Fruits of my Distraction

Its been a few weeks since I got back to the job of writing this site. That time has been manic and busy and unfocused and blurred, but the good news is that I have something to show for it. Taking time away from writing (not so deliberately) and spending it with photography has been good for my brain. If I were to consult The War of Art I’m sure I would come back with my tail between my legs, for the truth is that I have gotten afraid of some writing I have started. Usually the things you resist hardest turn out to be your most important work. 

Still, today I set some writing out in my schedule alongside time to learn and do a bit of (far too complicated) bookkeeping. Then I promptly spent all of that time editing some recent sets of photos. Now there are lots of arguments for how and how not to figure out just what might be one’s calling for lack of a better term. In fact I have suggested here that one of the very best ways might be to look for what you can’t stop doing (provided you aren’t too absorbed to take a step back). The difficulty lies in the fact that I also know for certain that Steven Pressfield was correct when he wrote The War of Art, that the things you are best at avoiding are the most important. So here I am. Caught in the middle. Obsessively editing, looking back over, ranking, making new versions, and exporting images that I have spent my free days capturing. Its a great way to be, creating. I sit down and there is not, then by the time that I get up, there is.

So today I have these new shots to share. Also check out the new project gallery/homepage here at searching for bohemia, its sucked up a bit too much of my time lately and I hope you enjoy it.

How To: Multi-size Export from Lightroom

After doing a shoot recently with the creators of Dates Like This, I was able to take my first good swing through Adobe Lightroom 4. The shoot was for some of their promotional material, and I’m pretty happy with the results. Although I did have to wait until after their announcement of the second season on Valentines day (happy birthday to me!) before I could share this work. Which was a new experience for me, as I am more accustomed to not WANTING to talk about stuff I am allowed to say. But that is a post for another time. Today I want to share a little bit of my experience in Lightroom 4.

I have been an avid user of Apple’s Aperture for some time. And the experience has been quite enjoyable for all of Aperture’s strengths as an all-in-one solution for asset management, RAW image processing, and basic photo editing. At least at the enthusiast level, Aperture is great. But if you have aspirations that involve more in depth editing or compositing then you will need a sophisticated pixel editor like Photoshop. And if you need to first batch process files and then interface with Photoshop, there is no better place to be than Lightroom.

Lightroom’s interface is a bit friendlier than most of Adobe’s CS products, and its handling of batch processing is very clever. I had played around in Lightroom before, but I took this opportunity to jump in with both feet and run my entire workflow for this project through Lightroom. And everything was great. Until I had to export… First of all I find Adobe’s preset editor to be wildly unintuitive. Secondly I was putting out images for use on the web, in slideshow videos, for a favicon, as banner images, in blog posts, possibly in print, you name it, and yet Lightroom was content to output only one size at a time (though I’m glad to put Aperture’s crapshoot of a watermarking tool behind me). So here I was navigating through export dialogue after export dialogue to get the numerous sizes I needed. 

Then I stumbled upon a post from one photography blogger at PhotoWalkthrough.com. He highlights this very problem and proposes a solution via the wee export setting called Post-Processing where Lightroom allows you hand off the exported files directly to another application. This post goes on to offer a bit of Applescript code (provided by John Day of johneday.com) that one might use to create an application which resizes and renames image files as they are exported from Lightroom. I promptly leaped for joy, created a new Applescript Editor document and landed flat on my butt. I couldn’t get this darn script to work for me. So it was clear there was an easier way to do this.

Automator to the rescue! If you work on a Mac and you deal with files in large quantities, you NEED to explore Automator. It will save you hours of your workday, help you sleep at night, make you taller, better looking, reduce your stress, make you less forgetful, make you seem really smart, and regrow your thinning hair. And since this is something I am under no direction to keep quiet, I’m gonna share with you this Automator App I built to augment Lightroom’s export dialogue. 

