This month Matt Campagna, of The Turning Gate, was kind enough to sit down and share his Lightroom workflow with us. Matt creates some of the best Lightroom web galleries that are available, and his galleries have always been my first choice over the years.
What’s your background? Have you always been a keen photographer?
I’ve been shooting images since my teens. I don’t remember exactly when I started, but I inherited a Vivitar SLR and two lenses from my father at some point thereabout. It was the same camera he used to photograph my childhood from the time I was born, and I carried it forward into university, where I became the photo editor for the campus newspaper, and the sole occupant of a university-funded black-and-white darkroom for which I requisitioned whatever I wanted. I graduated college in 2000, and went to Seoul, South Korea to live in 2002 because I was bored. This would become a recurring theme in life.
Following my first years living abroad in Korea, I returned to the United States to work for a small, rural newspaper in Bath County, Virginia — where my family had relocated to while I was overseas — and there went digital with Canon’s first Rebel DSLR. At that point I’d been into hobby web-design for some time, and so digital photography was an easy fit, as it allowed me to take images from camera-to-web with ease.
I returned to Korea for another three year stint, working as an English teacher and engaged in a personal photography project. I started The Turning Gate during this time, and in 2008 returned to the U.S. to attend Hallmark Institute of Photography in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. From there I went to Dallas, TX to live with a friend and to work in commercial photo studios with the likes of Stewart Cohen, Manny Rodriguez, Vanessa Gavalya and Clay Haynor — excellent photographers all.
My work in Dallas opened doors in Los Angeles, and I relocated to help launch a startup commercial photo studio in West Hollywood, mostly shooting images for online retail. In the line of duty, shot some wardrobe from major Hollywood films, met a handful of celebrities, and decided that LA wasn’t really the place I wanted to be. I withdrew and in 2012 returned to South Korea, where I presently reside.
What kinds of photography do you enjoy? Any favorite photos/galleries you’d like to share?
I’ve attempted many types of photography, including various types of commercial work, portraiture, aerial, photojournalism, and even a few half-hearted attempts at “fashion”. In following my path, I have found that travel and landscape photography resonate most strongly with my interests. My personal site is almost entirely travel photography, with a bit of concert shooting thrown in for fun.
I love a good landscape. Michael Kenna’s work from Hokkaido, Japan leaves me feeling entirely inadequate as a photographer.
I recently took my first crack at underwater photography, returned with mixed results but loved the experience. I’d like to make further attempts, but will need to work toward it — maybe look into getting PADI certified, do more research on underwater photo gear, then start thinking about travel arrangements.
My favorite work tends to be whatever is most recent at the time of asking. My most recent work I always publish for public consumption at CampagnaPictures.com, purely to share and with no intent to profit. If my images mean anything to anyone, then I’m ecstatic. Last year I got an email from a fellow saying that my Cambodia gallery inspired him to travel there, and I was just rapt to hear it.
What’s your usual Lightroom workflow, from shoot to output?
For what little commercial work I do these days, I shoot with the Nikon D4. For everything else, Fujifilm’s X100s is my camera of choice.
I typically shoot to memory card, then import to Lightroom at the end of the day.
As a first step, I assign file names. This is very, very important to me. File names are visible everywhere: in Lightroom, in my file system, on the Web, etc. When I name files, I’m already thinking about output; for example, file names on the Web should always match to images in my library. You put your images out there, and you never know when an image might find its way back home … consistent file naming ensures that when someone emails you about a specific image, you can find the master with ease.
My personal file name convention goes like this:
my initials – date – time – keywords (wide-to-narrow) – sequence number
I convert all of my files to DNG, mostly to save space. Regardless of camera manufacturer, Adobe’s DNG format tends to be significantly smaller in file size than native camera raw files. The DNG’s fast load data is also a plus for speeding up the rest of the workflow.
After naming and converting my files, I run through the images to apply processing and ratings. I sometimes rate images before running them through Develop, but often can’t decide on a final rating until after cropping and develop settings are applied.
Images that I intend to keep for whatever personal reasons, I assign one star; I am the only person who ever sees one-star images.
Images that I intend to share with people directly involved, I assign two stars; these might be funny outtakes or unflattering images that nonetheless may have some inherent value to parties directly involved.
To images to be seen outside the inner circle, I assign three stars. These would be the vacation photos I show only to family members, because blood dictates that I may subject them to more photos than anyone else could bear.
Four-star photos go to my website for the general public, and five-star images qualify for portfolio inclusion.
Zero-star photos may live in my library for a time, but will eventually be deleted when I go on a cleaning binge.
For processing, I often apply Lens Corrections first, and I am a huge fan of VSCO Film presets. Their film emulations are just fantastic. I often tweak sliders in the Basic, Detail and Effects panels; less often I twiddle with the knobs under HSL and Split Toning. I’m not huge on digital manipulation; I like to do the bulk of my work in capture. My adjustments are mostly about color and exposure, and not so much about content.
I then publish images to my website using Publish Services from Lightroom’s Library. For this, I rely on the TTG CE3 Publisher plugin. It’s as easy as creating or adding to a collection, then pressing the “Publish” button.
What’s your favorite Lightroom feature?
Tough question. I practically live in the Web module, but Develop is magnificent, and the Library came as a revelation when Lightroom was first unveiled to the public.
