After several years of life with the Sony Alpha 65, the moocher felt it was time for a new lens. So off to Imaging Resource to see what was happening in the digital imaging world. As I was shopping for the Alpha 65, Sony had just introduced its NEX line of cameras. The Alpha series featured a semi-transparent fixed mirror with an electronic finder. The NEX series eliminated the mirror and penta-prism. The main sensor was also the finder sensor.After reading several reviews, I concluded that the mirror-less camera had grown up and was a good choice for me. Many working pros are coming to the same conclusion, especially those shooting travel and street photography where compactness is an asset.
Recently, a friend asked her social media peeps for camera recommendations for a first camera that is not a point and shoot. Her expected uses are garden macrophotography, the occasional photo of the moon, and urban/country trekking photography, including wildlife photography (BellaBob?). And of course, photographing her photogenic dogs when a phone camera just won’t do.
Since I was last in the marketplace, the players have changed somewhat. Several have introduced innovative product lines and new product types. Several manufacturers now make mirrorless advanced cameras. Some are styled to mimic the rangefinder cameras of old and others to mimic single lens reflex cameras. All have an eye to camera view finder. Two things distinguish an enthusiast camera from a point and shoot, the view finder, and the shutter lag.
Rather than try to survey the market, this article will inform you of important camera design considerations and the way in which they influence a purchasing decision. After reading this article, considering how you might use an advanced camera, and consideration of personal characteristics such as hand size, vision, and fiscal health, you can venture forth into the market place. I suggest that you handle each camera and take some snapshots with it on a memory card that you bring along. This will give you a feeling for the view finder, menus, and control layout that you won’t get from reading Amazon reviews. And keep your friendly shop keeper in business by buying local rather than ordering.
Those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter know that I take a lot of snapshots with my iPhone or iPad and that some of them actually look good. The tools I use with my phone are Apple Photos for quick hacks and Adobe Lightroom CC for more thoughtful work. One problem with this arrangement was that I had to manually manage two photo archives, one in Photos and one in Lightroom. Recently, I learned how to get my Lightroom environment to behave like an Apple Photos environment. That’s what this article is about.
This article is summarizes information from two references that I used to get my environment initialized. Reference 1 gives much more detailed descriptions of the process than this CLiff’s Note does.
- https://tidbits.com/article/15640, Photos Everywhere with Lightroom CC and Apple Photos, retrieved 10/25/2016.
- https://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom/how-to/lightroom-mobile.html, How to get started with Lightroom Mobile, retrieved 10/25/2016.
- https://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom/how-to/edit-organize-photos-mobile-to-desktop.html, How to Edit and Organize Photos Mobile to Desktop, retrieved 10/25/2016.
What you need
In writing this article, I have the following kit. Other phones and cameras capable of running Lightroom Mobile work equally well.
- An Adobe Creative Cloud photography subscription for $10/month
- An Apple iPhone 6+
- An Apple iPad Pro 13 inch
- Adobe Lightroom mobile on both.
It is also a good idea to install Camera Raw, especially if you have a real camera (one you look through to compose images). And now for iPhone and iPad which make Apple raw format available.
The next two sections describe some configuration preliminaries in Lightroom and Lightroom Mobile. The secret sauce is to subscribe to Creative Cloud and log the devices in. Then create a CC collection for each device that will automatically receive new photos taken by the device’s camera. This happens in the camera itself and is independent of the GUI used to operate the camera. Photos taken with either the Apple Camera UI and the Lightroom Mobile camera UI will be queued and saved to Creative Cloud.
Setting up Lightroom Creative Cloud
I have a monthly subscription to Photoshop Creative Cloud. This subscription allows me to use Photoshop and Photoshop Lightroom, and Creative Cloud. Creative Cloud is Adobe’s network storage environment that allows devices to share a library of image assets across hardware platforms. The basic subscription includes enough storage to get started. As your collection grows, you can add more storage.
Once you have purchased your subscription, follow Adobe’s instructions for installing Photoshop Lightroom. Go to the preferences menu and enable Lightroom Mobile.
