Get Your Site Running with CE4 and Lightroom

For many years now Lightroom has made it possible for you to create websites to showcase your images. The Web Module is an often overlooked part of the Lightroom experience. This may be so for any number of reasons. 

The heavy hitting modules ( Library Module  and Develop Module ) are where most photographers spend their time. The Web Module itself has always had more promise than delivery. Or, perhaps, users couldn't invest the time to learn how to manipulate the default Web Module assets. Whatever the cause, it has spawned more than a few third party plugins for Lightroom to make the Web Module easier to use.

Matthew Campagna, and the good folks at the Turning Gate, offer one of the best Web Module additions available. Core Elements version 4 (CE4) is now available and Matt was kind enough to send me a copy to play with.

The basics remain the same from CE3. You can get an idea of this from my previous article TTG CE3 Is Out Into The World. CE4 brings new power, flexibility, and nuance to the process.

There is ample documantation available on the Turning Gate site. Having already installed CE3 I tried my hand at the upgrade process. It was well documentated and easy to do! What's more, CE3 and CE4 play nicely together. I was able to install the CE4 components and publish a gallery in a very short time. That CE4 gallery was picked up by my existing CE3 generated site with absolutely zero friction or effort. Very nice!

And my site was already set up with a responsive design and worked well when viewed on my iPad and iPhone!

One word of caution; you will need some basics FTP skills to get everything installed. However, the documentation is very thorough and will walk you through step-by-step. But, there is some assembly required.

CE4 is extremely customizable. You can change colors, fonts, layouts, behaviors, and on an on. Responsive design is built in so your content will look great an any device with zero intervention on your part.

Support for all major social networks is included and easily added to your site.

CE4 allows you to keep your entire workflow within Lightroom. Galleries are easily added. There's no need to export images and go into another application to create your website. All of CE4's sites are search engine optimized as well.

Even though creating a site using CE4 is easy, don't be fooled. There is a lot of power under the hood. If you are a photographer with some geeky super abilities you can access the advanced customization hooks like PHPlugins, the integrated grid framework, Font Awesome icon support, and much more!

Every site is standards compliant using HTML5, CSS3, and jQuery. That means your site will work on pretty much every device and in any modern browser.

The Turning Gate has an active support community and is committed to seeing you through to launching your site!

I heartily recommend TTG CE4 if you want to leverage the Web Module and keep your workflow in Lightroom.

Lightroom, Model Releases, and the Cloud

Several months ago I wrote about how you can use Evernote and Lightroom together. (see Remember Everything: Lightroom and Evernote) Here is another way you can make Lightroom and Evernote help you with your workflow. Let Evernote hold your model releases and let Lightroom keep track of where they are. 

Lightroom has quite a few metadata fields in which you can store important information. But your Lightroom Catalog cannot hold PDF or other document files. This leaves the photographer to come up with a system to store model releases and link them up with the images they pertain to. That's where Evernote comes in.

Evernote can generate a link directly to the model release you store there. I suggest you create a notebook called Model Releases in your Evernote account and upload the release files to that notebook.

Let's take a look at how to get the link via the browser version of Evernote. There are similar ways to do this from the native application as well.

Select the note that contains the release file and click the Share link in the upper right of the browser window. That will present you with a menu. Choose Link. Once you do that Evernote presents a dialog with your link URL.

Click the Copy to Clipboard button to put the link URL in your clipboard. Now switch to Lightroom.

You can paste this link into pretty much any metadata field that accepts text. However, I would suggest you change to the IPTC Extended fields and use the Model section. That way you develop a consistent place for these links.

You can paste the URL into the Release ID field. If you select all of the shots the release applies to before pasting the URL into the Release ID field, Lightroom will happily apply it to every image selected.

Now, whenever you need to access the model release for a shot you can use the link to your Evernote note safely stored in your Lightroom catalog!

Still not an Evernote user? No problem. Many other cloud services have a similar capability. Here is how you can do this using Dropbox.

Create a folder called Model Releases to hold your release files. Select the applicable file and click the Share Link button.

