Wetpixel review: Loupedeck Photo Editing Console for Lightroom Part 1

Alex Tyrell’s review of Loupedeck

I received my Loupedeck prior to leaving on a 5-day liveaboard in the Gulf of Thailand, so didn’t have much chance to use it beforehand, apart from installing the software and having a quick play about on a couple of photos. Upon my return there was an updating version of the software available for download that provided option for some more custom controls, as well as adding a couple of extra secondary control options using the pre-assigned buttons in combination with the Fn button. Adam has already explained the set up procedure and covered the controls available, but there are a few different options when it comes to the Custom Controls; Dial C1 and Buttons C2 & C3 that all can be set to two different function. I elected the following for now:

I also have some Develop Settings programmed into the Loupedeck. P1 is my standard Wide-Angle Preset that decreases Highlights and increases Shadows, adds Contrast, Clarity & Vibrance, as well as Removing Chromatic Aberration. P2 is my Macro Preset that is similar but the Highlights & Shadows have less of an adjustment, plus Enable Profile Corrections is checked in the Lens Correction Panel. I don’t use this for wide-angle as Distortion Corrections are applied that mess up fisheye shots, that is the lens I use for the bulk of my wide-angle shooting, and I don’t see that any correction for vignetting is required. These give me a starting point for the edit, and how much I need to adjust from here varies from shot to shot. I’m sure I will gradually add other presets in the future, like a selection of Noise Reduction and Sharpening at varying levels to streamline editing further, or maybe some Black & White presets with boosted Contrast, Clarity & Dehaze.

I set about my normal workflow, sorting through images in two passes followed by editing the final selection. This can really be separated in to four stages:

Stage 1 – Picks & Rejects

I normally use the Loupe View to have the image at near on the full size of the screen to access whether I like it or not. If I do, and it is a potential for editing, it gets a Pick Flag that is easy with the Loupedeck having a dedicated button for flagging.

I started with a total of 1611 photos taken during the 18-dives of the trip and it took approx. an hour for me to go through them all, leaving me with 196 Flagged shots for Stage 2. Was it any quicker than using the keyboard and mouse? Probably not, as using keyboard shortcuts is pretty similar to the Loupedecks buttons; Arrow Keys to move through photos; Pick Flag (P); Reject Flag (X); Zoom (Z) to check focus. One minor issue I had was that to set the Reject Flag on the Loupedeck you press Fn+Pick and this was a little temperamental, more often than not setting the Pick Flag rather than the Reject. It therefore required a second press that sometimes removed the Pick Flag, so needed a third attempt to finally set the Reject Flag. I found that a firm press of the Fn Button first followed by the Pick Button seemed to work better; trying to press them simultaneously rarely worked.

Stage 2 – Star Rating

First of all I set up a Smart Collection with the criteria – Date Range of the trip + Pick Flag + Rating 1-Star or more, which required the use of mouse and keyboard. I then applied a filter to show only the flagged shots. The Loupedeck does not have way of showing only flagged photos (though you can filter using Star Ratings or Colour Labels), so I used the mouse to select this from the Toolbar. I then went into Survey View, again using the keyboard (the shortcut is N, though could have just as easily used the mouse) that allows me to see either individual images or any number of images that I have highlighted. Finally I started the process of working through the images with a more critical eye to pick out the shots that I wanted to process, giving these a 1-Star Rating.

Once I got to this stage I found using the Loupedeck (in combination with the mouse) was a little easier than using the keyboard. There are buttons for 1-5 Stars at the bottom left of the Loupedeck and the Arrow Keys located at the bottom right move you through the images. If I needed to move through a number of images quickly, I used the mouse to scroll along the filmstrip. Pressing the Fn+Arrow Keys allows you to select multiple images (the same as Shift+Arrow on a keyboard) and when in Survey Mode they all then appear on screen at the same time. I then study these and eliminate shots to leave me with one or two that I wanted to process, whereby they get a 1-Star Rating. This works well to compare similar shots of the same subject to select my favorite of a series. If I needed a magnified view to check critical focus, I pressed one of the two Zoom Buttons and dragged the image around using the mouse.

This process can be achieved easily using a keyboard and a mouse, probably in similar time, but it just felt easier or maybe comfortable using the Loupedeck having the buttons that were being used all located along the bottom within very easy reach. It took me approx. 30-mins to select 60 images for editing out of the 196 that had been shortlisted from stage-1.

Stage 3 – Lightroom Edits

For me the Loupedeck really shines when it comes to editing. I could easily go without it for the previous stages of my workflow, but image processing is it strong point and apart from speeding up the whole process, it made it more enjoyable. Editing our images is an important step in the photographic process, but it is not my favorite part, I much prefer to be underwater taking the shots. So I find I have to be in the right mood to sit down for a long editing session and the Loupedeck will make this much less of a chore if I am not in the right mood.

So what did I like about using the Loupedeck when it came to image processing?

