A brand new camera. Raw capture. Lightroom 3. Mix them all together and you’re in for a bit of a surprise: Try to view your first batch of images and Lightroom won’t recognize them. You can’t import them, so you can’t develop them – you can’t even look at them! I feel your pain. Here’s how to handle it.
I’ve been testing a lot of cameras lately and, for some reason, I’m always surprised to find that my beloved Lightroom can’t handle their raw files. I should be used to it by now. With the constant barrage of new camera models, it takes a while for Adobe to catch up.
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An ORF By Any Other Name
Don’t be fooled because the raw files use a familiar-sounding name.
Right now, I’m working with a brand new Olympus PEN E-PL2 compact camera. It produces raw files that end with the suffix ORF just like the E-P1 I’ve been using successfully for the past six months. But Lightroom can’t handle ORF files from the E-PL2. What gives?
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The short and simple answer is that camera manufacturers keep tweaking their raw formats to get the most out of their latest cameras. So, even though the name stays the same, the format of the file changes – and the raw processing method has to change too.
Now or Later: Options
So, new camera owner, you have a few options while you wait for Adobe to release the next official update for Lightroom:
Option 1: Capture raw plus JPEG. Use the JPEG now and save the raw file for later.
Option 2: Install a new Lightroom release candidate (a.k.a., beta) if one is available. I’ve discussed this option in my article, “How To Open Nikon Coolpix P7000 NRW Raw Files in Lightroom 3 & Photoshop CS5.”
Option 3: Use other software to process your raw images for now. This may include the proprietary software that came with your camera, Adobe DNG converter, or some other non-Adobe software.
Option 2 is your best bet, but even the release candidates aren’t always available when you need them. To check, go to the downloads section of the Adobe Labs website.
Option 3 is a good choice if you have to convert your raw files right now. Installing proprietary software – such as Olympus Viewer 2 which came with the E-PL2 – is always the last resort for me.
If you already have other raw processing software, you may as well try it. I was surprised to find that the software I use mostly for lens distortion corrections, DxO Optics Pro 6.5, developed my E-PL2 raw images beautifully. I use it as a Lightroom plugin and I save the processed raw images as DNG files so that I can continue to process them in Lightroom.
If none of your software can process your new raw files, you’re stuck with Option 1. Adobe updates their raw processor, Adobe Camera Raw, pretty regularly, so you won’t be stuck for long.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to making the best of it:
Basically, we’ll import all the images that Lightroom does recognize (JPEGs and video files) and then manually copy the raw files to be saved for later processing. (NOTE: These instructions are for computers running Windows 7. Steps are similar for other Windows operating systems and for Mac.)
- Import the images from your SD or CF card the way you normally would. The JPEG and movie files will be imported.
- Once the import is complete, Lightroom will pop up its Import Results window and tell you that “Some import operations were not performed” and that “The files are from a camera which is not recognized by the raw format support in Lightroom (119).” The number in parentheses is the number of unrecognized raw images – 119 in my case.
- If you view the list of unrecognized files, you’ll see that they are all raw files. Mine are .orf files.
- Don’t bother with either of the buttons in the lower left of the screen. You can try clicking on the Check for Updates button, but there probably won’t be any. If there were, you would have been notified when you first opened Lightroom. And the Save As button merely saves the text of the Import Results window, not the images themselves. So click OK to dismiss the Import Results window.
Create a folder for the raw images
Now, we’ll need to use Windows Explorer (or the Mac’s Finder) to manually drag the raw files from our card onto our hard drive.
- Begin in Lightroom. Go to the Files panel and locate the folder containing the JPEGs and video files that you just imported. My folder is called “M0213A Chinese New Year.”
- Right-click on the folder name and choose Create Folder Inside “M0213A Chinese New Year,” or whatever the name of your folder is.
- This new folder will be used to store the unrecognized and unprocessed raw files, so give it a descriptive name. I’ll call mine “Unprocessed” to remind me that these images are not yet usable in Lightroom.
- Make sure that Include Selected Photos is not checked. We want to start with an empty folder.
Copy the raw images
- Now, we’ll open the new “Unprocessed” folder in Windows Explorer. The easiest way to do this is from within Lightroom. Right-click on “Unprocessed” and choose Show in Explorer. (If you don’t see the folder, you’ll need to twirl open its parent folder by clicking on the right-facing arrow next to its name).
- A new Windows Explorer window will open showing the “Unprocessed” folder. Double-click it to open the empty folder. Leave it open for now: We’ll use it in a minute to receive the raw files.
- Now we need to get to the images on our card. Click Windows’ Start button and click on Computer to view your hard drives and card readers.
- Double-click on the card reader to open it and browse to the image files. On my card, there is a folder called “DCIM”. Inside that is a subfolder called “100OLYMP” which contains the images.
- You’ll need to be in Details view, so if you’re seeing thumbnails or a list, click on the dropdown near the upper right of your screen and choose Details. Then, click on the word “Type” at the top of the column to sort by file type. Now all of the raw ORF images will be grouped together.
- Scroll down the list and select all of the ORF files (or whatever raw format you’re working with).
- Arrange the windows so that you can see both the card and the empty “Unprocessed” folders.
- Click and drag the selected raw files from the card window to the “Unprocessed” window to copy them there.
- That’s all we can do for now. The raw images are ready for the day when Adobe updates Lightroom to support them.
Into the future: After Lightroom is Updated
Adobe will eventually release a Lightroom update so that you can process the raw files. When it does, install the update and then you can move the raw images into the same folder as your JPEGs and delete the “Unprocessed” folder. Here’s how:
- Right-click on the “Unprocessed” folder and choose Synchronize Folder.
- A new window pops up titled Synchronize Folder “Unprocessed.” Lightroom counts the number of images in the folder and, after a brief delay, reports how many it found. In my case, it finds 119 images it didn’t know about before and says “Import New Photos (119).”
- Make sure there is a check mark next to Import New Photos.
- If you would like to interact with the Import window before Lightroom does its thing – to add keywords, rename files or such – leave the check mark next to Show import dialog before importing.
- The other two options, Remove missing photos from catalog and Scan for metadata updates don’t matter to us, so leave them as they are.
- Click the Synchronize button to add the images to Lightroom’s catalog. If you chose to open the Import window, make whatever changes you’d like and then click the Import button.
- Open the “Unprocessed” folder in Lightroom and you’ll see all of the raw files.
- Select them all and drag them into the parent folder (mine is “M0213A Chinese New Year”) to move them to that folder.
- Lightroom will warn you that you’re about to move some files. Since that’s exactly what we want to do, click the Move button.
- Now the “Unprocessed” folder is empty, so right-click on it and choose Remove to delete it.
- We’re finished.
It’s tough being on the bleeding edge of raw-imaging technology; always a step ahead of the software makers. But it sure is fun to have a new camera. So go forth and create.
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