Curve in Lab for Saturation


Today’s Question: It was suggested to me that instead of using the saturation sliders in Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, or Photoshop, that I should convert my photo in Photoshop to the “Lab” mode and then apply a curves adjustment layer to the ‘a’ and ‘b’ channels. When I do this it seems to me that I’m really getting more of a contrast adjustment like I would in the ‘RGB’ mode with a curve. It probably is a little more saturated but the contrast is also there. What are your thoughts?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My recommendation would be to make use of the Vibrance and Saturation adjustments, rather than converting an image to Lab color mode (and then likely back to RGB).

More Detail: There are many adjustments that can be applied to great effect in the Lab color mode in Photoshop, in some cases providing an advantage over the RGB color space. However, quite often I find that the advantages are minimal, and not without risk.

For example, in this case I suspect you are applying an unbalanced adjustment for the two channels, resulting in more of a contrast (or color contrast) adjustment rather than a saturation boost.

Even if you applied a perfect adjustment in Lab using Curves in order to boost saturation, as far as I’m concerned this would provide no real advantage over simply using the Saturation or (even better) the Vibrance adjustment. Both of these adjustments are quite sophisticated, and have been updated over the years, so that there isn’t a real advantage in this case to switching to Lab mode.

In short, I’d suggest keeping your workflow relatively simple, and not be tempted to “tricks” that aim to provide marginal gains that you may not even be able to perceive. Worse, switching to a color mode you aren’t particularly familiar with could cause challenges in terms of maintaining quality and fidelity in your images.

It is worth noting, by the way, that switching to the Lab color mode and then back to the RGB color mode could itself lead to minor alterations in pixel values that could be somewhat problematic, and that would negate any gains you might have obtained by using the Lab color mode in the first place. So, I suggest sticking with the RGB color space and the very good Saturation adjustment and the (even better!) Vibrance adjustment.

Offline with Lightroom CC


Today’s Question: Thank you for your video about the “new” Lightroom CC []. One thing I’m concerned about is the synchronization feature. When I’m traveling with limited access to the Internet, would I still be able to use this new version of Lightroom? The synchronization feature sounds great, but what if I’m not always online, or if I have a really slow connection?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, you don’t need to be connected to the Internet to make use of the new Lightroom CC. You can add photos locally, and they will synchronize to the cloud whenever you are connected to the Internet. A slow connection simply slows that synchronization, but doesn’t prevent you from working.

More Detail: The new Lightroom CC announced by Adobe yesterday revolves around cloud-based synchronization, so you can access all of your photos from virtually anywhere on just about any device. The software previously known as Lightroom CC is now referred to as “Lightroom Classic”.

While Lightroom CC uses an Internet connection to synchronize your photos to the cloud so they are available from just about any Internet-connected computer or device, you don’t need to be online to make use of Lightroom CC.

You can add photos to Lightroom CC locally on your computer without being connected to the Internet, with no limits on what you’re able to do with those photos. When you have an Internet connection available, Lightroom CC will synchronize your photos (and the settings for the photos) to the cloud. A slow Internet connection would obviously slow that process down, but it won’t prevent you from working locally.

As noted in the episode of Tim Grey TV referenced in today’s question (, the new Lightroom CC is certainly a new product that doesn’t necessarily include all of the features a photographer would require in their workflow. But it does include an impressive set of technologies that are worth exploring. In other words, just because Lightroom CC might not have everything you need today for your workflow, it may very well provide an ideal solution for you at some point down the road.

Completely New Lightroom CC


Today’s Question: I just saw an announcement from Adobe that there is a completely new version of Lightroom CC. Should I switch to this new version? Will the Lightroom CC I’ve been using stop working?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The new Lightroom CC is a completely new platform for managing your photos, which revolves around cloud-based synchronization of all of your original captures. The existing Lightroom will now be referred to as Lightroom Classic, and will continue to be updated and supported by Adobe.

