Tag Archives: Lightroom

Lightroom Craps Out With Videos

This is a tale of a problem I got in to with Lightroom.  I Googled solutions for this and got a bunch of suggestions but none of them worked.  In the end, Adobe sorted out the issue but I wanted to share what happened in case anyone else experiences the same issue and ends up Googling like I did.  Maybe this post will help someone out.  The source of the problem was an MP4 video file that apparently had some corruption within it.  This screwed up stuff within Lightroom that needed some detailed work to fix.  First, I shall tell you what the main error was.  This might be what someone is searching for.

Dynamic Link Media Server Failed to Launch

The result is that video files don’t import and then you seem to struggle to preview videos at all.  When you are in the Import dialog, the video preview doesn’t show and an icon of a camera comes up instead.  Some of the recommendations online were to delete the Dynamic Link Media folders in the App Data section of Windows and restart but that didn’t help.  I also tried that and deleting the media cache but no luck.  Next was to delete the Preferences folder for Lightroom which can often be a solution for unexplained problems but that didn’t work either.  That is when I got Adobe involved.

The support engineer tried a bunch of things.  Eventually, he created a new user on the machine and opened up Lightroom in there.  We tried importing a new video file from the same camera and that worked.  He then set about deleting the Lightroom related app data in my user profile and replacing it with the data from the new User.  We then tried importing the new file and it worked fine.  Next was the previous file and that caused the same problem as before.  Now we knew the file was the problem we could isolate that from everything we did afterwards.

Of course, I had damaged Lightroom again but now we knew what was required, it was a simple task to copy the folders across again.  The only downside to this was that all of my presets and information got deleted.  However, I had copied the old Lightroom folders before starting all of this.  It wasn’t too tricky to replace my camera profiles, develop presets and plugins.  At first I thought I had lost some functionality that I really like.  I have a plugin called LRInstagram which allows me to post from Lightroom to Instagram directly.  Facebook has turned off the ability to do this so, if you install the plugin now, it won’t work.  However, something about my legacy setup meant I had still been using it.  When I tried to set this up again, it failed to work.  However, my old Lightroom folder had a sub folder for the plugin which contained something like a cookie and, when I copied this across, I was back up and running!

All of this is to say, if you have a similar problem to me, there is a solution.  I won’t lay out the files that are involved because it is a bit tedious and there are some other things to bear in mind but, if this happens to you, get in touch and I will talk you through what we did.

HDR Tech Comparison – What’s Up Lightroom?

A while back I saw a Scott Kelby video on YouTube about the HDR functionality in Lightroom and that in Photoshop.  I had assumed that they were the same prior to seeing his video but he showed that the Photoshop version of the HDR was significantly cleaner than that in Lightroom.  I was interested in how this could be but I wasn’t too concerned.  The Lightroom version was so easy to use I figured the impact was not so much that it would show up in my shots.

Then, I found out I was wrong.  I was in the cockpit of the Comet at the Museum of Flight’s restoration facility at Paine Field.  I took a sequence for HDR because the cockpit is very dark but the view out of the windows is much brighter.  It isn’t particularly important since the view outside is nothing special but I did it anyway since I was there.  The lighter shot had quite a bit of shadow noise and, when I created the HDR in Lightroom, the noise was very conspicuous on the finished version.  I decided to try it in Photoshop to see what happened.  The difference was significant.  I include both of the full shots as processed along with the section of cockpit shadow so you can see the impact.

Negative Lab Pro

In previous posts I have described my efforts at scanning old negatives using a digital camera, macro lens and a light table.  I have had mixed success with the process for converting the negatives into positives with some films responding better than others.  I was okay with the output but thought things could be better.  A YouTube video showed up on my page that was about scanning negatives with a digital camera and I decided to watch to see if they did anything different to me.  The technique for shooting the negatives was similar enough but they introduced me to a Lightroom plugin called Negative Lab Pro.

I downloaded a trial of the software and gave it a go.  I was sufficiently impressed with the output that I stumped up the cash for the full version.  It isn’t cheap but, given that I can now use it on several thousand images, I figured it was worth the investment.  The plugin requires a small amount of effort.  I revert the images back to a normal San without any of my previous edits and conversions.  The first thing to do after that is to take a white balance reading from some of the visible edge of the film to neutralize any color shift.  Then you crop in on the image.  Apparently, it is important to avoid getting any unexposed edges in shot as this messes with the algorithm.

