Sharpening Strategy


Today’s Question: I now shoot with a mirrorless camera. Adobe Lightroom Classic has sharpening in the develop module that I used for “capture” sharpening when I used to shoot with a Nikon DSLR. Should I just use that sharpening when I am going to do something with my photo like share it online or print, once I know how the photo will be used? If so can I just use the sharpening in Lightroom’s export feature? Will I ever need to use the various approaches to sharpening in Photoshop 2020?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The sharpening in the Develop module should be applied to every single capture, regardless of the type of camera that was used. Additional sharpening should generally be applied for images that are being prepared for output, with that sharpening based on the specific details of how the image will be shared.

More Detail: The sharpening found in the Develop module in Lightroom Classic, or in Adobe Camera Raw for Photoshop users, is generally referred to as “capture” or “input” sharpening. That is because this sharpening is intended to compensate for factors that lead to a loss of sharpness in the capture. Based on this, I recommend that this sharpening be applied modestly to all images, regardless of how you will share those images.

When you’re ready to share a photo, you’ll generally want to apply an additional step of sharpening that is optimized for the final output. That means applying this sharpening based on the final output size, as well as the medium through which the image will be shared. For example, when printing (especially to uncoated matte papers) you need to over-sharpen the image to some extent, in order to compensate for the softness caused by the spreading of ink on the paper.

For online or other digital sharing you will generally need only a modest amount of additional sharpening, in part to compensate for a loss of detail from reducing the overall resolution of the image, and in part to help the image look its best.

When exporting an image from Lightroom Classic, you have the option of applying sharpening. However, there isn’t much control (or a preview) available for this sharpening. For basic digital or online sharing, I’m comfortable using this output sharpening. But for printing I prefer to send the image to Photoshop and make use of the Smart Sharpen filter. Just be sure that when sharpening “manually” in Photoshop that you are applying sharpening as the final step, after the image has been resized for the final output.

Display Calibration Update


Today’s Question: Wanting to calibrate my mac 27” monitor, I reviewed three of your Ask Tim Grey letters from mid-July 2019. You recommended X-Rite ColorMunki Smile. However, per X-Rite the Smile only works with 32-bit and I believe my Catalina macOS version is 64-bit system. What do you recommend?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You will need to opt for a different solution, and I recommend the X-Rite i1Display Studio, which you can find here:

More Detail: With the update to MacOS Catalina, applications essentially must be 64-bit rather than 32-bit. Many software applications have of course been updated so they can be run on the latest version of the operating system, but not all applications have.

The monitor calibration software included with the X-Rite ColorMunki Smile colorimeter has not been updated to 64-bit, and X-Rite has indicated they will not be developing an update. In other words, you can’t use the ColorMunki Smile display calibration package on a computer running MacOS Catalina.

The X-Rite i1Display Studio package is the “next step” up the line of products from X-Rite, and so is the option I would recommend as an alternative to the X-Rite ColorMunki Smile. You can find the i1Display Studio package here:

The software included with the i1Display Studio already supports MacOS Catalina, so you’ll be able to calibrate your display on the latest version of this operating system.

Cleanup and a New Computer


Today’s Question: I just started your course, “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom” [Classic]. I bought a new Mac that I’d like to start using for Lightroom. Should I clean up my Lightroom mess on my old Mac first, before migrating to a new Mac? Also, do you have instructions on how to move Lightroom from one Mac to another? I am using external drives to store my photos and Lightroom catalog.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Since you have your photos and Lightroom Classic catalog stored on external hard drives, you can migrate directly to your new computer. After installing the latest version of Lightroom Classic on your new computer, you can connect the external drives and open your catalog to get started.

More Detail: Normally I might recommend getting things cleaned up with your existing configuration before making the move to a new computer. The idea is to try to avoid changes that might lead to confusion and new problems until after cleaning up your Lightroom Classic catalog.

In this case, however, since your photos and Lightroom catalog are already on external hard drives, the transition can be made quite easily. The first step, of course, is to get Lightroom Classic installed on the new computer. Then you can connect your external hard drives to the new computer, and open your Lightroom Classic catalog from the external hard drive.

For Macintosh users, at this point everything will be working normally in Lightroom Classic just as it had been on your old computer. For Windows users, however, there may be an additional step. That’s because on Windows the drive letter designations for hard drives are not always maintained when you switch computers or even connect drives in a different order.

On Macintosh the volume label is used, which is basically the name for the drive. That won’t change when connecting to a different computer, so Lightroom won’t be confused. For Windows users, if the drive letters for the external hard drives don’t get assigned with the same drive letters from the old computer, you would need to go into Disk Management and assign the drive letters used on the old computer to the drives when attached to the new computer.

