Faster Lightroom Editing Using the X-Touch Mini

Adobe Lightroom is one of the most, if not the most, popular photo editing software in the world. 

But editing photos in Lightroom can be tedious, especially when you have large quantities of photos to get through. 

Using Lightroom’s sliders to edit each picture individually takes time and can feel repetitive, and can even strain your hand unnecessarily. Especially in projects like this previous one, where I am editing similar pictures together to create GIFs.

So today I want to look at a way to reduce that strain, speed up editing time, and simplify the process overall. 

I’ll be using a popular MIDI board, the Behringer X-Touch Mini, and the free software MIDI2LR, to create a simpler, more time effective way to edit my photos.

Materials:

This project requires a MIDI board, I recommend the X-Touch, as it will make following this tutorial very easy. 

The MIDI Board:

So what is a MIDI board? 

MIDI boards are controller boards usually used for musical applications. 

Many come attached to keyboards like the one below. 

But there are MIDI boards available that come solely with command buttons, and are used by musicians, DJs, Twitch streamers, video editors, and many other types of creators. 

MIDI boards are used to send commands over USB to a computer, often to audio or video software. 

Most have an onboard chip and can be programmed to function unattached to a computer. 

Many DJs or musicians use them to execute audio effects or play certain music. Great examples of how they can be used for this purpose can be seen here.

But for our purposes, the MIDI board will be used to send commands to Lightroom. 

The X-Touch MIDI board has eight digital dials,which can be turned or pressed, 16 function buttons, and two layer buttons.

 

The layer buttons allows for A and B layers.

Changing the layer changes the commands used by the 32 functions, expanding the total programmable buttons to a whopping 64. 

Unfortunately, Lightroom does not come with MIDI support built-in, so there needs to be a way to bridge the gap between the board and Lightroom.

MIDI2LR:

MIDI2LR is middle-man software that connects to Lightroom. It reads commands from the MIDI board and sends them into Lightroom. 

The interface of MIDI2LR is fairly simple.

We can save or load configurations for the board using the buttons at the top. 

The meat of MIDI2LR is in the configuration located in the middle of the window. 

The left side denotes the button of the board, and the right is the command to be sent into Lightroom. 

Clicking on the command button will load all of the available Lightroom’s functions we can use – and it’s almost every single one.

Setting up MIDI2LR for basic editing:

After installing MIDI2LR and plugging in the MIDI controller, a basic editing profile can be set up. 

The top eight dials will be programmed to control Lightroom’s basic slider operations such as temperature, tint, and exposure.

 All you need to do is open MIDI2LR and Lightroom, making sure that MIDI2LR says “Connected to LR” at the top:

MIDI2LR Connected to LR check

Then, simply turn dial 1 on the board and the MIDI command will appear in MIDI2LR. 

From there, select “Temperature” under the “Basic” section in the command selection menu. 

 MIDI2LR Menus

Do the same for the other seven dials. Use those steps to configure the eight dials to the following: 

MIDI Command
LR Command
CC: 0
Temperature
CC: 1
Tint
CC: 2
Exposure
CC: 3
Contrast
CC: 4
Highlights
CC: 5
Shadows
CC: 6
Whites
CC: 7
Blacks

Now that the basic dials are all set, buttons should be programmed to reset the sliders to zero. 

Luckily the X-Touch MIDI board allows for each dial to be pushed down as well. 

So those will be set the same way, by pushing the dials and selecting the effect.

MIDI Command
LR Command
Note: 0
Reset Temperature
Note: 1
Reset Tint
Note: 2
Reset Exposure
Note: 3
Reset Contrast
Note: 4
Reset Highlights
Note: 5
Reset Shadows
Note: 6
Reset Whites
Note: 7
Reset Blacks

Moving back into Lightroom and selecting a picture, the dials can now be used to change the image effect slider values. 

And because the X-Touch uses electronic dials, moving to another image will reset the dials to start from zero!

Setting up MIDI2LR with my basic corrections in mind:

Here is an example of a basic Lightroom editing process:

  1. Import the images
  2. Head to “Develop”
  3. Cull the images I do not want by marking them as unselected
  4. Select all
  5. Apply auto adjustments
  6. Apply lens corrections
  7. Deselect all
  8. Refine adjustments individually
  9. Select all
  10. Export

Doing this by hand would require extensive use of the keyboard and mouse. 

