Effect of Feathering


Today’s Question: When one makes a selection or layer mask and then feathers it, does the feathering extend only outward from the masked area? Or does it also extend into the masked area?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When you apply feathering to a selection or layer mask, that feathering extends both outward and inward relative to the existing edge of the selection or layer mask.

More Detail: If a selection or layer mask does not have any feathering applied, the edge of that selection or layer mask can be thought of as having a crisp edge with no transition. The selected area can be thought of as white, and the non-selected area as black, which happens to be exactly how Photoshop presents a layer mask or saved selection.

When you apply feathering to a selection or layer mask, you are quite literally applying a blur to the selection or mask. That blurring extends in both directions from all contrast edges in the selection or mask.

In other words, when you feather a selection, the selection edge will be enlarged (by virtue of the blurring), and that enlargement will extend in both directions. So the area you selected will be a little less selected within the selection area, and a little more selected in the area outside that selection area.

Because of this aspect of feathering, it is very often necessary to shift the edge of a selection or mask outward slightly after applying feathering. This is one of the reasons I prefer not to feather selections, and instead save that feathering for after a mask has been created based on a selection.

Furthermore, this is one of the reasons I prefer to use the Select and Mask workspace in Photoshop to apply feathering, so that I can also take advantage of the Shift Edge control that enables you to shift the mask edge inward or outward as needed based on the subject area, the amount of feathering applied, and the strength of the adjustment (if applicable) being applied to the area you had selected.

Video Playback not Smooth


Today’s Question: In Lightroom the videos I’ve imported along with my still photos often don’t play very smoothly. Is there something I can do to improve the playback within Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: As you can imagine, upgrading your computer could certainly help. But short of that, I recommend revealing the video file in your operating system and then playing the video from there, outside of Lightroom.

More Detail: Video playback in Lightroom is not always smooth, especially if there are background tasks being performed (such as an import or rendering of previews for images you’ve just imported). Increasing the amount of memory (RAM) in your computer and otherwise upgrading performance can certainly help. But when you’re not able to get smooth playback from within Lightroom, I find you can achieve much better results by going to your operating system instead.

Once you’ve found a video you want to review in Lightroom, right-click on that video and from the popup menu that appears choose “Show in Finder” (for Macintosh users) or “Show in Explorer” (for Windows users). This will bring up a window in your operating system reflecting the folder location of the video file you right-clicked on, and that video file will be highlighted.

You can then double-click on the video file to open it in the default player for your operating system, and at that point you should expect improved video playback performance.

Adding Text to Filenames


Today’s Question: I have a series of pictures that I imported into Lightroom with a name I’d like to change. If possible, I’d like to keep some components of the name (especially the date), but would like to change the first part of the filename. Is that possible?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can add text to the beginning of the existing filename in Lightroom, but you can’t pick and choose among elements of the existing filename to keep or change.

More Detail: Adobe Bridge actually includes the ability to perform something of a “search and replace” when renaming photos. Lightroom doesn’t provide quite that degree of sophistication, but you can most certainly retain the existing filename as part of a new filename when renaming photos in Lightroom.

The first step is to select the images you want to rename. While in the Library module, you can then choose Library > Rename Photos from the menu to bring up the Rename Photos dialog. From the File Naming popup you can choose “Edit” to bring up the Filename Template Editor dialog, where you can specify the structure to be used for renaming your photos.

Since you want to retain the original filename, I would start by choosing “Original Filename” from the Preset popup at the top of the Filename Template Editor dialog.

You can then add additional elements to the filename structure. You might select among the various metadata values that are available on the different popup controls, for example. Or you might simply click the “Insert” button associated with the Custom Text label so you can enter your own text to place at the beginning of the filename. When a new token is added, you can drag it to a new position as needed. In this case, for example, you would want to place your additional elements before the “Original Filename” token.

If you want to add text (such as a dash to separate your new elements from the original filename) you can do so in the textbox. First click within the large textbox below the Example filename, and use the arrow keys on the keyboard as needed to place the insertion point in the desired position. For example, in this case you may want the flashing insertion point to be between the additional elements (such as a “Custom Text” token and the “Original filename” token. You can then type any text or characters that you want to use as part of the file-naming template.

