Last fall, I did a presentation at B&H on using your camera as a scanner, based on my book Digitizing Your Photos. The webinar proved a pretty detailed overview of the camera scanning process for prints, slides and negatives. For those unfamiliar with the process, or for people who have been struggling to get high quality scans, there is a lot of good information in here.
I’ve got a number of appearances scheduled for the coming months. Here’s a list, followed by a link to an interview I did with Photofocus.
APPO Raleigh, NC March 21-24
I’ll be giving a general session at the Association of Professional Photo Organizers on the use of Artificial Intelligence in asset management, as well as a breakout session on using your camera as a scanner.
APPO is an organization for people who help (mostly) private individuals scan, tag, preserve and make use of their photographic legacies. More info here.
Palm Springs Photo Festival
I’m thrilled to be headed back to Palm Springs for the 2018 festival. I’ll be doing two programs. The first is Wednesday, May 9th program on scanning with your camera and the second is What’s new in DAM program on May 10th. More Info here.
Maine Media Workshops
I’ll be giving a week-long workshop on managing your mage collection with Lightroom the week of June 10th. I’ve never taught here, but I’m really excited to give it a whirl. I know a number of people who have had life-changing experiences at the workshop. More info here.
Available now! – Web Interview on PhotoFocus
I had a really enjoyable hour speaking with Rich Harrington, Tim Grey and Kevin Ames about getting organized. The interview has been archived and you can find it here.
Editor’s Note: This post combines a couple threads I’ve been writing about. I’ll provide some real-world methods for converting visible text to searchable metadata as discussed in Digitizing Your Photos. In the course of this, I’ll also be fleshing out real-world workflow for Computational Tagging as discussed in The DAM Book 3 Sneak Peeks.
In the book Digitizing Your Photos, I made the case for digitizing textual documents as part of any scanning project. This includes newspaper clippings, invitations, yearbooks and other memorabilia. These items can provide important context for your image archive and the people and events that are pictured.
Ideally, you’ll want to change the visible text into searchable metadata. Instead of typing it out, you can use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to automate the process. OCR is one of the earliest Machine Learning technologies, and it’s common to find in scanners, fax machines and in PDF software. But there have not been easy ways to automatically convert OCR text to searchable image metadata.
In Digitizing Your Photos, I show how you can manually run images through Machine Learning services and convert any text in the image into metadata through cut-and-paste. And I promised to post new methods for automating this process as I found them. Here’s the first entry in that series.
The Any Vision Lightroom Plugin
I’ve been testing a Lightroom plugin that automates the process of reading visible text in an image and pasting it into a metadata field. Any Vision from developer John Ellis uses Google’s Cloud Vision service to tag your images for several types of information, including visible text. You can tell Any Vision where you want the text to be written, choosing between one of four fields. as shown below.
Here is part of the Any Vision interface, with only OCR selected. As you can see, you have the ability to target any found text to either the Caption, Headline, Title or Source filed. I have opted to use the Headline field myself, since I don’t use it for anything else.
Here are my findings, in brief:
- Text that appears in real-life photos (as opposed to copies of textual documents) might be readable, but the results seem a lot less useful.
- Google does a very good job reading text on many typewritten or typeset documents. If you have scanned clippings or a scrapbook, yearbook or other typeset documents, standard fonts seem to be translated reasonably well.
- Google mostly did a poor job of organizing columns of text. It simply read across the columns as though they were one long line of non-sensical text. Microsoft Cognitive Services does a better job, but I’m not aware of an easy way to bring this into image metadata.
- Handwriting is typically ignored.
- For some reason, the translate function did not work for me. I was scanning some Danish newspapers and the text was transcribed but not translated. I will test this further.
(Click on images to see a larger version)
Let’s start with an image that shows why I’m targeting the Headline field rather than the caption field. This image by Paul H. J. Krogh already has a caption, and adding a bunch of junk to it would not be helping anybody.
You can also see that the sign in the background is partially recognized, but lettering in red is not seen and player numbers are ignored even though they are easily readable.
In the example below, from my mother’s Hollins College yearbook, you can see that the text is read straight across, creating a bit of nonsense. However, since the text is searchable, this would still make it easy to find individual names or unbroken phrases in a search of the archive.
You can also see that the handwriting on the page is not picked up at all.
The Bottom Line
If you have a collection of scanned articles or other scanned textual documents in Lightroom, this is a great way to make visible text searchable. While Google is not the best OCR, thanks to Any Vision, it’s the easiest way I know of to add the text to image metadata automatically.
AnyVision is pretty geeky to install and use, but the developer has laid out very clear instructions for getting it up and running and for signing up for your Google Cloud Vision account. Read all about it here.
