Traveling Catalog


Today’s Question: Can you please give simple directions on how to create a travel catalog? I believe you can create one, then import it and add the photos to the main Lightroom catalog at home.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The basic workflow here is reasonably straightforward. For simplicity I recommend creating a “traveling” catalog on an external hard drive specifically for a given trip. Then import images into that catalog and onto that hard drive while traveling. You can then merge this traveling catalog with your master catalog when you return home.

More Detail: I should point out from the start that using an external hard drive as the “home” for a Lightroom catalog isn’t the best option from the standpoint of performance. However, this approach is a little simpler. So, keep in mind that you could make some changes to this workflow based on your priorities and comfort level. But for purposes of this question I’ll focus on a single approach.

The first step would be to create a new “traveling” catalog. So, launch Lightroom on the laptop computer you’ll be traveling with and connect an external hard drive that has enough capacity for both the catalog and the new photos you’ll capture during your trip. Then choose File > New Catalog from the menu. Navigate to the external hard drive in the “Create Folder with New Catalog” dialog and enter a name for the catalog. I recommend naming the catalog based on the trip you’ll be taking, just for clarity.

During the trip you can then work with that “traveling” catalog, importing new photos to the same external hard drive that the catalog is stored on. Along the way you can, of course, perform any work you’d like within Lightroom for those images. For example, you can assign keywords, apply star ratings, add other metadata, and apply adjustments in the Develop module.

When you return home, connect the external hard drive to the computer with your master Lightroom catalog. Launch Lightroom and make sure that your master catalog is open. Then choose File > Import from Another Catalog from the menu. Navigate to the external hard drive and select your traveling catalog as the basis of the import. In the following dialog, choose the option to copy the photos to a different location, and specify your primary storage location for photos as the destination. The existing folder structure for your “traveling” photos will be retained.

With this process you are able to work with your new captures while traveling without any limitations. Upon returning home you can then merge the photos and all of the information from your “traveling” catalog into your master catalog, so that the new photos will appear in that master catalog right alongside all of your existing photos.

Note that you can see this workflow in more detail in my video course “Tim’s Real Organizational Workflow” in the GreyLearning video training library here:

Lens Hood Replacement


Today’s Question: I broke the hood for one of my lenses by bumping it into a wall. Fortunately the lens was not damaged. Do I need to buy the replacement hood from the lens manufacturer? I saw that there is a generic lens hood available that is supposed to work with any lens that has the same diameter.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I highly recommend purchasing a replacement lens hood that is specifically designed for the lens you will use that hood with, especially for wide-angle lenses. Purchasing a replacement lens hood from the lens manufacturer obviously helps to ensure you are getting a hood designed specifically for your lens, but if you can find an alternative that has the exact same shape as the original, that would work fine also.

More Detail: Lens hoods are specifically designed for the lens they will be used with. Admittedly, for a telephoto lens this is not a significant concern. You’ve probably noticed that for lenses with a relatively long focal length the lens hood has a very simple shape, similar to a basic cylinder.

For wide-angle lenses the shape of the lens hood is actually quite important. The “funny” shape of these lens hoods is a result of attempting to shade the lens as completely as possible without allowing the lens hood to actually encroach into the field of view of the lens.

Because of the importance of the shape of the lens hood for a wide-angle lens, I do recommend purchasing a replacement lens from the same manufacturer as that lens, just to be sure you are getting a lens hood that is optimally designed for the lens you’ll use that hood with.

Also, be sure to check out the latest episode of Tim Grey TV, which also features lens hoods. You can watch that episode here:

Incremental Solution


Today’s Question: FYI, there are backup applications that can do incremental backups on a block base. For large files, only changed parts (blocks on the disk) are backed up during incremental runs. For example: CrashPlan.

Tim’s Quick Answer: This isn’t a question, so much as a clarification. In yesterday’s edition of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, I said (in the context of incremental backup) that “it isn’t possible to simply ‘update’ the parts of a file that have changed”. As noted above, my statement wasn’t accurate, as there are some software solutions that enable updating backed up files rather than backing up the same file a second time.

More Detail: The focus of my answer in yesterday’s email related to the benefits of a synchronization (or incremental) backup solution compared to creating an entirely new copy of your data (such as photos) for every backup operation.

As noted yesterday, I do highly recommend a synchronization backup solution compared to a more typical incremental backup solution. Both are incremental in the sense that they aren’t creating full copies of your files every time you backup. Instead, only the files that have changed are updated in the backup.

