Opening an Old Lightroom Catalog


Today’s Question: After reading how to merge several Lightroom Classic catalogs, my friend asked if she could merge a couple of pre- Classic catalogs to a new Classic catalog. My guess is that she would need to open and update the old catalogs to Classic first. Would that be the way to go?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can indeed merge a catalog from an older version of Lightroom Classic (including versions before the name was changed to “Classic”), into your current catalog. You simply need to upgrade the old catalog first, as you suggested, which is a very simple process.

More Detail: As I’ve addressed in the past, it is possible to merge multiple Lightroom Classic catalogs into a single “master” catalog, which can greatly help to streamline your overall workflow.

Fortunately, even if some of your catalogs were created with older versions of Lightroom Classic (even from before “Classic” was added to the name), you can still merge those catalogs into a master catalog that is already updated to the latest version of Lightroom Classic.

The only “extra” step involved in the process is to upgrade the older catalog to the format for your current version of Lightroom Classic. Rest assured, by the way, that as part of this process a new catalog will be created, so that your older catalog will remain intact as a backup.

To upgrade a catalog, all you need to do is open it with the current version of Lightroom Classic. So, go to the menu and choose File > Open Catalog. Navigate to the location the older catalog is stored, and open it. You will be prompted to upgrade the catalog, and once that process is completed you can merge the catalog into your master catalog.

For more details on how to upgrade catalogs, merge catalogs, and otherwise cleanup your workflow in Lightroom Classic, check out my course “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom” in the GreyLearning library here:

Request for CMYK


Today’s Question: A publisher has asked for images to be submitted in “CMYK (no spot colors)”. I’m aware that CMYK is mainly an issue for publishers, but what does this mean for the photographer who is submitting work to the printer? Specifically, does this require any changes in camera settings before capturing the image or in generating the image file in post processing?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you will ultimately need to deliver files in the CMYK color space (such as for printing), you don’t need to make any changes in-camera at the time of capture. The CMYK conversion would simply be the final step in post-processing before sending the files to the printer. Note, however, that in general I recommend not converting to CMYK, leaving that step to the printer if at all possible.

More Detail: Most photographers, I suspect, are familiar at least in concept with the RGB color space. This is a common color space for recording color values based on emitted light, based on how much red, green, and blue light must be combined to create a particular color at a specific brightness level.

Another common color space that photographers might be less familiar with is CMYK. This color space is specifically designed for print applications, since it is based on the percentage of maximum ink amounts to be applied to paper (or another substrate) for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink.

With commercial printing (such as for books) the files being used as the basis of a print generally must be converted to the CMYK color space. The challenge is that for CMYK output, you really need to make sure you are converting to CMYK based on an ICC color profile that is specifically created for the particular output conditions, such as the type of paper being printed to.

Because of the importance of the specific details of how an image is converted to CMYK, I highly recommend asking the printer for an ICC profile you should use for the conversion, and for any special instructions about adjustments that should be applied, such as the specific black point and white point values to use for the image.

Sunburst without an Edge


Today’s Question: You recently shared a photo on Instagram of the Parthenon in Athens, with the sun forming a starburst. I always thought you needed to have the sun at the edge of an object in order to get a sunburst. How were you able to get the sunburst with the sun in an open area of the sky?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While it can certainly help to create a starburst effect (or a more interesting photo) by having the sun at the edge of a solid object in the scene you are photographing, you can also create a sunburst effect with the sun in an open area of the sky. The key factor is to have a clear sky with minimal amount of haze.

More Detail: The photo mentioned in today’s question can be viewed on my Instagram feed here:

As you can see by looking at the photo, the sun is positioned in a clear space between columns of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. Many photographers are aware that you can create a starburst (or sunburst) effect by stopping down the lens aperture, typically to around f/16 or f/22.

In addition to stopping down the lens, in order to create a starburst effect you need to have a light source in the frame that is not too diffused. For example, you can often achieve a starburst effect when photographing a bare lightbulb, but not with a lampshade that is diffusing the light of the lightbulb hidden by that lampshade.

