Auto Masking in Photoshop


Today’s Question: Is there a tool in Photoshop that approximates the effect of the “Auto Mask” feature for the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I would say that the Quick Selection tool in Photoshop is the closest in terms of overall behavior compared to the Auto Mask option for the Adjustment Brush for applying targeted adjustments. Of course, it should also be noted that the same Auto Mask feature available in Lightroom Classic is available in Adobe Camera Raw within Photoshop.

More Detail: The Auto Mask feature for the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom Classic enables the edge of the area to which you’re applying a targeted adjustment to be detected automatically. As long as they area you’re applying a targeted adjustment to has reasonably good contrast compared to the surrounding area, this edge detection generally works reasonably well.

In Photoshop you have a variety of selection tools that often provide superior results for targeted adjustments compared to Lightroom Classic. One of the more “automated” of these tools is the Quick Selection tool, which is similar in many ways to the Auto Mask feature in Lightroom Classic.

With the Auto Mask feature you paint just inside the outer edge of the area you want to apply a targeted adjustment to. With the Quick Selection tool in Photoshop you keep the brush entirely inside the area you want to select. But other than how you position the mouse pointer while you’re painting, the overall behavior is very similar.

I generally find that the Quick Selection tool in Photoshop provides a more accurate result than the Auto Mask feature in Lightroom Classic. Therefore, I generally use the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom Classic only for relatively basic targeted adjustments. When I need to apply a more sophisticated targeted adjustment, I send the image to Photoshop from Lightroom Classic, and take advantage of the more powerful selection and layer masking features in Photoshop to achieve an optimal result.

Keeping an Older Photoshop Version


Today’s Question: I seem to recall reading or hearing somewhere that there may be some advantage to retaining Photoshop 2019 on one’s computer even after upgrading to Photoshop 2020. Does this ring any bells? I’m going to replace my primary photo editing computer soon and this has prompted the question.

Tim’s Quick Answer: After installing a major update to Photoshop (or other applications) I do recommend keeping the older version for a brief period while you confirm the new version is working properly and not causing any problems.

More Detail: When you install a major update for one of the applications in the Adobe Creative Cloud, the new version will be installed in addition to the existing version. This differs from a minor update, where the existing installation is upgraded.

Generally speaking, you only need one version of a given application installed. That means after installing a major update you could uninstall the previous version. However, I recommend delaying that uninstall to allow enough time to make sure the new version is working properly and not creating any problems.

After you’ve spent enough time working with the new version, getting everything configured, installing plug-ins, and otherwise making sure the new version is working well for you, there generally isn’t any need to retain an older version.

So, once the new version is working well, you can uninstall the older version to free up additional hard drive space. Of course, if you have more than enough hard drive space available, you can delay the uninstall for a bit longer, just in case anything goes wrong with the new version.

The only other reason not to remove an older version of Photoshop would be if a plug-in you use in your workflow is not compatible with the new version. That is generally not an issue, however, as plug-in makers typically test and update their software as needed to make sure it will work with new updates to Photoshop.

Lens Calibration


Today’s Question: Can you offer guidance on a good way to calibrate a lens?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Calibrating a lens to apply a micro-adjustment to the autofocus can help improve sharpness for your photos. I recommend the LensAlign system from Michael Tapes Design, which you can find here:

More Detail: A variety of camera models enable you to apply a micro-adjustment to the focusing system, which can correct for minor errors in focusing and provide sharper photos. Properly applying that adjustment requires a calibrated method of measuring the focus performance, which is exactly what the LensAlign system ( provides.

With the LensAlign system you can precisely measure the autofocus performance of your camera and lens combination, and make adjustments as needed to correct for a situation where the camera is focusing forward or back from the intended focus point.

Some time ago I got together with Michael Tapes, the creator of the LensAlign system, to create a video demonstrating the system in action. You can watch that video on my YouTube channel here:

Why Move the Focus Point?


Today’s Question: If shooting handheld why not simply focus on an area and keep the shutter pressed down while you move the camera. That is much quicker many times than moving the focus point.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I find it most helpful to move the focus point within the viewfinder when photographing a moving subject that I want to have positioned at a specific area of the frame.