Setting up Lightroom Mobile
Install Lightroom Mobile on your phone or table using the platform preferred source: for Apple iThings, the App Store and for Android things, the Google Play store. Android people, remember that it is a dangerous world out there, Play Store only.
Once through the initial screens you will enable creative cloud.
- Tap the LR logo to bring up the dialog
- Set Sync only over WiFi as you desire (recommended)
- Set Auto Add Photos to on
- Set Auto Add Videos to on
- Set Collect Usage Data as you desire
Once these settings have been made, create an auto add collection for the device.
- Open the organize view
- Tap + to open the Create Collection dialog
- Create and name a collection.
- Once the collection is present, tap the collection’s … icon to open its settings form
- Enable auto add
My two collections are iPhone photos and iPad photos. Both collections appear in Lightroom Mobile on my iPhone and my iPad and in desktop Lightroom CC. Lightroom CC groups them under Collection From Lr Mobile.
- Take photos with the Apple camera
- Open Lr Mobile and let it sit. It will import new photos from the camera roll and push them to your CC account.
- Open Lr and let it sit. After a bit, it will sync with your CC account.
- Edit your new work in the normal Lightroom CC way.
- After a bit, your edited images will appear on your devices.
Creative Cloud App
Adobe Creative Cloud also includes a manager program that provides the following services.
- Checks for and alerts you to updates
- Shows which programs your subscription allows you to use
- Lets you monitor your storage usage
- Lets you maintain your CC credentials.
Adobe has designed CC app to launch at log in and periodically do its checks. It has a status bar widget that lets you wake it from standby to install updates or download additional products from your entitlement when you find a need for them or to try additional Creative Cloud products. The trial collection gives you access to all of the video and still image tools, prepress tools, and web tools.
The $10/month plan entitles you to 2 GB of online storage. Reference 1 explains how the 2 GB is used as follows
Adobe’s Creative Cloud includes just 2 GB of storage with the Photography plan for $9.99 per month, but there’s a twist: that 2 GB is dedicated to storing files in Creative Cloud that are shared with other CC applications. Photos you sync via Lightroom mobile do not count against your CC storage allotment, because they’re stored as much smaller DNG files and therefore don’t take up as much space; I’m guessing the amount is negligible to Adobe. However, keep in mind that you need to pay for a Creative Cloud subscription simply to use Lightroom mobile in the first place.
Last weekend, I attempted to apply a firmware update to my Sony Alpha SLT-65V interchangeable lens camera. I’m not sure why. I saw that there was an update available and thought I’d apply it. In the past I’d had greyhound legs splinch when filming with the Sony so I used the iPhone 6+ to take most of my hound video. My hope was that I could do more every day snapshots and greyhound video with the updated firmware.
One evening, I decided to photo some clouds. A thunderhead to the south was looking menacing as it drove by. I grabbled the Sony, put it in manual, and cranked the exposure down by fiddling with the shutter speed and ISO. This brought out some texture in the clouds. I took the captures in to spool them off. For some reason, I checked Google to see if there were firmware updates outstanding.
There were so I had a go and the go went wrong. The little red activity light came on and stayed on. Bad joss. The firmware updater instructions told me I was now proud owner of a brick. I took the battery out of the camera and put it on to charge while looking for salvation. A little poking around had tales about older cameras reacting badly to the 64-bit Mac firmware updater. At this point, I believed the camera was destined to remain a paper weight.
But, mid-week, I came back to the Sony USA support portal, hopped on chat, and explained my tale of self-inflicted woe. Sony said not to worry, there was a fair chance they could help me revive the camera. Apparently the camera’s firmware loader is active when the red light was on. Although, there were no instructions for a second go in my camera’s state, the firmware updater was designed to be able to take it from the top if the load was interrupted. The process involved a slightly different sequence of starting the camera, connecting to the firmware updater, letting the two hook up, and retrying the update. This time, the firmware loader ran correctly and my brick turned into a camera.
The Apple application architecture that seamlessly integrates your Mac with your iPhone and iPad is a strength of the Apple product line largely unknown to folks who have not bought into iThings. In the past, Apple offered Aperture to serious amateur and professional photographers and iPhoto for recreational photographers. With Mavericks, Apple replaced the earlier products with Photos, more capable than iPhoto but not as capable as Aperture. To close the gap, I subscribed to Adobe Creative Cloud for Photographers. Can Lightroom and Photos coexist? How?
