Collection of “Picks”

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Today’s Question: Is there a way to create a collection of my photos that I have picked [with a Pick flag in Lightroom Classic CC]?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you could accomplish this by creating a Smart Collection based on Pick flag status, which is effectively the same as a search result across your entire Lightroom Classic CC catalog.

More Detail: Lightroom provides a variety of ways to filter your photos, so you can find just the photos you need when you need them. This is certainly true for Pick (or Reject) flags. You could, for example, go to All Photographs in the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module to browse all images in your entire catalog. You could then set a filter for Pick flag using the Library Filter bar or the quick filters available at the top-right of the Filmstrip.

If you want to preserve this set of photos as part of a collection, a Smart Collection is your best option. To create a new Smart Collection, click the plus (+) button to the right of the Collections header on the left panel in the Library module, and choose “Create Smart Collection” from the popup menu.

In the Create Smart Collection dialog, first enter a name for the new collection in the Name field. If you want the new Smart Collection to be included in a Collection Set, turn on the “Inside a Collection Set” checkbox, and choose the applicable set from the popup below.

For the “Match” setting, be sure the popup is set to “all”. Then change the criteria for your Smart Collection in the area that takes up the bottom half of this dialog. In this example you could set the first popup to Pick Flag, the second popup to “is”, and the third popup to “flagged”.

For a Smart Collection that contains all photos that have a Pick flag assigned, only this one row of criteria is required. If there are any other criteria rows you can click the minus (-) button to the right of those rows to remove the additional criteria.

When you have finished configuring the Smart Collection, click the Create button at the bottom-right of the Create Smart Collection dialog. You can then navigate to this new Smart Collection anytime you want to view only the photos in your catalog that have a Pick flag assigned to them.

Note that unlike a standard Collection, you can’t enable cloud synchronization for a Smart Collection. Therefore, the contents of the Smart Collection would only be available within the Lightroom catalog, not via cloud-connected options such as Lightroom CC on a mobile device.

You could also create a standard Collection, and add photos that have a Pick flag to that collection. However, unlike a Smart Collection, a standard collection will not update automatically. So if you want to have quick access to all photos with a Pick flag that will be updated in real time, a Smart Collection provides a solution.

Color Labels in Metadata

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Today’s Question: Are color labels specific to Lightroom or are they standard metadata?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The metadata field used by Lightroom to record color labels is part of the Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP) originally created by Adobe. However, there isn’t a standard on what information is put into this field, and so not all software will interpret color labels the same. Furthermore, not all software supports the XMP metadata standard.

More Detail: The color label you can apply to photos in Lightroom is stored in the Label field that is part of the XMP metadata standard. However, not all software applications support this standard, which means not all software will be able to display or update color labels you have added in Lightroom.

Keep in mind that by default Lightroom Classic CC will only save metadata updates to the catalog, not to the photos themselves. If you want the metadata to be included with your photos, you have two options. You can manually save metadata for selected photos by choosing Metadata > Save Metadata to File from the menu. You can also have standard metadata values saved automatically to your image files by turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog.

It is also worth noting that there isn’t an established standard for the information that is written to the Label field in metadata for different applications. In fact, Lightroom doesn’t even use the same values as were originally implemented by Adobe Bridge. That means that by default a red color label added in Adobe Bridge would appear as a white color label in Lightroom, and vice versa.

That’s because each of these applications use different words to describe a given color label. For example, while Lightroom uses “Red” as the metadata value for a red color label, in Adobe Bridge a red color label is represented by the word “Select” in metadata.

Due to the issues above, color labels in Lightroom are not as widely supported as other metadata values that are part of the EXIF or IPTC metadata standards. Therefore, I recommend that if you’re going to use color labels, you use them for a secondary purpose, as they may not be available with all imaging software you may choose to use at a later date.

Resolution for Digital Sharing

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Today’s Question: You addressed the resolution that should be used when resizing a photo for print using the Crop tool. But what resolution should I be using when I’m going to share a photo online or with a digital presentation?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When sharing a photo digitally (rather than printing), the pixel per inch (ppi) resolution is irrelevant. The actual pixel dimensions will determine how large the image is presented through digital means.

More Detail: The topic of pixel per inch (ppi) resolution is one that has long been confusing for many photographers. I think part of the reason this was originally an issue is that many people were under the false impression that Macintosh computers used a display resolution of 72 ppi and Windows computers used a display resolution of 96 ppi.

Today’s displays generally have considerably higher resolutions than the numbers noted above, and there is considerable variability depending on the size of the display and the resolution setting for that display.

