Returning to Color Version


Today’s Question: I deleted [removed] a RAW (CR2) image from the Lightroom catalog by accident. In Lightroom I had converted it to black & white. When I realized that I shouldn’t have removed it, I re-imported it.

The problem is that the image that appears back in the catalog has no history other than “Import” and it appears as a black & white image. I can’t figure out how to get the colored original back. I’d like to rework it from scratch because I’ve learned so much since I did the conversion years ago.

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can get back to the color version of this photo by simply choosing “Color” from the Treatment setting at the top of the Basic section on the right panel in the Develop module.

More Detail: All of the adjustments you apply in the Develop module in Lightroom are non-destructive. What that means is that making changes to the appearance of a photo in Lightroom won’t actually alter the source file on your hard drive.

That means you can make changes to any of the adjustment settings for the image as desired. In this case, for example, that could simply involve changing the Treatment setting from “Black & White” to “Color”.

In addition, note that you can always click the Reset button at the bottom of the right panel in Lightroom if you want to return to the default settings for interpreting the image in Lightroom. This option provides you with the ability to get a “fresh start” for the image in the Develop module.

With regard to the History in the Develop module, when you initially import a photo the only history that will be shown is the actual import step. However, adjustments applied previously can still be reflected. Adjustment settings from the Develop module can be written into the XMP sidecar file for RAW captures, and directly into the file for other supported image file types. You can save most standard metadata information as well as Develop settings for an image by choosing Metadata > Save Metadata to File while in the Library module. You can also enable an option to always automatically save this information by turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog.

It is worth noting that if you had exported a derivative image file, such as by creating a JPEG or TIFF image from your original RAW capture, any adjustments in the Develop module would be applied to the actual pixel values in that JPEG or TIFF image. But in the case of a RAW capture, you can always get back to the original interpretation of the image.

Posted in Ask Tim Grey | Comments Off on Returning to Color Version

Display Brightness Setting


Today’s Question: I have an iMac with two displays: an integrated 21″ monitor and a Dell UltraSharp 2401. Originally I set different brightness levels for Internet viewing (Apple monitor) versus printing (Dell). The Dell brightness was therefore set quite low. I now want to recalibrate so that the Dell is for images to be displayed on a digital frame with (hopefully) Adobe RGB color space. For accurate reproduction according to use, where should I set the brightness level for each monitor?

Tim’s Quick Answer: For the display being used to evaluate adjustments for printing I would still recommend using a relatively low brightness value, on the order of around 90 to 120 cd/m2 (candelas per square meter). For the display used to prepare images for a digital display it is reasonable to tend toward a value closer to around 200 cd/m2.

More Detail: There are two issues at play here. First, when evaluating a photo on your monitor display for purposes of preparing that image for print, it can be very helpful to use a relatively low brightness setting. The reason is that the final print doesn’t emit light the way your monitor display does, and so will naturally appear less luminous. By using a darker display you’ll have a preview that is closer to your final print, and thus will be able to make more accurate decisions about the adjustments you apply.

The second issue is that all of the other digital methods of sharing tend to involve non-calibrated displays with a wide variety of brightness settings. Those brightness settings tend to be significantly brighter than what would be recommended when preparing an image for print.

The result is that you can’t ever be completely sure what the final image will look like in a situation where the image will be viewed on a display you don’t have control over. My personal approach in these types of situations is to prepare the images with the display set to the maximum brightness setting.

For something like a digital photo frame, you have the added advantage of being able to evaluate the result. You could, for example, share an all-white image on the digital frame, and then compare that to an all-white image on your computer’s display. If you adjust the brightness on your monitor display (or the digital frame if it is so equipped) then you can then use the monitor display to accurately adjust the overall images so they’ll look good on that digital frame.

It is important to keep in mind that you also want to ensure color accuracy, along with being able to fine-tune the tonality based on your intended use. For that purpose I recommend a product such as the ColorMunki Display from X-Rite, which you can find here:

And hopefully we’ll one day have a situation where everyone is calibrating their displays, so we can always count on our images being displayed accurately!

