Interruption when Saving Metadata

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Today’s Question: After turning on the option to automatically write metadata to XMP [in Adobe Lightroom Classic], what happens if I exit Lightroom or it crashes while the process is working?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you interrupt the process of saving metadata out to your actual image files in Lightroom Classic, the process will resume the next time you launch Lightroom.

More Detail: You can have Lightroom automatically save standard metadata values to the source image files on your hard drive (or XMP “sidecar” files for proprietary raw captures. This can be done by turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog.

If you have a large number of photos in your Lightroom catalog and had this option turned off, after turning the option on it may take some time for all of the updates to be written to the files on your hard drive. If that process is interrupted, such as by quitting Lightroom, the process will simply resume the next time you launch Lightroom.

In other words, you don’t need to worry about having had this option turned off previously, or about it being necessary to keep Lightroom running until the process is complete. That’s especially helpful since Lightroom won’t actually tell you when the process is completed after you turn on the setting in the Catalog Settings dialog.

So, you can rest assured that Lightroom will continue updating the metadata for files on your hard drive for all photos in your catalog, even if that process is interrupted along the way.

Adjustments versus Layers

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Today’s Question: In Photoshop is it better to use the adjustments or the adjustment layer function on an image.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I recommend using adjustment layers instead of direct adjustments in Photoshop, saving the resulting “master image” as a Photoshop PSD or TIFF image file to preserve those layers for future refinement.

More Detail: I recommend using adjustment layers whenever possible for the adjustments you apply within Photoshop. There are a couple of key reasons for this, which mostly involve ensuring you are maintaining maximum quality for the image as well as flexibility in your workflow.

When you apply an adjustment directly to an image in Photoshop, you are altering the actual pixel values in the source image file. When you use an adjustment layer, you are preserving the original pixel values in the source image file, and simply adding information to the file about the changes in appearance you want to have applied. The appearance of the image will change in Photoshop, but the source pixels remain as they were. Printing or otherwise sharing the photo will result in an appearance based on your adjustments.

By working with adjustment layers, the greatest benefit is that you can always return to your master image file as long as you’ve preserved the adjustment layers as part of the file you save. You can then return to that file at any time and make changes to any of the adjustment layers without negatively impacting image quality. This gives you great flexibility in your workflow, since you can always return to the master image and refine your adjustments.

In addition, using adjustment layers can help prevent a cumulative loss of image quality for the photo. For example, let’s assume you had increased the contrast significantly with a direct adjustment to an image. You later decide you that you want to reduce contrast. Applying an additional adjustment in this context will not result in a photo that has as much detail as when you started, because some of the detail was lost when you increased contrast.

In addition, there can be a degradation in image quality by applying multiple adjustments to an image. Because an adjustment layer doesn’t directly alter the underlying pixels, that adjustment layer only counts as a single adjustment, even if you refine the settings for the layer multiple times.

As a result of these issues, I strongly recommend using an adjustment layer for any adjustment that is available as an adjustment layer in Photoshop. You can then save the image as a Photoshop PSD file or a TIFF image with layers intact, so you can return to the image later and refine any of the adjustment layer settings if you’d like.

Compression versus Cropping

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Today’s Question: I believe it is misleading to imply that only changes in actual distance (location of the camera relative to the items being shot) affects compression. The visual perception of compression can be achieved by either changing actual distance between objects (as you correctly stated) or by simulating that effect by using a longer focal lens, and to a lesser degree in post-processing. In my experience, cropping an image using software after an image has been captured in the camera can provide a more compressed view, though it does not give the exact same visual impact of capturing an image with a much longer focal length.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The phenomenon we refer to as “lens compression” is absolutely caused by changing your distance to the scene you are photographing, not by lens focal length or cropping in post-production.

More Detail: Moving your physical position relative to the scene you are photographing is what changes the perspective effect we refer to as “compression”. The focal length is simply adjusting the cropping of the scene. Part of the reason I think it is so critical to understand this is that it places an emphasis on the fact that photographers can change their position to alter the perspective they are capturing in their photographs.

Using a longer focal length lens while photographing from the same position will simply crop the scene. It will not create the effect of compression. To compress the scene you must move farther away from that scene. That distance creates the compression effect. Using a longer lens to retain the same framing of the scene is simply cropping the scene, not creating a compression effect.

You can see visual examples that prove this issue (hopefully once and for all) in a post on the GreyLearning blog here:

https://greylearningblog.com/my-final-answer-on-lens-compression/

Retroactive XMP

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Today’s Question: If I haven’t had the auto write XMP option turned on [in Adobe Lightroom Classic], will turning it on only affect photos after I turn it on?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, when you enable the option to automatically write metadata to your photos, Lightroom Classic will update all existing photos as well. It may take a little bit of time for the task to complete, but it will be done automatically in the background.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic includes an option to automatically write supported metadata values to the actual image files, so that most of your metadata will be stored with the actual images that data relates to. The information will be stored in an XMP “sidecar” file for proprietary raw captures, and within the actual file for other image formats.

