If you want to get enhanced search capabilities in Lightroom Classic you need to buy a plugin – Adobe Sensei search technology is only available in Lightroom CC.
Excire Search is a new plugin offering advanced search capabilities in Lightroom Classic which I will describe in this article.
Before I go on full disclosure
I was approached by Excire Search to trial this product, and I am an affiliate member, so if you click on my affiliate link and buy Excire Search I get a commission.
You can download a free version which you can try for 30 days here.
I had to get that out of the way first. What follows is all my own words and thoughts though – this is not an advert but my initial review of Excire Search.
I will provide a further review in three months, where I will provide an honest update on the product and how much I have used it, and what for.
What is Excire Search?
Excire Search is a plugin for Lightroom Classic. It is an extendable, content-based image retrieval engine.
Lightroom CC has Adobe’s Sensei search included. According to Adobe on their help pages
“Start typing in the search bar, and Lightroom CC automatically offers suggestions to help you quickly find what you need. Search for cameras, locations, and other metadata with ease. Also, your enabled filters are kept neatly organized in the search box. You can even search for a filter using its name (try ‘camera:').
Lightroom Classic does not have this functionality.
Why? Well I believe Adobe is keeping some of the good stuff for the cloud based products as that is where Adobe want us all in the future – with our photos online and us paying Adobe not only Creative Cloud subscriptions but also for cloud storage of our photos. Which is fair enough as far as I am concerned.
This arrangement however is not for me at this moment in time thank you very much.
So having decided to stay with Lightroom Classic, where my photos are stored on my own hard drives and therefore under my control and my responsibility how do I enhance search capabilities of all my images within Lightroom?
Excire Search is such a product.
What does Excire Search do?
Excire Search analyses your entire Lightroom catalogue, and lets you search by keyword, faces and even by reference image, finding similar images in your Lightroom catalogue.
Is it easy to install?
Yes it is. Just download the software, activate and follow the instructions. Initialisation in Lightroom is a straightforward process – what you have to remember is that this takes time.
But later on you will see exactly why it takes time – trust me on that!
How long did Excire Search take to initialise my entire Lightroom Catalogue?
Well I left it running overnight initially, and in the morning it had not finished. I don’t leave my PC running normally when I am out of the office, so I turned off my PC as I was out for the day and set it running when I got back to my office.
You can stop this initialisation any time you want to and start it again later – it just picks up where it left off which is good.
I left it Excire Search initialising overnight, and this time in the morning it was done.
So how long did it take? 2 overnights to initialise my entire catalogue, which contains over 60.000 photos.
And very importantly I need to say that all my photos are on an external hard drive – my set-up is not super quick.
What can I do with Excire?
These are the things that you can do with Excire Search.
- Search by keyword
- Search by example photo from your Lightroom Catalogue
- Search by example photos from your Lightroom Catalogue
- Search by external image – from a website etc
- Search by keywords
- Search by faces in an image
- Search images with different search options
- Add keywords automatically to images
Once you have initialised the software you can start searching images. You can search either your entire catalogue or a filmstrip, which I understand to be a collection.
Lets get straight into what Excire Search can do.
An example of a search
I selected this photo of the Acropolis of Rhodes (an unprocesed version I hasten to add).
I started a search by going through the menus in Lightroom – Library-Plug-In Extras – and this is what you see
The keyboard shortcuts you can see above
I went with Search by example photo – this is the screen that greets you next having selected an image.
The only thing I need to change here is the number of images – do I want 100 images? No 50 will do just fine.
Next I hit search.
And how long did this take, to analyse over 60,000 photos and identify the 50 best matches for the image I chose as the search subject?
Yes I timed the search using my iPhone.
And these are the results
Not bad. One thing to add here is that you need to ensure the Custom Order is selected, which sorts the results by best match first.
I think that Excire did a pretty fantastic job here, and in such a quick time.
I will say it again – all my photos are on an external hard drive, and my PC is a 2 year old Dell – so I am not talking of using cutting edge computer gear.
It brought up lots of different views of the Acropolis. Sure the results are not perfect, but I would not expect them to be.
What this search has done though is give me a selection of images taken of the same subject from different angles and from different years in less than 10 seconds, which is quite frankly remarkable.
Lets try another example. I will do this all the time – I want to see all the photos of a blue domed church roof. Not that I want to only ever see photos of blue domed church roofs but you get the idea!