When it comes to capturing a photograph that includes the sun in the frame, it is possible to create a starburst effect as long as the sun isn’t too diffused. In other words, you need a very clear sky, without too much haze. It is generally much easier to get a starburst effect with the sun in the middle of the day, and it gets increasingly difficult to achieve a starburst the closer you get to sunset, for example. This is because closer to sunset you are photographing the sun through more of the atmosphere, which will diffuse the sun more.

If the sky is a bit hazy, to the point that you can’t get a good starburst effect with the sun in an open area of sky, it can be helpful to frame up the scene so that the sun is partially obscured against a solid object with a relatively crisp edge. In many cases, for example, this will create an effect where the rays of the starburst will only appear over the object that is partially obscuring the sun, and not around the side of the sun that is against the open sky.

Workflow at Two Locations


Today’s Question: I travel and also split extended time between two homes. I keep my photos and Lightroom Classic catalog on an external drive that I use between desktop computer at my main house and on a laptop when traveling and at the second house. I backup the catalog to the internal hard drive on both computers, and to a second external drive. About once a month I backup the two computers and the external drive to another external drive. Any concerns or better ways for me to handle this situation?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Overall I think this is a good solution to a multiple-location workflow. You might consider fine-tuning some of the details of your workflow to ensure optimal performance, or even consider whether the cloud-based version of Lightroom might be a good solution for your workflow.

More Detail: The first thing I would consider is whether a laptop might serve you well as the only computer in your workflow. More than a decade ago I realized that I was traveling so much that it didn’t seem to make sense to use a desktop computer at home and a laptop when traveling. Switching to using a laptop as my only computer no matter where I am has greatly streamlined my overall workflow. You could even use a full-size keyboard and additional monitor connected to your laptop so you have a more “desktop” type of experience when using the laptop at home.

If you prefer to work with two separate computers so you have a more powerful desktop computer at your disposal at home, the key thing I would do is make sure you’re using the fastest external hard drive possible. Having the Lightroom Classic catalog on an external hard drive can cause performance in Lightroom to be significantly degraded, unless that external hard drive is quite fast.

The only other concern I have based on the description of your workflow is that your backups don’t seem to be happening very frequently. In my mind, backing up your hard drives once a month is not nearly frequent enough, unless you’re really not updating the data on your master hard drives very frequently. I recommend, for example, backing up your hard drives after every download from a photo shoot, and anytime you have otherwise significantly updated your data.

Of course, the right frequency for backing up depends on how frequently you are adding or updating data in your workflow. Most photographers I talk to are updating quite a bit of data over the course of a month, and so backing up weekly (or even more frequently) may be more appropriate.

Memory Card Synchronization


Today’s Question: Is there any way that I can easily synchronize and delete photos on my memory card based on what I have already downloaded? That is, leave the downloaded on the memory card but delete those that I don’t download?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There isn’t any software I’m aware of that would streamline this type of workflow. However, you could use synchronization software as part of the process of removing outtakes from your memory card.

More Detail: Most software for managing photos takes a relatively simple approach to dealing with memory cards. For the most part the memory card is seen simply as a source of photos to be downloaded. Some software also enables you to delete photos from the memory card after they have been downloaded successfully.

To be honest, I generally recommend being rather conservative when it comes to a workflow involving memory cards. I get a bit nervous when photographers try to manage photos directly on a memory card, for fear that original photos (and possibly the only copy) may be deleted accidentally.

I also prefer to download all photos from a given memory card, rather than selecting individual photos to download, leaving photos on the card that have not been downloaded. This is mostly because I am eager to get all photos downloaded and backed up as quickly as possible after capturing them.

In any event, there are approaches you could take to achieve your workflow goals. In this case the first step is obviously to actually download the photos from the memory card that you actually want to keep. You could selectively download only the photos you wanted to, not downloading the photos you want to delete. You could also download all photos and delete the ones you don’t want as a separate process.

