Despite the fact that I’m probably best known for my Aperture work, I actually use Lightroom a lot. In fact, It’s pretty much my main tool now that Aperture has only seen minor revisions for nearly three years. I really like Lightroom but there are lots of little areas where I think it could do with some improvement. I’ve been keeping a list of things I’d like to see as an ongoing note in Evernote, and it’s getting quite large, so I thought I’d share my thoughts. Just so there’s no misunderstanding, I’m not criticising the software. I’m also not really talking about big features, or major changes, but just some little things that I think would help with the workflow significantly. Well, in my opinion anyway. I’m sure everyone has their own views as to what improvements Lightroom should have, and I’m sure there could be lots of heated discussions, but for now here’s my thoughts.
Better Metadata Editing and Options
This is the big one for me. While I like some aspects of Lightroom’s metadata handling, such as the auto keyword generation, I really wish there were some more options. While improvement in this area all round would be welcome, there are some things that I would specifically like to see:
Ability to Append Metadata. In other words, the ability to add metadata to existing metadata rather than overwrite it. This is especially useful in caption fields for example. You can do this in Aperture and I believe in Photo Mechanic too, and it’s a very useful feature to have.
Ability to find and replace metadata. What I mean is, the ability to search the Lightroom database for specific metadata, be it keywords, captions, titles or whatever, and replace the corresponding text across all, or a selection of images that have it. I know you can sort of do this by editing keywords at the moment, but being able to do it with other fields would be useful.
The ability to create your own view presets. While you can create your own Metadata templates in Lightroom, there’s no way out of the box to actually edit the metadata view templates. What I’m talking about is the list of metadata fields that are actually displayed in the bottom right of the Library module. There is a plug-in that will let you edit this view and create your own presets, but it really should be part of Lightroom.
A Dedicated Metadata Module. I would love to see a whole module dedicated to metadata editing. I’m sure many people are saying to themselves “that’s stupid, that’s what the library module is for” but if you need to do a lot of metadata editing you probably know what I mean. The fact that may professional Lightroom users shoo need fast and powerful metadata editing use photo mechanic for this highlights the fact that there is a demand for something like this. It would be nice for a main central area where you can enter information, rather than it being tucked down the bottom right of the screen. Something like photo mechanic built-in to Lightroom would be very useful in my opinion, although I doubt this will ever happen (but it’s nice to dream!)
Ability to import metadata from another catalogue. I would love to have something similar to Aperture’s merge library function. With this you can basically merge a sub-library into the main library, and it will find corresponding images and only import the metadata. It makes working with a sub section of your Library on a laptop really easy. I would love something similar in Lightroom. All it’s really doing is importing and syncing the metadata from another library, so a command to import metadata from a catalogue would work.
Import and Caching
I would love to see Lightroom improve the speed at which images import and are ready for use. For some reason this seems very slow compared to some other software. With Aperture for example you can see large resolution previews almost straight away because it uses the raw preview data that the camera generates, and I believe that Photo Mechanic uses a similar trick. I’d love to see this implemented in Lightroom, and I know others have wished for this too.
Better caching of Adjusted images. This is one thing that I find frustrating in Lightroom. If you make edits to an image, it doesn’t automatically re-generate a full res 1:1 preview. You have to do it manually. So, even if you’ve generated a 1:1 preview on import, once you make edits that’s gone. This wouldn’t even be a problem if the standard cached preview showed all edits but it doesn’t take things like lens fringing fixes into account. I often find myself toggling the 1:1 loupe view when browsing a folder just to get it to render the images properly. Surely it can’t be that difficult to have Lightroom render an updated preview in the background as you’re working on an image.
Library and Develop Module
The Ability to have a collection always create a virtual copy when an image is added to it. When you create a collection, Lightroom asks if you want to create virtual copies of the Images you are adding to it at the time of creation, but any images you add at a later date won’t have virtual copies created. I would love to have the option for Lightroom to have the option to always create a virtual copy as images are added to a collection (as a toggle button on the collection’s settings perhaps?) Why is this important you may be wondering? Well, it would be very useful in the published services. Say you wanted to have one set of metadata for images posted to flick, and a different set for Facebook. If you change the metadata in one, the other then becomes unpublished. I know you can create copies manually and add them, but it would be nice if this was streamlined.
Create Virtual Copies when Dragging by holding down Alt / Option. Another way of solving the problem above. The Ability to go to the Grid View in the Develop Module. This is another feature which I believe would be a useful time saver. Sometimes you just need a quick overview of your set of images, and I find that the film strip isn’t great. Jumping in and out of the develop module can take a few seconds so it would be nice to be able to quickly pop to the grid view while still in develop. Actually, you can sort of do this currently, if you have a second display. You can set the sec on monitor to use the grid view.
The Ability to Enter some metadata in the Develop Module. This is another one that might seem a little odd at first, but sometimes when you’re working on an image you want to enter a few quick notes or even just change the title. The ability to edit the title or caption field without having to exit develop would be great. Even a dedicated notes field would be useful.
Exporting & Publishing
A Global Publish Button. If you use Lightroom’s publish services to publish the same photos to multiple services then you already know what a pain it is to have to go through each one and hit the publish button again and again. It would be great if there was a publish to all button, or something along those lines. You actually can do this with a plug-in, but again, it would be great if this was part of Lightroom.
The Ability to set Naming options on Export (as Part of an Export Preset): I would love to be able to have Lightroom ask the user to set the file naming and file sequence options at the export stage in much the same way as you currently can with the saved files location. This would make a very useful addition to the ability to make export presets.
The ability to sync the publishing services set-up across libraries and machines. This is something they could possibly do through creative cloud. It’s really annoying when you set up all your published services and then you move to a new library and they’re gone. It’s also a pain if you work from a laptop sometimes too and have to set up everything again. As creative cloud lets you sync preferences on some other Apps, it would be nice if they could use that service for this too.
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That’s about it really. As I said at the start, I’ve tried to avoid any big changes (apart from a potential Metadata Module) and focus on what would be reasonable to achieve. I doubt anyone from Adobe will every read this, and to be honest, this is really just me thinking out loud. Still, I hope these few thoughts have spurred some ideas of your own and feel free to discuss in the comments below! (Just keep it civil, please)