Copyright 2018 - MIDI 2 Lightroom. Lightroom is a registered trademark of Adobe.

Lightroom Controlling Softwares

We’ve already mentioned in the prologue that using a MIDI controller for photo-processing is only available with Adobe Lightroom. The reason is simple: Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) is actually a plugin itself, a part of Photoshop, so you cannot install further plugins in it. As for Capture One, you actually should be able to install plugins, but for developing such plugins, you need the software’s SDK (development kit), and it costs a fortune per year. Chances are that nobody will pay that. However, the Lightroom SDK is free for everyone, and since it’s downloadable from Adobe’s website, anybody can develop Lightroom-plugins.

So we need a small plugin to connect a MIDI controller with Lightroom. (These plugins can be installed via the Lightroom File menu). The job of these plugins is to identify the signal of the MIDI controller via USB and match them to certain Lightroom prompts and functions which are in the plugin’s stock.

This matching is called mapping.

You need to map all the potentiometers (sliders, knobs) on your controller. When you move a slider/knob on a MIDI controller (or push a button), its signal will be detected by the Lightroom plugin. That plugin will know that when the signal comes, which Lightroom slider should be altered and how. This may seem to be complicated for the first time but believe me, it’s easy.

I mentioned above the ‘stock of the plugins’. This means that the developer of the plugin is responsible for identifying the Lightroom functions in the Lightroom SDK and enabling them in the plugin, so there are only as many LR functions available in the plugins, as many the developer puts in it. Some advanced plugins contain almost all the Lightroom features, some others contain only the most important functions. Many of the plugins are being continuously developed, so even if it doesn’t know something today, it may handle it tomorrow.

The most awesome part of this story is that these plugins are free to download from the web. Their developers are working on them from their own power and enthusiasm, however, all include a Donate-button on their website, so if you can, you should send some gift-bucks to them. They absolutely deserve it, as they put a lot of working hours into these plugins.

So all in all, you’ll need a USB-connected controller, a Mac or PC, and an Adobe Lightroom software - preferably a newer version, but if you have an older one, don’t worry, you are not opted out from the game. Moreover, you’ll need a small plugin - as you already know - free from the web and you’ll need to install it in Lightroom. This plugin will start together with Lightroom every time then, and connects it with the MIDI controller, so no need to hassle with it any more.

We’ve already mentioned the question of having less sliders or knobs on your controller than you’d use in Lightroom. No problem, there is a software-based and a hardware-based solution as well. As for the hardware-based: you can change slider layout on your controller with buttons. These slider/knob layouts are called Layers, Pages or Presets by the controller manufacturers, and for some models there are only two options (eg. Layer A and Layer B), but some models have even 32 Presets. No matter how they’re called, the point is that you can switch between these layouts with dedicated buttons, which means your sliders, knobs and buttons do different things on different layouts. If you have a MIDI controller with 8 knobs or sliders for example, then in case of 2 layouts you can connect 16 Lightroom sliders to them, in case of 3 layouts you can connect 24, and you switch between the 8 - 8 - 8 connected functions by pressing buttons. This is the hardware based solution, but there is also a software based option, which is fine if you have a controller that does not have the possibility of switching layouts. We will talk about this later.

So what LR plugins do we have?

MIDI2LR

This is the most popular and the most advanced plugin to date. Most of the controller-users prefer the MIDI2LR and its developer is very active, regular updates are coming almost week-to-week but at least month-to-month. It is important to know that the MIDI2LR is compatible with both Macs and PCs, but you’ll need Lightroom 6 or CC to work with. Earlier LR versions are not compatible, so for those you should use some other plugins which are unfortunately not as good as the MIDI2LR, but not bad either.

Here you can download MIDI2LR for free.

A big advantage for MIDI2LR is its own GUI in a separate window (which runs continuously in the background as long as Lightroom is open). With this user interface you can easily customize your controller: in other words you can easily do the mapping, ie. adding every needed LR function to each slider, knob and button on your controller. You can create more Profiles with different mappings and you can make a button on your controller to switch between Profiles. On one Profile the knobs do this, on the other Profile knobs do that, and you can switch between them with a button. This is the software-solution for the problem of having less sliders/knobs than the number of sliders you would use in Lightroom. 

MIDI2LR contains probably the most Lightroom features ever, it is developed by a guy called rsjaffe (and many people are helping him), so I suggest to use this plugin if you have the latest Lightroom version (ie. LR 6 or CC). If you have an older version, please read on.


 

For Windows

Paddy for Lightroom

Paddy was the first Lightroom plugin that allowed us to connect Adobe Lightroom with a MIDI controller, actually this plugin started the new-wave several years ago. 

