There can be little doubt that Lightroom is more popular and closer to perfection than any other photo editing program. However, while browsing on the official Photoshop forum recently, I stumbled upon a long list of things that users would like Lightroom to improve. I was surprised to notice that most of the ideas and requests are 3 or 4 years old. And what’s more, the majority of them haven’t yet received the status of ‘under consideration’ or ‘planned’. I struggle to explain such a lack of attention from Adobe. Especially bearing in mind that all the features proposed would dramatically enhanced Lightroom.
With this in mind, I decided to take several of the most popular ideas (excluding those that can only be implemented by Adobe’s developers), read the threads, do some research and attempt to find solutions. As a result, I’ve compiled a list of plugins andthird-party software programs that are compatible with Lightroom. Luckily, some of them cover more than one issue at the same time.
1. Add face recognition to Lightroom
307 votes | link to discussion
It’s rumored that Lightroom 6 will have face recognition. However, while we’re waiting the “Picasa Face-Recognition Import” Lightroom Plugin is well worth a try. How it works: first of all, make sure all the faces are recognized in Picasa, then install the plugin and import the metadata to Lightroom. It works with Lightroom 5 (and with versions as far back as Lightroom 3). With a warning that Picasa may update our image files with its own metadata, the author goes on to suggest that we:
a) back up our images before attempting to use the plugin,
b) mark every photo as “read only”.
System requirements: Windows, MAC. Price: 0.01$.
2. Multi-User / Multi Computer (Shared catalog on a network)
277 votes | link to discussion
There are 2 reasons why Adobe will not add this feature:
1) Although Lightroom catalogs are SQLite database files, SQLite is designed as a standalone database engine and does not support concurrent access from multiple computers. In earlier versions of Lightroom, you could place a single Lightroom catalog in a network catalog, from which multiple users could open and work with the same files. However, because this often led to the database becoming corrupted, the guys from Adobe disabled the creation of local catalogs on a network in later versions of Lightroom. In short, there is no safe way to add this capability – neither by hacking nor by using external plugins.
2) They put all their energy into Creative Cloud, which is an alternative to on-premise solutions for people who don’t mind being completely dependent on the availability of the Internet.
The safest way of providing catalogues that can be shared on a network is to use Lightroom in conjunction with a multi-user digital asset management system (DAM). Of the few affordable DAMs on the market one of the best is Daminion Server. Both Lightroom and Daminion Server support XMP metadata, which they can easily exchange (including hierarchical keywords, rating and IPTC info). So you can still use Lightroom for batch editing RAW images while using Daminion Server to provide multiple users with fast and safe access to shared catalogs from multiple computers.
System requirements: Windows and Mac ( via Parallels or VMware Fusion). Price: starting from $149 US.
3. Mark a photo as the FINAL version
218 votes | link to discussion
From the TOP 6, this is the only idea that managed to achieve the status of ‘under consideration’. Hopefully, the next version of Lightroom will come with this feature added. If you’ve already used all Lightroom’s flags/stars/colored labels, or you’re afraid of accidentally editing/deleting your final photos, consider the following options:
● ChangeManager Lightroom plugin notifies you when you attempt to change a locked photo and displays a list of edits made after locking. System requirements: Windows, MAC. Price: free.
● ‘PhotoSafe’ Lightroom Plugin protects your photos from being deleted from the Lightroom catalog (but you can still edit and publish them). System requirements: Windows, MAC.Price: $0.01.
4. Display camera focus information
163 votes | link to discussion
Photographers shooting sports, wildlife or action would be more than happy to have focus point and exposure information in Lightroom. Although it can be displayed by some camera manufacturers’ programs (View/Capture NX by Nikon for example), it would of course be much more convenient to have it in a photo editor. This can be done with the free Show Focus Points Plugin.
Currently, this plugin only works in Lightroom 5. It displays all focus metadata: the position of the focus points used, focus distance, focus mode, etc.
System requirements: Windows and MacOS X. Price: free.
5. Better keyword management
146 votes | link to discussion
“Management” is a very broad term, and Lightroom users offer many suggestions as to exactly how keyword management can be improved. To name but a few: deleting multiple keywords simultaneously, searching for duplicates, merging keywords, import/export, private/public keywords. This was the toughest point. It seems a solution that will satisfy all users simply does not exist yet.
A number of the capabilities demanded by users can be provided by DAMs (and some additional benefits like search for keywords using Boolean (and/or) expressions, for example). But it is also worth mentioning ‘The Controlled Vocabulary Keyword Catalog’ plugin which contains approximately 11,000 terms organized in a hierarchical structure. An example of controlled vocabulary: Yellow Pages listings are arranged using this concept: a search for “Car Dealers” leads to a note advising you to “see Automobile Dealers”.
System requirements: Windows and MacOS X. Price: $69.99 US.
6. Support Common Image Formats (EPS, GIF, PDF, BMP etc.) or at least catalog and display them
115 votes | link to discussion
Lightroom was designed as a tool for batch editing Camera RAW images, and most of its functionality and design were built around RAW images. Even though Lightroom developers allowed JPEGs, TIFFs and videos to be imported, everything is related to content produced primarily by digital cameras. So it’s unlikely that Adobe will add support for importing PDF, InDesign, PNG, GIF, Microsoft PowerPoint or audio formats. This means that if you need to manage a lot of different formats, you would be well advised to consider using a DAM solution to catalog your photos and other media formats and use Lightroom for batch processing and publishing RAW files.
You could also check out the Any File Lightroom Plugin (on a 30-day trial, after which they suggest you buy a license at whatever price you think is fair). When importing files, it creates a “proxy” JPEG thumbnail with the same name and imports this proxy thumbnail into the catalog in place of the actual file. Any changes to metadata are saved to the proxy thumbnail. This means that the number of files is doubled, plus it’s impossible to export or work with the original files in Lightroom.