Backup Cleanup with GoodSync

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Today’s Question: I just finished your excellent online course regarding GoodSync. The question I have is as follows: let’s say that you are not starting out with a “pristine” destination [backup] drive. In other words, the destination drive includes files that are not on the source drive, but that you don’t need. Using a source to right destination backup process as in your video lessons, what will happen to those files in the destination folder? I believe you indicated that using GoodSync, the destination folder will be an exact replica of the source folder. Does that also indicate that extra files be deleted?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) will delete files on the destination (backup) drive, so that that destination drive will be an exact match of the source drive. Note, however, that you can establish settings that will preserve those files for a period of time before they are discarded, to help ensure you don’t accidentally remove files from the backup drive.

More Detail: As I’ve stated previously in the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, I prefer to use a one-say synchronization approach to backing up my photos and other important data. This provides a number of benefits, including a streamlined workflow for recovering from a hard drive failure, since my backup drive will be an exact match of my source drive after each updated backup with GoodSync.

Part of the process of ensuring that the backup drive is an exact match of the source drive is to remove files from the backup drive if those files are not present on the source drive. GoodSync (and other similar backup tools) will remove files from the destination (backup) drive if they are not present on the source drive, just as the software will copy files from the source drive if they are not currently present on the destination drive.

Of course, you may also want to have something of a built-in “undo” feature to avoid problems. For example, if you accidentally delete a file from the source drive and then perform an updated backup with GoodSync, the file would be removed from the destination drive and you wouldn’t be able to recover that file.

However, there is also an option in GoodSync to preserve such files for a set period of time. That way if you were to accidentally delete a file on the source drive, it would be preserved temporarily on the destination drive. If you realize you have made such a mistake, you could potentially recover the file on the backup drive, as long as you realize your mistake before the established amount of time has passed. You can configure that time in the settings for the backup job you define within GoodSync.

To learn more about using GoodSync to backup your photos and other important data, check out the “Backing Up with GoodSync” course here:

https://www.greylearning.com/courses/goodsync

Sharpening Preview

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Today’s Question: I know that everybody states that output sharpening should be evaluated at 100% zoom. In the “old days” I understood that Photoshop for various technical reasons could not accurately render odd zoom percentages. Since then with OpenGL and new video cards, and inputting one’s actual screen resolution to Photoshop, has this changed? It would be very useful to be able to use the Print Size zoom setting to at least get some idea of finished printed product even though it may not be 100% accurate because it’s easier to get the total feel of the image than scrolling around at 100% zoom.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Photoshop does provide more accurate image previews at “odd” image sizes than it did in early versions, but I still recommend previewing the sharpening effect at a 100% zoom setting to get the most accurate preview of the actual sharpening effect. That said, the best way to evaluate the sharpening for an image is to review the final output, such as a print.

More Detail: Modern high-resolution displays, along with updates to Photoshop, have provided more accurate image previews at any zoom setting. However, I still recommend evaluating the actual sharpening effect at a 100% zoom setting (or the Actual Pixels setting in Photoshop).

Even at a 100% zoom setting, however, there is still some “translation” involved when it comes to evaluating the sharpening effect for a photo. It takes a bit of experience to be able to anticipate what an image should look like on the screen in order to produce a great print.

So, first off, I recommend using a 100% zoom setting when you are actually adjusting the settings for the sharpening filter you are applying (such as Smart Sharpen). Of course, you can then use the Print Size zoom setting to get a sense of the actual print size, and a reasonably accurate sense of the sharpening effect. Just be sure to enter the actual pixel per inch (ppi) resolution of the display. You can calculate this value by dividing the number of pixels across the display (based on the resolution setting) by the number of inches wide the actual display is.

The Print Size zoom setting is still a reasonable way to evaluate the sharpening effect, but I do consider the 100% zoom setting to be better. But again, you really need to make a print to determine whether the sharpening settings were optimal for the image.

Sharpening for print is especially challenging because you are evaluating the sharpening effect on a monitor display, but the final result involves ink on paper. This is further complicated by the fact that different papers will react differently to ink, such as a greater absorbency with non-coated matte papers.

Ultimately, the image preview is helpful for evaluating the sharpening effect, but direct experience printing your photos will help you get a better sense of what an image should look like on the screen to ensure an optimal print. For example, with matte papers you often need to sharpen to the point that the image looks over-sharpened, in order to get a print that looks optimal.

Is Camera Preview a JPEG?

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Today’s Question: I’ve heard photographers say that you can’t really read too much into the preview on your camera’s LCD display because it is a JPEG image even if you are shooting raw. Is that true, and if so how does it impact the preview you’re seeing?

Tim’s Quick Answer: It is true that the image preview on the LCD display of your camera is essentially a JPEG preview of the raw capture. But I feel it is misleading to call it a JPEG image, and inaccurate to suggest you can’t “trust” this JPEG preview.

More Detail: The reality is, you’re never truly viewing a raw capture. After all, a raw capture is simply a collection of values representing electrical impulses measured by the image sensor based on the amount of light striking each photodiode on the sensor during an exposure. That information must be translated to actual pixel values, such as the RGB (red, green, and blue) pixel values used to define colors and tonal values in a digital photo.

In order to view a raw capture, the raw data needs to be interpreted. That could mean actually processing the raw data to render a new image, such as when you use Camera Raw to render a raw capture to an image in Photoshop.

With other software, such as Lightroom, you are viewing either a JPEG preview (such as in the Library module) or a real-time rendering of the raw data (in the Develop module). In this situation you are still viewing an interpretation of the raw data, not the actual raw data. All software that is able to process or preview a raw capture is interpreting the data, resulting in a slightly (or significantly) different result.

Similarly, the image you see on the camera’s LCD display is essentially based on in-camera raw processing. Think of it as having a little version of Adobe Camera Raw built into your camera. The raw capture data is processed in the camera to render what is essentially a JPEG image. But much like a raw capture processed with Camera Raw in Photoshop, this in-camera preview is based on the raw capture.

In other words, the preview you see on the camera’s LCD display isn’t inherently inaccurate. It is a rendered preview of the capture data. In-camera settings (such as contrast and saturation) will affect that preview. In some ways this enables you to have a preview on your camera’s LCD display that might be closer to your final intent for the image than what you would initially see in Adobe Lightroom or Bridge, for example.

So, the preview on the camera’s LCD display is just that: a preview. That preview can generally be counted upon to give you a good sense of what will be possible with the final image. To me what is more important is the histogram, so you have a sense of whether you’re losing highlight or shadow detail to the point that you won’t be able to recover that detail in post-processing.

The preview may not be completely accurate relative to the initial image you’ll see in your workflow on the computer, or relative to the final result you’ll achieve when interpreting the image with various adjustments. But I certainly wouldn’t say that you can’t “trust” the in-camera preview for your captures.

Impact of Multiple Adjustments

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Today’s Question: Further to the question about adjustments reducing image quality, is image quality reduced if I make many small adjustments on adjustment layers [in Adobe Photoshop] that cumulatively result in the effect I am after? Is it better to make fewer but stronger adjustments? I often just make a second Curves adjustment layer to refine the effect of my first Curves adjustment layer. Somehow that just works out better for me. Is this a problem?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is a minor benefit to using only one adjustment layer rather than two assuming the same final overall appearance for the photo. However, having more than one adjustment layer of the same time isn’t problematic enough that I would tell you to avoid doing so if you find that workflow easier.

More Detail: Today’s question was a follow-up to a previous question about the impact of applying adjustments via adjustment layers in Photoshop compared to direct adjustments. In my answer I mentioned that one of the benefits of using an adjustment layer is that each layer only really counts as a single adjustment, even if you have revised the settings for the adjustment layer multiple times.

In other words, applying multiple direct adjustments to an image can have a negative impact on image quality based on cumulative adjustments. An adjustment layer, by contrast, only counts as a single adjustment based on the final settings for the adjustment layer.

If you add more than one adjustment layer of the same type, of course, you are applying more than one adjustment. That could potentially result in a slight loss of image quality. The most common issue is posterization, which appears as the loss of smooth gradations of tone and color in an image. Multiple adjustments of the same type would increase the risk of these types of issues.

That said, image quality degradation is generally only a real concern when the adjustments are very strong. If you are simply fine-tuning an existing adjustment with an additional adjustment, the impact will generally be very minimal.

In general I recommend using a single adjustment layer for each type of adjustment you want to apply. This not only helps ensure optimal image quality, but can also help streamline your overall adjustment workflow. That said, if you find it easier or more comfortable to add a new adjustment layer rather than revising an existing adjustment layer, as long as those refinements are relatively minor I wouldn’t be worried about the impact on image quality.

ISO for Night Sky Photography

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Today’s Question: I’ve read some discussions on the night sky photography sites, in talk of noise, about the thought that you can potentially get lower noise by shooting the night sky at a lower ISO, maybe 1250 or 1600, and then adjusting exposure in post processing, as opposed to just shooting the image at a high ISO, say 6400. What are your thoughts?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In general I recommend increasing the ISO as needed, but not under-exposing the image. The optimal settings in terms of noise will vary from one camera to another, but in general you will get better results raising the ISO setting than under-exposing and brightening in post-processing.

