Color Space Mismatches

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Today’s Question: I’m confused about the color space info I’m seeing. My Canon 5D recommends shooting in the sRGB color space. But my Preferences in Lightroom 5 under the External Editing Tab is set at ProPhoto RGB. After processing a photo in Lightroom, if I want to export the file I choose Color Space Adobe RGB. But here’s what I don’t understand: sRGB is supposed to be a more limited color space. So, if I’m capturing my original RAW image in the sRGB color space, how do Lightroom and Photoshop find those “missing” gradations that sRGB fails to capture? How can you produce a ProPhoto RGB file from a more limited sRGB file? Or is that sRGB choice is only for JPEGs and totally irrelevant because I shoot RAW? Can you clear this up for me?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The color space in your camera only applies to JPEG captures, not to raw captures. Within Lightroom you aren’t able to change the color space. When you send a photo to Photoshop or another application, or when you export a copy of an image, you can choose which color space you want to use. In this context I recommend using ProPhoto RGB if you will be exporting a 16-bit per channel image for extensive editing. For photos that will be printed the Adobe RGB color space is generally a good choice. The sRGB color space should be used for images that will be shared digitally, such as online.

More Detail: The color space for an image defines the specific range of colors that are available. As a very simple example, a Grayscale color space would contain only shades of gray, while an RGB color space could contain all of the colors of the rainbow.

When processing photos, it is generally advantageous to have the largest range of colors available, to provide greater flexibility for editing and smoother gradations of tone and color in the final image.

For raw captures, the color space in the camera does not alter the actual pixel data. Only JPEG captures would be affected by the in-camera color space.

The ProPhoto RGB color space is the largest among the standard color spaces. However, because it is so large it should only be used for images with a 16-bit per channel (or higher) bit depth. For 8-bit per channel images (such as JPEG images), one of the other color spaces should be selected. If you are sending a photo to Photoshop for extensive editing, for example, you may want to use the ProPhoto RGB color space.

For images you intend to print, the Adobe RGB color space is also a good choice. The Adobe RGB color space is appropriate for 8-bit or 16-bit per channel images. So, for example, if you were sending an image to Photoshop to prepare it for printing, you could use the Adobe RGB color space.

The sRGB color space is the smallest, but it is also closest to the typical color space for a computer monitor display. This is one of the reasons it is a good choice for images that will be shared digitally, such as online or in a digital slideshow. For these types of output, the sRGB color space is a good option.

So, for raw captures the image itself will not be affected by the in-camera color space. In Lightroom you don’t have the option to change the color space for editing photos. However, you can choose a color space when sending a photo to an external editor or exporting a copy of an image.

To learn more about color management in the context of photography, take a look at my “Color Management for Photographers” course on the GreyLearning website here:

https://www.greylearning.com/courses/color

Duplicate Storage with One Catalog

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Today’s Question: I used to have two identical hard drives with all my photos and the catalog on each one, using GoodSync to synchronize them. This way I was able to run Lightroom Classic CC from either hard drive. Now I moved the catalog away from the hard drive to my laptop computer. I want to work with one hard drive in my office and the other hard drive at home, synchronizing them regularly. I will move the computer between locations, using a different hard drive at each location. The problem is that the catalog does not find the photos after I have worked with the other drive. Is there a solution to work with one central catalog in the computer and either of the two identical drives with my photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is a challenging scenario, in that it involves using one catalog on one computer, but wanting to use a different hard drive with that computer at two different locations. Provided you keep the drives properly synchronized with each other (with a two-way synchronization), the key is to make sure the hard drive has the same drive letter (Windows) or volume label (Macintosh) when you are actually using those drives with Lightroom.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic CC makes use of a catalog to manage the information about your photos. When using one catalog, of course there is no confusion about where your metadata is, since all updates will be stored within the catalog.

However, in the scenario outlined in today’s question, the aim is to use two different drives at two different locations. The unique twist here is the desire to store all of the photos on two different hard drives, with one drive stored at each location.

The first step here is to make sure both hard drives remain synchronized with each other. This requires a two-way synchronization, so that changes on either drive will be reflected on the other drive. This is an option you can employ with GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup), for example.

In order to connect two hard drives to the same computer to perform a synchronization, the two drives must have a different drive letter (Windows) or volume label (Macintosh). In other words, it must be clear to the computer that the drives are two different drives.

Once the drives are synchronized, however, having a different drive letter or name for both drives means Lightroom will be confused. For example, let’s assume the drives are called “Home” and “Office”, and that Lightroom expects to find the photos on the “Office” drive. When you go home and launch Lightroom with the “Home” drive connected, all photos will appear to be missing.

To correct for this confusion, you could rename the “Home” drive to “Office”, even though it isn’t really your office drive. Then, when you want to synchronize again, you would need to change the name of the home drive back to “Home”.

As you can probably appreciate, this process can be a little cumbersome and potentially confusing. For this reason, you might find it simpler to move a hard drive from one location to another, rather than going through this synchronization process. Of course, with a rather large hard drive, this can be more cumbersome than a synchronization workflow.

Another option would be to consider Lightroom CC rather than Lightroom Classic CC. With Lightroom CC your photos and updates can be synchronized across multiple computers and devices. There are some drawbacks in terms of the overall features available in Lightroom CC and the lack of control over the specific folder structure used to store your photos.

Scaling versus Cropping

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Today’s Question: Is there a difference in image quality in Lightroom Classic CC if you scale a photo versus cropping?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, the final result will be the same in terms of image quality. Scaling essentially provides the same basic capability as cropping, though without as much control over the actual cropping of the photo.

More Detail: As I imagine most photographers are aware, Lightroom Classic CC provides a non-destructive workflow. That means that when you apply adjustments in the Develop module, you’re not actually altering the original source image. Instead, you’re effectively applying metadata updates to the image, and having the preview updated to reflect the changes.

The actual effects of your adjustments don’t get applied to the image until you create a copy of the image for sharing, such as by exporting or printing. At that point the actual changes in appearance will be reflected in the output you create.

The Scaling feature available for the Transform adjustments enables you to effectively zoom in (or out) on the photo. This would make it possible to zoom in on the image in order to crop it, so that a warped edge of the image can be cropped out.

Whether you use the Scaling adjustment or the Crop tool in order to crop the image, the final resizing of the image will be the same, and so the quality will be the same. The only real reason to choose the Crop tool over the Scaling adjustment is control.

With the Crop tool you can adjust the aspect ratio, and also fine-tune all four edges or corners of the photo independently. This provides considerably more control over how the image is actually cropped. However, if you’re able to achieve the desired cropping with either approach, the image quality will not be worse with one over the other.

Losing Metadata in Transfer

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Today’s Question: I have a MacBook Air that I travel with and a MacBook Pro to process photos when I get home to make final adjustments. However, while away I will start to review, delete and process images. I transfer images from Air to Pro on my return by dragging from the laptop hard disk to my personal cloud hard drive. Then I drag a copy back from the personal cloud on to my Pro. My issue is that when I do this, I lose the ratings and a record of the adjustments that I made [in Lightroom Classic CC], so I have to start again. How would you recommend I solve this?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In this case you are effectively only bringing your photos to your home computer, leaving many of the metadata updates behind with the Lightroom catalog on your traveling computer. To solve this issue you’ll want to instead merge your traveling catalog into your master catalog whenever you return home.

More Detail: By default Lightroom Classic CC only saves metadata (and other) updates to the catalog. Even if you enable the option in Catalog Settings to automatically write changes to the XMP sidecar files, only standard metadata updates are written to the source images. Lightroom-specific features such as Collections, Pick/Reject flags, Virtual Copies, and more, will not be preserved in this way.

Therefore, when you work with a traveling catalog while away from your master catalog, you’ll want to merge those catalogs upon your return. This involves using the “Import from Another Catalog” command found on the File menu in Lightroom.

For example, upon returning home you could copy your traveling catalog and photos to an external hard drive if they aren’t already on such a drive. You can then connect that drive to the computer with your master catalog, and open that master catalog in Lightroom. Then go to the menu and choose File > Import from Another Catalog. This will enable you to import photos from a different catalog, so that all updates you applied in your traveling catalog while away from home will be preserved upon import into your master catalog.

You can learn more about this process with the lessons in my “Tim’s Real Organizational Workflow” course in the GreyLearning library here:

https://www.greylearning.com/courses/lrcc-05

Two Cards as Backup

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Today’s Question: Regarding your answer about backing up hard drives while traveling, what do you think of simply capturing images to two media cards to avoid the additional weight of hard drives in the first place?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is mostly a good strategy, as long as your camera supports recording to multiple cards at the same time. However, this approach includes the risk of permanently losing photos if your camera is lost, and in most cases does not provide a backup solution for video captures.

More Detail: In my recent answer about backing up while traveling, I explained that I travel with pairs of hard drives, frequently updating the backup drive based on the master drive through the use of synchronization software (http://timgrey.me/greybackup).

This approach, of course, means that I am often traveling with more than a few hard drives. That can be challenging in many cases, of course, but in my case I generally need access to photos and data when I am traveling for extended periods of time.

If you don’t have a need to bring hard drives for photos and other data, simply configuring your camera to record photos to two media cards at the same time provides you with a reasonable backup solution.

Of course, this means you need to have a camera that supports writing data to two cards at the same time. And as noted above, many cameras with this option are only able to write photos to two cards, with video captures only being written to a single card.

In addition, if you are using this approach, I recommend trying to keep the two cards stored separately to the extent possible. It is also important to keep in mind that when writing photos to two cards in the camera, if the camera is lost you will have lost the photos on the cards in the camera, since there would be no opportunity for an external backup.

When traveling there is no perfect solution for keeping your data safe. The key is to do your best to balance the safety of your photos and other important data with convenience. Backing up in some form along the way helps, and you might even incorporate an online backup as part of your overall workflow in order to ensure you have a backup stored at a completely different location as well.

50mm for Better Photography?

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Today’s Question: I often hear the advice to use a 50mm lens in order to improve your photography. But I don’t understand. How will this particular focal length make your photography better?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The advice to use a 50mm lens to improve your photography is two-fold. One, having a restriction on your photography can force you to think a little more creatively as a photographer. Second, a 50mm lens has a field of view similar to human vision, which enables you to “see” with the camera similar to how you see the world with your own eyes.

More Detail: Practice can obviously help you improve just about any skill, including photographic composition. As with many other forms of practice, when you place certain restrictions on yourself you can develop specific skills with greater focus.

For example, many exercises you might be given in a photography class are really placing restrictions on what you do. If a photography instructor tells you to focus on subjects that exhibit repeating patterns, you are essentially restricted from photographing any subject that does not exhibit repeating patterns.

When a restriction is placed on you as a photographer, you need to think a bit more about how to accomplish a given task. That, in turn, can help improve your skills as a photographer, making composition come a little more naturally, for example.

One very common approach to restricting your options when practicing photography is to use a prime lens rather than a zoom lens. The result is that you must change your position in order to change the framing of the scene, rather than simply adjusting the zoom on the lens.

When being limited to a prime lens, the 50mm lens is a common choice because this lens has a field of view that is very close to that of human vision (on a 35mm camera system). This provides the additional benefit of using a lens that provides a field of view similar to your own eyes, which means you can practice composition using your eyes even when you don’t have your camera.

I do find that restricting your photographic options, even if in a completely arbitrary way, can help you think more and become more creative as a photographer.

Backup While Traveling

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Today’s Question: I know you travel rather extensively. What do you do about backing up your photos during your travels? And do you leave a backup at home when you’re gone?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When I’m traveling I always bring a backup drive to go along with any “master” drive I bring. And I do indeed leave an updated backup at home before departing on any trip.

More Detail: My preferred method of backing up is to synchronize the contents of each master drive to a matched backup drive. Therefore, when I’m traveling I pack drives in pairs. That might mean, for example, a master photos drive and the backup for it, as well as a master data drive and its backup.

So, whenever downloading photos while traveling, I am downloading to my master photos drive. I also take advantage of the option in Lightroom’s import process to create a second copy of the photos being imported to the internal hard drive on my computer. When that process is completed, I also perform a synchronization backup for the master photos drive to the backup photos drive. I use a software application called GoodSync for this purpose, which you can find here:

http://timgrey.me/greybackup

As noted above, before departing on a trip I also update an additional backup copy of all drives I’ll be traveling with, just in case anything should go wrong with my storage while away from home.

In theory I also take advantage of online storage to at least backup my most important photos while traveling. That might include, for example, all photos to which I have assigned a star rating during my trip. Unfortunately, because I often do not have a fast Internet connection when traveling, this is a backup option I’m not always able to take advantage of.

The key to me is to first make sure you have a full backup that you are leaving behind when you depart home, and to ensure you have at least one backup on a separate drive for all photos you capture and download while traveling.

Vibrance and Saturation

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Today’s Question: I recently read some Photoshop image-optimization advice to increase Vibrance while at the same time decreasing Saturation a little (in either Lightrom or Adobe Camera Raw). And then I observed the same behavior when clicking the Auto button [for automatic adjustments in the Basic set of adjustments]. Why would this be recommended and what’s the effect on the image when doing so?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is indeed a good approach that I often recommend. The basic idea is that Vibrance enables you to bring up the saturation of colors that aren’t very saturated. However, sometimes that brings the total saturation up too high, and a slight reduction in the value for the Saturation slider provides a compensation in that case.

