After what seems like years of waiting (which was only about 6 months, in fact), the CTRL+Console Lightroom Sorter is about to drop, and you can even sign up now to get 40% off. But should you? Allow me a few sentences to get to that.
When you first begin to use Lightroom, and you’re a critical thinker, you realize immediately that there’s a massive reserve of ability within the program that you haven’t a clue about even though the interface seems, at first, rather simple and intuitive. But the thing with Lightroom is that what you see isn’t all that you get because underneath the veneer of the immediate interface are menus and sub-menus, and abilities you won’t know about unless you’re shown by someone who actually understands – a power user, if you will. (Highly recommend, or, in fact, the only thing I recommend for this is the Lightroom Workshop)
However, even with a power user instructing, there’s a learning curve that must take place before you begin to really get the benefit of the instruction. You must actually put into practice what you’re learning and do so quickly, because using Lightroom, like Photoshop and like a musical instrument, is a perishable skill. Just the shortcuts alone are plentiful and sometimes they do different things in different modules.
So, of course, this is what you do, you keep referring back to your instruction and implementing what you’ve learned. As you do this, and you become proficient, you realize that remembering all the shortcuts, and the movement on the keyboard they take can be a bit much. It’s doable sure, and pretty much all of us make do with, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way. If you’re using Lightroom a lot, especially in a professional capacity where time is scheduled, you may be interested in an alternative. Well, the best alternative I’ve seen thus far is CTRL+Console’s Lightroom Sorter. I wasn’t entirely sure when I first saw it at WPPI, but now, after having used it for a few weeks, I am.
What Is It?
Encapsulated in an incomplete sentence for brevity, it is the first controller for Lightroom that turns your iPad into a multi-functioning, gesture-controllable, ergonomic display and control surface. Too much of a mouthful for you still? Fine, it lets you use your iPad to control Lightroom’s Library module with speed and ease never seen before.
To date, the majority of computer programs have been designed around the limited functionality of the keyboard, with the use of shortcuts to improve the experience and speed, but as programs become more complex and with more ability, that list of shortcuts often requires a massive index. Photoshop, for example, has over a thousand shortcuts, and Lightroom has a trailer load as well. The Lightroom Sorter interface essentially takes those shortcuts and key combinations and makes them usable via intuitive buttons or gestures.
That’s the thing, that the touchscreen of an iPad allows you, the user, to interact with Lightroom is a way that is all at once entirely alien, and yet familiar and quick. What used to require looking down at your keyboard to hit the two or three correct buttons, can now be done with the flick of a finger. And the only thing you need to remember is what finger gestures do what because the rest is just self-explanatory. So how many gestures? There are four 1 finger gestures, two 2 finger gestures, and two that require 3. That’s it, and here they are below:
So What All Can You Do With It?
Understand, first of all, that this is not a complete solution to all your Lightroom needs, primarily because it only affects what you do within the Library module. So those of you wanting to control all your adjustment sliders and so forth from this, sorry to disappoint – though not for too long because that’s already in the pipeline. So if you’re thinking about getting a modular controller for Lightroom’s Develop Module like the Palette system or Pfixer Lightroom controller software you can pair with the modular Behringer BCF-2000 to control the sliders, maybe hold off. I say that because the control and responsiveness of this current Library controller is at hardware level, and I don’t think Jeff Chow, the mind behind CTRL+Console, will push out anything sub-par. Just a feeling.
Speaking of responsiveness, the iPad is arguably the ultimate tablet on the market still, so the responsiveness on this is brilliant, and believe me when I say ‘lag’ is something I cannot deal with. If there were any lag to speak of, I would’ve been tempted to chuck it, tell Jeff to go back to the drawing board, and this article would never have been. But there’s simply no lag I’ve experienced. I’ve used it together with an iMac and on the road with a MacBook Pro.
Since there is no lag, it’s quick, but another reason it’s so quick is that certain things that would previously take numerous keystrokes now take a single button press. Survey Mode, for example, is done with a single tap of your finger, whereas I believe it would take at least 4 keystrokes to do that on a keyboard. But then that’s the whole idea, and why if you’re a strong Lightroom user, you’ll see how much time this can save you.
You can flag, remove flags, go from image to image, see the next 6 images, add to set, give your images a star rating, and move back to a previous action. You can color sort your images, and select between Grid, Loupe, or full screen and lights out views with a single tap, and a single tap to revert. You can do the same for hiding the panels. Furthermore, you are able to sort via ranked keywords.
All of this means that if you’ve just done a session, maybe a wedding or portrait or lifestyle session and you need to cull three thousand images down to 300 or 30, you can do it quicker than ever before, and you needn’t hardly ever remove your eyes from the screen. Also, because it’s from the iPad, you can sit back away from the keyboard, or be more connected with clients as you go through or show them the images.
At the moment, CTRL+Console has 6 apps to control various programs from Premier to Final Cut, so you initially download their primary app, from which you tap on the one you’d like to purchase. Then you download the corresponding desktop app, and Bob’s your uncle. It’s a dead easy process to set it up, and you can be up and running in minutes. Also, as suggested before, using it on multiple computers is not an issue so long as the desktops each have the little app installed.
Surprisingly, and this merits a mention, it’s not unduly power thirsty either, as I’ve been able to run it without much coughing from an iPad 2, and not just an iPad Air 2. So don’t worry if you’re not running the latest version of what Apple’s selling, you should still be able to use this well.
So Who Is This For?
If I were selling it for profit or had a dog in the fight, maybe I would say it’s for everyone, but I won’t (though I could). What I mean is, everyone who uses Lightroom can use this app. Even beginners may find the intuitiveness wonderful but frankly it’s you, the budding pro or the full-time professional who has deadlines to meet; who is hunched over a desk, who is taxed with sorting and culling, who is going to really get the most from this. And frankly, right now discounted by 40% with a price of $30, I think it’s a rather small price to pay for the time saved.