Monday, August 18, 2008

Lightroom 2.0 Running On A Network, Well Almost - Really Good News and Almost Good News

Good Morning Everybody,
Man, "tons" of good stuff today, so let me get right to it.

Really Good News - You know, I was pretty bummed when Lightroom 2.0 came out and was not "network ready" - I've already gripped about it here as have so many others. Here is a simple, almost elegant work around - which works for LR 2.0 and LR 1.41 as well. Hit the "Read More..." link below to see the utterly SUPER COOL solution for Lightroom's network dilemma.

What's the main problem?? It's that Lightroom needs to see it's LRCAT file on a local drive. Ahhh, but do source images need to be on a local drive? Well, the answer is a big fat NO!!!

Park your images on your server or wherever you want on your network now create your LRCAT file on your local computer - remember, I create a new LRCAT file for each job because of the number of images we shoot on a typical job. Lightroom bogs down at about 20-30,000 images so it only makes sense for me to create a new LRCAT file for each big event right away - life is just simpler that way.

Now hit Import from the Library module and just point Lightroom to those images anywhere on your network, and presto, they will populate quite readily on your Lightroom screen - pretty cool! Now work your Lightroom magic on all those images and you are good to go.

Guess what, You can even hit Cntrl-E and Lightroom will find the source image anywhere on the network and pop it right into Photoshop for you, saving the source image right back on your network drive and updating the preview image in your local LRCAT file on the local computer.

Wait, it gets better. Now you want one of your studio employees to work on the order too. Big Problem, the LRCAT file is on your local computer. Actually it's no problem, just park a copy of your local LRCAT file on his/her local computer and they will be good to go to continue working on the order. Just be sure all the local copies of the LRCAT files are all synced up with the most recent save of the LRCAT file.

I actually think this works like a charm and takes the sting out of Lightroom 2.0's "Not Network Ready" flaw. As I said, we work with about 3000-4000 images on a job. Our LRCAT file is about 1 gig big meaning it's not a monstrous file transfer to make the workflow scenario work out. You could even set up you LRCAT file on say a small 4 gig thumb-drive and shuttle it around to each workstation as needed. Give it a try, it's a piece of cake.

Almost Good News - I been hanging with Lightroom 2.0 pretty heavily these last couple of weeks and learning many of it's "ins and outs." There is one feature that is particularly intriguing to me and that's the Auto Tone feature. There were many recent posts claiming that the "Auto Tone" feature works much better that in LR 1.0. Frankly, I didn't think it worked at all in the first version.

That said, I have been giving it a try in LR2, and have to say that I'm "moderately" impressed with the results. Why moderately, because on some images where the background goes dark, like a reception candid, it tends to "blow out" the main subject. If the illumination is fairly consistent though, Auto Tone does do a respectable job (although I still think it "gooses" brightness just a bit too much) I can see it as a big time-saver for our wedding workflow.

That brings me to another point - wouldn't it be cool if Lightroom would let you dial back a bit of the brightness or exposure in the scene after running Auto Tone. I know I can sync similar images, but what I want to do is dial back Brightness say -30 on each Auto Toned image. In other words, I want a customizable Auto Tone feature. Anyone at Adobe listening???

I'm sure Adobe has the defaults built in, I just want to fine tune these defaults to my liking when Auto Tone runs. If anyone has any suggestions on how to make it work any other way, how about sharing it with me and our readers.


  1. Hi David,

    I would like to add to your networking Lightroom post with something that you will probably love. To share your LCAT files with multiple employees you can use a version tracking program like what we software engineers use for our source code. Basically, everyone runs client software that talks to the server software that you set up. Then you can "check-in" and "check-out" the LCAT files. So any changes made by you to the LCAT file can be submitted and then retrieved by all your employees without having to navigate through the network drives, send files via email, and so forth. The best thing about all this is that you can add comments to your submissions so that everyone knows what changed with the new version of the file.

    I highly recommend using Perforce ( as it has a great user interface and is very easy to use. It also has client software for Windows, Mac, and Linux and they all play nice together (I use my Mac at work to interface with our Windows based P4 server). However, this one does cost a few bucks if you have more than a few users.