This is the example photo
And here are the results.
Less than 10 seconds for all these photos of blue domed roofs – excellent!
I didn’t capture the exact time on this search….
Remember that the search can be of an entire catalogue or a filmstrip, which for me means collection.
Where are the results?
Rather cleverly the results appear in a new Lightroom Collection called Excire, which is automatically generated by the software. I think this is a really nice feature and excellent integration with Lightroom.
How accurate is Excire Search?
You have to remember to ensure that the image search is set to Custom, which equates to best match first.
Sure there are odd selections in there, but the best matches were just that, and gave me the results I wanted.
Why do I need Excire/ why should I buy it?
If you want the advanced search features listed above you will not find them in Lightroom then a plugin is the way to go.
Excire Search gives you automatic keywording and fast image research – all at a surprisingly fast speed.
How much does it cost?
Normal price is 99 Euro for the Search Pro version and 49 Euro for the Search version. Black Friday 55 and 33 Euro for 24 hours only.
And if you just want to try then you can download and use it for 30 days from this link here.
Is it a one-off purchase?
Yes once bought it is yours. Updates to the software are also free, but major upgrades and the addition of more features and functionality in the future will require a payment of some form.
Does Excire Search work with other software?
No – at the moment it is just a Lightroom plugin for WIndos and Mac. There will be a standalone desktop version scheduled for release April/ May 2019.
What are the alternatives to Excire Search?
The competitors are the search capabilities offered by Google and Apple, and of course the search capability offered by Adobe Sensei, which you can find in Lightroom CC.
But for Lightroom Classic, which is the Lightroom version used by the vast majority of professional and advanced photographers, I believe that Excire Search is the most advanced search plugin available at this moment in time.
What is the Pro version?
With the Pro version you can transfer the keywords that Excire Search has generated into your Lightroom Catalogue and they are as if you had entered them manually – this is a really cool feature if like me you have circa 50,000 photos without keywords!
The keywords will be attached to the file along with all the other metadata, and will go with the image when exported out of Lightroom.
I was going to do this straight away, but have not done so yet. My Lightroom Catalogue has taken over 10 years to assemble, so before I let some new software loose on my entire catalogue I want to reassure myself that this is going to be fine!
And I like the thought of keywords being added for me based on the content of a photo, as this is a process I will go through manually before exporting any image out of Lightroom for use anywhere apart from on my PC hard drive.
OK – that’s all good what is it actually useful for?
I know these things sound all very exciting, so I am going to tell you here what I expect to use the software for. And in three months I will tell you what I have learnt about the software, and what I have actually used it for.
Things that I have/ will use Excire search for
This is an exciting feature to me. If I can get keywords added to my images automatically then this will be a great time-saver for me.
Search by example image
I will use this all the time when I am looking for similar images. In fact I am already using this feature when I am collating sets of images. This feature alone would be enough for me to buy the software – it truly is an invaluable tool to me and the photographic work I do.
Search by colour
A feature I have been waiting some time for and now finally have which I am very excited about.
Search by keyword
I think I will find this useful; it depends on the generation of keywords. One for me to look into a bit more.
Adding more images to your Lightroom Catalogue
After initialising the catalogue all the images in the catalogue are added to Excire Search. When you import further images you have to go through the initialisation process again, but this is only to the new images.
Updating the initialisation after editing
And you might have to re-initialise photos if you have done significant levels of editing to them. Which if you think about it makes sense, as the software is using the content of the image to as the basis of some of the search functionality.
I haven’t done this yet, but apparently the software knows which photos need updating so you will not be going over the whole lot again.
I take lots of HDR images which are in stacks of three. I need to work out how to manage these stacks of images, as I normally create a new file when I am working on stacks of images.
Once I have added the keywords I will look into the issue of stacks of images and the creation of new images and see how best to manage this.
The same will apply to panoramas created in Lightroom by merging different images together.
Anyone taking time lapses will also need to think about this.
Excire Search sounded like one of those things that was very clever but would be of little use to me. But having learned about it and used it just a little I have found search capabilities that have transformed the way I work and find images for projects I am working on.
Will I use Excire Search as part of my day-to-day work? I will post an update in three months where we can see how much I am using it for, what I use it for and what benefits this powerful advanced Lightroom Classic search tool has given me and my photography business.