Value of Presets


Today’s Question: I often see promotions for Develop presets for Lightroom Classic that promise miraculous improvement for my photos. What do you think of these preset bundles, which often include hundreds if not thousands of presets?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While presets can be helpful for streamlining your workflow and getting some creative inspiration, in general I don’t feel there is significant value in purchasing presets for Lightroom Classic. That’s especially true when the bundle includes a particularly large number of presets.

More Detail: I get asked about presets in Lightroom Classic on a somewhat regular basis, and of course I also see the promotions offering hundreds of presets with promises of revolutionizing your workflow and magically making your images stunningly perfect.

Part of my frustration with these claims is that presets in Lightroom Classic really just represent saved settings for the adjustments applied on the right panel in the Develop module. In other words, any preset you obtain represents something you could have created with the exact same result working on the right panel in the Develop module in Lightroom Classic.

To be sure, presets can be very helpful. Presets provide a quick way of getting to initial settings for your adjustments and creative effects. For example, I tend to use the same basic settings as the starting point when applying a sepia tone effect to a photo, and so a preset is great because it ensures I’m using consistent settings for that effect.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that in many cases a preset that works wonderfully well for one image won’t provide a pleasing effect for another image. This is part of the reason I recommend using presets as starting points in most cases, with refinement of the adjustments on the right panel. In other words, it is rare that I would apply a preset and leave the image with those settings without applying refinements to the effect.

Presets can also be helpful when you’re trying to figure out which direction to take a photo, since you can preview the effect of presets by simply moving your mouse over the list of presets on the left panel in the Develop module.

If you find a set of presets that have effects that you find appealing and think will work well for your photos, by all means you should take a close look at those presets. Over time, however, I think you’ll find it more valuable to gain familiarity with the adjustments in Lightroom Classic, and create your own presets over time to preserve good starting points for adjustments and creative effects.

Ink Wasted by Nozzle Cleaning


Today’s Question: I ran out of ink while doing the nozzle and head cleaning and had to wait for new inks to arrive. After about six cleanings, I still have the gaps in the purple portion of the test print. Shockingly, I completely used up some of the brand-new ink cartridges with this half dozen cleanings (and as you know, this stuff is not cheap!). Any idea why the cleanings are not fully getting the job done? Recommendations?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There’s no question that nozzle cleaning consumes a considerable amount of ink. Therefore, I recommend trying to minimize the number of cycles needed to resolve clogged nozzles.

More Detail: As any photographer who owns a photo inkjet printer is well aware, printer inks are somewhat expensive especially when considered the total price per gallon. For example, I found an 80ml cartridge with a price of $75. It would take about 47 of those cartridges to get a gallon of ink, which translates to a price of more than $3,500 per gallon.

When you have clogged nozzles, the print quality and color fidelity can suffer significantly, so it is important to make sure the nozzles are clear when making a print.

One of the reasons nozzles get clogged is due to residual ink drying out. You can help prevent this by making sure you’re printing on a somewhat regular basis. If you make a small print about once a week, for example, you’ll more than likely avoid clogging in the first place.

If you still end up with clogged nozzles, you’ll naturally need to use the printer’s nozzle cleaning feature. I recommend doing no more than two cleaning cycles. If that still doesn’t resolve the issue, let the printer sit for a day. This gives the anticoagulant agents in the ink a chance to circulate a bit, which can help get the nozzles cleared.

If waiting a day before trying the nozzle cleaning again still doesn’t resolve the issue you can clean the nozzles directly. For this you can use a paper towel moistened with isopropyl alcohol. In some cases you may be able to put the isopropyl alcohol on the sponge in the printer that comes in contact with the nozzles when the print head is parked.

With other printers you’ll need to put the paper towel with the isopropyl alcohol below the print head in contact with the nozzles. Let it soak for a little while and then perform another nozzle cleaning. This should resolve your clogged nozzles, and then you can focus on preventing the clogs with regular use of the printer.

