Backup Recommendation

Today’s Question: I’m using an iMac with OS X 10.9.5 installed. I’m using Time Machine and a second backup hard drive. The backup utility that came with it seems erratic and I don’t trust it. Can you recommend a utility? If I were using a PC I would simply use the Microsoft utility SyncToy.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I actually recommend synchronization software (similar to what is possible with the SyncToy utility from Microsoft) for backing up your photos and other important data. For this purpose I use GoodSync (http://www.goodsync.com/) as a great solution.

More Detail: My personal preference is to have a backup that is an exact copy of the original data. In other words, I prefer a “full” backup rather than an “incremental” backup. Put simply, if a hard drive fails I want to be able to connect a backup storage device and continue working without interruption, rather than having to go through an extended restore process. I wrote about this in more detail in the September 2014 issue of Pixology magazine (http://pixologymag.com/).

There are a variety of solutions available for a synchronization backup, but the best solution I’ve found recently is GoodSync (http://www.goodsync.com/). This software is available for both Windows and Macintosh, and allows you to perform a synchronization backup from one drive to another.

I use GoodSync to create an exact copy of my primary photos, my data storage drive, my video production drive, and all of the other (many!) drives I use in my work. By using a synchronization approach to backing up my photos and other data, not only can my backups be performed relatively quickly, but I also have a full copy of my original data that can be used quickly and seamlessly if I experience a hard drive failure. And considering I experience a failure of an external hard drive about once every two years or so, to me this is an important consideration.

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Changing Aspect Ratio

Today’s Question: Is there an easy way to change the aspect ratio of an existing image (Lightroom, Photoshop, etc.)? I have a client who needs the photos I took of his house in 4:3 format versus 16:9.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can crop many images at once in Lightroom to any specific aspect ratio using a crop preset in the Library module.

More Detail: For reasons I’m not aware of, you can’t create a preset in the Develop module in Lightroom that includes cropping. However, you can crop as part of the Quick Develop set of controls available on the right panel in the Library module.

If you want to apply the crop in an automated way to multiple images, the first step is to select the images you want to crop and then make sure you are viewing those photos in the grid view (not the loupe view). To switch to the grid view simply press the letter “G” on the keyboard.

With the images selected in the grid view, you can click the spinner control (the triangle) to the right of the Saved Preset popup to reveal the Crop Ratio popup. Click that popup and choose the desired aspect ratio. All of the selected images will be cropped based on that aspect ratio, with the vertical versus horizontal orientation respected for the crop.

It is important to keep in mind that when you crop multiple images in this way the crop will be centered on the photo. This won’t always create the best result for each image. Of course, you could always revisit the crop for each image by selecting the image you want to refine and choosing the Crop tool in the Develop module.

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Locking an Adjustment

Today’s Question: I always want Lens Correction applied to my photos, but sometimes when I edit a photo and don’t like the result, I zero it out using the “Zeroed” preset in Lightroom. This also removes the Lens Correction details. Is there a way to apply Lens Correction at Import and then “lock” it so that it stays on all the photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There isn’t a way to “lock” specific adjustments in Lightroom, but you can very easily create a new preset to replace the “Zeroed” preset. By excluding the Lens Corrections set of adjustments from the new preset, you’ll be able to reset everything except Lens Corrections by applying that preset to a photo.

More Detail: To create the new preset, you can use the existing “Zeroed” preset as a starting point. Start by selecting a “test” photo in Lightroom, meaning a photo that you don’t mind resetting back to the basic adjustments for purposes of creating the new preset. Then choose the “Zeroed” preset from the Presets section of the left panel in the Develop module to apply that preset to the photo.

At this point the Develop settings for the photo reflect the “Zeroed” state, including having the Lens Corrections adjustment disabled. However, you can create a new preset that resets the image with the exception of the Lens Corrections (or other) adjustments.

To create the new preset, click the “plus” icon to the right of the Presets heading on the left panel in the Develop module. In the New Develop Preset dialog you can enter a meaningful name for this new preset, such as “Reset Except Lens Corrections”. You can also choose which folder you want to store this preset in (or create a new folder) using the Folder popup.