More Detail: When you increase saturation using Vibrance, the saturation is increased more for color that are not very saturated than for colors that are saturated. This helps you boost the overall saturation without causing relatively highly saturated colors to start looking somewhat cartoonish.

I see the Vibrance control as providing a method to essentially balance out the saturation levels in the image. As you increase the value for Vibrance, in effect the colors with relatively low saturation levels are getting closer in saturation to the colors that have relatively high saturation levels.

Sometimes, however, you may find that in order to bring the colors with low saturation close enough in overall saturation to the colors with high saturation, you need to push the Vibrance value up a bit too high.

The Saturation slider provides a more linear adjustment than the Vibrance slider does. So when you need a high setting for Vibrance to get the balance of color saturation right, you can use a negative value for the Saturation slider to lower the overall saturation for the image.

For example, with some images I’ll find that I need to push the Vibrance up to a value of 75 or more before the balance is right between colors in the image. But at that point the overall saturation might be too high. In that case, reducing the value for the Saturation slider a little (perhaps a value of negative 10, for example) improves the overall appearance of the photo.

Over-Sharpening Risks

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Today’s Question: How concerned should I really be about over-sharpening photos in Lightroom [Classic CC]? Doesn’t Lightroom limit the amount of sharpening you can apply, so there isn’t much risk of sharpening too much?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While Lightroom Classic CC does indeed significantly limit the amount of sharpening you can apply to an image (compared to, for example, Photoshop), it is still very easy to apply too much sharpening. When an image is over-sharpened you can see edge halos and other visible artifacts in an image, which detract from the overall appearance of the photo.

More Detail: There are a handful of adjustments that many photographers seem to fall into a trap with, thinking that “if a little is good, a lot must be great”. Sharpening tends to be one of those adjustments, along with saturation and a handful of others.

The primary risk of sharpening an image too much is that there will be visible artifacts. This can be a simple appearance of excessive texture that I refer to as a “crunchy” appearance. Another common side effect of sharpening that is too aggressive is the appearance of bright halos along contrast edges within the photo.

In general it is the size of the sharpening effect that is most critical when it comes to visible artifacts. As a general rule, a value between around 0.6 and 1.0 works well for typical photographic images. Higher values should generally only be used with images that don’t contain much fine texture.

The Amount setting determines the overall strength of the sharpening effect, and generally a value ranging between about 50 and 75 works well, depending on the image. Going much higher, especially if the Radius is set above 1.0, will increase the risk of visible artifacts in the image.

So while Lightroom does limit the degree of sharpening you can apply in the Develop module compared to what is possible with other tools, there is still a risk of visible artifacts in the image if you apply settings that are too aggressive.

One Storage Device?

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Today’s Question: I have been following you for a number of years and fully agree with your statement about having only one Lightroom catalog. But your statement about a “single storage device” is now confusing to me. Are you saying to use only one drive? This would entail using a 20TB hard drive for me! I have 7 LaCie externals and to put all photos on a single storage device does not make sense if it fails. I also backup regularly to these drives.

Tim’s Quick Answer: In terms of streamlining a photographer’s overall workflow, I do think that whenever possible it is best to store all master photos on a single storage device. Just to be clear, however, that is not to suggest that you shouldn’t also have at least one (and ideally more than one) complete backup of all of your photos on a separate storage device.

More Detail: As outlined in a previous Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter (from January 2, 2019), I highly recommend using a single Lightroom catalog to manage all of your photos. This enables you to simply launch Lightroom with your single catalog anytime you’re looking for a photo, without the added step of needing to know which of multiple catalogs the photo might be contained in.

Similarly, I recommend using a single storage device for storing all of the master copies of your photos. In other words, I recommend not spreading your master photos across multiple storage devices. I fully realize that for many photographers their storage capacity exceeds what a single hard drive is capable of. In fact, I myself have run into this issue.

I prefer to use bus-powered hard drives, and I also prefer ruggedized drives since I spend so much time traveling. The drives I’m currently using have a capacity of four terabytes. My total photo library is about six terabytes. So I’ve had to spread my photos across two hard drives.

Of course, there are other solutions that provide more storage in a single device, including RAID devices that make multiple hard drives in a single case appear as a single hard drive to the computer’s operating system. These, however, are not exactly portable, so they don’t work well for me.

And, of course, when I make reference to having photos on a single drive, that is only referring to the master copy of photos, not backup copies. I highly recommend always maintaining at least one (and ideally two or more) full backups of all of your photos and other important data. Those backup copies should also ideally be stored in a location separate from the master drives you’re regularly using.