Photoshop Panels Not Minimizing


Today’s Question: When minimizing Photoshop, the panels do not minimize with the application. Can Photoshop be set up for a complete window to minimize including panels?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You need to make sure that all panels are docked in the Photoshop interface in order to have the panels minimize along with the application window.

More Detail: Photoshop includes a wide variety of panels that can be used to present information or perform various actions. For example, the Layers panel is helpful for adding adjustment layers and image layers to an image you’re working on and reviewing the layers that are currently included with the image.

If you have panels that are floating within the Photoshop interface rather than being docked, those panels will remain visible when you minimize the main Photoshop application window. In order to have panels get hidden along with the main Photoshop window you need to make sure those panels are docked.

You can dock a panel by clicking and dragging on the tab for the panel and dropping it along one of the edges of the Photoshop interface (or into an existing docked panel). When you hover while dragging a panel, a blue line or box will show you the destination for docking the panel if you release the mouse button at that position.

So, for example, you could drag a panel to the right edge of the Photoshop interface to dock the panel along that right edge. Once all panels are docked within the Photoshop application window, when you minimize Photoshop all panels will be minimized along with the main application window.

Back-Button Focus Flexibility


Today’s Question: When using back button focus, do you recommend setting the camera to continuous or one shot autofocus?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I absolutely recommend using continuous autofocus in conjunction with back-button focus, so you have maximum flexibility.

More Detail: When you enable back-button autofocus rather than having autofocus connected to the shutter release button, you have a button that is dedicated solely to autofocus. To maximize the flexibility of this approach, I recommend using continuous autofocus rather than one-shot autofocus.

One of the great things about using back-button autofocus is that you are able to exercise better control over when autofocus is activated. When you want to focus, you press the back-button focus button. When you don’t want autofocus, you simply don’t press the button. Metering and capturing a photo are still controlled by the shutter release button.

With back-button focus enabled and your camera configured to continuous autofocus, you can actually switch between the equivalent of continuous autofocus and one-shot autofocus instantly.

If you want continuous autofocus, press and hold the back-button focus button. Naturally you might be tracking a moving subject while holding the back-button focus button for example.

If you want the equivalent of one-shot autofocus, start by pressing and holding the back-button focus button until focus is acquired on the desired subject. Then release the back-button focus button so the camera will discontinue autofocus. This provides the same behavior as one-shot autofocus. Keep in mind, of course, that after setting this one-shot type of autofocus you’ll need to maintain the same distance to your subject to maintain focus, or you’ll need to re-establish focus if you need to move.

Photoshop for Cleanup


Today’s Question: In a post you said, “It is very rare for me to need to send a photo to Photoshop [from Lightroom Classic], and when I do it is generally to take advantage of the superior image-cleanup tools in Photoshop.” Which tools are those?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The primary advantage of Photoshop when it comes to image cleanup is the Content-Aware technology. In particular I take advantage of the Spot Healing Brush tool and the Content-Aware Fill command for this purpose, though other tools feature this technology as well.

More Detail: Over the years, Lightroom Classic has improved to the point that the Develop module provides the majority of the adjustments I need for most of my photos. In many cases, in fact, I don’t feel the need to use anything beyond Lightroom Classic to optimize my photos.

However, Lightroom Classic is still missing the Content-Aware technology that is available in Photoshop, and which provides superior quality when it comes to removing blemishes and other distractions from photos.

The Content-Aware technology is available with a variety of tools in Photoshop. For example, the Content-Aware Move tool makes use of Content-Aware technology, but I don’t tend to use this tool very often in my own image cleanup work.

The primary tool I tend to use for cleaning up blemishes and distractions in my photos when using Photoshop is the Spot Healing Brush tool, with the Content-Aware option selected for the Type option. For more complicated cleanup work, I generally make use of the Content-Aware Fill command, which among other things enables you to control which areas of the image can be used to collect source pixels to be used for cleaning up the selected blemish area.

Lightroom Classic includes a Spot Removal tool, which is basically on par with the Healing Brush tool in Photoshop. Lightroom Classic does not, however, include the Content-Aware technology, which remains one of the key reasons I still need to include Photoshop in my workflow from time to time. The other reason, by the way, is greater control over selections and targeted adjustments in Photoshop.

