Photos App Interference

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Today’s Question: When I import photos to Lightroom, Apple’s Photos application opens. I cannot find an option in preferences for Photos to have it not open when I import photos. Your help will be appreciated.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The only truly effective solution here is to remove the Photos app from your computer. Otherwise you will continue to experience this frustration in certain circumstances.

More Detail: The Photos application included with newer versions of the Macintosh operating system actually includes a setting that can be used to disable the import. The problem is that this setting doesn’t work properly for many scenarios.

When importing from an actual device (such as an iPhone) you can turn off the “Open Photos for this device” checkbox toward the top-left of the Photos interface to prevent the Photos app from launching when you connect that device.

However, for media cards inserted into a card reader, this option doesn’t actually work in most cases, because reformatting the card in your camera will cause the card to appear as a different device.

Therefore, the only true fix for this issue is to remove the Photos application altogether. As long as you aren’t using Photos to manage any images outside of your normal workflow, this is a perfectly good solution. Simply go to the Applications folder and move the Photos application to the trash. You will then no longer see the Photos application when importing photos to Lightroom.

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Adding Transparency

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Today’s Question: Is there any way to paint in transparency on part of an image in Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, sort of. Transparency in an image really means that pixels have been erased (or partially erased). To streamline the overall process with a non-destructive workflow, I recommend “bundling” all layers for the image into a new layer group, and then using a layer mask with that layer group to paint transparency where it is wanted in the overall image.

More Detail: Many photographers choose to employ transparency in an image for a variety of reasons. For example, including transparency around a key subject in a photo can enable you to place the resulting image on a web page or in certain documents, so that the background color or texture appears in the transparent areas.

If you are printing it is probably easier to simply add white in the areas where you would otherwise want transparency, since white won’t actually be printed and thus produces the same effect as transparency would.

In some cases adding transparency can be very simple. But since there are a number of variables related to how many layers you might have as well as the type of layers involved, I recommend an approach employing a layer group that will work under virtually all circumstances.

To get started, you’ll want to be sure that the Background image layer has been converted to a “normal” layer. To do so, simply double-click the thumbnail for the Background image layer on the Layers panel and click OK in the New Layer dialog that appears.

Next, select all of the layers on the layers panel by clicking on the bottom-most layer (the layer that had been the Background image layer) and then hold the Shift key on the keyboard while clicking on the top-most layer on the Layers panel. Then click the panel popup menu at the top-right of the Layers panel and choose “New Group from Layers” from the popup menu. This will create a new layer group that contains all of your existing layers.

At this point you can add a layer mask to the layer group by clicking the “Add Layer mask” button (the circle inside of a rectangle icon) at the bottom of the Layers panel. You can then use the Brush tool to paint with black on the layer mask in areas where you want to add transparency.

If you are only creating this transparency to have white areas in part of the image (such as to have the image fade to white at the outer edges), you may find it easier to add a single layer for this purpose. Start by clicking on the thumbnail for the top-most layer on the Layers panel. You can then, for example, click the “Create Adjustment Layer” button (the half-black/half-white circle icon) at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose “Solid Color” from the popup menu. In the Color Picker dialog that appears, choose white as the color and click OK.

You will now have a white layer that completely covers the image. To hide this white layer from the entire image, click on the thumbnail for the layer mask associated with the Solid Color adjustment layer and then choose Image > Adjustments > Invert from the menu. The layer mask will now be filled with black, blocking the white layer from the entire image.

To paint the white pixels into the image to create the equivalent of transparency for your print, you can now use the Brush tool to paint on the layer mask with white in areas where you want the white pixels created by the Solid Color adjustment layer to be visible.

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Colored Filters for Digital

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Today’s Question: In the past when shooting black and white film, adding a yellow/red filter darkened an over-exposed sky. Would adding a filter to a digital image and then converting to black and white have the same result?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While there would be some effect achieved with a colored filter with a digital capture, the effect will not be the same in most cases as what you would have achieved with black and white film. Therefore, my recommendation would be to save those effects for post-processing.

More Detail: To begin with, digital sensors respond differently than black and white films. For example, most digital camera sensors employ colored filters so that each individual photo site on the sensor (which will become pixels in the final image) have a colored filter so that each is only capturing a relatively narrow range of light values from the scene. With most sensors that means some pixels are only recording red light, some are only recording green light, and some are only recording blue light.