More Detail: If you are photographing a static scene, it is of course perfectly reasonable to keep the focus point at the center of the frame. You can rotate the camera when you want to focus on an area away from the center of the frame, and then recompose the scene after establishing focus.

With a moving subject, however, you can’t easily recompose after establishing focus. Therefore, when using a single focus point with a moving subject, I recommend moving the focus point to the position in the frame where you want the subject to be positioned. This enables you to maintain autofocus on the subject as it moves, while at the same time providing a “target” for where to position the subject within the frame.

Note that today’s question was a follow-up to a recommendation I gave during a recent webinar presentation to consider using a single focus point for autofocus, and to move that point within the frame as needed. You can view the recording of the full presentation of “Top Tips for Sharper Photos” on my “Tim Grey TV” channel on YouTube here:

Seeing Photos in Subfolders


Today’s Question: Is there a way in [Lightroom Classic] to view photos from a folder and all of the subfolders within that folder? I have divided photos from a trip into folders by key locations and want to be able to view all photos from the trip at one time.

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can browse photos in all subfolders in Lightroom Classic by either selecting all of the folders you want to browse, or by enabling the “Show Photos in Subfolders” option.

More Detail: When you want to browse the photos contained in multiple folders, one option is to select multiple folders. This works whether you want to browse multiple subfolders within the same parent folder, or a variety of folders in various locations.

Start by clicking on the first folder you want to browse within the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module. You can then select additional folders using the same keyboard shortcuts you might already be familiar with for selecting multiple files. If you want to select a series of contiguous folders, after clicking on the first folder in the range you can hold the Shift key on the keyboard and click on the last folder in the range, and all folders in between will also be selected.

If you want to select folders that are not adjacent to each other, you can toggle the selection of folders on and off by holding the Ctrl key on Windows or the Command key on Macintosh while clicking on the other folders you want to browse.

Another option is to enable the view of photos within subfolders of the currently selected folder. In this case you would select the parent folder when you want to browse the photos within that folder and all subfolders within the selected folder. Then, on the menu bar, make sure the “Show Photos in Subfolders” option is enabled on the Library menu. When this option is enabled a checkmark appears to the left of it on the menu.

If you enable the “Show Photos in Subfolders” option, just be sure not to get confused into thinking there are multiple copies of photos. For example, you would see the same photos appear when you select a parent folder or the subfolder that actually contains the photos, which might lead you to believe there are duplicate copies of some photos, when in fact there are not.

Tilt-Shift Effect in Lightroom


Today’s Question: A while back it became popular to create a “tilt-shift” effect for photos. Is there a way to create this type of effect in Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes! You can create a tilt-shift blur effect by using two (or more) Gradient Filter adjustments, using a negative value for the Sharpness slider for the Graduated Filter.

More Detail: A tilt-shift lens enables you to effectively tilt the angle at which the area of depth of field falls across an image. Among other things, this enables you to position a blur across a central area of a photo, with the top and bottom edges being out of focus. This creates a type of miniaturization effect, which can produce a unique impact in a photo where the scene almost looks like a toy model rather than an actual scene.

The effect became popular as a post-processing effect, in part because a tilt-shift blur filter was added to Photoshop some time ago. It is possible, however, to create this type of effect in Lightroom Classic as well.

The key is to use two (or more) Gradient Filter adjustments. Start by selecting the Gradient Filter adjustment from the toolbar below the Histogram on the right panel in the Develop module. Then drag downward from near the top of the image toward the bottom, holding the Shift key on the keyboard to make the gradient perfectly vertical. Release the mouse button to create the gradient, and then reduce the value for the Sharpness slider to the desired effect. In general I find reducing to the minimum value of -100 works well.

Repeat this process for the bottom of the image, dragging from near the bottom upward, again holding the Shift key for a vertical gradient. Reduce the Sharpness setting for this edit as well.

You can click on the applicable edit pin (grey circle) on the image to select one or the other adjustment. The gradients can be moved by dragging that edit pin, and you can adjust the distance of the gradient by dragging the top or bottom line associated with the center line for the edit pin.

