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Category: Software

DragonCon Photography Team Computer Setup

As a volunteer at DragonCon one of my current responsibilities is getting the computers setup for use by the photographers and the librarians. This year I had to re-learn a lot of what worked so well last year as my notes were not complete, so I decided to write them up more thoroughly this year and post them hear so that I will not loose them.

At the 2014 DragonCon we used a total of 5 computers, 3 for the photographers to drop off photographs at and 2 for the librarians to use for key wording. The computers were running Windows 7 and required a lot of Windows updates and video driver updates before they were ready to use, luckily the internet connection at the show was fairly fast on Thursday afternoon when I was setting them up.

We call the 2 librarian computers A and B; each computer has 2 external hard drives which we call the Piles, a primary drive and a backup drive. The primary drive on each library computer is shared on the network as Pile A and Pile B.

I don’t know a lot about Windows networking, so I winged it and believe I set up a Windows home network with file sharing turned on. I wasted a lot of time before I figured out that all 5 computers had the same network name so they could not share files, giving each computer a unique name fixed all of the sharing issues I was having.

On the desktop of each computer I made a shortcut to the shared Pile A and Pile B folders so that the photographers could easily find the correct place to copy their pictures to. At this point I was done with the 3 photographers computers, by the end of the show photographers had installed Infranview and other tools to help them edit and cull their photos.

On the librarian computer we install the latest version of Adobe Lightroom and use it in the 30-day trial mode. Next up is importing the keyword list provided by the show into Lightroom, this gives us a controlled vocabulary for keywording making pictures easy to find later on.

Then in Lightroom install the latest version of Jeffrey Friedl’s Folder Watch Plugin, this is the tool that automatically imports any new pictures found in watched folders into Lightroom, it is really amazing how quickly and reliably this works.

Then we use the Windows Sync Toy and Windows Task Manager to keep the primary and secondary drives in sync so that at the end of the show we can turn over the primary A and B drives to the show and keep the backup A and B drives for the photography team’s use.

Here is my updated checklist:

  1. Verify that each computer has a unique network name/id
  2. Run Windows Update and install all updates
  3. Update video card drivers if they are separate from Windows Update
  4. Verify that all computers are using the same type of networking so they can see each other, in Windows 7 a homegroup network is easiest
  5. External Drives
    1. Attach the primary and backup drives to the librarian computers
    2. Format and name the external drives and name them
      1. Pile A
      2. Pile A Back
      3. iPile B
      4. iv. Pile B Back
    3. On the Pile A drive make new directories named Pile A and Lightroom A
    4. On the Pile B drive make new directories named Pile B and Lightroom B
  6. Sync’ing
    1. Here is a great article that walks through setting up sync’ing
    2. Install the latest version of Sync Toy
    3. Set up a New Folder Pair in Sync Toy to keep the primary and backup drives in sync, use Echo so that changes to the primary drive are copied to the backup drive but not from the backup to primary
    4. Use Windows Task Manager to run Sync Toy every 10 minutes
    5. Verify at least once a day that the sync’ing is occurring successfully, but the primary and backup drive should have the same number of files in the Pile directories
  7. Lightroom
    1. Install the latest version of Lightroom and choose the 30-day version when launching it
    2. Preferences – “Lightroom > Preferences”
      1. General
        1. Uncheck “Automatically check for updates”
        2. Unchesk “Show splash screen during startup”
        3. Choose the correct DragonCon default library
        4. Uncheck the “Select the “Current/Previous Import””
        5. Turn off all completion sounds
    3. Remove all of the modules except for Library and Develop. Right-click the top toolbar and uncheck the unneeded modules.
    4. Then import keywords, “Metadata > Import Keywords”. Verify that the full keyword list is available in the “Keyword List” panel. More information about keywording in Lightroom is available at
    5. Setup Jeffrey Friedl’s Folder Watch Plugin
      2. Lightroom “File > Plug-in Manager”
        1. Choose “jf Folder Watch”
        2. Choose the parent folder on the Pile
          1. Defaults are good with the following exceptions (If desired “Apply meta data preset, covered elsewhere)
      3. Choose “Watch”
      4. Choose “Restart on Launch”
      5. Choose “Show Splash on Launch”
    6. f. Then create a new library named “dragoncon-2014-pile-a” or “dragoncon-2014-pile-b” and save it into the “lightroom a” or “lightroom b” folder on the attached primary external drive
  8. Testing
    1. Use a non-librarian computer to drop a couple of pictures into Pile A and Pile B
      1. Verify these pictures appear in Lightroom on the expected librarian computer
      2. After a period of time verify that the pictures and updated Lightroom library appear on the backup drives
    2. At least once a day check the primary and secondary drives to verify that they are in sync

We are always looking for better ways to handle the 30,000 plus pictures we collect at DragonCon, if you have any big ideas please let me know.


The Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 5 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby

The Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 5 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott KelbyI read this book on Safar Books Online using an iPad and the Safari Books Online App.

This is the 4th Scott Kelby Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for Photographers book I have read, and they all have been worth the time.

These books have been where I have gotten most of my personal photography workflow from and why I made the switch from doing all of my post-production in Photoshop to doing it all in Lightroom. In fact I only open up Photoshop to do quick panoramas (I have other software I use for large intricate panos) and for extensive retouching or composites.

About Stars, Labels, and Flags

I do not use stars at all, I have no reason to rate pictures on a scale. I use labels only to identify pictures that are part of panoramas or composites. I am a firm believer in using flags exclusively to identify the value of pictures.

A picture is either “Rejected” and deleted forever, not flagged because it is an ok picture that I may need at some point in the future, or it is a “Pick” and I have big plans for it.

Scott does a much better job of explaining why than I do and I hope he doesn’t take offense at me quoting him here:

“When you boil it down, our real goal is to find the best photos from our shoot, but we also want to find the worst photos (those photos where the subject is totally out of focus, or you pressed the shutter by accident, or the flash didn’t fire, etc.), because there’s no sense in having photos that you’ll never use taking up hard drive space, right? Lightroom gives you three ways to rate (or rank) your photos, the most popular being the 1-to-5-star rating system. To mark a photo with a star rating, just click on it and type the number on your keyboard. So, to mark a photo with a 3-star rating, you’d press the number 3, and you’d see three stars appear under the photo (shown here at the top). To change a star rating, type in a new number. To remove it altogether, press 0 (zero). The idea is that once you’ve got your 5-star photos marked, you can turn on a filter that displays only your 5-star photos. You can also use that filter to see just your 4-star, 3-star, etc., photos. Besides stars, you can also use color labels, so you could mark the worst photos with a Red label, slightly better ones with Yellow, and so on. Or, you could use these in conjunction with the stars to mark your best 5-star photo with a Green label (as shown here at the bottom).”

“Now that I’ve mentioned star ratings and labels, I want to talk you out of using them. Here’s why: they’re way too slow. Think about it—your 5-star photos would be your very best shots, right? The only ones you’ll show anybody. So your 4-star ones are good, but not good enough. Your 3-star ones are just so-so (nobody will ever see these). Your 2-star ones are bad shots—not so bad that you’ll delete them, but bad—and your 1-star shots are out-of-focus, blurry, totally messed up shots you’re going to delete. So what are you going to do with your 2- and 3-star photos? Nothing. What about your 4-star photos? Nothing. The 5-stars you keep, the 1-stars you delete, the rest you pretty much do nothing with, right? So, all we really care about are the best shots and the worst shots, right? The rest we ignore.”

“So instead, I hope you’ll try flags. You mark the best shots as Picks and the really bad ones (the ones to be deleted) as Rejects. Lightroom will delete the Rejects for you when you’re ready, leaving you with just your best shots and the ones you don’t care about, but you don’t waste time trying to decide if a particular photo you don’t care about is a 3-star or a 2-star. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people sitting there saying out loud, “Now, is this a 2-star or a 3-star?” Who cares? It’s not a 5-star; move on! To mark a photo as a Pick, just press the letter P. To mark a photo as a Reject, press the letter X. A little message will appear onscreen to tell you which flag you assigned to the photo, and a tiny flag icon will appear in that photo’s grid cell. A white flag means it’s marked as a Pick. A black flag means it’s a Reject.”

I really love Lightroom and I think this book is one of the best ways to learn how to use it.

