Noise Reduction and Sharpening


Today’s Question: In the Detail section for Adobe Lightroom or Camera Raw what do you suggest for the different slider values for both reducing noise and sharpening the image?

Tim’s Quick Answer: As a general rule, the sharpening applied to the initial raw capture (not for final output) should be minimal, so that it is just enough to compensate for a loss of fine detail in the original capture. Noise reduction should generally be applied in moderation as well, to avoid reducing the sharpness and color accuracy of the image.

More Detail: In some respects, sharpening and noise reduction are performing opposite tasks, and so it is important to be careful not to get too aggressive with one at the detriment of the other.

For sharpening, the key settings are Amount and Radius. The Amount value controls the strength of the sharpening effect, and in Lightroom or Camera Raw I recommend keeping the value for Amount below about 75. Generally, a value somewhere between 25 and 50 will work well for most images.

For the Radius slider, you will generally want to use a value of 1.0 or lower. For images with significant fine detail you may want to use a lower value of around perhaps 0.6 to 0.9, using a slightly higher value for Amount to compensate. For images without much fine detail, you might want to use a higher value for Radius (perhaps as high as 2.0), but with a lower value for Amount to compensate for the larger size of the sharpening effect.

The Detail and Masking controls enable you to limit the sharpening to only the areas that contain detail and texture. Increasing the value for Detail will result in more enhancement of details in the photo. By contrast, increasing the value for Masking will enable you to focus the sharpening effect to only areas with texture, so that smooth areas of the photo will not be sharpened.

For noise reduction, the key settings are Luminance (for noise exhibited by variations in tonal values) and Color (for noise exhibited by variations in color values). The Luminance and Color sliders control the strength of the noise-reduction effect. Obviously you want to make sure you apply enough noise reduction to improve the appearance of the photo. It is important, however, not to use a value that is too high, as doing so can degrade image quality.

The Luminance slider is the more critical of these two, because increasing the value for Luminance to a high value will seriously degrade the texture and detail in a photo, adding what is essentially a blur effect. I try to limit the value for Luminance to around 10 or so, recognizing that this is a compromise when noise is significant in the photo.

You can be a little more aggressive with the Color slider, and I consider values up to around 60 or so to be safe in most cases. Going too high can result in some unwanted blending of colors in the photo, especially along edges where different colors meet.

For both the Luminance and Color noise reduction adjustments, I recommend using a rather low value for Detail. I try to keep this setting below about 25. When using a higher value for Detail you’ll want to make sure that you aren’t seeing individual pixels appearing that strongly contrast with surrounding areas, as this is a common side-effect of a value for Detail that is too high.

For Color noise reduction you can generally use a rather high value for Smoothness, which can help blend color variations left behind by color noise reduction, and greatly enhance the final effect. I often use a value of 80 or more for the Smoothness slider.

It is important to keep in mind that all of these settings will vary based on the content of the image you’re working on, your own preferences and priorities for the image, and other factors. Use the above information as a guide, and fine-tune as needed based on the individual image you’re working on at any given time.

Lens Correction Duplication


Today’s Question: If I set my camera (Canon 6D) to correct for the lens used and set this also on Lightroom, will the photo become “double corrected”?

Tim’s Quick Answer: For raw captures you don’t need to worry about a “double” correction for the lens corrections. For JPEG images this could be an issue, however.

More Detail: Various software tools (including Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw) enable you to apply corrections for the behavior of individual lenses. For example, vignetting caused by light falloff with a wide-angle lens can be corrected based on the actual measured behavior of a specific lens model.

More recently, some cameras have started offering in-camera lens correction, so that the behavior of the lens can be compensated for right at the time of capture. For raw captures the information about these changes is written to metadata, while for JPEG captures the image is directly altered within the camera.

If you are using raw capture, you would need to use the software from your camera manufacturer to process the images based on the in-camera lens correction information that was written to metadata. Note that this is “private” metadata, which means the software from the camera manufacturer can access it, but other applications such as Lightroom or Camera Raw cannot.

What that means is that if you are using raw capture, you don’t need to worry about applying the lens correction adjustment twice, since if you are working with the raw capture by definition it won’t have been modified by other software.

If, on the other hand, you are working with something other than a raw capture file, it is possible to double-process the lens corrections. For example, if you applied in-camera lens correction for a JPEG capture, you could apply additional corrections to the JPEG image that could be problematic. Similarly, if you processed the raw capture with the software from the camera manufacturer and saved as a TIFF or JPEG image, it would be possible to apply a double correction to that derivative image.

The bottom line is that for raw captures you don’t need to worry about duplicating the lens correction adjustments for the original image.

Camera Firmware Update


Today’s Question: How do I get the firmware update into my camera? Is there an app to do that?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Generally speaking, firmware updates for cameras can be installed in one of two ways. You can either install the update via a memory card inserted into the camera, or by using a connection (such as USB) to install the update to the camera.

More Detail: Today’s question is a follow-up to Friday’s question about a critical issue that calls for a firmware update for certain Canon cameras.

In my experience the most common method for updating the firmware on a digital camera is via a memory card inserted into the camera. You will first need to download the firmware update from the camera manufacturer’s website, and that update can generally be found in the “Support” section of the site. The file is then copied to a memory card, which you can insert into the camera.

Making sure that the camera’s battery is fully charged, you then turn on the camera with the memory card containing the firmware update inserted. You can then follow the prompts on your camera’s display to complete the update.

I’ve also seen cameras that can be updated via a physical connection, such as by connecting the camera to a USB port on a computer and updating either via a special software download or the software that came with your camera. In some cases it is also possible to update via a WiFi Internet connection, if your camera is so equipped.

Broken Plug-in


Today’s Question: When I recently updated Adobe Bridge and Photoshop, my Nik Collection was broken. Can you advise how to get it back please?

Tim’s Quick Answer: To get plug-ins (such as the Nik Collection) working after installing a major update to the host application (such as Photoshop), you’ll need to re-install the plug-in. That will ensure all of the files are in the right place, and that the plug-in is activated for the host application.

More Detail: By definition, a software plug-in requires a host application, such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom Classic in the case of the Nik Collection by DxO (

In many cases, when you install a minor update to a host application, the plug-ins you have already installed will continue to operate normally. It is a good idea to check for a new update to the plug-in software after a new software update for the host application is released, but such an update is generally not necessary for the plug-in to continue to work properly.

In the case of Adobe applications (such as Photoshop), when you “upgrade” to a new major release you are actually installing a completely new application, not simply updating an existing application. In that case, you will need to re-install your plug-ins so they will be available for the new application you’ve installed. Note that if you don’t uninstall the previous version of the host application, the plug-ins would continue to operate normally there.

So, with the recent major release of the various applications in the Adobe Creative Cloud, you’ll need to install your plug-ins again. In the case of the Nik Collection, just be sure you are installing the correct version. The Nik Collection was originally developed by Nik Software. It was then acquired by Google, and more recently acquired by DxO. Also note that the last time I tested this, installing the trial version of the Nik Collection from DxO renders the prior free version of the Nik Collection from Google as unusable, so your only option would be to buy the full version of the Nik Collection from DxO.

Photo Count Mismatch


Today’s Question: Lightroom Classic shows 502,248 for the “All Photographs” in the Catalog panel but when I highlight “All Photographs” and look at the bar above the filmstrip, it shows “500,434 of 502,248” being displayed. Why not the full number in the catalog? Can you explain this? I do not knowingly have any filters enabled.

Tim’s Quick Answer: In this case I am quite sure the “missing” photos are really just images that are not being displayed because they are in stacks that are collapsed. If you expand all stacks, the total number of photos displayed should once again match the total number of photos in your Lightroom Classic catalog.

More Detail: The information display above the filmstrip on the bottom panel in Lightroom Classic indicates how many photos are currently being displayed, based in part on which folder or collection you have selected for browsing. If only a subset of all photos are being displayed from the currently selected folder or collection, there will be an indication of how many photos out of the total available are currently being displayed.

For example, let’s assume you have a folder that contains 1,000 photos, and you’ve assigned a five-star rating to three of those photos. If you set a filter for a star rating of five stars, the information display above the filmstrip would show “3 of 1,000 photos” to indicate there are 1,000 photos in the currently selected folder, but only three of them are being displayed.

Understandably, if you don’t have any filters set, it would be confusing why Lightroom is indicating that not all of the photos in the current folder or collection are being displayed. But keep in mind that when a stack of photos is collapsed, all of the photos in the stack are represented as a single thumbnail. In other words, not all images in the current folder or selection would actually be displayed if one or more stacks are collapsed.

Fortunately, you can easily expand all stacks in the current folder or collection. Simply go to the menu bar and choose Photo > Stacking > Expand All Stacks. This command will only affect the current folder or collection, so if you want to expand all stacks for the “All Photographs” collection you would need to select that collection first, and then use the Expand All Stacks command.

Note, by the way, that I’ve added commas to the larger numbers above to make it easier to read them. Lightroom Classic does not display commas in the numbers for the count of photos, which in my opinion makes it a bit difficult to read those numbers.

Security Issue for Canon Cameras


Today’s Question: Is this issue [regarding a security exploit of the Picture Transfer Protocol for certain Canon camera models] something I should be concerned about?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While I don’t consider this security issue to be a major concern, I do recommend that photographers with affected cameras update their firmware promptly to address this issue. As a general rule I consider it a good practice to check for firmware updates somewhat frequently, and to be sure updates are installed somewhat soon after they are released.

More Detail: Digital cameras, just like computers, smartphones, and other digital devices, have software that controls their internal functions. In the case of hardware such as a digital camera, that software is actually referred to as “firmware”.

Just like any other connected device, cameras can have security issues. In addition, there may be bugs and other issues in firmware that can lead to problems with various functions of your camera. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep the firmware for your camera updated somewhat regularly.

Canon recently released firmware updates for a variety of cameras that include support for the Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP). There is a risk with earlier firmware versions that the camera could be compromised. There aren’t any known exploits of this issue, but it is still best to install these types of security updates relatively quickly.

If you have a Canon camera that supports Picture Transfer Protocol, I highly recommend downloading and installing the latest firmware update. But really, this is a good reminder for all photographers to check for firmware updates for all of their cameras, if they haven’t done so recently.

Canon users can find the latest firmware update for their digital camera by locating their camera model on the Canon support page here:

Fear of Missing Out


Today’s Question: What am I missing by not using Lightroom Classic, perhaps in concert with Photoshop, instead of Adobe Camera Raw, Bridge, and Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are two key benefits that in my mind might cause a photographer to consider Adobe Lightroom Classic over Adobe Bridge when it comes to managing photos. The first is that Lightroom Classic provides what I consider to be a more streamlined workflow. The second is that Lightroom Classic can make it much faster to locate photos when you aren’t exactly sure which folder that photo is contained in.

More Detail: When you use Adobe Bridge to manage your photos, you process raw captures using Adobe Camera Raw and perform additional optimization work using Photoshop. With Lightroom Classic the organizational and raw-processing tasks can be performed directly within Lightroom Classic. For more complex work, you can send the photo to Photoshop, with the resulting derivative image being managed right alongside the original capture within Lightroom Classic.

These differences do not represent a dramatic difference in terms of the overall workflow, but I do prefer the more streamlined workflow within Lightroom Classic.

The more important issue in my mind relates to the catalog that is really at the core of how Lightroom Classic manages your photos. Admittedly, the catalog used by Lightroom Classic has also lead to confusion among many photographers, causing them to create a bit of a mess in their catalog (which also led to me creating my “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom” course,

The primary advantage of having a central catalog is the ability to search quickly across your entire Lightroom catalog. For example, I can quickly see all photos I have ever captured that I have also assigned a five-star rating to. Because Adobe Bridge is a browser without a central catalog, this type of wide-ranging search would be extremely slow.

I feel that Lightroom Classic provides a more streamlined, efficient, and flexible workflow compared to the use of Adobe Bridge (along with Camera Raw and Photoshop). That said, many of my readers understandably prefer to stick with a workflow that revolves around Adobe Bridge. Among other reasons, continuing to use Adobe Bridge means you don’t need to worry about trying to learn a completely different software application for managing your workflow.

I suspect Adobe will continue to update all of the core applications photographers are currently using. While that does mean continuing to support multiple applications rather than a single core application, it also means photographers have more options to choose from when it comes to the software at the heart of their workflow.

Photographing Artwork without Glare


Today’s Question: I have clients for whom I photograph their artwork. My usual method is to have the standard 45-degree orientation of two lights far enough away from the artwork to provide uniform illumination. Often, when the paints are shiny and have a texture, that shiny texture forms a reflected image of the light source, which are small white spots all over the image. However, if I scan such artwork on a normal desktop flatbed scanner, these white reflections disappear. I would like to know the secret of how they achieve that. Is it due to using polarizers in the light path, or is it due to some feature of the light/detector system in the scanner?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Flatbed scanners can still produce glare on scanned artwork, but in general do a relatively good job because the light source is well diffused. Diffusing and polarizing the light can help minimize the appearance of such visual artifacts when photographing or scanning artwork.

