Quality for Export


Today’s Question: Can you please explain how to best use the Quality Slider (under File Settings) when Exporting Images from Lightroom Classic. I am wondering how to best balance the quality with the resulting file size when exporting for online sharing. I assume that for printing I want to keep the quality at 100%.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The Quality slider under File Settings in the Export dialog for Lightroom Classic only applies to JPEG images. I only recommend using JPEG for images that will be shared online, not printed. For those images, I find that a setting of about 80% provides a good compromise between image quality and file size.

More Detail: JPEG images always have “lossy” compression applied to them, which means image quality can be degraded as the image data is compressed. The Quality setting determines how strong the compression is, and therefore the degree to which quality may be degraded.

The actual results will vary based on the contents of the image. For example, images that are very “simple” will compress to a smaller file size with less degradation of image quality. Images that are somewhat “complex” (such as with greater texture and detail) will not compress to as small a file size and will have a greater risk of degradation of quality.

When sharing images online, the JPEG file format provides the ability to balance file size (to reduce download time) with image quality. In my experience a setting of about 80% for image quality provides a very good balance.

Quality settings that are higher than 80% will result in larger file sizes but generally with little to no visible improvement in image quality. If you set the Quality much below 80%, the file sizes won’t be dramatically smaller but the degradation in image quality may become somewhat obvious.

For images that will be printed, I recommend saving as a TIFF image rather than a JPEG, so that you aren’t losing additional print quality by rendering a JPEG image with lossy compression applied to it.

Order of Preset Groups


Today’s Question: Is it possible to move the User Presets up to the top of the Presets panel in the Develop Module of Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While you can’t exactly arrange the presets on the left panel in the Develop module in Lightroom Classic, there are a few ways to make it easier to access your favorite presets and hide preset groups you don’t use.

More Detail: One of the quickest ways to make sure the presets you use most are readily available at the top of the Presets section of the left panel in the Develop module is to mark those presets as favorites. When you mark a preset as a favorite, it will be added to a “Favorites” group at the top of the Presets list. To mark a preset as a favorite, simply right-click on the preset and choose “Add to Favorites” from the popup menu.

It can also be helpful to hide groups of presets you don’t use, such as perhaps some (or all) of the default presets that are included automatically in Lightroom Classic. To hide (or reveal) groups of presets, right click on one of the preset groups in the Presets section and choose “Manage Presets” from the popup menu. In the Manage Presets dialog you can then turn off the checkbox for any groups you want to hide or turn on the checkbox for any groups you want to reveal. Click the Save button to update the Presets list based on your changes.

It is also worth noting that the preset groups you create are sorted alphabetically. You can therefore rename your preset groups in a strategic way to have the most important groups on top, for example. Simply right-click on a preset group and choose Rename to change the name of that preset group.

Similarly, the individual presets are sorted alphabetically within the preset group they are contained in, so you could also use an approach to naming your presets (such as with leading numbers) to have those presets sorted in your preferred order.

Protecting Images Online


Today’s Question: What’s your strategy to avoid others from re-using your images when they are shared online?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I suppose if I’m being honest, I don’t really have a strategy for “protecting” my images online. Rather, my view is that I’m accepting a certain amount of risk that my photos will be stolen, in the interest of gaining some benefit from showcasing my photography to others.

More Detail: When it comes to sharing photos online, the simple fact is that your photos can be stolen by others. There are some steps you can take to mitigate that risk, but you can’t eliminate the risk completely.

I think it is worth keeping in mind that while it is much easier to steal images in digital form when they are shared online, it was always possible to steal non-digital images in other ways. For example, you could take a photograph of a printed photograph hanging in a gallery.

From the very early days of online sharing many photographs have asked me how to protect their photos. Whenever I would share my answer in a public forum, I was sure to hear from photographers who had a solution. In response, I created a challenge a number of years ago, offering some prize (I don’t recall what that prize was) if anyone could show me a method of truly protecting photos shared online. The only “rule” was that the solution needed to, in my view, preserve a good experience for the viewer.