From the publisher:

Since Lightroom 1.0 first launched, Scott’s Kelby’s The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers has been the world’s #1 best-selling Lightroom book (it has been translated into a dozen different languages), and in this latest version for Lightroom 5, Scott uses his same award-winning, step-by-step, plain-English style and layout to make learning Lightroom easy and fun.

Scott doesn’t just show you which sliders do what (every Lightroom book will do that). Instead, by using the following three simple, yet brilliant, techniques that make it just an incredible learning tool, this book shows you how to create your own photography workflow using Lightroom:

  • Throughout the book, Scott shares his own personal settings and studiotested techniques. Each year he trains thousands of Lightroom users at his live seminars and through that he’s learned what really works, what doesn’t, and he tells you flat out which techniques work best, which to avoid, and why.
  • The entire book is laid out in a real workflow order with everything step by step, so you can begin using Lightroom like a pro from the start.
  • What really sets this book apart is the last chapter. This is where Scott dramatically answers his #1 most-asked Lightroom question, which is: “Exactly what order am I supposed to do things in, and where does Photoshop fit in?” You’ll see Scott’s entire start-to-finish Lightroom 5 workflow and learn how to incorporate it into your own workflow.
  • Plus, this book includes a downloadable collection of some of the hottest Lightroom Develop module presets to give you a bunch of amazing effects with just one click!

Scott knows first-hand the challenges today’s digital photographers are facing, and what they want to learn next to make their workflow faster, easier, and more fun. He has incorporated all of that into this major update for Lightroom 5.

It’s the first and only book to bring the whole process together in such a clear, concise, and visual way. Plus, the book includes a special chapter on integrating Adobe Photoshop seamlessly right into your workflow, and you’ll also learn some of Scott’s latest Photoshop portrait retouching techniques and special effects, which take this book to a whole new level. There is no faster, more straight-to-the-point, or more fun way to learn Lightroom than with this groundbreaking book.

I rate this book and its predecessors as a 9 out of 10.


The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby

I read this book as a PDF bought from O’Reily Media’s Safari Books Online mostly using an iPad and iBooks but also using the Preview app on a MacBook Pro.

I really dislike showing any photographs without the minimum of rotate, crop, exposure correct, color correct, and export at the needed sizes and Lightroom allows me to do that very quickly.

I have been using Lightroom since the beta of Lightroom 3 and I read Scott Kelby’s version of this book back then. I loved the book and Lightroom so much that I lent the book out until it didn’t come back, and that’s ok, I like to think that it is still floating out there somewhere being read by a photographer that has been stuck using some antiquated tools to manage and edit their photos.

This book for version 4 is a lot like the one for version 3, but it is well worth the read as many new chapters have been added and Lightroom 4 has enough new features and behaviors that the new book is a great help for getting the most from it. Scott does a great job pointing out the places that Lightroom 4 differs from previous versions but doesn’t dwell on those differences to the point that a person just starting out with version 4 would be distracted by them.

The only content in the book that I found not useful is the chapter pages, I would prefer that Scott went back to being funny or leaving the space blank.

From the publisher:

Since Lightroom first launched, Scott Kelby’s The Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers has been the world’s #1 best-selling Lightroom book. In this latest version for Lightroom 4, Scott uses his same step-by-step, plain-English style and layout to make learning Lightroom easy and fun. Scott doesn’t just show you which sliders do what, and he doesn’t just cover the newest features of Lightroom (though, of course, he does that, too, with discussions of the improved Clarity feature, White Balance adjustment brush, photo book capabilities, and much more). Instead, by using the following three simple, yet brilliant, techniques that make it just an incredible learning tool, this book shows you how to create your own photography workflow using Lightroom…

About My Workflow

I like the workflow that Scott covers in the book with the exception of using collections. I prefer to not use collections because they are only internal to the Lightroom database, I prefer to have my files organized in the computers file system so that I will be able to easily find them if I stop using Lightroom one day.

