Lightroom and the future of organizing photos

by Johann Gudbjargarson

Let's face it - organizing photos today by location, subject, keywords, people etc. can be a cumbersome task. A photographer must be a very organized to stay on top of these tasks, especially when assignments include different locations, subjects and etc.

In my iView collection (still haven't moved all of my images to Lightroom), I have about 120.000 pictures and probably only around 20-30% of them are organized (by keywords, collections and person), and I consider myself a fairly organized person. I try my best to organize my pictures after importing, but sometimes I skip that part when I'm in a hurry. I have recently been working on a large book project with a group of people and a part of my responsibility has been to collect pictures from photographers of landscape from specific locations. This has been surprisingly difficult because almost none of these professional photographers seem to have their pictures organized, and they need to go through their collection manually to find pictures we can use. A tool like Lightroom will definitely help keeping all the workflow from importing to output in one application which simplifies things incredibly.

Although Lightroom does a lot to simplify organizing the pictures in keywords and collections, it is still a very manual task, and I think in the next few years we will get some automatic tools to help us keeping our pictures organized. Two of these things are GPS (Global Positioning System) in cameras and face recognition. Face recognition will probably soon be viable option for DAM (Digital Asset Management) programs and will be incredibly helpful when the technology will find its way into everyday software. Imagine making a batch run on all your pictures, in my case around 120.000, and let the program automatically organize by people on them.

I will be very disappointed if GPS will not be a standard part of cameras in a few years time. External GPS systems have come down in price and JOBO has announced an external device for around $150 like John Nack of Adobe pointed out in his blog. If an external device like this is used, photos have to be synchronized in computer afterwards so programs like Lightroom can see the GPS value. Nikon offers a GPS adapter to their top end cameras which connects to the camera and enables the camera to write into each picture the coordinates into EXIF. When GPS have been recorded into pictures most DAM programs should be able to display the coordinates and many online photo sharing sites like SmugMug support showing the pictures on a map via Google maps. John Nack also pointed out that Lightroom supports clicking on the arrow beside the GPS field in the EXIF panel (only displayed for pictures with GPS recorded) to open up the location in Google Maps.

I think that programs like Lightroom will have a built in module or something that shows maps like Google Earth, and you can easily browse your pictures by selecting them on maps. It will also be interesting how sharing pictures on the net with GPS locations recorded will evolve in the next few years - I think Google will be a major player in that evolution.

Microsoft is also making interesting things with its Exploring Photo Collections in 3D which looks stunning. The program maps photos from photo sharing sites to a 3d model of location and viewpoint and displays them in a very interesting and original manner. It is hard to describe in words so I suggest people check out the Microsoft site for more info.

The next few years will be very interesting in the field of photo organizing and sharing, and I'm sure that Lightroom will play a big role in the evolution.


2007-03-13 20:00:25

In my iView collection (still haven't moved all of my images to Lightroom)
Will you move all 120K eventually or use both programs?
Johann Gudbjargarson
2007-03-14 02:15:36
Hello Wim and thanks for your comment.
I'm not sure how many pictures Lightroom can handle gracefully so I haven't decided if I will import all my collection into the program. There are other things like keeping all my collections from IView when I import to Lightroom so I'm going to wait and see if Adobe will make this transition easier.
2007-03-18 10:09:30
I have my archive in DNG format, and I found Lightroom to be very slow with even 5000 files. Importing in slow and generating previews is even slower. Even if I already have full size previews included in the DNG files. Lightroom is also very sluggish with 5K archive (for example: 'Accumulating metadata' after selecting several photos) and since my photos are stored in external hard drives, every time the archive comes online, LR wants to spent few minutes updating paths.

Maybe later, but right now I stay with iView.