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organizing LR in an educational environment
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gwilson
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« on: October 01, 2010, 07:37:50 PM »

Hello to all!
I work in community college photography program. Our beginning photography students are being introduced to LR and Photoshop. Most have home computers, and an external hard drive with which they transfer their files from their home computer to our school's Macs. Part of my job is to provide support to the classrooms using these programs. I would love to be able to recommend a simple system of managing files within LR that would work for the semester as well as be easy to integrate with their own organizational system at a later date.

My question is what would be a good way of organizing folders using Lightroom under these circumstances. Some instructors are ignoring the problem altogether by not using LR for file management, but using it only to develop images and build websites and print. Students are mistaking the previews for their original files, and losing work.

One of our instructors has come up with a very simple solution that seems to work well: she has students create a folder "photos" and within that a folder "LRcat's" and another folder "Images" The students can then open LR from their catalog, and have a copy of their images from the semester with them at all times.

This eliminates a few of these problems:
 1) losing their catalogs (we are finding many catalogs named 2010 in the pictures folder on computers used by many different students)
 2) Having to constantly relink previews with images. (I am not sure why this is happening--possibly because the school computer is not labeling the portable hard drive with the same letter as the home computer?) and
 3) Having students create a new catalog for each shoot, which they often resort to because they are so frustrated with the confusion.

This instructor as said one of the problems with this system is that if students screw up their catalogs beyond repair (not uncommon), it is fairly easy to build another catalog, but there is no way to transfer their collections, which are used (by this instructor) to organize assignments. I thought they could probably keyword the images in each collection and gather them in the new catalog to make duplicate collections. Is there an easier way to transfer collections? 

Regardless, I would love to hear some/any suggestions for managing in such an uncontrolled environment. Our student lab assistants are tearing their hair out:).

Thank you for any help,

Gloria
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Fredrik_Norrsell
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« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2010, 08:46:14 AM »

Hi Gloria,

To me the solution would be, requiring all students to have a large portable  HD (The Master HD) on which they store all their images and LR catalog. Then they can work with the images and catalog both at home and in the classroom. Also have them set the preferences to automatically write changes into XMP, then they can easier re-build their catalog with all changes if it should get corrupted.
As for backing up collections I could see using keywords, or the ITPC fields Instructions or Job Identifier to save this info, or the Custom Fields in John Beardsworth (Search, Replace, Append) plug-in. Another option would be having LR3 create a backup every time LR closes. This backup could live on the same HD as the original, to provide easy access in case the original catalog gets corrupted.

One very important aspect of this workflow would be helping the students to create a solid backup system for "The Master HD", otherwise they could loose everything in case of a HD crash.

Fredrik
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BobSmith
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« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2010, 02:38:35 PM »

I manage a computer lab in a college fine arts program where Lightroom is the only application used in beginning photo classes.

Our students are required to have their own portable firewire drive that holds all of their data.  Or systems are setup so that their user directory resides on the external drive as well.  That way they can log onto any computer and have the same experience... all of their data and settings are there.

If a student wants to work on the catalog and images on their own computer you tend to get permissions issues since they are typically not the same "user" on their home system as they are when logged into the university system.  This can be cured by applying an ACL (this is on Macs... probably need something similar on Windows) to the top level folder that holds their data such that any new file added automatically gets  rwx privs for everyone.  Do that once and they can then edit away on any system without problems.

The first sessions of the first Lightroom based class spend a LOT of time going over and over the process of storing data and building a catalog correctly.  Many of the principles come right out of the DAM Book.  Most important is to get all of the students using the same strategy regarding directory structure, naming conventions, basic metadata and so forth.  They are required to setup and build a catalog over and over and are graded on the accuracy of this structure before moving onto the creative assignments.  Having all of the students working in a similar organizational style makes it much easier to troubleshoot problems that inevitably arise.

The biggest problem I see in the labs is that many students seem to have little clue about where their data is actually going when they hit the "save" button in any application.  I can't tell you how many times I'll ask a student where they just put some file and I get this glassy eyed stare.  Really hammering home an understanding of data storage structure before you get too involved in other things helps tremendously.

