Replacing my Favorite Photo Editing Plug-in

Google recently announced they would no longer support Nik, a photo editing plug-in for Lightroom and Photoshop.  I, like many others had become dependent on Nik in my editing workflow.  I was even one of those who spent a huge sum for Nik in the early days before google bought them and started distributing it for free.  While I can’t understand google’s decision to scrap such a brilliant piece of software, I’m moving on.  

Recently Scott Kelby published a video course on his KelbyOne site on this very topic…replacing Nik with Macphun’s Luminar.  I went ahead with his suggestion, and don’t regret it at all.  Luminar is easy and intuitive…easy to learn.  I wasn’t looking for a replacement for Lightroom and Photoshop, simply a Nik replacement.  I think I got something in between. It’s more than Nik.  It can do what Nik did, but more, with more flexibility.  I’ll be using Luminar a lot. With the ability to handle layers, Luminar might even replace some Photoshop functionality eventually.  That will take some time though since I’m quite comfortable with Photoshop…but it could happen.

As an aside, I purchased On1’s software some months ago, and have tried it several times, but it never took hold the same way Luminar did.  It almost does too much…is that possible?  I keep telling myself I need to learn more about On1. 

Taking Care of my Pictures

My iMac Desktop is only about 3 years old but is showing signs of stress.  It has become very slow, and semi-unstable at times.  It has a 1TB internal drive which is 80% full, mostly with my 30k images.  I recently installed 32GB of ram memory, hoping that would help.  It did slightly, but I still get a lot of the “spinning beachball of death”, and frequent non-responsive software.  Running the Apple disk utility shows no issues with the internal hard drive.  I spent hours cleaning our garbage from the hard drive (cache, old files, etc), but the problem persists, so I concluded that it may be a bad disk, or more likely an overcrowded disk.  since the disk is over 50% full, recent software updates (OS and Photoshop/Lightroom) have probably been written on the slowest part of the disk, and/or, there is not enough scratch space for Photoshop and Lightroom to work with the large image files.  So my plan, before bailing out and taking the machine into Apple’s computer configtechnicians is to reconfigure how I handle my pictures, and in the process, how I manage the backups.

Here’s my plan.  I wrote it out to test my thinking.  A lot of it has to do with how Lightroom’s catalog works.

First step is to move all my images off my internal hard drive and create an external Pictures workdisk. The move will initially be done using “Export as Catalog” in Lightroom.  This is so LR creates a completely new catalog pointing at the folders and files on the new external drive.  The software and operating system will be the only thing remaining on the internal drive giving PS and LR all the scratch disk they could possibly want. The LR catalog file will go with the images to the external hard drive.

Note, I thought about keeping my current year images on the internal drive, but decided against splitting my images for the time being, because I like to go back frequently and use old images in composites.

Step Two is to ensure that my Time Machine backup includes the external work disk drive. I believe it will automatically.

Step Three, once I’m sure my new work disk and the Time Machine are working properly, I’ll delete all my images on the internal drive.

Step Four, Set up my Dropsync to backup my work disk to a portable external disk, that I can move off site.  I may use two portable drives so I can rotate them offsite.  I already use Dropsync  with my external portable drive, so this isn’t a new process.

Step Five, Before my trips I will run the “Export as Catalog” process from the work disk to create a travel version of my pictures that I can access on the travel laptop (Macbook Air).  When I download new images from my camera when I travel, they will be on the travel drive (as well as the SD cards, so they are  backed up),  When I return home I can do another “export as catalog” back the other direction to the work drive.  The reason I would use this process instead of just copying the new images up to the work drive, is that I frequently edit images on the trip, before I return.

The best part of this plan is that I don’t have to buy a bunch of equipment.  I can do this with only one additional external hard drive (a 4TB WD hard drive).  I have and use the other equipment, but have never really thought through my configuration, so I don’t use it consistently.


Addendum: as of Monday the 27th, I’ve started step one with a 5Tb WD My Book drive, which I reformatted to work on the iMac.

