Moving Photos in the Catalog


Today’s Question: Can you just drag the photos into any folder you want in Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can drag-and-drop to move photos in your Lightroom Classic catalog from one folder to another, and those changes will be reflected on your hard drive. In fact, it is important that photos or folders only be moved or renamed within Lightroom Classic, as doing so directly through your operating system will cause Lightroom Classic to lose track of the photos updated outside the catalog.

More Detail: One of the most important “rules” to follow when it comes to managing your photos in Lightroom Classic is that updates to your images or folder structure should be made within Lightroom Classic, not directly through your operating system or other software. This is especially important when it comes to moving or renaming photos or folders.

Within Lightroom Classic you can drag-and-drop to move selected photos to a different folder. You can also drag-and-drop a folder to move it into a different folder. And if needed, you can create a new folder in order to re-organize your photos or folders.

If you click the plus (+) symbol to the right of the Folders heading on the left panel in the Library module, you can choose “Add Folder” from the popup. In the dialog that appears, navigate to the location where you want to create a new folder. Then click the “New Folder” button at the bottom of the dialog. Enter a name for the new folder and click the Create button. Then click the Choose button, and the new folder will appear on the Folders list.

You can then continue dragging and dropping photos as needed to improve your organizational structure. You can also right-click on a folder and choose the option to rename the folder or rename photos by selecting them and choosing Library > Rename Photos from the menu. And again, just be sure that all of this work is done within your Lightroom Classic catalog, so Lightroom won’t lose track of your photos and folders.

Photos from Desktop to Mobile


Today’s Question: Can you move an image from Lightroom Classic on your computer to your smartphone in order to use the Lightroom mobile app?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can make a photo in a Lightroom Classic catalog available in the Lightroom mobile app by adding the image to a collection that has synchronization enabled. Changes you apply within Lightroom mobile will then automatically synchronize back to your Lightroom Classic catalog.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic revolves around local photo storage, meaning you manage the overall storage and folder structure for your photos directly, such as with external hard drives connected to your computer. However, you can still leverage cloud-based storage by synchronizing photos to the Adobe Creative Cloud.

In Lightroom Classic photo synchronization to the cloud is managed through the use of collections with synchronization enabled. First, you’ll want to make sure that synchronization is actually enabled for your Lightroom Classic catalog. To do so, click on the cloud icon at the top-right of the Lightroom Classic interface. On the popup that appears, look for a button at the bottom-left that says “Pause Syncing”. That means that synchronization is enabled already. If the button says “Start Syncing”, it means that synchronization is paused, so you’ll need to click that button to enable synchronization.

Next, add photos to a collection within the Collections section of the left panel in the Library module, creating a new collection if needed by clicking the plus (+) icon to the right of the Collections heading on the left panel in the Library module and choosing “Create Collection” from the popup.

Once you have a collection that contains photos you want to synchronize to the cloud, you’ll want to make sure synchronization is turned on for the collection. To the left of the collection name within the Collections section of the left panel you want to make sure there is a sync icon to the left of the collection. This icon looks like a double-headed arrow, somewhat similar to a lightning bolt.

If you don’t see the synchronization icon, click on the empty box that will appear to the left of the collection when you hover your mouse over the name of the collection. That will turn on synchronization, and the photos within the collection will start synchronizing to the cloud.

You can then use the Lightroom app on your mobile device (or point a web browser to in order to view and update the synchronized photos. Any changes you make will synchronize back to the images within your Lightroom Classic catalog.

Customized Sky Replacement


Today’s Question: Can you add your own sky photos to the sky replacement panel in Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can add your own images to use as replacement skies with the impressive Sky Replacement feature in Photoshop.

More Detail: The relatively new Sky Replacement feature is related to the also new Select Sky command. Both use sophisticated technology to identify the specific area of a photo that represents the sky. In the case of the Sky Replacement feature you can then select a sky to put in the place of the sky in the image you’re working on.

For example, you could take a photo with a rather drab sky and replace it with a clear blue sky or a sky featuring a beautiful sunset. There are a variety of sky images included with the Sky Replacement feature, which you can choose from as replacements for the sky in the image you’re working on.

In addition, you can add your own sky image to the Sky Replacement feature, so that you can create a composite image from source photos that are all your own.