My current workflow looks like this:

  1. Get out there and take a lot of pictures
  2. Remove the memory card from the camera and use a card reader to get the images into the computer. My file structure looks like “Dave Import / 2012 / 20120725_eli-playground” which is “my import/year/yyyymmdd_name-of-event” then when I export I use the same structure but begin with “Dave Export”.
  3. Import the images into Lightroom adding my IPTC copyright information along with generic keywords from the shoot.
  4. Quickly look through all of the images and identify obvious rejects by flagging them by typing “x” which identifies them as rejects and get an overall feel for them.
  5. Now I take a break, at least 15 minutes long. This allows my thought about the images to gel and take shape.
  6. Upon coming back I will use “Flags” to identify the photos I never want to see again by typing “x” which marks them as rejected, and “p” which marks them as a pick. Photos that do not get a flag are kept, but they do not get exported. Then I delete all of the rejected photos, from the Lightroom database and also from the hard drive.
  7. Now I use “Filters” to work with just the picks and I switch to the “Develop” module.
  8. In the develop module I work my way through the images using the techniques that Scott covers in his book. Many images that were marked as picks may become not-picked or even rejected based on the results of being edited.
  9. Now that all of the picks are edited I add captions that describe each image and keywords that can be used to search for each image. This takes a long time and a lot of thought, but it is also what will make your images valuable in the future, if you cannot find a photo you cannot sell that photo.
  10. Then I export the picks as original size JPGs with an sRGB colorspace and my naming convention of “dave-nelson-20120725-112317-0001.jpg” which is “my-name-yyyymmdd-hhmmss-####.jpg”.
  11. At my SmugMug web site I create a new gallery giving it a name, caption, and pricing list then use MacDaddy to upload the exported images to that directory.
  12. Lastly I send out emails and post on various web sites that I have some new photos available for viewing and purchase.

This particular process has worked well for me but it has been tweaked many times over the years. Also keep in mind that I am a hobbiest photographer and that the money I do make from photography does not come close to paying for itself.

I rate this book a 9 out of 10 and a must read for anyone interested in using Lightroom to manage and edit photographs.


Photoshop Compositing Secrets by Matt Kloskowski

I read this book on Safari Books Online and followed along with Adobe Photoshop.

The full name of the book is a riduclously long “Photoshop Compositing Secrets: Unlocking the Key to Perfect Selections and Amazing Photoshop Effects for Totally Realistic Composites by Matt Kloskowski” that would guess was chosen to increase its chance of being found in Google.

This is a great book if you need to do compositing. The book consists of a collection of tutorials that give real world examples of how to do many different types of composites. All of the images used in the book are available for download so that you may follow along. I found the repetitive nature of the book annoying and yet helpful, repetition helps me remember how to do something but after many many times I just want to move on to something else.

From the publisher

Compositing is one of the hottest trends in Photoshop and photography today for portrait photographers, designers of all walks of life, and even retouchers. Everywhere you look, from group photos, to school graduation or sports portraits, to magazines, movie posters, and DVD covers, chances are, you’ve seen compositing.

In Photoshop Compositing Secrets, Matt Kloskowski takes you through the entire process behind creating convincing, well-executed, and captivating composites. You’ll see how to create images that run the gamut from real-world portraits for corporate, graduation, or group photos to sports portraits, templates, and collages, and even the surreal, dramatic composites that clients clamor for.

You’ll learn:

  • One of the most important secrets to compositing: how to master selections in Photoshop (yes, even wispy hair),
  • What background color, and camera and lighting setups work best for compositing,
  • How to move a subject from one background to another, and the Photoshop lighting and shadowing techniques to make it look real,
  • And all the Photoshop tips, tricks, and special effects you need to pull off a convincing, professional composite.

No matter if you’re a professional, an aspiring professional, or a hobbyist, Photoshop Compositing Secrets will sharpen your skills and open up a whole new avenue of photographic expression in an easy-to-understand way that will have you creating your own composites in no time.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 if you are interested in doing composites in Photoshop.


Using Lightroom for the First Time

For DragonCon this year I decided to give Lightroom 2 a try. I have changed a lot of things in my photo processing procedures, not the least of which has been the change from Windows to Macintosh OS X, and Lightroom sounded like a good fit.

On Thursday evening I installed the Lightroom 2 30-day trial on the Apple PowerBook G4 laptop that I would be using for the weekend. Chris [insert last name] helped me get started with Lightroom showing me some of the basics. The biggest thing that got me excited about Lightroom is the ease that metadata could be added to images and the ability to easily search for and filter images making it really easy to find images that have been tagged.