More Detail: Understandably, there has been some confusion about Adobe’s latest announcement about a completely new software application (and ecosystem) that is being called “LightroomCC”. The existing Lightroom application will now be referred to as Lightroom Classic.

The new Lightroom CC includes some impressive features, such as cloud-based synchronization of all of your original captures, so that every image can be accessed from anywhere (provided you have an Internet connection), from virtually any device such as a computer, smartphone, or tablet. In addition, image analysis in Lightroom CC enables you to search for photos based on content, without having to add keywords for those details first.

Lightroom Classic will continue to be supported and updated, and in fact I plan to continue using Lightroom Classic as the foundation of my workflow for organizing and optimizing my photos. I see great promise in Lightroom CC (and some of the technology it includes), but it doesn’t yet include all of the features I need in my workflow.

To me, Lightroom CC is a good solution for those who want to be able to access their photos from anywhere, and don’t feel the need to be extremely “hands-on” when it comes to managing their library of photos. With time I’m sure both Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic will evolve, so I’ll certainly be re-evaluating my workflow approach from time to time.

To learn a bit more about the new Lightroom CC, you can check out the latest episode of Tim Grey TV on YouTube here:

Satellite View for the Map


Today’s Question: Is there a way to see the satellite photo view of the map in Lightroom’s map module? I know this feature is available with Google Maps, and that Lightroom makes use of Google Maps. But is the satellite view feature available?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can view the satellite photo version of the map in Lightroom’s Map module by choosing “Satellite” (or “Hybrid”) from the Map Style popup on the toolbar below the map display.

More Detail: The Map module in Lightroom does indeed use Google Maps for the map data. That includes the ability to use several different styles for the map, including satellite view.

The map view options can be found on the Map Style popup at the left side of the toolbar that appears below the map display. If you don’t see that toolbar in the Map module, you can press the “T” key on the keyboard to reveal (or to hide) the toolbar.

The default setting for the Map Style popup is “Road Map”, which presents a basic road map. Switching to “Satellite” will cause the map to be assembled from satellite photos, so you can see actual terrain features on the map. The “Hybrid” setting projects a basic road map display over the satellite image view.

In addition you’ll find a “Terrain” option, which is similar to the “Road Map” view but with a representation of the topography on the map. The “Light” and “Dark” options provide two black and white versions of the “Road Map” display.

In general I find that the “Road Map” view is most helpful for sorting out what location you’re looking at on the map. I also find the “Satellite” view option helpful for confirming specific location details, since you can see terrain details as well as features such as buildings and roads with this view option.

Cloud Backup


Today’s Question: In follow-up to your comments on external backup, why can’t you consider a source such as Carbonite or some other cloud service? Is this a viable solution?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I absolutely consider cloud-based backup solutions to be an excellent supplement to an overall backup strategy. My key issue with online backup is that it should be used in addition to a local backup, rather than serving as an exclusive backup solution.

More Detail: One of the key elements of an optimal backup workflow is an offsite storage location. In general I prefer to have one backup stored conveniently in the same location as the original data, for faster recovery if anything goes wrong. However, I also prefer to have an additional backup stored in a separate physical location to provide better protection for your data.

An online backup solution obviously provides an excellent solution for having a backup copy of your photos and other data stored at a different physical location. However, a cloud backup solution involves data storage that you don’t control, which is why I prefer to treat cloud backup as a supplemental backup solution.

In other words, provided you are creating a backup copy of all of your photos and other data that you store locally (ideally with a copy stored at a separate physical location), I would absolutely encourage the use of a cloud-based backup solution. Besides providing an offsite backup solution, cloud-based backup also serves as an automatic backup that operates in the background.

A cloud-based backup solution such as Carbonite therefore provides a variety of benefits, and is therefore something that I encourage using as an additional (though not primary) element of your overall backup workflow.

