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Product Review- RPG keys

September 15th, 2011  |  Published in Featured, Shoot

Consumed by image processing? You are not alone. If you live in New England, the time between Labor Day and your last wedding of the year is crazy-time… weddings double up, albums are being ordered, and you are fielding inquires for next year. If you are ever in the weeds in New England, this is the time.

I beta-tested the new software for the RPG keys this summer and unequivocally love it. It’s the size of a fat TV remote or an old school calculator, and comfortable to use with one hand. You program the keys to trigger commands in a variety of photo processing programs. I use it exclusively for Lightroom, but it can be can used with Bridge, PhotoShop, Photo Mechanic, In Design, Aperture and Fundy Album Builder. The software for programming the keys is Romper-Room easy-to-use.

I have been using RPG keys on and off for the past couple of years, but it always seemed a little wonky. Some of the keys were in the wrong place for me. I know Chris and Tim Reilly personally and in a fit of frustration, I dashed off a whiney email to them telling them that their product was almost perfect (too bad). Feeding into my squeaky wheel behavior, I was invited to test the new version of the product. The guys thought I would find it a bit closer to perfect.

Ha! An understatement; by far! I adore the keys now and they are capable of even more than I had imagined. They are now completely customizable; any command or preset that you use in Lightroom can be programmed to use with the keys. I put in the commands that I use most frequently, sixteen in all, on the keys so I can hit each of them without using the option keys. The keys are now perfect FOR ME.

I have become a photo-processing super-hero.

First, I had to decide where I wanted each key, and which presets and functions were most important to me. After a wedding or two of practice, I rearranged the key positioning, and committed to memorizing the positions of all of the keys. Each key pops on and off and you get a whole array of common commands and presets as well as blank ones for your own presets. I took a jackknife and carved the surface of one of the middle keys. With a single key abraded, my keypad is now “braille”. Using the one key as an anchor, I can focus on the image on the screen and not the keypad.

I am now so familiar with the keypad that I’ve stopped thinking about the device in my hand. Just like typing or driving a car, I no longer go through the following thought process: “This photo is too dark and too green, I must bump up the exposure by two-thirds of a stop and add a little magenta.” Instead, I see the image and my fingers tap the increase exposure button twice and the increase tint button once. I tap the “next” button and I am on to my next image. Tap. Tap. Tap

My fingers are developing muscle memory; I have been FLYING through my processing, and can feel myself getting faster.

I can assign any key on the keypad to any preset I have selected. For example, I have an exact adjustment brush that I use for burning (very big, very feathered and very dark) and an exact brush I use for dodging (big, feathered and light). A quick tap on the keypad brings each brush up, ready to use. Release the key and it deselects. No need to move the slider, select the brush, deselect and grab another brush. Just tap: A brush for burning. Another tap: a brush for dodging.

With cropping, burning and dodging, I do need to use my mouse to define the crop or paint the mask. These are the only times that I need to use the mouse. And instead of a mouse I use a trackball. I sit way back from my desk, trackball in one hand, key pad in the other and process an entire wedding while watching a legal thriller or two. (so sue me)

The icing on the cake is that I can change the keypad at any point to do something different. I can rearrange it on a whim. And if I use the keyboard differently at different times in my process (I do) then I can export the key layout, to recall at a moments notice.

If you do a ton of processing, this is a fantastic product.

p.s. nerd alert: while writing this review, I found out that the keys can be programmed to use with any application on your computer. And by “program” I mean: you drag an application over to the RPG software and drop it. Drag and Drop – ta-da!

About Andree

Andree Kehn has written 38 post in this blog.

Andree is a fun Bethel Maine Wedding Photographer, who specializes in contemporary photojournalism. She eats shoots and leaves.

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