PSD Compatibility

Today’s Question: An earlier question related to concerns about not being able to open PSD files in the future. It has been my plan to switch to Photoshop Elements when my Photoshop CS6 is no longer serviceable. That, of course, assumes that Elements can read the .psd format. Is that a valid assumption?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Photoshop Elements is able to open Photoshop PSD files, but with a couple of significant caveats. Layers for a 16-bit image would not be supported, and features not supported in Photoshop Elements would not be available if they are included in the PSD file created in Photoshop.

More Detail: If your primary concern is simply being able to access your PSD images without necessarily having access to the layers, you can open a flattened version of the PSD image to retain the 16-bit per channel version of the photo without layers. You can also convert the layered image to the 8-bit per channel mode to retain the layers. Both of these options will be presented if you open a 16-bit per channel PSD image with layers using Photoshop Elements.

If you choose to convert the bit depth to 8-bit per channel in order to retain the layers for the PSD image, it is important to keep in mind that features from Photoshop that are not available in Photoshop Elements will still not be available. You would simply see a placeholder layer, for example, with no ability to make changes.

So, for example, if your PSD file contains a Curves adjustment or a Vibrance adjustment, since those adjustment layers are not available in Photoshop Elements you would see a placeholder adjustment layer within Photoshop Elements, but you would not be able to make changes to the settings for those adjustment layers.

In other words, the bottom line is that Photoshop Elements can serve as a good “emergency” fallback way to access images that have been saved in the Photoshop PSD format, but there is a very good chance you will lose access to many of the adjustments and other features you took advantage of originally for the image in Photoshop.

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Adobe DNG Converter

Today’s Question: I’m surprised that you didn’t recommend converting to DNG so it could be processed as a RAW, and not an image format.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I’m surprised too. In yesterday’s email regarding updated support in Photoshop for new RAW capture formats, I should have mentioned that the Adobe DNG Converter (which is free) can be used to convert new RAW formats to the Adobe DNG format so those DNG files can, in turn, be processed with older versions of Adobe Camera Raw.

More Detail: In yesterday’s email I addressed the issue of Adobe Camera Raw (and Lightroom) not supporting new RAW capture formats. There are two elements to this. Even with the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw, support for new RAW capture formats takes a little bit of time (generally a month or so, but usually not more than about three months after the release of the new RAW capture format).

Furthermore, older versions of Photoshop (before the CS6 version) are no longer being updated at all with support for the newest RAW capture formats. That is why I mentioned that an upgrade to Photoshop CS6 or Photoshop CC would be necessary to ensure support for the latest RAW capture formats.

However, I should have mentioned that the Adobe DNG Converter provides a workaround for this issue. Just like Adobe Camera Raw, support for the latest RAW capture formats in Adobe Camera Raw requires a little bit of time. So taking this approach doesn’t provide support for a new RAW capture format any faster than you would get that support in the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw (or Lightroom).

However, with the Adobe DNG Converter you can continue to use an older version of Photoshop to process your newer RAW captures. The Adobe DNG Converter is a free download, and allows you to convert your RAW captures to the Adobe DNG format. You can then process those DNG files in an older version of Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom, even if the original RAW capture was in a newer format not supported by your software version.

You can download the free Adobe DNG Converter (and get more information about this tool) through the Adobe website here:

https://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/digital-negative.html#downloads

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New RAW Format

Today’s Question: I just bought a new Nikon model, the D5500, only to discover that Photoshop/Adobe Camera RAW has not been updated to process that camera’s RAW files. What is the best procedure until Adobe’s software is updated: use Nikon’s software to process the RAW image, then convert it into a tiff to finish up in Photoshop? — or convert the image into a TIFF immediately and then open it with Photoshop’s Camera RAW? (I don’t know if it affects your answer, but I use Photoshop CS5.)

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are two issues here. You will need to upgrade your software if you want to be able to process RAW captures with your new camera using Photoshop. If you don’t want to upgrade, you’ll need to process your RAW captures with other software (such as Nikon’s software) before opening the images in Photoshop.

More Detail: Adobe is no longer updating Adobe Camera Raw for Photoshop CS5 or earlier. In order to get support for the latest camera RAW formats in Photoshop, you will therefore need to upgrade to Photoshop CS6 or to the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop. With the Photography Plan subscription you will gain access to both Photoshop CC and Lightroom, with ongoing updates to both during your subscription.

If you choose not to upgrade to a newer version of Photoshop, you will need to find a different workflow. And, of course, while you’re waiting for Adobe to update Adobe Camera Raw to support the new RAW capture format for your camera, you’ll need to adopt this sort of workaround solution in any event.

The basic approach here would involve using RAW-processing software to convert the RAW captures to a TIFF file, and then open that resulting TIFF image in Photoshop. My recommendation is to take advantage of the RAW-processing step to apply at least basic adjustments to optimize the resulting image. In general I favor the software provided by the camera manufacturer for RAW processing, though there are other options available as well.

This issue of “delayed” RAW support can be a little frustrating for Photoshop users, as it adds an extra step to your workflow. It is even more challenging for Lightroom users, however, because you aren’t able to work with the unsupported RAW captures within Lightroom. You therefore need to create derivative TIFF images for the short term, and then “revert” back to the original RAW captures once Lightroom is updated with support for your new camera.

Unfortunately, since camera manufacturers continue to update the RAW capture formats used by new cameras, this sort of workflow challenge is likely to remain with us for some time.

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Camera Raw Options

Today’s Question: Regarding Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop’s Camera RAW filter — what is the difference? I usually open Photoshop, then select Browse in Bridge. When I then open a RAW image, which processor am I using? When I open an unlayered TIFF image using that procedure, a Camera RAW dialog box automatically appears — is that Adobe’s Camera RAW or Photoshop’s filter?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The basic difference here is one of timing. Adobe Camera Raw is a tool for processing RAW captures, though it is also able to process TIFF and JPEG images with the same adjustments. The Camera Raw Filter in Photoshop provides the same set of adjustments, but for images that have already been opened in Photoshop (and therefore have already been converted from the original RAW capture format if applicable).

More Detail: The Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) feature in Photoshop was originally a plug-in that was added on so that RAW capture formats could be converted to a proper pixel-based image format using Photoshop. Prior to the release of ACR, it was necessary to process your RAW captures using other software before working on your images in Photoshop.

More recently, Adobe updated ACR to enable it to open and process TIFF and JPEG images, in addition to RAW captures. Obviously if you process a TIFF or JPEG image in ACR you aren’t achieving the benefits of working with a RAW capture, but this support provided some benefits for a streamlined workflow. In your case this option is enabled, which is why your TIFF image is being opened via Adobe Camera Raw upon opening in Photoshop, even though ACR is not actually required for opening a TIFF image.

Even more recently, Photoshop CC was updated to include a Camera Raw Filter, which features all of the adjustments available in ACR, which can be applied to any image you can open in Photoshop. This primarily provides a workflow advantage for those who are more comfortable with the ACR adjustments compared to other options in Photoshop. It also provides a benefit in terms of improved adjustment options, such as noise reduction that is better than the other filters included in Photoshop.

So, again, the core difference here is that RAW captures would need to be processed by ACR upon opening the image in Photoshop, while the Camera Raw Filter can be used with any image already opened in Photoshop.

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Expose to the Right

Today’s Question: Recently there have been articles and books about exposing raw captures far to the right in order to get better shadow details. Some authors suggest exposing so far to the right that the initial unprocessed raw file looks milky white with blown out highlights that are then brought back into proper exposure using the exposure slider in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom. Can you comment on this practice and what types of images might benefit from “extreme” exposure to the right then “recovery” in the raw converter?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The recommendation to “expose to the right” does have merit. By exposing an image as brightly as possible without losing detail in the brightest highlights, you are maximizing information and minimizing noise. There is a potential disadvantage to workflow efficiency, but you are also maximizing potential detail and image quality with this approach.

More Detail: While there is a potential benefit to exposing to the right, this approach shouldn’t be perceived as a cure for all potential issues related to image quality. My personal approach is to aim for an exposure where the right end of the histogram display reaches into the right-most section of the display (which is generally divided into four or five sections). But if I’m photographing a scene that has a very low dynamic range, I don’t apply an extreme exposure compensation because none of the tonal values will reach into the darkest range of the histogram in the first place.

Achieving the brightest exposure possible won’t have a dramatic impact on image quality under normal circumstances, where you have achieved a good exposure and you won’t need to brighten the shadow areas significantly. If you are already shooting at the minimum ISO setting for your camera, there is good light illuminating the scene, and you have established a good exposure that will require minimal adjustment after the capture, you can expect very good quality.

Therefore, when all is said and done, I treat the “expose to the right” concept as one that represents a good general habit to be in. I tend toward brighter exposures, but don’t stress about using this approach under all circumstances for every photo I capture.

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Removing Moiré

Today’s Question: If a photographer opts to purchase a camera that is not equipped with a Low Pass Filter, is there a way to remove moire effects in Photoshop if they should appear in some images?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, there are several options available when it comes to removing moiré patterns in Photoshop. The first approach would be to avoid them in the first place, of course, by adjusting focal length or other capture settings. But you can also reduce the appearance of moiré patterns using Adobe Camera Raw, the Camera Raw filter, or a simple blur applied selectively to the image.