Note that if you also have a mess to clean up in Lightroom, you can get a 50% discount of my “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom Classic” course if you use this link to get started:

Automatically Remove People


Today’s Question: I have seen a way to take moving objects out of a group of photos. For example, take 10 anchored (tripod) photos over a 5-minute period (every 30 seconds), then open them up in Photoshop and you can ‘merge’ so only the static objects in the photos appear. Any cars or people that move around are removed. How do we do that?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can automatically remove people and other moving objects in a scene captured with multiple photographs by loading the source images into a stack in Adobe Photoshop and then using a special blending mode that blends a final image by retaining only pixels that match among multiple images.

More Detail: To create this seemingly magical effect, you obviously first need to capture multiple images of a scene from a stable platform such as a tripod. You want to capture enough images that for any given area of the photo, there is at least one image that shows that area clear of moving subjects such as people or cars.

You can then open all of the captures into Photoshop so they are available for processing. Then go to the menu and choose File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack. In the “Load Layers” dialog that appears click the “Add Open Files” button, and the images you opened will appear on the list under the “Use” heading.

Within the Load Layers dialog turn on the “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images” checkbox as well as the “Create Smart Object after Loading Layers” checkbox, both of which are found at the bottom-left of the dialog. Then click OK to have the images combined into a single image consisting of a Smart Object that contains the source images.

To complete the effect go back to the menu and choose Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode > Median. This is the real magic of the effect, and will cause the multiple images to be blended in such a way that anything that had been moving within the scene from one capture to the next will be removed, leaving an empty scene in your final image.

“Apply on Import” for Presets


Today’s Question: I was cleaning up my presets in the Develop module, and when I right-clicked to delete a preset I no longer needed, I noticed there was an “Apply on Import” option on the popup menu. Should I use this option rather than selecting a preset from the popup in the Import dialog?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “Apply on Import” option on the context menu for presets in the Develop module will cause the preset to be set automatically to be applied when you import photos. However, if you make a change to the popup in the Import dialog, the preset you chose the “Apply on Import” option for will no longer be applied on import.

More Detail: The “Apply on Import” option for presets is, to me, a little bit odd. Basically, it is only really useful if you make sure not to ever change the Develop Settings popup in the Import dialog. That’s because as soon as you choose a different preset in the Import dialog, that preset because the default for future imports regardless of which preset is selected for “Apply on Import”.

If you right-click on a preset in the Presets list on the left panel in the Develop module, you can choose “Apply on Import” for the preset you want to apply to all photos upon import. A plus symbol (+) will appear to the right of the preset you enabled for “Apply on Import”, so you can clearly see the status.

When you go to the Import dialog, the preset you selected for “Apply on Import” will be set on the Develop Settings popup. As long as you don’t change the option using the Develop Settings popup in the Import dialog, the preset you selected in the Develop module will remain as the default to be applied during import.

In addition, you can change to a different preset at any time by right-clicking on that preset on the Presets list in the Develop module, and choosing “Apply on Import” for that preset. The key is that if you’re going to use this approach to define a preset to be applied at import, you should use this approach consistently, and not alter the setting within the Import dialog.

Auto Adjustments on Import


Today’s Question: I used to have Auto applied to my photos on import [into Lightroom Classic], but I haven’t done that for some time. When I was showing someone how to import their photos into Lightroom, they wanted to do that, but I couldn’t find anywhere to designate that you wanted it done. Can you no longer have the Auto button applied upon import?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can indeed apply automatic adjustments during import. You just need to include the Auto adjustment as part of a Develop module preset, which you in turn can apply to images upon import into your Lightroom Classic catalog.

More Detail: In the Basic section of the Develop module there is an “Auto” button you can click to have the overall tonal adjustments as well as Vibrance and Saturation updated automatically based on an analysis of the photo. This can provide a good starting point for further refinement of the adjustments, and it can also help provide an improved preview for evaluating your photos.

If you want to apply the Auto adjustment during import, you need to include this adjustment in a preset created in the Develop module.

To get started I recommend selecting an image that you haven’t adjusted yet, and that you aren’t concerned about making changes to. After selecting that image, click the Reset button at the bottom of the right panel in the Develop module to reset all adjustments to their default values.

Next, apply any adjustments you would like to include as part of the preset you’ll apply at import. At this stage don’t click the Auto button, as that will be added later. For example, I like to enable the profile-based lens corrections by turning on the “Enable Profile Corrections” checkbox on the Profile tab of the Lens Corrections setting on the right panel, for example. I then set the Setup popup to “Auto” and turn on the “Remove Chromatic Aberration” checkbox as well.