Apple is replacing Aperture and iPhoto with a new application Photos to replace both. Is it time to make the move to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom? A presentation at Hampton Roads Digital Shutterbugs prompted me to reexamine Lightroom after an initial attempt to evaluate the product went down in flames. This article describes my experiences during the one-month trial of Lightroom 6 I was able to attempt in April and May of 2015.
Apple’s new Photos tool is a very capable photo collection manager and photo editor designed for broad use by casual and beginning amateur photographers. It makes it very easy to produce high quality images from captures taken with some attention to composition and lighting and to save many less carefully made images.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is designed for use by the advanced amateur photographer and graphic arts professionals. Like Photos, Lightroom makes it easy to organize a photo library and perform basic correction of images. Lightroom goes beyond Photos in its ability to perform sophisticated manipulation of images and image regions. Where Photos makes coordinated model driven image alterations, Lightroom offers extensive creative control of individual manipulations but is extensible using preset libraries and editing plugins to perform sophisticated manipulations with Photos-like ease of use. Lightroom appears to offer a range of image similarity transforms not found in Photos to correct lens distortion, chromatic aberration, and 3-D perspective.
Reference 4 is a link to Adobe’s Lightroom introductory tutorials. Working through these tutorials is a good way to learn enough about Lightroom to get started with the program.
Reference 5 is a link to a set of tutorials introducing various digital photography techniques and the associated rendering techniques in Lightroom.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
When Apple announced that it was discontinuing Aperture, Adobe pitched Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Creative Cloud to Apple users. Adobe is trying to move its products from a product model in which you receive a perpetual license to a program version to a subscription model in which you pay by the month to use a group of products in their current versions. For $10 per month, you can use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop and stash some stuff on Adobe’s cloud storage. As new versions are released the Creative Cloud application manager will fetch and install them for you so you are always up to date.
Lightroom strikes a balance between capability and simplicity of use. Lightroom’s design makes it easy to import images, make basic corrections, tag and collect images, and associate images with clients and client projects. The more sophisticated features of the develop module allow basic tilt correction and cropping, perspective correction in the manner of tilts and swings, application of transformations to multiple portions of an image, and sophisticated manipulation of color and contrast using tonal curves. Lightroom is also able to correct lens distortions and chromatic aberration.
Installing a Trial Version
If you visit http://Adobe.com, you can quickly navigate to special offers for photographers. Adobe is tiering its products for various use cases including graphic arts students, enthusiast photographers, professional photographers, and those working as graphic arts professionals. The initial links let you start a 1 month trial of Creative Cloud for photographers. This trial allows you to use Photoshop and Lightroom for one month.
If you follow the link, it will download an OS X disk image that contains the Creative Cloud installer. CC Installer, when launched, will install Lightroom. If you wish to install Photoshop also, CC Installer will do this for you.
It took me several tries to get a good installation of CC Installer that would actually install Lightroom in a form that could be launched. I believe this was because I had some legacy cruft from a trial of an older version (4?) lying around. I used Clean My Mac to slaughter everything Adobe and attempted a fresh installation that went successfully.
When you launch Lightroom, Creative Cloud application manager actually does the deed. At launch, it will check for the availability of updated programs and will offer the chance to install them. Your subscription entitles you to updates as they are released. Adobe also offers a traditional single user license that does not include updates.
Introducing Oswald, My Mac Mini
Oswald is a 2009 Intel Core 2 Duo Mac Mini with nVidia GeForce 9400 graphics. In 2014, the machine’s hard disk failed. I took the opportunity to perform a disk transplant and memory transplant. The machine now has 8 GB of main memory and 512 GB of SSD storage. The SSD is a Crucial solid state SATA drive. I chose Crucial for both the memory and disk for the convenience of a single order.
I mention Oswald’s internals because Lightroom 6 is smart enough to use the video hardware to do image transformations. Reference 3 describes the system requirements needed to use Lightroom and Lightroom’s use of the machine’s GPU.
