Adjustments in XMP Sidecar Files


Today’s Question: Does XMP include edits in the Development module?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, the adjustments you apply in Camera Raw (via Photoshop) or the Develop module (in Lightroom Classic) are included when you save metadata to the source raw captures.

More Detail: When you update metadata for a raw capture in Adobe Bridge or Photoshop, that information is written to an XMP “sidecar” file rather than directly to the raw capture file itself. In Lightroom Classic metadata updates are by default only saved in the catalog, but you can save metadata to the source images as well either manually or by enabling an automatic option in the Catalog Settings dialog.

However, only standard metadata values can be saved to the metadata for the source image files in this way. For example, the pick and reject flags, virtual copies, collections, and other features specific to Lightroom Classic cannot be preserved in the metadata for the source image.

It may therefore come as a bit of a surprise then that the adjustments you apply to a raw capture using Lightroom Classic or Camera Raw can indeed be saved to the XMP sidecar file for a raw capture.

That means, for example, that if you have saved the metadata to the source file for a raw capture so that the metadata is preserved in an XMP sidecar file, that metadata will be available even if your Lightroom Classic catalog was lost or corrupted. You could simply import your raw captures into a new catalog, and the standard metadata along with the adjustments you had previously applied will be imported as well based on the metadata contained in the XMP sidecar file.

Camera Raw and Lightroom Classic


Today’s Question: Why would you use Camera Raw if you have already adjusted in Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Under normal circumstances if you are using Lightroom Classic to optimize a raw capture, you would not use Camera Raw (via Photoshop) to process a raw capture. However, you may still want to make use of the Camera Raw Filter in Photoshop.

More Detail: Adobe Lightroom Classic and Adobe Camera Raw provide the exact same adjustment options for processing a raw capture. The only real difference is which software is used. If you’re using Lightroom Classic to manage your workflow, you should process your raw captures in the Develop module within Lightroom Classic. If you’re using Adobe Bridge (or other software) to manage your photos, you can open raw captures directly in Photoshop for processing, which means you’ll have the intermediate step of using Camera Raw to apply adjustments when converting the raw capture to an actual image file format.

So, for processing raw captures you would either use the Develop module in Lightroom Classic or Camera Raw in Photoshop. If you’re using Lightroom Classic you should not be using Camera Raw to process a raw capture, because then Lightroom Classic would not know about the work you did with the image.

However, Camera Raw is also available as a filter within Photoshop. So, if you’re a Lightroom Classic user and you send a photo to Photoshop, you can use the familiar adjustments from the Develop module (which are the same adjustments available in Camera Raw) by using the Camera Raw filter.

You could, for example, make a copy of the Background image layer, and then choose Filter > Camera Raw Filter from the menu. This will bring up the Camera Raw interface, which Lightroom Classic users will find is relatively similar to the Develop module, with the same overall adjustments available.

The reason the Camera Raw filter can be helpful to Lightroom Classic users who have sent an image to Photoshop is simply that the interface and overall adjustments are the same as those photographers have gotten used to in Lightroom Classic, so they may find it easier to refine the appearance of their photo with the Camera Raw filter rather than using other adjustments. Of course, they can still take full advantage of the other advanced features of Photoshop, such as the superior image cleanup tools, selections, layer masks, and more.

Better Cleanup in Photoshop


Today’s Question: What advantages does Photoshop’s Content-Aware Fill have over “Spot Removal” in Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The Content-Aware Fill feature in Photoshop provides improved quality of the cleanup results along with better control over which source areas will be used to construct the cleanup pixels, compared to the Spot Removal tool in Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: The Spot Removal tool in Lightroom Classic is most similar to the Healing Brush tool in Photoshop. There is a degree of blending to help the cleanup pixels blend in with the surrounding area where you are removing a blemish, but that blending is not as sophisticated as that provided by the content-aware technology in Photoshop.

In effect, the Spot Removal tool in Lightroom Classic simply copies pixels from the source area to the destination area, and then blends the pixel values so that, for example, the color will match more closely. So, you could copy the texture from a blue area of an image to a green area of the image, and the texture would shift to green to match the destination area.