Time Zone Workflow


Today’s Question: When traveling through multiple time zones on a single trip and you are using several cameras, do you change the time for each camera to the identical times for each time zone, or do you use your home time in all cameras and don’t reset in each time zone.

Tim’s Quick Answer: My preference is to change every camera to local time based on my current location, so that the metadata will show the local time of capture in case I need to reference that information. For example, this is sometimes helpful in terms of determining how close to sunset a photo was captured.

More Detail: In my mind there are two approaches to setting the time zone on your camera that make sense. The first is my preferred approach, which is to try to make sure that my camera is always set to local time.

Admittedly, it isn’t all that often that I really need to know what time a photo was taken. However, from time to time I do find this information helpful. That might be due to a celestial event, such as sunrise. Other times it might help determine details about the photo, such as the time I was able to learn which satellite appeared as a streak of light in a photo I had captured of the Milky Way galaxy. Again, this type of information isn’t generally critical, but it can be helpful and interesting.

Plus, I just like knowing that the capture time for my photos is an accurate reflection of when the photo was actually captured. Of course, this too can be confusing, such as on the several occasions I’ve been photographing on consecutive days that involve crossing the International Date Line.

The second approach to time zones is to choose a single time zone to keep your camera set to permanently, without changing that time zone no matter where you travel. To me the most logical time zone choice would be Coordinated Universal Time (UTC, often referred to as Greenwich Mean Time or Zulu time). This is a standard time zone reference, so I feel it is a good choice. You could also keep your camera set permanently to your time zone at home.

My opinion is that having accurate capture time information in metadata is preferred. However, I also appreciate the convenience of having a single time zone used for metadata for all photos. But if you use a single time zone permanently, it can be a little tricky to determine the actual time of capture for a given photo should you want that information at a later date.

Custom Sort Order Fails


Today’s Question: I frequently shoot photos of my grandkids’ sporting events. After I select the ones I want to share with family, I try to rearrange them in order of tasks: batting, fielding, scoring, etc. But Lightroom Classic pops up with a message saying I can’t reorder them. How can I reorder their sequence?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In order to arrange photos into a custom sort order in Lightroom Classic you need to either be browsing a single folder or a “normal” collection (rather than a smart collection).

More Detail: In Lightroom Classic it is possible to arrange photos into a custom sort order by simply dragging the thumbnails for your photos around within the grid view display. You can even then switch to a different sort order (such as capture time), and then switch back to your custom sort order using the Sort popup on the toolbar below the grid view display.

However, the custom sort order is only available if you are browsing a single folder or a normal collection. So, if you have selected more than one folder to browse, you won’t be able to drag your photos around into a custom sort order. Similarly, if you are browsing a smart collection rather than a normal collection you won’t be able to arrange into a custom sort order.

Therefore, to deal with a situation where you’re not able to arrange the photos into a custom sort order in Lightroom Classic I recommend creating a collection for the applicable photos. You can then arrange the photos within that collection in any order you’d like.

Laptop Display Calibration


Today’s Question: You mentioned that you have gone entirely to using a laptop. Could you share some words of wisdom in calibrating a laptop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: A laptop display can be calibrated and profiled in the same way you would otherwise calibrate a standalone display. I highly recommend using a package that employs a colorimeter device for this purpose, such as the X-Rite i1Display Studio (

More Detail: I highly recommend calibrating any display you will use for evaluating your photos, to ensure the most accurate results when printing or otherwise sharing your photos. This is true whether the display is a standalone monitor or a display integrated into a laptop.

There are a variety of software-only calibration tools, but these don’t actually measure the light being emitted by your monitor display. To get the most accurate display, a colorimeter is needed to measure the brightness and color accuracy of your display. That information is then used to create a profile that corrects the output for your display.

One great option for calibrating your monitor display is to use the X-Rite i1Display Studio ( This is what I use to calibrate the display on my MacBook Pro display, and it provides accurate tone and color for evaluating my images.