More Detail: Glare is caused, of course, when a light source is reflected at just the right angle to create a bright spot in an area of the object being photographed or scanned. With a perfectly flat print you might be photographing or scanning, of course, it is relatively easy to avoid glare by setting two lights pointing from a 45-degree angle on either side of the print.

With something like an oil painting that has a variable texture and relatively high reflectivity, it can be much more difficult to illuminate the object in a way that there will be no reflections at all.

The first thing I recommend is to make sure the light source is diffused. To begin with, you’ll want a diffuser of some sort (such as an umbrella or soft box) in front of the light, so that the light is scattered to minimize glare. You also want the light source as close to the subject as possible to soften the light further. I realize this may seem counterintuitive, but the further a light source is the more directional (and therefore not diffused) it will be. Keep in mind, of course, that if the light source is closer to the subject, you may need to reduce the strength of the light source.

With this approach you may still need to fine-tune the position of the lights to ensure the softest overall light and minimal glare. In most cases with a highly diffused light source you can create photos without any visible glare.

Another great option is to use polarizing material in front of the lights, and on your lens, so that you can effectively filter out the glare that could otherwise result, even with very careful setup of the lights. You can obtain linear polarizing material in sheets, similar to gels you might use to add color to a light source. You can then use a polarizing filter on the lens as well, so that you’re able to prevent glare altogether.

Print Size Preview Accuracy


Today’s Question: I’m using Photoshop CS6 and I can’t seem to figure out how to make an inch in View > Print Size to equal an actual inch. Is there a way to do this?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key to having the Print Size view option match the actual print dimensions in Adobe Photoshop is to set the Screen Resolution value in Preferences to the actual physical pixel-per-inch resolution of your display.

More Detail: The default setting for screen resolution virtually guarantees that the Print Size view (and the Ruler display) will not be accurate. Furthermore, the setting that controls these options is labeled in a way that wouldn’t make it obvious to most users that it would affect these view options.

You can find the Screen Resolution setting in the Preferences dialog. Start by choosing Edit > Preferences from the menu if you are using the Windows version of Photoshop, or Photoshop > Preferences if you are using the Macintosh version. From the Preferences submenu you can then choose Units & Rulers.

Choosing this command will bring up the Units & Rulers page of the Preferences dialog. There you will find the Screen Resolution setting in the New Document Preset Resolutions section. This is where you will want to enter the actual pixel-per-inch resolution for your display.

Of course, that also means you need to determine the correct setting for your display. Start by measuring the width of your display as accurately as possible. You want to measure only the actual display area for your operating system, not the total width of the physical monitor. For example, on my laptop the width is 14-inches.

Next, determine the resolution setting for the display, so you know exactly how many pixels there are across the width of the display. For example, let’s assume my display is set to a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. The first (and larger) number indicates the number of pixels across.

To calculate the actual pixel-per-inch resolution, you simply need to divide the number of pixels by the number of inches. So in this case 1920 divided by 14 gives me a value of 137 pixels per inch.

So, in this example I would change the Screen Resolution setting to a value of 137 from the default of 72, and make sure the popup to the right of that value is set to “Pixels/Inch” (rather than centimeters). Click OK to apply the change in Preferences. Now when you enable the rulers display (View > Rulers) or the Print Size view option (View > Print Size), the sizes will be accurate on your monitor relative to the final printed output.

Nik by DxO Tutorials


Today’s Question: Do you have any tutorial on Nik Software by DxO?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, indeed, I have a course in the GreyLearning library with chapters on getting started with the Nik Collection, Color Efex Pro, Viveza, Silver Efex Pro, Analog Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro, Dfine, and Sharpener Pro.

More Detail: The Nik Collection has gone through several iterations over the years. It was first released by Nik Software, which was eventually acquired by Google. More recently the Nik Collection was acquired by DxO (

I do have a video course that covers the Nik Collection by DxO, which you can get at half price by using this link to get started:

The Nik Collection includes some great software, especially when it comes to applying special effects to photos. For example, I think Silver Efex Pro and Analog Efex Pro are excellent. Some of the other tools in the collection are a bit more dated, and not as good as other applications that are available.

For example, my software of choice for creating high dynamic range (HDR) images is Aurora HDR, which you can find here: