A5: The story not told (draft 2)

This draft follows comments received following draft 1 (see here); feedback on content was positive, but several people commented they wanted to know more.

Several people found the files difficult to open. This is perhaps a file size in relation to device processing power and internet download speeds. For this version I’ve looked more closely at the files sizes and relationship with the JPEG quality settings in the LR book module pdf export settings. For draft 1, a setting of 85 was used (generating a 3.4MB file for book contents pages). Interestingly settings of 50 and 60 produced the same reduced size of 1.2MB – at this size there was clear evidence of compression at work. At 70 the size was 1.8MB and a noticeable quality improvement. 80, takes the size up to 2.3MB again with a quality improvement, but less marked. So, here I’ve settled for a quality of 70 on export.

The book

Draft 2 is in fact edit 3 – edit 2 was an attempt at a landscape format, but it somehow felt too informal for the content despite working better with some of the landscape images. The main changes in this edit are to add more textual information (hopefully not too much), a few more images, and to reduce the number of double page spreads with images falling into the gutter of the book.

Edit 3 pdf – book cover

Edit 3 pdf – book content (to view as intended, right-click and open in pdf viewer, eg Preview. Then view as 2-pages).

Pros and Cons of LR book module

I used LR’s book module for assignment 4, from initial drafting, uploading to my Blog for feedback and assessment and sending a copy of the book for printing with Bob’s Books. Overall, I found the process quite painful for this type of book and, on reflection, think I have chosen the wrong tool for the job.

I note here pros and cons, which I’ll revisit before approaching another photo book and deciding upon the tool to use.

Pros and cons

  1. Integrated with LR library, so very quick and easy to experiment with various edits and change edits at a later date based on feedback. This makes it a great tool for making a mockup of a book.
  2. A range of standard layouts available, which is good for quick drafting. The downside is that the layouts are not easily editable.
  3. Book size is limited to standard options, which may not be the same dimensions as offered by the book publishing service selected. This is a significant drawback in using LR as a final layout tool. Blurb is offered as an add-in, which overcomes this drawback, providing one is happy to be limited to Blurb as a print provider. No student discount available from them.
  4. LR can export the book as pdf or jpg – again useful for mockup / sharing of edits for feedback.
  5. If the book is saved as hi-res jpg and uploaded to a print provider, text pages are large files as the white space is treated as an image and increase upload times. Preparing the book in a provider’s own software would avoid this.
  6. The standard software interface supported by the higher-end print service providers seems to be Adobe Indesign, with templates available for download to accommodate their book formats. However, from the little I understand about Indesign, it requires considerable investment in time to become proficient and it is more aimed at text-based editing than media (eg no interface with LR).

My current feeling is that for a photo book that is more about photos than text, a more efficient process would be to simply use LR for preparing a mock-up for the purposes of editing and obtaining feedback. Then complete the final book directly in the editing software provided by the service provider. So the question then becomes, which provider to use and the flexibility of their software.

A quick look at Bob’s Books and their downloadable ‘Bob’s Designer’ software, plus the offer of student discount, looks like they would be a good starting place for the next project.

Lightroom for online photo books (flip books)

I invested considerable time in working out how to present a photo book on this blog, without paying for a third-party flip book  service, which seem to come in at around $15 per month. Here are notes for future reference, or any one else who might find them of use.

Lightroom book module

  • This is geared up for printing paper books, either through a connected online service (Blurb) or by generating jpgs or pdfs (perhaps for proof of concept only) to be sent to printers. To make it work for online flipbooks, a different approach needs to be used:
    • Cover page (front and back) – LR generates as a wrap-around, so it is of no use for a digital book – set up book without cover page.
    • As we will work with no cover page, there is a need to insert a blank page before any inside cover text (automatically created when cover pages are used) so that the page spreads are kept intact.
    • When exporting to jpg files for online use, LR will export a single image whether a double page spread or a single page spread is used. LR’s double-page spreads therefore display small, in the space of a single page. Do not use double-page spreads for online flip-book preparation.
    • For the front and back cover, set up a normal page spread, using one page for the front cover and the other for the back. These will then print as separate jpgs to be inserted at the beginning and the end of the flipbook.