In the share dialog that is presented click the Get Link button.

Dropbox will copy the link URL and let you know with a message at the top of your browser. Now just follow the same steps to paste the link into your Lightroom Catalog.

If you use a different service check to see if it provides a way to capture a link back to your release file. Then you can store your model releases there and let Lightroom keep track of those links for you!


Using Adobe Illustrator with Lightroom

Lightroom is very flexible when it comes to working with external editors. You probably already know that it will automatically detect if you have Photoshop installed and make that the default external editor. If you have other image editors like Pixelmator or Photoshop Elements you can add those as external editors too. Most of these pixel based editing programs will easily roundtrip back to Lightroom with a simple Save command.

But sometimes you want to do things that most pixel based editors just can’t do (or at least can’t do well). One such artistic avenue is vector editing. That is where Adobe Illustrator excels!

The problem you face is that Illustrator Saves to an AI file by default. Lightroom doesn’t understand AI files and can’t import them into the Catalog so what can you do? As it turns out, with just a little bit of extra work, it is possible to roundtrip from Lightroom to Illustrator and back to Lightroom again! Intrigued? Then let’s get started.

You first need to add Illustrator as an external editor in your preferences.

The two important things to make sure you set are the file format and the resolution. Illustrator works very well with Photoshop PSD files and so does Lightroom so choose PSD as your file format. What the resolution is isn’t as important as you remembering what you set this to. You’ll need that number when it comes time to return from Illustrator to Lightroom. 240 is the Lightroom default so I chose to leave it there since I can remember that.

For this example I want to take an image from my Catalog into Illustrator so I can trace the image and bring back part of the image as a graphic trace while leaving other parts as an image. In this example the large tree will remain an image and the background will be converted to a graphic trace representation. So to start choose Photo…Edit in…Edit in Adobe Illustrator CC… (or whatever you named it when you set Illustrator up as an editor).

When you choose that you will be presented with some options.

To keep your Lightroom adjustments choose the first option (1). The File Format (2) and the Resolution (3) should already be at what you set them when you set up Illustrator. If not then change them to PSD and the resolution you want (I suggest 240 to keep it simple).

Press Edit and your image will open in Illustrator. Since I want to preserve some of the image I first drag the layer down to the new layer icon to make a copy.

Next I’ll lock the bottom layer to make sure it doesn’t change.

With the top layer active I use the Selection tool (black arrow) and click on the image to select it. From the Image Trace dropdown I choose 16 colors to do an image trace.

Once the trace is complete you will see an Expand button in the toolbar. Press that to set the paths. Switch to the Direct Selection tool (white arrow) and click outside the image to deselect the paths. Then draw a marquee around the portion of the image whose paths we will delete in order to retain the image.

Then press the Delete key.

Those paths are then gone and the image from the underlying layer shows through.

Normally at this point we would just save the file and it would be sent back to Lightroom. But since that would create an AI file we can’t do that. Instead we’ll use the Export command under the File menu. When you do you will first get the export dialog.

Illustrator should already have the correct filename in the Save As field and the folder will also be correct. Just be sure to change the Format to Photoshop (PSD) then click Export. You’ll receive a warning.

Go ahead and replace the file. Then you’ll get the Photoshop Export Options dialog.

Here is where you need that resolution number. Choose Other and enter the resolution you chose. I also choose a flat image option since the Illustrator layers won’t be readily available if you go back out to Illustrator again. Click OK.

Back in Lightroom you will now see your original image and the Illustrator enhanced PSD version.

In my example the background is the image trace and the large foreground tree is still a pixel based image. The version in Lightroom is all pixel based at this point of course.

Back in Illustrator you still have the file open and unsaved. If you want to preserve the vector characteristics then go ahead and save the AI version of the file. You can’t import it into the Catalog but you can do other work on it and export a format that can be imported into Lightroom is you like.

So as you see it really isn’t that much extra work to get Lightroom and Illustrator to play nicely together. It opens up some very interesting artistic possibilities.