Dealing with “Live” Photos

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Today’s Question: There are some MOV files among the JPEGs [downloaded from my iPhone]. Did I hit the “Live” function when making the photo? I’m guessing that’s the answer since each clip is about three seconds long. Is there a way to extract a single image–maybe from the beginning or the end–from these three-second “live” shots?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, what you are describing indicates that you captured some Live Photos on your iPhone. The latest version of Lightroom will automatically include a JPEG image in addition to the MOV that represents the Live Photo. You could also convert the Live Photos to “normal” photos on your iPhone before downloading so you would only have a still image. In addition, you could use the Apple Photos application to export JPEG still images based on the Live Photo captures.

More Detail: The “Live Photo” feature for the camera on iPhones enables you to capture dynamic photos, which can be thought of as a variation on a three-second video clip. This feature is enabled by tapping on the Live Photo icon in the Camera app. This icon looks something like a “target”, with a series of concentric circles. When the icon is yellow the Live Photo feature is enabled, and when it is white (with a slash through the icon) the Live Photo feature is disabled.

Even if you captured a photo as a Live Photo, you can actually disable the Live Photo effect for individual photos before downloading them. This would result in downloading a “normal” photo rather than a Live Photo. In the context of downloading directly from your iPhone, a Live Photo would otherwise be represented by both a video (MOV file) and a still photo.

To turn off the Live Photo effect for an image first locate a Live Photo capture in the Photos app on your phone. Then tap the photo (if necessary) to reveal the various controls, and tap the Edit link. At the top-center of the photo in editing mode you’ll see an indication of the Live Photo status with the same icon used to enable the feature in the Camera app. You can tap that icon to turn off Live Photo for the image. Then, when you download photos, the photos you turned off the Live Photo feature for will be downloaded as still images without the video file.

As noted above, you could also make sure you have upated Lightroom Classic to a newer version that supports the updated capture formats for the iPhone (such as HEIC), in which case a still image will automatically be included when you import Live Photo captures.

Order of Layers in Photoshop

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Today’s Question: Is there any preferred order for layers in Photoshop? For example, is it better keep pixel layers together? Should a sharpening layer go near the bottom or, if it is done last, on top?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The order of layers on the Layers panel in Photoshop can be important depending on context. As a general rule, image layers will need to be at the bottom of the stack of layers, and adjustment layers will need to be above the image layers. However, there are variations depending on the specific effect you are trying to achieve.

More Detail: I think there are two key things to keep in mind when it comes to the order of layers in Photoshop. First, the order of layers determines the visibility of layers below. An image layer will block the visibility of layers below, and an adjustment layer only affect the layers below it.

Second, changing the order of layers can alter the overall appearance of a photo. For example, let’s assume a composite image with two image layers. If an adjustment layer is placed above both of those image layers, the adjustment will affect both of the layers. If the adjustment layer is moved down so it is in between the two image layers, that adjustment layer will only change the appearance of the layer below it, not the layer above it.

So, the order of layers on the Layers panel in Photoshop can most certainly have a significant impact on the overall appearance of an image. In some situations it is simply necessary for certain types of layers to be above others. In other cases the bigger issue is to be sure not to change the order of layers after you’ve created a particular effect for a photo.

As a very general rule, you’ll want to have image layers at the bottom of the stack on the Layers panel, and adjustment layers at the top of the stack. But the specific order depends on the task you’re trying to perform and the effect you want to achieve. However, it is important to keep in mind that the order of layers can be important.

For example, image cleanup layers must be above the layers that contain the blemishes you are removing. Similarly, a layer created to sharpen the image must be above all other image layers. But typically the order of layers is not so much something you need to think about directly, so much as it is a byproduct of the order in which you perform specific tasks within Photoshop. That said, in some cases you will need to be sure that you create layers in the correct order on the Layers panel. For example, let’s assume you have added a variety of adjustment layers above your Background image layer. If you then want to perform image cleanup on a separate layer, you need to add the empty layer for that image cleanup above the image layers and below the adjustment layers.

As for sharpening, I would actually tend to leave output sharpening as a separate process within the context of a workflow for preparing a photo for output, rather than as part of your “normal” workflow. At that point, layers would no longer be a factor.

Ultimately, what this all means is that the order of layers does matter in Photoshop. And there are some general rules about layer order. But more important is to understand the basic impact of the order of layers, and to ensure the layers you create are in an appropriate order based on the goal you’re trying to achieve for a given image.