Next, click the Check All button at the bottom-left of the New Develop Preset dialog to make sure that all adjustments are enabled for the new preset you’re creating. Then turn off the Lens Corrections checkbox, as well as the checkbox for any other adjustments you don’t want to reset when this new preset is employed.

With the settings established for your new preset, click the Create button at the bottom-right of the New Develop Preset dialog to actually create the preset.

In the future, when you want to reset all of the adjustments to their neutral values based on the “Zeroed” preset, but you want to exclude the Lens Corrections adjustment from that reset, simply choose the new preset you created rather than the “Zeroed” preset.

The key concept to understand here is that presets in the Lightroom Develop module can exclude certain adjustments. When you apply such a preset, only the settings included in the saved preset will actually affect the current image when you apply that preset. Any adjustments that were excluded from the preset will be left as they are.

Thus, with this approach, you can apply a preset that includes Lens Corrections during the Import process in Lightroom, and then use the “Reset Except Lens Corrections” preset described above to reset all adjustments except for the Lens Corrections adjustment.

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High Pass Sharpening

Today’s Question: A friend of mine who is much more experienced in Photoshop than me suggested that I use a High Pass filter to sharpen my images. Can you tell me what that is, how it works, and how I should or shouldn’t incorporate it into my workflow.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The High Pass filter enables an effect that is very similar to what you can achieve with the Clarity slider in Adobe Camera Raw (and Lightroom). It is similar in concept to sharpening, but provides more of a local contrast enhancement that reduces the appearance of haze (and increases perceived detail and sharpness). The technique can certainly be helpful, though I find that the Clarity adjustment often provides a simpler solution.

More Detail: I think one of the best ways to get a sense for the High Pass sharpening technique is to actually try it out on a variety of different images. The process is rather straightforward, and can be automated with an action in Photoshop if you feel you’ll be using this technique on a regular basis.

The first step is to create a copy of the Background image layer, which you can do by dragging the thumbnail for the Background layer on the Layers panel to the “Create a New Layer” button (the blank sheet of paper icon) at the bottom of the Layers panel.

Next, change the blend mode for the new Background Copy layer to Overlay, from the default value of Normal, using the popup at the top-left of the Layers panel. This will create an effect of relatively high contrast in the image, which will be mitigated with the next step.

Now choose Filter > Other > High Pass from the menu to bring up the High Pass filter dialog. The High Pass filter creates an effect similar to an embossed look for the photo, which combines with the Overlay blend mode to enhance local contrast in the image. Start with a value of 10 pixels for the Amount slider, and adjust based on the effect in the image. Note that at this stage the effect will still likely be a bit strong. With practice you’ll get a sense of what value will work best based on the contents and resolution of the photo you’re working with.

Finally, reduce the Opacity setting for the Background Copy layer using the control at the top-right of the Layers panel. This allows you to mitigate the overall strength of the effect for the photo.

There is no question that the use of the High Pass filter in this way can help improve the overall perceived level of detail and sharpness in a photo. Again, the result is very similar to what you could otherwise achieve with a positive value for the Clarity adjustment available in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom’s Develop module. That said, for situations where you want to enhance the detail in a photo without the risk of creating the “crunchy” look that can result from excessive sharpening, this High Pass technique can work very well.

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Sharpen on Export?

Today’s Question: When exporting a sharpened NEF or TIFF as a JPEG from Lightroom, should sharpening be applied to an already-sharpened master image, or should sharpening be turned off?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Under most circumstances you should apply “capture” sharpening to the original image (the RAW capture, for example) as well as “output” sharpening for the final image.

More Detail: In the context of Lightroom that means applying sharpening to the original capture in the Develop module to compensate for the loss of sharpness caused in the capture process, and sharpening when exporting to optimize the image that has likely been resized.

A variety of factors cause your original capture to be less than perfectly sharp. That includes the analog-to-digital conversion process, various filters on the front of the image sensor, a lens that is not optimally sharp, and other factors. This is the reason for “capture” sharpening, which is the reason for the sharpening controls in the Develop module in Lightroom.

