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The year in Lightroom, by the numbers

I started last year to play with pulling data right out of my Lightroom catalog. How fun to combine interests in photography with my need to make data out of things. Last year about this time I posted some 2007 photo stats, and with the release of Lightroom 2 I came up with some keyword network maps of my flickr images.

Over at The Online Photographer, Marc Rochkind did some writing about meta metadata and released a tool for OS X that produces much more summary information than I had previously considered: His tool produces by-lens statistics on cropping and aspect ratio in addition to focal length usage. This generated some thoughtful conversation about composing in the viewfinder versus cropping, and Marc’s work spurred me to think more about my own stats, and so I went back to my own Lightroom 2 catalog with the sqlite browser and R to see if I could reproduce for myself some of the more interesting data that Marc’s tool generated. After some tinkering, I think I have a functional, reusable set of R tools for generalized reporting of Lightroom image data.

Like Marc’s ImageReporter, I can filter by image type, picks, ratings, Quick Collection, camera model (though this matters less for me since I have one P&S and one DSLR) and time period, and I added filtering by color label as well — hey, just for fun, even though I don’t use the color labels (I generally get rating fatigue using anything more than picks.)

So, what do I have? First, a reproduction of the stats I checked out last year: Monthly photos and focal length:

The year in Lightroom

I continue to primarily use my prime lenses, and my picture-taking appears to have notched down dramatically as compared to 2007. This is partly because of work, of course, but also because I’ve become much more selective about what I actually keep in the catalog.

We can break out focal length a bit more. For the two zooms that I use on my K100D, what are the mean focal lengths?

> lensFL [1] 5.8-23.2 mm 15 [3] 85.0 mm f/1.8 85 [5] smc PENTAX-DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL 31 [7] smc PENTAX-DA 21mm F3.2 AL Limited 21 [9] smc PENTAX-DA 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED 121 [11] smc PENTAX-DA 70mm F2.4 Limited 70 [13] smc PENTAX-FA 35mm F2 AL 35 [15] smc PENTAX-FA 50mm F1.4 50

So that’s kind of interesting, suggesting that I use the 200mm zoom at about the middle of its range. But the mean isn’t necessarily informative. Here’s a plot of focal length for one of those zooms:

Focal lengths plot, DA 50-200mm lens, 2008

So, I use the 50-200mm lens primarily for shots at either extreme of its length, and I already have a 50mm fixed lens that takes better photos than the zoom at that distance. Moreover, breaking out just picks with this lens shows a three-to-one preference for 200mm than for 50mm. I think that means I need a long prime. Ka-ching!

I can also consider crop: How am I doing at composing in-camera? Here’s how often I crop, by lens, as a percentage:

	smc PENTAX-DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL   9.13 %
	smc PENTAX-DA 21mm F3.2 AL Limited 17.67 %
	smc PENTAX-DA 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED    6.93 %
	smc PENTAX-DA 70mm F2.4 Limited    23.78 %
	smc PENTAX-FA 35mm F2 AL           10.71 %
	smc PENTAX-FA 50mm F1.4            24.67 %

And, when I do crop, how much of the original composition do I keep?

	smc PENTAX-DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL  78.3 %                            
	smc PENTAX-DA 21mm F3.2 AL Limited 81.8 %                            
	smc PENTAX-DA 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED   81.6 %                            
	smc PENTAX-DA 70mm F2.4 Limited    80.9 %                            
	smc PENTAX-FA 35mm F2 AL           83.4 %                            
	smc PENTAX-FA 50mm F1.4            82.5 %

So, I’m cropping quite a bit. As Marc found in his exploration, these numbers go up when I filter by picks. I was surprised that I crop as much as I do with the DA21mm in particular, since I think of my use of it as being mostly for wide landscapes; but even those often enough are a bit crooked, enough to warrant at least some adjustment of tilt —- and Lightroom calls that adjustment a crop (fairly).

Does cropping mean I do a poor job at composing in-camera? Possibly. I have to admit that knowing I can crop gives me a conscientious freedom when I’m shooting, but these numbers give me something to think about. Maybe careful composition will be something to work on as I go forward.

We can cut all this in a few other ways. I’d like to take a look at my common keywords during a given time period, for example, but that will wait for the follow-up post, I think. This is more than enough nerdery for one January 1st afternoon.


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