Photography workflow using a lightroom midi controller

Warning: technical content ! For enthusiasts, newbies or even professional photographers … and for all those brides who want to understand what happens to their photos after their wedding day!

In the film era, professional wedding photographers used to fix a total amount of film rolls to be used. A significantly lower amount of pictures were delivered, but the time spent with acids in the darkroom, to make a good starting image a piece of art, was still very long.

Nowdays with the advent of digital technology, we deliver 500/600 images on average. Fortunately we no longer handle chemicals and the screen of our computers has become our darkroom, but the equation that leads to the total amount of working hours needed to deliver a professional quality reportage, is quite simple.

Each image that comes out of our cameras (raw file – digital negative), before being exported as a normal jpg file ready for delivery, is processed in Lightroom, the software we use as our modern digital darkroom. In this environment, every picture is corrected in terms of exposure, color, contrast, noise reduction and dozens of other small adjustments on a photograph that the newlyweds will appreciate for all the years to come. Depending on each image, this process can take from a minimum of one minute to more than five minutes … you can easily multiply this value by 600 images and you will have… a lot of work !

As an athlete who tries to improve his personal best, after every service and each time I sit in front of the screen, I’m constantly in search of solutions to reduce the processing time on each picture, without sacrificing in any way the end result.

Every second saved, multiplied by the total number of photos, is translated into hours that I can devote to my professional growth, to improve my photography technique, to promote my business, to care about my clients and certainly not least, it results in valuable time for my family.

Some time ago, I described how to speed up any Lightroom workflow using smart previews (“5 tips to speed up your work on Lightroom“), today we will analyze how to control Lightroom, without ever touching your mouse, keyboard or pen tablet, with the help of a midi controller.

Lightroom Midi Controller – Introduction

A Midi Controller is a device that we will borrow from the world of musical productions. These devices are usually connected to an USB port. They come with buttons, knobs and sliders, which can be freely configured to control volume or equalization (high, medium and low), to start or pause the playback of your music and more.

Now imagine how natural, intuitive and fast it would be to increase brightness or contrast of your images only  turning a knob, seeing any Lightroom parameter to automatically react and move at your command…

using lightroom with a midi controller

Lightroom Midi Controller – software and hardware

All this is now possible thanks to softwares and third-party plugins, able to transfer any command received from a midi controller to Lightroom.

There are several solutions to control Lightroom using a physical device or a midi controller. Each product has its strengths and weaknesses and I recommend to properly read up before purchasing anything, to understand whether a certain product will be the right fit for your workflow.

A pro commercial solution, priced accordingly, is the one from the company named Palette . You can easily customize your control console, by purchasing a variable number of buttons, knobs and sliders (in addition to the Palette control unit).

If you prefer to use one of the many MIDI controller available on the market (starting from 80 and up to 500 euros), you can go for the Midi2Lightroom plugin (Windows and OSX), which will allow you to map any Lightroom function to buttons or knobs on your device . Alternatively you can go for PFixer from Pusher Labs (OsX only), using one of the pre-configured midi controller from Pusher Labs itself, or going for any other midi controller of your choice.

Regarding the hardware, the number of suitable midi controller on the market is really high. Among all, I would like to suggest the ones from Behringer (BCR2000, X-Touch, X-Touch Mini), the Novation LaunchControl or the Korg nanoKONTROL 2.

Personally I chose PFixer from Pusher Labs in conjunction with a Behringer X-Touch Mini, relying on a robust OsX software extension, with a good online support, along with a cheap hardware midi controller, that is even compact and lightweight.

You will be able to find tons of articles and support videos on this topic (click here for an example).

After a short learning curve and a little practice (I’ve completed my first wedding using these tools) , I reduced my working time at least by a 30% !

Maurizio Mannini

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