Photography can be an expensive endeavor, regardless of it you are a professional or an enthusiast. One thousand dollars can buy you Lightroom and Photoshop, with about enough money left over to buy a lunch or two. Then if you decide to add on some great plug-ins to these pieces of software, you can blow through another grand in a heart beat.
It is always nice to find tools you can use for less than retail, and today I am bringing you a collection of fine Lightroom add-ons and complimentary programs that can be had for free or next to it. Any time you can add functionality and capabilities to you software on the cheap is a good thing, and there is some stellar software out on the internet that can take Lightroom to new levels.
To this extent, I have taken some time to collect a list of some of the best software for Lightroom that can be had on the cheap. Many of these will be familiar names, but hopefully you will find something new that will improve you Lightroom experience. So without further ado, lets start looking at some of this fine software.
These plug-ins extend the image processing capabilities of Lightroom, endowing you with the ability to do more with your images than Lightroom allows out of the box.
LR2/Mogrify – This has to be the great grand-daddy of all Lightroom plug-ins. If you do not have this installed into Lightroom you are truly missing out. LR2/Mogrify lets you and watermarks, enhance your images with frames and even layer effect images over your image (allowing simulated grain of glass effects). LR2/Mogrify is available with a free trial, full version unlocked with a donation to the project.
LR/Enfuse – A fun program if you are into HDR photography. LR/Enfuse allows you to blend multiple exposures right from Lightroom. An impressive tool that gets impressive results. Free trial version limiting you to 500 pixel images, full version with donation.
PTLens – A great tool to fix lens distortions on export from Lightroom. If you shoot with a wide angle lens, or a low grade lens that suffers from some basic image quality issues this is a must have application. PTLens corrects lens pincushion/barrel distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberration, and perspective issues. Plus, when you purchase it you get a stand-alone version, a Photoshp plug-in and the Lightroom external editor. An awesome weapon in your image arsenal, PTLens can be had for a mere $25 USD. A limited, 10 image trail version is available.
If you are into Geo-tagging your images, the great Lightroom plug-in developer Jeffrey Friedl has two great plug-in to aid you in your efforts.
GPS Support – This plug-in will parse information from your GPS unit’s log file with images in your Lightroom catalog. It will then tag your photos with the proper GPS coordinates based on the time metadata from your camera and the timestamp on the GPS logfile. This information is stored ina “Shadow” GPS metadata entry that can then be used to automatically tag images on export. It also facilitates the use of Jeffrey’s other GPS plug-in. Free limited version, full version with donation.
GPS Proximity Search – Another GPS plug-in from Jeffrey Friedl, integrating with his GPS Support plug-in to allow you to find images in your catalog taken within a certain distance of a defined point on Earth. The plug-in reads the “Shadow” GPS metadata created by GPS Support to tell you the distance any given image was taken from your starting point. An interesting plug-in for those who shoot a lot all over the country. Limited trial, full version with donation.
These plug-ins aid you in the automatic export of images to online photo sites, from Flickr to AdoramaPix to your own personal blog.
Export to… Plugins – Again Jeffrey Friedl comes to the rescue of Lightroom users with a menagerie of plug-ins designed to make life easier when exporting to photo storage site. It’s a shame to lump these together, but with so many available, I have to. Free trial version, unrestricted for six weeks, full version with donation. If you have a site you need to upload to, he most likely has a solution for you.
Export to Adorama – Vladimir Vinogradsky of AlloyPhoto created this sweet plug-in to automate the upload of images to AdoramaPix. This application was a big thing for me as Adorama is my personal favorite lab. The plug-in automatically uploads to your Adorama account so your images are ready when it comes time to order. Absolutely free.
Export to Costco Photo Center – Vladimir again delivers a plug-in to speed up your on-line print ordering. This time he helps you out in a pinch when you need your prints fast at Costco. Another free plug-in.
Lr2Twitpic – Sean McCormack of Lightroon-Blog.com provides this nifty tool for ull of us Twitter addicts. Lr2Twitpic allows you to upload pictures directly to TwitPic and broadcast a Tweet in your Twitter stream when you do so. Demo limits you to 10 uploads, full version available for 2.5 Euros (usually about $3.75 USD).
