Duplicating a Layer Mask

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Today’s Question: How do you copy a layer mask from one layer to another in Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are several ways you can duplicate a layer mask in Photoshop, but one of the simplest is to hold the Alt/Option key while dragging-and-dropping the layer mask to the destination layer.

More Detail: When you apply a targeted adjustment or create a composite image in Photoshop, the “stencil” that causes the layer to only be visible in certain areas is called a layer mask. At times you may want to duplicate a layer mask so it can be used with another layer.

One quick option is to hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while dragging-and-dropping the layer mask to the destination layer. If that destination layer already has a layer mask, as would be the case with an adjustment layer, you’ll be asked if you want to replace that existing layer mask.

You could also use a selection as the basis of duplicating a layer mask. To load a selection based on a layer mask hold the Ctrl key on Windows or the Command key on Macintosh while clicking on the thumbnail for the layer mask on the Layers panel. You can then add a layer mask (such as by adding an adjustment layer) with that selection active, and the selection will be used as the basis for the new layer mask.

In some situations you may want the opposite of an existing layer mask. In that case, after duplicating the layer mask, click on the thumbnail for the layer mask you want to invert so that mask is active. Then on the Masks tab of the Properties panel click the Invert button to invert the layer mask to apply to the opposite area of the image.

Note, by the way, that in many cases you can avoid having to duplicate a layer mask at all by using a layer group for the layer mask, with the adjustment layers or image layers you want to mask inside the layer group.

For example, you could create a selection of the area of the image you want to apply a targeted adjustment to. Then add a layer group by clicking on the folder icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. This will add a layer mask to the layer group with that mask being based on the selection you had created. You can then add adjustment layers (or image layers) to the layer group, and they will only be visible in the area defined by the layer mask.

Unfeathering a Selection or Mask

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Today’s Question: If I have feathered a selection in Photoshop and then added an adjustment layer for a targeted adjustment, is there a way to “unfeather” the result if the feathering was too much?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can reduce the feathering of a layer mask (or selection) using the Contrast adjustment in the Select and Mask workspace.

More Detail: In almost all cases when applying a targeted adjustment or creating a composite image in Photoshop you will need the effect of a feathered selection. Feathering creates a smooth transition along the edge of the selection or layer mask that defines where the adjustment or image is visible. In effect, feathering involves blurring the edges within the selection or layer mask.

While you will almost always want the effect of a feathered selection, I recommend that you never feather your selections. Instead, wait until you have created a layer mask based on the selection for a targeted adjustment or composite image. Then apply the feathering to the layer mask, at which point you’ll be able to achieve a better result because you can actually see the direct effect of feathering within the image.

If, however, you had feathered the selection by too much, you can indeed reduce the amount of feathering by applying a Contrast adjustment. Feathering involves blurring the edges of a layer mask (or selection), and Contrast sharpens those edges to reduce the blur effect.

After creating the layer mask, click on the thumbnail for the layer mask on the Layers panel to make sure that mask is active. Then go to the Masks tab on the Properties panel and click on the “Select and Mask” button. That will bring up the Select and Mask workspace, where you’ll find a Contrast slider in the Global Refinements section.

You can increase the value for Contrast to reduce the feathering along the edge of the layer mask. This is helpful whether you had applied too much feathering to a selection before creating a layer mask or you had previously applied feathering to a layer mask that had ended up being too much, and you need to reduce the degree of blurring for the layer mask.

Still Frame from Video

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Today’s Question: Is it possible to take a still image from a video file in Lightroom Classic? If so, how?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can very easily create a still image from a frame of a video in Lightroom Classic with the “Capture Frame” option.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic enables you to manage video clips alongside your still photos, which can be very helpful if you use video to supplement your photography. In addition to being able to trim or apply basic adjustments to a video, you can also capture a still frame from the video.

Start by browsing the video in the loupe view display in the Library module. You then want to pause the video at the frame you’d like to capture. You could play the video and pause at the right moment, but it is generally easier to use the slider that indicates the current point in the video being displayed to “scrub” through the video to find the right frame.

Once you’re viewing the frame of the video that you want to capture as a still image, click the “frame” button to the right of the numbers indicating the current position within the video. That button has an icon that features a rectangle with a frame around it. Clicking the button will bring up a popup menu, where you can select the “Capture Frame” option to create a JPEG image from the current frame of the video.

Keep in mind that this still image extracted from the video will generally be of relatively low resolution. Many still cameras that support video have a maximum video resolution of 1920×1080 pixels, which equates to about a 2-megapixel capture. If your camera supports 4K video resolution, the pixel dimensions will be around 3840×2160 pixels (the exact values will vary among different cameras), which translates to about an 8-megapixel capture.