The key difference between what I refer to as an incremental backup versus a synchronization backup relates to what the backup copy of the data looks like. With software that I would place into the category of an “incremental” backup, the recovery process requires more time because the data must be restored in what can be thought of as an incremental process as well.

By contrast, software that I would fit into a category of a synchronization backup is making a backup that is an exact match of the “master” copy of the files. In other words, in the event of a hard drive failure if you have a synchronization backup you could essentially just replace your master hard drive with the backup hard drive and continue working (making an additional backup copy of your data first, of course).

Thank you, by the way, to the readers who pointed out my error in yesterday’s email. I love being able to help photographers find solutions to their challenges, and I appreciate it when readers catch an error and let me know, so I can pass the clarification on to readers.

Incremental Backup


Today’s Question: I think I remember that you suggested a program that would perform incremental backups as well as full backups. I run into this problem whenever I add photos to a master file and catalog. The photo file is now very large, and to completely backup a current master and catalog each time an addition is made to Lightroom would take forever. I would like to set a backup program that would do an incremental backup within some set period.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I do indeed recommend what in some ways can be thought of as an incremental backup, but that is more along the lines of a one-way synchronization approach to backing up. This helps to streamline the backup process, especially as it relates to the time required to “update” your backup.

More Detail: When it comes to large files such as the “previews” file associated with your Lightroom catalog, an incremental or synchronization backup doesn’t provide a significant benefit. That’s because it isn’t possible to simply “update” the parts of a file that have changed. Instead, every time a file is updated that entire file must be copied to the backup drive.

However, there is no need to backup your entire collection of photos just because you have downloaded new photos. This is the key benefit of an incremental or synchronization backup. When you download new photos, for example, only those new photos need to be copied to your backup hard drive, because all of your existing photos are already on that drive.

There are differences between an incremental and synchronization backup. In general, an incremental backup involves making a copy of files that have changed, but in a way that requires recovery software to restore lost files if you experience a hard drive failure, for example. A synchronization approach involves updating the backup drive so it is an exact copy of the “master” drive, so that a failure is easier to recover from.

The software I have recommended (and continue to use) for a synchronization-based backup solution is called GoodSync. You can learn more about GoodSync here:

Clipping Preview Options


Today’s Question: I’ve been a fan of yours for years, and appreciate all that you do. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you talk about the clipping displays that can be activated at the top corners of the histogram in Lightroom. Do you not recommend using these options?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While I am a huge fan of the ability to see a “clipping preview” when adjusting a photo, I don’t employ the clipping preview option you refer to. Instead, I employ the more detailed clipping preview you can display by holding the Alt/Option key while adjusting certain sliders in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw.

More Detail: I should hasten to point out that the Develop module in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop provide the exact same adjustments and related options. So the details provided here will apply equally to photographers to work in Lightroom or in Adobe Camera Raw.

Within the Histogram display in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw you will see a triangle at each of the top corners. The triangle at the top-left corner enables you to toggle the clipping display for shadows, and the triangle at the top-right corner toggles the display for highlight shadows. With these options turned on, any shadow areas that have been clipped to pure black will have a blue overlay, and any highlight areas that have been clipped to pure white will have a red overlay.

The primary reason I don’t use these clipping preview options is that they only provide an indication of full clipping to pure black or pure white. The “other” option I prefer enables me to see when an individual channel is clipping, which can be helpful information in a variety of situations.

Thus, instead of employing the shadow and highlight clipping controls found within the Histogram display, I prefer to hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while adjusting any control that may contribute to clipping. For example, I will hold the Alt/Option key when adjusting the slider for Whites and Blacks, and in some cases when adjusting the value for Highlights and Shadows.

Ultimately the clipping preview is aimed at providing detailed information about the impact of specific adjustments on an image. I prefer to have as much detail as possible when evaluating clipping for an image, and thus I use the Alt/Option key rather than the triangle buttons associated with the Histogram.

TIFF Workflow


Today’s Question: What is your recommended workflow for a TIFF file? I have scanned and imported all my old slides into Lightroom as “.tif” files, and now wish to print/display some of them. From your excellent guidance I now use Lightroom for the vast majority of my adjustments, but find I prefer the spot healing brush tool in Photoshop to eliminate the dust that has permeated my slides. Occasionally I also use Photoshop to create masks for specific adjustments. Finally many of the Lightroom adjustments for a TIFF file do not seem to transfer to the Photoshop image for me. Currently I first create a “.psd” file for the healing brush in Photoshop, and then go back to Lightroom and use this file for the adjustments. There must be a better way.