You can find the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog. To bring up the Catalog Settings dialog, choose “Catalog Settings” from the Edit menu on Windows, or from the Lightroom Classic menu in Lightroom.

The checkbox is turned off by default, so that metadata updates are only stored within the Lightroom catalog. That means other applications won’t be able to see the updated metadata for your photos, and that you don’t have the benefit of an automatic backup of some of the most important data about your photos.

When you enable this option, Lightroom will go back and update the files for all existing images, so that once you’ve allowed enough time for the processing to complete (which generally will only take a few minutes), all existing images will have had their metadata updated on the hard drive, in addition to still being included in the Lightroom catalog.

It is important to note that Lightroom-specific features will not be saved to metadata, because they are not part of an established metadata standard. The means the metadata updates will not include Pick and Reject flags, membership in collections, virtual copies, the history for your photos, and other features that are specific to Lightroom and therefore only stored within the Lightroom catalog.

Move to New Hard Drive

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Today’s Question: You suggested it was possible to move photos from one hard drive to another within Lightroom [Classic] to free up space on a drive that is getting full. But the new larger external hard drive I bought doesn’t show up in Lightroom. How can I move photos to this new hard drive?

Tim’s Quick Answer: To make a new hard drive visible in Lightroom Classic you’ll first need to create a new folder on that drive within Lightroom. This can be done by clicking the plus (+) icon to the right of the Folders heading on the left panel in the Library module. Choose the “Add Folder” option, and create a new folder on the new hard drive. That folder will then appear on the Folders list on the left panel, along with the other hard drives that already contain photos being managed by Lightroom. You can then drag-and-drop to move folders (and photos) to the new hard drive.

More Detail: Because Lightroom uses a catalog to manage your photos, rather than serving as a simple image browser, it is necessary to actually import photos into Lightroom in order to work with them. By extension, that also means you will only see hard drives on the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module if that drive contains photos that are already being managed in your Lightroom catalog.

Fortunately, it is easy to make a new hard drive available within Lightroom, such as for moving photos from one drive to another. All you need to do is add a new folder on the new hard drive. So, you can click on the plus symbol (+) to the right of the Folders heading on the left panel in the Library module, and choose “Add Folder” from the popup menu. Navigate to the new hard drive, and click the “New Folder” button to create a new folder. Give that folder a name (such as “Photos”), and click the Choose button to select this folder as the one you want to add in Lightroom.

At that point the new folder will appear under a heading with the volume label or drive letter for the new drive. You can then drag-and-drop folders from a different hard drive to the new folder on the new drive. When prompted by Lightroom after dragging a folder, click the Move button to confirm you want to actually move the folder (and photos) from one hard drive to another. The folder (and photos within) will then be moved to the new location, both in terms of the reference in your Lightroom catalog and the actual file storage on your hard drives.

Clearing Storage Space

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Today’s Question: My computer is nearly full, mostly of photos. Is there an “easy” way in Lightroom [Classic] to blanket eliminate shots without using even more space in the process, when I have not marked the photos as special in some way?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you can filter the photos you want to delete, such as selecting all photos that don’t have a star rating at all, you can certainly delete the files in a batch process. Another option would be to assign a “Reject” flag to the photos you’d like to remove, and the use a quick command to delete all rejected photos.

More Detail: Lightroom provides a wide variety of options for filtering your photos, so if you want to delete a number of outtakes even though they weren’t marked as such, you still may be able to effectively filter the photos. For example, on the Library Filter Bar (View > Show Filter Bar from the menu) you can set a filter based on a variety of metadata criteria. For example, I mark photos with a red color label upon import, and remove that label once I’ve reviewed the photos. Therefore, if I set a filter for no red color label (meaning the photo has been reviewed already) and a star rating of zero stars (meaning I didn’t mark it as a “keeper”), then the photos are outtakes and could potentially be deleted.

After applying such a filter you could select all of the images by choosing Edit > Select All from the menu. You can then delete the selected photos by choosing Photo > Remove Photos from the menu. In the confirmation dialog that appears, just be sure to choose the “Remove from Disk” option so that the files will actually be removed from your hard drive, as well as being removed from your Lightroom catalog. Obviously you’ll want to be very careful with this approach overall, making sure you have filtered the images appropriately, and that you actually want to delete all of the photos based on the filter you applied.

