo 5D as necessary.

ChronoSync Screenshot

ChronoSync Screenshot

As I work on my files from a new shoot, or make any changes to my earlier 2015 files on my Drobo Mini, I just run this task again. For the whole of 2015, the current year, I will use my Drobo Mini as my main archive, and the Drobo 5D 2015 folder will be my backup, so I generally just Mirror the changes across. If necessary, you can do a synchronisation and copy any changes that you make to the target drive back to your main copy, simply by changing the Operation that you see in the middle of the screenshot.

A couple of important things to note here are that I usually run the Trial Sync with the button in the toolbar before I actually execute the sync task. This is like a dummy run, and you get a dialog to see what will be copied or deleted, so you can check that you haven’t made any stupid mistakes before you actually make them. The other thing is that you can select wether to delete files immediately, move them to trash, or move them to an archive folder instead of deleting them. I don’t like the Move to Archive option because you end up with archive folders everywhere, but I do like to turn on to just move the files to the trash, rather than delete them immediately. This is just another safety net.

Lightroom Synchronize Folder

Lightroom Synchronize Folder

Synchronize Folders in Lightroom

Because I also have a 2015 (current year) folder in my “Photo Originals” directory on my Drobo 5D, once I’ve synched any images, I right click the folder in Lightroom, and select “Synchronize Folder…” This tells Lightroom to check the contents of the folder for anything new or removed, and you can also have it check for metadata changes as well.

Lightroom Export to Copy “Finals”

Once I’ve completed my editing of a shoot, and have my “Finals” or “Final Selects”, I copy these to the appropriate year in my Finals archive folder. Everything from the current year goes into a single folder. If I created a TIFF or PSD copy of my raw file, say to create a black and white version in Silver Efex Pro, or did some work in Photoshop, then I will keep both the raw file and the new format files together. If no copies were made, I just copy the raw files to the Finals folder.

Because I star rate my images to help with filtering, when I’m ready to copy my files, I just filter out anything with two stars or above. In my rating system, 2 stars means an original raw file. 3 stars is anything that I will present to Offset for consideration for inclusion in my stock library. 4 stars are images that I consider good enough to show people or use in a blog post etc. 5 stars are what I consider portfolio quality images.

Lightroom Export Original Files

Lightroom Export Original Files

So, when I’m ready to copy my final selects to my Finals folder, I simply filter anything 2 stars or above from my original shoot folder, and use a Lightroom Export preset to copy these images to my Finals folder on my Drobo Mini and my Drobo 5D.

At this point, I copy to both locations because I can add the images to the Lightroom Catalog at this point, and that saves me from synchronising the Finals folder after copying files across manually or using ChronoSync.

The important thing to note here is that although this is an Export, I’m not creating a JPEG or any other new format. I select “Original” as the format, under both the Video and File Settings sections. This ensures that the files are simply copied to the new locations, whether they are a raw file, or a TIFF or PSD etc.

Once I’ve setup something like what we see in the screenshot here (right) I just save this as a Preset, then when I want to copy my Final selects to my Finals folder, I just have to select them and right click them, then select “Copy Original to Drobo Mini 2015 Finals” which is what I called the Preset, and I have a second preset to copy to my Drobo 5D.

Mirroring Entire Drives with ChronoSync

To close the loop on the last diagram before we move on, I guess I should just mention that to mirror the contents of my first Drobo 5D to my second, I also use a ChronoSync Task, but because we will mirror the root of the drive, I set up a few Rules to prevent ChronoSync from copying and overwriting some important system files, as we can see in this screenshot (below).

Sync Drobo #1 to Drobo #2

Sync Drobo #1 to Drobo #2

OK, so now you’ll see that we have a pretty sound process in place for managing images based on a Lightroom catalog and a few ChronoSync tasks that we can launch and run when changes have been made. It’s a little more complicated than simply transferring images to the hard drive inside your base computer, but remember, there’s one key advantage to having everything that you need to use regularly on that external hard drive.

Diagram #4 – Image Library Portability

With your workflow set up this way, all you have to do to access your images on another computer, is to eject your portable hard drive from the base computer and plug it into another computer. Whether you are in another part of your house or office, or on the other side of the planet, if you plugin your portable hard drive, you have access to everything necessary to start Lightroom and continue working as you would on your base computer.

Diagram #4 - Image Library Portability

Diagram #4 – Image Library Portability

Because Lightroom remembers the last catalog that you opened, it automatically goes to the external hard drive, even if you open Lightroom with the application icon. Of course, to cause this to happen, when you first move your Lightroom catalog to the external hard drive, you’ll need to double click on the catalog in its new location to force it to open from there, but as long as you have Lightroom set up to open the last catalog, that’s the only time you’ll have to do this. You can also select File > Open Catalog… and navigate to your new catalog location too, but again, you’ll only have to do this once.