More Detail: There are some special exposure requirements when it comes to night sky photography, such as ensuring your exposure time isn’t too long in order to avoid the appearance of star trails in a photo. But regardless, noise becomes a very real concern.

In general you want to use the lowest ISO setting possible, but not at the expense of a good exposure. I would typically start with the lens aperture wide open (or nearly so), determine the longest shutter speed possible to avoid star trails, and then adjust the ISO setting as needed to achieve a good exposure that is as bright as possible without blowing out highlight detail.

I also recommend enabling in-camera long exposure noise reduction, as I have generally found this to be extremely helpful with night sky photos. When possible, try to allow some time in between exposures, to avoid letting the camera get too hot. When the camera gets hot, noise levels can be significantly increased.

Generally speaking you will find that raising the ISO setting in the camera will result in less noise than using a lower ISO to create an under-exposed photo that must be brightened in post-processing. But again, different cameras will behave differently, so it is a good idea to test your specific camera at a wide variety of settings so you can get a better sense of the noise performance of the camera you’ll be using for night sky photography.

Securely Erasing Photos

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Today’s Question: How do you format a flash drive so that all the hidden images are erased and the capacity of the original drive is restored? I’m on a Macintosh platform. Thank you.

Tim’s Quick Answer: When you want to make sure photos are removed from a storage device in a way that ensures they can’t be recovered by anyone else, you’ll want to use an option to format the drive in a secure way.

More Detail: First off, it is worth noting that by default when you delete photos (or other files) from a storage device on either Macintosh or Windows, those files are not actually deleted. Instead, they go to the “Recycle Bin” on Windows or the “Trash” on Macintosh. You need to empty the Recycle Bin or Trash to ensure the files are actually deleted.

Even then, the files aren’t truly deleted from the storage device, though the space the files were taking up is made available again. In other words, if you delete photos from a storage device but never over-write that storage device with new data, special software could be used to recover the data that you thought had been deleted.

There are, however, options for securely formatting a storage device so it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to ever recover any data from the device.

On the Macintosh platform you can use the Disk Utility application for this purpose. The Disk Utility application is found in the Utilities folder within the Applications folder. When you select the drive you want to securely erase, you can choose the Erase option at the top of the application window. After configuring the overall settings for erasing the drive, click the Security Options button, which will bring up a dialog where you can choose a setting between “Fastest” and “Most Secure”. The “Most Secure” setting will take more time, but will help ensure no data can be recovered from the drive.

On Windows you would need to use a third-party tool to securely erase a hard drive in this manner, but there are a variety of such tools available.

Backup Preference

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Today’s Question: Would you briefly describe why you favor GoodSync over Time Machine [for Macintosh] or other software such as Carbon Copy Cloner?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I favor GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) over Time Machine because GoodSync creates an exact backup copy of the source hard drive. Carbon Copy Cloner provides the same basic features, but in testing I simply found that I preferred the workflow and interface in GoodSync.

More Detail: GoodSync and Carbon Copy Cloner provide very similar features that enable you to maintain a backup that is an exact copy of the source data. This approach makes it very easy to recover from a hard drive failure, since your backup is essentially an exact copy of the source drive (at least up to the time of your last backup).

Both GoodSync and Carbon Copy Cloner could be used in a similar workflow, and I think both are very good products. Based on my testing I simply found that I prefer the workflow and interface in GoodSync. Ultimately I would have been happy using either product.

Time Machine is a bit different, in that it creates an incremental backup. One of the special features of Time Machine compared to a more typical incremental backup is that Time Machine maintains different backup versions over time. So, for example, let’s assume you had a file on your desktop that you accidentally deleted. In Time Machine you could move back in time to a date when that file still existed, and recover the file based on a backup from that date.

Of course, Time Machine is limited in how far back in time it can go with the backups, based on the amount of storage space available on the hard drive you’re using as a Time Machine backup.

My preference is to use a product such as GoodSync for backing up my primary storage, especially on external hard drives. I use Time Machine as something of a supplemental backup for the internal hard drive on my computer, but not for the external hard drives. In other words, I see Time Machine as a valuable tool for certain backup scenarios, and I find software like GoodSync to be invaluable for the primary backup of my most important data (such as photos).

You can learn more about GoodSync here:

http://timgrey.me/greybackup

And don’t forget I have a video course that teaches my workflow in GoodSync, which you can find in the GreyLearning library here:

https://www.greylearning.com/courses/goodsync

Copy Safer Than Move?

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Today’s Question: Would it be safer to copy the photos to the new hard drive rather than move them, or does it make any difference?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, I do generally recommend using a copy-and-delete approach rather than using the move command when you want to move photos from one location to another. However, in the context of Lightroom it is better to move rather than copy photos, making sure of course that you have a good backup of all photos before you begin the process.