The pixel per inch setting for an image doesn’t matter for digital sharing of photos. The pixel dimensions will determine how large the image appears with the specific digital output method you’re using.

For example, if you had a photo sized to about 960 pixels wide will take up half the width of a display that has a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels, assuming the image is presented at 100% scale. The ppi resolution set in the metadata for the image would not impact how it is presented.

Having said that, there are some applications that look at the ppi resolution setting for an image even though there is no need to do so. This would affect how large an image is sized when you place it into a document, such as for a slideshow presentation.

So, in general you can leave the ppi resolution setting to any value you’d like for images that will be shared digitally. If you feel better entering a specific value for the resolution field, a setting of 100 ppi will be reasonably close to the typical value for most digital output. But again, for most digital sharing scenarios, that information will be completely ignored.

Resolution for Cropping

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Today’s Question: As you know, the Crop tool in [Photoshop and] Photoshop Elements allows one to record the desired width and height in inches for an image to be printed. To the right of this is a box for “Resolution.” My question is, how does one determine what that resolution number should be?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The optimal output resolution setting will vary based on the specific output method. However, when printing an image a good starting point for a baseline resolution is 300 pixels per inch (ppi).

More Detail: If you were simply trying to crop an original image to a specific aspect ratio, but you don’t want to resize the image in the process, you should leave the Resolution field for the Crop tool blank. A blank value for Resolution will cause the crop box to fit the aspect ratio you’ve defined, but the image will only be cropped without resizing in terms of the overall dimensions. In other words, you would be trimming pixels out of the image without resizing to a specific output size.

If you are cropping an image to prepare it for printing, then you will want to specify a Resolution value for the Crop tool so the image will actually be resized to the specific intended output. The Resolution is only really a factor when preparing a photo for printing, not for preparing a photo for digital output.

So, the Resolution setting for the Crop tool can be thought of as mostly a tool to use when preparing an image for printing. In general, a resolution of 300 pixels per inch (ppi) works well for most printed output. If you’re using a photo inkjet printer, in most cases you’ll get best results with a resolution of up to 360 ppi, though the specific optimal setting will depend on the printer being used to produce the print.

In general, a resolution of at least 300 ppi will provide excellent results with just about any printer. A higher setting may result in improved print quality depending on the printer being used, although in most cases there won’t be a clear advantage to settings above about 400 ppi.

Recovering Corrupted Raw Captures

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Today’s Question: In a recent vacation one of my cards got corrupted and wouldn’t be recognized by my camera or computer. I had to buy recovery software and was able to recover the files. However, for 25% of my RAW files Photoshop indicates it can’t recognize the file format. Is there something I can do to open these files?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While it is possible that some of the raw capture files were damaged beyond repair due to the problem with your memory card, there are software tools that can sometimes salvage corrupted raw captures, enabling you to recover the original image.

More Detail: There are two basic types of recovery software that may help you salvage lost images. The first type is software that can recovered files that seem to have been lost due to deletion, formatting of the media, or damage to the media. The second type is software that can actually repair damaged files, provided the damage is not too severe.

If you have accidentally deleted photos from a media card, even by formatting the card in your camera in most cases, the files can still be recovered using special software. If a media card is damaged to some extent, it is still possible that this type of software may be able to recover files that can’t be accessed from the card using normal means.

When this type of recovery fails, it is quite possible that the source files have been corrupted to such an extent that they can’t be recovered. For example, some of the core image data could be missing altogether. In other words, this is a more challenging type of recovery, which can translate into lower success rates.

One software tool that may be able to salvage damaged raw capture files is Stellar Repair for Photos, which you can learn more about on the Stellar website here:

https://www.stellarinfo.com/photo-repair-software.php

How to Use Collections

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Today’s Question: I have been using Lightroom 6 for a number of years and have created new collections with some regularity. However, it seems I almost never return to the collections unless I am creating one. How and when should I be using collections?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I generally find collections most helpful when working on a project that involves photos from multiple folders. In other words, collections enable you to organize photos with a structure beyond the folder structure you’re using on your hard drive. That said, if you don’t find collections helpful in your workflow, I certainly think it is perfectly fine to not put them to use.

More Detail: I use folders as a primary organizational tool in my workflow. That’s because folders can be managed within Lightroom (or other software), but also exist as a “tangible” organizational tool through my computer’s operating system.

Collections (or albums in some other software applications) are something like virtual folders. You can organize your photos into a collection for any purpose, enabling you to go beyond the folder structure you’ve defined for your photos.

Because of the way collections work, I find them most useful when I want to group photos together from across multiple folders. When photos are contained in a single folder, I can easily use other metadata to filter the images to only those I want to work with. When the photos I want to group together are scattered across multiple photos, using metadata to isolate only certain photos can be a bit more challenging.

Of course, it is worth keeping in mind that collections only exist within Lightroom, and the metadata for your actual photos won’t reflect membership in collections. In other words, if you were to lose your Lightroom catalog, you would lose all collection information. Other standard metadata (such as keywords and star ratings) can be saved out to the actual photos, beyond the Lightroom catalog. For this reason, I recommend using other metadata fields (such as the Keywords field) to record information related to the use of collections, if preserving that information is important to you.

Auto Confusion Follow-Up

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Today’s Question: Now [after the answer about a discrepancy in the “Auto” adjustment behavior between Import and the Develop module in Lightroom Classic CC] I’m more confused as to what the best workflow is. Should I import first [without Auto], and then apply an Auto preset in the Develop module, or apply the preset with import?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Based on the differences between how “Auto” is applied as a preset during import versus later in the Develop module, I recommend a hybrid approach. I suggest applying Auto during import so you’ll have adjustments applied to your initial image previews. Then, for photos you want to work on in more detail, applying Auto again will help ensure the best starting point for the photo before you move on to refining the adjustments.

More Detail: As noted in an earlier Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, there are some differences in how the “Auto” adjustment is applied during the import process versus later in your workflow in the Develop module. I’ve since learned that this is in part a performance issue, in that the “Auto” applied during import is based on image previews, while the “Auto” applied in the Develop module is based on the original source image.

I still feel that it can be worthwhile to apply the Auto adjustment as a preset applied during import, so that the previews for your images will be based on having some degree of adjustment applied. To be sure, when you use the Auto adjustment, you aren’t necessarily getting a good “final” adjustment for your photos. In fact, in some cases the result after applying the Auto adjustment may be worse that what you get with no adjustments at all.

The majority of the time, however, I find that applying Auto during import provides a good basic starting point for my images, and a more pleasing preview for my photos. After reviewing to identify favorites, I will then start with an Auto adjustment in the Develop module, which will refine the effect that had been achieved during import.

I will then absolutely revisit all of the adjustment settings to fine-tune to taste. I just find that applying the Auto adjustment in the Develop module provides a better starting point compared to even the result from applying Auto during import. The effect of applying Auto while processing a photo in the Develop module is even significant if you hadn’t applied any adjustments up to that point in your workflow.

I certainly understand the argument that you might not want to have “automatic” adjustments applied to your photos. But I find it helpful in many cases to have the Auto adjustment (based on AI) applied to my images, even though I’ll then generally fine-tune most (or all) of the adjustment sliders for a given photo.

Will Lightroom Classic Go Away?

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Today’s Question: Do you think it is inevitable that Adobe will discontinue Lightroom Classic CC in favor of the cloud-based Lightroom CC? In other words, would it be advisable for me to migrate to the cloud version sooner rather than later to avoid possible problems down the road?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I don’t have any insights into Adobe’s future software plans, but I also don’t think it makes sense to migrate to a solution out of fear. Instead, I recommend adopting a workflow that meets your specific needs, while making efforts to help ensure you don’t get “locked” in to a workflow that might not work for you at some point in the future.

More Detail: My personal preference is to use local storage (and backups), supplemented perhaps by a cloud-based backup. The approach of synchronizing all of my photos (both favorites and outtakes) to cloud storage simply doesn’t make sense for me. Therefore, I use Lightroom Classic CC rather than the cloud-based Lightroom CC to manage my workflow.

I think it is reasonable to assume that Adobe may intend to discontinue Lightroom Classic CC in favor of Lightroom CC at some point in the future, although there have been no indications of such an intent. However, since Lightroom CC doesn’t work for my personal workflow needs, I wouldn’t make the switch to Lightroom CC even if Lightroom Classic CC were to be discontinued.

Instead, I would need to find another workflow solution. I hope that Lightroom Classic CC will continue to be available indefinitely, or that Lightroom CC gets modified to better suit my workflow in advance of Lightroom Classic CC potentially being discontinued.

In the meantime, I take an approach to my workflow that minimizes my dependency on Lightroom Classic CC, so that if I do need to change my workflow in the future there is minimal disruption. I do this by relying on standard metadata values (such as star ratings rather than pick/reject flags) rather than features that are specific to Lightroom. This is also why I minimize my use of collections in Lightroom, in favor of standardized features such as keywords.

