Sort of random review not a review here of the Palette analog controls. I, like many people, saw a video of my colleague - filmmaker Etan Blatt - fiddling with some glowey dials and sliders on the internet and was very curious. Turns out, those little buttons, are Palette Gear.
I live in Adobe Lightroom. It is always open on my computer. 95% of my edit process is in that program and my workflow depends on it. Anything I can do to save clicks and time is huge for me. I looked into Palette a bit more and figured I would give it a try.
A few weeks have gone by and after some experimenting, I've got to say I'm really impressed by it. In the past, I've tried to use some other gadgets to help speed up my workflow, but for the most part, it's back to mouse and clicking.
I'm also writing this, because after a few quick instagram posts, I got a ton of comments and messages, so I figured I'd write it up all at once. I did a quick run through on my instagram story today, and have those videos saved below as well so you can play them whenever you want.
Working with Palette Gear
When I edit a big event, I have a three step process. First, I select rate all the images I'm going to consider keepers one star. That means, I have to quickly go through every shot and make a quick judgment. Step Two, I crop every selected image. This means I need to use my mouse to adjust for the final crop, as well as just a basic straightening and whatnot to improve composition. Finally, I go back to the beginning again, and do my actual "edit" - which usually just falls under an exposure and white balance tweak, as well as some fiddling with the shadows/highlights/contrast. I've used this process for years, and I can get a pretty quick turnaround with it.
Coming off this weekend, I just shot Wodapalooza 2017 and had more than 10,000 photos to go through. What better time to really put Palette to the test. Over the last few weeks I played around on small edits with different button configurations and setting my dials/sliders/buttons, and came to what I thought would make sense for me and how I work. The key to a lightning fast workflow is to never have to take your hands off your controls, and never take your eyes off the screen. Every time I need to move my hand off the keyboard to the mouse, or my eyes from the photo to the on-screen sliders, is a break in concentration and speed.
So here we go. I worked with two basic configurations. For the rating system, I just needed two arcade buttons. One for "next photo" and one for "undo." Both of these were set in the keyboard module with the same lightroom shortcut I would normally hit on the keyboard. I put those buttons under my left hand, and with my right hand just used my keyboards right bracket to increase rating whenever I saw an image I wanted to select. My left hand just hit the next photo button so I could keep grinding through. If I made a mistake, bad rating or skipped a shot, the undo button was mapped and right there for quick use without have to move back to the keyboard and hit command+z.
For the crop process, one of the most time consuming parts of the edit, I would normally have to use my mouse with the right hand and find the "next photo" short cut on the keyboard with my left hand. Not a big deal to punch in a shortcut for a few photos, but when you do it for a 1000, it is a pain in the ass. Again, using the arcade buttons mapped to "next" and "undo," I was able to speed through the crop without ever really needing to look down.
Finally the edit itself. Now I added in dials for exposure, white balance temperature, and contrast, as well as sliders for shadows and highlights. When my images import they are already assigned a basic preset, so all that remains is the tweak. Here I switched and left both hands on Palette, no mouse needed. Using the left hand I really just hit the "next photo" and "undo" buttons I mapped. With the right hand, I went through the quick process of dialing in the exposure and temperature, and sometimes needing to make some tweaks on the sliders.
Before I knew it, I was nearing the end of a daunting edit, all the while #babysupercleary was still napping. I realized, the less and less I had to reach for the mouse, the faster the edit process went. Getting the dials/sliders perfectly tweaked to the way I edit made a huge difference, and I really think Palette will become an integral part of my edit workflow.
The software itself that runs Palette isn't perfect. It may have to do with my unique setup, but every now and then, the software would seemingly shutdown or become unresponsive. The fix was easy, just close and reopen the program. Volia, fixed. I'd prefer it didn't happen at all, but it does, not the end of the world, but annoying when working for hours.
The other issue, which really may just be conceptual is the function of the sliders. Because these sliders are analog, each time you move them, they stay where you leave them. For a "shadows" adjustment, I'm normally bumping darker images here and there up a few pegs. After 10-20 photos though, the physical slider is all the way to the right. I now have to pull it all the way back, (which edits the image I'm on) and go to the mouse, reset the value in Lightroom and return to edit. It isn't a dealbreaker by any means, but again annoying. I have no idea what a solution to this issue would be, and motorizing the sliders seems far too expensive and cumbersome. It certainly limits the usefulness of the slider, while making the dials that much more effective.
What I believed may just be a gimmick, turns out to be a really useful tool. Palette is going to stay right next to my mouse and be part of my workflow going forward. After taking a look at their website and social media, I'm also happy to see they are continuing to push out updates to add functionality. That's perfect as this is a customizable tool that should be able to grow with the programs, extending their life. So check them out for yourself and let me know if you have any questions!
Watch my instagram story on Palette in action Below.