The content-aware technology in Photoshop provides a similar benefit, but with a more sophisticated approach. The overall image can be evaluated, and then various pixel areas are actually combined. In effect, Photoshop creates a new texture based on other textures found throughout the image. This can create a much more accurate cleanup with less risk of the appearance of repeated patterns in the image caused by an exact copy of pixels as is done initially with the Spot Removal tool in Lightroom Classic.

In addition, when you use the Content-Aware Fill command in Photoshop (Edit > Content-Aware Fill), you have the option to select a custom area from within the image to be used for building up the image cleanup area. You start by creating a selection of the area you want to clean up. Then choose Edit > Content-Aware Fill. You can then choose Custom for the Sampling Area Options section, and paint to define which areas of the image will or will not be used for sampling textures for the cleanup.

Another feature I really like about the Content-Aware Fill command in Photoshop, by the way, is that you can choose to place the new cleanup pixels on a new image layer, so it is easy to maintain a non-destructive workflow where you place cleanup pixels on a layer separate from the underlying image.

Export and Add to Catalog


Today’s Question: Do you recommend adding exported images to the Lightroom Classic catalog?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In general no, I do not recommend adding photos exported from Lightroom Classic back to the catalog. However, there are times when doing so may be beneficial.

More Detail: I think it is fair to say that most of the time when you export a photo from Lightroom Classic it is for purposes of sharing that photo in some way. You might be sending a high-resolution copy to a printer to be printed, or preparing a smaller JPEG image to include in a blog article, or otherwise creating a copy of the source image for purposes of sharing in some way.

My view is that adding those derivative images back to your Lightroom Classic catalog will add clutter, possibly create confusion, and not likely provide any significant benefit. I normally recommend that when you need to share an image that you return to the source image to create a new copy for sharing, rather than making use of a previously created derivative image. This helps ensure, for example, that any recent changes you’ve applied to the original image will be reflected in the new derivative.

That said, there are certainly scenarios where you may prefer to add an exported photo back to the Lightroom Classic catalog, which can be achieved by turning on the “Add to This Catalog” checkbox in the Export Location section of the Export dialog.

For example, in the March 2021 issue of Pixology magazine I wrote an article about a workflow that provides an alternative to the use of virtual copies in Lightroom Classic, helping to reduce dependency on the catalog. In this type of scenario, you may very much want to have the newly created copy of the source image added back to the catalog.

However, I recommend exercising caution when it comes to adding exported copies of photos back to the Lightroom Classic catalog. More often than not I find that doing so leads to clutter and confusion with minimal benefit.

Content-Aware Crop


Today’s Question: Why is there a “Content-Aware” checkbox on the Options bar for the Crop tool? I thought that was only a feature for image cleanup tools like the Spot Healing Brush.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The Content-Aware option for the Crop tool makes it possible to have Photoshop fill in empty areas created if you expand or transform the crop beyond the existing image area, causing empty areas to be added to the canvas. With the Content-Aware checkbox turned on, those areas will be filled in automatically using the content-aware technology that we typically associate with the image cleanup tools in Photoshop.

More Detail: The content-aware technology in Photoshop is something you may only associate with the image cleanup tools, since cleaning up blemishes in an image represents one of the greatest advantages of the content-aware technology. However, this same capability is also available with the Crop tool.

Typically, cropping is a process that involves removing pixels from an image. You might crop to cut out an unwanted area of a photo, or to match a specific aspect ratio wanted for printing or other forms of sharing a photo. However, you can also extend the crop box beyond the boundary of a photo to add additional space to the image.

In addition, you can apply perspective correction and other transformation adjustments with the Crop tool, causing the overall image to no longer be rectangular in shape. In this case, there is also a chance you may want to have the crop box extend beyond the existing edge of the photo, in order to maintain certain areas within the image that would otherwise be cropped out.

If a crop results in empty areas beyond the existing image area, by default those areas will either be filled with the current background color or with transparency, depending on whether you’re working on a Background versus normal image layer and depending on whether the “Delete Cropped Pixels” checkbox on the Options bar is turned on.

You can have Photoshop fill those “new” areas of the image automatically using the content-aware image cleanup technology by turning on the “Content-Aware” checkbox before applying the crop.