More Detail: Today’s question is a follow-up from a prior question about moving photos from a nearly-full hard drive to a new hard drive, for photos that were being managed within Lightroom.

Under normal circumstances I would suggest copying photos from the source drive to the destination drive. After that copy operation is complete, you could theoretically delete the source files from the original drive. However, in general I instead recommend renaming the folder they are in to something that indicates it is a backup.

I would then update all of my backups before considering deleting the original files from the hard drive.

With Lightroom Classic things are slightly more complicated, because there really isn’t an easy way to copy the photos within Lightroom and then delete the originals. Furthermore, I don’t recommend performing this work outside of Lightroom, as it can create a variety of problems within your catalog and workflow.

Because of these various factors, when you actually want to move photos from one storage device to another within Lightroom, I recommend doing that work directly in Lightroom. Just be sure you have a full backup of all photos and other files on all hard drives you’ll be working with, just in case anything goes wrong.

So, if you are managing photos with Lightroom Classic and want to move photos, first update all of your backups. Then move the photos within Lightroom, make sure everything updates correctly, and then update your backups as well.

Removing Old Software

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Today’s Question: My hard drive is filling up with programs and I really need some space. I have the latest 2019 versions of Adobe Photoshop and Bridge. Looking at my program list I still have Bridge and Photoshop 2018 installed. Is it perfectly safe to uninstall those older versions?

Tim’s Quick Answer: As long as the latest version of the application is working properly, including any plug-ins and configuration settings, it is perfectly safe to uninstall the older version of the application.

More Detail: When Adobe releases a major update to one of their Creative Cloud applications, it will install an additional copy of the software alongside the previous version. For minor updates the existing installation is simply updated, without creating an additional copy of the software.

Once the latest version of a Creative Cloud application is working correctly and configured to your preferences (including the installation of plug-ins if applicable), you can most certainly remove the older version of the application to free up space on your hard drive.

I recommend uninstalling using the Creative Cloud application. On the Apps tab of the Creative Cloud application you can first locate the application that has more than one version installed. To the left of the application name you will see a triangle icon, which you can click to expand (or collapse) the list of different versions of the application that are currently installed.

For example, you might have a version 20 of Photoshop (the CC 2019 version) as well as a version 19 (the CC 2018 version). To remove the older version, first click on the popup arrow to the right of the “Open” or “Update” button for the application version you want to uninstall. From the popup that appears choose “Manage” followed by “Uninstall”. In the confirmation dialog that appears, you can choose to remove the application preferences as long as the latest version has been configured completely.

At this point the Creative Cloud application will begin uninstalling the selected older version of the application, freeing up hard drive space in the process.

GoodSync Streamlines Recovery

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Today’s Question: How would you recover from having your photos hard drive fail in a way that caused photos to be lost from that drive?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If a master hard drive fails, you could simply recover from the backup drive that had been updated by GoodSync. In fact, GoodSync may very well alert you to the fact that a hard drive is failing in the first place.

More Detail: Today’s question is actually one that I wrote myself, because I experienced a hard drive failure that I was first alerted to by the GoodSync software I recommend for backing up photos (http://timgrey.me/greybackup).

After downloading photos via an import into my Lightroom Classic catalog, I initiated the process of backing up my photos drive to a backup drive using GoodSync software. During that backup, GoodSync presented an error message that photos could not be read from the source hard drive.

I browsed the hard drive directly, and found that most of the photos were missing from the folder I had just imported photos into. Fortunately, I had a backup created with GoodSync that I could recover from. I also had a backup of the photos most recently imported into my Lightroom catalog, since I had taken advantage of the option to “Make a Second Copy To” during the import process.

Since I was going to need to replace the failed hard drive, my first step was to purchase a replacement drive. I then used GoodSync to copy all of my photos from the drive that had been used for the most recent backup. I made sure the new drive had the same volume label (or drive letter if I had been using Windows) as the drive that had failed. When I launched Lightroom, everything was in perfect working order. The only photos that were missing were from the most recent import, which hadn’t been backed up by GoodSync because the backup failed when my hard drive was in the process of failing. To recover those photos, I simply copied them to the applicable folder on the new hard drive, since those photos were reflected in my Lightroom catalog already, and were simply missing from the master hard drive at that point.

As a result, I didn’t lose a single photo. I was able to recover my photos very easily thanks to GoodSync, and in fact I was alerted to the impending hard drive failure by error messages presented by GoodSync. So now I’m an even bigger fan of this software than I was before!

Note that if you decide to also use GoodSync to backup your photos, I have a video course in the GreyLearning library that will teach you the workflow I use with this software. You can find that course in the GreyLearning library here:

https://www.greylearning.com/courses/goodsync