During DragonCon I would be out shooting from about 9:30 AM until around midnight at which time I would go to the hotel room fire up the laptop and spend 3 or 4 hours process all of the images in Lightroom. I would first copy the memory cards to my image bank and then onto the laptop so that there would always be two copies of every image.

Then I would import the images into Lightroom with my default metadata, which included a basic set of keywords, copyright information, and my contact information. Once in Lightroom I flagged the images that were unacceptable and should never be seen again and when I had made my way through all of the image I deleted the rejects.

The next pass took a lot longer as I went through and rated every image using 1 through 5 stars with the idea being that all images with 3 or more stars would be turned in as keepers.

On the third pass I visited each one of the keepers and used Lightroom to color correct, rotate, and crop where necessary. Luckily the Canon EOS 40D auto white balance is very accurate for this type of photography and with the lenses in my kit I am able to get the shots I am looking for with much cropping or rotating.

The final step is to export the images from Lightroom with my custom file naming convention of “Firstname_Lastname_YYYYMMDDHHMMSS_####.jpg” and I used a thumbrive to transport the images to the show computer to copy them over to the Director of photography.

By the end of the show I shot around 3,600 images over the four days of DragonCon and turned in 717 keepers. For my personal use I had about 3,800 pictures and published 1,181 onto my SmugMug web site.

Lightroom 2 is a really amazing tool. This is the first event where I did not spend hours in Photoshop pouring over each and every image that was designated a keeper. It is also the first event where I had every keeper tagged with keywords that will allow me to search for images later. In the past I would add keywords and captions to the images in SmugMug, but that did nothing to help me find images on my hard drive.
My next goals for Lightroom are to read a good book on the subject and then spend the next year or so going through my entire image library adding keywords and other meta data.



Photoshop and Meta Data

I have had my suspicions for a couple of years that Photoshop had been stripping out the EXIF data that I inserted into my images with Exifer, and now after a bit of testing I have discovered that Photoshop CS3 does indeed remove EXIF data when saving JPG files.

Here is the workflow that I have been trying out lately.

  1. Take pictures in JPG format
  2. Use Exifer to add EXIF and select IPTC data
  3. Use Microsoft Pro Photo Tools to add GPS and address information (geotagging)
  4. Copy all images into an “Originals” folder
  5. Edit the images being very selective as to what pictures are to be Photoshopped and shared with the public
  6. Publish to SmugMug, Facebook, Flickr, and/or my blog.
  7. Copy images to the Storage Area Network device

Meta data in the form of EXIF and IPTC information makes it much easier to search for files years later and web sites like SmugMug will take the EXIF data and use them for descriptions, locations, and more on their web site.

But I now have proof that during step 5 Photoshop is replacing the EXIF description with the IPTC description and if there is not an IPTC description then the EXIF description is now blank. If the IPTC Description and Author Name are filled out they will be copied to the EXIF fields when the file is saved in Photoshop.

I originally thought that this issue also affected the geotagging location set using Microsoft Pro Photo Tools, but after testing it on a couple images that does not appear to be the case.

EXIF data is very important to me and is used to search through thousands of files using web based and software based tools. I find it very disappointing that Photoshop would manipulate the EXIF data without the user explicitly requesting to make a change. From now on I will be adding both EXIF and IPTC data in Step 2.

Related Reading


Microsoft Pro Photo Tools for Geotagging

I learned about Microsoft Pro Photo Tools a couple of months ago when researching ways to geotag my photos. Version 1.0 of the software allows you to easily edit the EXIF and IPTC meta data of your JPG images.

After using the tool for a couple of months I have reverted to using the tried-and-true Exifer to add copyright, contact, and descriptions to my images. I feel like Microsoft Pro Photo Tools does not make it clear exactly what it is I am editing, EXIF or IPTC.

But what this software does excel at is geotagging. Under the Map Browse tab is an interface to Microsoft Virtual Earth that allows you to select one or more images and place them on the map which assigns latitude and longitude coordinates to the EXIF data. Very quick and easy compared to other tools I have tried on WindowsXP.

The geo info tagged in the EXIF data allows services such as Picassa, SmugMug, Flickr, Panoramio, and many more to place your photos on maps for users to find them by browsing maps. I highly recommend checking out the new “More… Photos” option in a Google Maps search.