Detail in Sun and Foreground


Today’s Question: Was the photo of the sunset in Rome that you shared on Instagram an HDR? How did you get so much detail in the shadows while still having detail in the sun?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, the Rome sunset photo in question ( was a high dynamic range (HDR) image, consisting of seven exposures separated by one stop each.

More Detail: When you include the sun in the frame, you can count on either losing detail in the foreground shadow areas or losing detail in the sun (or both). By capturing multiple exposures and blending them together into an HDR result, you can retain considerable detail in both the highlights and the shadows and then determine how you want to interpret the scene.

My general approach to capturing the exposures for an HDR image is to determine exposure settings that will retain highlight detail for the brightest areas of the image, and then increase the exposure from there to cover the full range of shadow values.

In the case of including the sun in the frame, I don’t generally go to the extreme of including full detail in the sun. I will typically allow the red channel to get blown out to some extent, for example, so that I’m retaining reasonable detail but not capturing a huge range of images.

You can use automatic exposure bracketing to capture the sequence of images, or use the Manual exposure mode to adjust the shutter speed for each capture. I usually start with a dark exposure that retains highlight detail, and then continue increasing the exposure in two-stop increments until I have an exposure that retains full shadow detail. (And yes, in this specific example I was only bracketing in one-stop increments, only because I didn’t need more range for this specific range and prefer to adjust the increments rather than change the number of exposures).

The images can then be assembled into an HDR image using a variety of different software tools. In the final tone-mapping step of the workflow you can choose how to interpret the final scene. At this point I recommend applying adjustments that preserve detail and yet retain a natural look to the image.

Browsing Multiple Folders


Today’s Question: You have recommended having an individual folder for each photo trip. But what about when you visit the same location more than once, and you want to be able to browse all of the photos from that location from multiple trips? How can you browse all of the images in Lightroom if the photos are in different folders?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can simply browse the contents of multiple folders in Lightroom by selecting more than one folder from the Folders list on the left panel, and applying any filters you’d like to determine which photos within the multiple selected photos you’ll actually be browsing.

More Detail: I’ve found that many Lightroom users don’t realize they can select more than one folder from the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module, in order to browse the photos contained in multiple folders.

You can start by clicking on one of the folders you’d like to browse, within the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module. If the multiple folders you want to browse are all in a row, you can then hold the Shift key on the keyboard while clicking on the name of the last folder among those you want to browse. If you want to select folders that aren’t all in a row, you can hold the Ctrl key on Windows or the Command key on Macintosh while clicking on individual folders to toggle the selection of each folder on or off.

As you select more than one folder, you’ll be browsing the images contained in all of the selected folder. If you then apply a filter (such as for images with a star rating) you will only see the images from all of the selected folder that match the filter criteria you’ve established.

Selection from a Channel


Today’s Question: I know you’ve covered this before, but can you remind me how to create a selection from a color channel in Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can create a selection based on a color channel by first duplicating the applicable channel, increasing contrast for that channel, and then cleaning it up as needed. You can then load a selection based on the duplicate channel you worked on.

More Detail: In many cases creating a selection based on one of the three color channels (red, green, or blue) can provide a quick way to isolate a specific subject in a photo. Even in situations where there isn’t much contrast in tonality, even a small amount of color contrast can enable you to create a good selection quickly, and then refine as needed from there.

To get started, go to the Channels panel (you can choose Window > Channels from the menu if the Channels panel isn’t visible) and decide which channel contains the best contrast for the area you want to select. Then drag the thumbnail for that channel to the “New Channel” button (the blank sheet of paper icon) at the bottom of the Channels panel.

Next, apply a Levels adjustment to maximize contrast to the extent possible for the duplicate channel you created. Start by choosing Image > Adjustments > Levels from the menu. Then in the Levels dialog drag both the black point and white point sliders below the histogram inward in order to maximize contrast to define the subject you want to isolate. For example, if you were trying to isolate the sky you would want to drag the sliders inward until the sky is white and the rest of the image is black for your duplicate channel.