Start by opening an image with a sky you want to replace, and then choose Edit > Sky Replacement from the menu. Click the Sky popup, where you’ll be able to see the various sky images that are included with Photoshop by default.

To add your own sky image, click the Create New Sky button (the plus icon within a square) at the bottom-right of the popup. In the dialog that appears, navigate to the folder that contains the sky you want to use, select the sky image, and click the Open button.

You can then adjust the other settings for blending the replacement sky into the existing image and click the OK to apply the change. A series of new layers will be added within a “Sky Replacement Group” layer group, representing the updates applied in order to replace the sky. My experience has been that this feature provides very impressive results, for situations where you’d like to replace the sky in a photo.

Importance of XMP Sidecars


Today’s Question: If I lose XMP sidecar file, does the raw capture file contain that same XMP info?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, metadata updates are not applied to the original raw capture by software such as Adobe Bridge, Photoshop, or Lightroom Classic. Therefore, if you lost an XMP sidecar file (and your catalog in the case of Lightroom Classic) you would lose the metadata updates and adjustments for that photo.

More Detail: When you apply metadata updates or adjustments to a raw capture, those updates are not actually written to the source raw capture. The idea is that the raw capture represents the original unprocessed image, and you don’t want to risk corrupting that file by making changes to it.

Instead of updating the source raw capture, updates are written elsewhere. In Lightroom Classic by default any updates you apply are only saved within the Lightroom Classic catalog. Other software such as Adobe Bridge or Photoshop will write those changes to an XMP sidecar file automatically. And in Lightroom Classic you can enable an option to automatically write updates to an XMP sidecar file (in addition to the catalog) in the Catalog Settings dialog.

Note, by the way, that the XMP sidecar file is a file with the same base filename as the original raw capture, located in the same folder, but with an “xmp” filename extension rather than the extension used by the raw capture format for your camera.

If you lose an XMP sidecar file for a raw capture, you will lose the metadata updates for that photo. As long as you have the raw capture file, of course, you will still have the photo, just not the metadata without the XMP sidecar file. An exception to this would be with software such as Lightroom Classic, where the metadata is also written to the catalog file.

So for Lightroom Classic users, if you lose an XMP sidecar file for a raw capture, you would still have all of the updates within your Lightroom Classic catalog, and the XMP file could be created again. For photographers using other software, it can be important to protect the XMP sidecar files in addition to your source raw captures.

Apple M1 Chip Compatibility


Today’s Question: Do you think it is safe to upgrade to a new Apple computer with the M1 chip in terms of being able to run the Adobe applications?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, I would say that it is safe to upgrade to a new Apple computer with an M1 processor, though there may be some performance issues as well as some software compatibility issues.

More Detail: I’ve done quite a bit of testing with the new Apple M1 chip, which replaces the Intel processor for the newest models of computers from Apple. Overall that testing has shown that nearly all software I’ve tested runs without issues. And performance is significantly improved, especially for applications that have been updated for the new M1 chip.

For applications that have not been updated for the M1 chip, they can still generally run well in the “Rosetta” emulation mode. In my experience this has worked perfectly for all applications I’ve tested (including most of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of applications). However, when running in Rosetta mode there is a noticeable degradation in performance.

I’ve not found applications that would not run at all with the new M1-based computers. However, I have found that plug-ins can be an issue.

For example, the latest version of Photoshop is version 22.3 as of this writing, and this version supports the M1 chip natively. However, all third-party plug-ins I have tested so far do not work with this version of Photoshop.

Therefore, if you are upgrading to a computer with an M1 chip and make use of plug-ins for Photoshop, you’ll want to be sure not to upgrade beyond version 22.2 of Photoshop.

I’m sure there are other relatively minor compatibility issues that I haven’t discovered. But overall my experience with the new M1 chip has been excellent. Overall performance is significantly improved for applications that support the M1 chip, and overall compatibility is very good. While performance does suffer for applications that have to run in compatibility mode, I have not found that to be a significant source of frustration.

So, all things considered I think upgrading to a new computer with the M1 chip is a good option for Macintosh users.

Is a Catalog Backup Complete?


Today’s Question: If a Lightroom Classic catalog is saved as a backup, are the collections saved as well, when restored from the saved backup?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, when you backup your Lightroom Classic catalog, collections are preserved as part of that backup. In fact, all information about your photos contained within the catalog, meaning everything you see in Lightroom Classic, will be preserved by that backup.

