Lightroom Plug-In Finds Photos Quickly
Review by Rob Sylvan
Excire Search Pro is a plug-in for Lightroom Classic that uses proprietary AI and deep learning technology to analyze the contents of each photo in your library, thus enhancing your ability to find photos quickly and easily. I found the Excire installation straightforward, the supporting material on their website helpful, and the overall experience intuitive and useful.
Because it’s a plug-in, you access the Excire functions via the Library>Plug-in Extras menu. Keyboard shortcuts are displayed with all of the Excire menu commands that are worth learning. Before using the search functions, you’ll need to go through the process of initializing your photos. This is when Excire Search Pro analyzes your photos to determine the image properties (dominant color, bright, dark, etc.) and image content (animals, plants, people, food, and so on). Excire Search Pro has some 500 keywords it can assign to your photos. (There’s also a reduced functionality version of the plug-in, Excire Search, priced at $69 that uses 125 keywords.)
I first tested the plug-in on a smaller exported catalog before running it on my working catalog. The initialization process averaged close to 10,000 photos/hour (as listed on their website). As expected, older, lower-resolution photos processed faster, and newer, higher-resolution photos took longer. You can run the process on either the entire catalog, or just the source in the Filmstrip. I recommend giving the 15-day free trial a spin on an exported subset of your catalog to get a feel for it before committing. You can stop and start the initialization process as needed and, in the future, you’ll only need to run it on newly imported photos to include them in the search function.
The actual search functions are worth going through the initialization process even though Excire isn’t perfect. The most problematic issue I found was some inconsistency of tagging among batches of similar photos where not all of the photos were assigned the same keywords. Excire Search Pro does, however, perform at least as well as the cloud-based search in the new Lightroom CC, and it has several advantages over Lightroom CC. First, Excire Search Pro works in Lightroom Classic, which is great for those who wish it could have a similar search function. Second, Excire’s initialization process happens locally with the data stored in a special database alongside your Lightroom catalog, so you don’t need Internet to use it. Third and most importantly, Excire has additional tools beyond simple keyword searches to improve upon its results, and it even allows for the transfer of the Excire keywords to your Lightroom keyword list, if you wish.
There are three types of searches that Excire can perform: the keyword search already mentioned, a search by example photo, and a search for faces. Each search happens in a specialized modal dialog invoked from the Excire menu (or shortcut). The keyword search can be simple or a combination of image content and image properties. The faces search lets you combine criteria such as number of faces, age, gender, and smiling or not. The search by example photo can be a photo in your library or a photo on the Internet. These searches can be performed on your entire catalog or just the source in the Filmstrip. One way that the tool makes up for the inconsistencies in tagging mentioned earlier is that you can run one search, say keywords, on the entire catalog, and then pick the best result to use as an example photo to bring up all similar photos in the catalog. Searches are saved in either a collection that can be continuously overwritten by future Excire searches, or as unique saved collections, depending on your choice.
For maximum control, Excire Search Pro also gives you the ability to transfer the auto-assigned keywords from the Excire database to your Classic catalog’s keyword list. Then you can ensure that all photos are tagged correctly by removing unwanted keywords and inserting correct keywords in a consistent manner. Obviously, this gets into a manual process, but this could be just the boost you need to get the job done. Watching the video tutorials on the website will help you get the most out of the search functions. ■