The main feature I liked was being able to control multiple sliders at the same time, so for example, you can decrease Exposure while simultaneously increasing Whites. For wide-angle images with blue water backgrounds, being able to adjust exposure and at the same time the Luminance of the blues was very useful. This made it very quick and easy to check different combinations of adjustments to see what worked best for an image.

Also pressing the controls to reset an adjustment was quick and easy. Adjusting Hue, Saturation and Luminance was much easier using the Color Wheels and then simply pressing the Hue, Sat or Lum Buttons accordingly. And I also liked the Undo and Redo Buttons at the top left that were easy to use to correct a mistake, or reinstate an adjustment you just deleted and then realized it did actually look better with it applied.

The Copy and Paste Buttons are nice, making it quicker to copy settings from one image to another (or numerous images). The only problem I found here was that if you had previously cropped an image, the crop was reset when you copied the settings from another photo. Hopefully this will be fixed soon.

I also liked the Tint Control, as quite commonly when you set a custom white balance using the WB Selector Tool (Eye Dropper) is adds a little too much magenta, and this was very easy to decrease the amount with the responsive dial.

Having buttons to activate the three local adjustments (Brush, Grad Filter & Radial Filter) were less helpful, as you need the mouse to apply any adjustments you make (brushing or pulling out a filter). But once one of these controls is active, the Loupedeck Control Dials work on the local adjustment rather than as a global adjustment. This makes it very easy to fine-tune any adjustments you make, however there was one small issue in that both the Black & White controls do not work. According to Loupedeck Customer Support ‘Adobe’s SDK doesn’t offer support for certain functions (yet) for some reason. The whites and blacks in brush/gradual/radial filter is one of these functions that Adobe’s SDK does not offer support for. We are currently working on getting Adobe to open more of SDK interfaces, and hopefully the blacks and whites functions will be supported soon.’

I’m sure I will start using the Presets Buttons (P1 – P9) more in the future too. This is something that I haven’t been using too much in the past, but having the option on the Loupedeck has made me think about it more and I see that it could be beneficial.

The Loupedeck doesn’t mean you can put your keyboard away though, as you will sometimes need to use it for unsupported keys. Ones that I found I needed were the Space Bar to activate the Hand Tool to drag around a zoomed in image when Spot Removal or the Adjustment Brush are active. Also, the Alt/Option key to go into Clipping View, Greyscale for Noise Reduction & Sharpening, plus to show the Sharpening Mask, that I use on every image.

I did find a few bugs while completing this editing session, however it seems to be that the people at Loupedeck are listening to feedback and hopefully they will be fixed soon. Their website has a Contact Form where you can report bugs, as well as give suggestions for new features for future software updates. The bugs I found are:

There are a few features that I would like to see added to the Loupedeck software on future updates, but whether they will be possible I am not sure:

Stage 4 – Backscatter Removal

I use Spot Removal Tool in Lightroom if there is a very small amount of backscatter to take out. Generally Photoshop performs a better, and certainly quicker job when more work is needed. You can assign either C2 or C3 to Toggle Spot Removal Tool, but that is as far as you can go with Loupedeck at the moment, you need a mouse (or my preference a Wacom Intuos Pro graphics tablet) to perform this task so you may as well just click on the tool. So having the Loupedeck is pretty irrelevant when it comes to the unique editing job of backscatter removal that only us underwater shooters have to endure.

Final Thoughts

Using the Loupedeck has made my editing a bit quicker, and I’m sure as my muscle memory develops and I can instinctively make an adjustment without looking at the controls of the Loupedeck, it will get even faster. It has certainly made the process more enjoyable, but maybe this is just novelty, as I will confess to liking my gadgets! I think for many it will get them using some of the adjustments in Lightroom that maybe they didn’t use before, improving their edits. It’s size also means that it is most commonly going to be used at a home work station rather than be taken on dive trips, though it is not heavy so wouldn’t eat too much luggage allowance. I personally wouldn’t be taking this out of my office though, as I can get by fine on trips away using the track pad or mouse, only checking shots and maybe editing one a day max.

The Loupedeck isn’t a cheap bit of kit costing $299 / Euro 369 and for the casual Lightroom users it is probably an investment that won’t be considered given the price tag. But for those regularly editing lots of shots it is a nice tool, especially upon returning from a dive trip where you have many shots to process. For me, I do not feel I have wasted my money purchasing a Loupedeck, it will certainly get a lot of use and if it gets my editing completed quicker, freeing up time for other tasks, then it is money well spent.

About the author:

Professional photographer, Alex Tyrrell, established Dive4Photos in 2012 with the aim of offering the highest quality underwater photography training available.

Alex is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, certifying hundreds of students over the last 10-years. He has completed many thousands of dives at various locations around the world and runs regular photo workshops to destinations throughout Asia. His images have been published in numerous dive magazines and websites, plus mainstream media. He has been a guest speaker at dive shows in both the UK and the Philippines. But more importantly, he has taught underwater photography to hundreds of students over the last 8-years, gaining valuable knowledge of the most common mistakes new photographers make and the best ways to correct them.

Please click here for part 2 of the review.