In addition, you want to ensure the final image that will be shared is sharpened for the final output. For images that will be displayed on a monitor or digital projector (such as in a digital slideshow) the need for output sharpening will be relatively modest. For printing that output sharpening will need to be stronger.

In theory you could perform all of your sharpening in one step, but there are some advantages to taking a multi-step approach. In the context of Lightroom a key reason to perform sharpening in two steps is that the initial capture sharpening is being applied to the full-resolution image, while the output sharpening is being applied based on the final image that has been resized for the specific output you’re preparing for.

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Moving Photos

Today’s Question: I have been using Lightroom on my MacBook Air, which has very little storage. I would like to move all the photos to an external drive and delete them from the MacBook for more space. How can this be done?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My recommendation is to first make sure you have a full backup of the photos that are currently on your laptop, and then move the photos from the laptop to the external drive. To do so you can create a new “parent” folder on the external hard drive, select all folders on your internal drive that are being managed by Lightroom, and then drag-and-drop those folders to the new external drive.

More Detail: There are, of course, several approaches you could take to move your photos from one drive to another. My preference is to take an approach that ensures there is no risk of Lightroom losing track of your photos. Therefore, I prefer to move the photos from directly in Lightroom.

Again, the first step is to make sure all of your photos are already backed up to a separate hard drive, to ensure you have a way to recover your photos in case something goes wrong during the process of moving photos.

Once you have a backup for your photos, you can connect the external hard drive you want to use as the new location for your photos. This drive will not appear in Lightroom because no photos on the drive are currently being managed by Lightroom. However, you can create a new folder on the drive so that the drive will be shown in Lightroom. To do so click the “plus” icon to the right of the Folders header on the left panel in the Library module in Lightroom, and choose “Add Folder” from the popup menu.

In the dialog that appears, navigate to the hard drive you want to use for photo storage, and click the New Folder button at the bottom-left of the dialog. Type a name for a “master” folder to contain all of your photos, such as “Photos”, press Enter/Return to create the new folder, and click the Choose button to add that folder as an available location in the Folders section on the left panel.

At this point you can select all of the folders in the Folders section of the left panel. To do so, click on the first folder on the list and then hold the Shift key and click the last folder on the list. You can then point to any of the selected folders and drag-and-drop to move all folders to the new destination (the folder you created on the external drive). Note that Lightroom will ask you to confirm you want to actually move the photos on the hard drive.

Once the files have been moved, you will have all of your existing folders (and all of the photos within those folders) reflected in the folder structure on your external hard drive, under the new folder you created on that drive. If you prefer to see only the photos containing your photos and not the “parent” folder you created, you can right-click on the parent folder and choose “Hide This Parent” from the popup menu that appears. At any time you can reveal that parent folder again by right-clicking on any of the folders within that parent and choosing “Show Parent Folder” from the popup menu.

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Adobe Bridge Needed?

Today’s Question: As a photographer who currently uses the Lightroom Library module to manage my photo files and use Photoshop and Photoshop Elements as the only other Adobe software. As part of the Adobe CC Photographer package, I see that I am entitled to download and install Adobe Bridge. But since I’m not transferring any files to any other Adobe software, is there any advantage or reason for me to download and install it?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Not really. Some photographers find it easier in certain situations to launch Adobe Bridge (rather than Lightroom) when they want to quickly browse some of their photos. But I find it just as fast (and sometimes faster) to make use of Lightroom, and so I don’t feel any need to have Adobe Bridge installed.

More Detail: One of the advantages of using Lightroom to manage your photos is that you have a central catalog that speeds up the process of filtering images. In addition, if you have Standard (or 1:1) previews generated upon import for all of your photos, you can browse among various photos quickly in Lightroom.

Bridge, by comparison, is a browser without a central catalog (though it does make use of a cache, which provides a degree of benefit in terms of performance in certain situations). As a result, it can take longer in Adobe Bridge to browse among folders and especially to filter images within the folder, because for each folder you navigate to Bridge will need to analyze the images to determine which photos contain which specific metadata values.

There are some potential advantages to using Adobe Bridge if you work among a variety of different Adobe applications, such as InDesign for creating documents and Illustrator for creating illustrations. But if your workflow revolves around photos and you are using Lightroom to organize your photos, in my mind there is no reason to install Adobe Bridge.

If you do choose to make use of Adobe Bridge, I highly recommend that you avoid applying any metadata updates using Adobe Bridge, as that can lead to confusing mismatches of metadata values between Adobe Bridge and Lightroom (or more specifically, between the metadata in your photos and the metadata in your Lightroom catalog).

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Changing Capture Time

Today’s Question: I just returned home from 10 days in Costa Rica and realized only now (while reading Ask Tim Grey) that I forgot to reset the date and time on my camera to Costa Rica time. Is there any way to fix this now, after I’ve already uploaded the images to Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can most certainly update the capture time in Lightroom after you’ve imported your photos into your Lightroom catalog. Simply select the photos and then choose Metadata > Edit Capture Time from the menu. Choose the “Shift by set number of hours” option, set the appropriate time difference, and click Change to update the capture time for the photos.

More Detail: It is important to keep in mind that by default when you update the capture time in Lightroom you are only updating the capture time in metadata within the Lightroom catalog. In other words, if you browse your photos using software other than Lightroom (such as Adobe Bridge), you’ll still see the incorrect capture time.

However, you can update the settings in Lightroom so that the capture time for your original capture is updated when you use the Edit Capture Time command. There is a small degree of risk that in the process of updating the capture time for your original captures that the files will be corrupted. However, I’ve never heard of a situation where this process created any problems with the original photos. But again, there is some risk involved.

To change the setting so Lightroom will apply the capture time adjustment to the actual source photos, start by choosing Lightroom > Catalog Settings from the menu on the Macintosh version of Lightroom or Edit > Catalog Settings from the menu on the Windows version of Lightroom. This will bring up the Catalog Settings dialog. Choose the Metadata tab, where you can turn on the “Write date or time changes into proprietary raw files”. Close the Catalog Settings dialog, and from this point forward when you apply changes to the original capture time those changes will be reflected both in your Lightroom catalog and in the original files for your photos.

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Drag and Drop Failure

Today’s Question: I know this should be simple, but I can’t get Lightroom to move photos to a different folder using drag and drop. I know it is possible to move photos, since you’ve written about this very task. But when I drag and drop with several photos selected, the photos don’t move and then only one photo is selected. Is this a bug or am I doing something wrong?

Tim’s Quick Answer: To drag and drop photos within Lightroom you need to click (and drag, of course) on the thumbnail for one of the selected photos, not on the frame around the photo.

More Detail: The issue here relates to the difference between clicking on the actual thumbnail of the photo and clicking on the frame around the photo. Clicking on the frame will cause the image contained within the frame to be the only image that is selected, causing all other photos that had been selected to be deselected.

Thus, when you have multiple images selected in Lightroom and you want to drag those photos to a different location (or to a collection) it is important to click on the thumbnail for one of the selected photos rather than the frame around the photo.

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Mouse Pointers

Today’s Question: I have three versions of Photoshop (CS2, CS3, and CS6). All of a sudden I have only crosshairs for the mouse pointer for all of my tools. I had this happen years ago but I cannot find what to do to get back to “normal”.

Tim’s Quick Answer: All you need to do is press the Caps Lock key on the keyboard. This keyboard shortcut serves as a toggle between the “brush shape” mouse pointers (generally a circle, for example) and the “precise” option (crosshairs).

More Detail: This is a common source of confusion when you turn on (or off) the Caps Lock option and don’t realize it also impacts the display of the pointer for your mouse. Note that you can also adjust the specific settings for the mouse cursors by going to the Cursors page of the Preferences dialog. You can find the Preferences option on the Edit menu on the Windows version of Photoshop or the Photoshop menu on the Macintosh version of Photoshop.

It is also worth noting that if the brush is too small or too large to display as a circle (for example), then the cursor will also display as a crosshair rather than the brush shape. So, if pressing the Caps Lock key on the keyboard doesn’t solve the issue of seeing a crosshair when you expect to see a brush shape, make sure the brush size is not too large or too small.

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