Most genealogists eventually find they need a comprehensive image management system if they want to do more than simply file away images in computer folders. After grappling with the problem for years, I found Adobe Lighroom was the solution for my ever-expanding image collection and my changing work style.
House Historian Marian Pierre-Louis recently asked if any genealogists used Lightroom for genealogy, and I expect there may be several dedicated users willing to trade tips and share experiences. I’ve been using Lightroom since 2008 to manage my growing image archive and successfully migrated my entire photo management system from a Windows computer to a Mac in 2010.
Like many Adobe products, Lightroom is aimed at professional users, making it especially useful for anyone who wants to establish a productive and efficient workflow. Professional photographers want to take pictures, after all; they probably don’t really want to spend time managing digital files.
When I started scanning my family documents and photographs to create a set of Digital Masters, I quickly discovered that my current photo editing/management software crashed with large TIFF files.
Adobe Photoshop Elements combined with my nominal PC hardware just couldn’t handle the large files quickly and smoothly. I liked the file tagging ability of PSE, and the organization and editing features, but it became a real chore to work with a large number of files.
XnView was my next choice and it served very well throughout my initial scanning. At the time, I was scanning old letters at the unnecessarily high dpi of 1200, but XnView could handle the enormous TIFF file sizes. XnView could also convert TIFF to JPG, resize, and do a number of other tasks.
I would probably still be using the Mac version of XnView if Adobe Lightroom hadn’t come along and seduced me with it’s elegant design, smooth workflow, and fabulous tutorials.
My Favorite Lightroom Features
- Non-destructive editing — yes, any changes are just instructions written to the file; the original is still there in all it’s beautiful original detail
- Presets — beautiful beautiful preset instructions make it possible to Import, Name Files, Add Meta, Change Sizes, etc. all at the same time
- Meta Tagging — easy to understand meta tagging interface makes adding keywords nearly effortless
- Simple Editing — I don’t do much editing with my archive images, preferring to keep them as original as possible, but when I need to crop, restore color, or touch up, I use the simple editing tools of LR
- Independence — my images are managed by Lightroom, but my files are still accessible by any image viewer because they continue to live in standard file folder hierarchy on my external hard drive. If I decide to move back to a Windows machine one day, I can easily install the Windows version of LR and access my files smoothly, or I could abandon LR (!) and still open and view my files and their embedded metadata.
Probably the hardest part of getting started with Lightroom is simply “getting started.” I attended an all-day workshop by LR expert Scott Kelby, and then followed David Marx’s program for setting up Lightroom on an external hard srive at TheLightroomLab.com.
If you are intrigued by the idea of using Lightroom for your genealogy, I strongly encourage you to download the trial version and read tutorials and about setting up your initial file system. I used a small trial photo collection as I learned the program. It isn’t particularly difficult to learn, but like most things, takes a bit of time and focus.
I’ve written about my photo workflow using Lightroom in the past, but have made some changes to my initial scheme. I will aim to update the information and post a follow-up for anyone interested.
Marian, Lightroom really shines in metadata searches. I am using LR3, and I expect it is similar in the new LR4 if that is what you are using.
LR has different modules to handle different tasks. Tagging and organizing happen in the Library Module. I do most of my work in the Library Grid View. To get there: Click on Library in the upper menu; Click on the grid view in the lower center panel. You should see thumbnail versions of your images and a Library Filter menu across the top. Enter your search terms, press enter, and you will see all images with (or without, as you choose) those tags. The dropdown search bars offer several options for searching.
Hope this helps.