An early peek at latest from The Turning Gate
UPDATED: Backlight has been released! You can view my test site here: http://backlight.barbeephoto.com/
As much as I love the The Turning Gate Lightroom Web Module plug-ins and all they can do, it can get frustrating using them in Lightroom. The problem is Lightroom. The Web Module just wasn’t made to handle all the features that the TTG plug-ins bring to the table. Yes, the web module does its job, but it sometime does it very slowly and not without a little complaining. And while I really like the concept of managing all of my photography from Lightroom, the Web Module has always been the bottleneck. It works, it just sometimes needs some patience. And there have been no signs from Adobe that things would improve; Adobe has never really shown much love for the Web Module, and who really knows if they’ll even keep it in Lightroom? So the guys at TTG have decided to cut the Web Module out of the loop, building a web application to take its place. This is Backlight.
Backlight is currently still in beta testing, with release target of the end of April or early May.
With Backlight, all the design and set up is done on-line through the web application and Lightroom is used only for managing albums and album sets through the TTG Publisher plug-in: No more going to the Web Module!
From the Backlight on-line interface, a photographer enters all the necessary information about the site, sets up access credentials, email, Publisher key, and more.
In the Design section, create templates for the overall look of your pages as well as templates to control the thumbnail layouts for album sets and the thumbnails and large image for albums. Layout options include full page and one or two sidebars. These sidebars can be placed on the left, right, or you can split them, one on either side of the page. Navigation can be placed below the header or in one of the sidebars.
Once the album and album set templates are made, they’ll be available in the Lightroom Publisher plug-in for use when creating albums and album sets.
The Backlight core consists of the Backlight framework and allows for creation of album sets and albums. This is ideal for those who only want to add image galleries to an existing site.
The optional Pages module can be used for creating an entire web site. With it, one can create as many all-purpose pages as needed. In these pages, you can insert contact forms, album sets, and albums. You can customize the page copy for the main copy area and sidebars. The copy areas accept plain text, Markdown, and HTML. These sidebar areas are the perfect place for including affiliate ads, sign up forms, etc. Just add the html that your affiliate program or email marketing sites provide.
Add pages to your site menu in the Menu Sets section. And yes, you can have more than one menu set so that you can assign unique navigation menus to different pages. If you’ve ever used WordPress, you know that arranging navigation, including sub-menu items, is easy. Backlight is just as easy.
I’ve been beta testing Backlight for several weeks and I can tell you that it is far and away much faster than designing in the Lightroom Web Module. In fact, you can see changes instantly by designing in one browser window while viewing in another. There’s even an auto-refresh feature just for this purpose. This makes experimenting with designs a lot more efficient too.
As I get used to the workflow, I’m finding it easier and more intuitive than using the Web Module plug-ins.
A typical workflow starts with creating a page template design. This involves selecting a page layout (number of columns), design for colors, typography, masthead, navigation footer, etc. as well as assigning a menu set to the page template. Once you've created this page template, you can use it on any page you create.
Then in the Pages module, create the actual page and assign to it the template you just created. Add words to the content areas. You can also insert an existing album set or album. Inserting a contact form is an additional option.
Once you’re done, add the page to your menu set.
For my work with Backlight, I have the site open in a browser on one monitor and the Backlight back-end open in another monitor. And as soon as Matt at The Turning Gate has a release candidate available, I’ll update this post with a link to my testing site. But for now, you can see what Matt’s put together here.
Backlight has an easy way to implement custom css and also carries on the phplugins ability to hook content in to pages at various locations. So if you’re a tinkerer, there will be plenty to tinker with beyond the built-in features.
Backlight installation is also easier than before. There’s just the online component and the Lightroom Publisher component.
Upon launch, the Backlight framework and the Pages module will be available. TTG plans on more to be available soon.
This has been just a quick rundown of some of what Backlight can do. For a more thorough introduction, see Matt’s first look blog post. And I'll be writing much more about Backlight over at my TTG Tips site, so be sure to pop over there on occasion.
And for those of you using the TTG CE4 set of plug-ins, don’t worry, TTG CE4 is still being supported and improved upon.