You can establish settings for any of the other adjustments to your liking, again, without clicking the “Auto” button in the Basic section. When you’re finished applying your adjustment settings you can create the preset to use during the import process. To do so, click the plus symbol (+) to the right of the Presets heading on the left panel and choose “Create Preset” from the popup menu.

Enter a name for your preset at the top of the New Develop Preset dialog. Then click the “Check All” button, so that all adjustment settings will be preserved as part of this preset. It is possible to be selective about which adjustments will be applied, but in this context, you can simply include all adjustment settings.

Next, turn on the “Auto Settings” checkbox toward the top of the New Develop Preset dialog. This is the option that will cause the Auto adjustments to be applied to your photos during import. Finally, click the Create button at the bottom-right of the dialog to save the new preset.

From that point forward, whenever importing photos you can choose your preset by name from the “Develop Settings” popup in the “Apply During Import” section of the right panel within the Import dialog. That will cause the adjustment settings you saved as part of your preset (including the Auto adjustments) to be applied to all photos you are importing into your Lightroom Classic catalog.

Watermarking when Sharing


Today’s Question: Do you ever watermark your images when you share online? Any tips on how best to do that?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I don’t generally watermark my photos when sharing online, but a quick and easy way to add a watermark to a photo is to make use of the option available when exporting photos from Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: Personally, I tend not to watermark my photos when sharing online because I don’t want to have a watermark that distracts from the actual image. I fully realize that many photographers prefer to apply a watermark to help deter image theft, which is perfectly reasonable.

If you are using Lightroom Classic to manage your photos, it is very easy to add a watermark to your photos as part of the process of exporting images you’ll be sharing online.

In the Export dialog, you can of course configure the various settings for the images you want to export copies of, such as the location to save the images, the file format, resizing, and other settings. To add a watermark you can turn on the “Watermark” checkbox in the Watermarking section of the Export dialog. Then click the popup and either choose an existing watermark if you’ve created one, or choose “Edit Watermarks” if you want to define a new watermark.

In the Watermark Editor dialog that appears when you choose “Edit Watermarks”, you can choose between a Text or Graphic watermark style, and then configure the various settings. I typically use a clean sans-serif font set to a moderately low opacity setting when adding a watermark to an image.

Within the Watermark Editor dialog you’ll see a preview of the effect based on the currently selected image. When you’re happy with the watermark settings, click the Save button to bring up the New Preset dialog, where you can enter a meaningful name for the watermark and click the Create button to save your custom watermark. That watermark can then be selected by name from the Watermark popup in the Export dialog, so that the mark will be added to all images being exported for sharing.

Bigger File but Less Data?


Today’s Question: You suggested that a TIFF image would not lose significant detail compared to a raw capture [in Friday’s Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter]. But wouldn’t the TIFF file actually have more data? Whenever I’ve created a TIFF from a raw capture the file is significantly larger.

Tim’s Quick Answer: A TIFF file will generally be about three times larger than a raw capture file because the TIFF includes full color information for all pixels. However, even though a raw capture does not include full color information for all pixels, that doesn’t mean the TIFF file would actually include more detail than a processed raw capture is capable of.

More Detail: Most digital cameras only record a single color value (typically either red, green, or blue) for each pixel in the image being captured. On a typical image sensor using the Bayer pattern, for every four pixels there would be one red value, two green values, and one blue value.

When the raw capture is processed to an actual image format, the “missing” information for each pixel is calculated. So, for example, a green and blue pixel value would be calculated for each red pixel, based on the surrounding pixel values. Since the raw therefore only contains one of the three primary color values for each pixel, the file size can be thought of as being one-third of what it normally would for a processed image.

An RGB TIFF image contains full color information for all pixels, so all other things being equal a TIFF file would be three times larger than the raw capture it was derived from. Of course, there are other factors that influence the actual file sizes, such as compression (lossless or lossy) that may be applied to either file format.

Just because the TIFF file is generally about three times larger does not mean it will contain more detail. In fact, depending on the processing and file settings applied to a TIFF image, there may be considerably less detail in a TIFF image compared to a raw capture that is processed with optimal settings.

The bottom line is that you can’t really evaluate potential detail contained within an image purely based on the size of the file. A variety of other factors will also impact the amount of visible detail in a given image file.