One of the things the basic workflow requires is a metadata template with basic user information that gets applied to each file.  And one of the things in that template is the course number of the class as a keyword.  They may then add another keyword for images for a particular assignment.  That, along with proper file naming structure makes it easy for the instructor to sort the students work.

We have a bit of shared space on a server that the students can use to backup their hard drive.  We teach the use of Chronosync for that so that students have to learn to manage their own backups.  This same shared space also has drop boxes for the instructor where students can turn in work.  In the Lightroom based classes the students are often asked to export a catalog that contains work on a given assignment and turn that exported catalog in for grading.

hope that helps...

Bob Smith

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gwilson
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« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2010, 04:56:54 AM »



To me the solution would be, requiring all students to have a large portable  HD (The Master HD) on which they store all their images and LR catalog. Then they can work with the images and catalog both at home and in the classroom. Also have them set the preferences to automatically write changes into XMP, then they can easier re-build their catalog with all changes if it should get corrupted.
As for backing up collections I could see using keywords, or the ITPC fields Instructions or Job Identifier to save this info, or the Custom Fields in John Beardsworth (Search, Replace, Append) plug-in. Another option would be having LR3 create a backup every time LR closes. This backup could live on the same HD as the original, to provide easy access in case the original catalog gets corrupted.

One very important aspect of this workflow would be helping the students to create a solid backup system for "The Master HD", otherwise they could loose everything in case of a HD crash.




Thank you Fredrik. I appreciate your response.

Agreed, the portable HD is critical to any success in this environment, I believe. I believe all of our students all have them now, although it was an unexpected expense for many of them as they are new to the program. (These are Photo 1 students)

That is a very good point about setting the preferences to write changes into XMP. If they set this in 'catalog settings' I assume it will stick as they move from school to home?

The workflow around the collections piece is a little tricky, I think. Perhaps it can be introduced later in the semester, when the students seem to have a grasp of the difference between 'collection' and 'catalog' Smiley  The idea of creating a backup every time LR closes might be a good idea, though, if properly managed.This would have solved a lot of problems last week, to be sure!

Regards,

Gloria
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gwilson
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« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2010, 04:37:46 PM »



Our students are required to have their own portable firewire drive that holds all of their data.  Or systems are setup so that their user directory resides on the external drive as well.  That way they can log onto any computer and have the same experience... all of their data and settings are there.

If a student wants to work on the catalog and images on their own computer you tend to get permissions issues since they are typically not the same "user" on their home system as they are when logged into the university system.  This can be cured by applying an ACL (this is on Macs... probably need something similar on Windows) to the top level folder that holds their data such that any new file added automatically gets  rwx privs for everyone.  Do that once and they can then edit away on any system without problems.

I'm not sure if the problems some of the students have experienced going from home computers to school computers are permissions issues or something else. I had thought it may be improperly formatted hard drives. I will talk to our IT guy and see what he thinks. ...

One of our problems (of a different nature) last week was a few students creating a catalogue in LR3 at school and trying to use it in LR2 at home. Apparently they get an error stating "file is too new" or something of that nature.

Quote
The first sessions of the first Lightroom based class spend a LOT of time going over and over the process of storing data and building a catalog correctly.  Many of the principles come right out of the DAM Book.  Most important is to get all of the students using the same strategy regarding directory structure, naming conventions, basic metadata and so forth.  They are required to setup and build a catalog over and over and are graded on the accuracy of this structure before moving onto the creative assignments.  Having all of the students working in a similar organizational style makes it much easier to troubleshoot problems that inevitably arise.


I think part of the problem is deciding how much to change a basic Photo 1 curriculum. The other problem is we have 6 Photo 1 classes, and three new instructors who are unfamiliar with LR. There hasn't been a consistent organizational style, and it's pretty clear one is going to be required. I sure like the idea of being graded on making and understanding a catalog and knowing the location of both catalog and files.

Quote
The biggest problem I see in the labs is that many students seem to have little clue about where their data is actually going when they hit the "save" button in any application.  I can't tell you how many times I'll ask a student where they just put some file and I get this glassy eyed stare.  Really hammering home an understanding of data storage structure before you get too involved in other things helps tremendously.