In WordPress (org) – plugins

Various plug-ins are available. On this site I use Photo Book Gallery, with free features that are sufficient for simple flipbooks and with a degree of control over its configuration in the settings panel. The only thing I needed to adjust was the book sizing so it was in a consistent dimension to the size of the jpg files being used.

A big upside of this approach is that the flipbook uses jpgs uploaded to the WordPress media library, so the images can be reused elsewhere in posts related to the same project.

My first flip-book was made for the first edit of assignment 4, here.

Reflections on Lightroom workflow and archive

Having recently addressed my IT infrastructure around my photographs, in particular a robust back up routine and a MacBook docking station (see here), it was again time to revisit my workflow and approach to maintaining my photographic archive. I first seriously considered this during my Context and Narrative Course (post here), in September 2015. Re-reading this now the process seems complex and too involved – there is little surprise that I’ve failed to follow it!

Here I note my revised workflow and look forward to reviewing it in 6 months to discover whether the approach turns about to be workable.

Overall set-up

LR catalogue is kept on a Macbook Pro (MBP), with the backup saved to Dropbox. The MBP, including the LR catalogue, is also backed up to a NAS drive using TimeMachine.

Primary storage for photo files is a 2TB WD hard drive (WDHD), which is connected to a MBP docking station along with a large monitor. The MBP is docked to work on the image files, or to work on them remotely ‘smart previews’ are created. The WDHD is backed up via TimeMachine to the NAS drive and to the cloud using iDrive (with student discount!)

On import (while travelling)

Photos are imported to the LR catalogue but stored in a desktop folder on MBP named ‘photo import’, which is separately referenced in the LR catalogue. This is a temporary working location used for review and processing only, not cataloging of the images. While travelling a portable WD 1TB drive is used to back up the image files and stored separately to the MBP.

On cataloging (at home base)

I’ve rearranged the folder structure on the WDHD into  3 top-level folders: 1) own digital images, 2) others digital images (mostly family members or friends that I’ve agreed retouch), and 3) historic photos (analogue family archive that I’m beginning to scan). Own images contain the vast majority of files and my approach to sub folders is now: year/general category (eg family, landscape, street, OCA)/specific project or location. I was previously using LR’s default of year/month, but this buried specific projects deep in the folder structure, making it tricky to quickly find anything.

On selecting and processing

Initial selections:

  1. On import, rate any image with potential as 1 star. Note – keyboard short-cuts for stars are the numbers 1 to 5.
  2. Filter and review all 1 star images, making basic processing adjustments if needed. Rate any images passing review with 3 stars and process. Use virtual copies when very different treatments are planned (eg colour and monochrome), otherwise use snapshots to mark different versions of similar processing.
  3. Any images that are stand-out, rate as 5 star (use with extreme discretion)
  4. Apply keywording to starred images using defined structure / regularly update maintain keyword structure. This allows searching of archive for specific images with specific elements.

Project selections:

  1. These are made after initial selections, but for specific purposes. Two tools to suit nature of project:
    1. LR collections (including collection sets) – remembering to create virtual copies of original image files if specific adjustments are required (eg crops)
    2. Colour flags. I’ve set mine up to be labeled; potentials, picks, selects – draft, selects – final. Keyboard shortcuts are 6 to 9.

As a general workflow principle, I aim to process the original RAW file with basic exposure corrections only and then work on virtual copies for further processing. This allows images to easily be repurposed where different crops / processing is required.


Perfect Prints Every Time: How to achieve excellent photographic prints

This is another post focused on technical aspects, rather than artistic; concerned with making prints from digital images. The main source of information was Robin Whalley’s ebook, Perfect Prints Every Time: How to achieve excellent photographic prints. However, some useful information relating to printing from Lightroom was also sourced from the internet.

The print aspect of the digital workflow does not appear to be as widely discussed as digital processing. Perhaps because many people do not make prints, but mostly share their work online, or simple do not appreciate that additional steps are necessary to get the most from digital prints. This post serves as a reminder of print steps to be added to my workflow, when printing digital images.