Renaming Derivative Images

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Today’s Question: You mentioned editing in Lightroom and then Photoshop, saving the resulting image back into Lightroom. What method do you use for naming the files that are saved? I would love to be able use a system with a numbering sequence for all of the edited versions from each source photo. I would be very interested to know what method you use.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I simply have the word “Edit” appended to the existing filename. Lightroom Classic will then automatically add a sequence number if I create more than one derivative from the same source photo. This also overcomes what I consider to be the very odd behavior in Lightroom, where the sequence number in this context is not calculated on a per-image basis.

More Detail: When you send a photo from Lightroom Classic to Photoshop, a new file is created as part of that process. You can specify a structure to use for the naming of these derivative images on the External Editing tab of the Preferences dialog in Lightroom Classic. However, if you use a sequence number as part of this process, that number will increment based on a tally of the number of times you send images to Photoshop, not how many derivative images you have created from a single source photo.

My approach is to simply add the word “Edit” to the end of the existing filename when creating derivative images via Photoshop. So, for example, if I send a raw capture called “IMG_1234.cr2” to Photoshop, the resulting derivative image would be called “IMG_1234-Edit.TIFF”.

If I send the original raw capture to Photoshop again, Lightroom will recognize that it can’t simply add “-Edit” to the base filename, because that filename already exists for the first derivative I created. In that case, Lightroom will automatically add “-2” to the end of the filename, so that the resulting filename is “IMG_1234-Edit-2.TIFF”. The following derivative would be “IMG_1234-Edit-2.TIFF”, and so on.

In this way, you would have a sequence number on a per-image basis, with the only exception being that your first derivative would not contain a “-1” at the end of the filename. Of course, you could add that “-1” very easily by renaming the first derivative in the File Name field in the Metadata section of the right panel in the Library module.

To configure this approach, you can simply modify the file renaming setup in the Preferences dialog. Start by choosing Lightroom Classic > Preferences on Macintosh, or Edit > Preferences on Windows. Then go to the External Editing tab in the Preferences dialog. At the bottom of the dialog, select “Filename” from the Template popup. Then click the Template popup again and choose “Edit”.

In the Filename Template Editor dialog, click in the large textbox that shows the current filename structure. Add “-Edit” (or other text) after the “Filename” token. Click Done, and then close the Filename Template Editor dialog. This will configure the filename structure for all derivative images created via Photoshop from that point forward.

Mysterious “AAE” Files

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Today’s Question: Scattered among my JPG files from the iPhone are some AAE files. What are these, and what did I do to create them? Apparently I need some new app to open them, but maybe they’re not worth the trouble.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “AAE” files accompanying JPEG captures downloaded from your iPhone contain information about adjustments applied to those photos. The presence of one or more of these files indicates you applied adjustments to the images using the Photos app on the iPhone. The adjustments will be retained if you import the photos into the Photos application on your computer, but are ignored by Lightroom.

More Detail: When you apply adjustments to photos using the Photos app on an iPhone, those adjustments are non-destructive. This is similar to the workflow in Lightroom Classic, where the information about the adjustments you apply is stored separate from the actual image files, and the source image is not modified.

When you download photos from an iPhone to your computer, the “AAE” adjustment files are downloaded alongside the source capture. This is similar to the XMP sidecar files you may already be familiar with in the context of Lightroom and Camera Raw. In this case, the AAE files can be interpreted by the Apple Photos application on a Macintosh computer, but are not used by Lightroom Classic.

Therefore, in the context of a workflow that revolves around Lightroom Classic, those AAE files are not useful and can effectively be ignored. Of course, if you want to retain the adjustments applied on the iPhone, that means you would need to create a separate copy of the image with the adjustments applied before you download the photos from the iPhone and import them into Lightroom Classic.

Backup as Adobe DNG

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Today’s Question: When I import my images onto Lightroom [Classic] and request that a backup copy be made on my external drive, those backup images are not DNG as they are in Lightroom, but in a format I do not know and that my computer cannot read. How do I get copies made in a DNG form?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The option to create a second copy of the photos you are importing into your Lightroom Classic catalog will create a copy of exactly what appears on your media card, with the exception that if you rename the photos during import, the backup copies will be renamed. The backup copies, however, will be in the original capture format, even if you use the option to convert to DNG during import into your Lightroom catalog.

More Detail: When you import photos from a media card out of your camera into your Lightroom Classic catalog, you want to copy the photos from the media card to a hard drive being used to store and manage your photos. In addition to simply copying the source capture files, Lightroom also provides the option to convert your proprietary raw captures to the Adobe DNG (Digital Negative) file format.

When you select the “Copy as DNG” option at the top-center of the Import dialog, the conversion to DNG is actually something of a two-step process. First, the original capture files will be copied to the destination storage location you have specified during import. For example, even though you have selected the “Copy as DNG” option, your proprietary raw captures will initially appear in their native file format within Lightroom. After the files are copied to your hard drive they will be converted to the Adobe DNG format, with the original proprietary raw captures discarded.

If you enabled the “Make a Second Copy To” option in the import dialog, that will create an additional copy of the files as they are initially copied to your destination hard drive as part of the import process. In other words, the proprietary raw captures will be copied to the backup location in the same proprietary raw format. If you have selected the option to rename photos during import, the backup copy will reflect that renaming as well. But the backup copies will not be converted to the Adobe DNG file format.

If you want to make an additional copy of the DNG versions of the photos created as part of the overall import process, you would need to back them up in some way as part of a follow-up process. For example, you could select all of the photos that had just been imported, and export a copy of those files using the “Original” option from the Image Format popup in the File Settings section of the Export dialog. You could also simply create an updated backup of your primary storage, such as by using GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup), the synchronization backup software I recommend for backing up photo storage.

Export for Production

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Today’s Question: My need for export is for publication using InDesign. When you say, “I don’t recommend exporting copies of all processed photos [from Lightroom Classic] unless you have a specific reason to do so,” is InDesign one of those reasons? If you have a better way, please let me know.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, preparing photos to include in an Adobe InDesign document is exactly one of the reasons you would want to export photos from Lightroom Classic. I recommend exporting those photos as TIFF images at full resolution to provide greater potential image quality if the document you’re creating in InDesign will ultimately be printed.

More Detail: This question is a follow-up to a previous question about the notion of exporting copies of all photos from Lightroom Classic once they have been processed in the Develop module. That sort of export workflow is something I consider to be a bit excessive, assuming of course you are regularly backing up both your photos and your Lightroom catalog.

Of course, if you want to share your photos in some form outside of Lightroom, you’ll need to export them. There are obviously sharing options directly within Lightroom, such as the Print and Slideshow modules. However, you can also export copies of your photos so they can be used with virtually any software or service for sharing your photos.

How you export the photos will depend upon the way you’ll be sharing the images. For online sharing, for example, you can export the images as JPEG files with moderately low pixel dimensions (perhaps around 1,000 pixels on the long side, for example).

When exporting for print (as would often be the case with Adobe InDesign), I typically recommend exporting at the full resolution of the source image, unless you are certain of the specific final print size you’ll use for the images. I also recommend saving as a TIFF (rather than JPEG) file, to help maximize image quality, since JPEG images will always have compression applied that will degrade image quality to some extent.

Cropped Sensor Corrections

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Today’s Question: If I stand in the same location, center the same subject, and use the same lens, what changes if I use a Full Frame camera body (with a larger sensor) instead of an APS-C camera body? I want to know what (if any) the lens prospective variations (and Lightroom [Classic] corrections) would be between different camera bodies with different sensor sizes. Or are these corrections dependent only upon the specific lens used?

Tim’s Quick Answer: With the same lens from the same position, using a camera with a full-frame sensor (35mm equivalent) versus a “cropped” sensor (such as APS-C), the only difference would be the cropping of the image circle projected by the lens. If you apply profile-based lens corrections in Lightroom Classic, that correction will take into account the sensor size, to ensure the correction is applied correctly across the frame.

More Detail: Each lens has its own unique behavior, which tends to be most significant with wide-angle lenses. Those behaviors often relate to distortion of the scene and vignetting of the edges of the frame. Many software applications, including Lightroom Classic, enable you to apply automatic corrections to a photo based on the lens that was used. These are generally referred to as profile-based lens corrections.

These corrections will take into account the sensor size of the camera used in conjunction with the lens, so the correction can be applied correctly. For example, a smaller sensor means the image circle projected by the lens is being cropped more than would be the case with a full-frame camera. Therefore, the vignetting that is part of the lens behavior would also be at least partially cropped out of the final photo. The profile-based lens correction therefore needs to apply less vignette correction (in terms of total area) for a photo captured with a cropped sensor (such as APS-C) as compared to a full-frame capture.

The perspective of the scene will not be affected by the cropping of the image circle, assuming the camera position is the same. Only the image circle projected by the lens is cropped to a smaller size, while the projection of the lens remains the same. Thus, you would get the same photo if you captured a scene with the same lens on a cropped versus full-frame sensor, and then cropped the full-frame capture to the same cropping as the camera with the smaller sensor. Furthermore, the profile-based lens corrections will compensate for the differences between the captures with the two different sensor sizes.