Posted in Ask Tim Grey | Comments Off on Display Brightness Setting

Removing a Drive


Today’s Question: I had a hard drive crash that was referenced in my Lightroom Catalog. I had backups of the files and have restored those files to other drives. However, the hard drive still shows up in the list of drives in Lightroom. How do I remove that drive from Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: To remove a hard drive from the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module, you simply need to remove all folders (and therefore photos) from that drive within Lightroom. You can accomplish that by selecting all of the photos, right-clicking on one of the folders, and choosing “Remove” from the popup menu. Note that in this specific situation, all of the folders in question would appear as “missing” folders.

More Detail: I am assuming in this case that all of the photos represented as being on the failed hard drive are now represented on the new drive. In other words, it is important to make sure you’ve added back all of the photos from a backup copy before removing the reference to the original photos. I’ll have more to say on this in a moment.

If you’re certain that all of the photos represented on the failed hard drive (and thus showing as missing in your Lightroom catalog) have indeed been replaced with backup copies, you can remove all of the folders from the failed drive very easily.

Start by clicking on the first folder on the list of folders for that drive and then holding the Shift key on the keyboard while clicking on the last folder on the list. Then right-click on any one of the selected folders and choose “Remove” from the popup menu. Confirm your decision in the dialog that appears, and all of the selected folders will be removed. Once all folders and photos from that drive have been removed from the Lightroom catalog, the drive itself will disappear as well.

I should hasten to add that in a situation like this there is an easier way to recover your photos. The easiest approach is to simply replace your original photos drive with a backup drive. If you are using a synchronization approach to backing up your photos (which I highly recommend), this is particularly simple. You can disconnect the failed drive, then update the backup drive to look exactly like the failed drive. In other words, change the drive letter on Windows or the volume label on Macintosh to the same setting used by the original drive. Lightroom will then be able to find all of the photos just as though nothing had changed.

If your backup isn’t quite as organized as would be the case with a synchronization approach, there are still relatively straightforward ways to recover from a drive failure. For example, you could disconnect the original failed drive and connect the backup drive (or otherwise make the backup copies available) and use the “Find Missing Folder” option for the folders that show as missing from the original hard drive, restoring access to your backup photos as part of your existing Lightroom catalog organization.

And, of course, whenever a drive fails I recommend that your first order of business be to create another backup copy of your photos as quickly as possible. If, for example, you have only your master copy of your photos plus a single backup, a failed drive means you no longer have a backup.

Posted in Ask Tim Grey | Comments Off on Removing a Drive

Multi-Step Enlargement


Today’s Question: If I am enlarging a file to 200% or 300% of the original size, will I get a better result to do it in two steps rather than one?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Generally speaking, no. You’ll generally not see any significant difference with a multi-step enlargement process, especially considering relatively recent updates to resizing algorithms. And frankly, multiple-step enlargement also has the potential to degrade overall image quality.

More Detail: A number of years ago there was much more talk about incremental resizing of photos. The idea was that by resizing an image in stages, you would help retain more detail. While there was a degree of truth in this, I also found that some comparisons between one-step and multiple-step resizing weren’t equal when it came to sharpening. For example, one action that was available for sale would resize an image in small increments, but apply some sharpening in between some of the resizing steps.

In addition, applications such as Photoshop have been updated to include improved algorithms for resizing photos. For example, the “Bicubic Smoother” and “Preserve Details” algorithms available in the Image Size dialog in Photoshop provide improved results for significant enlargements.

Ultimately, I would say that with software that is more than a few years old, there might be a slight advantage to resizing in a few increments, especially if a very small amount of sharpening is applied in between those enlargement increments. But if you’re using relatively recent software, you can expect that there won’t be a discernible difference in quality between one-step and multiple-step enlargements.

