Photo editing is (unfortunately) a huge part of photography, and I would estimate I can spend 50 – 60% of my photography time culling and editing photos in lightroom. Because of this I am always looking for way's to speed up that process, and reduce the amount of time required on editing photos.
In trying to find ways to reduce my editing time, I recently came across a paid product called PFixer, which interfaces with a MIDI sound mixer (the BCF2000) and Lightroom and allows you to program the various sliders, buttons and knobs to mirror lightroom functions (e.g. culling, exposure). Sadly this is a Mac (only) related product and I use windows….
After watching YouTube video's on this topic, I started to search further afield and came across MIDI2LR. An open source interface between any MIDI board and lightroom which allows near complete flexibility in programming the board to undertake certain lightroom functions. It has a large following, and appears to be well supported; the plugin is donation ware.
The principle behind the MIDI2LR lightroom plugin is fairly simple (but very well executed); it allows a link to be made between any supported MIDI device and lightroom itself. It does this by linking into the lightroom API, so that when a command is sent from the MIDI board, it checks the lightroom plugin (MIDI2LR) to see which Lightroom function is mapped to that input, and then makes the change.
Whilst in theory any MIDI board should be supported, I choose the BCF2000 since it was available second hand (for around $300 AUD) on ebay (affiliate link), it appeared to be well supported, and more importantly there is two way feedback between lightroom and the MIDI board.
The BCF2000 is a MIDI board from Behringer which is has been around for an estimated 10 years. It was reported to be one of the first MIDI control boards which contains 8 motorized sliders (or fader), in addition it also has a number of buttons, and eight optical encoders. As well as the significant number of buttons and sliders, the board is also capable of a number of presets (so the information the button sends can be changed), and the eight optical encoders (at the top) can be put into four separate groups, so that their functions can change based on which group is selected (the four top right buttons).
The Integration (MIDI2LR):
MIDI2LR functions as a lightroom plugin, and acts as a translator between the BCF2000 MIDI board and Lightroom itself. When a slider is adjusted, or a button is pressed the BCF2000 board sends the ID assigned to that button/slider/encoder and its adjusted value. MIDI2LR receives that value, and cross checks it against its own profile to determine which function that ID is assigned to, if none exist it will add it to the profile and leave it unmapped, but, if one does exist then it will undertake the function assigned to that specific ID.
Instead of re-inventing the wheel, I used a MIDI2LR profile (and overlay) created by DMVPix. This profile assigns a number of common edits to the motorized sliders (e.g. the far left slider controls exposure), so, as I adjust the slider it updates the exposure in Lightroom. Even better, since there is two way feedback, if I change the image in lightroom, all of the sliders will update to the current settings (e.g. exposure, highlights, shadows) associated with that image.
Image 2: A partial example of my MIDI2LR mapping
The whole point of my adoption of the MIDI2LR plugin, and the BCF2000 editing board is to speed up my workflow, and it certainly has done that. I have buttons assigned to the board to move through to the previous, or next photo in addition to buttons which allow me to flag or rate a photo. I am able to very quickly power through the photos and cull the ones I don't like (through reject), and even have a button assigned to delete all rejected photos.
Once I have culled the photos I don't like, I can then start the process of editing the photos I think are worth keeping but might need some minor tweaking. I could assign presets to the board to apply in one go, but I prefer to have more control and the board allows me that. Once I move to the photo I wish to edit, I can quickly adjust the exposure through the slider, I can press a button to rotate the photo left or right, and even have a button assigned to convert the image to B&W. This allows me to power through, and adjust the sliders to fix exposure, highlights, shadows, vibrance, saturation, white balance and any other mapped parameters which need fixing.
The MIDI2LR plugin, and the BCF2000 are a very welcome addition to my lightroom workflow. It allows me to cull photos without needing to touch my keyboard or mouse, and even undertake more complicated editing in a more physical way (rather than needing to use the mouse and keyboard). In my tests of the board it has significantly sped up my workflow and I could not recommend it more to users. If you want a great way to speed up your workflow, then this might just be for you….