In order for a synchronization approach to work, you would also need to be sure that the folder you’re downloading to will only be used to store photos from a single memory card. Otherwise the synchronization would not work properly.

After selectively downloading photos, or downloading all and then deleting the outtakes, you could use synchronization software to remove photos from the memory card that are not in the download folder. For example, I use backup software called GoodSync to backup my photos and other data. This software enables you to define a synchronization job between two data sources, such as a hard drive or an individual folder. So in this case you could synchronize the folder you downloaded to with the memory card you downloaded from. In this case you would want to disable the option to propagate deletions, and also disable the option to retain deleted files for a period of time.

With a job setup in GoodSync (or other software) for this purpose, after downloading photos (and possibly deleting outtakes) you could run the job to synchronize files (or in this case deleted or non-downloaded photos) between your download folder and your memory card.

Note that I also have a video course that demonstrates how to use GoodSync software to backup your photos and other data, which you can learn about on the GreyLearning website here:

White Balance for Raw


Today’s Question: I think it is also important to mention that if you shoot in RAW then the white balance doesn’t really matter compared to shooting in JPG.

Tim’s Quick Answer: An excellent point. It is worth repeating that if you are shooing in the raw capture mode (rather than, for example, JPEG), the white balance setting on the camera has no impact on the actual raw capture data. In other words, you could use any white balance setting you’d like on the camera, and adjust that setting in post-processing with no impact on overall image quality.

More Detail: When you are using the raw capture mode on your digital camera, many of the in-camera settings don’t actually affect the capture data you’re recording for each photo. That includes the white balance setting, which means you can use any white balance setting you’d like at the time of capture, without worrying about how it impacts the final image.

To be sure, it can be convenient to have the colors in your photos be as accurate as possible right from the initial capture. But if you’re using the raw capture mode, that accuracy is a convenience rather that a requirement in terms of overall image quality.

For raw captures, the in-camera white balance setting is really just a metadata value. That setting determines the initial color appearance when you process the raw capture with software such as Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom. However, you can refine the setting for white balance with your initial processing of the raw capture, and that adjustment will not have any negative impact on the overall image quality.

So, if you find it is helpful to set a particular white balance setting for your raw captures, by all means take advantage of that option. But keep in mind that regardless of what white balance setting you use for raw captures, you can adjust that setting during the initial processing of the raw capture without any negative consequences in terms of the color or overall image quality for those photos.

Layering Images in Photoshop Elements


Today’s Question: Would you please explain how to load multiple images into the Layers palette in Photoshop Elements?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Layering photos in Photoshop Elements is a two-step process. First you open two (or more) images into the Elements Editor, and then you drag the image you want to add to another from the Photo Bin into the actual image.

More Detail: To get started layering images in the Photoshop Elements Editor, you’ll need to open two or more photos. You can select multiple photos in the Elements Organizer, or open multiple photos directly within the Elements Editor.

When you open multiple images, the Photo Bin panel will open automatically at the bottom of the window. If the panel doesn’t appear, you can click the Photo Bin button at the bottom left of the main window in the Editor.

Next, click on the thumbnail in the Photo Bin for the image you want to use as the background for your composite image. That image will then be the image you see in the large preview area within the Editor. On the Photo Bin panel you will still be able to see the other image (or images) that you have opened in the Editor.

To layer another image into the current image, simply drag the thumbnail for the desired image into the image preview area. In other words, you’re dragging the applicable thumbnail from the Photo Bin into the actual image you’re working with. When you release the mouse, you’ll see that you now have two layers showing on the Layers panel. You can repeat this process to layer as many images as you’d like.

Options for Time Adjustment


Today’s Question: Just one more question about setting the time on the camera when changing time zones. Does it matter whether you set the time by choosing a time zone on your camera, versus leaving the time zone along and manually changing the hours?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Either method is perfectly fine, as long as you actually remember to change the time on your camera when you change time zones, and that you are sure to set the time accurately.