  1. Colour management of monitor – this needs to be regularly calibrated so screen colours match what the software (LR) thinks it is showing. The only way to do this accurately is with additional hardware – keep my x-rite i1 attached to my iMac and check calibration regularly!
  2. Print resolution – Whalley advises that images should be scaled to the native print Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 10.15.18resolution of the printer to optimise the print quality. In the case of my Epson sc-P600, this would be 360dpi.
    However, an article by Jeff Schewe in Digital PhotoPro suggests a different approach. That is if the unsampled dpi of the image is higher than the printer’s native resolution, print to the highest quality the printer can manage (for the Epson 720 dpi), otherwise information is wasted. Schewe’s test show that the eye can make the distinction between the two resolutions and perceive the additional quality.  To find out the unsampled dpi  of an image in LR check the boxes in the print module as shown above and the information then appears on the above the image as shoScreen Shot 2016-08-21 at 10.13.49wn here. Consistent with this is Whalley’s view on upscaling prints; he states, ‘typically if you’re working with a good quality file you should be able to double the dimension of the image and still produce an excellent print.’ Another observation he makes is that some matte paper types may not be able to take high-resolution prints, so it may be worth adjusting the output resolution downwards for these papers. A few test prints while making sample prints for my C&N assessment submission showed a clear difference in print quality using Schewe’s recommended approach, rather than sticking to the standard native resolution of the printer.
  3. Selective sharpening of image – this should be done prior to soft proofing of the image. Whalley recommends keeping a master version of the digital image without such sharpening and creating different versions depending on the intended output.
  4. Soft proofing – Whalley’s recommended approach is to use the relevant paper profile for the printer (aka ICC profile) used for the proof, along with ‘simulate paper and ink’ checked in LR’s proof settings. The paper profile needs to be obtained separately from the paper manufacturer – I make it a practice of selecting only papers where the relevant profile is available to avoid the hassle and expense of obtaining a custom-profile. The aim is to then get the proof image looking similar to the edited LR image (view using split screen) so that the print image looks similar to the on-screen version. It will never be exactly the same, as Whalley explains, ‘the image printed on paper will never appear as bright, vivid and have as much contrast as an image displayed on a monitor. Following on from this, different paper surfaces will have different abilities to reflect light. A gloss paper for example will reflect a lot of light where as a matte paper reflects little in comparison and may appear dull’.  Proofing entails making further processing adjustments; with local adjustments for out of gamut warnings in selected areas, ‘usually you will need to increase the “Contrast”, “Clarity”, “Vibrancy” and possibly “Saturation”” sliders’, states Whalley. It is the proofed version that should be sent to the printer.
  5. Printer set-up – this is addressed in the various LR menus and is a question of setting these to fit the printer in use. An interesting suggestion Whalley makes for black and white prints is to investigation the ABW modes of the printer, as they may produce superior results and even remove the need for proofing.

Following this research and test prints, I feel encourage to print more and make it a regular part of my workflow.


Digital PhotoPro [website]. The Right Resolution. Available from: http://www.digitalphotopro.com/technique/photography-workflow/the-right-resolution/ [accessed 21.8.16]

Killer Lightroom Tips [website]. Using print dimensions and resolution. Available from: http://lightroomkillertips.com/using-print-dimensions-resolution/ [accessed 21.8.16]

Whalley, R. (2015). Perfect Prints Every Time: How to achieve excellent photographic prints (The Lightweight Photographer Books) [Kindle iOS version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

Digital contact sheets, Mac

A recent visit to see Sid Shelton’s Rock Against Racism (see here) with his original contact sheets in a display cabinet, again left me looking for a way to achieve something similarly organic (with the coloured scribbles indicating selects) with digital files.

After some research and experiment, I came up with the following approach that makes use of Lightroom and Preview on the Mac.