If the effect is not strong enough, you can drag on the image again to draw another gradient on top of one of the existing gradients, so that you could increase the strength of the blur with an additional application of a negative value for Sharpness.

Dividing to Two Catalogs


Today’s Question: I have a Lightroom Classic catalog of about 30,000 images and am thinking of splitting it into two Catalogs: One for my small photography business and one for images of my family and relatives. How does one go about this?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can split a single Lightroom Classic catalog into two by first exporting with the “Export as Catalog” command, and then removing the exported photos from the initial catalog. This will result in two catalogs without the loss of any information from the original catalog.

More Detail: As many of my readers are already aware, I generally recommend using only a single catalog to manage all of your photos in Lightroom Classic, using various metadata options to identify images in different categories, such as commercial work versus personal photos.

That said, if you decide you do want to divide images into two catalogs, the process is reasonably straightforward. The key is to stay organized through the process to ensure you aren’t, for example, accidentally removing photos from the primary catalog that were never exported to the secondary catalog.

I recommend exporting as a single process for all photos you want to split into a separate catalog. It is best if you can identify the photos you want to export based only on folders, rather than needing to select individual photos from within various folders, for example.

You could then select multiple folders from the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module. After clicking on the first folder you want to select for export, you can hold the Ctrl key on Windows or the Command key on Macintosh while clicking on the other folders you want to select.

Once you have selected all folders you want to split to a separate catalog, go to the menu and choose File > Export as Catalog. Navigate to the location where you want to save the new catalog, such as the location that contains the folder for your current catalog. You can then click the New Folder button at the bottom-left of the dialog, and create a folder for the new catalog. Then enter a name for the new catalog in the Save As field at the top of the dialog.

In this type of scenario, at least in the short term, you’ll want to keep all of the source image files in their current locations. Therefore, you don’t need to make new copies of all of your existing photos. So, turn off the “Export negative files” checkbox, so that new copies of your source images won’t be created. Also turn off the “Export selected photos only” checkbox if it is turned on, since in this case you are selecting folders for export rather than individual photos.

Click the “Export Catalog” button at the bottom-right of the dialog, and a new catalog will be created for the folders of photos you have selected. This process will be very fast, because you are only creating a new catalog rather than copying a large number of photos.

Next, you’ll want to remove the selected folders from the current catalog. Since the folders are already selected at this point you can simply right-click on any of the selected folders and choose “Remove” from the popup menu. Click the “Continue” button in the alert dialog, and the folders will be removed from the current folder, leaving the actual folders and photos within those folders on your hard drive.

At this point you can switch between your two catalogs using the File > Open Catalog command from the menu. Just be sure to maintain an awareness of which catalog you’re working in at any time, to make sure, for example, that you always import new photos into the correct catalog.

Multiple Derivative Images


Today’s Question: How can I save different edited versions of a photo back to Lightroom Classic? If I try “Save As” I don’t have the option to go back to Lightroom, only back to my hard drive.

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can actually use the Save As command to create multiple versions of the image in Photoshop, which will generally then automatically be added to your Lightroom Classic catalog. It is important, however, to only use the Photoshop PSD or TIFF file formats when using “Save As” in Photoshop with this workflow.

More Detail: In the early days of Lightroom Classic (before it was called Lightroom Classic) using the Save As command in Photoshop for an image you sent from Lightroom was generally problematic, with the resulting file not being added to your Lightroom catalog. At some point in the recent past, this issue was resolved, as I’ve found that you can use the Save As command in Photoshop reliably for images sent from Lightroom Classic.

However, you must save the image as either a Photoshop PSD or TIFF file in order for it to be added to the Lightroom Classic catalog. If you save the image as a JPEG in Photoshop, for example, it will not be added to the catalog.

So, the workflow is relatively straightforward if you want to create multiple derivative versions of the same source photo. Start by selecting the photo in Lightroom Classic. Then go to the menu and choose Photo > Edit In > Edit in Adobe Photoshop. If the source image is a raw capture it will simply be opened in Photoshop. If you selected a different image type (such as a JPEG) you’ll be prompted for how you want to process the image, in which case you should generally select “Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments”.

