An introduction to Lightroom Plugins

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Plugins in Lightroom
Lightroom has a plugin architecture that allows third parties to add to the functionality of Lightroom. Often these plugins add to Lightroom’s core functions, but more often they add entirely new features to the program. Plugins are a very different beast to Presets, and sometimes users can get the two confused. Presets are merely stored sets of instructions for Lightroom tools (and for plugins for that matter). Plugins, on the other hand, are additional programming, added to Lightroom.

Plugins for Lightroom originally came in one of two forms, Export and Web Gallery. But programmers being what they are have made much more of the available SDK to create even more than this, along with changes in the SDK. So we can broaden this view into more sections:

  • Web Galleries
  • Export Plugins
  • Metadata Plugins
  • Post Process Plugins
  • External Editors
  • Import
  • Utilities

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the available Lightroom plugins. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and many of the Plugin developers that are linked here have many other Lightroom Plugins that are worth a look.

Web Galleries
Lightroom ships with 2 galleries: Lightroom HTML Gallery and Lightroom Flash Gallery. Using templates you can get many different looks from it, but they all boil down to these two engines. A small group of developers have created gallery addons for Lightroom, myself included. Here’s a selection to look at:

  • LRB Portfolio: This is my own website in a gallery plugin
  • The Turning Gate: Matthew Campagna has a large set of gallery plugins for Lightroom
  • Lightroom Galleries: Joe Capra has LRG Complete as a standalone Flash Gallery for Lightroom
  • SlideShowPro: Todd Dominey has converted his SlideShowPro Flash component into a powerful gallery for Lightroom
  • Export Plugins
    Export Plugins take files from Lightroom and send them to services are required. A prime example of this is Export to Flickr, the flickr.com photo sharing service. Again, I’ve created some of these, but the absolute king of this is Jeffrey Friedl.

  • LR2Twitpic: This is my own plugin to allow users to post from Lightroom to Twitter via Twitpic
  • Jeffrey’s Lightroom Goodies: Rather than link to individual plugins, you find all of Jeffrey’s plugins there, including Flickr, SmugMug, PicasaWeb and Zenfolio.
  • LR/Blog: This plugin from Timothy Armes allows you to post directly to your Blog from Lightroom
  • Metadata Plugins
    Metadata Plugins allow Lightroom to have custom metadata fields added to them. They’re probably the easiest to code, but unfortunately there is no good way to allow the user to create a random custom field from within a plugin.

  • Search and Replace: This plugin allows users to search and replace text inside Lightroom metadata.
  • LRB Releases: This is a plugin that allows a user to enter/track model and property release info in Lightroom
  • LR/Transporter: This nifty plugin allows you to export metadata to text files among other things.
  • Nature Data LR: provides species data fields on your photos. It also allows you to create dynamic collections of your photos based on families of species.
  • Post Process Plugins
    Post Process Plugins take the exported image and perform a further process on the files.

  • LR2/Mogrify: This plugin lets a use interact with the command line program Mogrify, to create watermarks and borders.
  • External Editors
    There are a substantial number of Photoshop Plugins and Standalone programs that can be used with Lightroom. These generally create a rendered version of the files which is then processed by the application and finally stored in the Lightroom Catalog. Sometimes these are accessed with the ‘Edit in’ menu, or from the ‘Plug-in Extras’ menu. (Note that the Photoshop Plugins are modified to work as apps for Lightroom and that generally Photoshop Plugins are not useable in Lightroom)

  • Nik Filters: Nik have a range of tools from Color Efex for filter processing to noise reduction with D-Fine.
  • onOne Software: onOne have a range of plugins that go from Phototools for photo manipulation to PhotoFrame for creating image frames.
  • PT Lens: is a great lens correction program that includes a large lens library for automatic distortion correction.
  • Photomatix Pro: This plugin/app set allow users to export directly from Lightroom into Photomatix Pro to generate HDR images.
  • Import Plugins
    While Import is only a small part of the Lightroom SDK, some plugin makers have successfully created interesting plugins that import into Lightroom.

  • Lightroom Tether: This plugin from Rich Cooper allows users with PTP based cameras to Tether directly to Lightroom (Note current Canon cameras do not use PTP anymore)
  • Video Assets: This nifty plugin from Jeffrey Friedl allows a very basic video import into Lightroom, and the ability to play them back via an external program.
  • Utilities

  • Config Backup: This plugin allows the user to back up the Lightroom Preferences and Catalog backup files
  • Preview Extraction: This plugin lets you access the previews used by Lightroom. A lifesaver for those that have accidently deleted photos.
  • Adding Plugins to Lightroom
    Lightroom Plugins are automatically loaded if they are stored inside a folder called ‘Modules’ in the Lightroom Presets folder. The quickest way to access this folder, is to open Preferences (in the Edit menu on PC, the Lightroom menu on Mac). Next click on ‘Presets’ and then finally click on the ‘Show Lightroom presets folder’ button.
    Inside this folder is a folder called Modules. Place the plugins there.
    However I don’t recommend doing it this way. Plugins like this cannot be removed from Lightroom via the Plugin Manager. Instead, create a folder called ‘LR Plugins’ in (My) Documents. Place all your plugins here (except Web Galleries). Use the Plugin Manager to add and remov
    e plugins as you require them.

    Plugin Manager
    Open the Plugin Manger via the File menu. There’s a four fingered shortcut for it, but generally clicking the menu is as quick as making a claw out of your hand! On the bottom left are 2 buttons (above Plug-in Exchange): Add and Remove. Simply click Add and browse to the LR Plugins folder to select the plugin you want to load. That’s it pretty much. You can remove plugins here also. If the plugin writer has added information relating to the plugin, you’ll also find it here.

    pluginmanager.jpg

    For Web Galleries, open the Lightroom Presets folder as described above, and place the .lrwebengine file inside a folder called ‘Web Engines’. Create it if it doesn’t exist.

    And so ends a quick look a Lightroom plugins. I do intend looking deeper into individual Plugins as time goes by.

    4 thoughts on “An introduction to Lightroom Plugins

    1. My LR/Enfuse plug-in has suddenly stopped working. It produces an "Internal error has occurred" message. I've tried disabling and re-enabling and reinstalling this plug-in but it just won't work. No word from the developer as to how to correct this.

      Do plug-ins have preferences that one can find and trash?

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