Another option would be to review your photos and specifically add metadata to identify those that can be deleted. One option is to assign a Reject flag to such images, which you can do by pressing the letter “X” on the keyboard. You can even select multiple photos in the Grid view (but not in the Loupe view!) and then press “X” to add a Reject flag to all of the selected photos.

After marking photos with the Reject flag, you could choose the All Photographs collection from the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module. Then go to the menu and choose Photo > Delete Rejected Photos. Once again you will want to use the “Delete from Disk” option to actually remove the photos from your hard drive rather than only removing them from your Lightroom catalog.

Keep in mind, of course, that it is also possible to move photos to a larger hard drive, such as an external drive you might use only for storing photos, with significant storage capacity. Just be sure that if you’re going to move photos (or folders) that are being managed by Lightroom that you actually do the work of moving the images within Lightroom.

Clarifying Lens Compression

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Today’s Question: Can you amplify regarding telephoto “compression” in an image such as a row of telephone poles that look like they’re only inches apart but are in fact many yards apart when shot with a long lens? I have always heard this referred to as “telephoto compression”.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The compression effect we experience when using a telephoto lens is really caused by being further from the scene we are photographing when using a lens with a long telephoto lens. The longer focal length lens is effectively cropping the scene, but the perspective change is caused by a change in position, not the lens itself.

More Detail: I should hasten to point out that the discussion of “telephoto compression” is really an issue of semantics. When you change two variables, it is perhaps inevitable that some people will say the first change caused a result, and others will say it is the second change.

Those who suggest it is the longer lens causing compression of the scene point out that to retain the same framing of the scene when you move farther away from a scene you must use a lens with a longer focal length. That is true, but that relates to the field of view, or the “cropping” of the scene.

The actual change in perspective that we refer to as “compression” of the scene is a result in changing your position relative to the scene.

Let’s assume I am recording a video of a person standing on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, with the New York skyline in the background. I can move the camera closer to or farther away from the person, and their size within the frame will change rather significantly. The size of the New York skyline, however, won’t appear to change at all, because the relative change in distance is so much less.

It is that movement closer to or farther away from the scene that causes the change in perspective, based on changes in the relative distance to different objects within the scene. The long lens is simply cropping the scene to a particular field of view.

Put another way, if you move closer toward or farther away from a scene, the perspective will change. If you stay in one position and use lenses of different focal lengths, the perspective won’t change (ignoring distortion caused by extremely wide-angle lenses, of course), only the cropping of the scene will change.

You can see a visual demonstration of the change in perspective as you change distance relative to a scene in my “Lens Compression Myth” video, which you can find on the Tim Grey TV channel on YouTube here:

https://youtu.be/wFqukptuwmg

Right Software for Raw Processing

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Today’s Question: I recently was told that RAW conversion should be done through the manufacturer’s software rather than from a third party like Adobe. The reason being that Adobe has to reverse engineer the RAW conversion and data is lost while the manufacturer’s software is optimized for their RAW format. How big an advantage is this?

Tim’s Quick Answer: With the advances of the latest software for processing raw captures, I would say there is no advantage in terms of image quality when it comes to software from the camera manufacturer versus third party software developers such as Adobe. In my mind the only reason to use the software from the manufacturer of your camera to process raw captures is to take advantage of special camera features that third-party software applications don’t support.

More Detail: In theory there are some advantages to using the software from the manufacturer of your camera to process your raw captures. In reality, the benefits are mostly quite minimal.

The most important aspect of raw-processing is creating an image with optimal quality, with relatively accurate tone and color, and a pleasing look. The top software tools available today all provide very good image quality, and the baseline interpretation of tone and color are generally good. And if the tone and color aren’t optimal, you have a variety of adjustment tools available to optimize the appearance of the image.

Therefore, in my mind the only real reason that would clearly favor the software from the manufacturer of your camera is to take advantage of special camera features you aren’t able to access with third-party raw-processing software. For example, some cameras include a dust removal feature, where dust and other blemishes are detected on the sensor, and that information can be used in post-processing to automatically remove the blemishes from the image.

It is true that a raw capture will contain proprietary information that only the camera manufacturer can interpret. However, in general the lack of access to that information won’t create significant problems. For example, in-camera settings that alter the appearance of a photo won’t affect a raw capture, but much of that information may be available in the special metadata that can only be interpreted by the software from your camera’s manufacturer. Because of this issue, the initial interpretation of the raw capture may have higher fidelity with the manufacturer’s software. But you could still achieve an equally good result with adjustments using other software.

Ultimately, I feel you should make a decision about raw-processing software based on both image quality and workflow efficiency. In my experience the best results don’t require the software from the manufacturer of your camera, and in fact you can achieve excellent results with Adobe’s raw processing tools (such as Lightroom and Camera Raw).