Posted in Ask Tim Grey | Comments Off on Multi-Step Enlargement

File Size Limit


Today’s Question: I have a question regarding exporting a photo for a contest that specifies file size limit of 10 MB. When I go into the Export dialog [in Lightroom] I specify 10,000 KB as my limit but the file that is produced is actually 5.85MB. Why is it not producing a file closer to the 10 MB limit? Will this affect the final viewing experience?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “Limit File Size To” setting in Lightroom’s Export dialog only establishes an upper limit. The other settings you establish will determine the actual file size you achieve, which may result in a file that is considerably smaller than the limit you’ve defined.

More Detail: The “Limit File Size To” option is only available when exporting a photo as a JPEG file. The file size limit really just provides a different way to describe the Quality setting. In other words, if you’re trying to achieve a file that is smaller than a particular size, it is easier to specify the size rather than trying to guess which setting to use for the Quality option.

However, the “Limit File Size To” option won’t guarantee a specific file size. The other key factors related to file size with a JPEG image are the pixel dimensions and the content of the image (since that content impacts the effectiveness of the JPEG compression).

If you specify pixel dimensions that result in a file size of less than 10 MB even at the maximum Quality setting, then the file will simply be smaller than 10MB. In that case, since the maximum Quality setting would be used, the only way to achieve a larger file for a given photo would be to increase the pixel dimensions.

If you specify pixel dimensions that make it impossible to create a file size smaller than the limit you specify, Lightroom will present an error that the file could not be exported because a file of the size you requested couldn’t be created.

If the contest specified pixel dimensions to be used for the files you submit, my recommendation is to export the photos at those exact pixel dimensions, and use the maximum value of 100 for the Quality setting. Only if the file were too large would I consider reducing the Quality setting. Provided you have maximized the pixel dimensions based on the submission guidelines and used a high value (80 or above) for the Quality setting, the image quality will be maintained very well.

As an aside, I also wish that the people running photo contests (or otherwise defining image submission guidelines) would stop including a maximum file size as part of their criteria. Including a file size limitation can lead to confusion for the photographers trying to submit images. If photos must be submitted as JPEG images, and if the pixel dimensions are limited to a reasonable value (such as around 2,500 pixels on the long side) the file sizes will never be extreme in the first place.

Posted in Ask Tim Grey | Comments Off on File Size Limit

GoodSync Error


Today’s Question: I’ve adopted GoodSync as my backup solution after reading your article and viewing your video course [on GoodSync]. It works well most of the time, but sometimes I receive an error indicating that the “Sync has finished with Errors or Unresolved Conflicts”. Is this something I should be worried about? Am I doing something wrong?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is a somewhat common issue, related to changes being made to the drive (such as by the operating system) in the background while GoodSync is running. It is probably not an issue you need to worry about, but it is a good idea to view a list of the errors just to be sure.

More Detail: When a synchronization backup using GoodSync ends with the error message that there were errors or conflicts, you can view a summary of those issues.

Conflicts occur when a file has been changed on both drives. If you’re using the one-way backup option in GoodSync, which is what I recommend, then this should never be an issue. However, it is a good idea to confirm there were no actual conflicts. You can do so by choosing View > Conflicts from the menu to display a list of conflicts for files on the drives being synchronized. Again, for a one-way backup, this won’t be an issue.

Next, you can choose View > Errors from the menu to see a list of errors that occurred during the synchronization process. In most cases these errors will be caused by the operating system doing work in the background. For example, as a Macintosh user, I often see errors related to the Spotlight search feature indexing the drive in the background while a one-way synchronization backup is in progress.

If the only errors on the list are operating system files (not your own photo or data files), then you can ignore this issue. In these types of situations you can generally avoid the errors by either leaving the drives connected to the computer for a few minutes before starting the synchronization backup, or by simply running the backup process again after receiving the error message.

I have never had an error or conflict with GoodSync that represented an actual problem with my drive or data, but I still check the list of conflicts and errors every time I see the message indicated in today’s question. If, however, you see errors or conflicts related to your actual photo or data files, you’ll want to explore the reasons for those errors, and perhaps make another backup to a different drive in the meantime just in case there are problems with your storage devices.