So, my approach and recommendation is to use the software that best suits your workflow needs today. However, I also recommend defining a workflow that helps to minimize the impact of a future change to your workflow, in the event the software you’re using is discontinued or modified to the point that it no longer meets your needs.

SSD Worth the Cost?

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Today’s Question: Do you think SSD [solid-state drive] external drives for photo storage are worth the premium price?

Tim’s Quick Answer: On balance I would say that for large-scale photo storage, it makes more sense to use traditional hard drives rather than SSD storage, unless performance is critically important and you are perfectly comfortable with the higher price of SSD storage.

More Detail: To be sure, SSD drives provide a variety of benefits. You can achieve faster data transfer speeds with SSD, with less power consumption, no moving parts, and various other benefits. The primary disadvantages of SSD storage are the higher cost as well as the lower capacity compared to traditional hard drives.

Since I travel so extensively I prefer to use bus-powered external hard drives, and opt for drives that are designed to be a bit more rugged. Therefore, my go-to hard drive is the 4TB LaCie Rugged (https://timgrey.me/rugged4tb), which sells for about US$159. That represents a cost of just under US$40 per terabyte.

There isn’t a 4TB Rugged drive from LaCie, so the highest capacity available is 1TB. You can get a 1TB LaCie Rugged SSD drive (https://timgrey.me/rugged1tbssd) for about US$499, which of course is US$499 per terabyte compared to US$40 per terabyte for the traditional drive. In other words, the SSD drive in this example is twelve times more expensive on a per-terabyte basis.

Of course, there are less expensive SSD options. For example, a 1TB bus-powered SSD drive from G-Technology (https://timgrey.me/gtech1tbssd) is available for about US$269. That is still almost seven times as expensive as the traditional drive noted above, and the LaCie drive has the added benefit of being somewhat ruggedized.

The challenge here is making a decision about whether the cost for SSD drives is worth the performance benefit. If you want the best performance, you should opt for SSD drives for all storage. But if you’re not entirely comfortable paying the premium price for SSD storage, you may want to take a hybrid approach.

My current approach involves having an SSD drive as the internal drive on the computer I use for managing my photo library. My Lightroom Classic CC catalog is on this SSD drive, helping to maximize performance when working within Lightroom. My photos are stored on external hard drives that are traditional rather than SSD. There would be some benefit to having these external drives be SSD storage as well, but in my view that relatively modest benefit is not worth the considerable additional cost for SSD drives.

So, if money is no object, I’d recommend buying SSD drives for all of your storage. If you want to save a bit of money and have greater storage capacity for a single drive, traditional hard drives still offer an advantage in that regard. In the meantime, we can all look forward to the price of storage on SSD devices continuing to come down over time.

Hand-Held HDR?

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Today’s Question: Is it really true that you can get good results if you capture a bracketed HDR [high dynamic range] exposure with the camera hand-held rather than on a tripod? I have a hard time believing there wouldn’t be at least a little movement between frames in the bracketing, leading to problems in the final HDR image.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can indeed capture a bracketed set of exposures hand-held to create an HDR image, provided you are otherwise careful with your camera settings and technique.

More Detail: It is indeed possible to capture bracketed exposures for an HDR without the use of a tripod. The software you use to assemble the exposures into an HDR image, such as the Aurora HDR software I use (https://timgrey.me/aurora2019), is able to align the individual exposures so all of the image details are blended properly without any ghosting. In other words, the slight movement between frames captured as part of a bracketed sequence can be compensated for.

For example, one of my favorite views in Rome is of Saint Peter’s Basilica viewed through the keyhole of a door, with the basilica framed between hedges. Because there are often other tourists wanting to see the view, and it would be challenging to get a tripod setup right against the door, it is easiest to capture the scene hand-held. With proper camera settings and technique, it is absolutely possible to create

Of course, you do need to be careful with your camera settings to avoid other problems with hand-held shooting. With a bracketed exposure sequence you might have a significant range of shutter speeds, so that the longest exposure in your sequence might be too long for you to be able to get a sharp image without using a tripod.

In other words, HDR software can most certainly compensate for a degree of movement between frames of a bracketed exposure sequence. But you still want to make sure that all of those photos are of high quality. That means you need to consider all of your camera settings carefully, and in the context of hand-held exposures also making sure that the shutter speed for each exposure will be fast enough considering the absence of a tripod.

You can see a sample HDR image that was captured hand-held (along with a visual demonstration of the lack of alignment in the original captures) in an article on the GreyLearning blog here:

http://greylearningblog.com/hand-held-hdr/