More Detail: When you use the built-in backup feature in Lightroom Classic, the backup represents a copy of the complete catalog file, which has an “lrcat” filename extension, as in “Lightroom Catalog”. The backup actually compresses that catalog backup into a ZIP file, which both makes the backup consume less hard drive space and also helps ensure you won’t accidentally open a backup catalog rather than the primary catalog file.

As a complete copy of the Lightroom Classic catalog, that backup will contain all of the information about your photos that can otherwise be found within your primary Lightroom Classic catalog. So, if you needed to recover from a backup of the catalog, you would not lose any information about your photos other than information that had been added after the backup catalog was actually created.

You could, of course, back up your Lightroom Classic catalog file using other backup software outside of Lightroom Classic. However, even if you’re backing up the catalog through other means, I still recommend using the Lightroom Classic backup feature for two reasons.

First, as part of the backup process you can have Lightroom Classic check the catalog for errors. This can help catch any corruption issues early, potentially resolving those issues before they become serious. A corrupted catalog can cause you to lose considerable information about your photos, of course.

Second, you can enable an option to have the catalog file optimized after the backup is complete, which can help improve overall performance in Lightroom Classic.

So, be sure to use the built-in backup feature in Lightroom Classic, so you’ll have greater confidence that the information contained within the catalog will be preserved and protected. However, also keep in mind that the catalog backup is only backing up the catalog, not your photos. So you’ll still need to use another solution for backing up your photos as well, such as the GoodSync software I use and recommend (

Quick Selection versus Magic Wand


Today’s Question: What’s the difference between the Quick Selection vs Magic Wand tools in Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key differences between the Quick Selection tool and the Magic Wand tool in Photoshop relate to how areas are sampled and the “intelligence” happening behind the scenes to create the actual selection.

More Detail: The Quick Selection tool can be thought of as an updated version of the Magic Wand tool. Both of these tools enable you to sample areas of an image in order to create a selection of areas that match in terms of overall tone and color.

One of the differences between these tools relates to how you sample pixels in the area of the photo you want to select. With the Magic Wand tool you can only click on one pixel at a time. The Sample Size and Tolerance settings then determine how the pixel you clicked on will be evaluated, and how close other pixels have to match in order to be included in the selection.

With the Quick Selection tool you paint across the area you want to select, which means you’re sampling a larger area more efficiently than would be possible with the Magic Wand tool. That sampling is then used to attempt to create a selection of the subject you are trying to select, based on the textures that are sampled.

In addition, the Quick Selection tool has some additional “intelligence” through the “Enhance Edge” checkbox found on the Options bar. With this checkbox turned on, after you sample an area of the image Photoshop will further evaluate the image in an effort to improve the accuracy of the selection. I recommend leaving this checkbox turned on almost without exception.

The one drawback of the Quick Selection tool compared to the Magic Wand tool is that the Quick Selection tool by its nature is creating selections of contiguous areas. So, if you were, for example, trying to create a selection of a sky with trees extending up into the sky, the Quick Selection tool would not be a good option because it would not do a good job of selecting all of the little areas of sky showing through between the leaves and branches of the trees. Instead you would want to use the Magic Wand tool in a situation like this, with the Contiguous checkbox on the Options bar turned off.

As a general rule I recommend using the Quick Selection tool in most cases when either the Quick Selection or Magic Wand tool might provide a good option. The only time I would generally favor the Magic Wand tool over the Quick Selection tool is for situations where you need to create a somewhat complex selection comprised of many areas that are not contiguous to each other.

Why I Rarely Use a Histogram


Today’s Question: When do you use a histogram?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I use a histogram when reviewing photos on my camera’s LCD display to get a better sense of the overall exposure. Once I’ve downloaded my photos to my computer, however, I rarely use the histogram because I prefer to make use of the clipping preview display instead.

More Detail: A histogram can certainly be helpful in evaluating the overall exposure for a photo. In particular, I recommend using a color (RGB) histogram, where each color channel is shown individually, so you’ll know when just one or two channels are clipping rather than only seeing clipping once it has affected all three channels.