I had more than a few people point me to images they had shared online that they believed I couldn’t steal, and I proceeded to email them a copy of the image.

There are many ways to steal such an image, from screen capture to navigating to the actual image file by reviewing the source code of the web page, among other options. The point is that if an image is shared online, it can be stolen. So, the focus should instead be on getting a benefit from sharing, while mitigating the risk of theft.

In my view one of the best ways to help mitigate the risk of sharing online is to only share relatively low-resolution images. For example, if you size an image to about 600 pixels on the long side it will still appear at a reasonable size when viewed online, but the image can only really be printed at great quality at a size of around 4×6 inches. Another option is to add a watermark to the image. If the watermark is relatively small and inconspicuous, it can probably be removed relatively easy either by cropping or applying image-cleanup techniques. If the watermark is strong enough to render the image unusable by would-be image thieves, then the experience for those who view your photos is degraded.

The point is that photos shared online can always be stolen in some form. I believe there is value to be gained by sharing your photos online. So, to me the priority is to share photos, with a secondary goal being to take efforts to minimize the impact of someone stealing the photos you share.

Working with HEIC Images


Today’s Question: How do you convert an HEIC image to a JPEG?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Many software applications now support the HEIC image format, making it relatively easy to convert HEIC images to JPEG or another file format. So, for example, you could open an HEIC image in Photoshop and choose File > Save As to save as a JPEG, or export the HEIC image from Lightroom Classic to create a JPEG copy.

More Detail: When Apple added support for the HEIC image format (a version of the HEIF format) with the release of iOS 11, support for this file format was extremely limited. Fortunately, that support has improved, especially now that additional cameras are supporting HEIF as a capture format.

The HEIC image format is now supported in Adobe software including Photoshop, Lightroom, and Lightroom Classic. Some software from other companies also supports this relatively new image file format.

As noted above, in Photoshop you can now open the HEIC images and work with them directly, or use the Save As command to save in a different file format. With Lightroom Classic you could import the photos into your catalog, and then use the Export command to export to another file format.

Over time we’ll surely see additional camera models that support the new HEIF format, and additional software will likely add support as well.

Source of Full Color


Today’s Question: If a digital camera only captures color for each pixel, then where does the final image obtain full color information?

Tim’s Quick Answer: For cameras that capture only one color value (generally red, green, or blue) for each photosite (pixel), the “other” color values for each pixel are calculated based on the values from neighboring pixels.

More Detail: Most cameras do not capture full color for each pixel in a photo. Rather, they capture a single color value for each pixel, and the “other” color values need to be calculated either at the time of capture (for a JPEG capture) or in post-processing (for a raw capture).

Most cameras capture in RGB (red, green, blue) color and use a Bayer pattern sensor array. That means for each grid of four pixels, one pixel will record only red light, two pixels will record only green light, and one pixel will record only blue light.

If you think about the notion of capturing only one of the three necessary color values for each pixel, it might seem implausible that full color details could be calculated for the photo. However, I think it can be helpful to try to envision what each individual color channel would look like.

For example, the red and blue channels are only represented by one-quarter of the pixels on the image sensor. Imagine you are viewing that image, where three-quarters of the pixels are blank, but you know what one-quarter of the pixels look like. What you have is a relatively course image, but an image nevertheless.

You can probably then envision how it is possible for sophisticated software to “fill in the blanks” in the empty pixel values. This is easiest for the green channel where half of the pixels have values, and so you only need to fill in the other half. But even for the red and blue channels, this can obviously be done quite effectively.

Collapsing Multiple Folders


Today’s Question: If you expand many subfolders contained within parent folders in the Folders list in Lightroom Classic, is there a trick to collapse them all at once?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you hold the Alt (Windows) or Option (Macintosh) key while clicking on the arrow to expand or collapse a parent folder, all subfolders below that parent folder level will also be expanded or collapsed.

