Overall, I love using film for my photography. But, there is one draw back it has over using digital, and that is file management.
With a digital camera of course, all your photos are numbered sequentially in order, and usually named by date and time, meaning you get a time and date ordered (and sortable) list of photographs at the end of a busy days shooting. With film, unless you have an assistant who can number your films for you as you burn through them, or unless you are running a slow pace and have time to do it yourself (so NOT like at a wedding!!), you end up with a bag of film, all taken at different times of the day. You then send those films off and they are developed and scanned by the lab in the same random order.
I recently had 394 photographs of a wedding from over 37 rolls of both medium format and 35mm film. The films had not been numbered during the day because I was shooting the wedding on my own without an assistant to keep track, so they all went to the lab as a batch of unsorted films. The lab naturally developed and scanned each one as they came out the bag. No ordering involved. Consequently, I had 37 sets of pictures, all named with a naming convention as designated by the lab itself but bearing no resemblance to the order of the wedding day. Obviously, each photo of each roll was in order though, meaning you’d have sets of ordered pictures, but each set could have been shot before or after the previous. What’s worse, is that if you are using two or more cameras (as I was) you might find 6 shots taken with a Nikon of the bridesmaids, followed by 4 shots taken with a Hasselblad minutes later, with the remaining 30 or so Nikon shots taken possibly hours later after another 6 rolls had been shot with the Hasselblad.
After copying all the files to one large folder for me to weed the reject shots, no amount of sorting got them in any coherent order. Some photos taken at the start were in the middle and end, others taken at the end were in the middle and start. I had 6 shots from my Nikon in one place with 10 shots from my Hasselblad shot a few second later but about 100 different positions further on. So I needed a gallery view to drag n drop batches of pictures or single pictures to various places and positions within the gallery slideshow I was building. Note I was not building a web based slideshow, which is of course easy with WordPress, but a movie based slideshow, for playing on a TV, and I needed to do this task on an Apple Mac for various reasons despite being a Linux guy generally.
Initially I was going to use the built in “Photos” app. But I soon realised the single strip slideshow would make this re-ordering difficult and it didn’t seem possible to resort in Album mode. So my first urge then was to use iPhoto, but it is no longer available for OSX except for updates (Aug 2018). I wanted to use iPhoto because I remembered it was good for picture sorting. The newer ‘Photo’ app does also allow for sorting and re-arranging too, but only as a single film strip at the bottom of the window. So you have to wheel to the right or left using thumbnails. Hard on the eyes and hands especially with hig volumes of photos.
So then I tried my Linux favourite ‘DarkTable‘ which has recently been made available for OSX. All was going well to start with, except that for some reason, on the Mac, I was not able to re-arrange the gallery; a newly added feature that was added earlier in 2018. Frustrated, but not surprised, I started to consider the commercial tool built for OSX, Lightroom.
So I tried a trial of Lightroom. That has a great gallery mode which enabled me to order my gallery just as I needed to from the very start and as I wanted to do with earlier with DarkTable and Photos App, and I was able to set borders and backgrounds and integrate music and so on. “Perfect”, I thought. Then after several hours of re-arranging and perfecting, I went to play the slideshow. What did I discover? The pictures would not go above about about 400 pixels on the screen. Despite my scans being around 2000 or 1500 by 1500 in size, they just would not go full screen. I checked I had “Zoom to fill frame” ticked in the right hand options section, which I did. I had the correct template selected in the left Template Browser. The preview (in Lightroom) was showing it perfectly, just as I wanted. But the slideshow would not. I did more Googling only to find others suffering the same problem, and the same frustrations at Apple Inc!
So how did I get a folder full of sorted pictures named by order of how I had prepared them in my Lightroom Gallery? I used a very neat customisation feature of the Export function of Lightroom which I only realised after about 3 hours of desperately trying to work out how I was going to do this task (because manually re-ordering and renaming 400 files was not appealing, at all!!). I document it here for the benefit of other film shooters who may experience the same frustration (obviously you need to have either a licensed copy of Lightroom or a 7 day trial of it).
- In Library mode, select all the organised and nicely arranged pictures in the Library view.
- Click ‘File –> Export’
- For ‘Export Location’ – specify an output folder. Then,
- ‘File Naming’ –> Check “Rename To” and click the drop down menu and choose “Edit” at the bottom (if the default options do not work for you, which they may but they didn’t for me)
- Note the “example” section at the top changes dynamically as you add or remove options. To achieve what I did, remove everything from the white box, then from “Sequence and Date” choose “Sequence (001)” to get a 3 digit sequencing then click the “Insert” button to the right. Then manually add a dash (-) by typing it into the white field as a separator next to the sequence. Note the example now shows “001-.jpg”. Then lastly under the “Image name’ panel, choose “Original Filename” and click ‘Insert’.
- Check the example again, and click ‘Done’ if you’re happy.
Now all the files will be exported to the new folder location using the numbered naming convention of the gallery display of Lightroom whilst still retaining the original filename and extension which of course acts as a key for the photographer to refer to the original scans and negatives. For example “015-2018081256786-223344.jpg” with a 3 digit sequence chosen is the 15th picture in my Library view, and is the file 2018081256786-223344.jpg.
Now, having got a filename ordered set of files that match my gallery view, I can go back to where I started – the Photos App, and add all of those pictures to the Photos App slideshow as a new import (ensuring the filename sort is selected when asking what files to import of course) and they will all be listed as I had them in my Lightroom Library. Add the music I need and so on, and now they will all be in the right order to start with without me having to strain using the single filmstrip of the Photos App to re-order hundreds or thousands of photos.
The problem of course is I was only able to do this because I had a week trial of LightRoom. If I have to do it again, I’ll need to buy Lightroom or wait for the drag n drop re-ordering of DarkTable to be improved for Apple OSX.
In the meantime, a plea to any Apple Developers reading this – for goodness sake, sort this out with the Photos App – enable a gallery view please! Ensure that your graphical suites are capable of at least the main aspects of a photographers needs – to prepare basic galleries for clients with some level of humanity. Firstly, Lightroom should be capable of showing pictures at zoomed scale, even if the original pixels are not sufficient for the scale. It is up to us if we want to show our pictures that way. And secondly, please make it easier to re-order hundreds of images in the Photos application, because although it is fine for a few dozen pictures, it is impractical for hundreds or thousands.
The pictures below explain this text further