However, I don’t use a histogram very often. On my camera’s LCD if I want to evaluate the exposure of an image, I’ll use the histogram display for that evaluation. This allows me to get a much better sense of the exposure than if I only looked at the image preview, or if I relied solely on the “blinkies” clipping warning that is available with many cameras.

Beyond the camera, I almost never review the histogram. That is mostly because I use a clipping preview instead of a histogram when evaluating the highlight and shadow details for a photo.

For example, in the Develop module of Lightroom Classic (or in Adobe Camera Raw) you can hold the Alt/Option key while adjusting Exposure, Whites, and Blacks (among some of the other tonal adjustments). This provides a detailed clipping preview so you can determine the point at which detail is lost on one or more channels.

With this helpful and detailed clipping preview display, I simply don’t generally find any reason to reference the histogram at all during post-capture processing. But again, the histogram can be very helpful in the context of evaluating exposure for photos on your camera’s LCD display.

Difference Between Vibrance and Saturation


Today’s Question: What is the difference in effect between vibrance and saturation?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Both Vibrance and Saturation enable you to increase (or decrease) the saturation of colors in a photo. The key difference is that Saturation is a linear adjustment, affecting all colors in the same way, while Vibrance includes some variation that helps balance the saturation levels in the photo and also protects skin tones from getting over-saturated.

More Detail: The Vibrance adjustments are available in Photoshop (including as an adjustment layer), in Adobe Camera Raw, and in Lightroom Classic (as well as the non-classic version of Lightroom) via the Develop module.

I think of Vibrance as an updated and more “intelligent” version of Saturation. Both Vibrance and Saturation enable you to increase or decrease the saturation, or purity, of colors in your photos.

Vibrance provides a couple of key advantages compared to Saturation. First, Vibrance protects skin tones from getting over-saturated. When skin tones get too saturated, they can look very artificial and over-processed, so this is a helpful feature for any photos that include people.

Vibrance also has a variable effect on colors, which helps avoid over-saturated colors while still enabling you to boost the colors that need the most help. Put simply, colors that are not very saturated will get more of a boost than colors that already have a relatively high saturation level. I think of this as the Vibrance control “putting the brakes” on saturation levels once they get too high.

Because of these advantages of the Vibrance adjustment, this is my go-to tool for adjusting saturation levels in my images. However, both Vibrance and Saturation can work together very well.

I often start by increasing saturation levels with Vibrance until there is a good balance between the colors that had low saturation to begin with and the colors that already had relatively high saturation. When I’ve achieved this balance, very often the overall saturation in the image is a little too high. A little bit of a negative value for the Saturation adjustment provides a perfect solution.

So, I recommend using Vibrance as a good starting point for adjusting the color saturation in your photos, and then possibly make use of the Saturation adjustment as needed to fine-tune the overall result.

When to Use Mirror Lockup


Today’s Question: Under what circumstances do you use the camera’s mirror lockup feature?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The general rule of thumb is that you should employ the mirror lockup feature (if your camera is so equipped) when you are working with a shutter speed of around 1/15th of a second.

More Detail: One of the features that makes a digital SLR an SLR (single lens reflex) camera is the mirror that enables you to use the optical viewfinder to observe the view through the lens as you are composing your scene. Needless to say, mirrorless cameras do not include the mirror, which is where the name fo this type of camera comes from.

When capturing a photo with an SLR, the mirror moves out of the way, the shutter opens to create the exposure, the shutter closes again, and the mirror moves back down into place.

The movement of that mirror can impart a degree of vibration to the camera, which in turn can cause a degree of motion blur in the photo. This won’t be the major type of motion blur you might see if you captured a long exposure while moving the camera around, but rather will generally just make the image look a bit out of focus. Needless to say, that is something you want to avoid.

With a fast shutter speed, the short duration of the exposure means the vibration caused by the movement of the mirror will not be significant enough to create any visible blur. And for relatively long exposures, the vibration caused by the mirror movement will be a small portion of the overall exposure, and therefore will not create a visible blur.

But for an exposure duration of about 1/15th of a second, that vibration can have an impact on the overall sharpness of the photo. So, whenever you are close to a 1/15th of a second exposure, I recommend employing mirror lockup if your camera includes that feature.

And of course with a topic like this, photographers who have already transitioned to a mirrorless camera can revel in the knowledge that vibration caused by a moving mirror is not something they need to worry about anymore.