Lightroom, MacBook and Me

Just before the deadline for the $100 discount, I picked up Adobe Photoshop Lightroom over this last weekend. Lightroom is poised as a workflow management tool for photographers, and from what I’ve read and seen, it seems like a tool I wanna use.

Until last night, that is. (But that was only temporary — more on that later.)

I’ve imported my 60,000 image library into a single Lightroom library. The goal of my work is to be able to carry my library of small images and keywords with me on my MacBook wherever I go. This’ll allow me to find something that I’ve shot, whether or not the actual photo archive is with me or not. So, the week was spent importing away.

So, last night, I docked my MacBook up to all its external goodness (USB, Firewire, network and power), fired up Lightroom… and it said my folders were there, but didn’t know the counts, and then it chunked the heck out of the external RAID. And it chunked. And it chunked. Finally it stopped, and seemed to know the count of photos again. However, everytime I did just about anything to manage the library, I got the spinning Frisbee of death, sluggish behavior, and no kind of performance like I’ve read I should have with my hardware.

After some research, it appeared that I needed to import with an option set to have standard sized previews created along the way. I’ve been kinda going through Scott Kelby‘s new book, The Adobe Photoshop Lightoom Book for Digital Photographers, trying to pick up tips as I use that book as the guide for getting me up to speed on this new tool. I trust Scott’s work so much, and have several of his books — he’s really a Prince of Photoshop (or maybe a Duke or King) and a good Christian soul… all good things to me. Kelby’s text indicated that importing with the standard sized previews turned on would be painfully slow:

“…turn on Render Standard-Sized Previews checkbox and go grab a cup of coffee. Or two. And a sandwich. Maybe catch a movie.”

I took him at his word, and turned that option off. And Scott was right — the import was speedy. However, as it ends up, that setting is dreadfully required (at least for me — YMMV) to get my mojo working on my MacBook. Here’s what I think was going on. I think the MacBook knew the external RAID had been disconnected, and so Lightroom knew it too. I believe this caused Lightroom to freak out and try to find all the photos, and that left me sluggish and more than a little peeved at Lightroom.

I let it settle down (maybe 30 minutes — the Cardinals were winning, so no prob finding something to do 🙂 ), and then I forced it to create standard-sized previews. And so The Little MacBook That Could began to whir and spin and work…. all night. In fact, it still wasn’t done when I left for work this morning. Scott was right again — it takes a while to perform that work.

(For those of you keeping score at home, it’s Scott 2, Colin 0. 😉 )

In the end though, it was those previews that seem to be the key to keeping Lightroom sane, and keeping the MacBook from turning into a home for wayward spinning Frisbees. It’s also those previews that allowed Lightroom and I to kiss and make up, and allow it to continue to be my tool of choice for workflow.

I’m up to page 15 now in Scott’s book. Wonder what I’ll learn next! 🙂