In other words, the camera isn’t exactly capturing a color image, but isn’t exactly capturing a black and white image either. A colored filter can produce results that are different from what you would achieve with film, and that in many respects would not be in line with your intent.

In addition, the camera will attempt to compensate for the presence of the colored filter with changes to the white balance setting (temperature and tint) for the capture. So in some ways you could say the camera is trying to reverse the behavior of the colored filter.

Because of these (and other) issues, I recommend saving your black and white conversion and related adjustments for post-processing. Set an exposure in the camera that preserves detail in the highlights, and then apply adjustments to the resulting image. You can, for example, apply an adjustment to darken only the blue values in the image, without affecting the other color values.

While a colored filter might provide a “shortcut” in theory, you’ll find that in actual practice it is better to use adjustments after the capture (and even presets as a good starting point) to achieve the effect you’re familiar with based on using colored filters with black and white film photography.

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Printer Calibration Frequency

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Today’s Question: You said in a post recently that we can get by with calibrating our displays every six months if we have a newer monitor. What about syncing the calibration of the display and printer? Does it need to be done and if so, how often?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You don’t actually need to “synchronize” the calibration of your monitor, but it can be a good idea to create (or otherwise obtain) new printer profiles periodically.

More Detail: When calibrating a monitor display or building a printer profile, you’re creating a profile that serves to compensate for the specific behavior of your monitor or a specific printer, ink, and paper combination. If the “behavior” of the monitor display or printer changes, naturally you’ll want to update the profile so that you’re compensating for the updated behavior.

Today’s digital monitor displays are quite stable, so the primary issue generally relates to the illumination source fading over time. As noted in a previous edition of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, in general if you re-calibrate your monitor display about every six months you should maintain an accurate display. That frequency should increase as the display gets beyond a few years of use.

For a specific printer, ink, and paper combination, the behavior doesn’t exactly change over time. Instead, the most common causes of inaccuracy are changes in the formulation of the ink or paper that you might not be aware of.

As a result, it is a good idea to check for updated profiles periodically, or to create a new one if you’re building your own printer profiles. If you update your printer drivers or learn that the formulation of the inks or papers you use has changed, obviously you should obtain or build an updated profile at that time. But since you may not always learn about such changes, it is a good idea to update your printer profiles periodically.

In theory you would of course want to build or otherwise obtain updated printer profiles if you notice a change in the appearance of your prints. But a sudden and somewhat significant change in the appearance of printed output generally means something else went wrong, such as clogged nozzles or an incorrect software setting.

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Keyword Capitalization

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Today’s Question: Lightroom (version 5.6) keeps refusing to capitalize some of my keywords. What’s going on here? And is there a way to teach Lightroom to do what I tell it to do?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This issue appears to have been fixed with a recent Lightroom update (perhaps with version 6 or a little later). However, when the issue occurs, you can resolve the unwanted “correction” by changing the keyword in the Edit Keyword Tag dialog.

More Detail: The behavior described in today’s question has always been a bit of a mystery to me. There didn’t always seem to be a clear reason for why the capitalization would be removed from some keywords but not others.

I’ve also not been able to reproduce this issue with more recent updates to Lightroom, so I believe the behavior was changed in about version 6 or later.

I should add, by the way, that when you are searching for keywords within Lightroom that search is not case sensitive. So the only real reason to correct these keywords is because you want them to appear correctly within Lightroom and the metadata for your photos. That’s certainly a valid reason (and one I fully endorse!), but it is worth noting that these keyword alterations won’t prevent you from locating specific images.

In any event, there is a solution that in my experience has always enabled you to change any keywords that have been altered by Lightroom. To do so, first right-click on the applicable keyword in the Keyword List section of the right panel in the Library module. Then choose “Edit Keyword Tag” from the popup list, and change the keyword in the Edit Keyword Tag dialog.

When you click the Save button in the Edit Keyword Tag dialog, you will not only change the applicable keyword tag, but also change the actual keyword in metadata for all photos that had that keyword tag assigned.

In this particular example the issue relates to keywords that have been changed by Lightroom. But the same approach of using the Edit Keyword Tag dialog provides an excellent solution for any keyword that needs to be changed, such as if you spelled a keyword incorrectly upon initially adding that keyword. The Edit Keyword Tag dialog allows you to alter a keyword across your entire Lightroom catalog, essentially allowing you to update a given keyword for multiple photos at one time.

When using the Edit Keyword Tag dialog, the only word of caution I would add is that you’ll want to make sure you truly want to change the keyword for all of the photos that include that keyword. In other words, this feature is most helpful for situations where you need to change a keyword that is completely wrong, not a keyword that was applied incorrectly to certain images but that is still accurate for other images.

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Import Source

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Today’s Question: After a shoot I download my images to the Desktop of my Mac and then rename that folder (just temporarily as it will be deleted shortly). I cull using Photo Mechanic and then open Lightroom CC so I can import these images. When I click Import, under source I see all drives hooked up to my Mac. I then have to navigate through various folders to get to the folder on my desktop. Is there a way to make the Desktop the default source I see when I press the import button to avoid the extra work?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are two options that will help you work more efficiently here. The first is to create an Import preset, though this won’t solve the issue for all circumstances. The second is to use a quick shortcut in the Import dialog to navigate to the Desktop (or any recently used source).

More Detail: The challenge with creating an Import preset for this purpose is that it won’t always work. If there is a removable drive containing photos connected to the computer (which could even be a smartphone connected to the computer), the Import will always default to that source of photos for import.

In any event, if you don’t generally have a removable drive with photos connected to your computer, an Import preset can be a big help here. Start by going to the Import dialog and configuring all of the settings as desired, such as to set the source location to the Desktop folder.

Then click the popup at the bottom of the Import dialog, just to the right of center. Choose “Save Current Settings as New Preset” from this popup. In the dialog that appears you can then name the new preset and save it.

This preset will remain selected for future import operations, as long as you don’t change to a different preset at a later date. That means, for example, that the Desktop folder will be the default source of your import, but again if a removable drive with photos is connected, that will become the source instead of the Desktop.

However, there is also a quick shortcut for navigating to the Desktop for the source location. At the top-left of the Import dialog is the “Select a source” header. Many photographers mistake this as simply being a header label, but it is actually a popup. You can click on this popup and choose among a variety of common sources for importing images (such as the Desktop or the Pictures folder). In addition, there will be a list of recently used source locations. So by clicking this folder, you could (for example), choose the Desktop option to quickly navigate to the desktop.

Taking that a step further, if you always use the same folder name for the “temporary” folder you’re using for culling images before importing into Lightroom, that folder name would be listed on the “recent” list under “Select a source”, so you could always choose that same folder location as the source of import.

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Exporting RAW

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Today’s Question: If I export a Lightroom edited photo in the RAW format, are the edited changes retained in the exported file?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, in a manner of speaking, the adjustments you apply in Lightroom will be retained if you export a RAW capture in the “Original” RAW capture format. Just keep in mind that the actual adjustment settings will be stored within an XMP “sidecar” file, not within the copy of the RAW capture created as part of this process.

More Detail: When you use the “Original” option from the Image Format popup in the File Settings section of the Export dialog in Lightroom, the selected file (or files) will be copied to the destination you defined in the Export Location section. That means, for example, that JPEG images will be exported as a JPEG copy, and that original RAW captures will be copied in the same original RAW capture format.

Interestingly, for non-RAW captures when you use the “Original” option for exporting the adjustments you’ve applied in Lightroom’s Develop module are not included in the copy of the image created as part of that export process. So, for example, if you apply a conversion from color to black and white for a JPEG capture within your Lightroom catalog, if you export that image using the “Original” option you will create a JPEG image that is in color rather than black and white.

For RAW captures, however, the adjustments are included with the copy of the image file being created during the export process. Because the files being exported are proprietary RAW captures, however, the Develop adjustments are not included within the actual RAW capture. In other words, the RAW capture is a copy of the original capture, but an XMP sidecar file is included along with the copy of the RAW capture, containing the adjustments from Lightroom.

In other words, if you export a JPEG image from Lightroom with the “Original” option, the adjustments from within Lightroom will not be included. However, if you export a RAW capture with the “Original” option, the adjustment settings will be included in an XMP sidecar file.

So, if you then open the exported RAW capture in Photoshop, that image will be opened via Adobe Camera Raw, and the adjustment settings contained within the XMP sidecar file will be used as the basis for the initial settings within Adobe Camera Raw. Of course, you could also discard the XMP sidecar file if you truly want to access the original capture without any adjustments applied.