More Detail: In Lightroom Classic the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module reflects the folder structure on your hard drive for those folders that contain photos being managed by Lightroom Classic. Therefore, you can have folders with subfolders represented in Lightroom Classic, including multiple layers of subfolders depending on how you have defined your folder structure.

You can expand or collapse a folder to reveal or hide subfolders by clicking on the triangle icon to the left of a parent folder. However, you can expand or collapse all subfolders in a single step by holding the Alt/Option key while clicking on the triangle icon for the parent folder.

Let’s assume a date-based folder structure, where you have a folder for each calendar year. Within each year folder you have folders for each month, and within each month folder you have folders for each day.

By default, if you simply click to expand the year folder, you’ll only see the month folders within that year folder. You would need to click the triangle to the left of a month folder to see the day folders contained within that month folder.

However, you can hold the Alt/Option key will clicking the triangle for a parent folder to expand or collapse all subfolders at all levels below that parent folder. So, for example, if you have expanded some of the month folders within the year folder, you could Alt/Option click on the triangle to the left of the year folder to collapse all folders. If you then click on the triangle to expand, you’ll once again only see the month folders.

You can also expand all folders in this way. So, rather than simply clicking on the triangle for the year folder to expand that folder, you can Alt/Option click on the triangle and you will then see all of the month folders and all of the day folders are visible because all subfolders have been expanded.

So, using this Alt/Option keyboard shortcut can be helpful for quickly reducing clutter for the folder display, and also for quickly revealing all levels of folders in a particular location.

Progressive Lens Challenge


Today’s Question: I know you wear glasses and I also wear glasses, but they are “progressive” lenses. As a result, I often seem to have trouble getting manual focus exactly right. What would your advice be? Should I get a standard pair of reading glasses or a prescription just for photography?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I would recommend using a pair of reading glasses when focusing manually, using live view on the camera’s LCD display to evaluate the focus. If you prefer to focus through the optical viewfinder, I recommend getting a pair of glasses with a single distant-vision prescription rather than using progressive lenses.

More Detail: My eyeglasses do have progressive lenses, so I have dealt with this challenge firsthand. It can be challenging to make sure you’re looking through the right area of the lens to ensure your vision is sharp for evaluating manual focus.

I find the use of live view on the camera’s LCD display tremendously helpful for accurate manual focus. Most cameras enable you to zoom in with this live view display, so you’re able to get an even closer look at the area of the scene you want to use for evaluating focus. Since you would therefore be viewing the LCD from a close distance, reading glasses work very well in terms of avoiding the challenge of progressive lenses.

If you prefer to adjust focus by looking through the optical viewfinder, you’ll likely need distance vision correction, since your eyes will be focusing at the same distance as the subject. In this case you would likely find it easiest to have eyeglasses with a single prescription to correct your distant vision.

It is also worth noting that you may be able to apply enough of a diopter correction to the viewfinder (if your camera includes a diopter adjustment) to compensate for your vision so you could use the viewfinder for manual focus without wearing your eyeglasses at all. When adjusting the diopter setting, you can evaluate the text and symbols projected by the camera in the viewfinder. When the text and symbols appear sharp, you’ve achieved the proper diopter adjustment.

Effect of Changing a Preset


Today’s Question: Are the slider values in applied presets in Lightroom Classic saved as part of the image or is the preset itself saved with the image.? In other words, after applying a preset to an image, if you change the preset will the image automatically change to reflect the new settings for the preset?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When you apply a preset to an image in Lightroom Classic, the settings from that preset are applied to the image. Changing a preset after it has been applied to an image will not cause that image to be updated based on changes to the preset.

More Detail: Presets in the Develop module in Lightroom Classic preserve specific settings from the various adjustments available on the right panel. When you create a preset you can choose which adjustments you want to include, and those adjustments will reflect the settings for the current image in the Develop module.

You can update a preset by changing the settings on the right panel in the Develop module, then right-clicking on the preset in the Presets section on the left panel and choosing “Update with Current Settings” from the popup menu. However, this will not cause any changes to the images you previously applied the preset to.