On Oswald, I’ve found Lightroom to be responsive for importing and editing using this equipment. The smart thumbnail step in the importing process is slow but runs in a background thread that permits responsive use of the editor. With 8GB of memory, I’ve seen no evidence of paging in Lightroom.
Initializing the Lightroom Image Library
Lightroom keeps its data in two directories. On Mac OS X these are ~/Pictures/Lightroom and ~/Pictures/Lightroom Masters. The Lightroom directory contains Lightroom’s metadata about your images. Lightroom Masters contains the actual raw or other image files. The metadata describes each version of an image that you make. The metadata also includes your copyright, license grant, keyword tags, camera, lens, exposure, date and time of capture, GPS coordinates of capture, and other information about the image produced by the camera, added by the editor, or added by Lightroom.
The metadata contains a recipe for making each version of the image. The recipe contains a reference to the location of the image file in Lightroom Masters. If you need to rename an image file, you must use Lightroom to make the change because it must update the name in the Lightroom metadata. Similarly, if you move the library, Lightroom needs to update the file locations in its catalog.
Lightroom metadata allows you to assign images to collections. A collection is a group of images that are related in some way. For example, you can organize collections by client and project or create smart collections that include images having selected metadata values like camera, lens, date captured, or selected keywords.
Importing Images into Lightroom
Next I’ll describe the image importing process. This process imports your existing image files and new images from your cameras or their removable storage.
The importing process keeps selected metadata produced by the camera and some metadata added by other image management programs. For example, Lightroom can preserve Apple Aperture or iPhoto keywords but not rendering instructions.
Importing from Aperture
Lightroom is able to import Aperture 3 libraries. The Aperture 3 format is common to iPhoto and Aperture so both are covered. Lightroom maps each Aperture Project or Album into a Lightroom Collection. Collections may contain collections. The import of my library produced some empty collections. When this happened, the collection usually had an algorithmic numeric name rather than a recognizable name based on a date or given by me in the original library. Once the import completes, you may want to reorganize this part of the library using a recognizable structure and naming.
Importing your Aperture library uses a plugin found on the File -> Plugin Extras -> Import from Aperture Library menu item. Although not intuitive, Adobe clearly explains this in the getting started tutorials. I believe they chose to put this tool here because it is a one time process. My library took a couple of hours to process so put this operation on at bedtime.
Importing from My Sony Alpha 65
Use the Import button down on the bottom toolbar to import photos from a device (iPhone or camera) or from the file system. Lightroom is aware of device raw file formats but leaves you on your own to find the directory on the device media to import. I had to hike through the camera SD card file tree to find where it kept the photos. Once located, it brought in the raw file, jpeg file, and metadata into the Current Import in the Catalog. An import option allows you to import into collection Quick Collection which you can rename after the import.
Lightroom lets you build preview images as part of the import process. This can take a while and tends to peg out both processors on my early 2009 Mac Mini (8 GB main memory, 512 GB SSD system volume). Lightroom will tell you what it is currently doing in a little status pane in the upper left corner of its main window.
Importing From My iPhone 6+
When you connect an iPhone, Lightroom will recognize that it is present and offer it as a source. Lightroom is aware of the iPhone camera’s file structure and will locate the photos and movies without user assistance.
Lightroom Organizing Model
In this section, we’ll look briefly at where Lightroom keeps your photos and how it organizes them.
Where Your Photos Are
Lightroom keeps your raw and jpeg files in the file system. If your Lightroom database is in Pictures, your image files will be in Pictures/Lightroom Masters. Lightroom keeps its versions data in Pictures/Lightroom. If you wish to move the Lightroom directories elsewhere, you must use Lightroom to make the move because the version files contain references to the original image location. To properly move the library to another disk, Lightroom must revise all of these references to use the new locations. This gives some insight into Apple’s decision to keep the Aperture and Photos image libraries as opaque objects using Core Data. Given Adobe’s desire to work across platforms, they chose to stay in the file system.
If you look at the Lightroom Masters directory, you will see that Lightroom keeps your images by date organized by Year, Month, and Day. The day folders are named using numeric dates yyyy-mm-dd making it easy to browse the file system to see what is available. Note that Lightroom creates a folder for each day of the month and that some may be empty.