Data in Raw versus TIFF


Today’s Question: I’m wondering about the amount of data in an original RAW file vs that RAW file saved as a TIFF. I shoot Canon and all three of my current cameras have dust deletion as a menu option. It works really great but the problem is, it only works by using the Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software. Once the dust deletion is applied the only options to save the file are JPEG and TIFF. My 1Dx Mark II is notorious for generating dust on the sensor. Even though the dust deletion adds an extra workflow step, it still saves time over removing hundreds of spots in Lightroom [Classic]. Any feel for what I may be losing by doing this spot removal in DPP and then continuing with “normal” processing in Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I think it is perfectly reasonable to use Digital Photo Professional (DPP) for automatic dust removal, but I would also recommend applying at least basic overall tonal adjustments in DPP to help ensure the minimal amount of processing is required for the resulting TIFF image.

More Detail: The automatic dust removal feature available in certain models of Canon camera is indeed very impressive. You first need to capture a “Dust Delete Data” shot in the camera. While this process involves capturing a photo of a blank wall or sheet of paper, an actual photo isn’t captured. Rather, dust data is recorded by the camera, which is then appended to all raw (or JPEG) captures taken from that point forward.

The dust data is included in metadata, but requires the Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software to process. So, you would need to use DPP to process the photos with the automatic dust removal feature. I also recommend applying basic tonal adjustments to get the overall image as close to final at this point, so less processing will be required later.

Save the final image from DPP as a TIFF image, and then import that TIFF into your Lightroom catalog. I would, for example, import the TIFF image into the same folder as the original raw capture you processed in DPP.

The point is that I would not be worried about significant loss of quality or detail in the image with this workflow. The TIFF image will be of very good image quality, with the benefit of dust spots having been removed automatically. You could then finalize the image in Lightroom Classic with any fine-tuning adjustments that are needed.

The TIFF from DPP will still be in the 16-bit per channel mode, so the file will still work very well if additional processing is necessary. You are losing a slight amount of flexibility in terms of processing the final image, but this is not something I would worry about in this context.

Bit Depth for Layer Masks


Today’s Question: Just read something today I’d never heard of and wondering if you have any input on this. I came across this searching for potential improved methods for hair masking. He states:

“…there’s a hard-wired inconsistency in Photoshop. Selections are always 8 bits. Once you load a 16-bit channel mask as a selection it becomes an 8-bit selection, and therefore virtually eliminating the 16 bits depth of the 16-bit masks.”

He did go on to say he’d not seen significant differences in the masks but I’ve come to trust you over the years and wonder if you had any thoughts.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Selections and layer masks in Adobe Photoshop are indeed 8-bit per channel even for 16-bit per channel images, but I don’t consider this to be of any concern at all. In other words, I don’t feel it will make any difference for a photographic image to attempt to create a mask in 16-bit that will only be converted to 8-bit per channel once the mask is used to apply a targeted adjustment to an image.

More Detail: The primary “risk” of working with your images in the 8-bit per channel mode is posterization, or the loss of smooth gradations of tone and color. For a typical color image in the 8-bit per channel mode, there are up to almost 16.8 million possible color values available. As a result, posterization is not a high risk unless you apply very strong adjustments to an image.

For black and white (grayscale) images the risk of working in 8-bit per channel mode is more significant. That is because an 8-bit black and white image can only have a maximum of 256 shades of gray, as compared to a maximum of 65,536 possible shades of gray for a 16-bit black and white image.

However, the concerns of posterization don’t really extend to layer masks. To begin with, very strong adjustments are generally necessary before any degree posterization will be visible in a color even at 8-bit per channel. If you’re working in 16-bit per channel mode for either black and white or especially a color image, the risk of posterization are not especially high. It would take very strong adjustments to create visible posterization, and I would suggest that an image requiring very strong adjustments in the first place probably wasn’t the best photo.

When it comes to layer masks (and by extension selections), the bit depth is not anywhere near as important. Even a somewhat posterized layer mask would still be mitigating the effect of even a strong adjustment across the image. It would require significant posterization on a layer mask combined with a rather strong adjustment being constrained by that layer mask in order to create any visible artifacts in the image.

Keep in mind that a somewhat typical layer mask might involve defining a “stencil” for the image that is divided between white and black, with some gradation between those areas to blend the targeted adjustment. Even with a more sophisticated layer mask, the fact that the mask only consists of up to 256 shades of gray would not lead to any concerns in terms of artifacts of other image quality issues.

So, I would say there is no benefit to creating the form of a layer mask in 16-bit per channel mode considering that mask will be converted to 8-bit per channel mode as soon as it is loaded as a selection or used as a layer mask in Photoshop.