For example, let’s assume you created a preset that converts an image to a black and white interpretation. You apply that preset to an image, and the image is converted to black and white. If you later update that preset to include a color tint, such as a sepia-tone effect, applying that preset to an image will obviously cause it to have a monochromatic color tint.

However, images you had previously applied the preset to would still appear in black and white, not with a sepia-tone effect, unless you re-applied the preset to the image. Changing a preset does not automatically alter the appearance of photos you had previously applied that preset to.

Recovering from a Backup Drive


Today’s Question: My “L” hard drive failed, but I had backed it up to another drive named “K”. Can I just rename the “K” drive letter to “L” and go on with life (and then back up the K drive to an extra disk?). I ask because I got a warning message that says, “some drive programs that rely on letters may not run correctly, do you wish to continue…”.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, provided the backup drive represents an exact match of the original drive at least in terms of photo storage, you can indeed just change the drive letter (or volume label for Macintosh users) and continue using the backup drive in place of the original (making a new backup as soon as possible of course).

More Detail: This type of scenario is exactly why I prefer a synchronization approach to backing up my photos and other important data. When you’ve created a backup drive that matches the source drive, it is very easy to recover from that failure.

With a synchronization approach to backup, the file and folder structure on the backup drive will be an exact match of the source drive. So, if the source drive fails, you can simply use the backup drive in its place.

In the context of Lightroom Classic, however, you’ll need to make sure that the drive itself appears as an exact match. That means for Windows users the drive letter must be updated for the backup drive to match the original drive. For Macintosh users that means changing the volume label (by renaming the drive) so that it matches the original.

The warning about a mismatch effectively describes why the backup drive wouldn’t work without this update. If you changed the drive letter or volume label of your original hard drive, Lightroom Classic would no longer be able to find the photos where they were expected. In this case it is sort of the opposite. The backup drive already represents a mismatch, so you need to change the drive letter or volume label to correct the mismatch.

Once you correct that mismatch, everything will appear normally within Lightroom Classic. Of course, you should also make sure to create another backup of your photos as quickly as possible after a hard drive failure.

I happen to use software called GoodSync to back up my photos with a synchronization approach. This provides exactly the benefits described above. You can learn more about GoodSync software here:


Printer Tonal Range and Lighting


Today’s Question: Regarding your response to the question on printer tonal range, you say to evaluate the test image under a bright light source. I wonder if one shouldn’t evaluate the test image under a light source, and at a distance, that provides a luminance value similar to that expected in the location where the print is most likely to be displayed?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In the context of evaluating the actual tonal range capabilities of your printer, I recommend using a very bright light source so you can better evaluate the print. That said, when it comes to a final print you intend to hang on the wall, it is most certainly reasonable to optimize the print based on those display conditions.

More Detail: From time to time I’ve written about an issue whereby a printer doesn’t actually render complete shadow detail in the darkest shadows, even when you’ve used an accurate printer profile to produce the print. You can compensate for this behavior by first evaluating the behavior of your printer, and then applying a compensating adjustment before printing.

You can read about the process, and download a target image used to evaluate the behavior of your printer, in an article on the GreyLearning blog here:


While it is perfectly reasonable to evaluate an individual print based on the conditions under which it will be displayed, when it comes to compensating in general for the tonal range limitations of a printer, I don’t recommend that approach.

To establish a baseline compensation that will ensure your prints contain all of the shadow detail possible, you should evaluate the test print under a bright light source. This enables you to determine the actual behavior of your printer (specific to the paper and ink combination being used with that printer) in terms of rendering shadow detail.

The result of this testing would provide you with a general compensation adjustment that could be applied to every photo you print. In cases where you know the precise conditions under which a print will be displayed, you could go a step further and evaluate that print under those conditions. You could then apply a compensation specific to that print based on the display conditions intended for the print.

Of course, it is important to keep in mind that if you apply adjustments to compensate for the specific conditions under which a print will be displayed, if that print is moved to a different location it may not look its best. The specific results depend on the lighting conditions, and in particular to how significant the differences in lighting conditions actually are.