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Moving a Catalog

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Today’s Question: Can a [Lightroom] catalog currently on an external drive just be moved to a location on an internal drive, removing the catalog file from the external drive? Will this create a problem?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can indeed move a catalog to a different location, such as from an external hard drive to an internal hard drive. As long as you move the entire folder containing the catalog, you’ll be able to re-open that catalog after moving it, with no problems at all.

More Detail: The files associated with your Lightroom catalog can be stored on an internal or external hard drive, and you can move the catalog files from one location to another as needed. Naturally I don’t recommend moving your catalog on a regular basis, as doing so can lead to a degree of confusion in your workflow. But if circumstances warrant moving a catalog, it can most certainly be done.

The process of moving your Lightroom catalog is relatively straightforward. First you need to know where the catalog folder actually is, which you can determine in the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom. Then close Lightroom, at which point you can move the folder containing your catalog files.

Out of an abundance of caution, I recommend copying the folder containing your catalog files (rather than moving it) and then renaming the original version to make it clear that it is now just a backup copy of your catalog. For example, you could add the word “BACKUP” to the beginning of the folder name for the original folder after you’ve copied that folder to a new location.

Once you have the catalog folder in the new location, you can launch Lightroom. You’ll receive an indication that the catalog couldn’t be found, since you’ve moved (or renamed) the folder containing the catalog files Lightroom is looking for. Simply direct Lightroom to open the catalog file (the file with the “lrcat” filename extension) from the new location and you’ll be back to working with your catalog, even though the catalog has been moved.

Note that the catalog references the specific location for all of your photos. When you move a catalog, that catalog will still reference the original location for your photos. So as long as you haven’t moved any photos outside the context of Lightroom, after you open a newly moved catalog, all of your photos will still be right where Lightroom expects to find them.

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Noise Options

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Today’s Question: For nighttime shooting with high ISO and/or longer exposures, what produces better results regarding noise: in-camera settings to reduce noise or dedicated software for noise removal?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While results will vary among different cameras, in general I have found that “black frame” long exposure noise reduction in the camera provides an advantage, but other in-camera noise reduction options are generally inferior to the use of software for reducing noise after the capture.

More Detail: For most cameras there are two basic noise reduction options available in the camera. The first is “black frame” long exposure noise reduction, and in general I have found the use of this option to be advantageous.

The main disadvantage is that this option will double the time required to capture a photo. That’s because this type of noise reduction operates by capturing a second exposure of the same duration but with the shutter closed. This creates a black capture is then used by the camera to remove the noise in the actual exposure based on the noise patterns in the black frame.

In my experience the other in-camera noise reduction options produce results that are inferior to what is possible with the best noise reduction software. In addition, for many cameras this option will only apply to JPEG captures, not RAW captures. In any event, I prefer not to take advantage of this type of in-camera noise reduction.

Again, the results will vary from one camera to the next, so it is worthwhile to perform some testing with your own camera to see how it performs. By testing the noise behavior of your camera you can determine which in-camera settings are best used, and also get a sense of the relative noise levels at different ISO settings.

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Auto ISO

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Today’s Question: What are your thoughts about the use of the Automatic setting for ISO?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My personal preference is to not use Auto ISO, but I certainly recognize that some photographers find it to be a convenient way to help ensure they are always using an adequately fast shutter speed.

More Detail: Most cameras that feature an Auto ISO option also enable you to set an upper limit for the ISO setting. This would enable you to ensure that the ISO will only go as high as you are comfortable with in terms of noise in your final image. That certainly mitigates my primary concern about Auto ISO, which is that the ISO will be set higher than I would like it to be.

That said, I still prefer not to use Auto ISO simply because I prefer to establish a fixed setting for ISO based on the current lighting conditions. When the light changes significantly or my preferences for the overall exposure settings change, I’ll dial in a new ISO setting. But in general I simply prefer to make a conscious decision about changing the ISO setting, rather than having the camera make that decision for me.

But again, I don’t think there is anything wrong with using the Auto ISO setting if you find it to be helpful in your photography, provided you set an upper limit for the ISO based on the noise behavior of your camera, and that you monitor the actual ISO setting that the camera is establishing for your images.

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