Google’s Cloud Vision is very inexpensive – it’s priced at $.0015/per image (which works out to $1.50 for 1000 images.) Google will currently give you a $300 credit when you create an account, so you can test this very thoroughly before you run up much of a bill.
Watch for another upcoming post where I outline some of the other uses of Any Vision‘s tagging tools.
Adobe announced some big changes to Lightroom today, including a new cloud-native version (Lightroom CC) as well as a re-branding of the familiar desktop version (Lightroom Classic). Additionally, they have discontinued development of a “perpetual” version and all new versions will be licensed on a subscription basis. What gives?
The Innovator’s Dilemma
Clayton Christensen’s 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma helps to shed some light on Adobe’s behavior. In the book, Christensen tracks the rise and fall of disruptive innovation, which includes rapid growth of successful applications, and an eventual leveling off of growth as the market becomes saturated. Eventually, changes in the market landscape allow for new competitors to arise, and the company becomes vulnerable to disruptive innovation and the loss of market dominance. If you don’t innovate on an equally aggressive basis, the company faces real danger. In this circumstance, your market dominance may prevent you from creating new software as you focus on maintaining the success of the old product.
The digital photography revolution
Lightroom was, in large part, an earlier response to the innovator’s dilemma. Photoshop was the clear leader in imaging software, but it was developed before the advent of digital cameras. Camera Raw was developed as companion application to Photoshop to deal with raw files, but ultimately the very structure of Photoshop was incompatible with the needs of busy digital photographers. It had a one-at-a-time file handling structure that was insufficient for many workflows.
Lightroom was developed in response to this new market reality. Adobe took the Camera Raw engine from Photoshop and grafted it on to a database, creating one of the most successful applications in the company’s history. Lightroom was developed by a small team working inside Adobe, essentially functioning as competition to the flagship product. If Adobe had put all their effort into shoring up Photoshop, they would be in very serious trouble right now as a preferred tool for digital photographers.
We are now at another inflection point, and this one, I believe, is even more transformational. The use of photography as a language, created on and consumed on smartphones has changed the way we communicate. One of the primary needs in this new world is continuous access and connectivity. Dependence on desktop software is incompatible with many of the important uses of photography. Often, we simply can’t wait until we get back to the home or office to send photos. And a great collection of images is frustratingly out of reach if you are away from your computer.
In order to serve the needs of mobile photographic communication, the Lightroom team has spent years working on ways to create an integrated cloud component to Lightroom. Publish Services allow the extension of Lightroom to integrate with a wide variety of other applications, including many cloud offerings. And the introduction of Lightroom Mobile, along with some integration with traditional Lightroom catalogs, offered some seamless interchange.
But the architecture of Lightroom as a desktop application simply cannot be stretched enough to create a great mobile application. The desktop flexibility that has powers such a wide array of workflows can’t be shoehorned in to full cloud compatibility. The freedom to set up your drives, files and folders as you wish makes a nightmare for seamless access. And the flexibility to create massive keyword and collection taxonomies does not work with small mobile screens. After years of experimentation, the only good answer was the creation of a new cloud native architecture. As with the creation of the original Lightroom, this was done by taking the existing Camera Raw imaging engine and bolting it on to a new chassis – this time a cloud native architecture.
Managed file storage
In order to have “my stuff everywhere” the new application has to be cloud native. The primary storage of your images and videos is now in the cloud. This allows Lightroom to have seamless access on multiple devices. And in order to allow Lightroom to push these files around, you need to give up control over the configuration of folders. By giving the control over to Lightroom, the application itself can help to manage the transfer of files between devices, using downsized versions when storage space is not adequate for full size copies. (And, yes, you can have a complete full-sized archive on your own drives, which is something I would suggest.)
Lightroom has also made a major break with the metadata methods of the past, opting for a computational tagging system. Some of this is familiar – the use of date-time stamps and GPS tags to organize photos. Some is new, like the Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence tagging that can automagically find images according to content. While these tools and techniques are pretty rudimentary now, we can expect them to mature quickly and continually. (Google Photos, for instance, just announced that they can now identify photos of your pets, and, voila, the tags simply appear.)
Not the end of desktop Lightroom
Just as the advent of Lightroom did not kill Photoshop, the introduction of Lightroom CC will not kill Lightroom Classic. It’s a hugely popular program for an important part of their customer base. And creating a cloud-native version of the software, instead of trying to shoehorn the program into a workflow it did not fit, frees up resources to make Lightroom a better desktop application. The Camera Raw development team can continue to make improvements to the engine, and each of the chassis builders – Camera Raw + Bridge, Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC can focus on building workflows for their customer’s needs.
There are a number of important uses of Lightroom that are pretty far off for Lightroom CC. Many power users depend on custom keyword taxonomies and deep collection hierarchies and these may never appear in Lightroom CC. And there are lots of existing integrating of Lightroom through Publish Services that won’t be easy to migrate. There are also a ton of clever and useful Lightroom plugins that may be impossible to add to the cloud version.
For my own workflow, I’ll be sticking to Lightroom Classic as far as the eye can see. But I expect that my wife and kids will be happier with Lightroom CC.
The end of Perpetual Lightroom
There is certain to be some unhappiness with the discontinuation of the perpetual versions of Lightroom. For those who don’t want cloud connectivity or who don’t use smart phones, this change forces them into a subscription service that may be unwanted. I feel your pain.
But the world is changing, and photography is becoming a more important part of it. I’ve spent the last four months working on The DAM Book 3, writing about these tectonic changes, and I’m convinced that mobile imaging (and image consumption) is a driving force. Adobe is in a position to help us take advantage of that change and make the most of it. If they did not accept the evolution of the imaging landscape, they could be in real trouble. As it is, it will still be a challenge to maintain their leadership in such a fast-moving market.
Although Lightroom CC does introduce some black box functionality, Adobe is still a clear leader in “you own your stuff, and you can take it with you.” I think this attitude, central to Adobe’s products since Geschke and Warnock left Xerox PARC to found the company, remains one of the strongest reasons to use their tools. Mobile and cloud computing has changed the landscape, but this attitude remains intact.
Note – If you want a more granular description of the changes to Lightroom, check out the ever-comprehensive Victoria Bampton’s post here.
I’ve got two presentations scheduled for October. The first is a free two hour seminar on scanning with a digital camera at the Click! Photo festival in Durham, NC. It takes place 10am-noon Oct 6. Here’s a link.
And I’ll be in New York at PhotoPlus, doing a tag-team presentation with Katrin Eismann called Preserving Your Photographic History. I’ll show how to scan with a digital camera, and then Katrin will demonstrate reparations and restoration techniques from her revised book on retouching. Here’s a link for that.
Use this custom landing page for a 15% discount and free show pass.
Nikon sent me a D850 to do some camera scan testing. My initial impression is that it it really promising, but I have not been able to get it to do exactly what I want. It does a pretty good job for most negatives, but it’s having problems on dark images.
I’ll run a number of rolls through it over the weekend and report back. I will say that even if it’s not perfect now, I can tell this is going to be a great solution for camera scanning color negatives, particularly in conjunction with Lightroom.
When digitizing your photos, it’s important to capture any “nearby” information. Dates and notes on slide mounts, writing on the back of prints, notes on boxes and envelopes and other information can help you understand the content and ownership of the images. It can be time-consuming to stop and transfer these notes to your scans.
In Digitizing Your Photos, I show how I approach the capture of nearby information. The fastest, simplest and most complete way to record these notes is to shoot photos of it, and include those photos in the catalog. In the case of prints, it’s simple to flip the print upside down and shoot the backside. Boxes and folders can also be photographed as you shoot the contents of these containers.
When coping slides, I suggest that you shoot the slides as a group after copying individual slides. Use front light to show any writing, and make sure the light rakes in from one side so that blind embossed writing shows up. This video from Chapter 2 shows the hardware setup I recommend to shoot the slide mounts.
We’re excited about the release of our new multimedia ebook, Digitizing Your Photos. It presents a comprehensive method for scanning photos with a digital camera, and managing the process with Lightroom.
The book is written for professional photographers, family historians, corporate collection managers, and cultural heritage institutions. We know that great collections of slides, prints and negatives are everywhere, and we want to help preserve and make use of them.
The book runs for 248 pages, and includes 90 workflow videos for a total of 9 hours of comprehensive instruction.
Here’s the first video from the book, which outlines the entire process.
And here’s the product page.
Once again, it’s World Backup Day! While it’s not as fun as Talk Like a Pirate Day, it’s arguably more important. All of us have important digital stuff that we’d hate to lose. So if the lack of a solid backup plan is something that’s bothering you (even a little), take the opportunity to do something about it. Here are some suggestions.
Send in the Clones
If all your stuff can fit on one single hard drive, then you’re in luck. You can make a clone of your drive. A clone is simply a copy of the drive, written out to another hard drive. It’s really useful if your hard drive crashes. And a clone that lives in a separate place from your laptop will give you protection in the event of loss, damage or theft of the computer.
Clones are easy to make, and offer a high level of protection (as long as you update them regularly). I think of a clone as a disaster-recovery backup. As someone who really values my data, I like to keep an extra clone stored offsite, in case there is a fire or theft that destroys both my laptop and my main clone.
You can read about making a clone over at dpBestflow.org.
I’ve been using this nice little WD My Passport Air for my clone, it’s small, light and durable. It also has built-in encryption so your stuff is protected even if the drive is lost.
While I think everyone needs a clone for fast recovery, I’m also a big fan of Backblaze for continuous off-site backup. It’s a real set-it-and-forget-it system. It costs $50/year per computer to make a duplicate of your entire computer up to the cloud. This protects against the threat of total loss of onsite data, as well as any files that have not been backed up to offsite storage.
Backblaze is particularly valuable for family members or other who are not vigilant about backing up their stuff. I set up both my daughters before they went off to college, and, wouldn’t you know it, one of them dumped a pitcher of water on the keyboard of her laptop during freshman year.
Note that Backblaze is not really designed for large image libraries that many photographers have.
PhotoShelter or other web service
You can also use a photo-oriented service for backup. If you are a PhotoShelter customer and you use Lightroom, you can automatically publish images to the cloud. I have mine set to publish high quality JPEGs from all 4 and 5 star photos.
Lightroom’s Publish Services can be used to backup images to the cloud mostly automatically. This can provide a current JPEG (or original file) backup that is updated as new files are added to the catalog.
If you have a lot of data like photos and videos, you might want to get some big drives for backup. WD is now shipping 6 TB drives that are about $250. That’s a heck of a lot of data in a small package at a reasonable price. There’s no excuse not to keep those photos backed up.
Here’s a really economical way to backup files. Get a bare drive and a “toaster”. You don’t want to use the toaster for everyday use, but they are great for backup.
Don’t let Perfect be the enemy of Good
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the considerations that go into a perfect backup system. So don’t try to be perfect, try to be better. If you don’t have a clone, get one. If you travel a lot, then online backup may be a good addition. And if you have only onsite backup, consider adding an off-site.
Each time you make an improvement to the system, you add more protection, and reduce the chance that you’ll lose important data.
I’ve recently been working a bit with the folks at WD. They have sent me some equipment to evaluate, and they sponsored my last talk at PhotoPlus Expo. And a few weeks ago I went to a Product Summit in Laguna Beach. I still have to buy most of my own hard drives, and I’ll typically buy WD when I’m spending my own money.
I have also been working with PhotoShelter to create a new service for people who buy photographs. Again, I’m working with a company I really believe in, because I really believe in them.
Buried in the recent Adobe Creative Cloud rollout was a revolutionary change to the way Lightroom licensing functions. When the license expires, the program keeps on working.* This is a radical development. If you’ve been paying attention to the sturm und drang around the Creative Cloud licensing model (here, here, here, here) , this is a mind-blower.
First, the * part. Not all functions of Lightroom keep working. The sliders in the Develop module become inactive. Develop will still render the photo, but it won’t let you run the sliders. (You could still use Quick Develop in Library to make further adjustments if you like.)
Quick Develop will still run in an expired version of Lightroom 5.5
And the Map Module will stop working. The map technology is licensed through the Google Maps API, so Adobe has to pay for each Lightroom copy that uses it. If Adobe is not getting paid, they don’t want to pay Google, so the Map Module will be disabled for non-revenue users.
But other than Develop and Map, everything else works. You can make new catalogs, add new photos, add keywords, make collections, books, web galleries. prints, slideshows, exports, published copies… Basically, you have Lightroom LE. For free, if you want it.
You can download the trial version of Lightroom and, at the end of the trial period, it mostly continues to function. Free.
Hopefully, this will quiet most of the fears that people have about Adobe’s motives in moving to the Creative Cloud licensing model. In the last few years, they have dramatically reduced the price of their photo software. Buying Photoshop Extended and Lightroom four years ago would set you back $1300. You can buy a decade of CC software and services for that price. And now Lightroom LE is free for those who are even cheaper.
Read more about getting the most out of Lightroom
This is a bold play by Adobe. Here’s how I interpret it. Basically, they are betting that photographers will see enough value in the subscription services that they will continue to pay for Lightroom, Photoshop, Lightroom Mobile and Lightroom Web ($10/month). Even when they can get most of Lightroom for free.
Stephen Colbert would say that a move like this takes big balls. You only do this if you are all-in on providing ongoing value to your customers. It’s the opposite of lock-in. And it illustrates the core values of the company. Your stuff belongs to you, and it’s up to Adobe to provide compelling value in order to deserve your software dollars.
There’s no guarantee that Adobe will get this right. Even though their software powers much of the creative services industry, they have not been able to hit a home run in web services. But they understand that the future of media is squarely pegged to APIworld, and the only way to survive is to go all-in.
I’m really stoked about this decision (and I’m almost never “stoked” about anything, even those things that I’m quite enthusiastic about.) It’s gutsy, forward-thinking, bet-the-farm confidence on making some kick-ass software and services.
To those folks at Adobe who had the vision to move this forward, hats off.