    1. Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 06.50.37Create a contact sheet layout in LR’s print module (there are many online resources showing how to do this if needed) and export it as a pdf. It is the second step that is a little hidden – the dialogue box shows how this functionality is in the ‘printer’ menu at the bottom-right of the screen.
    2. The pdf can now be opened with Preview on the Mac. Preview also acts as the Mac’s built-in file editor and has a few tricks including annotation of pdfs, exporting files as different types, and resizing files. To put highlight markers around selects, use tools/annotate/line – this then brings up options for line thickness and colour. Save the file when done.
    3. At this stage, the file size is likely to be large and not suitable for sharing online, but useful for printing if that is something wanted. To reduce the Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 07.07.15file size, make a duplicate (if the full size file is to be retained) and use Preview’s export function to export the file. Select export, then choose pdf, and select ‘quartize’ and reduce file size. In the case of my file it reduced its size from 10MB to 500KB. Perhaps re-applying the routine would reduce the file size further, but also result in a deterioration of image quality.
    4. Finally, upload the pdf to a blog as a media file and link into the post, setting it to open in a new window. This then brings up a readable copy of the contacts in a separate screen to the main blog post.

See pdf for contact sheets: Leeds decay contacts

Exercise: portraiture archive

These photos are from my archive, but not taken by me. One would not usually expect to see them together as they cover a long time period, showing me and my children ageing; a range of discrete activities, from personal holidays and family photos to business trips; and a range of different locations. They are in some ways incongruous.

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What I discovered during this exercise was the difficulty in searching the archive for the photos; my archive is currently arranged mostly in folders by year and month, so searching it requires time consuming serial viewing. This encouraged me to explore practices for digital archiving (see separate post) and further to that the use of keywording in Lightroom.

‘Learn to Lightroom’ provides a good introduction to keyword hierarchies, which I’ve now spent several hours building into my LR catalogue. The hierarchy defines typologies, which can be used to reference photos in the catalogue. For example, I have a top-level keyword of ‘human emotion’ and within that the types of emotions (eg happiness) and within those characteristics that reveal the emotions (eg smile). Lightroom automatically tags the photo with the lowest level tag and those to the type to which it belongs. A readymade typological tool-box!


Learn to Lightroom [website]. Keyword Hierarchies. Available from: http://www.learn-to-lightroom.com/articles/keyword-hierarchies/ [accessed 22.7.16]


Digital photo archive

I first considered my workflow in Lightroom, including archiving in my Context and Narrative blog. In preparation for an exercise involving portraiture and the archive, I am again reflecting on this, painfully aware that my current practice for referencing photographs is inadequate.

Rideau emphasises that ‘to properly store digital photos requires the development of a workflow, a standard process of taking, storing, editing and archiving your digital photos.’ This should be obvious, but the application of the workflow requires discipline and habit. Labelling in particular is an area not fully integrated into my workflow. Rideau explains the standard for labelling:

The archival standard to follow is called IPTC which stands for “International Press Telecommunications Council”. They have developed a standard for information that can be embedded into a digital photo. Adobe has used IPTC as the foundation for their Adobe XMP (Extensible Metadata Platform) open standard. Microsoft has also adopted IPTC as the standard for labelling digital photos.

The IPTC provide helpful information on the types and use of metadata. Explaining three main categories of data:

  • “Administrative – identification of the creator, creation date and location, contact information for licensors of the image, and other technical details.
  • Descriptive – information about the visual content. This may include headline, title, captions and keywords. This can be done using free text or codes from a controlled vocabulary.
  • Rights – copyright information and underlying rights in the visual content including model and property rights, and rights usage terms.”

Phlearn provides a practical guide to applying metadata (including copyright), using presets and applying keywords within Adobe Lightroom.This provides protection to digital images once online and allows searching of the Lightroom archive with the keywords.

My previous workflow practices had been more concerned with the selection and processing of photographs, rather than the copyright protection and keywording of images. This I’ll now incorporate into my workflow.


Fitzgibbon A (2015). Context and Narrative [blog]. Lightroom Workflow. Available from: http://context.fitzgibbonphotography.com/lightroom-workflow/ [accessed 16.7.16]

iptc.org [website]. Photo Metadata. Available from: https://iptc.org/standards/photo-metadata/ [accessed 16.7.16]

Phlearn [website]. How to Add Metadata to Photos in Lightroom. Available from: https://phlearn.com/how-to-add-metadata-to-photos-in-lightroom [accessed 16.7.16]

Rideau [website]. Storing and archiving digital photos. Available from: http://www.rideau-info.com/photos/storage.html [accessed 16.7.16]