You can reference the Example shown above the large textbox where you are defining the filename structure in order to confirm you have achieved the desired result. If you want to be able to use this same template in the future, you’ll want to save it. To do so, click the Preset popup at the top of the Filename Template Editor dialog and choose “Save Current Settings as New Preset” from the popup. In the dialog that appears, enter a name for the new preset and click the “Create” button.

Then click the “Done” button to close the Filename Template Editor dialog. In the Rename Photos dialog, if you included a Custom Text token as part of your template, you can enter the desired text in the Custom Text field. Then click OK to apply the renaming to the selected photos.

So, while it is possible to append text before or after the original filename for photos you are renaming in Lightroom, you’re not able to pick and choose the portions of filenames while renaming the way you can in Adobe Bridge.

Collapsing Multiple Folders


Today’s Question: When searching and scrolling through the list of Folders in Lightroom, I need to click the triangle icons to reveal sub-folders. After doing this repeatedly there are all of these expanded folders, which makes searching take much longer. Is there a way to “bulk” collapse the folders?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can collapse a folder along with all sub-folders by holding the Alt/Option key while clicking on the spinner (triangle) control for the top-level folder. This same option can be employed for the top-level parent folder to collapse (or expand) all folders and sub-folders on an entire hard drive, for example.

More Detail: When browsing a hierarchical structure (such as the folder structure represented in the Folders list in Lightroom) you will find a triangular icon to the left of each folder name. This triangle is a “spinner” control, which enables you to expand or collapse a folder structure, to reveal or hide sub-folders contained within a folder. In Lightroom, if that triangle is solid it indicates there are folders contained within the folder. A dotted triangle indicates there are no sub-folders.

If you hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while clicking on a spinner control, you will expand or collapse (depending on the current state) all sub-folders at all levels within the folder you are clicking the spinner control for.

Taken a step further, if you reveal the parent folder for a top-level folder, you will reveal the hard drive itself, enabling you to expand or collapse all folders in your entire storage structure on the entire drive.

So, for example, let’s assume you have expanded a variety of folders and sub-folders, as noted in today’s question. If you want to collapse all folders across the entire drive, you would first need to reveal the “folder” that actually represents the hard drive. To do so, right-click on any top-level folder on that drive and choose “Show Parent Folder” from the popup menu that appears.

You can then hold the Alt/Option key on the keyboard and click on the spinner control for the top folder that represents the hard drive itself. After collapsing all folders, you can release the Alt/Option key and simply click on the spinner control for the folder representing the hard drive to reveal the folders at the top level on the hard drive, without revealing any sub-folders within those folders.

When you’re finished working with the folder that represents the hard drive, you can right-click on that folder and choose “Hide This Parent” from the popup menu that appears. At that point you will once again only be viewing the top-level folders in your overall storage structure, without the folder representing the hard drive itself.

Panorama in Reverse


Today’s Question: I hope you don’t mind a question about iPhone photography. I like to use the iPhone to capture panoramas, but it always wants me to pan from left to right. Is there any way to change this so I can pan from right to left?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can absolutely switch the panning direction when capturing a panorama using the Camera app on an iPhone. Just tap the arrow to switch between left-to-right panning and right-to-left panning.

More Detail: There are two features related to capturing a panorama with the iPhone Camera app that I find many photographers are not aware of.

First, as noted above, you can reverse the panning direction for capturing a panorama. Normally, when you switch to the “Pano” mode within the Camera app, the arrow you see will be pointing to the right, indicating you need to start on the left side of your scene and pan to the right as you are capturing your panorama. However, you can simply tap on the arrow to “flip” it to point left. You can then start your capture on the right side of the scene, panning to the left across the scene during the capture.

In addition, I think it is worth keeping in mind that you are not limited to horizontal panoramas. You can also capture a vertical panorama when using Pano mode in the Camera app on an iPhone. All you need to do is rotate the iPhone for your capture.