More Detail: To begin with, you can generally avoid moiré patterns in the first place if you are aware of their potential. Simply by changing the focal length of the lens (if you are using a zoom lens), or changing the lens aperture, you can eliminate the interference patterns that cause moiré patterns. If you’re using a camera without a low pass filter you will obviously be aware of the potential risk, but you also need to evaluate the scene to determine whether there is fine texture that may lead to moiré patterns. Reviewing the images at a relatively high magnification on the camera’s LCD display will allow you to determine if the current camera settings are causing moiré patterns, and you can take steps to adjust your capture settings to avoid those patterns.

If you are processing a RAW capture that contains moiré patterns, you can use Adobe Camera Raw (or by extension, Lightroom’s Develop module) to reduce the appearance of these patterns. Simply select the Adjustment Brush, making sure that all of the adjustments are at their default values. Then increase the value for Moire Reduction to the maximum value of 100, and paint on the image in the area where the moiré patterns appear. You can then reduce the value for Moire Reduction to the minimum level required to remove the interference patterns.

The same adjustments referenced above can also be found in the Camera Raw filter if you are using Photoshop CC for a non-RAW capture (or a RAW capture that had already been processed). Simply choose Filter > Camera Raw Filter from the menu, and use the same controls referenced above.

If you are using an older version of Photoshop without the benefit of the Adjustment Brush in Adobe Camera Raw (or the Camera Raw Filter), you can also apply a selective blur to the image. For example, you can create a copy of the Background image layer by dragging the thumbnail for that layer to the Create New Layer button (the blank sheet of paper icon) at the bottom of the Layers panel. Then choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and apply just as much blur as is needed to remove the appearance of the moiré patterns.

Next, add an inverted layer mask to the Background Copy layer you created by holding the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while clicking the Add Layer Mask button (the circle-inside-a-square icon) at the bottom of the Layers panel. This will add a layer mask that is filled with black, so the blurred version of the image will disappear. Then use the Brush tool with a soft-edged brush to paint with white into the areas where the moiré patterns appear, so that the blur effect only applies to those areas of the image.

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Losing Metadata

Today’s Question: I add metadata to my photos in Adobe Bridge then import the photos into Lightroom and place them on the map [in the Map module, to add GPS location information to metadata for the photos]. Later I may go back and add more keywords in Bridge. When I bring up those particular photos in Lightroom, the icon comes up on the photo for  “Import Settings from Disk” which I do. But that causes the map icon to disappear on those photos and I have to place them on the map again. I wonder what is causing the map icon to disappear and whether those photos are really being removed from the Lightroom map?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The workflow you’re using is causing the metadata from Adobe Bridge to replace the metadata in Lightroom, causing you to lose all of the metadata that was only added in Lightroom. Put simply, I recommend only adding keywords or metadata from within Lightroom once you’ve imported photos into Lightroom.

More Detail: By default, Lightroom only stores metadata for your photos in the Lightroom catalog. Therefore, when you update metadata using Adobe Bridge for a photo that is already in the Lightroom catalog, there is a mismatch. Lightroom is only looking at the catalog, while Bridge is updating the XMP sidecar file for your RAW captures (or the actual image file in the case of other file types).

There are two possible solutions to avoid this mismatch situation, but I really only recommend the first option.

The first option is to avoid the mismatch altogether by using Lightroom as the exclusive tool for updating any metadata for your photos once those images have been imported into your Lightroom catalog. This is the approach I recommend, as it helps ensure you will avoid a wide variety of potential challenges related to the organization of your photos. Taking this a step further, I recommend that all work related to your photos should start within Lightroom. If you always treat Lightroom as the foundation of your workflow, you’ll avoid many of the challenges photographers run into, such as missing images, missing folders, metadata mismatches, and more.

The second approach is to have Lightroom automatically update the metadata for the files actually stored on the hard drive. With this approach the Lightroom catalog will still be updated to reflect all changes. However, in addition, Lightroom will write the updates to the XMP sidecar file for your RAW captures (or to the actual image file for other file types). This will not eliminate the metadata mismatch, but it will help ensure you don’t lose the GPS location information when you update your images in Lightroom based on what you changed in Bridge.

While I prefer to turn on the option to automatically update the XMP sidecar file for RAW captures (which can be found on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom), I still very highly recommend that you only update metadata within Lightroom for images that are being managed by Lightroom.

So, stop updating metadata in Adobe Bridge after you’ve imported photos into Lightroom, and your workflow will function much more smoothly.