For those interested in learning more about the GoodSync backup software referenced today (and that I use for backing up all of my photos and other important data), you can get details through the GoodSync website here:

Posted in Ask Tim Grey | Comments Off on GoodSync Error

Backup Recovery


Today’s Question: I have done a complete backup to an external hard drive of my Lightroom catalog including all negative pictures and available previews using the Export as Catalog command. I have then used GoodSync to synchronize my changes to this original backup when adding/working on new pictures in Lightroom. However, if I ever have to use this backup because of a failed hard drive, new computer, etc. I have no idea how to bring all this GoodSync backup data back into Lightroom.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Actually, the beauty of using software such as GoodSync ( to backup your photos and other data is that you don’t actually need to go through a recovery process. You can simply connect one of the backup drives in place of a failed original, make sure that the drive letter or volume label are the same as the original, and get to work immediately.

More Detail: In this case there is one additional challenge based on the way you’ve described your workflow. Specifically, it sounds like you have used the “Export as Catalog” command to create a copy of your Lightroom catalog and image files. If this copy is truly only a backup copy, however, your workflow won’t be as streamlined as it could be.

The “Export as Catalog” command is a great way to make a full one-time backup of your catalog and photos. However, it doesn’t provide a good way of incrementally updating your backup. If you used the “Export as Catalog” command to create a new data storage solution, such as transitioning your catalog and photos from an internal hard drive to an external hard drive, that’s perfectly fine. But I wouldn’t employ “Export as Catalog” as an ongoing backup solution.

You could, for example, keep your Lightroom catalog on your internal hard drive, with your photos stored on an external hard drive. You could then employ the Lightroom catalog backup feature to create a backup copy of your catalog on the same external hard drive as your photos. You could then use GoodSync ( to backup that photos drive to another external hard drive.

This way, in the event of a serious problem, you’d have everything backed up on both external hard drives. Your recovery process could be as simple as connecting the backup external hard drive and opening the Lightroom catalog from that drive, making sure that the drive has the same drive letter (on Windows) or volume label (on Macintosh) as the original photos drive, so that Lightroom will still be able to find those photos where they are expected. And, of course, you could also move (or copy) that backup catalog to your internal hard drive as part of that recovery process.

The bottom line is that when using a synchronization approach to backing up your photos and other data, the recovery process is a simple matter (for the most part) of using a backup drive in the place of a drive that has failed or experienced other problems. No software “restore” process is required.

Posted in Ask Tim Grey | Comments Off on Backup Recovery

Print Resolution Requirements


Today’s Question: If you print an 8×10, say, whose resolution matches your printer’s maximum resolution, the print should look good. What happens if your image file has significantly higher resolution than the printer’s capability? Does the image suffer in any way? (I assume it’s not benefitted. Is it?)

Tim’s Quick Answer: If the image contains more information than the printer needs to produce the given print size, the image data will be scaled down as needed. In general this won’t produce any significant degradation in image quality, although that “extra” resolution won’t provide a benefit either.

More Detail: Different printing methods involve different requirements in terms of image data, which translates into total pixel count. In some cases there is a specific amount of information required for a given print size, such as with a photo inkjet printer. In other cases, such as with offset press printing, the requirement isn’t quite as specific, and so there is generally a range of acceptable image resolutions to use.

Ultimately, the pixel per inch (ppi) resolution you set for an image is simply shorthand of sorts to help describe the total number of pixels in the image. For example, if we assume a print size of 10 inches on the long edge, and a photo inkjet printer that renders the output at 360 pixels per inch, then we know that the image file needs to be 3,600 pixels on the long edge to achieve optimal image quality.

If we send an image that has more than 3,600 pixels on the long edge, the printer will scale down the image data accordingly. If we send an image to the printer that has fewer than 3,600 pixels on the long edge, the printer will scale down the image data accordingly.

