Side Effects from Removing Older Applications

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Today’s Question: I usually use the Adobe Uninstaller for removing older versions. It is in the folder with the app. I have InDesign 2018 and 2019 in my apps folder. Will using the Uninstaller to remove the 2018 version disturb the 2019 version in any way?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, removing an older version of an application will not harm a later version of the same application. I do, however, recommend making sure the new version is working properly before removing an older version of an application.

More Detail: When there is a “minor” update to one of the applications in the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of applications, the existing installation for that application is simply updated. However, when there is a “major” update, an additional copy of the application will be installed in addition to the existing application version.

Once you have installed the additional copy of an application, I recommend making sure that the new installation is working properly. That includes, for example, making sure that any plug-ins you want to use with that application are installed and working properly. It is also a good idea to review the Preferences settings for the new installation, to make sure they are working properly.

When you’re confident that the new version of the application is working properly, you can uninstall the older version of the application without impacting the new version of the application. You can use the uninstaller found in the folder alongside the application you want to remove, or use the uninstall option available in the Adobe Creative Cloud application to remove the older version of the application.

Traveling Backup Workflow

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Today’s Question: I see from your Instagram that you have been in the Palouse leading photo workshops for a couple weeks. How do you maintain a backup of your photos along the way during such a photography trip?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I maintain at least three backups on external hard drives while I travel, and in some cases maintain additional backups beyond that.

More Detail: I am often traveling for extended periods of time, and I certainly want to maintain an ongoing backup of my photos during those travels. I use external hard drives for most of my storage and backup. I also use a somewhat conservative overall approach to backing up my photos while traveling.

First of all, I download photos from my storage media to an external hard drive as part of the process of importing new captures into my Lightroom Classic catalog. During the import process I also take advantage of the option to create a second copy of the photos during the import. I store that second copy of the photos to a folder on the desktop of my computer. So as soon as I’ve finished importing photos into my Lightroom catalog, I already have two copies of the photos, in addition to the original captures that are still on my media card.

Next, I use GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) to create a synchronized backup of the external hard drive containing my photos. That synchronization is done to a second external hard drive, so I then have four copies of my photos on four different storage devices.

My next step is to perform a Time Machine backup for the internal hard drive on my laptop. That backup obviously applies to my entire laptop hard drive, but in terms of my photos the key is that it is backing up the second copy of the photos created on my desktop as part of the process of importing the photos into my Lightroom catalog. After the Time Machine backup is complete, I effectively have five copies of my photos. That includes the original captures on the media card from my camera, the “master” copy of the photos on my primary external hard drive, a synchronized backup to a second external hard drive, the import backup in a folder on the desktop of my laptop, and a Time Machine backup on an external hard drive.

In theory I would also use a cloud-based backup in order to have a backup of my photos stored in a different location, with a service such as Backblaze (https://timgrey.me/backblaze). However, more often than not when traveling I am don’t have access to a high-speed Internet connection, making such a backup difficult or impossible.

Of course, I also don’t really need quite as many copies of my photos as I create with the workflow outlined above. Therefore, once I have created the various backups as part of that workflow, I will reformat the media card so it can be used to capture new photos. I will also generally delete the backup on my laptop created during the import process, since I will still have three copies of my photos on three separate storage devices even after deleting those additional backups.

As noted in today’s question, I have been in the Palouse region of eastern Washington State for a few weeks, and still have more photos to share from this trip. You can view the photos I’ve already shared (and check back for additional photos I’ll share soon) on my Instagram feed here:

https://www.instagram.com/timgreyphoto/

GPU and CPU Performance

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Today’s Question: I understand the importance of RAM [memory] and hard drives, but what I don’t understand is the graphics card and CPU that I should get. I don’t edit videos so it’s mainly for Lightroom Classic and Photoshop photo editing.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Today’s software increasingly makes use of the graphics processing unit (GPU), and of course CPU (central processing unit) performance is also important. I recommend 2GB to 4GB of video memory (VRAM), and a multi-core processor at the higher end of the available clock speed (indicated as a gigahertz value).

More Detail: It is often assumed that a high-performance video card is only necessary if you are playing sophisticated games or editing video on your computer. However, many applications (including Photoshop and Lightroom) make use of the GPU (graphics processing unit) to enhance performance for a variety of features. That, in turn, means that video memory (VRAM) is nearly as important as system memory (RAM).

In general I recommend opting for a video card that has 2GB to 4GB of dedicated video RAM. In addition, you should choose a card that includes support for DirectX 12 or OpenGL 3.3. Also be sure that you have enabled the option to make use of the graphics processor. For example, on the Performance tab of the Preferences dialog in Lightroom Classic you can turn on the “Use Graphics Processor” checkbox in the Camera Raw section.