Note that this approach doesn’t provide you with the most flexibility in your workflow, which can be problematic if the additional pixels created by the content-aware feature don’t blend in especially well in the image. Therefore, you might instead consider cropping with the Content-Aware checkbox turned off, and then create a selection of the empty area of the image and use the Content-Aware Fill command (Edit > Content-Aware Fill) to fill that area with greater control and flexibility, including the option to have the pixels created by this process placed on a separate image layer.

Saving Metadata to Photos


Today’s Question: If you haven’t previously enabled the option to saved metadata to XMP in Lightroom Classic, can you do this after the fact to old photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you enable the option to automatically write metadata updates to your photos in Lightroom Classic, that will take effect for all existing images automatically. You can also use the option to manually save metadata if you want to be sure the task actually completed.

More Detail: By default, Lightroom Classic only saves metadata updates to the catalog, not out to the actual image files on your hard drive. However, you can enable an option to have metadata updates saved automatically to the images as well. Note that for proprietary raw captures the updates will be written to an XMP “sidecar” file, while for other image formats the metadata will be written directly to the source image file.

To enable the setting, first bring up the Catalog Settings dialog by choosing Lightroom Classic > Catalog Settings on Macintosh or Edit > Catalog Settings on Windows. Go to the Metadata tab and turn on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox. You can then close the Catalog Settings dialog.

Once this checkbox is turned on, Lightroom Classic will immediately start updating the metadata for all photos in your catalog. However, you won’t see a progress indicator for this task. If you’d like the confidence of knowing the metadata was updated completely, you can use the manual approach.

Start by going to the All Photographs collection found in the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module. Make sure no filters are set, so that you’re viewing all images. Then choose Edit > Select All from the menu to select all photos in your catalog. Finally, choose Metadata > Save Metadata to Files from the menu to initiate the process of updating the metadata for your source image files. You’ll see a progress indicator on the identify plate at the left side of the top panel.

Keep in mind that only standard metadata information, along with adjustment settings from the Develop module, are written to metadata with this process. Lightroom-specific features such as collections, virtual copies, and pick/reject flags are only saved in the catalog, because they are not part of an established metadata standard.

Reverting Filenames


Today’s Question: I understand that Lightroom Classic can preserve the original filename in metadata when you rename photos. But is there an easy way to revert to that original filename if you change your mind?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can revert to the original filename for images in Lightroom Classic by renaming with the “Original Filename” option for a renaming template.

More Detail: In Lightroom Classic you can rename photos using a template, and when you do rename photos the original filename will be preserved in the Original Filename field in metadata. You can use that filename to revert images to the original filename, effectively providing the option to undo the renaming you applied.

To get started you can navigate to the folder that contains the images you want to rename, and then select the photos you want to rename. That would likely involve selecting all photos in the folder, so you could make sure there are no filters applied and then choose Edit > Select All to select all of the photos in the current folder.

Next, in the Library module choose Library > Rename Photos from the menu. In the Filename Template Editor dialog that appears, clear all of the tokens and text in the text field toward the top of the dialog. Then, in the Image Name section below that textbox, choose “Original filename” from the second popup and click the Insert button to the right of the popup.

If you want to save this template for future use, you can click the Preset popup and choose “Save Current Settings as New Preset” from that popup. Click the Done button to close the Filename Template Editor dialog.

At this point the template you defined will be active, so you can simply click the OK button in the Rename Photos dialog to rename all of the selected photos back to their original filename based on the value that was preserved in metadata when those images had previously been renamed within Lightroom Classic.

Color of LED Illumination


Today’s Question: When light painting I consistently get a blue color to foliage (greens). I have used a couple of different LED flashlights with similar results. Sometimes I am able to improve, but not completely correct, the issue in post by adjusting white balance and hue using the local adjustment brush in Lightroom Classic. Is there a better light source I can use for painting or some other fix that I can try?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I would recommend either finding a flashlight that can provide a warmer (more yellow to orange) color, or to make use of a colored gel of your LED flashlight.

More Detail: Many LED lights have a relatively neutral to blue color cast, often ranging from about 5,000 Kelvin to around 6,500 Kelvin or so. This can introduce a challenging mixed lighting situation when used as an illumination source for photos, such as when using a flashlight as a supplemental light for a light painting effect.

