Whirlwind Rainbow, Seljalandfoss, Iceland.   Image Copyright 2009 Joe Decker
Whirlwind Rainbow. Seljalandfoss, Iceland. Selecting the right keywords for this image will be critical to helping me sell this image as stock. Image Copyright 2009 Joe Decker

Several times a year I teach a one-day workshop on optimizing images using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 at the local art league, and in doing so I’m often asked for a good book recommendation for someone learning Lightroom. As I’ve mentioned in my previous review, my usual recommendation has been Martin Evening’s book The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers.

In the process of keeping my eyes open for new resources, I recently purchased and watched “Where the #%*! are My Pictures?”, a three-hour video series by Michael Reichmann and Seth Resnick which focuses on the the file-handling, digital asset management (roughly speaking, the Library module) aspects of Lightroom. I’ll be adding this to my list of top recommendations for Lightroom resources, I think it’s particularly appropriate for folks who have a basic familiarity with Lightroom but are ready to take their understanding up a notch and really make their workflow sing.

The question “Where are my images?” creeps up on most photographers as they continue to work over years. Three years ago I was convinced that that this “digital asset management” thing was quite possibly overkill for me. After all, I knew most of my images and I had everything organized in directories by year and location. How hard could it be for me to find an image someone might want of Death Valley? My first lesson came when I got a request to see all my flower macro work. I spent hours putting together that request. “Where the #%*!…” reinforces that lesson while at the same time showing that the cure for that disease is a lot less imposing than it might seem at first. Good habits and good presets go a long way toward making Lightroom file management easier, and this series does a great job of helping photographers along that path.

For me, one of the most important segments of the series was the chapter on keywording, which is one of the longest of the video’s eleven chapters. ┬áResnick communicates not only the technical aspects of assigning keywords (which keystrokes to hit, and why you may want to not keyword using the import screen), but also a variety of ways to make that process more efficient-I’m embarrassed to say that I hadn’t (until watching this video) taken advantage of Lightroom’s hierarchical keywording features. Resnick also discusses the wide variety of approaches necessary to really keyword an image well, not only subjects and locations but also colors, feelings, concepts, and so on. Finally, Resnick also makes a persuasive case to Reichmann for really working your keywording even for photographers that don’t do stock, something that I found personally motivating. I spent the next few hours after watching this video cheerfully organizing and expanding my keyword list.

The series is available either as standard-definition or high-definition mp4 video. As I’m working with an old, creaky laptop I reviewed the standard-definition version. The HD version runs about 3GB as compressed into ZIP files, the SD version is smaller, taking up about 1.5 GB after decompression. While I am certain that the HD version would look even nicer, I didn’t feel cheated at all watching the lower-resolution version, screen shots were clear and comprehensible. Reichmann and Resnick have an easy, casual style with the series, often stopping to convey not only the “hows” but also the “whys” of digital asset management, particularly in the final segment where Resnick recounts a spine-tingling tale of near-catastrophic data loss over an entire local area network, and the steps he’d taken that kept, just barely, that failure from being truly catastrophic.

Recommended, not as a first resource on learning Lightroom, but as a second resource for photographers who have gained a basic comfort with Lightroom, non-destructive editing, and so on, and who are now ready to learn how to really take full advantage of Lightroom’s DAM tools. The series is downloadable for just under $30.

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