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Road to Now: My Long Path To Lightroom Plugin Development
NOTE: Images with an icon next to them have been artificially shrunk to better fit your screen; click the icon to restore them, in place, to their regular size.
Connections Through Time Me, with my son, his mom, her dad, and his mom (though not in that order!) -- つくしの里 -- Kadoma, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 3600 — map & image datanearby photos
Connections Through Time
Me, with my son, his mom, her dad, and his mom
(though not in that order!)

When I started to take photography somewhat seriously (circa January 2006 when I got a Nikon D200), a long-time friend who happened to work at Apple extolled the virtues of Apple Aperture, which had just been released. It was, he said, still a bit buggy, but even so was so much better than working with files one by one in Photoshop. He had a hard time constraining his excitement of the new workflow paradigm, even if the current implementation still needed the kinks worked out.

I wasn't sold on the whole new-paradigm idea, but when Apple announced their new line of laptops in May 2006, I decided to get one so I could give Aperture a try.

Unfortunately, I neglected to notice that Apple's photo-workflow application couldn't even be installed on my new MacBook.... to run Aperture, you needed a MacBook Pro. Arrrrrgh! It's my own stupid fault for not noticing the system requirements, but come on, Apple's software couldn't even run on their latest hardware? So, I was out of luck.

Wipeout Photo by 7-year-old Anthony Friedl me, while sledding with Anthony last weekend -- Makino Ski Area -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/1000 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Wipeout
Photo by 7-year-old Anthony Friedl
me, while sledding with Anthony last weekend

Or so I thought. It turns out that somewhere along the line Adobe had put out a free public beta for a similar application they called “Lightroom” and it could actually run on my new Apple computer, so even though I was traveling (in The States at the time), I gave it a try. And wow, it didn't take long before I was as excited about the new workflow paradigm as my friend had been. It was an amazing productivity boost measured in orders of magnitude. The boost here was not Lightroom-specific, but due to the new workflow paradigm being invented by Lightroom and Aperture, so I'm sure that if I had actually been able to try Aperture, I would have been just as excited.

To make it even better, Lightroom could also run on Windows. I detest Windows, but my main workstation at home was a Windows box, so I'd be able to use my more-beefy desktop hardware once I got home from the trip. (Apple eventually came out with a version of Aperture that could run on my MacBook — which I still have and am using at the moment — but by that time I was deep into Lightroom and wasn't about to abandon my mental investment in it.)

Prior to Lightroom, I didn't know much one way or the other about Adobe except they were the PDF and Photoshop company, and that back in the mid 1990s, the guy who in put me on the road to writing my first book was a long-time Adobe employee, and when I later moved to Silicon Valley, I would visit his office at Adobe and partake in their great on-site lunch service. (His little boy was the first person to call me “Uncle Jeff”, and that he's now in college makes me feel very old.)

Some Things Get Better With Age but most things just get old -- Ibigun, Gifu, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/320 sec, f/2, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Some Things Get Better With Age
but most things just get old

Anyway, I apparently started twiddling with Lightroom under the hood early on. I see that in July 2006 I postedAccessing Lightroom's SQLite DB Directly” on my blog, while still on my travels. Some time later — and as far as I can tell, based upon just that one post — I was quietly invited by Adobe to give feedback on their in-progress prototype for the next public release. Moi? Sure, cool! I got a free copy of Lightroom, but more importantly, I could more-directly help shape the future of a tool I so heavily relied upon. It was enough to make a photo/tech geek's heart go pitter-pat.

Even while doing that, the software-geek in me was still twiddling on my own. Just after Lightroom 1 was released in early 2007, I released two web tools I'd been working on on my own, a metadata-viewer preset builder (now superseded by my plugin that does the same thing), and a Lightroom Configuration Manager that allows one to customize some extra things about Lightroom.

Post Processing? Me? why no, this is exactly what the Awaji Flower Review looks like -- Awaji Hana Sajiki -- Awaji, Hyogo, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/4000 sec, f/8, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Post Processing? Me?
why no, this is exactly what the Awaji Flower Review looks like

Apparently recognizing my geeky nature, Adobe eventually hired me (for real money, woo-hoo!) on a temporary basis to consult intensively on a plugin infrastructure they were developing for what would become Lightroom 1.3. Working with it day in and day out, I developed a good understanding of the plugin system, so it seemed only natural that I put that to use for the world, and in short order after Lightroom 1.3 was released, I put out upload plugins for Zenfolio, SmugMug, Flickr, and PicasaWeb. I didn't actually use any of these services myself, but lots of Lightroom users did, so it felt good to build something that people liked and used.