You can also perform some cleanup work at this point, such as by using the Brush tool to paint with black or white in order to clean blemishes within the areas you have defined through contrast on the duplicate channel.

When you’re ready to load a selection based on the duplicate channel you’ve refined, you can simply click the “Load Selection” button (the dashed circle icon) at the bottom of the Channels panel. Then click the RGB thumbnail to return to your full color image, and you can employ the selection as the basis of a layer mask for a targeted adjustment or composite image.

Layering Workflow


Today’s Question: As a follow-up question, what if the intent is not to make an HDR [high dynamic range] image, but rather to “hand blend” different exposures with layers and masks in Photoshop? What would your advice be about capture sharpening in Lightroom prior to opening as layers in Photoshop to blend multiple exposures?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When you send raw captures from Lightroom to Photoshop I recommend that you apply capture sharpening first within Lightroom, since the individual raw captures will be rendered to pixel values as part of this process.

More Detail: When assembling an HDR (high dynamic range) image from multiple raw captures, I prefer to minimize the amount of processing performed, as noted in an Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter last week:

When you are processing individual images to be assembled into a layered document in Photoshop, I recommend performing your initial processing in Lightroom (or Adobe Camera Raw) before creating the layered document.

In other words, I prefer to fully leverage the raw capture to ensure optimal image quality before rendering the raw captures to pixel values for the final composite.

The difference here relates to how the pixel values are being processed. When you assemble an HDR image you aren’t simply using a layer mask to combine different tonal values from different exposure. Rather, you are essentially combining all of the exposure information into a single file with tremendous tonal range, and then processing that HDR result via tone-mapping to produce a “normal” photographic image with greater detail than could be accomplished with a single exposure.

When creating a layered image in Photoshop you will actually render the pixel values and then blend the images based on visibility defined by a layer mask. The individual pixels are assembled in a way that is quite different from HDR processing. As a result, with a layered document I prefer to process the images to an optimal appearance before assembling.

So, for HDR images I prefer to minimize processing applied before assembly of the HDR image, while for composite layered images I prefer to process (including the application of capture sharpening) to create optimized images to be assembled into a layered image.

Detail versus Masking


Today’s Question: I’m confused about the difference between the Detail and Masking sliders for sharpening in Adobe Camera Raw [or Lightroom]. They sound like they do the same thing. Can you clarify?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can think of the Detail slider as providing the ability to expand the sharpening effect to the finest details in the image, even if that detail represents a relatively smooth area of the photo. The Masking slider enables you to prevent sharpening from applying to areas of minimal contrast, helping to ensure smooth areas of the photo remain smooth.

More Detail: The Detail and Masking sliders are found with the sharpening controls in both Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom, and the controls operate the same in both software tools. In some respects you can think of the Detail slider as the “I really want to bring out the maximum detail” slider, and the Masking slider as the “It is important that smooth areas of the image remain smooth” slider.

In other words, you might think of these sliders as providing the opposite effect for your image. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are certainly situations where you might increase the value for both sliders. Doing so enables you to really maximize the enhancement of fine detail, while preventing the effect from applying to the areas of smoothest texture in an image.

Sharpening is a process of enhancing contrast where contrast already exists. In other words, in concept you are enhancing the contrast that defines areas of texture and detail in an image. Increasing the value for the Detail slider enables you to push beyond the default level of sharpening, to enhance texture for the finest levels of detail within the photo. Reducing the value of this slider to the minimum value of 0 will scale back the sharpening so that fine detail is not accentuated as much.

Increasing the value for the Masking slider will prevent the sharpening effect from applying to relatively smooth areas of the image, to help ensure those areas remain smooth, and that noise and minor textures are not enhanced.

With both the Detail and Masking controls you can hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while dragging the slider in order to see a preview that can help you better establish the optimal setting for the image you’re working on.

And to learn even more about sharpening, you might be interested in my “Understanding Sharpening” course available through the GreyLearning library here: