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Photography

How to Use Photo Mechanic and Adobe Lightroom Together For Faster Image Reviewing

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While Adobe Lightroom has the capability to import and cull images, it's not necessarily the best tool for the job. For high-volume photographers, Photo Mechanic is the tool of choice for reviewing images. When every second counts, the speed and efficiency of Photo Mechanic is a big advantage. In this tutorial, you'll learn how to use Lightroom and Photo Mechanic in tandem for a fast, full-featured workflow.

Meet Photo Mechanic

Photo Mechanic is fast, much faster than Lightroom, for reviewing images. This killer speed makes it a great choice for importing and managing images. Images load almost instantly. Keyboard shortcuts switch between photos with no delay, and tagging an image with a rating or label is rapid.

Photo Mechanic Window
Photo Mechanic is a tool favored by photographers with many images to work through. The interface is 

Photo Mechanic has long been a popular choice for sports photographers and photojournalists, but it's extremely useful for any photographer who wants to spend less time in the review stage, no matter the subject.

My ideal workflow combines Photo Mechanic with Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom is powerful and where my images will live long-term, but the speed issues can be a concern. It makes good sense to use Photo Mechanic to review and cull images, and then hand off a limited set to Lightroom.

From Photo Mechanic to Adobe Lightroom

We've established that Photo Mechanic is a great fit for the offloading stage. Now let's look at how to use Photo Mechanic to do what it does best:

Use Photo Mechanic for Offload and Ingest

Photo Mechanic is a photo organizer, not a full editing suite. It doesn't store images in a catalog or database. This means the program doesn't have every tool you might need. On the other hand, with Photo Mechanic there's no complex Library to build, no previews to create and slow you down. Photo Mechanic works directly with the file system. You browse to a folder of images and just get to reviewing your latest shoot.

The best way to use Photo Mechanic is as a lightweight application to help you get the files off your card and sorted before you get into heavy image processing with another app, like Adobe Lightroom.

Set Up Photo Mechanic to Work With Lightroom

Star ratings and color labels are two pieces of metadata that work with both apps. Let's look at how to apply them to images in Photo Mechanic and then carry them through to Lightroom.

There are two tweaks that I like to make before I begin using Photo Mechanic. Let's adjust the color labels to match the ones in Adobe Lightroom. On the Preferences panel, switch to the General tab. In the Color Classes section of the pane, click the lightning bolt dropdown and choose Adobe Lightroom to replace the default color labels.

Update Color Labels
On the Preferences > General option panel, click the lightning bolt and choose "Adobe Lightroom" to change the color labels to the same ones used by Lightroom.

Next, let's make the keyboard shortcuts easier to use. Find the section that's labeled Single Key Shortcuts and change the option to 0-5 sets Rating.

Accessibility Option
On the Preferences > Accessibility panel, change the "Single Key Shortcuts" option to "0-5 sets rating." These keyboard shortcuts seem much more natural for setting ratings and 

With this option enabled, the keyboard shortcuts become easier to use. Here's a list of shortcuts to tag images with color labels and star ratings in Photo Mechanic:

  • Press any number key 1 through 5 with an image to selected to give it a corresponding number of stars
  • Press the 0 number key to remove a star rating
  • Press Command-1 to add a red color label
  • Press Command-2 to add a yellow color label
  • Press Command-3 to add a green color label
  • Press Command-4 to add a blue color label
  • Press Command-5 to add a purple color label

Image Review in Photo Mechanic

This screencast will walk you through setting up Lightroom to work perfectly with Lightroom. Check it out!

Recap and Keep Learning

There's no need to choose between Photo Mechanic and Adobe Lightroom when the applications can work in tandem.

Check out the Tuts+ write-up from 2012 to learn more about Photo Mechanic. You can also check out the Camera Bits website to learn more about the app.


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