That “it felt good” feeling is what drives a lot of engineers much more than money, and is certainly the case for me. I ended up developing a lot of plugins for Lightroom, but only a few of which I actually wanted for myself (I desperately wanted geoencoding in Lightroom, and I use the Metadata Wrangler as part of my normal image export). The rest I did because I thought people would enjoy them. Read the comments left by users on the page for my plugin that allows one to extract images from Lightroom's preview cache in an emergency, for a sense of where this engineer derives “pay” for what he does.

Hat Paragliding With a Stuffed Monkey like playing with your kid , some things have value way beyond money -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Fumie Matsunaka Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/1000 sec, f/4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Hat Paragliding With a Stuffed Monkey
like playing with your kid, some things have value way beyond money

As nice as all the “thanks!” are, I was spending inordinate amounts of time on these plugins, and was getting burnt out with a never-ending onslaught of feature and support requests. I seemed to have found a niche in life and wanted to find a way to continue, so I created a way to make it easy for a grateful user to say thanks with a few bucks, and to encourage them to do so. I still made it so that people could use my stuff without giving me anything (I'm adamant that any gift be a gift, which means given freely for nothing in return), and indeed, the vast majority of users don't, but some do, which is nice.

Another downside to the plugin development has been that it's taken time away from diving into some other photo-related tech things as much as I'd like. Prior to doing plugin stuff, I was dabbling in all kinds of things, such as write-ups like my primer on digital-image color spaces, digging into a qualitative analysis of NEF compression, developing a kick-ass auto-focus test chart, conducting tripod stability tests, developing a Photoshop script to generate calendars, etc.

But, it seems the plugin thing has taken hold, so that's where I spend my free time.

So last fall Adobe put out a free public beta for Lightroom 3, and it includes a whole new way to export, “Publish”, and so for this they brought me on again to consult on the plugin infrastructure. I had actually reached out to them and volunteered to do it for free, just to improve the product (which then improves the tool I have to work with), but they felt better to make it official, so I it comes with a small stipend (or will, if I ever get the paperwork done). I'm sure I'll get a free copy of Lightroom as well.... I've never actually paid for the copy I use, though I have paid full retail when buying Lightroom as a gift for others.

Life is Like a Box of Cherries or something like that -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/80 sec, f/5.6, ISO 3600 — full exif
Life is Like a Box of Cherries
or something like that

So what's up in Lightroom's future? I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. :-)

What's up in my future? I have no idea... I'm not doing any of this with a plan... just trying to enjoy myself and go along for the ride. I've often wondered whether I might some day write a book on photography (because most of them suck), but now the only sucking is what plugin development and consulting does to my free time. But mostly, I enjoy it.

I don't know what the future holds (it could very well be nothing), but I'm excited to find out.

The Future? it lies ahead, silly (a different take, during a different year, on these stepping stones ) -- At Kayo and Arthur Brigham's house -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Zeiss 100mm f/2 — 1/200 sec, f/2, ISO 2200 — map & image datanearby photos
The Future?
it lies ahead, silly
(a different take, during a different year, on these stepping stones)

Some other random photos I prepared for this post, but ended up not using...

hey kids, “Who Wants To Work On Photo-Workflow Development?” -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/320 sec, f/2, ISO 800 — map & image datanearby photos
hey kids,
“Who Wants To Work On Photo-Workflow Development?”
Morning Self Portrait graffiti on the wall of an abandoned house a friend had just bought -- Lakemore, Ohio, USA -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 @ 17 mm — 1/60 sec, f/4, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Morning Self Portrait
graffiti on the wall of an abandoned house a friend had just bought
I ♥ Watermelon ( not particularly related to anything, just a bit cute ) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 @ 55 mm — 1/40 sec, f/2.8, ISO 640 — full exif
I ♥ Watermelon
( not particularly related to anything, just a bit cute )
Squishing My Nose in Early 2008 while people threw beans to drive out demons Photo by Britto -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Britto, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 @ 18 mm — 1/800 sec, f/3.5, ISO 320 — full exif
Squishing My Nose in Early 2008
while people threw beans to drive out demons
Photo by Britto
not sure where this leads, but Holding On For the Ride -- Ojigaoka Park -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/640 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
not sure where this leads, but
Holding On For the Ride
It's a Flower flowers are pretty -- Rootstown, Ohio, USA -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 @ 55 mm — 1/125 sec, f/5, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
It's a Flower
flowers are pretty
The Future enter here -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 120 mm — 1/400 sec, f/2.8, ISO 900 — map & image datanearby photos
The Future
enter here

Comments so far....

[offtopic]
Your blog is awesome and filled with a portion of Japan I really haven’t seen much in photos, its either the large land marks, sakura or Tokyo. Am I correct to assume that you live in a rural portion of the nation?
[/offtopic]

Can’t really say I have anything ontopic to say, I just wanted to write something and thank you for this blog filled with Japanese awesomness.