In most cases you’ll find that a somewhat “warmer” light source that has a somewhat yellow to orange color cast will work best. Some LED lights provide a color temperature adjustment, so you can shift between a warmer (more yellow) or cooler (more blue) illumination. You can also find LED lights that emit light with a warmer color cast.

In general I would aim for a light with a color temperature of about 3,000 Kelvin. An incandescent light bulb typically has a color temperature of around 2,400 to 3,000 Kelvin, for example. On the Kelvin scale a higher value is a cooler color appearance, so you definitely want a light with a value below 5,000 Kelvin, and closer to 3,000 Kelvin would be preferred.

Keep in mind that you can also use gels, which are typically colored translucent sheets of acetate you can place in front of the light source to shift the color of the light. There are various options available, many of which are designed to be mounted in front of flash units or other lights. You can also get a simple colored gel sheet to fashion your own modifier for the light you’ll be using, such as the option shown here:

Matching a Crop


Today’s Question: Is there an easy way to apply the exact same crop to more than one image in Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are several ways to apply the same crop to more than one image, including synchronizing adjustments, using a preset, or simply using the same aspect ratio when cropping each image.

More Detail: If you want to apply the exact same crop to several images, you can select all of those images and then turn on the Auto Sync feature by clicking the toggle switch on the left side of the Sync button at the bottom of the right panel in the Develop module. When you then apply a crop to the active image, the same crop will apply to all of the selected images.

If you’ve already cropped an image and want to apply that crop to other images, you can start by selecting the image you cropped in addition to the other images you want to apply the same crop to. After selecting all of the images, click on the thumbnail for the image you already cropped to make sure it is the active image. Then click the Sync button at the bottom of the right panel in the Develop module. In the Synchronize Settings dialog that appears, turn on the checkbox for Crop, as well as any other adjustments you want to synchronize across the selected images.

You could also use a preset for applying the same crop (or other adjustments) to various images. Start by applying the desired crop to one image, and then create a new preset using the plus button to the right of the Presets heading on the left panel in the Develop module, including the crop (and any other desired adjustments) in that preset. You can then apply the preset to other images to crop with the same settings.

If you don’t necessarily want the exact crop applied to all images, but rather just want to use the same aspect ratio for the crop, you can lock a specific aspect ratio for the crop. After choosing the Crop tool click the popup to the right of the Aspect label, and either choose an available aspect ratio or choose Enter Custom to enter your own aspect ratio. Use the same option for the Aspect popup with other images, and the aspect ratio will match for all of the images while the specific crop can still be unique.

Reason for TIFF Over PSD


Today’s Question: I have always used PSD files [Photoshop Document file format] based on your recommendation many years ago when I was first getting into Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw. In a recent newsletter you said you now use TIFF primarily. Why?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I currently use TIFF files rather than PSD files because both support the same capabilities, and the TIFF files will be smaller in the context of a workflow that revolves around Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: I originally used PSD files for the master version of my images because in early versions of Photoshop the PSD file format supported layers and other features specific to Photoshop, while TIFF files did not. Therefore, PSD files were used for the layered master images, and TIFF files were used for flattened derivative images.

When Photoshop was updated to support layers for TIFF images, I continued to use the same approach of having PSD files be the layered version and TIFF files be the flattened version, mostly just out of habit.

However, with Lightroom Classic you are not able to import Photoshop PSD files unless the Maximize Compatibility option was enabled for the PSD file. The Maximize Compatibility setting causes what is effectively a flattened version of the image to be embedded within the file, causing an increase in file size equal to what a flattened copy of the image would be. For example, if the file contains no layers, the Maximize Compatibility feature would cause the file size to double.

TIFF images do not require a Maximize Compatibility feature to be supported by Lightroom Classic. Therefore, a TIFF file will always be smaller than an equivalent PSD file that is supported by Lightroom Classic.

Note that both PSD and TIFF formats are able to use compression to help reduce the file size. However, even with compression for the PSD file, the Maximize Compatibility feature more than makes up for the reduced file size, causing the file to be larger than an equivalent TIFF file.

Both TIFF and PSD files support saving the same features in Photoshop, so either will work perfectly well. But in the context of Lightroom Classic, the TIFF file will generally be significantly smaller, and therefore is my preferred file format between the two.