Then you open up the dialog box.  It analyses the image and does a conversion.  You then get some basic sliders to tweak the settings such as exposure and color balance.  There are some auto setting check boxes but I haven’t found them to be too helpful so far.  Then you click okay and the image is ready to do further editing in Lightroom.  You can also do batch conversions of images if you want although I think it is probably better to focus on individual processing.  I have been playing with this on a range of images so far and I like the results.  My old negatives are not that great and this is not going to suddenly make them amazing but I am impressed how much more I can get out of some of the scans using this software.

Lightroom 8.2 Detail Enhancer

Updates to Lightroom come along relatively regularly and they tend to include new features along with fixes and performance tweaks.  The latest update, Lightroom 8.2, includes a new addition called Detail Enhancer.  This is a feature that is designed to provide some better small-scale detail as part of the raw conversion process.  It creates a new DNG file based on a more complex calculation of the demosaicing of the sensor data.

I saw some videos about it and figured it wasn’t going to be of much use for the type of thing I am working on.  However, it did trigger one possible area of interest.  The algorithms are supposed to be designed to make better calculations around the different color pixels that sensors have.  Sensors are set up in a Bayer Pattern where different color sensitive sensors occupy different pixel spaces.  They each record in one color and then software interpolates between them to create colors for each pixel irrespective of which color was originally recorded at that location.

In a post from a while back, I mused on the way in which the colors of the Southwest Livery and the registration clashed and seemed to provide a distorted image even when everything around them was sharp.  I was pondering whether this was artifacting caused by the different colors and the way the sensor was recording the data.  If this was the case, maybe this new functionality would change the way things were rendered.  I dug out a few of the shots that had previously demonstrated this effect and ran the process on them.  These shots show the wide shot, the original rendering of the close up and the revised rendering using Detail Enhancer.

As you can see from the comparisons, Detail Enhancer does not suddenly render a perfect registration for the aircraft.  However, to my eye at least, it does appear as if the results are noticeably better then they were with the original rendering.  For completeness, the original rendering is done with the latest process version of Adobe’s raw converter to make things as fair as possible.  It does appear to make a difference.  This makes me think my theory about whiny things looked wrong might have some merit, even if this update has not fully resolved things.

Learning a Better Way to Blend in Photoshop

I occasionally use the Statistics function in Photoshop to blend multiple images in order to get rid of the distractions that I don’t want like people or vehicles.  Up until now, this has been a real pain to do.  I would identify the images in Lightroom but would have to open Photoshop, go into the Statistics function, use the browse function in there to select the images and then it would run everything in one go.  This was not a convenient way to go and the output image then needed to be manually added to Lightroom which is not handy.

It turns out that there is a better way.  This may have been in Photoshop all along and I never knew or it could have been a recent addition.  Either way, it is there and I shall now use it for future projects.  I have even created a Photoshop action to cover the process and assigned a function key so it will now do the heavy lifting without my intervention.  It all starts out in Lightroom.  Select all the images that will be used for the blend.  Then use Edit>Open As Layers and a new document will open in Photoshop with all shots as layers.

If everything has been shot on a tripod, things will be properly aligned by default but I often do these things on the spur of the moment so they are hand held.  Consequently, while my efforts to keep pointing in the same direction are not bad, the first task is to select all layers and Auto Align layers to tidy things up.  Next, go into the Layer tab and, under Smart Object, convert to a Smart Object.  This may take a little while.

Next step is to go back into Layers>Smart Objects>Stack Mode.  This brings up the same options as you get through the Statistics function.  Select Mean and send it on its way and you end up with a shot that, depending on the number of shots taken and the clear space in enough of them, results in a clear shot.  Usually I find that I haven’t got enough shots of the right type to get everything to disappear so some ghostly elements may remain but they are certainly less distracting than the figures in the original shots.  I have no idea what the other modes will achieve and the descriptions Adobe provides in their help files are so obscure as to be virtually useless. Instead I shall have to experiment with them to see what happens.  Thankfully, now I have this new method, I can undo the last step easily to try each option which would not have been possible using the Statistics dialog.  Another win!

Lightroom Issues Update

In quite a few previous posts, I have mentioned the troubles I have had with Lightroom recently.  This was all triggered by an update a while back and subsequent updates have not solved any issues.  The problems just continued and I was unable to get anything to address the sluggish behavior.  The program would respond better when I was working in the Develop module but it was very difficult in Library and when importing.

I recently had a bit more success.  I contacted someone who, while not working for Adobe, does have a business based around Lightroom and has good connections with the company.  I was able to send this individual a copy of my catalog.  They had a play with it and had similar issues with memory overuse so it wasn’t a hardware issue.  They were able to pass on the catalog to an Adobe engineer to investigate further.  I feared there was some corruption in the catalog and hoped they would find a solution.