Crop and Resize

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Today’s Question: I have an image that’s 19.2 x 12.8 inches at 300 ppi [pixels per inch] and I would like to crop it to be 12.25 inches square at 300 ppi. However, when I attempt to do this using the Crop tool in Photoshop it seems that the image is only cropped in the long direction and simply resized in the short direction. When I do this using the crop tool in Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software it works perfectly. Is there something I can do to get the Crop tool in Photoshop to behave like the crop tool in DPP?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can crop and resize as one step in Photoshop by setting values for Width, Height, and Resolution on the Options bar for the Crop tool. Then set the crop box on the image to the intended area of the image, which could in this case include setting the crop box to match the full short side of the image if you only want to crop the long side in order to achieve a square crop.

More Detail: There are two basic options when it comes to how you crop an image in Photoshop. The first option is to simply crop, which involves trimming away portions of the image outside a crop box you can adjust. The second option is to resize the image to specific output dimensions.

If you are working on your master image, you generally would not want to resize as part of the cropping process. However, you might still want to crop to a specific aspect ratio, such as cropping to create a square image. To crop at a specific aspect ratio without resizing the image, you can enter values for Width and Height on the Options bar for the Crop tool, without setting a resolution.

First, make sure the popup toward the left end of the Options bar (just to the right of the Crop tool presets popup) is set to “Ratio”. You can then enter values for Width and Height (the next two fields to the right of the popup). For example, to crop to a square image you can enter “1” for both Width and Height, leaving the Resolution field blank. Note that the first text box after the popup is the Width value, and the second text box is the Height value. You can then set the crop box as desired based on how you want to trim the image, including the option to have that crop box include the full short side of the image.

If you want to resize as part of the cropping process, you will still want to enter values for the Width and Height fields (such as in inches or centimeters), but then also set a value for Resolution. This would be a common workflow if you were working with a copy of the master image (not the master image itself) and you are preparing that copy to be printed at a specific output size.

First, instead of using the Ratio option for the popup toward the left end of the Options bar, select “”W x H x Resolution” from the popup. You can then enter values for the dimensions you want to crop and resize the image to.

So, with the example in today’s question you would set both the Width and Height to “12.25 in” to set a square crop (since the two values are the same). However, the image will only actually be resized to 12.25 inches on each side if you also set a value for Resolution. In this case the intended output resolution is 300 pixels per inch (ppi), so you could enter “300” in the Resolution field.

You can then adjust the actual crop box on the image to trim away any portion of the image you want to exclude. You could of course also have the crop box go all the way to the edges on the short side of the image if you only want to crop the long edge. When you apply the crop, the image will be trimmed based on the positioning of the crop box, and also resized to the exact dimensions you specified on the Options bar.

Cleaner Panels in Lightroom

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Today’s Question: In one of your recent Lightroom [Classic] presentations I noticed that when you were using one of the sections of the right panel in the Develop module, only one section was open at a time. When you opened another section, the section you were previously using would close. How can I get Lightroom to behave this way for me? Right now all of the panel sections are open all the time, and the only way I’ve figured out to have only one section open is to manually close all of the others.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The option you’re referring to is called “Solo Mode”, which can be enabled by right-clicking on one of the headings on the applicable panel and choosing “Solo Mode” from the popup menu. Note that this feature can be enabled or disabled individually for the left and right panels in each module of Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: The individual sections of all panels within Lightroom can be expanded and collapsed as needed. So you could collapse all panels to reduce clutter, and only expand those you are actively working with. To collapse or expand a given section of a panel, simply click on the heading (title) for the panel. For example, clicking the “Keyword List” heading on the right panel in the Library module will expand or collapse that section.

With multiple panel sections expanded at a given time, you may need to scroll down a bit to get to the particular control you are looking for. This can also cause a bit of visual clutter, making it a little more difficult to find the specific option you’re looking for. Using Solo Mode can help in this regard.

When Solo Mode is enabled for a panel, only one section of that panel will be expanded at a time. When you click on the heading for a panel that is collapsed, it will expand, and the panel that had been expanded will be collapsed. So each time you click on the heading for a panel you want to work in, that panel will be the only one that is expanded.

To enable Solo Mode for a given panel, simply right-click on one of the headings on the panel for which you want to enable Solo Mode. Then choose “Solo Mode” from the popup menu that appears.

Note that the Solo Mode setting is independent for each panel (left and right) in each module (Library, Develop, Map, etc.). So, for example, you could enable Solo Mode for the right panel in the Develop module, but leave Solo Mode turned off for the left panel. This would enable you to have multiple sections open at the same time on the left panel, while only one panel would be expanded at a time on the right panel.