Adding GPS to Metadata


Today’s Question: I know you have said that if you take a picture with your iPhone you can add GPS coordinates to your Lightroom entries. I have found that if you use Google Maps to find where you took a picture and do a mouse click you can get the GPS coordinates and they are in the format Lightroom likes. A simple copy and paste will get it done. Clearly I am not doing this for all images but there are images I would like to have listed on the Maps module and this seems to be straightforward, simple and fast compared with other things I have tried.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Actually, there is a faster and easier way to accomplish this right inside of Lightroom. The Map module in Lightroom actually makes use of Google Maps. You can locate a position on the map in the Map module, and then drag and drop a photo (or multiple selected photos at once) from the Filmstrip onto the map, and the GPS coordinates will be added to metadata for those photos.

More Detail: There are, of course, a variety of ways you can add photos to the map in Lightroom’s Map module. But in all cases, adding photos to the map really just means adding GPS coordinates to the metadata for the photos.

If photos are captured with a camera that includes GPS capabilities, those photos will have GPS coordinates automatically embedded in metadata. That, in turn, means the photos will appear on the map in the Map module within Lightroom.

You can also capture a reference photo with a GPS-enabled device such as a smartphone, and then use that reference photo to help you locate map positions for other photos captured without the benefit of built-in GPS. This is a subject I addressed in the article “Location Snapshots” in the August 2012 issue of Pixology magazine.

In addition, you can record a GPS track log with a variety of different devices (including a smartphone) and then synchronize that track log to your photos within Lightroom to add GPS coordinates to the images.

And, as noted above, you can simply drag-and-drop one or more photos onto the map from the Filmstrip in Lightroom in order to add the photos to the map, and add GPS coordinates to metadata in the meantime.

The map in Lightroom also includes the option to switch between a road map and satellite view, which can also be helpful for locating specific positions on the map.

RAID Backup


Today’s Question: I recently realized that, although I had a backup copy of the external drive where I store my images, the drives were at least three years old. Since I recently read a scary article on the failure rates of various brands of drives within five years, I decided that I should replace the drives. Rather than buy two new separate external drives, I decided to buy an enclosure for two 4TB internal drives that are mirrored using a RAID setting. In this way, any changes in one drive are mirrored to the other. My question is whether you would consider this to be an acceptable way of maintaining a backup of the images from the time of download. I should add that in addition, I also use Goodsynch to back up the mirrored drives and I use Backblaze as an offsite, online backup. I’d appreciate your opinion as to whether you think this is an adequate process.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Using a drive with RAID mirroring is better than using a single hard drive, but not as good (in terms of backup security) as backing up to a second hard drive immediately. With this approach, my (admittedly paranoid) preference would be to not format the media card in the camera until another backup to a separate physical device is performed.

More Detail: There are, of course, many possible solutions for backing up your photos, and from my perspective there isn’t a single “right” solution. Instead, there are a variety of options, and those options fall on a scale between what I would consider “high risk” and “low risk”.

The highest risk approach, of course, is to never backup your photos at all. From there you can define a wide variety of workflows for backing up your photos that offer various degrees of protection.

My concern about a RAID mirroring solution is that both copies of your data are stored on a single physical device. Granted, there are two actual hard drives, but those two hard drives are connected to the same power supply and data connection, and are also contained in the same enclosure. In other words, if something happens to the overall device, you could lose both copies of your photos at one time.

This issue is mitigated, of course, by creating additional copies of your photos via a synchronization backup and an online backup, in your particular example. That obviously creates a situation where you ultimately have four copies (including the originals) of your photos even after you’ve formatted the digital media card in your camera.

My concern in this case relates to the time between downloading your photos to the RAID hard drive and creating an additional backup on a separate physical device (such as via synchronization), especially if you are going to immediately format the card in the camera to use for new captures.

In other words, with this type of setup my personal preference would be to download to the RAID drive (creating a master and backup copy in the process), but then to wait until after another backup is created on a separate physical device to format the media card in the camera.

As always, a backup workflow involves making decisions that balance security versus workflow efficiency. My preference whenever possible is to take the most conservative approach possible that is still reasonably easy to implement.

It is worth noting, for example, that on many trips I have two copies of my photos stored on two separate hard drives, but I still often have both of those hard drives in the same camera bag. That involves a certain degree of risk, so it is important to maintain a degree of perspective here. When it comes to backing up your photos, there is always an even more paranoid step you could add to your workflow!

Crop Guide Overlays


Today’s Question: Suddenly, I can’t find the Develop module overlays [in Lightroom] that used to be there: the straight ‘horizon’ line, the rule of thirds grid – or whatever other choice the person processing might make. I think I’ve searched everywhere for them, and think I must have inadvertently turned them off???

Tim’s Quick Answer: The overlays you are referring to are the “Crop Guide Overlays”, which are only available when using the Crop tool. With the Crop tool active you can press the letter “O” on the keyboard to cycle through the available options, or you can choose an option from the menu by selecting Tools > Crop Guide Overlay.

More Detail: Lightroom includes a number of options to choose from, including a Grid, a Rule of Thirds display, a Golden Spiral, a set of Aspect Ratios you can choose from, and a few other options.

You can choose which specific overlays will actually be included when you cycle through using the “O” keyboard shortcut. To select which overlays to include or exclude you can go to the menu and choose Tools > Crop Guide Overlay > Choose Overlays to Cycle. This will bring up a dialog where you can select which of the overlays you’d like to include when cycling through using the keyboard shortcut.

You can also choose which specific aspect ratios will appear when you select the Aspect Ratios overlay by going to the menu and choosing Tools > Crop Guide Overlay > Choose Aspect Ratios. Selecting this option will bring up a dialog where you can select the individual aspect ratios you want to have visible when you select the Aspect Ratios overlay option.

But once again, keep in mind that you can only configure and display the crop guide overlays by first selecting the Crop tool from the small toolbar below the histogram in the Develop module.

Third-Party Lenses


Today’s Question: I need to purchase another couple of lenses. I shoot with a Canon and am considering purchasing a lens other than Canon, because of the big price difference. What do you think of the image quality in some of the bigger name off-brand lenses?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I have been very happy with a variety of lenses from third-party manufacturers. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that each lens should be evaluated individually, and you can’t make broad assumptions about quality based only on the manufacturer of a given lens.

More Detail: I also happen to use primarily Canon cameras. To be sure, there are some excellent lenses made by Canon. There are also some lenses that Canon makes that aren’t especially great in terms of overall image quality. In general those lenses that don’t produce the highest image quality are lenses aimed at offering a lower price point compared to the top-end lenses. But the point is that you can’t assume a lens produces images of exceptional quality simply based on the name of the manufacturer.

I have also had the opportunity to test out a variety of lenses from different manufacturers, and I own lenses from different manufacturers. I’ve been extremely happy with some of those third-party lenses. In some cases the lens is one at a lower price point but with quality that is very close to that of the more expensive comparable lens from the camera manufacturer. And in some cases the third-party lens actually exceeds the quality of the lens from the camera manufacturer.

The biggest challenge in my mind is evaluating various lenses, since there are so many variables involved. Some photographers might be willing to pay any price for the lens of the highest quality, for example, while another photographer is looking for a better value with a lens at a lower price point.

There are also many factors that impact overall image quality as well as the utility of the lens. You’ll want to consider prime versus zoom, maximum aperture, whether or not stabilization technology is improved, size and weight, and many other factors.

One source of information I’ve found helpful as a starting point for getting a sense of relative quality for different lenses is the DxOMark ratings. You can view the scores in various categories for a number of different lenses on the DxOMark website here:

You might be surprised to find that in some cases the less expensive third-party lens actually scores better than the more expensive lens with similar specifications that is manufactured by the same company as the camera.

And, of course, there are also DxOMark scores for cameras in addition to those for lenses. But I most certainly would not hesitate to purchase a lens from a manufacturer other than the camera manufacturer if that particular lens met my specific needs.

Layer Masking Trick


Today’s Question: I was at your presentation at Photoshop World yesterday, and was hoping you could help me with a detail I missed in my notes. You were working on a photo of a monkey, creating a layer mask for just the monkey. You showed how painting with a normal brush would damage the fur, but I missed the “trick” for how to change the brush to help protect the fur while you were painting. Could you remind me?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “trick” I demonstrated yesterday involved the use of the Overlay blend mode when painting with black or white on a layer mask. This allows you to gradually build up a lightening or darkening, helping to reduce the risk of painting completely over fine details.

More Detail: The example in this case involved the creation of a selection for a furry animal (a macaque in this case). Because the fur is a bit translucent, it can be difficult to create a good selection. In this type of situation, I’ll often simply create an initial layer mask based on the initial selection. Viewing that layer mask directly (by holding the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while clicking on the thumbnail for the layer mask on the Layers panel), you are able to see the specific details of the mask, including gray areas that should be black or white.

Using the Brush tool, you can set the colors to the defaults of white and black by pressing “D” on the keyboard, and switch between white and black as needed by pressing “X” on the keyboard.

The trick in this case is to also change the blend mode for the Brush tool from Normal to Overlay, using the Mode popup on the Options bar. This allows you to effectively dodge and burn on the layer mask, rather than simply painting with black and white.

With this technique, it is still possible to harm the detail in the image, such as the fur in this case. However, it will generally require multiple brush strokes to eliminate those details altogether. So with a little bit of careful painting you can clean up details around the edge of the object defined by your layer mask (and within the edges of that object) without having a significant impact on the details of the edge of that object.

Maximum White Value


Today’s Question: You said [in yesterday’s edition of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter] that you don’t recommend limiting the maximum value for white in your photographic images. I’ve often heard that the whites should be set to no brighter than 250 or even lower. Why don’t you think that is necessary?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Put simply, I prefer to retain the maximum possible range of color and tonal values for my photo. In my mind, you should only restrict that range if you have a good reason to do so. If you have such a reason, it probably applies on a per-image or per-print basis, not across your entire library of photographic images.

More Detail: If, for example, your printer is not able to produce discrete values for the brightest shade of white for the specific ink and paper combination you’ll be printing to, then you could reduce the maximum white value to “fit” the range for the photo into the range supported by your printer.

However, if you are printing your photos using a photo inkjet printer, this probably isn’t an issue for you. Many photo inkjet printers have a difficult time producing discrete values for the darkest blacks, but they generally don’t have difficulty with the brightest whites.

Some monitor displays and digital projectors may have difficulty producing a full range of bright values, but that is often the result of incorrect settings (or a lack of calibration) rather than a true issue with the display.

When I hear a photographer say that they adjust the maximum white value for their photos down to something less than 255, the first thing I want to know is why they are doing that. Again, if this adjustment were being applied to compensate for limitations of a printer or other output, that would make sense. But as far as I’m concerned, limiting the white value across all images to something below 255 makes absolutely no sense.

Some images don’t have a full tonal range from black to white in the first place, and some images don’t need to be adjusted to include that full range. But for images where it makes sense to have a full range from black to white, in almost all cases I want to optimize my photo so that white really is white, not some value that is darker than white.

Frankly, I would be more understanding if we were talking about keeping the black value up at a higher value than true black considering the limitations of many printers. But that’s a different matter altogether, and even then I would still retain a true black in my master image in most cases.

RGB Values in Lightroom


Today’s Question: Arthur Morris asked a question in his blog about checking the RGB values in Lightroom. When I use the eyedropper tool it shows a value in percentage. Is there a way to show the actual RGB values?

Tim’s Quick Answer: It is possible to view RGB values in Lightroom as 8-bit per channel values (0 to 255) rather than as a percentage (0-100), but only by enabling the Soft Proofing display in the Develop module. It is critical to keep in mind that the Soft Proofing preview (and therefore the RGB value presented) are based on the specific profile and settings you establish for the soft proofing display, and thus don’t necessarily represent the actual final RGB values for the image.

More Detail: When you move your mouse over the image in Lightroom’s Develop module, the RGB values for the pixel under the current mouse position will be displayed below the histogram at the top of the right panel. Those values are displayed as a percentage rather than the range from zero to 255 that are commonly used to describe RGB data.

You can turn on the Soft Proofing checkbox on the toolbar below the image preview area to have the RGB values shown as 8-bit per channel RGB values (0-255) rather than as percentages. However, those values will be based on the settings established for soft proofing, meaning the values are only meaningful in the context of a specific printer, ink, and paper combination.

What that translates to is that I recommend only using the Soft Proofing option if you are indeed preparing a photo to be printed, and you need to evaluate the output you can expect based on a specific printer, ink, and paper combination.

For more general purposes, I recommend leaving the Soft Proofing checkbox turned off while applying adjustments to your images and evaluating the overall photo. That means you’ll see RGB values as a percentage rather than the 8-bit values you might be accustomed to. But a little bit of math can provide a translation, and with a little bit of experience you’ll gain an understanding of how the values relate to each other.

It is worth noting that the 8-bit values themselves aren’t a full representation of the information in your images, assuming we’re talking about RAW captures, for example. Lightroom actually processes your photos (in the Develop module) with a 16-bit per channel workflow. In other words, the actual underlying values for a photo could range from zero to 65,536, not just zero to 255.

I should also hasten to add that I don’t agree with Arthur Morris’ suggestion that the brightest value for an image should have RGB values of around 240 or so. As far as I’m concerned there is no reason to restrict your processing of a RAW capture to avoid white values that are brighter than a specific value. With some print workflows there used to be (and in some cases still is) a reason to keep the whites from getting too bright. That isn’t the case today for most workflows. Restricting your bright values arbitrarily is only limiting the dynamic range of your final image, without providing a true benefit.