It transpires that there is not any corruption.  Instead, it is in the nature of the catalogs that I have created that the problem lies.  A long time ago I posted about my approach to processing a shoot.  I would use a Collection Set for each shoot in which I would use smart collections to take shots with the right combination of keywords and dates.  They would split out rejects from non-rejects and put HDR, panorama shots and videos in separate smart collections.  This made processing the shoot more efficient.

As a result of this approach, I have, over the years, accumulated a large number of these collection sets with smart collections in them.  This is what is causing the trouble.  The program is getting bogged down with all of them.  This leaves two ways forward.  In the short term, I am going to go through these smart collections and turn them into simple collections.  Hopefully this will reduce the processing burden.  I don’t need the smart functionality any longer so I can just take the selected images and make simple collections out of them.

The longer term action is that Adobe is now aware of this issue.  Hopefully they can investigate a way to address this in a future update so that it isn’t constrained in the same way.  It happened suddenly so there was something in the coding that changed to cause the issue so maybe it can be similarly quickly fixed.  In the early days of Lightroom, it was limited in the number of images it could have before things got sluggish and that was resolved so hopefully this can be too.  We shall see.  If it is, you’re welcome!

 

Lightroom Keyword Approach Update

I have been using Lightroom since the first version came out many moons ago.  For most of that time, I have been actively keywording my photos.  It is a bit time consuming, but it does provide for good searchability and it also is useful when providing images to stock agencies.  My initial keywording was a little light, but I have got a pretty good level of information in there now.  The only problem is that I have to try and remember all of the different words I use for given types.  I almost always forget something when doing this.

The solution to this is using a hierarchy system for the keywords.  Lightroom allow you to have these hierarchies in the keywords such that, if you add one word, a whole sequence of other words will automatically be added.  For example, if you want to add AH-64, it would also add Apache, military, helicopter, Boeing etc.  This does require you to set up all of the words properly of course.  I took a halfhearted go at this many years ago and it didn’t work out well.  Recently, I decided to have another go.

This time, I wanted to do things in a more organized way.  However, editing the words and the hierarchy structures in Lightroom seemed a bit slow going.  Then I realized you can export and import keywords.  I exported the words I currently have and it created a text file.  Where I had tried creating hierarchies before, these were shown as tabbed indents from the words above them.  Therefore, I figured I just had to create a text file in the same structure and then import it.

I spent a fair bit of time creating the file.  Setting up the structure I wanted required a bit of thought and I had to change things a few times as I realized certain groupings would work more efficiently.  I also changed a couple of times to have the one word that was likely to be used as I keyworded be the top of the hierarchy.  For example, I am going to add 787-8 reliably but not Dreamliner.  Therefore, if I have 787-8 at the top and Dreamliner below, it will get added without me thinking about it.  The same for F-22 versus Raptor.

By taking a couple of weeks to create the list, I got it pretty well laid out.  I remembered to add stuff as I went that I had initially forgotten so the final list was pretty comprehensive.  I will have still missed out on some stuff but it didn’t have to be everything.  All of the existing keywords are still going to be there, and I can add more stuff later if it seems valuable.  Finally, I imported the file to Lightroom and boom, all of the new structures were there.  Next time I add a bunch of stuff, we shall see whether it makes a significant different to the process.

One thing to note, if you have the keyword box set to Enter Keywords, this hierarchy approach doesn’t work. Much frustration ensued when I first found this. However, some good guidance was provided and by changing to Will Export, things work as intended. No idea why that is necessary but, now I know, things are okay. I am also going to progressively clean up the old keywords to get rid of the non-hierarchy ones to ease entry even further.

My Copy of Lightroom Got Sick

After a previous update to Lightroom (6.12), it became almost unusable.  Importing would take forever and, once the images were in, it would grind to a halt.  Keywording and editing became a nightmare.  I was struggling to work out what was wrong.  A check on performance showed the processor wasn’t busy but the RAM was maxed out.  I couldn’t understand why.  The first thing I do when Lightroom behaves strangely is to delete the Preferences file.  This file can get corrupted and mess with the performance badly.  Just delete it and restart and things are often fixed.  That didn’t work in this case.  When the new version of Lightroom was released, I hoped this would fix everything but sadly not.  (Meanwhile Photoshop itself is working just fine on this system.)

I had a long session with the Adobe tech support people which got me nowhere.  After telling me this was normal, they realized it was not when our screen sharing crapped out as a result of the machine slowing to a virtual standstill.  They tried a bunch of simple stuff and got no further than I had on my own.  They suggested a second session would be needed and then promptly sent me an email telling me that the issue had been successfully resolved.  Not sure how they concluded that.  Meanwhile, I wondered whether there was an issue with my Windows installation so decided to do a completely clean install.  This had some slight benefits but basically the problem still remained.

