Hardware

Can Loupedeck make Lightroom photo editing more efficient?

Former Indiegogo darling Loupedeck has released its product into the wild and aims to streamline your Adobe Lightroom photo editing tasks.

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Image: Ant Pruitt

I've been pretty clear about my photo editing workflow options. It usually ends up with most of the processing happening in Adobe Lightroom. I remember when the app intimidated me, with all of its sliders and clicks. Over time I've been able to breeze through my photo processing, leveraging the strengths of Lightroom. Hearing about my affinity for Lightroom, the PR team from Helsinki startup Loupedeck reached out asking if I'd take a look at its product: the Loupedeck. Allow me to explain what this device is and share my experience.

What is the Loupedeck?

The Loupedeck, coming in at $299, is a small console built specifically for editing photos in Adobe Lightroom. The company wanted to make photo editing in Lightroom more efficient, allowing photographers to handle more gigs because they will be able to edit more photos—in theory, anyway. The company announced the Loupedeck on Indiegogo in late 2016. The crowd sourcing efforts reaped tremendous support, garnering a 488% goal achievement. How's that for hitting your goal?

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Image: Ant Pruitt

The Loupedeck is roughly the size of an Apple wireless keyboard, at 15.7 x 6.1-inches of all-plastic manufacturing. It's lightweight, at roughly two pounds, but it doesn't feel cheap. Unfortunately, the device is a dust magnet.

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Image: Ant Pruitt

How does the Loupedeck work?

The device works with your Mac or Windows computer via a USB connection. Initially, you have to install the drivers and software because the Loupedeck has to interface with your Lightroom software. The install was easy to follow and a short process. It was just as fast as plug-and-play.

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After you install the app, you can walk through the console settings. The Loupedeck has several knobs and buttons with functions directly related to an action inside Lightroom, such as saturation and exposure. It also allows you to program a secondary function for some of the buttons. I think this is a good idea, as there are tons of presets that Lightroom includes with one click. Why not access these presets with the push of a button? Nice—but there are some limitations. More to come on that point.

SEE: Advanced Creative Photography Skills (TechRepublic Academy)

When you've completed the installation, close the software and fire up Lightroom. The Loupedeck will run as a service in the background at all times. You can disable this if you like, but when you're ready to use the console, you'll first have to launch the Loupedeck software to get the console synced to your computer.

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The editing experience

What works well

As I previously mentioned, the Loupedeck has knobs and buttons associated with the majority of the sliders found in the Lightroom application. Simple buttons such as black and white, copy, paste, and zoom are self explanatory. Using the knobs to adjust the different elements is not a bad experience. Turning the knob 1/4 turn doesn't move the onscreen slider you're working with to 25%. The slider increments are much smaller. Almost 1/4 rotation of the knob moves the on-screen slider 1-3%. This allows you to seriously fine-tune the adjustments. No more trying to use the mouse or arrow keys to get that perfect contrast adjustment. The adjustments are truly analog from a UX perspective. You can even make simultaneous adjustments with the knobs. For example, you can adjust the exposure and contrast together allowing you to get a better feel for the image's exposure.

I found the color wheels to be convenient and effective as well. It's the same functionality, but you have to select either the Hue, Saturation, or Luminance button. Again, this works pretty well and gives you a good feel for your editing progress—especially if you're working from a laptop and don't have an external mouse. This is a much better experience than a track pad.

SEE: Supercharging your image: Machine learning for photography applications (ZDnet)

What I didn't like

The layout of the Loupedeck (for me) doesn't flow with the waterfall edit flow you find in the develop module of Lightroom. Ideally, you can start at the top of the menu in Lightroom and work down to a final product. You really don't have to bounce around the app looking for settings. The grouping on the Loupedeck is different. You will have to work to get used to the layout of these critical knobs. Fortunately, processing with multiple knobs simultaneously is an advantage in this instance. This isn't a big issue, just an initial nuisance for me. Your mileage may vary.

Customizing the programmable buttons could be improved. It's nice having an FN button to allow you to set up secondary functions to a single button. The problem is which functions are assignable to a particular button. For example, I use Sharpening, Dehaze, and Noise Reduction regularly. These buttons aren't available by default, so I wanted to program three buttons. As I began to do so, I discovered I couldn't program any of these three options to button C1:

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And if I wanted to program the Dehaze option to button C2, I wouldn't be able to. This is because the command group differs from those under C1, as seen below. There's no Dehaze or Noise Reduction found under this menu. As a result, I had to use my mouse to make adjustments for noise and dehazing.

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I wish there were a way to integrate using the adjustment brush. There's a button on the Loupedeck to activate it, but once it's activated you have to use your mouse to use the brush. If I had my Wacom Intuos tablet attached to my computer, I could use Lightroom with the Wacom and get just as much functionality or more from the Wacom stylus versus the Loupedeck. This may not be a deal breaker for all photographers.

Conclusion

The question has to be asked: Does the Loupedeck make photo editing in Lightroom faster? Yes it does, if you're using a laptop without an external mouse. Dialing through the knobs and dials is pretty effective for the editing flow. I personally don't think the Loupedeck made my edit flow faster because I use the adjustment brush on almost every photograph I shoot. Loupedeck is definitely more for the batch processing handling high level edits or kicking off presets with the tap of a button. There's a place for that in the photography world, but I won't claim that it's the best option for photography editing in Lightroom. I would use the Loupedeck, but not for all my photo shoots. Preferably, I'd use it in my landscape photography.

More photo how-to's

Your take

What about you? Do you have the Loupedeck or are you interested in trying one out? Share your comments with fellow TechRepublic members and tag me on Twitter with your thoughts.

About Ant Pruitt

Ant Pruitt is an IT Support Professional with a passion for showing the non-geek how great technology can be. He writes for a variety of tech publications and hosts his own podcast. Ant is also an avid photographer and weight lifter.

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