The alternative, of course, is to scale the image data to the optimal value before printing, such as within Photoshop. In other words, with this type of workflow we need a specific amount of data for printing at a given size. Our option is to let the printer scale the image data or to do so before printing with software such as Photoshop.

When it comes to final print quality then, the real issue here is which software will do a better job of scaling the image data. In the early days of photo inkjet printing there was a significant difference. Scaling the image in Photoshop before printing generally produced a print of much higher quality than if you started with an image at the “wrong” size and let the printer software perform the scaling.

Today, however, printer software has improved to the point that the differences are quite minimal. I still personally prefer to resize my images with an advanced software tool such as Photoshop. But the difference between resizing in Photoshop and letting your printer do the resizing will generally be relatively minimal, thanks to improvements over the years in the software that controls modern printers.

Note, by the way, that different printers render the image at different resolution values. Many photo inkjet printers use a value of 360 pixels per inch, but many others use slightly lower or higher values. An increasing number of photo inkjet printers are now available that render at 720 pixels per inch, for example. It is therefore a good idea to obtain information related to your specific printer before choosing how to scale your images.

Posted in Ask Tim Grey | Comments Off on Print Resolution Requirements

Save Selections?


Today’s Question: Is it necessary to save a selection [in Photoshop] if I’m going to create a layer mask based on the selection? Wouldn’t saving the selection in this case be somewhat redundant?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In general I would say that it isn’t necessary to save a selection using the “Save Selection” command if you’re going to create a layer mask based on that selection. After all, the layer mask also represents what is essentially a saved selection.

More Detail: However, there are situations where you may want to save a selection.

For example, if you will be building up a somewhat complicated selection in a series of steps, it can be helpful to save a series of selections and then merge those together into the final selection. In addition, you may find that in some cases you apply a variety of adjustments directly to a layer mask, causing changes compared to the original selection you used as the basis of that layer mask. In this type of situation you may want to save the initial selection before using that selection as the basis of a layer mask.

For most photographers and in typical workflow scenarios, however, I would say that it probably isn’t necessary to save a selection if you’re simply going to be using that selection as the basis of a layer mask. Of course, it is also worth noting that a saved selection won’t significantly increase the file size, so there isn’t significant harm in erring on the side of caution and saving selections as part of your master image files.

In those cases where you do decide to save a selection, you can simply choose Select > Save Selection from the menu to initiate the process. Enter a name for the selection in the Save Selection dialog, and click OK to save the selection as an alpha channel. As long as you then save the image as a Photoshop PSD or TIFF file, the saved selection will be included as part of the file.

Posted in Ask Tim Grey | Comments Off on Save Selections?

Always Save Metadata?


Today’s Question: Should the XMP checkbox in the Catalog Settings dialog [in Lightroom] be checked at all times?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In my opinion, yes, it is best to have the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox turned on. This option can be found on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom.

More Detail: By default, Lightroom only saves metadata updates for your photos into the Lightroom catalog. I prefer to also have standard metadata fields updated in the image files for my photos. This provides two basic benefits. First, with this option turned metadata updates will be visible in other applications (such as Adobe Bridge) instead of only being visible within Lightroom. In addition, enabling this option provides a real-time backup of most of the metadata updates you apply.

Note that enabling this option will cause metadata updates to be saved for all supported image file formats in Lightroom. For non-RAW images (such as JPEG, TIFF, or DNG files) the actual image file will be updated. For proprietary RAW captures the updates will be written to an XMP “sidecar” file next to the RAW file.

If you apply metadata updates to a large number of photos all at once, having the option to automatically save metadata to your photo files can result in degraded performance. However, to me the benefits of having this option turned on more than makes up for any potential performance loss.

It is also important to keep in mind that not all metadata will be saved when you enable this option. Lightroom-specific features such as pick and reject flags, collections, Develop history, and virtual copies, will only be saved to the Lightroom catalog, even with the option to save metadata to your image files enabled.

Posted in Ask Tim Grey | Comments Off on Always Save Metadata?