“Please mention what part of the world you’re writing from, if you don’t mind. It’s always interesting to see where people are visiting from.”
I agree, hence why I read this post.
I’m from Calgary Canada, seventeen years old, novice programmer and a Japanese student. I found your site twice, the first time from the PHP Christmas blog thingy, where matt of ma.tt mentioned your site and then I found it in your regex book.

Thanks for the kind words. I live in Kyoto (a major city of a million). Most photos have a map link under them. —Jeffrey

— comment by Warll on February 10th, 2010 at 3:37pm JST (4 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

That exif viewer is sweet, the geocoding is automatic correct? Are you using an accessory or does your camera really contain a GPS unit?

Sorry I am no photographer, but I love looking at photos I could only dream of pulling off. Speaking of which I am not that skilled programming or in japanese, I think I’ll have to try and steal your skill set.

Of course I still have 4-5 years to develop the skills and an entire university degree to go through. As well I see that you first started programming when you were working/studying?, which should mean I have an advantage in the “get started early” department.

Sorry but I really have been contemplating how much my life goals are mirrored in you, I doubt you’ll mind hearing that you have an awesome life.

— comment by Warll on February 10th, 2010 at 6:56pm JST (4 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

I for one can only praise your plugins quality and dedication – without this I simply wouldn’t have found the time to geotag/upload – or even use much of Lightroom.

Additionally I follow your blog, not just for the plugins but as it’s always a great read with great photos, and a little sprinkling of inner geekery at times :)

Thanks for your work, a very interesting post and I’m sure you made the right choice sticking with Lightroom!

— comment by David on February 10th, 2010 at 7:03pm JST (4 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

I was going to complain^Wmention that “The Future?” should have been upside down (or, top portion should be more in focus) to lead the eye from top to bottom. Then I looked at it some more; noticed that the image is fitting just as is for “The Future?” being nebulous as it always has been.

— comment by parv on February 10th, 2010 at 7:26pm JST (4 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Don’t find words, to say thank you for all your job, we all love here !

Your stories are always fresh, news from Kyoto ( I know now, that next time I will visit Kyoto, I should have to read again and again all your posts !). excellent Lightroom Plugin development, doing some programming for myself, even don’t know how you can do them so quickly…. and without BIG BUG !

So again, many thanks to give us some fresh and good life as I would be.

FRED.

— comment by Fred Klee on February 10th, 2010 at 7:34pm JST (4 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Jeffrey,

Just a note to thank you for your hard work on plug-ins. I don’t actually use them, but it is great to know they’re around if I ever do need them.

And thank you for taking the time to blog. You are obviously a talented photographer and writer too. I regularly read your blog and always find something of interest. It’s allowed me to see Japan through your lens and words, and has really made me want to visit one day.

Please keep it up.

Ed

— comment by Ed Rosack on February 10th, 2010 at 8:28pm JST (4 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Thank you for all your hard work.

I understand where this post comes from. I’ve recently read all your blog posts from first to last (it took me a few days). I read and watched you blog progress from a journal to a blog with photos from a Canon PowerShot to what it is now. I read when you bought your Nikon D200 and your lenses and how excited you were. Reading about the plugins you’ve made to you buying your D700 and all the wonderful posts you share of your family, it’s really inspiring to me. I’m always excited to see your next post.

I can’t tell you how appreciative I am for all your help and kind words. Keep up the hard work because I don’t know what I would do without you. :)

— comment by Earnest Barr on February 10th, 2010 at 9:52pm JST (4 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Well, you know I do appreciate your work Jeffrey, and help, which has always been freely given. And I do follow the blog and read it regularly. And the snowy mountain shot is currently my desktop images, rather than one of my own.

Of course Aperture 3 will help raise the bar too. I too would like geoencoding to be a defacto part of Lightroom. And to get the date search bar back :)

— comment by Sean McCormack on February 11th, 2010 at 12:19am JST (4 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

As I read your post I was afraid you would tell us at the end that you’d be stopping development or something. Glad to hear you’re looking forward to future work. As someone who’s done a small amount of programming I understand the joy stemming from creating something that makes others’ lives easier. Everyday I look at tools on the web, computer, or my phone and wish they were developed differently, thirsting for the ability to create my own. Unfortunately, my skills end at relatively simple VBA for Excel macros/add-ins. So when I found your plug-ins for Lightroom I immediately got excited. Prior to buying Lightroom my workflow was painful. Now I do everything in Lightroom and upload photos to Facebook and Flickr quickly and easily. Thanks for all the work and the future tools to come.