LR2/Gmail – Timothy Armes again brings the goods with this outside the box export plug-in. LR2/Gmail allows you to send images directly from Lightroom via your e-mail account to anyone you may need to. Attaches images to email so you can send preview directly to your clients. Free limited trial, full version with donation.
LR2/Blog – Another of Timothy Armes creations, LR2/Blog allows you to upload images directly to you blog from Lightroom. Currently working with WordPress and Blogger-hosted blogs. Limited trial, full version with donation.
These plug-ins are designed to help you manage metadata when exporting from Lightroom. Can come in handy under many different circumstances.
LR/Transporter – Timothy Armes again delivers a plug-in that can be extremely valuble under certain circumstances. LR/Transporter can read and manipulate metadata, allowing you to generate companion reports at export and even change some metadata fields automatically. A useful tool if you deal with metadata a lot. Free limited trial, full version with donation.
Metadata Wrangler – Jeffrey Friedl provides us with this useful metadata tool. Metadata Wrangler allows you to selectively remove metadata from your exported images. Especially useful if you want to hide you Lightroom Develop settings from the world. Limited trial, full version with donation.
Web Gallery Plug-Ins
Although not as inexpensive as other plug-ins on this list, gallery plug-ins are vital if you plan on using the export to web features of Lightroom. Lightroom’s default galleries are not all that great, however these two plug-ins I have personally utilized and found them to be bargains at their price.
LRB Portfolio – We previously reviewed Sean McCormack’s great LRB Portfolio on X-Equals. This plug-in creates stunning web galleries with a multitude of features. Simple, easily customizable and quick. In my opinion this is a must have for wedding photographer who want to get galleries up quick after the even. Price is 15 Euros which approximates to less than $25 USD.
TTG Highslide Gallery – The Turning Gate creates a lot of great galleries for Lightroom, and this is one of the ones I like most. TTG Highslide gallery creates a simple, elegant webpage and features proofing, slide show and inline slide shows, essentially making it three different galleries in one. Amazing for the $20 USD asking price. The Turning Gate also offers TTG Highslide Gallery Pro, which builds upon this awesome plug-in adding new features, including e-commerce ordering of images directly from the site via PayPal and FoxyCart and integration with Fotomoto for automatic order fulfillment. TTG Highslide Gallery Pro will set you back $40 USD.
The following plug-ins do not easily fall into any given category, but I have found them to be indispensable to me.
LR2/TreeExporter – Another Timothy Armes project, LR2/TreeExporter allows you to export you images to a new location while preserving the images original folder hierarchy. A simply,nifty tool for those of us who try to stay as organized as possible when exporting. Limited trail, full version with donation.
Folder Watch – Jeffrey Friedl saw that Lightroom’s import feature was rather lacking and designed this plug-in to watch folders on your drive and automatically import them into Lightroom. This is great if you are shooting tethered and there is no other option to get those images into Lightroom. The plug-in periodically checks the watched folder for new images and imports them once detected. Limited 6-week trial, full version with donation.
Run Any Command – Another of Jeffrey’s creations that allows you to configure any command to be ran after the image is exported. A must have application is you frequently utilize software that does not play well with Lightroom. Limited trial, full version with donation.
LRViewer/LRMaker – While not a plug-in in the normal sense, LRViewer and LRMaker from Marc Rochkind allows you to create portable Lightroom catalogs that can be opened on clients computers without them having to have Lightroom installed. LRMaker allows you to convert your Lightroom catalog into data that can be viewed in LRViewer, without Lightroom installed. LRViewer shows your clients all the images in your catalog, with adjustments, and allows them to make selections and comments on any image. An added feature with the purchase of LRMaker is PhotoSelectLink, an online service that can transmit notes and selections from your clients directly to you, using your Amazon S3 account to transfer the files. An icredible idea that may just change the way you preset your images to your clients. LRViewer is absolutely free, LRMaker costs $25 USD. PhotoSelectLink service is free with LRMaker and data use is billed through your S3 account
Hopefully some of these plug-ins are new to you and you may find some just what you need to improve your Lightroom experience.
There are countless other good plug-ins out there as well, these are just ones I have used and enjoyed. At $25 USD or less for most of these plug-ins you can extend Lightroom’s capabilities and not break the bank.
Got another killer plugin we missed? Sound off in the comments below!
Michael W. Gray – LifeInDigitalFilm