Almost all done.  iMac now only has software on its hard drive.  All documents and photos are on the external 5tb drive, and being backed up right now by Time Machine.  Final step will be to hook Dropsync back into the process to produce copies on the portable drives, and then just let the process roll.  The computer is back to running almost like it was new!  It worked.



Pro HDR X Iphone App

I’ve been using the Pro HDR app since it came out several years ago.  It was my go-to app for taking pictures in an amazing number of conditions, simply because it always produced great results.  The only issue it had, and it was a big one especially when things were moving in the scene, was that it took too long to “analyze” the lighting conditions and take the two shots that it used (one over exposed, the other under exposed) to create the final image.  Frequently things either moved in the scene, or my hand moved and I’d get ghosting.

The makers of Pro HDR have recently introduced a great upgrade.  This new app takes three bracketed shots, almost instantaneously, and blends them automatically, creating images with great dynamic range.  It is now definitely my regular picture taking app for my iPhone.  I went out today to a local park to test the app out, and was quite impressed.  These pictures are not intended as great art.  I just wanted to see the results in different lighting conditions.

Normal exposure
Normal Exposure
Under exposed
Under Exposed
Over exposed
Over Exposed
HDR blended image
Final Blend – HDR

The series of three images and final HDR clearly show the process.


I did find that the software does tend to produce images that are overly “warm”, but that is easily corrected with sliders once the picture is taken.



Native iPhone app
Native iPhone app
Pro HDR - warm
Pro HDR – warm





A good example of the detail captured with the extended dynamic range is shown in the following pictures…a close up of clouds cropped out of the above set of pictures:

Pro HDR - detail in clouds
Pro HDR – detail in clouds
Iphone native camera app.  Clouds blown out.
Iphone native camera app. Clouds blown out.


Another example of images in a difficult lighting situation is the final two, shot into the sun.  The iPhone native app predictably created a very dark foreground while the Pro HDR app handled the situation relatively well.

Oddly when I used the native iPhone HDR functionality I saw very little if any difference in any of the pictures? Not sure what iPhone’s native HDR does.

Pro HDR - pretty well balanced
Pro HDR – pretty well balanced
iPhone app.  Dark foreground, blown out sky
iPhone app. Dark foreground, blown out sky

Related Images:

Perfectly Clear

Recently discovered a very nice iphone photo editor. It’s rather subtle, but produces nice results by keeping my over-exuberant editing at bay. Perfectly Clear is a nice addition to my many iphone editors. I know there is a version I could use on the PC, but already using Photoshop probably makes that version unnecessary for me. These images are iphone shots put through Perfectly Clear.

Managing Thousands of Images

I am pretty brutal when it comes to culling out my less than desirable images. Nevertheless I have a very large number of finished and raw images. I use Lightroom to manage my photo library. Managing that large number in a way that allows me to find specific images is a complex topic. There are other reasons to impart some organization on that library. First, I am building this web site. I don’t want all my images here. No one would (or should) look at them. I envision this site as a place to display only my best, “portfolio” quality images. I must be able to find them now and in the future.
Second, I won’t live forever and certainly hope that someone will want to salvage some of those images when I’m gone. They need a way to sift through the mess.
I’ve used numerous keywords in the past without much thought to their organization. As a result even my keywords aren’t that great. I’ve used the star rating system at times in the past, but even that has been without much thought as to what the ratings actually meant, other than I simply liked one picture in that shoot better than another. Star ratings were not consistent across different shoots.
Time to think this thing through. I decided to start at the top and begin by going through and identifying my portfolio images. During that process I’d correct keywords where I noticed them. My final step will be to go through and re-organize the keywords.
I started the portfolio search by filtering out all the highly rated (starred) images, assuming that, at least once, I thought they were my best for each shoot. There were about 1500 images with 4 stars or greater. I was able to cull that list down to around 150. Not bad. I decided to flag my portfolio with five stars AND a “portfolio” keyword.
I am now in the process of going folder by folder giving portfolio quality five star ratings to the FEW images I find. I’ll then filter all those rated images out and assign them the new keyword.
I’ve got a LOOOOONG way to go!