My favorite Lightroom feature is … Lightroom. Just the whole damn thing. Except the Book module; I think it’s just too narrow in scope, lacking even an API on which third-parties might build, and so I just don’t care about it.
What would you like to see in a future Lightroom version?
It probably puts me in the minority, but I don’t want new features; I like Lightroom just the way it is. I’d just like it to be faster, to see its performance improved. In the years since it’s release, Lightroom has become bloated and slow. Not unusably slow obviously, but slower than I would like.
Looking at the downloaded Mac packages I have on-hand, LR1 was 45MB, and LR3 was 118MB. For Lightroom 4, the application leapt from 118MB to a whopping 448MB! Lightroom 5.3 is 504MB. So in five generations, the application has inflated to more than 10x its original size! That’s just massive, and I miss the sexy thing Lightroom used to be.
Age incurs some bloat, naturally; I’m 35 and heavier than I was at 20. Every time we add new camera support or a new lens profile, or a new processing version or module, the application will grow. But rather than getting new feature X, I’d rather see the application be optimized, the code tightened, the overhead reduced, and longstanding bugs put into their graves. It would be a massive undertaking, I know, but I think the application would benefit tremendously from the effort. [Me too Matt! - VB]
Sadly, something like “Lightroom 6: Just like Lightroom 5, but faster!” makes for poor marketing.
Lightroom’s Web module tends to be overlooked, but you’ve created some fantastic gallery templates. Can you tell us a bit about them?
I create Web module plugins, which I sell from The Turning Gate, formerly a personal site evolved into a business over time, which is why the name is so utterly nonsensical. We go by TTG for short.
When Lightroom launched at 1.0, I saw potential in its Web module, but was unhappy with its default gallery styles. Fortunately, there’s an SDK and the module is built for third-party extensibility. And so I set about to create a web gallery that I would actually want to use, then shared it with others. My first gallery was met with overwhelming enthusiasm; feedback and feature requests followed, then additional plugins, and I eventually had to move to a premium distribution model to justify the time I was spending on development and support of the plugins I was making. It’s now my full time job.
That all started in 2007. Now in 2014, The Turning Gate is a cooperative effort between myself and my longtime friend and collaborator Ben Williams. We are photographers both, though Ben is more of a hobbyist, while I’ve gone through the professional paces. Our current series is branded CE3 (Core Elements 3), comprising nine plugins.
The plugins are designed as components to be used in tandem, but many of our plugins can also be used individually, by users who maybe just want a way to create galleries without buying into our full system.
For example, CE3 Gallery can be used standalone to create image galleries in a variety of styles. Meanwhile, CE3 Client Response Gallery can be used to publish galleries from which clients may submit selects or feedback on images.
To organize multiple galleries into categories, we offer CE3 Auto Index; it creates gallery index pages, so if you had galleries for France, Italy and Spain, then you could group them as “Travel”, and visitors would be able to access each of those galleries from the Travel page of your website. Visiting Germany later, you could then very easily add the new gallery to your Travel page; upload the gallery’s folder and it automatically appears in the index.
I already mentioned our publish services plugin, CE3 Publisher. A favorite amongst our customers, it allows you to create and manage galleries from Lightroom’s Library, using the Publish Services panel. Once setup, it’s the easiest way by far to keep a website up-to-date with new images and galleries.
We’ve also developed a shopping cart system that integrates with our Gallery plugin, and that allows photographers to sell image prints or downloads, or any other type of product.
Finally, we offer CE3 Pages for the creation of static websites, and CE3 Theme for WordPress, a WordPress theme that can be customized from within Lightroom and then used either for blogging or as the base for a WordPress-managed website.
All of the plugins offer features for customization of colors, branding, layout, behavior, etc., and the output pages and galleries can be localized into non-English languages.
Our designs are also responsive, meaning they can be viewed and used on desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone. We work hard to keep up with the latest trends in accessing the Internet, and it’s of the utmost importance to us that our creations function across the widest possible range of computers and devices.
Combined, our plugins provide a powerful publishing platform for managing a complete photographic website from within Lightroom, and offer a robust feature set including search engine optimizations, social networking support, Google Maps integration for geotagged images, and loads more. Over the years, we’ve garnered an active and loyal user base, entirely thanks to the strength of our products, the quality of our support, and the word-of-mouth of our users. We love our users, as we’d be nowhere without them.
And if you’ve read this far, I invite you to download are latest freebie, the 2014 HTML Gallery. [It's a great gallery, but FREE is an even better price!! - VB]
If people want to follow your work, where can they find you?
I frequently blog at The Turning Gate, typically on topics relating to photographers who are also managing their own websites and web presence. This includes plugin updates and other related announcements, but also some general interest articles that would apply to any online photographer, even those not using our plugins. That’s at:
Everything we have to offer is in our shop:
You can follow The Turning Gate on Facebook or Twitter as @theturninggate:
My personal site runs on TTG plugins, and you can follow my travels and photographic work at:
And I thank you very much, Victoria, for allowing me the opportunity to rant at your wonderful readers. Yes you, you wonderful readers.
[Thanks for your time Matt. It's been great to get to know you and your Lightroom workflow a bit better - VB]