Of course, because the main archive of all of your images, what I call my “Photo Originals” lives on a hard drive on your base computer, so that won’t be accessible, but when Lightroom can’t see anything, it just marks the folder with a question mark, to let you know that it’s offline. You can still click on the folders, and if you have previews created, you can even see the images. If you need to be able to edit photos that are essentially offline, you can enable this by going to Library > Previews, and selecting Build Smart Previews, but without that you can’t edit images in the Develop module etc. until you get back to your base computer. The point is though, Lightroom handles this gracefully.

Backups While On The Road

Western Digital My Passport Ultra 2TB

WD My Passport Ultra 2TB

The other items that you’ll notice in Diagram #4 (above) is my mobile backup drives. I use WD My Passport Ultra  USB3.0 drives, because I think they provide great cost performance at just $99 for the 2TB drives. These are a little fatter than the 1TB drives, but I like to be able to backup my entire “Final” selects library on to these drives  as well as my current year’s “Photo Originals” folder.

Now, as you know, I’m paranoid, so when I’m traveling, I actually make two backups of my images. This means that as I shoot, I backup all of my current year folder to two backup hard drives. Backup #1 and Backup #2 in diagram #4. Again, I use ChronoSync for this, and just save a task for each backup, and run it as necessary. Because I only have two USB ports on my MacBook Pro, I actually have to eject and plugin new drives when I want to run my Time Machine backup, but because my Drobo Mini connect with Thunderbolt, I can have both Backup drives attached at the same time as well.

You can even create Containers in ChronoSync, which can contain multiple sync tasks, so if you want to backup your images to both backup drives without intervention, you can do that quite easily. This is useful if you want to for example start off your double backup before taking a shower etc.

I know that some of you will consider it overkill to have a total of three backups of your images while traveling, but depending on where you’re going, I think it’s necessary, and generally do this whenever I’m on the road. I actually had one of my three external hard drives fail near the start of 7 weeks in Antarctica, and that was scary enough. If that had been my only backup drive, I’d have been climbing the walls.

Ultra-Portable Alternatives

As I mentioned earlier, the Drobo Mini is a hefty drive to lug around, especially if you’ll be jumping on international flights etc. so here are a few ultra-portable alternatives that work seamlessly with this workflow.

1) The first and most obvious alternative, is to simply synchronise your Lightroom Catalog to the hard drive of your laptop, but of course this requires that you have a large enough internal hard drive or SSD to hold your Lightroom Catalog, your Preview images and also maybe the images you’ll be shooting as you travel. This is great if you have an internal SSD, because they’re lightening fast to work from, but big SSD drives are expensive, and if you’ll be traveling for a long time, it will likely fill up.

2) The second lighter alternative is to use a lighter but still external hard drive, like my WD My Passport Ultra drives as the main archive and for your Lightroom catalog etc. This isn’t as smooth and stress free an experience as working with the Drobo Mini, because these drives are much slower, but it works, and is a nice affordable second choice if you are going to be shooting a lot. Lightroom is pretty good at finding your images etc. on the new drive as well. At least on a Mac system.

If Lightroom can’t find your images when you open the Catalog on a different drive, signified by the folders having a question mark against them, just right click the top level folder and select “Find Missing Folder” in the shortcut menu, then navigate to the folder on your new hard drive. This will remap everything, including your previews, and in my experience will not corrupt your catalog or anything.

Set a Hard Drive Letter for Windows

If you use this method of using a portable hard drive in a Window environment, you’ll probably need to ensure that the drive letter doesn’t change as you move the external hard drive around. I don’t remember exactly where you do this right now, but you can assign a drive letter to your hard drives, so it’s a good idea to assign something well away from the start of the alphabet, like M for mobile. That way other drives that you might attach that will be lettered D, E, F etc. won’t displace your external drive’s letter.

Not Really a Cross Plastform Solution

I should also mention that this solution is not ideal if you switch between Windows and Mac regularly. The catalog can be taken from one operating system to the other and will open, but Windows and the Mac OS reference drives differently, so you’d need to tell the other OS where your files live each time you open the catalog on the other system.

Also the location of your presets and settings is not recognized, so I personally think it’s more trouble than it’s worth if you are switching between operating systems. It makes it easy to move from one system to the other, but not really great if you want to switching back and forth.

Wrap-up

OK, so I hope that has been useful for you. Having synched my Lightroom catalog around for the last few years, I’m finding it much easier now to just move my external hard drive around. It might not be for everyone, but I am really enjoying this workflow. As good workflows should, it just works, and that’s important to me.


Show Notes

Drobo Mini + 4 x 1TB 7200 rpm 2.5″ HDDs: https://mbp.ac/drobomini4tb

Crucial 250GB Internal SSD: https://mbp.ac/msata250gb

WD My Passport Ultra portable hard drive: https://mbp.ac/wd2tb

Music by Martin Bailey


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