But by programming buttons on the X-Touch, the entire editing process can be completed without leaving the MIDI board. 

The bottom 16 function buttons will be used to complete this workflow. The first four are going to be set as such:

MIDI Command
LR Command
Note: 8
Switch to Develop
Note: 9
Previous Photo
Note: 10
Next Photo
Note: 11
Mark as Rejected

The first button opens Develop, the next two navigate between photos in the carousel, and the fourth sets a given image as rejected. 

This covers the first three steps of the workflow after importing. 

The entire library can be navigated and images can be rejected until the only images remaining are ones that will be exported after editing is completed. 

The next commands, select-all and deselect-all,  add a layer of depth, but are still fairly simple to set up. Head into the plug-in settings for MIDI2LR inside of Lightroom. 

MIDI2LR Keybinding Menu

Here, key commands can be added. The command to select all is CTRL+A (CMD+A in OSX) and deselect all is CTRL+D (CMD+D in OSX). 

All that’s needed to add these as key commands is to select the CTRL checkbox and type “a” or “d” in the input box, respectively. 

Then add these key commands to the X-Touch the same way as any other command. 

Key commands are located in “Keyboard Shortcuts for Users” 

MIDI2LR Shortcuts Menu

To finish off this part of the workflow, the next button will be set to auto-tone, to get a baseline for finer adjustments later in the process. 

MIDI Command
LR Command
Note: 12
Select All (Key Command 1)
Note: 13
Deselect All (Key Command 2)
Note: 14
Auto Tone

At this point in the workflow, fine adjustments are made to each image using the eightdials that were set-up earlier. 

Once this is completed, lens adjustments are added to correct for distortion. This will be mapped to the eighth button below the dials.

MIDI Command
LR Command
Note: 15
Enable Lens Corrections

Finally, with all of the images edited and ready delivery, export needs to be mapped. This will be another key command. 

In Plugin-Extras -> MIDI2LR options, map the export command by checking the boxes for CTRL and SHIFT, and then type “e” in the input box.

Further Uses:

There is almost no end to what can be accomplished in Lightroom using MIDI2LR and the X-Touch. 

But below are some extended functions that may be useful for everyday photo-editing projects.

Applying Presets:

Preset application is also available as MIDI2LR commands. The process to apply user presets is very similar to what is outlined above. 

Instead of using the MIDI2LR settings menu in Lightroom, the “Develop Presets” menu will be used. 

Enter the menu under “Plugin Extras” -> “MIDI2LR” -> “Develop Presets.” 

The menu is divided into tabs for the number associated with the developed preset (Tab 1 represents user developed preset 1 through 4). 

In the first box on the left of the interface, select the preset to be used. 

Select “Okay” and head back to MIDI2LR. Then set a new function button the same way as above. 

MIDI Command
LR Command
Note: 16
Preset_1

Heading back into Lightroom, pressing the newly mapped function button will apply the selected preset!

Details:

With two available layers, there are still eight dials that have not been accounted for. 

These can be mapped to any function in Lightroom, but more commonly used sliders such as those available in the detail panel may be ideal. 

This can be done using the same process, with one adaptation. 

Before mapping the function button, change the layer used on the X-Touch from A to B. 

Then turn the dial and map Luminance Smoothing and press the dial and map Reset Luminance Smoothing.

MIDI Command
LR Command
CC: 11
Luminance Smoothing
Note: 24
Reset Luminance Smoothing

The same can be done for Sharpening, Detail, Masking, etc. 

Vignetting:

Vignetting is another commonly used (if not overused) function in Lightroom. Again, just take an unused dial, map it in MIDI2LR, and get to work!

MIDI Command
LR Command
CC: 12
Post Crop Vignette Amount
Note: 25
Reset Post Crop Vignette Amount

Cropping:

Cropping is another function that can be manipulated using the X-Touch. 

While conventional drag-to-frame cropping is not ideal to control with dials, what can be used is the rotate-crop function that allows for straightening images.

MIDI Command
LR Command
CC: 13
Straighten Angle
Note: 26
Reset Crop

And that’s it!

MIDI boards come in affordable options, especially the X-Touch. 

Picking one up on Amazon and downloading free software will open up whole new possibilities in Lightroom and streamline your photo-editing workflow. 

If you have any questions, or want to tell me about your specific setup using MIDI2LR, please comment down below! 

 

 

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