When it comes to the CPU, most computers will include a processor that has multiple cores, which can improve performance significantly since more than one task can be processed at the same time with individual processor cores. For most users a processor with four or more cores will provide excellent performance. I generally recommend opting for a processor at the higher end of the performance spectrum, meaning with a high speed rating, measured in gigahertz (GHz).

You can certainly select the highest speed processor available, which would be around 3.2 GHz for desktop computers and around 2.6 GHz for laptop computers, with considerable variation with different manufacturers. If you want to reduce the cost of your computer without significantly degrading performance, you can opt for a slightly slower speed rating, such as around a 3.0 GHz processor for a desktop computer or around a 2.3 GHz processor for a laptop.

I consider the amount of RAM to be a key factor in overall system performance, along with a fast CPU. But the graphics processor and amount of video RAM is also important, along with overall hard drive performance. The key is to balance the available options in terms of performance with your comfort level in terms of budget.

Locked Out of Lightroom

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Today’s Question: Last week I was on cruise without internet access. I launched Lightroom Classic on my laptop, which I rarely use. I got a message that I had to login and identify myself. I could not login because I didn’t have internet access. How can I avoid this problem in the future?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The subscription-based Adobe applications require that you be signed in and online at least every thirty days, in order to validate that your subscription is current. If you will be traveling without Internet access, you will want to launch Lightroom Classic and ensure you are online and signed in before the trip, so you’ll be able to continue using Lightroom during the trip.

More Detail: When Adobe’s software applications were all available with a perpetual license, there was no need to be online to use those applications. Now that most Adobe applications are only available via a paid subscription, it is necessary to go online at least once every thirty days so Adobe can validate that your subscription is still active. If you aren’t online for more than thirty days, you will lose access to the full feature set of the applications.

Under normal circumstances for most photographers, this isn’t an issue at all, as you are likely to be online on your computer and use one of the Adobe Creative Cloud applications at least once a month (and possibly just about every day). However, if you will be offline for an extended period of time, this can become a problem. For example, if you have Lightroom Classic on a laptop that you only use when traveling, it is very possible that when you depart on the trip it will have been more than thirty days since that computer was online.

You can avoid losing access to the Adobe applications by making sure you are online at least every thirty days. In the context of traveling without Internet access (or with very limited access) it is a good idea to get online and launch one of the Adobe applications to make sure everything is working properly before your trip. This will also reset the clock, so you can be offline for up to thirty days without losing access to the Adobe applications.

Furthermore, if you’re traveling with very limited Internet access, it can be a good idea to get online whenever possible, and launch Lightroom Classic, to make sure you don’t run into a situation where it has been more than thirty days since you’ve validated your Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.

Backup Cleanup with GoodSync

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Today’s Question: I just finished your excellent online course regarding GoodSync. The question I have is as follows: let’s say that you are not starting out with a “pristine” destination [backup] drive. In other words, the destination drive includes files that are not on the source drive, but that you don’t need. Using a source to right destination backup process as in your video lessons, what will happen to those files in the destination folder? I believe you indicated that using GoodSync, the destination folder will be an exact replica of the source folder. Does that also indicate that extra files be deleted?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) will delete files on the destination (backup) drive, so that that destination drive will be an exact match of the source drive. Note, however, that you can establish settings that will preserve those files for a period of time before they are discarded, to help ensure you don’t accidentally remove files from the backup drive.

More Detail: As I’ve stated previously in the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, I prefer to use a one-say synchronization approach to backing up my photos and other important data. This provides a number of benefits, including a streamlined workflow for recovering from a hard drive failure, since my backup drive will be an exact match of my source drive after each updated backup with GoodSync.

Part of the process of ensuring that the backup drive is an exact match of the source drive is to remove files from the backup drive if those files are not present on the source drive. GoodSync (and other similar backup tools) will remove files from the destination (backup) drive if they are not present on the source drive, just as the software will copy files from the source drive if they are not currently present on the destination drive.

Of course, you may also want to have something of a built-in “undo” feature to avoid problems. For example, if you accidentally delete a file from the source drive and then perform an updated backup with GoodSync, the file would be removed from the destination drive and you wouldn’t be able to recover that file.

However, there is also an option in GoodSync to preserve such files for a set period of time. That way if you were to accidentally delete a file on the source drive, it would be preserved temporarily on the destination drive. If you realize you have made such a mistake, you could potentially recover the file on the backup drive, as long as you realize your mistake before the established amount of time has passed. You can configure that time in the settings for the backup job you define within GoodSync.

To learn more about using GoodSync to backup your photos and other important data, check out the “Backing Up with GoodSync” course here:

https://www.greylearning.com/courses/goodsync

Sharpening Preview

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Today’s Question: I know that everybody states that output sharpening should be evaluated at 100% zoom. In the “old days” I understood that Photoshop for various technical reasons could not accurately render odd zoom percentages. Since then with OpenGL and new video cards, and inputting one’s actual screen resolution to Photoshop, has this changed? It would be very useful to be able to use the Print Size zoom setting to at least get some idea of finished printed product even though it may not be 100% accurate because it’s easier to get the total feel of the image than scrolling around at 100% zoom.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Photoshop does provide more accurate image previews at “odd” image sizes than it did in early versions, but I still recommend previewing the sharpening effect at a 100% zoom setting to get the most accurate preview of the actual sharpening effect. That said, the best way to evaluate the sharpening for an image is to review the final output, such as a print.

More Detail: Modern high-resolution displays, along with updates to Photoshop, have provided more accurate image previews at any zoom setting. However, I still recommend evaluating the actual sharpening effect at a 100% zoom setting (or the Actual Pixels setting in Photoshop).

Even at a 100% zoom setting, however, there is still some “translation” involved when it comes to evaluating the sharpening effect for a photo. It takes a bit of experience to be able to anticipate what an image should look like on the screen in order to produce a great print.

So, first off, I recommend using a 100% zoom setting when you are actually adjusting the settings for the sharpening filter you are applying (such as Smart Sharpen). Of course, you can then use the Print Size zoom setting to get a sense of the actual print size, and a reasonably accurate sense of the sharpening effect. Just be sure to enter the actual pixel per inch (ppi) resolution of the display. You can calculate this value by dividing the number of pixels across the display (based on the resolution setting) by the number of inches wide the actual display is.

The Print Size zoom setting is still a reasonable way to evaluate the sharpening effect, but I do consider the 100% zoom setting to be better. But again, you really need to make a print to determine whether the sharpening settings were optimal for the image.

Sharpening for print is especially challenging because you are evaluating the sharpening effect on a monitor display, but the final result involves ink on paper. This is further complicated by the fact that different papers will react differently to ink, such as a greater absorbency with non-coated matte papers.

Ultimately, the image preview is helpful for evaluating the sharpening effect, but direct experience printing your photos will help you get a better sense of what an image should look like on the screen to ensure an optimal print. For example, with matte papers you often need to sharpen to the point that the image looks over-sharpened, in order to get a print that looks optimal.

Is Camera Preview a JPEG?

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Today’s Question: I’ve heard photographers say that you can’t really read too much into the preview on your camera’s LCD display because it is a JPEG image even if you are shooting raw. Is that true, and if so how does it impact the preview you’re seeing?

Tim’s Quick Answer: It is true that the image preview on the LCD display of your camera is essentially a JPEG preview of the raw capture. But I feel it is misleading to call it a JPEG image, and inaccurate to suggest you can’t “trust” this JPEG preview.

More Detail: The reality is, you’re never truly viewing a raw capture. After all, a raw capture is simply a collection of values representing electrical impulses measured by the image sensor based on the amount of light striking each photodiode on the sensor during an exposure. That information must be translated to actual pixel values, such as the RGB (red, green, and blue) pixel values used to define colors and tonal values in a digital photo.

In order to view a raw capture, the raw data needs to be interpreted. That could mean actually processing the raw data to render a new image, such as when you use Camera Raw to render a raw capture to an image in Photoshop.

With other software, such as Lightroom, you are viewing either a JPEG preview (such as in the Library module) or a real-time rendering of the raw data (in the Develop module). In this situation you are still viewing an interpretation of the raw data, not the actual raw data. All software that is able to process or preview a raw capture is interpreting the data, resulting in a slightly (or significantly) different result.

Similarly, the image you see on the camera’s LCD display is essentially based on in-camera raw processing. Think of it as having a little version of Adobe Camera Raw built into your camera. The raw capture data is processed in the camera to render what is essentially a JPEG image. But much like a raw capture processed with Camera Raw in Photoshop, this in-camera preview is based on the raw capture.

In other words, the preview you see on the camera’s LCD display isn’t inherently inaccurate. It is a rendered preview of the capture data. In-camera settings (such as contrast and saturation) will affect that preview. In some ways this enables you to have a preview on your camera’s LCD display that might be closer to your final intent for the image than what you would initially see in Adobe Lightroom or Bridge, for example.

So, the preview on the camera’s LCD display is just that: a preview. That preview can generally be counted upon to give you a good sense of what will be possible with the final image. To me what is more important is the histogram, so you have a sense of whether you’re losing highlight or shadow detail to the point that you won’t be able to recover that detail in post-processing.

The preview may not be completely accurate relative to the initial image you’ll see in your workflow on the computer, or relative to the final result you’ll achieve when interpreting the image with various adjustments. But I certainly wouldn’t say that you can’t “trust” the in-camera preview for your captures.

Impact of Multiple Adjustments

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Today’s Question: Further to the question about adjustments reducing image quality, is image quality reduced if I make many small adjustments on adjustment layers [in Adobe Photoshop] that cumulatively result in the effect I am after? Is it better to make fewer but stronger adjustments? I often just make a second Curves adjustment layer to refine the effect of my first Curves adjustment layer. Somehow that just works out better for me. Is this a problem?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is a minor benefit to using only one adjustment layer rather than two assuming the same final overall appearance for the photo. However, having more than one adjustment layer of the same time isn’t problematic enough that I would tell you to avoid doing so if you find that workflow easier.

More Detail: Today’s question was a follow-up to a previous question about the impact of applying adjustments via adjustment layers in Photoshop compared to direct adjustments. In my answer I mentioned that one of the benefits of using an adjustment layer is that each layer only really counts as a single adjustment, even if you have revised the settings for the adjustment layer multiple times.

In other words, applying multiple direct adjustments to an image can have a negative impact on image quality based on cumulative adjustments. An adjustment layer, by contrast, only counts as a single adjustment based on the final settings for the adjustment layer.

If you add more than one adjustment layer of the same type, of course, you are applying more than one adjustment. That could potentially result in a slight loss of image quality. The most common issue is posterization, which appears as the loss of smooth gradations of tone and color in an image. Multiple adjustments of the same type would increase the risk of these types of issues.

That said, image quality degradation is generally only a real concern when the adjustments are very strong. If you are simply fine-tuning an existing adjustment with an additional adjustment, the impact will generally be very minimal.

In general I recommend using a single adjustment layer for each type of adjustment you want to apply. This not only helps ensure optimal image quality, but can also help streamline your overall adjustment workflow. That said, if you find it easier or more comfortable to add a new adjustment layer rather than revising an existing adjustment layer, as long as those refinements are relatively minor I wouldn’t be worried about the impact on image quality.

ISO for Night Sky Photography

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Today’s Question: I’ve read some discussions on the night sky photography sites, in talk of noise, about the thought that you can potentially get lower noise by shooting the night sky at a lower ISO, maybe 1250 or 1600, and then adjusting exposure in post processing, as opposed to just shooting the image at a high ISO, say 6400. What are your thoughts?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In general I recommend increasing the ISO as needed, but not under-exposing the image. The optimal settings in terms of noise will vary from one camera to another, but in general you will get better results raising the ISO setting than under-exposing and brightening in post-processing.

More Detail: There are some special exposure requirements when it comes to night sky photography, such as ensuring your exposure time isn’t too long in order to avoid the appearance of star trails in a photo. But regardless, noise becomes a very real concern.

In general you want to use the lowest ISO setting possible, but not at the expense of a good exposure. I would typically start with the lens aperture wide open (or nearly so), determine the longest shutter speed possible to avoid star trails, and then adjust the ISO setting as needed to achieve a good exposure that is as bright as possible without blowing out highlight detail.

I also recommend enabling in-camera long exposure noise reduction, as I have generally found this to be extremely helpful with night sky photos. When possible, try to allow some time in between exposures, to avoid letting the camera get too hot. When the camera gets hot, noise levels can be significantly increased.

Generally speaking you will find that raising the ISO setting in the camera will result in less noise than using a lower ISO to create an under-exposed photo that must be brightened in post-processing. But again, different cameras will behave differently, so it is a good idea to test your specific camera at a wide variety of settings so you can get a better sense of the noise performance of the camera you’ll be using for night sky photography.

Securely Erasing Photos

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Today’s Question: How do you format a flash drive so that all the hidden images are erased and the capacity of the original drive is restored? I’m on a Macintosh platform. Thank you.

Tim’s Quick Answer: When you want to make sure photos are removed from a storage device in a way that ensures they can’t be recovered by anyone else, you’ll want to use an option to format the drive in a secure way.

More Detail: First off, it is worth noting that by default when you delete photos (or other files) from a storage device on either Macintosh or Windows, those files are not actually deleted. Instead, they go to the “Recycle Bin” on Windows or the “Trash” on Macintosh. You need to empty the Recycle Bin or Trash to ensure the files are actually deleted.

Even then, the files aren’t truly deleted from the storage device, though the space the files were taking up is made available again. In other words, if you delete photos from a storage device but never over-write that storage device with new data, special software could be used to recover the data that you thought had been deleted.

There are, however, options for securely formatting a storage device so it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to ever recover any data from the device.

On the Macintosh platform you can use the Disk Utility application for this purpose. The Disk Utility application is found in the Utilities folder within the Applications folder. When you select the drive you want to securely erase, you can choose the Erase option at the top of the application window. After configuring the overall settings for erasing the drive, click the Security Options button, which will bring up a dialog where you can choose a setting between “Fastest” and “Most Secure”. The “Most Secure” setting will take more time, but will help ensure no data can be recovered from the drive.

On Windows you would need to use a third-party tool to securely erase a hard drive in this manner, but there are a variety of such tools available.