Sunday, December 6, 2009

More Lightroom silliness

I still get hate-mail about my stance on Adobe Lightroom. Some folks just don't understand where I am coming from on the issue. So, I'll enlist the help of another author to (again) illustrate my point that Lightroom is a database application at its core, and thus a e-discovery nightmare for forensic image analysts.

Stephen Laskevitch writes in his book,
Photoshop CS4 Photographer's Handbook, "Whereas Photoshop is an image editing application, Lightroom should be thought of as a photographer-friendly database application. Instead of opening, editing, saving and then closing your image files as we do in Photoshop, Lightroom essentially uses one file: its catalog database (emphasis mine). As you work in Lightroom, it is continously updating this file. Indeed, if you look under the File menu, you will not see a Save command!"

Instead of opening, correcting, and saving individual files ... all you are modifying in Lightroom is notes in the database. If you work like most photographers, you'll have just a few databases. Some have a single catalog (database file) for their business and one for their personal stuff. Most just put all of their images into a single catalog - leveraging the power of the database functionality to inspire their creativity.

When you have to turn over your notes on the work that you've done for discovery, this catalog should be turned over - after all, it contains valuable metadata. Do you really want to turn over "notes" on all images that you work on? Hardly. What's the work around? A separate catalog for each case? It kind of defeats the purpose (especially given the lack of networking support).

Different states have different rules regarding discovery - then there's the Federal government. In response to the many e-mails that I continue to get on this subject, it's worth considering the legal ramifications of technological decisions before hand ... I would think. Shouldn't the legal aspects of a tool's use be considered during the test/validate stage - before a tool is put into general use in your lab?

And please ... I love Lightroom for personal work. I always have.


Roger Howard said...

I would think LR's non-destructive edits would, if anything, be more useful in discovery since edits are not baked into the source file but rather recorded as a set of transformations to be applied only at export - so it's trivial to show:

1. Here's the original raw image
2. Here's the edits I developed to produce the final image
3. Here's the final image

In other words, you have the full set of changes made available to you, automatically and easily un-doable. This isn't dependent on the database either - works just as well by having the XMP metadata automatically updated as you make edits.

But I don't ever deal with discovery issues so perhaps I'm missing the point.

Jim Hoerricks said...

Thanks for the comment.

"But I don't ever deal with discovery issues so perhaps I'm missing the point."

The point being, files generated in the course of our work are discoverable in most states - potentially discoverable in others. This includes the catalog file - regardless of your chosen export method - as the catalog file contains information that is added as a result of our work on a given case.