Tim’s Quick Answer: For general optimization work my preference would be to simply send the “original” TIFF image to Photoshop to work on it there. Then save the changes and close the image file to update that image in Lightroom. Note that the Lightroom adjustments will not be visible while you are in Lightroom, but they will still be applied when you return to Lightroom for that image. For print preparation I would make an additional copy of the TIFF image, and that copy could be either a TIFF or PSD.

More Detail: In the case of working on the “original” TIFF image created from the scan, I would be perfectly happy to work on that same image file for general adjustments in Photoshop. In other words, when prompted about how I want to handle the image upon sending it to Photoshop, I would choose the “Edit Original” option. I would then use a completely non-destructive workflow (with adjustment layers, additional image layers, and layer masks, as needed, for example) so that none of the original pixel values are being altered. When you’re finished working with the image in Photoshop, simply choose File > Save (not “Save As”) and then File > Close from the menu to save and close the changes so you can return to Lightroom.

As noted above, the adjustments you applied in Lightroom will not be visible while you are working in Photoshop. This can obviously be a little frustrating, but it is generally not too difficult to work around this limitation. The Lightroom adjustments will still be applied when you are back in Lightroom after finishing your work in Photoshop.

If you will be performing any “destructive” work, such as for printing, then I would want to make an additional copy of the image with the Lightroom adjustments applied. For example, if you plan to resize and sharpen the image for a specific output size, that is altering the underlying pixel information in the image. In that case I would choose the option to create a copy of the image with the Lightroom adjustments applied when sending the photo to Photoshop. Then perform all the work that is needed and save and close the image. That image would then be ready for final output based on the output size you designated for the image, but you could always return to your “original” scanned TIFF image as needed.

Catalog Location


Today’s Question: You say you keep your Lightroom catalog on you laptop but your photos on an external drive and this makes sense if the laptop is your primary computer. Would you not want your catalog and photos together on an external hard drive when using a laptop for travel but then transfer the catalog with photos to a desktop when you get home? Otherwise would you not need to move the catalog to the external drive every time you want to transfer to a desktop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In my case the decision is easy, because my laptop isn’t merely my primary computer but rather my exclusive computer for working with my Lightroom catalog. For those who need to work across two computers, keeping the Lightroom catalog on an external hard drive can be a reasonably good solution, though it is important to keep in mind that this approach will generally lead to a degradation in performance for Lightroom.

More Detail: One of the challenges many photographers face when using Lightroom is that there isn’t an easy solution for working with a single catalog across more than one computer. You can certainly copy the catalog back and forth across multiple computers, but to me this is a very risky approach because you need to keep track of which copy of your catalog is truly the latest version (and be sure not to use an outdated version).

Another approach is to keep the catalog on an external hard drive. However, as noted above, this can in degraded performance in Lightroom. In some cases this degradation in performance can be significant.

Some photographers employ a solution such as DropBox to synchronize a catalog across multiple computers. However, this approach makes me nervous, because connectivity issues can cause synchronization to fail in problematic ways.

As a result, to me the best solution is to keep Lightroom on a single computer if at all possible. That, in turn, is part of the reason I have opted to use a laptop as my primary computer, including for my Lightroom-based workflow.

Storage Limitations


Today’s Question: You recently wrote that your main computer is a laptop, and I think in the past you’ve said that you keep all of your photo files on your computer. I’m wondering how you manage that. I have 200 GB of photo files, which I keep on my laptop (my main computer) for ease of access, and together with my photo applications and other related ‘tools’, have often found certain programs slowing down and my laptop getting low on space. I know you have many more gigabytes of files than I do. Could you comment on how large a laptop you have and where and how you keep your files so that you don’t keep running out of laptop space?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In my mind the best solution for this situation is a bus-powered external hard drive, preferably one that is durable if you will be traveling. You can then keep your Lightroom catalog (if applicable) on the internal hard drive and all of your photos on the external hard drive.

More Detail: I have indeed said that my primary computer is a laptop, but I don’t keep all of my photos on the internal hard drive. If I said at some point that I did, that would have been a long time ago when I actually had plenty of storage for all of my photos on an internal drive. That is no longer the case.