The files that you see will be the unedited files. Lightroom does its magic by recording the sequence of editing actions that you take and applying them to render the edited image when it is needed. It is like Aperture and Photos in this way. No editing actions you take will damage the original capture and you can always get the original back to start over or to make a new rendered version for a different purpose.
Overlaying Order on the Masters
Lightroom provides several organizing models that you can use to group images. These include
- Collections containing collections or images
- Smart Collections, a set of images selected by query on image metadata (camera, date, keywords, and many more)
- Folders within a day folder to group images
When you do camera or file system import, the importer gives you the following collection options.
- Add to the quick collection
- Add to an existing collection
- Add to a new collection
As collections can contain collections, it becomes possible for a working pro to collect photos by client, client project, and project shoot creating the collections at the time of import. The file handling sidebar provides the collection options, allows you to choose one of the existing collections, or to create a new collection for the import.
Smart collections dynamically group images into collections based on meta data attributes. The smart collection editor lets you build a ruleset used to select the images for the collection. The metadata include camera, lens, image capture data, and keyword values.
My Initial Collection Practice
The importer also lets you apply keywords to all of the images in the import. I use the importer to apply classification attributes common to all of the images in the import. Once the import completes, I use the Library module to add subject specific and image specific keywords. For example, I add dog names, tag the image for the holiday card, etc.
I currently have smart collections for
- Each dog
- Each camera
- Each residence
- Beach photos
- Thanksgiving and Christmas photos
- Holiday cards
- WHRV pet calendar candidates
Lightroom offers two editing modes, library quick edits that can correct white balance, exposure, and other image basics and developing which brings the full powers of Lightroom to bare. Lightroom is able to import both still photos and video into the library. The library quick edits work with both stills and videos. The more detailed developing edits work only with still images.
Library Module Edits
The Library Module editor allows you to make global changes to the image, for example, changing color balance, applying an overall tonal correction, improving clarity, removing noise, or fiddling with vibrance and exposure. Lightroom applies these transformations to each pixel of the full image.
Developing Module Edits
The Develop module lets you make multiple versions of an image using techniques and tools that affect only part of the image. The tools include cropping and transformations inside masks or outside masks. Masks may be elliptical regions or parallelogram regions. I’ve not done much with these.
The Develop module provides the following commonly used tools
- Color/monochrome tool
- Tone curve
- Split toning of highlights and shadows
- Sharpening tool
- Noise reduction tool
These can be used to enhance an image or to do pseudo-color manipulation of the image. It is this module that you do renderings that mimic the traditional film materials.
Lightroom saves your editing actions on a stack. As you take each action, Lightroom pushes it on the stack. You can pop actions off to revert to an earlier version. At any point, you can make a named snapshot of the stack. You do this in the Develop module. Snapshots are most useful when you want save multiple evolving renderings of an image but only need to use one at a time. Snapshots can be named with the name indicating the intent behind the snapshot.
Lightroom’s Develop module lets you make virtual copies of an image by right clicking. To differentiate versions, it gives each a sequence number. Versions are useful when different renderings of an image are needed simultaneously and are most commonly used when different crops are needed or very different rendering treatments are needed. They are often used to make different crops or different color treatments of an image, for example, different film/print styles.
Not another greyhound! No. That’s him on the masthead image. Speedy is part of the Chrysler Museum’s (http://chrysler.org) permanent collection. Speedy is proudly on display in the center of one of the sculpture galleries so you can walk around him to admire his physique. Speedy is cast in aluminum and handsomely anodized to a nice blue color from the palate of the real thing.
This photo is one I took on a visit to the museum using an iPhone 6+. The 6+ camera is nothing short of amazing in its freedom from noise, color fidelity, sharpness, and ease of use. You can’t do bokey (depth of field tricks) but you can take a damned good photograph with proper attention to composition, a proper grip, and use of the volume buttons as shutter release. Grip the camera with a finger on either button but not the standby button. Squeeze gently to trip the exposure and this camera will reward you with a sharp photo.