History for Duplicated Adjustments

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Today’s Question: When I copy Develop Adjustments to other photos, the History doesn’t show what those adjustments are. Is there any way to show them?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No. When you apply a set of “batch” adjustments to an image in Lightroom Classic, the History section will only show that batch application, rather than the individual adjustments that were updated.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic includes a variety of features that enable you to apply a “batch” of adjustments to an image. You can copy and paste adjustments from one image to another, use the “Previous” button to apply all adjustments from the previously edited image to the current image, or apply a preset to a photo.

However, when you use one of these options to add a batch of adjustments to an image, the History section of the left panel in the Develop module will not show you all of the adjustments that were actually applied. Instead, you’ll see an indication that a preset was applied or that settings were pasted to the image, for example.

This can certainly be frustrating when you’re trying to figure out exactly which adjustments were applied to a given image through one of these “batch” options. You could, of course, review the individual adjustments on the right panel in the Develop module. By going to the state in the History section just before the batch of adjustments were applied, and then returning to the most recent history state with those adjustments applied, you can watch for the changes on the right panel to see which adjustments were altered.

However, there is not an option to have the history show all of the adjustments included in a batch application of adjustments, other than a history state for that batch adjustment.

Unsupported Info Files

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Today’s Question: I have many document files with same name as an image, but with DOC or TXT extension. I use these for extensive info about the image, such as the people or location featured in the image. If I import my photos into a Lightroom Classic catalog will these files create confusion?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, these unsupported files won’t create any confusion for Lightroom Classic. The documents won’t be imported into the catalog along with the photos, but they will remain on your hard drive for you to review or update as needed.

More Detail: When you import existing photos that are already stored where you want them into a Lightroom Classic catalog, only supported image and video formats are imported. All other files will remain where they are, and the folder structure shown within Lightroom Classic will match the folder structure on the hard drive.

Documents stored in the same folder as your images will not be imported into your catalog, but you can still access those documents directly on the hard drive. Just be sure you don’t make any changes to the photos or folder structure on the hard drive. Those changes should be initiated within Lightroom Classic.

Of course, if you start using Lightroom Classic you manage your photos, you’ll likely find it easier to add the information about your photos to the metadata for those photos within your catalog. For example, you could use keywords to identify the subjects that appear in each photo, and you could use the Title or Caption fields in metadata to add more details about the circumstances of the photo. This will help streamline your overall workflow, so that all of the information you need about your photos is contained within your Lightroom Classic catalog.

Caution with Long Exposure Noise Reduction

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Today’s Question: Do you need to hold the camera steady during the second half of the long exposure when using long exposure noise reduction?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, you don’t need to continue holding the camera steady during the second exposure created when you have enabled long exposure noise reduction in the camera.

More Detail: When you enable long exposure noise reduction your camera will actually capture two images for each photo you capture. The first exposure is the actual photo, and the second exposure is a “dark frame” that is created to measure the actual current noise behavior of the image sensor, so the noise can be subtracted from the actual photo.

During that “dark frame” exposure, the camera is not actually recording any image data through the lens. It is instead taking the equivalent of a photo captured with the shutter remaining closed. That would theoretically produce an image that is completely black. In reality there will be noise in that capture, and so the noise is known to have been generated by the sensor and can therefore be subtracted from the photo.

Because there is no image data being captured through the lens during this “dark frame” exposure, there is no risk in moving the camera during that exposure. You’ll just want to be sure that the real exposure has indeed completed, before moving the camera.

You may obviously want to keep the camera in the same position in any event, so that you can capture another photo of the same scene, perhaps with different camera settings, as soon as the long exposure noise reduction capture is completed. However, after the initial exposure and during the “dark frame” exposure you could certainly start moving the camera into a different position for your next shot.

Import Mismatch

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Today’s Question: When I attempt to import photos into Lightroom Classic on a Windows computer it only imports my raw captures. But when I try from my Mac it imports both the raw files and the JPEGs. Is there a way to fix this? I do have the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checkbox turned on.

Tim’s Quick Answer: On the Macintosh you simply need to turn on the “Treat JPEG files next to raw files as separate photos” checkbox on the General tab of the Preferences dialog in Lightroom Classic. Note, however, that in the context of Lightroom Classic I don’t generally recommend using Raw+JPEG capture in the first place.

More Detail: When you choose the Raw+JPEG capture option on your camera, you end up with two copies of every photo you capture. The original raw capture is preserved, and the camera then also renders a JPEG image based on that raw capture.

By default, Lightroom Classic will copy both the raw and the JPEG files of raw+JPEG sets to the selected folder location on import. However, only the raw capture will actually be imported into the catalog.

If you want both the raw and JPEG captures imported into your catalog, you can simply turn on the ” Treat JPEG files next to raw files as separate photos” checkbox on the general tab of the Preferences dialog. For future imports, both the raw and JPEG captures will be imported alongside each other.

In general, however, I don’t recommend importing the JPEG along with the raw capture, as doing so can cause confusion about which is the “real” source photo. Lightroom Classic will generate JPEG previews based on the raw captures, which in many respects takes the place of what you might otherwise use the JPEG captures for. And you could always export a JPEG copy based on the raw capture that includes the adjustments you’ve applied in Lightroom Classic.