If you don’t calibrate your display, the images you see on that display may be inaccurate in terms of color, and will almost certainly be inaccurate in terms of tonality. This is the primary reason that photographers often end up with prints that are too dark. Put simply, they are evaluating an image on a display that is too bright, and therefore darkening the photo to the point that they are not happy with their prints.

So, just as you would for any monitor display, it is important to calibrate and profile your laptop’s display, whether like me you are using a laptop as your only computer, or you are simply using the laptop when you’re away from your desktop computer.

Dividing a Folder


Today’s Question: I have a folder in Lightroom Classic that contains photos from different locations. How do I go about breaking these photos into meaningful locations?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You could split up these photos by making new subfolders and then dragging and dropping the photos to the applicable subfolder. Just make sure that all of this work is done within Lightroom Classic, not through the operating system or other software.

More Detail: In Lightroom Classic you can create new subfolders within an existing folder, or create a new folder in any available storage location. In this case it may be most helpful to create subfolders to contain the various photos currently contained within a single folder.

Start by navigating to the folder you want to re-organize within the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module. Then click the plus symbol (+) to the right of the Folders heading and choose “Add Subfolder” from the popup menu. In the dialog that appears, enter a name for the new subfolder. Note that if you had already selected photos you want to place within this new subfolder you can turn on the “Included selected photos” checkbox. Click Create and the new subfolder will be created. Repeat this process for as many subfolders as you need, being sure to go back to the parent folder each time before creating a new subfolder.

You can now drag-and-drop photos from the parent folder into the applicable subfolder. If there is a range of photos you want to move, you can click on the first image and then hold the Shift key on the keyboard and click on the last image in the series. If you want to toggle the selection of photos that are not in a single sequence you can hold the Ctrl key on Windows or the Command key on Macintosh while clicking on the photo you want to select or deselect. Then drag-and-drop any of the selected photos to the new subfolder. In the confirmation dialog that appears click the Move button, and the photos will be moved.

Repeat this process as needed to move photos into subfolders. Note, by the way, that you could also create the new folders in a different location, such as to have the new folders on the same level as the original folder. But again, be sure that you perform this work in Lightroom Classic, so that the catalog will reflect the changes you’ve made. It is worth noting that the changes to folder structure you make within Lightroom Classic will indeed be reflected on your hard drive, not just in your catalog.

Drive Reliability versus Capacity


Today’s Question: I’m now up to over 530,000 images and so have moved from 4TB to 8TB external drives to house my images, both active and back-up. Anything you can offer regarding reliability, performance, or anything else between 4TB & 8TB? Just wondering if I might be safer and/or better off spreading over more 4TB rather than using the 8TB.

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are quite a few variables that affect hard drive performance and reliability, but in general I would say that storage capacity is not a significant factor to consider. I would opt for the larger capacity hard drive for convenience, all other things being equal.

More Detail: When choosing a hard drive, the two primary concerns are performance and reliability (after having chosen the required storage capacity). Performance is not too difficult to get information about. Reliability is a bit trickier to consider.

In concept determining the performance of a hard should be relatively easy. In reality, getting this information can be rather difficult. If at all possible, I recommend tracking down the sustained transfer rate for the drive. Admittedly, many different software tools for testing sustained transfer rate differ in how they perform the test. If possible, I therefore recommend finding independent test results from a single source comparing various drives. I’ve long used PC Magazine’s reviews to try to obtain this performance data, starting here for reviews and more:

For reliability, you could track down the mean time between failure (MTBF) information that is sometimes available from hard drive manufacturers. It can also be helpful to look into reliability data from third-party sources. For example, while it doesn’t cover a wide range of hard drive brands, I find the stats provided by Backblaze to be interesting, especially in the context of seeing how different manufacturers perform in terms of hard drive reliability. You can find the 2019 annual stats from Backblaze here:

The references above are just a starting point, of course. But in the context of today’s question, the bottom line is that I would choose hard drive capacity based on storage needs, and then choose a specific drive based on performance and reliability data to the extent that is possible.