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Coated Matte Paper?

Today’s Question: You said “especially uncoated matte papers” [in a recent Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter on the topic of sharpening a photo for printing]. I thought all matte papers would be uncoated. Can you explain the differences?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Some matte papers do indeed include a special coating that provides a matte surface that takes on some of the behaviors of a glossy photo paper.

More Detail: While glossy papers have an obvious coating that enables the inks to “sit on top” of the paper, many matte papers also have a coating. The only difference is that the coating used on matte papers isn’t as “shiny”, so that the paper retains a matte appearance. The benefit of that coating can be tremendous in terms of the amount of saturation, detail, and even dynamic range you’re able to achieve with these matte papers.

The key challenge for an uncoated matte paper is that the inks get absorbed somewhat significantly by the paper. The result is a relatively dull appearance, with reduced contrast, reduced saturation, and lower dynamic range. By using special coatings with a mate paper surface, the inks will stay closer to the paper surface and will spread out less, helping achieve a result that is closer to what you would expect on a glossy (or semi-gloss paper) without the shiny appearance.

In some cases you may prefer the look of an uncoated matte paper, but I generally find that I prefer coated matte papers since they provide some of the benefits of a glossy surface while maintaining the aesthetic appeal of a matte paper.

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PSD File Size “Trick”

Today’s Question: Does this technique make sense? “Placing a blank, white layer atop a .PSD can cut the file size in half?”

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, not really. This “trick” may have worked in older versions of Photoshop (or the person who tested it wasn’t being very methodical), but I’ve not been able to reproduce the effect in recent versions of Photoshop. But regardless, the real issue here (from what I can gather) is the “Maximize Compatibility” setting in Preferences, which when enabled will approximately double the base file size for PSD images.

More Detail: When I read about this technique, I immediately suspected the underlying issue related to the Maximize Compatibility option. Specifically, the white layer atop the stack of layers on the Layers panel would cause the preview for the image to be entirely white, which would result in a preview that compresses better and thus produces a smaller overall file size.

However, that approach would completely defeat the whole purpose of having the Maximize Compatibility feature turned on in the first place. The reason the Maximize Compatibility option causes the file size to double (compared to a flattened original image) is that this option causes a full-resolution composite preview of the image to be embedded. This allows other applications to see the actual appearance of the image without having to understand the various underlying layers that are specific to Photoshop.

However, rather than using this “trick”, you can simply turn off the Maximize Compatibility option in the first place. That way, rather than having a blank white preview you will have no preview at all, causing the file size to be approximately half of what it otherwise would have been with Maximize Compatibility turned on.

Keep in mind, however, that by turning off Maximize Compatibility for the PSD files you save, you won’t be able to see previews of those images with other applications that might otherwise be able to show a preview. You also won’t be able to import PSD files into Lightroom if Maximize Compatibility is turned off.

You can choose whether you want the Maximize Compatibility option enabled in the File Handling section of the Preferences dialog in Photoshop. I generally leave the option set to “Ask” so I can choose whether to enable Maximize Compatibility based on how I’ll be using the PSD file.

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Raw Filter versus Conversion

Today’s Question: What is the difference in effect on my image between making an adjustment in Camera Raw while in Bridge versus making the same adjustment with the Camera Raw filter after the image file is in Photoshop?  Is the adjustment better done in Bridge?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The basic effect applied to the images is the same whether you’re using Adobe Camera Raw to process an image or the Camera Raw filter in Photoshop. The key difference is that when processing a RAW capture in Adobe Camera Raw, you are taking advantage of the benefits of some of the adjustments being applied as part of the RAW conversion process. In other words, in both cases you are applying the same adjustments, but you are applying them to different data.

More Detail: As you may be aware, when you capture a RAW image the source file only contains one value for each pixel. In other words, for each pixel in the capture, only a red, green, or blue value is recorded (with some exceptions). The process of “filling in the gaps” is referred to as demosaicing, and there are benefits to including adjustments as part of this process in terms of retaining detail and improving quality.

Therefore, I highly recommend applying at least basic tonal and color adjustments during the conversion of the RAW capture, to ensure the best starting point for your image. In many respects I think it is reasonable to compare the RAW conversion process to the original capture. Just as you want to ensure the best initial capture, being careful to produce a good result from a RAW conversion can have a big impact on the final image.

The Camera Raw filter in Photoshop simply provides the same basic adjustments found in Adobe Camera Raw for images that have already been processed from a RAW capture to actual pixel values. You can therefore use the Camera Raw filter at any time while working on your photo to apply adjustments if you are more comfortable with the options available in Camera Raw compared to the other adjustment options found in Photoshop.

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