My New Lightroom Plugin: as Close to “Layers in Lightroom” as You’re Going To Get
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In my previous post, about factually-incorrect hype of a photo-editing application that claimed it provided “Layers in Lightroom”, I noted that an idea had come to me to almost actually provide “Layers in Lightroom”.

I had a proof-of-concept version out to friends that evening, but it's taken a couple of days to spiff it up enough for a beta release.

—   Jeffrey's “Photoshop Layers” Lightroom Plug   —

It's slow and a bit kludgy — definitely not “Layers in Lightroom” — but unlike other external-editor solutions like the hyped app, this plugin allows for a non destructive workflow.

With it, you build a persistent link between images in Lightroom and layers in a new Photoshop PSD that's added to your Lightroom catalog. You can edit that new PSD pretty much as you like... add new layers, resize, crop, transform, mask, add text layers, run actions and filters, edit pixels, etc.

But the key here is that if you make subsequent edits to the originals in Lightroom, those edits are reflected through the Photoshop edits and back into the composite in Lightroom..

Some might call this a “game changer” :-). I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it'll sure be handy at times.

The plugin page explains it more, but all in all, this plugin might be described as:

A slow but mostly-effective way to get a somewhat layer-like experience in a Lightroom non-destructive workflow by using Photoshop as an external rendering engine.

It's still very beta, so I'm looking for feedback of all kinds, including how you find it useful, where it's not quite enough to be useful, etc.

How much I work on this in the future depends on the kind of feedback I get. If you think it'll be useful for you, let me know, and if you think it's a waste of time, let me know that too. (The first reply I got from the first group of friends that I released it to was “not worth the effort”, but I disagreed, so here we are.)

Frankly, the method I've come up with for this plugin could be used with Perfect Layers (and other editing applications) if some relatively-small hooks were added to them and their companion Lightroom plugins, and so if OnOne is watching, here's your chance to have your product actually come close to living up to its hype. That would be a good thing for the Lightroom community, so I hope you do. It took me one afternoon.

All 7 comments so far, oldest first...

Definitely going to try this out. I’ll give it a try tonight and see how it goes. Haven’t downloaded it yet, but I must say, holy crap. You have some skillz just coming up with this in a few days. Thanks for putting in all the hard work!

— comment by Earnest Barr on April 25th, 2011 at 7:56pm JST (13 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Hey Jeffrey, you use a Mac, right? Have you ever considered switching from Lightroom to Aperture? Aperture is a nice program… and it’d be even nicer if we had some of your plugins available for it 😉

I actually bought a new MacBook when Aperture first came out, just so I could run it, but silly me for thinking that I could run Apple’s software on Apple’s computer: at the time, Aperture ran only on MacBook Pros, so the brand new MacBook I’d just bought was useless for it. My own fault for not noticing the small print, but it was a rotten feeling. But not long after that, Adobe came out with a Lightroom beta that did run on my new Apple computer, so that’s what I’ve been using since. —Jeffrey

— comment by David K on April 25th, 2011 at 10:02pm JST (13 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Hi, Jeffrey–While I agree that the “other product” is over-hyped (what else do you expect from Scott Kelby?), I do not understand why you and some others are calling it “destructive. If I open two or more RAW images in it, I get a third file of type psd. That’s not “destructive, is it? In my (not very) humble opinion, shooting RAW is the only way to shoot for those who are serious about their photography and who don’t want to discard shadow detail.

I’ll certainly look at your programmatic reply, of course. As always, competition improves the breed.

As for David K’s comment about Aperture, I am a Mac user who owns both Lightroom 3 and Aperture 3. I find LR to be far superior to Aperture in so many ways that I’m a little disappointed in Apple. Aperture 3 is a decent competitor for LR 2, but not LR 3. Also, It’s a bit better at handling videos. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere nearly as good at handling stills, even in its version 3. Of course, my opinion may be distorted because I’ve been using LR since it was 1 beta 3 when Aperture was over-priced and under-featured.