If you have other reasons you want to preserve a JPEG copy of your original raw captures at the time of capture, that’s perfectly fine. But you might give some thought to whether there is a real benefit to the additional clutter created by having two copies of every photo.

Photo Border in Lightroom Classic

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Today’s Question: With Lightroom Classic can I put a border around the edge of my photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Not exactly. You could use the “Stroke Border” option in the Print module to add a border around a photo, but this does not provide a great solution. Instead, I recommend sending the image to Photoshop to add a Stroke layer effect.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic does not include a general “stroke” effect that enables you to add a border to an image, other than the option for adding a Stroke Border in the Print module. The Print module, of course, is focused on printing your photos. You could use the “Print to File” option to generate a JPEG image of the result, but that would not be ideal for all scenarios.

More to the point, creating a border effect in this way would require that you’re either willing to crop the image to fit the paper dimensions, or configure the paper dimensions to exactly match those of your photo. This can be a little complicated to configure, depending to some extent on how you’ve cropped your photo.

Instead, I recommend sending the image to Photoshop (via the Photo > Edit In command on the menu) to add a stroke effect, where you could also add a variety of other visual effects to the photo. In the context of Photoshop that would call for adding a Stroke via the Layer Effects feature.

You could convert the “Background” image layer to a normal layer by double-clicking on the thumbnail for that layer on the Layers panel. Then click the “fx” button at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Stroke. That will bring up the Layer Styles dialog, where you can configure the Stroke settings along with adding other visual effects.

Safely Moving the Catalog

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Today’s Question: I’ve put my Lightroom Classic catalog and images all on an external hard drive. Can I move my catalog to my laptop [internal hard drive] without messing everything up?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can move your Lightroom Classic catalog to an internal hard drive from the external hard drive. This will likely help improve overall performance and will also enable you to work with your catalog even if the external hard drive is not connected to the computer.

More Detail: The Lightroom Classic catalog contains the information about your photos, such as metadata and adjustments you have applied. Even if the source image is not available, such as when an external hard drive is disconnected, you can still review the information about your photos. You can even update information about photos with the source files unavailable, such as to assign keywords or other metadata updates to the photos.

You may therefore want to keep your Lightroom Classic catalog on an internal hard drive so you can review the information in the catalog even when you have not connected the external hard drive that contains the actual images.

Before getting started I do recommend backing up your catalog, just to ensure you can recover if anything goes wrong as part of this process. Then you’ll need to be sure you know where your catalog is currently stored. You can get this information in the Catalog Settings dialog, which you can access by choosing Edit > Catalog Settings from the menu on Windows or Lightroom Classic > Catalog Settings on Macintosh. In the Catalog Settings dialog go to the General tab and click the Show button to the right of the Location field. This will bring up a window in your operating system for the location where the folder containing your catalog is located, with the folder selected.

Next, quit Lightroom Classic to make sure you don’t move the catalog while it is in use. You can then move the entire folder containing your catalog to the preferred location. Note that you may also prefer to copy the folder to the new location, and then rename the existing folder to make it clear that this is now a backup copy of your catalog.

You can then navigate to the folder containing the catalog in the new location you have placed it. Inside that folder you can double-click the catalog file, which is the file with the “LRCAT” filename extension. This will launch Lightroom Classic and open the catalog. Because your photos will still be stored in the location they are expected, everything in Lightroom Classic will look exactly the same as it did before.

Raw Support Workaround

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Today’s Question: Wouldn’t this photographer [who asked about whether they could continue using old versions of Photoshop and Lightroom] have to upgrade when he/she purchases a new camera model that isn’t supported by Photoshop CS6?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, the photographer would not need to upgrade Photoshop (or Lightroom Classic) to gain support for a new raw capture format because they could use the Adobe DNG Converter as a workaround.

More Detail: The Adobe DNG Converter is a software tool that enables you to convert proprietary raw captures to the Adobe Digital Negative (DNG) file format. Those DNG files can then be processed with older versions of Lightroom or Photoshop that haven’t been updated to support the newer proprietary raw capture.

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s edition of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, I recommend upgrading to the latest versions of Adobe applications, which generally means signing up for an Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan subscription (https://timgrey.me/ccplans). This ensures you have the latest features, support for newer raw capture formats, and more.

For photographers who are avoiding the subscription model by continuing to use older versions of Photoshop and Lightroom, at some point they will likely run into a situation where they buy a new camera that uses a proprietary raw capture format that is not supported by the older versions of the software they are using. The Adobe DNG Converter provides a workaround for this situation.

You can download the free Adobe DNG Converter here:

https://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/using/adobe-dng-converter.html

Note that I still recommend signing up for an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription plan, to provide access to the latest features, bug fixes, and other updates to Adobe’s software applications. But if you continue using an older version of Adobe applications that don’t support newer raw capture formats, the DNG Converter provides a solution.