A bus-powered hard drive is one that derives its power from the data connection (such as a USB or Thunderbolt connection) and therefore does not require a separate power adapter. This provides a streamlined solution that is especially helpful when traveling.

I am currently using LaCie Rugged external hard drives, and am very happy with them. I travel with several of the 4TB versions, which provide adequate capacity for all of my photos on one drive and production files and other data on another drive. You can find an example of a LaCie Rugged drive here:

Import Missing Photos


Today’s Question: I have some serious Lightroom file/folder management issues. For example, if I look at my “2013” image folder in Lightroom I see only three folders containing maybe a couple of hundred images. If I go into Finder and look at that same “2013” folder, I see that I actually have about 40 folders with numerous sub-folders and easily several thousand images. What do I need to do to make all of the images on my Mac hard drive accessible in Lightroom and how do I avoid this problem in the future?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Fortunately in this case the solution is relatively simple. You just need to perform an import operation from your primary photo storage location. You’ll want to turn on the “Include Subfolders” option and employ the “Add” option in conjunction with the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” setting.

More Detail: The issue here is that you either haven’t imported all photos from your hard drive, or some of the photos that had been imported were removed from your Lightroom catalog without being deleted from your hard drive. That results in photos that are on your hard drive but not included in your Lightroom catalog. This can obviously be a problem if you’re attempting to use Lightroom to manage your entire library of photographic images.

Let’s assume that your date-based folder structure is included within a parent folder called “PHOTOS”. You can initiate the import process by clicking the Import button at the bottom of the left panel in the Library module.

In the Import dialog, first set the top-level storage location for your photos as the source of the import operation. In this case that would be the “PHOTOS” folder referred to above. Then be sure the “Include Subfolders” checkbox is turned on. This enables you to import all photos in all subfolders within the currently selected source folder.

Next, be sure the option at the top-center of the Import dialog is set to “Add”. This option is used for images that are already where they belong, and that you simply want to add to your Lightroom catalog. On the right panel of the Import dialog be sure the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checkbox is turned on, so that only images that aren’t currently in your Lightroom catalog will actually be imported.

Adjust any other settings based on your preferences, and then click the Import button at the bottom-right of the Import dialog. All of the photos within the source folder you selected, including images within subfolders of that source location, that are not already included in the current Lightroom catalog will be added to that catalog.

Slow Preview Updates


Today’s Question: In Lightroom I created 1:1 previews for a series of images. I’m in the Develop module zoomed to 100%. When I move using arrow key to the next image in the series, the image on screen is first pixelated, then improves to just blurry, then finally improves to actual sharpness. Each change takes just about a second. Very annoying. If 1:1 previews already exist, why is the rendering happening in 3 stages rather than simply opening at actual/proper resolution?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Put simply, Lightroom generates updated previews “on the fly” in the Develop module. You get the full benefit of 1:1 previews in the Library module, for example, but in the Develop module Lightroom will render a preview in real time based on the original capture plus the adjustments you’ve applied. In other words, the final preview takes longer to generate than simply retrieving the preview from the cache as is done in the Library module.

More Detail: In other words, you can think of the 1:1 previews as being a feature to employ as needed in the Library module. In the Develop module Lightroom will be working a bit harder to generate updated previews based on your original capture plus adjustments. That, in turn, means that overall system performance can play a very big role in the Develop module.

In particular, a fast process, plenty of memory (RAM), and a good display adapter (video card) with plenty of video memory will make a big difference. In general I recommend 8GB to 16GB of system memory, a fast processor with multiple cores, and 2GB or more of video RAM.

In addition, it is a good idea to confirm that the “Use Graphics Processor” checkbox is turned on. You can find this checkbox on the Performance tab of the Preferences dialog in Lightroom. The only reason I would ever turn this option off is for troubleshooting odd behaviors within Lightroom. But if Lightroom is behaving normally, leaving this option turned on will improve performance, including within the Develop module in Lightroom.

If you have adequate hard drive space, I would also recommend increasing the size of the Camera Raw cache in Lightroom. The default is 1GB, but you can increase it to a much higher value (like 10GB or 20GB) to improve performance. You’ll find this option near the bottom of the File Handling tab of the Preferences dialog in Lightroom.

Note, by the way, that rendering 1:1 previews can greatly improve overall performance in Lightroom. They are not as beneficial for the Develop module compared to the Library module, but they can still boost performance. If you have more than enough hard drive space, it may be worthwhile to render 1:1 previews depending on your particular workflow.