 
We're getting a lot of that glassy eyed stare, as well! It is very easy to create a catalog and send it to the default folder without knowing you ever made one. We have found many LR catalogues in the My Pictures folder of the school's Macs. Students then open LR from the task bar and are surprised to find other pictures in "their" library. I think this was straightened out last week, but there will be a lot of cleanup to do as far as reorganizing their work to date. It may be easier for classes and instructors to start over. My responsibility is to train our classroom assistants to help with this process, now that there is some consensus as to a more organized workflow.

Quote
One of the things the basic workflow requires is a metadata template with basic user information that gets applied to each file.  And one of the things in that template is the course number of the class as a keyword.  They may then add another keyword for images for a particular assignment.  That, along with proper file naming structure makes it easy for the instructor to sort the students work.

This is a great idea, I think. (adding course numbers)  I will bring up that suggestion tomorrow.

Quote
We have a bit of shared space on a server that the students can use to backup their hard drive.  We teach the use of Chronosync for that so that students have to learn to manage their own backups.  This same shared space also has drop boxes for the instructor where students can turn in work.  In the Lightroom based classes the students are often asked to export a catalog that contains work on a given assignment and turn that exported catalog in for grading.

The Photography students share the server with Graphic Design and Video classes, so there isn't enough space to backup files. That would be a great asset, though. We also use classroom drop boxes to turn in work. One instructor who taught with LR last year (and developed the organizational method I mentioned above) also had students export catalogs for grading. The only downside to this, as far as I can see, is that she then needed 1:1 previews built on import to keep things simple but still be able to zoom in on images.


Quote
hope that helps...

Thanks, it helps a lot. I was hoping to hear from another school who has experienced some of these difficulties. I appreciate your taking the time to explain.
Regards,
Gloria
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BobSmith
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« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2010, 04:05:00 PM »

In a Windows setup I think the problem with editing on other computers is as you suggest in your original post... a problem with drive letter assignment.  I seem to recall reading something to that effect here ages ago... along with a solution.  I'm not up on Windows workflows enough to know.

Accidently getting the wrong catalog (or creating a new one in the default location) upon launching Lightroom is a big problem.  We really hammer our students hard to get them to launch Lightroom by opening their catalog document rather than simply opening the program and relying on it to open the proper catalog.  It should if handled correctly but every now and then something goes wrong and if a student isn't careful they're suddenly importing into a new catalog.  On Macs the catalog can be added to the dock.  They just click the catalog file to launch Lightroom.  That way they know the proper catalog is loaded.

We recently (three semesters ago) went through a fairly major curriculum change and switched to using Lightroom completely for an intro course.  After one semester several things became clear.  One, we had to really insist on decent quality Firewire drives for image and catalog storage.  Lightroom catalogs and images on USB drives had a much higher rate of problems.  Two, we had to be very insistent on a consistent workflow setup.  If the students aren't storing/naming their files/folders in a consistent way, troubleshooting problems takes much much more time.  Those two things, more than anything else, have made the following semesters be more productive.

Bob Smith

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gwilson
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« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2010, 07:25:22 PM »

Thanks, Bob.

Interesting comment about you insisting on firewire drives. That's a bit of potential bad news, too, because the studio classes shoot tethered to LR on MacBooks, which have no firewire ports, IIRC. Something else to consider, but it's certainly better to have a 'head's up'.

The good news is there doesn't seem to be anything else that we have overlooked, and the workflow summarized here should work fairly well.

Gloria
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BobSmith
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« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2010, 05:36:11 AM »

Yes, regular Macbooks (not "Pro") don't have firewire.  The firewire/usb issue is most important regarding the catalog.  It's much less of an issue for simply storing images.  USB is simply not a great or efficient interface for database operations where lots of small read/write operations occur at once.  USB drives will certainly work for catalog storage but they aren't as fast or as reliable long term.  We saw many more instances of catalog corruption when most students where using USB drives.

Bob Smith
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