You can download the Paddy free from here.

Unfortunately the development of Paddy has stopped recently so it is compatible only up to Lightroom 5. (Despite the fact that there is a line on Paddy’s website saying that the LR6/CC version is in the pipeline, unfortunately it’s there for months now and after discussing with the developer we were told that he should have had to study another programming language to continue the project but due to the lack of time he could not deal with it.) Originally the Paddy was made for Behringer BCF2000 and BCR2000 controllers, but you can use it with other controllers too, moreover you can even configure a gamepad or joystick as well as your keyboard with Paddy.

For MAC

Knobroom

Besides MIDI2LR, Knobroom was the other popular and widely used Lightroom plugin for MIDI controllers. I say ’was’ because the development of Knobroom also seems to have stopped for a while, however it is compatible both LR6/CC and earlier versions.

You can download Knobroom free from here.

Knobroom has no dedicated GUI, you can configure it (do the mapping) in Lightroom’s Plugin Manager. Because of this it may be not so convenient as the MIDI2LR. Knobroom is designed mainly for the Novation Nocturn MIDI controller but you can use it with other controllers too, you only need to know which slider/knob creates what CC-code. Moreover Knobroom’s ‘stock’ of Lightroom features is not so widespread as MIDI2LR’s, however it is fair enough, you can find many LR features in it.


 

Pfixer

This is a paid version Lightroom plugin from Pusher Labs but you may not only buy the plugin itself, but can also purchase two types of controllers with it. Buying them as a package you will get a ready-to-use product. The controllers will be programmed and mapped by factory and they will also be labelled accordingly for visual help. The downside of this is when you want to customize it, the labelling will loose its meaning. But there is also an advantage too, with the Pfixer you can map your keyboard as well, moreover you can add Lightroom features for your Magic Trackpad’s gestures. Wow!

You can buy Pfixer from Pusher Labs for 100 dollars here.

Palette Gear

This is a bit different story because Palette Gear is a software and hardware in one. They have developed their own controller from crowd funding, which is modular, so you can buy the sliders, knobs and buttons separately and mix/arrange them as you like (obviously they sell pre-assembled kits too). Unfortunately creating a setup with Palette that matches an advanced MIDI controller costs a fortune and may take quite a significant place on your desk. Altough you should know that Palette Gear is the only solution you can use with Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, InDesign and Premier Pro besides Lightroom, and you can add features even to your joystick or gamepad through their software. IMHO, the Palette Gear is great but (for LR) compared to an advanced MIDI controller with MIDI2LR plugin it is just a clever but very expensive toy. (Sorry guys, sell it cheaper and my opinion will change, for the price of your stuff, people can buy a serious controller with LED-lit encoders and motorized faders in a compact housing.)

Palette Gear project can be found here.

Lightroom controlling with tablet

Before we go on to the hardware side, we have to mention that there is a possibility to use a tablet as a MIDI controller with Lightroom. There are several apps for iOS and Android (eg. Midi Touch, TouchOSC or the specifically Lightroom-designed LRPAD), moreover, there are also free apps which can make our tablet act like a virtual MIDI controller and connect it with Lightroom (via plugin) by wire or wifi. This is actually a half-solution, because of the touchscreen (moreover using with wifi you may experience some lag too), so it is only slightly better than using the Lightroom with a touchpad or trackpad. Obviously the tablets’ user interface (ie. the app’s virtual sliders) are much bigger than the Lightroom’s sliders on the monitor so you can give a try if you already have a tablet at home. It is better than nothing, its free, but it is virtual so it cannot beat the physical sliders and knobs.

 

Now we are done with softwares needed for Lightroom. Let’s take a look at the hardware-side of the story: what type of MIDI controllers are worth buying for the job?

If you subscribe to PRO version of this site, you'll get written and video tutorials for installing and configuring Lightroom plugins and many more!

f t g m

Introduction

Using a MIDI controller for photo processing is quite a new movement in the world. These hardwares are originally built for music editing softwares but thanks to some clever plugins they can be used for photo editing in Adobe’s Lightroom software too. READ MORE...

Softwares

We need a small plugin to connect a MIDI controller with Lightroom. The job of these plugins is to identify the signal of the MIDI controller via USB and match them to certain Lightroom prompts and functions which are in the plugin’s stock. READ MORE...

GO PRO!

Learn more, and get our PRO-offer for only $8.99. If you register, you will get access to complete installation guides with videos, more explanation about the topic, and description of suitable MIDI Controllers on the market as well as downloads. This is the easiest way to start MIDI-controlling your Lightroom.