I used the on-board Photo application to realize this image. Just basic adjustments to darken the image and crop it some for the masthead. I did the crop here on WordPress.com. The exposure correction in camera post processing.
Speedy has a story that you can look up. It turns out that his sculptor is well regarded and that Speedy is a primary example of the use of anodized aluminum as a statue medium. And I just thought he was a stout hound!
I made this crop from a Facebook image that second cousin Teagan Gray posted. While on her June 9 morning run, Teagan found this little guy crouched in the middle of the trail. Mom was keeping a wary eye on Teagan from the tree line. I used Apple Aperture to give this critter a 60 Minutes crop and to correct the exposure and color a mite. I let Aperture Otto have his head giving the result above from Teagan’s original.
The picture below is one of the first I took with my new camera, a Sony Alpha 65. The Sony is somewhat different than a traditional SLR. It has a fixed mirror that transmits most of the light to the main sensor. Part of the light is reflected to a second sensor that drives an electronic viewfinder and serves as autofocus sensor. This design allows the Sony cameras to provide continuous autofocus during still and motion picture shooting. In movie mode, the zoom lens may be used and manual focus may be used. Motion picture shooting, though good, is not a match for a camera designed for that purpose.
After many years of point and shoot digital photography, it is time for a proper camera with a proper viewfinder and no shutter lag. I’ve been putting off this purchase for some years because the technology was in flux and digital sensors weren’t the equal of the prior art from Kodak and Fuji. In the last 5 years, this has changed so, this winter, I finally made a choice and bought my first DSLR camera.
Buying point and shoot cameras is easy. They are self-contained. There is little that carries over from one to the next. DSLR cameras have interchangeable lenses so the choice of a camera is a commitment to a lens family. Most hobbyist cameras are sold with a nice general purpose lens, usually a wide angle to portrait focal length zoom lens. This lens is a great learning lens but usually makes performance compromises to keep the kit price reasonable. Most hobbyists later buy one or more fixed focal length prime lenses or zoom lenses with different characteristics than those of the kit lens
I’m just beginning to explore the camera. It does very well taking holiday gathering photos. The camera has little shutter lag, particularly if the red eye blinky flash feature is off. The kit lens has a nice focal length range for general photography including candid portraits at full length. The aperture range is f3.5 to f5.6 or so which is the primary compromise that keeps its price reasonable. It is a very flexible lens that is equally at home in the lounge taking kid and pet pictures and at the beach taking landscapes.
The Sony Alpha 65 is designed primarily for hobby use but is up to light professional service. The camera uses a unique lens mount, the Sony A-mount. Sony partners with Carl Zeiss gmbh for lens design and manufacture. Carl Zeiss also makes A-mount lenses for the camera. Professionals regard Zeiss and Leica lenses as the finest there are. A-mount to Leica mount adapters are available. Access to these two lens families was one reason for my choice. Sigma and Tamron, two third party lens makers also have nice A-mount product.
The body features were the second. The electronic viewfinder works well with eye glasses. It is bright and visible outdoors and indoors. It shows a wealth of information inset in the display and what is shown can be tailored. The display features include an artificial horizon that aids in leveling the camera in roll and pitch. I use the artificial horizon quite a bit.
The camera has a rear LCD display whose use is optional. It is used to set up the camera for a session and to review images and footage. These tasks can also be done with the finder but are most conveniently done in the rear display. This display is articulated and can be rotated to permit use as a ground glass viewfinder. This is a useful trick when the point of view needs to be different than eye-level. But like all of its ilk, it will wash out under bright conditions. The camera automatically switches between the finder and the rear panel. Placing the camera to eye enables the internal finder. Moving it away enables the rear display.
One thing I was unaware before starting my research is shutter life. Most shutters are designed for 100,000 to 150,000 operations. That’s 20 years of shooting for a hobbyists but maybe a year and a half for a busy pro shooting advertising. The Alpha 65 is designed for 100,000 frame service life and is not drip proof — it’s not sealed to be out in the rain, something a photojournalist would want. These things make it more a hobby camera than a pro camera. But the image quality is first rate and the sensor and processor are shared with Sony’s pro products.