“Save for Web” is Missing


Today’s Question: I recently upgraded my version of Photoshop CC, and now the “Save for Web” command is missing. Has this feature been discontinued? I’ve been using this option to create PNG images with transparency, and want to be able to continue using “Save for Web”. What happened?!

Tim’s Quick Answer: In effect, the “Save for Web” command previously found on the File menu in Photoshop has simply be renamed to “Export”. There is an option for “Quick Export as PNG”, or you can choose “Export As” to configure the settings similar to what you had previously done with the “Save for Web” feature.

More Detail: The “Quick Export as PNG” command will create a PNG that preserves transparency, so this option will likely work perfectly well for you. When you’re ready to save an image as a PNG (Portable Network Graphics) file, simply choose File > Export > Quick Export as PNG from the menu. This will bring up the Save As dialog, where you can specify the filename and location for the PNG image that will be created. Click the Save button, and the PNG will be saved.

If you prefer to configure specific settings for the PNG image being created, you can instead choose File > Export > Export As from the menu. This will bring up the Export As dialog, which allows you to configure all of the various settings for the PNG image (or a JPEG or GIF, for example) very similar to the approach you would have taken with the “Save for Web” dialog in previous versions of Photoshop.

If you prefer to use the previous “Save for Web” dialog, you can still access that dialog in the latest version of Photoshop. Simply choose File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy) from the menu, and you’ll see the Save for Web dialog you’re familiar with.

Precise Selection Size


Today’s Question: With the Crop tool I can draw a rectangle that is exactly 5 inches by 7 inches, for example. But what if I don’t want to crop? What if I just want to select an area with that span? Or draw a rectangle shape exactly that way? Can either of these tools be done to an exact size?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, with most of the selection and shape tools (such as the Rectangular Marquee and Rectangle tools in this example) can be used to create a shape of specific dimensions in inches (or any other unit of measure). You’ll first want to confirm the image dimensions and resolution in the Image Size dialog, and then you can specify the shape size using the settings on the Options bar.

More Detail: When you specify dimensions for a shape, those dimensions are affected by the pixel per inch (ppi) resolution for the image. In other words, since Photoshop is really dealing with pixels, in order to communicate inches accurately you need to specify how many pixels should be counted as one inch. For example, when printing you will typically use a resolution of around 300 pixels per inch.

To review (or change) the ppi resolution for an image in Photoshop, choose Image > Image Size from the menu to bring up the Image Size dialog. There you’ll see a pixel per inch resolution, though you can also change this resolution to reflect centimeters per inch if you prefer.

If you want to change the resolution for the image, first turn off the Resample checkbox, so the number of pixels in the image can’t be changed. Then set the Resolution value to the desired number, and click OK to apply the change. Note that with this approach you are only changing the pixel per inch resolution for the image, without actually changing the size (the number of pixels) for the image.

Now you are ready to specify the specific size for a selection or shape using inches as your unit of measure. With the Rectangular Marquee tool, for example, you can choose the “Fixed Size” option from the Style popup, and then enter values for Width and Height. For the Rectangle tool you will always see the W (Width) and H (Height) fields on the Options bar.

The default unit of measure for the Width and Height values is pixels, which is abbreviated “px” after the numeric value. You can change the unit of measure by simply changing this text. So for five inches you could enter “5 in” for example. In addition to “px” for pixels and “in” for inches, you can also specify dimensions in centimeters using “cm”.

With the dimensions established, you can easily create the selection or shape at the desired size by clicking within the image. By default, that selection or shape will then be created automatically, with the point you clicked within the image becoming the top-left corner of the selection or shape.

Lightroom Presets


Today’s Question: I just learned about Lightroom presets. Can you provide some guidelines for selection? How do I know which are safe?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Presets in Lightroom simply represent saved settings. That means those presets are safe to use (provided you know what they do and actually want that task performed). It also means that anything you can accomplish with a preset you could also accomplish on your own by establishing specific settings within Lightroom.

More Detail: Among the more common presets found for Lightroom are Develop presets. These presets simply save specific settings for the adjustments available in the Develop module. There is nothing you can accomplish with a Develop preset that you couldn’t also accomplish through the use of the adjustment controls within the Develop module.

In other words, if you purchase a set of presets for Lightroom’s Develop module, what you’re paying for is the convenience of having those settings saved for you. Presets can be incredibly convenient, and they can also provide creative inspiration for your photos. But those presets are just saved settings, and thus are only able to set existing options within Lightroom.

So, if you see a set of presets you like, there is no reason to avoid them. And by using such presets, you may find that in addition to getting some additional creative inspiration for your photos, you may learn how to make better use of Lightroom in the process.