First Things First:

This is the primary sequence of actions I’ve used to create new versions of the images that are coming out of Lightroom. 

  1. First of all the items get duplicated (in step 1), when OS X duplicates these items in the same folder it will automatically append “copy” to the file name, making it read “imagname copy” so that has to be corrected. 
  2. You’ll notice that the first thing I do to correct this is to add my own descriptor to the filename in step 2, in this case “2k” for the 2000px version (you may wish to choose a different descriptor or different sizes, but this made sense to me). Now the filename will look like “2kimagename copy”
  3. We add the new descriptor first because OSX will not allow the appended ” copy” to be removed while the new file remains in the same folder without replacing the old file of the same name, or adding an additional index number to the end of the file name. So, now that the file has a unique name we can remove the ” copy” from the file name in step 3. You can see that there is no “remove text” action so instead I have used Replace, and dictated that we replace with a blank field, this action behaves just like Find and Replace in a word processing application. Resulting in a nice, clean, meaningful and unconfused name “2kimagename”
  4. Having now prepared the filename we move on to the purpose of all this, creating a version of this image in a smaller size. In step 4 I’ve used the Scale Images action and chose to scale to the specified size of 2000px. This will make the image fit within 2000px x 2000px or 2000 on the longest side.  You might be done here, if you only need one more image size after your export, but we can go further:
  5. At this point, we’ve created a second copy of the file coming out of lightroom that has been resized to 2000px and been named to make clear its differentiation from the original, fullsize version. But we might want another additional size, so step 5 duplicates the file or files that resulted from steps 1-4. And we will move through basically the same process once more.

Now we will go through the next rename, resize process.

First Steps in Automator
First Steps in Automator

Next Steps:

Here, we receive the duplications from the end of the first set of instructions. Their filenames will look like “2kimagename copy” so we need to fix this to be meaningful for the next size we create and then clean it up by removing the ” copy” addendum. 

  1. Note that the first step here after the duplication is Replace Text not Add Text as it was in the first process. This is because the automator script will move in a liear fashion when it comes to the handling of files. In other words we are picking up here, right where we left off in the first section, and not moving back to the orginal files that were passed in from Lightroom (its possible to do this with an applescript injection, but more on this later). Now after this find and replace our filename stands as “1kimagename copy” and its time to clean it up.
  2. Again we Replace Text, finding ” copy” and replacing with a blank field. Leaves the filename as “1kimagename” which is exactly where we want it, but the file is still 2000px on its longest side.
  3. Step 3 takes this currently mis-named 2000px image and scales it to 1000px in the same way we did the resize earlier. Note that the Scale Images action will scale up as well as down. I mentioned 2 steps ago that  with an Applescript injection you could revert to the original file for each resize/rename process. While this would protect you from degrading image quality through multiple resizings, it is not neccessary to our puroses here. As long as you keep your steps moving toward smaller and smaller pixel counts you will not see a degredation of the image.

This script ends here at 1000px, but you could keep repeating this duplicate-rename-scale process for ever smaller versions according to your needs.

Here's where Automator really starts making your life a lot better.
Here’s where Automator really starts making your life a lot better.

Make your Application:

When you’re finished creating your script make sure that you choose the file format “Application” so that it will be usable from Lightroom’s export preset under Post-processing.

Automator save dialogue making you look smart.
Automator save dialogue making you look smart.

Set up Lightroom Export:

Here, you can select the desired application wich you created in Automator to handle your Lightroom output. And once you’ve created an export preset which leverages this, it will effectively give you an export of one or many images simultaneously to multiple image sizes. You may notice that I’ve got this preset outputting first fullsize versions of the images and then my Automator App will take care of the multiple resizing.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

So, this post was a little unusual for me but I ran across this and knew there are lots of folks out there who need this functionality and may be having trouble doing it. I hope its of use to you. After all I wouldn’t want to be all philosophy and no tangibles. Please comment here if you have questions or suggestions.