    A real popular free version control system is Subversion ( Many ISP's will provide you with a Subversion server as part of your hosting package. Of course you can download the server software itself and run it on one of your local machines. The only draw back to this is it doesn't have a GUI itself. You access all its features by right-click menu's on the folders themselves. Not too big a deal but a bit annoying in the age of GUI applications.

    Adobe does have the Version Cue software with its CS2/CS3 suites but I have never used it and not sure if it will let you share LCAT files. Doubtful.

    So with a little bit of research and configuration you can make sharing your LCAT files very simple. I hadn't thought about this as a solution until reading your post.

    Hope this helps...


  2. For the customizable auto tone: how about creating a preset that uses auto tone and also apply a curve that reduces the highlights. You apply the preset on import.

  3. You might want to try and change the brightness from the Library module.

    I remember reading that the Library module makes changes from each photo's current settings, where Develop module makes the settings all the same.

    So an exposure change of +.33 in the Develop module will set the exposure to +.33 on all the synched images. But in Library it would increase the exposure by .33 compared to what each picture is currently at... So if one image is -.33 and another is +.33 they would be 0 and .66.

    I haven't tried this with Brightness, but it's worth a shot.

  4. I wonder if mapping a drive letter to the location on the network and saving the LRCAT file to that "drive" would work. Go to all the computers on the network and map the same drive letter to the same location. Then all computers could share the same LRCAT file. Anything wrong with this logic?

  5. I just tried John's suggestion about using the Library tool to reduce all images brightness by a certain degree and then increasing their exposure by the same amount to compensate. It seems to work great. I changes all the settings by the same amount but not to the same number. I was really annoyed by the over use of brightness as well but this may be a nice fix. Now if we could only get Adobe to give us tool to do that automatically. If only Adobe would give us exposure comp in Lightroom.

    Great idea and catch John, thanks.

  6. I think more control in the "Auto" feature has been, and definitely is, a needed addition in Lightroom. I know there used to be flexibility in Camera Raw for selecting which things would auto adjust and with wouldn't. I'd love to see that, as well as being able to put limits (maybe high and low) for each (at least in 1.4 I'd run into the brightness problem as well as times where the blacks would get pushed way too high, I'd love to be able to define a range).

  7. I can appreciate that Adobe doesn't want multiple concurrent access to this LRCAT file - it will screw the pooch if you give it conflicting updates - and so they stop you accessing it over a network.

    The version control idea of check-in and out is a great one and probably the only way to allow multiple concurrent users, but for single user remote access syncing seems overly complex and portable drives are prone to loss.

    If you have a Mac you can create a disk image on your network drive, mount the image as a local drive and store the LRCAT and LRDATA files on this "Local" drive that is accessible by mounting the image that is stored on the network.

    Make sure you don't leave a copy of Lightroom open and then go somewhere else and open the same catalog file tho.

  8. Here's my solution for sharing a Lightroom catalog on a network. I purchased an iOmega (now EMC) StorCenter iX2-200 network storage device (two one-GB drives in a RAID 1 configuration, $279 from Amazon) and used iSCSI to configure it as a lettered drive. I copied all my digital images plus the Lightroom catalog to this drive. Now I can connect with any of our computers (all running Windows 7, though this will work with earlier Windows versions, but why would you do that?) and Lightroom thinks it is running from a local drive. I suppose there is a way to do this with a Mac, though I can't help you there. Performance is not noticeably degraded from a local disk (we are running a 1GB network - had to upgrade a few computers to support that). The only caution is that you can only use one client at a time against any given catalog. This avoids all the syncing of catalogs that some other schemes require. I'm sure that many other NAS devices also support iSCSI, so there are options.

  9. Be VERY careful if you "trick" lightroom into letting you store and run your Lrcat over a network device through mapping. The main reason adobe restricted this is because LR uses SQLite as it's database, which is single thread only (only 1 user). This mapping work around is known to corrupt Lrcat, just by virtue of being placed in a multi-thread environment like a NAS.