For Pano mode, if you are capturing a horizontal panorama, you would hold your phone vertically and pan across the scene during your capture. If you want to capture a vertical panorama, simply rotate the iPhone 90-degrees, so that the arrow indicating the panning motion points up or down (depending on the direction you rotated the iPhone). And, as needed, you can tap the arrow to switch between panning from the bottom to the top of the scene, or vice versa.

Canvas Extension via Transform


Today’s Question: Is there a way in Photoshop to extend the right side of the photo to make a larger canvass, but instead of inserting a solid color or transparancy, telling it to use the colors of the pixels at the far right so it just looks like that wall goes on further and further?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can actually accomplish this effect quite easily, primarily through the use of the Transform command to stretch a column of pixels to the edge of an expanded canvas.

More Detail: The first step here is to extend the canvas for the image, so that there is space available for the new pixels you’ll be adding. To avoid filling the new space with the current background color, you’ll want to convert the Background image layer to a “normal” layer. To do so, double-click on the thumbnail for the Background image layer on the Layers panel, and click OK in the New Layer dialog that appears.

Next, you can extend the canvas to create the desired amount of additional space for the effect. To get started, choose Image > Canvas Size from the menu. I generally find it easiest to turn on the “Relative” checkbox, so you can specify the amount of space you want to add. However, you can also leave this checkbox turned off and simply update the existing dimensions as needed. Then choose the unit of measure (such as Pixels or Inches) from the popup, and update the value for Width and/or Height. In this case, for example, you would only be extending the Width value. Click OK to apply the change.

You can now duplicate the desired pixels, in this case a single column at the far right of the image.

First, zoom in considerably, so you can easily identify (and click on) the pixel in question. So in this case you would zoom in to the right edge of the existing image, so you can click on a pixel in the right-most column. Then choose the Single Column Marquee tool by right-clicking on the button for the Rectangular Marquee tool on the toolbox and choosing “Single Column Marquee Tool” from the popup that appears. Then click on a pixel in the right-most column of pixels in the image to select that column of pixels. You can then choose Layer > New > Layer Via Copy from the menu to duplicate that column of pixels onto a new layer.

This new layer, consisting of only a single column of pixels in this case, will now be active on the Layers panel. So, choose Edit > Free Transform from the menu to enable a transformation of this layer. There will be anchor points at the corners and midway down the sides of the layer. Drag the right-center anchor point to the right, all the way to the edge of the canvas you extended for the image. You can then press Enter/Return on the keyboard, which will finalize the effect.

The overall process here may sound a little involved, but it is actually quite straightforward, and very easily produces the intended effect.

Restarting Creative Cloud


Today’s Question: If you cancel your Adobe Creative Cloud subscription and several months later want to renew it will you be charged for the intervening time?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, if you cancel your Adobe Creative Cloud subscription and later restart your subscription, you won’t be charged for the time during which your subscription was inactive.

More Detail: Provided you have saved all of your photos and the information about your photos (such as a Lightroom catalog) to your own local storage (rather than in the cloud), there isn’t any real risk of losing data when you cancel your Creative Cloud subscription.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that if you are using the synchronization features (such as with Lightroom CC for mobile devices, or the cloud-synchronization service with Lightroom on the desktop), that the synchronized images and galleries will no longer be available once you cancel your subscription. So, again, you would want to be sure you have all of your data stored locally before canceling your subscription.

As noted in a previous edition of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, it is also possible to continue using Lightroom Classic CC after canceling your Creative Cloud subscription. Just note that certain features (such as the Develop and Map modules) will no longer function in this case.

If you later restart a Creative Cloud subscription, naturally the rate you had been paying previously might not be available any longer. So you might have no choice but to sign up at a higher price point. But you would not have to pay for the time period that your subscription was inactive. And if you properly saved all of your photos and data locally, you would be able to essentially pick up right where you left off in terms of managing your photos.

Histogram on iPhone


Today’s Question: I have students asking me if there is an app that will show a histogram while one is taking photos with their iPhone. Do you know?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are two options I would recommend for viewing a histogram for a photo on the iPhone. One option is the Photo Extension Histogram app, which enables you to view a histogram for images in the Photos app. The other option is to use the Lightroom CC mobile app.

