Global Information Systems

ETH Zurich Switzerland

Study of how photographers manage their images in Lightroom

Posted By on August 12, 2015 |

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is one of the most powerful tools available for managing personal data – in this case images (and video). It was developed by Adobe when they recognised that photographers were using a variety of computer tools in their workflow and that an image processing tool such as Photoshop was not the only kind of support that they needed. The idea therefore was to complement rather than replace Photoshop by designing a tool that focussed on managing images rather than processing them. But, at the same time, they wanted to integrate the most common forms of processing so that many photographers could use a single tool from capture through to publishing. With each version of Lightroom, more and more processing power has been integrated so that fewer and fewer photographers feel it necessary to do some of their processing in Photoshop.

My hobby is wildlife photography, while my professional life involves research in information systems engineering. Simply put, I’m fascinated by how people organise, process and keep track of their personal data – be it contacts, music, documents, favourite websites, travel information or images. Understanding this helps inform the next generation of tools. My hobby and profession are brought together in a current study on how photographers are using the various features offered by Lightroom to manage their images and support their workflow.

Folders, collections, keywords, flags, ratings, colours …… which of these are people actually using and how are they using them? Lightroom was designed with flexibility in mind. They talked to different kinds of photographers and studied how they worked. How do wildlife photographers typically work? How does this differ from landscape or sport photographers?

Rather than trying to design a tool that would impose a particular way of working, they decided to offer lots of different features that could be used to organise and find images, leaving it up to the individual to find a solution that works for them. As anyone who has gone through the process of learning Lightroom will know, every book, tutorial and instructor will tell you something different about which features to use and how to use them. With every book I read and tutorial I viewed, I tended to feel that I needed to change my way of working and it’s taken a long time for me to develop my own workflow. The last one I defined was two weeks ago. Only time will tell if I’m happy with it.

So whether you are a hobbyist, serious amateur or professional, I’d love to hear about how you are using the features of Lightroom to manage your images. You can participate by filling in our online questionnaire before the end of August. It should take 10-20 mins of your time depending on how many features you use and how you use them.

I hope we can learn from each other by finding out what most people in a particular area of photography are doing and whether they are happy with it. I intend to report back here on my findings once we’ve collected and analysed the data.

I really appreciate your help!