More Detail: Some photographers (many of whom I’ve heard from recently) prefer to leave their camera set to a single time zone permanently, such as by setting their camera to Universal Coordinated Time (UCT). Others prefer to leave the camera always set to their home time zone.

To be sure, for many photographers in many situations the specific time of capture is not critical. Simply having their photos sorted in the order they were captured, along with the date of capture, is all they need. And to be fair, most of the time that’s about all I need. However, I do find that periodically I do want to reference the actual time of capture, and so I prefer to have the clock on my camera set accurately.

Many cameras enable you to adjust the time either by manually adjusting the hours and minutes, or by selecting a time zone. The time zone option is essentially a shortcut to help you get to the correct time setting more quickly. Of course, I always recommend double-checking the time from another source, such as by performing a simple Google search for the current time in your location.

Any method of setting the time is perfectly fine, so whichever you find more convenient will work equally well. I do prefer to set the time zone on the camera to the correct location, but that’s just me being perhaps a little too focused on the details. The actual time zone setting is not recorded in the metadata for your photos. Only the actual date and time of capture (based on the current camera setting) will be included in that metadata.

18 Years of “Ask Tim Grey”!


Today marks 18 years since I sent out the first Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, though it went by the name “Digital Darkroom Questions” way back then.

Since that first email, I’ve been answering questions from photographers for 18 years now, which works out to a total of 4,058 editions of the newsletter, including today’s anniversary edition.

To celebrate this milestone, we’ve added a significant bonus to my “Lightroom Cleanup One-on-One” bundle. If you order this bundle today, in addition to the great content and support that is already included, you’ll also receive a one-hour call directly with me. During that call you can share your screen so I can evaluate your workflow and help you restore order to your Lightroom Classic catalog.

You can get all the details by visiting the GreyLearning website here:

Automatic Time Zone


Today’s Question: Why don’t today’s cameras have the ability to know by themselves what Time Zone they’re in via GPS? I guess that, currently, to take care of Time Zones it’s either (a) manually as you describe or (b) through a synchronization with an external GPS device. Am I correct?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I’m sure there must be some cameras that will set the time zone automatically based on GPS. However, inexplicably, the cameras I’m familiar with can update the time based on the GPS signal, but do not set the time zone for you automatically. This is simply a matter of the camera manufacturer not including such a feature on their cameras, which seems like a bit of a glaring oversight to me.

More Detail: Quite a few digital cameras include a built-in GPS receiver, or support an accessory GPS receiver. One of the features of having a GPS signal is the ability to set the correct time based on the information contained in the GPS signal. However, with the cameras I’m familiar with, this option does not adjust the time zone based on your GPS location, so you’ll still need to remember to set the time zone manually.

At the moment my primary camera, for example, is the Canon EOS 7D Mark II ( One of the reasons I originally opted for this camera is that it includes a built-in GPS receiver. This enables my photos to be automatically tagged with location information in metadata. Later, I can view my photos directly on the map in Lightroom Classic, for example, which I find very helpful.

Within the menu system for my camera you’ll find that you can choose to have the time on the camera automatically updated based on the GPS signal. However, when you select this option you are only updating the reference time. You can think of this as the camera updating the current Universal Coordinated Time (UCT). However, this automatic update does not include an update to the current time zone setting for the camera.

Let’s assume, for example, that I have my camera set to the Chicago time zone, but I am currently in Italy. When I choose the option to have my camera’s time updated based on GPS, the time on my camera will very accurately reflect the current time in Chicago, but my photos will be tagged with the wrong time for my current location (Italy).

I can’t imagine why it isn’t possible to have my camera automatically update the time zone setting based on my current GPS location, so that the time shown in metadata for all of my photos can be consistently accurate, provided I have a good GPS signal. After all, in general I don’t mind if the time in metadata for my photos is off by a few seconds, but I don’t want it to be off by a few hours. And since I’ve forgotten to update the time zone for my camera more times than I’d like to admit, I really wish my camera could set the time zone automatically, in addition to updating the actual time based on GPS.