Metadata Mismatch Symbol

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Today’s Question: I noticed on one of your photos in the slides strip (from your webinar presentation) there was a “flag” with 3 horizontal lines on the left and an exclamation point on the right. I also noticed this on one of my photos. What is this?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The symbol in question is an indication that there is a metadata mismatch. That means that information in the metadata for the photos on your hard drive does not match the information contained within your Lightroom catalog.

More Detail: One of the more important things to understand about Lightroom Classic is that any tasks you perform with your photos (including metadata updates) should be initiated within Lightroom. If you update metadata outside Lightroom, that information will not be reflected within the Lightroom catalog.

When there is a metadata mismatch for an image, you can click the warning flag icon, which appears as three lines with an arrow to the right of them. That will bring up a dialog where you can choose which direction you want to resolve the metadata mismatch.

If you have made changes to metadata outside of Lightroom (which includes, by the way, opening a raw capture via Adobe Camera Raw directly in Photoshop), you will want to bring those updates into the Lightroom catalog. In the confirmation dialog you would click the “Import Settings from Disk” button if you wanted this option.

If you are certain Lightroom contains the latest metadata updates, you can save those out to the actual image files on your hard drive. In this case you would click the “Overwrite Settings” button in the confirmation dialog.

I should hasten to point out that the metadata mismatch icons you would have seen during my recent webinar presentation were due to the fact that I was presenting using a demonstration catalog, which contains a variety of intentional errors so I can show how to resolve various issues. I like to think I have no such metadata mismatches or other issues in my production catalog in Lightroom Classic. I hope!

Perspective Correction Options

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Today’s Question: Which is better: guided transform in Lightroom Classic or perspective warp in Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Both of these tools are excellent, with a different approach to correcting perspective. While I wouldn’t necessarily say that one is better than the other, I would say that for most typical scenarios the Guided option for transformation is simpler and more effective. Note that this Guided option is available not only in Lightroom, but also in Photoshop via Adobe Camera Raw or the Camera Raw filter.

More Detail: The Guided option for the transformation adjustments in Lightroom as well as Adobe Camera Raw (and by extension the Camera Raw filter in Photoshop) is a powerful and relatively easy way to correct perspective distortion in a photo.

After enabling the Guided option, you can simply drag within the image to define between two and four lines that define areas of the photo that should be perfectly horizontal or vertical. For example, you could drag along the left and right edges of a building, and then along the roof and foundation lines. That would define the lines of the building that should be perfectly horizontal or vertical. When you apply the effect, the image is transformed so that the lines you defined are indeed horizontal and vertical, so the perspective for the photo is corrected.

With the Perspective Warp feature in Photoshop, it is not quite as simple to get a quick correction. To begin with, the Perspective Warp feature makes use of a rectangular shape you can manipulate, rather than simply drawing lines in areas of the image that should be perfectly horizontal or vertical.

That said, the Perspective Warp feature also has advanced capabilities that go beyond the transformation options available in Lightroom or Camera Raw. You can , for example, define more than one rectangle with Perspective Warp, and join them together. So if you had a photo of a building captured from the corner, for example, with sides extending to the left and right, you could define individual rectangles for the left versus right sides of the building, and adjust perspective individually for each.

So, there are some more advanced capabilities available with the Perspective Warp adjustment in Photoshop. However, for most scenarios I think you’ll find using the Guided edit option for the transformation corrections in Lightroom or Camera Raw is faster, easier, and more effective than using Perspective Warp.

Post-Photoshop Workflow

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Today’s Question: I typically use Lightroom [Classic] initially to process a photo and then use Photoshop to remove distractions like wires, telephone poles, etc. The file is then saved as a TIFF file and appears in my Lightroom catalog. If I want to add additional changes using Lightroom should I start all over or just do the changes on the TIFF file after the Photoshop step?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can most certainly continue to apply additional adjustments to the TIFF file in Lightroom Classic, and I would recommend doing that rather than repeating all of the image cleanup work in Photoshop again after refining your original image.

More Detail: When you send a raw capture from Lightroom Classic to Photoshop, the source image isn’t actually opened within Photoshop. Instead, a new derivative image will be created as a TIFF or PSD file (depending on the current setting in Preferences within Lightroom).

After saving and closing the TIFF or PSD file in Photoshop, the resulting image will appear alongside the original capture in your Lightroom catalog. You can then continue working with that image in the Develop module as much as you’d like. At this point, of course, those adjustments are probably going to be relatively minor as you fine-tune some of the effects you had applied with previous adjustments.

There’s no need to go back to the original source image to refine your adjustments. Doing so would create a potentially significant negative impact on your workflow, since you would then need to re-create all of the work you had previously done in Photoshop and create a new derivative file as part of that process.