More Detail: It is a little surprising to me how difficult it can be to view a histogram for photos on your iPhone. Fortunately, there are a couple of solutions that do work.

The Photo Extension Histogram app, which enables you to view a histogram for images in the Photos app. Since the Photos app doesn’t include a histogram feature, a separate app is needed for this purpose, which provides a workaround to view a histogram for any image. The process involves “sharing” a photo via the Photo Extension Histogram app.

So, just as you might use the sharing feature in the Photos app to send a photo via Messages or using AirDrop, so too can you share a photo to the Photo Extension Histogram app to view a histogram (both luminance and color) for the photo.

You can find this app in the Apple App Store by searching for “Photo Extension Histogram”. The app has a price of US$2.99.

Another option is to use the Lightroom CC app for mobile devices. You can view a histogram for any photo you manage within Lightroom CC. Note that you can also capture photos directly with the Lightroom CC app, which provides a convenient solution for streamlining your workflow. When you capture a photo using the camera within Lightroom CC, the photo is automatically added to (and synchronized via) your Lightroom CC catalog.

To access the histogram in the Lightroom CC mobile app, you need to switch to the Edit mode. You can then tap on the image with two fingers to bring up the info display. Tap again with two fingers to bring up the histogram display, and then tap a third time with two fingers to remove the histogram/info display.

PSD with Camera Raw


Today’s Question: We’d like to know why we can’t take a Photoshop PSD file directly into Adobe Camera Raw? We are able to take a PSD from Bridge directly into Photoshop, but not into Camera Raw. Yes, a workaround is Lightroom or Camera Raw as a filter in Photoshop, but we would still like to know we have this problem with PSDs?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Conceptually, the key challenge with a Photoshop PSD file in Adobe Camera Raw is that a PSD very often will include layers, which complicate processing with Camera Raw. For example, TIFF images with layers are also not supported in Camera Raw.

More Detail: I suppose the “real” answer here is that Adobe has thus far not chosen to support processing Photoshop PSD file via Camera Raw. If they wanted to add this support, it certainly could be done.

As many photographers may be aware, it is possible to open TIFF and JPEG images directly with Camera Raw, similar to how you can open proprietary raw captures (or Adobe DNG images) with Camera Raw. However, layered images would create a complication for this workflow.

So, while you can open a JPEG or TIFF image with Camera Raw, that support does not extend to TIFF images saved with layers. Only flattened TIFF images can be opened in Camera Raw in this way.

I imagine Adobe has decided that there isn’t much of a need to open PSD images in Camera Raw, in part because a PSD image file is perhaps more likely to contain multiple layers. As noted in the question, of course, Photoshop CC does include a Camera Raw filter, so you can apply Camera Raw adjustments as a filter to any image layer in any image format supported by Photoshop.

Infinity Focus


Today’s Question: When photographing a far-away subject such as the moon, if I manually set the focus on the lens to infinity will I be assured of proper focus?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Almost certainly not. Setting the focus to the greatest distance (ostensibly “infinity”) will not always ensure proper focus, even for a subject that is at a very great distance.

More Detail: In actual fact, I find that setting most lenses to infinity will definitely produce an image that does not have optimal focus. I’m sure the use of an infinity setting for focus works for some lenses in some situations, but I would absolutely not consider this a reliable technique.

Instead, for situations where autofocus doesn’t necessarily provide an ideal solution (such as with night photography) I recommend using manual focus in conjunction with the live view preview on the camera’s LCD display.

This approach obviously is best used in conjunction with a tripod. After framing up your scene, you can then use the zoom feature for the LCD display (not adjusting the zoom setting for the lens) to zoom in on a key area of the scene you are photographing. You can then manually adjust focus, with the autofocus turned off for the lens.

You’ll obviously want to use other techniques, such as employing a cable release, in order to help ensure optimal sharpness, especially if you are using a relatively long exposure time. But you will likely notice in these types of situations that when you adjust the focus manually with the assistance of the live view display, even for very distant subjects you are likely not ending up with the focus set at infinity. In many cases, in fact, you may be surprised at how far from the infinity setting you actually end up setting the focus.