Commenting from Chicago IL,
Mike

— comment by Mike on February 11th, 2010 at 3:33am JST (4 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Holy cow dude – you’re the author of Mastering Regular Expressions! :) I’ve been following your blog for a while, after I found your Flickr plugin for Lightroom. Your name always sounded familiar but it wasn’t until I hovered over “my first book” and saw regex.info in the status bar of my browser that it all clicked. I looked up on my bookshelf, pulled down my copy of MRE and said, “How cow – he is the author of this book!” (obviously I’m in the software world – I’m actually a support analyst for a Linux-based financial trading firm)

Anyway, just wanted to say your book is sort of the definitive reference for all things regex related here. And it has the best index of any book I’ve ever looked at. :)

(Your plugins are quite nice also. :))

— comment by Duluk on February 11th, 2010 at 3:47am JST (4 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Please keep up the good work!

But all good things have an end, especially one-man operations, and I would understand that.

— comment by rx1337 on February 12th, 2010 at 3:48pm JST (4 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Thanks for the Flickr plugin, it finds much use in my workflow.

There is one feature that would be wonderful to have in the Twitter section and that would be a preview of the tweet text with the special codes resolved so that we can be sure of what we are tweeting before it’s let loose in the (un-editable) wild.

Thanks

The problem is that it’s not known what most of the codes will resolve to until after the upload. —Jeffrey

— comment by Richard Haber on February 15th, 2010 at 3:33am JST (4 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Jeffrey, many thanks for your work and sharing a part of your life on this blog. It is an inspiration. I can relate to what you say about the rewards need not all be monetary.

Are you a member of Nikonians (nikonians.org)? If not, I think you would enjoy the community there. I’ve been shooting since 1994. When I discovered Nikonians in 1999 my photography went to a different level. PS: you might want to stay out of the LR forum as you would become the defacto guru.

And it is civil. The only heated personal debate I can recall was the early finger-pointing concerning potential D2 auto-focus softness; some blaming their new camera, others blaming the incompetent photographer. A standardized auto-focus and tripod test lashup sure would have come in handy. :)

— comment by Fried on March 1st, 2010 at 10:27pm JST (4 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeff,

I think I read this once already, but I just really enjoyed it and read it again. You seem like a gentle, humble guy who loves his kid, and is very generous to whomever you have contact with. Not only that, but I really appreciate your plugins. I currently use flickr regulary, facebook a few times, and I think I just downloaded something today, but I’m not even sure what it was (Can you hear “aimless internet cruising?”).

Thanks for much for all you do to the Lightroom and digital photography community!

— comment by Dawn D. in NJ on May 28th, 2010 at 5:35am JST (3 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeff, I love all of your photos and your lightroom plug-ins.
I was wondering if you had thought about developping a plug-in for Deviantart.com?
its a nightmare to upload to the site, i was just curious as to whether you had one in the works?
thanks.

I asked them about it some time ago; they had no interest. —Jeffrey

— comment by Ben Appleton on February 1st, 2011 at 8:03pm JST (3 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

What a wonderful story Jeffrey (update it soon mate!!). I relate to your way of thinking and living.
Thanks for all you do to make our lives flow more smoothly. Aren’t we all on a great journey to who knows where!!

My best wishes to you and your family.
kia kaha we say down her – stay strong.

— comment by Geoff Walker on May 2nd, 2011 at 6:13pm JST (3 years ago) comment permalink

I live in the South Coast of England, It is sad that there is not more people with your attitude to life

DickL

— comment by Dick on May 3rd, 2011 at 8:10pm JST (2 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeff:

Have you caught the HDR bug yet? Maybe I can look for a new jf HDR Plugin?

I just started in HDR.

Ravi

I won’t be doing an HDR plugin because there’s already a good one, and because of this. —Jeffrey

— comment by Ravi on August 23rd, 2011 at 7:07pm JST (2 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink

Mike G.
Deridder, Louisiana
Just starting over with a photo website. I’ve always enjoyed taking a photo, but I found that more enjoyment came from adding my own improvements to them. I started back in 2010, just a year before I retired from the military. I volunteered as a soccer coach for two years, the realized, that sitting on the sidelines and taking pictures was a lot more fun. I guess my real reason was because I noticed that it was hard for a parent to take a photo if they were too busy watching the game. So I decided that I would try to capture the game for them, so that way their enjoyment could continue.

My wife and I have 6 children all together, and so rebuilding my site with Zenfolio is another chance to show my local community how I saw the game-play.

Thanks for the plug-in, it’s help a lot in bringing that enjoyment into their lives.

D4D

— comment by Mike Guajardo on October 27th, 2012 at 1:19pm JST (1 year, 6 months ago) comment permalink
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