I have done a bunch of scanning of similar issues and I found out a technique the support team can use to tweak performance.  There is a config.lua file that can be created in the presets folder to influence the system.  I have added this file and it has certainly made a few things work better.  It has also slowed some things down as well which isn’t ideal.  This was not a solution though.  All it did was make the program slightly more usable.

Another session with Adobe ensued.  This time we got into the permissions for some of the folders that contained the catalogs.  Lots of time to reset these to give greater authority.  I was told this is sometimes an issue with large catalog files.  Lots of time later, I found that nothing had really changed.  The whole thing would still get bogged down very quickly.

Then I read about Lightroom 7.2.  This was a new update that was supposed to address a lot of performance issues.  It was supposed to make better use of multi-core processors as well as larger RAM configs.  I had seen a sequence of updates not improve things – my issues were clearly not the normal performance problems although I had previously experienced some of them too – but I was hoping that, if they had changed the architecture of the software, maybe whatever was causing my machine to have problems might have been tweaked/replaced.  If not, I was seriously considering the need to buy a new system since this was so horribly inefficient.

I waited for the release date to come around when I knew the update was on its way.  Then I got an update to the iPad version and it said the new version of Camera Raw was included.  This must mean it was close.  A day later, the update dropped.  I downloaded it immediately and opened up.  Hurrah!!!  Everything run fast, the RAM levels were moderate and stable, everything was happening as it should.  My system lives!  Let’s hope this isn’t a false dawn.

My Approach to Shooting and Processing on Crappy Weather Days

This is the finished image. This is pretty much what it looked like to the naked eye (through the viewfinder) when I took the shot given how dark the sky was.

A rare arrival was due on a day that was not good from a weather perspective.  It was dull and rainy and so not what you would hope for.  Conditions like this mean I try to exploit some of the features of the camera and the processing options available.  First, how to set up the camera?  With the light being bad and variable, I went to a pretty high ISO level.  I shot in aperture priority mode and added a lot of exposure compensation.

In my experience, the metering is pretty good when shooting against the sky in clear weather but, when there is a lot of cloud, the camera tends to treat the clouds as too bright and it underexposes the subject too much.  I use a lot of exposure compensation in this case with a setting of +2.0 being used on this day.  The reason I do this is that, aside from the exposure question mark, there is a lot more information available in the lighter end of the exposure curve.  Shooting in RAW gives you options.

This is how the camera recorded the image. This is the in camera JPEG that I extracted from the RAW file using Instant Raw From JPEG.

If you were to look at the aircraft at the time, you would see a dark and menacing sky but you would see plenty of detail on the plane.  The camera does not see that for the original shot.  The aircraft would be very dark.  When processing, this dark area would give you something to work with but the variation in data would be more limited.  Shoot overexposed and you get more to work with.

This approach will only work well if you are shooting RAW.  If you are using JPEG, too much of the usable data will be discarded during the processing in the camera.  To show you what I mean, here are two images.  These are both from the same shot.  One is the RAW file as it showed up when imported in to Lightroom and the other is the embedded JPEG that you can extract from the RAW file and which can be seen when the file is first imported before the rendering is undertaken.  As you can see, the JPEG is over exposed but the RAW rendering seems even more so.

There is way more data in the RAW file though.  Immediately, as I bring the exposure slider back down, the clouds go from being white to quite dark – just as they appeared on the day.  Meanwhile, the fuselage of the aircraft has a lot of the data intact and maintains a lot of the brightness that you could see at the time.  Very little needs to be done with the blacks and they are almost in the right spot by the time the exposure is good for the clouds.  The fuselage might be a bit too dark though.  A small tweak of the blacks and a little boost in the shadows to compensate for too much darkening with the exposure slider and suddenly the shot is looking a lot more like it did when I saw it develop.

My RAW processing baseline always results in a slightly more overexposed shot the embedded JPEG includes. When you first open the image, the embedded image you see in the previous shot initially shows up and then it renders the RAW file. This was the initial RAW rendering prior to any adjustments.

One advantage of shooting on such a crummy day is that the sky is a giant softbox – in this case a very soft one!  The result is that the light is a lot more even than on a sunny day.  The darker look can actually make the colors look a bit more intense than if they were losing out to the whites when the sun is right on them.  While there was only one plane I was specifically there for, playing around with these other shots and working on the technique was a nice extra benefit.