Speeding Up Lightroom Workflow
There are many raw processors on the market. The major players are Capture One, DxOptics and the industry goliath being led by Adobe with Lightroom/Photoshop combination. Those photographers that use Lightroom/Photoshop understand that Lightroom has a specific weakness in the time it takes to ingest and render images. High volume sports, events and wedding photographers have long endured the lengthy times before they are able to start their post-processing editing workflow on Lightroom.
Photographers who have upgraded Lightroom over successive versions have no doubt pursued the available performance and tuning options for their systems. The introduction of Lightroom 6 has sped up the workflow to some degree but a high volume of images can still take hours to ingest and render. Let’s look at some numbers in more details. A day of shooting at the race track can quickly lead to 2000+ images that need to be copied over to your system and cranked through Lightroom. In my case this will typically take two to three hours before Lightroom has ingested and rendered the images. This is on a highly optimized PC with dual SSD’s, current Intel processor, 16 gb of memory and USB 3 disk drives.
Lucky for us, some smart folks have come up with some solutions to help speed up this kind of workflow. In this article we will look at two products; PerfectBrowse and Fast Raw Viewer. Photo Mechanic has a similar functionality but its intended market is different. It is oriented towards professional shooters and photo journalists who may be working with in-house or external staff whose function is to cull and process at high speeds with specific deadlines for publication. PerfectBrowse and Fast Raw Viewer are predominantly suitable for the serious amateur and professional photographer who looks after their own workflow.
Pefect Browse from OnOne
Both products have specific workflows to help speed up your overall imaging workflow and integration with Lightroom. These products work by being able to render a RAW image in under a ½ second. This will allow you to make your initial sorting selection and culling to go much faster. Once you have made your selections you can then start with your Lightroom workflow. Fast Raw viewer changes your workflow by letting you make selections and then copy the RAW image over to a target folder. In Lightroom you select this target folder to further ingest/render and edit your final selections. Perfect Browse works a little bit different by allowing you to make selections in the culling process and then apply filters based upon your selection criteria (Pick or Stars). The selected images can then be sent over to Lightroom to permit the final ingestion/render and edit of your final selections.
Let’s look at some hard numbers on the impact to workflow. The standard Lightroom workflow can take over 3 hours to ingest and render 2,000 images. (based upon Nikon D810 raw images approximately 32-40 mb in size) At this point you can start your selection and culling process. This part of the process can take me approximately 1 to 1 ½ hours to complete. Once my final selections have been made virtual copies are made and stored in a Lightroom collection. Eg. RacingEvent-EditSelections. Somewhere around the 4 hour mark I can start my actual Lightroom edits of my selections. This will be around 100 images from a race day.
Now let’s look at our modified workflow using Perfect Browse. The first part of the process is to copy the images from the memory cards via a USB3 card reader over to the USB3 disk drive. This will take approximately 30 minutes to perform. I then startup Perfect Browse and start my selection and culling process. This will take me 1 to 1 ½ hours to complete. At the end of this I have made 100 selections which I then send to Lightroom. Lightroom will then ingest and render the images which will take approximately 18-20 minutes. The net benefit of this workflow is that I can start my actual editing at somewhere around the 2 hour mark. The net benefit of using this workflow can easily save you hours which can make or break things if you have tight deadlines to honor. A side benefit of this workflow is that you can keep your Lightroom catalog down to a manageable size.
Now that we understand the time savings and adjustments to workflow we can now examine which product is right for you Fast Raw Viewer or Perfect Browse. Every photographer has specific genres they like to photograph and also a specific workflow that they are comfortable with. There is no one size fits all or perfect choice here. You need to pick something that best matches with your requirements. So let’s look at the pros and cons of each product in the comparison tables below:
Both products offer the photographer a faster workflow and are worthwhile if you have to deal with a high volume of images. The cost is modest or free depending upon your choice. My recommendation would be to use Perfect Browse if you have generalized requirements or you shoot sports. Fast Raw Viewer is the better choice if you shoot weddings or do critical studio work. Both products use the Open GL on your video card to speed up the image viewing process. Lightroom 6 uses the same methodology to speed up the Develop module. I would expect that the next update to Lightroom will use the same methodology to speed up this part of the workflow. In the interim this gives time for the developers of Perfect Browse and Fast Raw viewer to enhance their products further.
Fast Raw Viewer is available for $14.95 at http://www.fastrawviewer.com/
Perfect Browse 9.5 is currently free through this special link. http://www.on1.com/fstoppers/
Watsonphotography.ca creates unique images of fashion, models, travel, people and racing sports by the Toronto based photographer Peter Watson.
Keywords: Fast Raw Viewer, Lightroom, Perfect Browse, RAW viewer, photography, post processing, workflow
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