Workflow and DAM

In my last Tech Talk post, I was complaining (whining) about where Adobe is taking us Lightroom users.

Since then I have been researching alternatives. While I found a number of options, none fit my requirements well enough for me to bail on Lightroom.

The search was not a complete waste however as it did provide me some ideas that will improve how I currently use LR.

It’s the Metadata

LR is a parametric or non-destructive editor. This means it does not apply any changes directly to an image in the catalog. Each edit you make on an image is saved to the LR database and, if enabled, to the image file as metadata. LR also creates a preview image which is saved in a folder structure alongside the database and again, if enabled, to the image file.

Instructing LR to write the metadata out to the file enables several things:
* the metadata goes with the image file when it is moved or copied
* the medatdata is backed up along with the image file when it is backed up
* the metadata is available to other applications that can use that metadata

It makes sense then, to write the metadata back to the file right? Well not always. If your library is syncronized to Dropbox or OneDrive, or you use a cloud backup service, than each file you touch now needs to re-synchronized by the service. That could be a lot of large files being moved across the internet. That could be a lot of bandwidth charges.

Virtual Images

LR allows the creation of Virtual Images (VI). These are images that are copies of the original except they exist only in the LR database.

Let me explain.

When you create a VI, LR creates a new record in the database against the original image file. It also creates a new preview image. Any edits to the VI are recorded in the database only. It can’t save metadata to an image file, because there isn’t one.

When you export or print a VI, LR renders the image. It starts with the original image file, applies any edits prior to the creation of the VI, then applies all edits that were done directly to the VI.

The point is a VI only exists in the database.

Issues with Virtual Images are:
* lose your LR database and you lose ALL of your virtual images!
* only LR knows about your Virtual Images. They are not available to other applications

I have been making extensive use of VIs. During my auditions of other software, the VIs would either be lost, or cause migration issues. I need to reduce my dependance upon VIs.

The evolving workflow

As I said at the start of this article, I am staying with LR Classic. And, as I did learn more about the Metadata and Virtual Image concepts, I am making some changes to my workflow.

First, I have enabled LR such that all metadata will be written back to the image file or XMP sidecar. I don’t backup using a cloud service, so that is not a current concern.

Next, when I export or print an image, I will export and re-import a copy back into the catalog so it exists as a real file. This change to my workflow will reduce the dependance on having a VI. This approach will also help with tracking how different versions of the file have been used.

I’ll let you know how this works out.

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