The word “destructive” in “non-destructive workflow” refers to the edit workflow, specifically the ability to revisit prior edits without destroying later edits. Let’s say that after having created a PSD from some Lr images and do some editing on them and import the result in Lightroom, I realize that I forgot to set the white balance in one of them. I can go back and fix the white balance in the first image, but it’s not carried through to the PSD result because the creation of the PSD was destructive to the edit workflow. If I want to re-apply the edits to the PSD, I have to redo them from scratch. This is true of “Edit in Photoshop”, Perfect Layers, and all the other raw editors and photo editors out there. That’s why people have been waiting for layers native to Lightroom, because Lightroom is very strongly non-destructive, and one can imagine a magical implementation that somehow just works. But I wouldn’t expect that any time soon because it’s a huge challenge. My plugin gets around the issue, sort of, at the cost of being a little kludgy and a lot slow. —Jeffrey

— comment by Craig Lewis on April 25th, 2011 at 10:52pm JST (13 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Very interesting. This sounds like it could be very handy, and I will try out when I have some time. I had already decided not to bother with Perfect Layers when I chanced on your posting about it.

BTW, I use a few other of your plug-ins, and they have been great. Many thanks.

— comment by Dan K on April 26th, 2011 at 1:53am JST (13 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

To Craig Lewis, sadly you are completely right. I don’t use Lightroom, but I’ve read up on it and seen things put through it. Adobe has done a wonderful job with it. I chose Aperture 2 over Lightroom 2 because they both seemed about equal, and I figured that Aperture would ultimately receive better polish and integration with the OS X platform than Lightroom. (I noted in particular Adobe’s dragging of feet on modernizing Photoshop’s code base for OS X between CS3 and CS5…) I’m hopeful that Aperture 4 will bring some major changes around, otherwise I may consider switching, myself.

All the same, I admire and respect Jeffrey’s work. I made the comment in a tongue-in-cheek manner, as I’d be quite happy to have access to some of his plugins on the Aperture side, yet don’t really expect Jeffrey to switch over from LR3 to Aperture!

— comment by David K on April 26th, 2011 at 2:11am JST (13 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

I agree completely with your previous post, “The Amazing Marketing Power of Scott Kelby”. Thanks for your honesty.

For the same reason I won’t be using the onOne Layers in Lightroom plugin, I think your efforts along the same lines are a waste of time. Using LR 3, the round-trip to an external application like Photoshop is simple and unleashes more editing capability than we’ll see in LR until such time as Adobe merges the two products (maybe “Lightshop” or “Photoroom”). I have both LR and PS loaded on my desktop and laptop Macs and use plugins (including some of yours and some from onOne, nik and Topaz) to extend the capabilities of both products. LR has a role and, in my opinion, that role is not Photoshop-like image edting. I understand the attraction of having it all in one application, but I’ll wait for Adobe to create the ultimate combination of two great products.

I think we agree on everything, except the “waste of time” part. 🙂 Personally, I use Photoshop rarely… maybe once for every 5-10k photos… but when I do, if I have the chance to preserve the non-destructive nature of Lightroom through to the Photoshop edits, heck yeah, I’ll take that, and that’s what this plugin does. Real layers in Lightroom, if it ever shows up, will be much more useful on a day-to-day basis, I’m sure. As always, YMMV. —Jeffrey

— comment by Joe Colson on April 28th, 2011 at 7:55am JST (13 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Just, EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for Jeffrey. A complete coincidence that I ran into the need for this plug-in yesterday, while working on a LR + PS Integration tutorial. I was a bit surprised that so-called “smart objects” were indeed oblivious to updates to virtual copies, and to just about everything else, once created.

You can count on a donation from me! Downloading now……


— comment by George Jardine on May 9th, 2011 at 11:11pm JST (13 years ago) comment permalink
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