Once in Photoshop, you can apply any adjustments you’d like to the image. When you’re finished, you can simply choose File > Save to save the updated file in the same location as the source image, with an updated filename based on the settings in Preferences in Lightroom Classic.

Before closing the file in Photoshop, you could create an additional derivative version. After saving the first version, apply additional adjustments and choose File > Save As. Make sure you save as either a PSD or TIFF file, and you can otherwise save the image in any location and with any filename you’d like. You can repeat this process for as many derivative variations as you’d like to create. Then close the image, and when you get back to Lightroom Classic you should find all of the derivative versions you created.

If for any reason one or more of your derivative images didn’t show up in your Lightroom catalog, you can simply synchronize the applicable folder where the derivative files are saved (presumably in the same folder as the source image). To do so, right-click on the folder name in the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module and choose “Synchronize Folder” from the popup menu that appears. Click the Synchronize button in the dialog that appears, and the new images will then be added to your catalog.

Resolution with Infrared


Today’s Question: If I have a camera body which has been converted to infrared capture and the sensor filter that was installed allows only black & white. Am I only getting use of 1/3 of the RGB pixel sites? If so, would I be better off converting a camera body with an overall resolution of 45 megapixels or getting an infrared (IR) filter conversion that allowed color IR for a 24-megapixel body?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You are indeed getting the full resolution of your image sensor when a camera is converted for digital infrared. The only thing that is changing is the range of light wavelengths that are recorded by the image sensor.

More Detail: Converting a digital camera to infrared capture generally involves two steps. The first is to remove the infrared cutoff filter that is installed in front of the actual image sensor on most cameras. This filter ensures that the sensor will not record infrared light, which could cause artifacts and other issues with a color photo. In other word, the camera is only able to capture light within the visible spectrum based on human vision.

Once the infrared cutoff filter is removed, the image sensor is capable of capturing light within the visible spectrum as well as the infrared spectrum. For infrared photography, you generally don’t want the visible spectrum included in your captures. Therefore, an infrared filter needs to be added for infrared photography.

Some infrared conversions include the addition of an infrared filter to the front of the image sensor, so that the camera is only capable of infrared photography. Alternately, that infrared filter might be left off, which would then require that you use an infrared filter on your lens in order to capture infrared photos. The benefit of the latter approach is that you could use the camera for both color and infrared photography.

As noted above, however, all of the pixels (photo sites) on the image sensor are still being used to capture the infrared information. Therefore, you should select a camera for infrared conversion based on the resolution you want available for the final file size. If you’ll be producing large prints, for example, you’ll want to opt for a camera with a relatively high resolution, all other things being even.

Mysterious Crop Option


Today’s Question: I’ve been trying to get more familiar with the various adjustment options in Lightroom Classic, including with the Crop tool. For the life of me I can’t figure out what the “Constrain to Image” checkbox does, as it doesn’t seem to impact my cropping whether it is on or off. Does this checkbox do anything?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “Constrain to Image” setting for the crop tool in Lightroom Classic ensures that the crop only includes the actual image area of your photo. It only actually applies if you have applied an adjustment (such as a Transform adjustment) that causes there to be white space outside of the original image area.

More Detail: If you haven’t done anything to alter the actual shape of a rectangular photo, the “Constrain to Image” checkbox won’t have any impact on the behavior of the Crop tool. In other words, if you don’t see any “extra” white space around your photo, the “Constrain to Image” feature doesn’t apply.

If you had, for example, applied some of the adjustments found in the Transform section of the right panel in the Develop module, the overall shape of the image may have been altered to the point that some white space appears around portions of the edge of the image.

For example, the Vertical slider allows you to tilt the image toward or away from you, to correct for perspective issues. With even a small adjustment, you’ll see white triangles appear at the top or bottom corners of the image, depending on whether you apply a positive or negative value for the adjustment.

If such white space appears around the edges of the image, turning on the “Constrain to Image” checkbox for the crop tool will ensure that the crop box can never extend beyond the actual image area, causing any of those white boundary areas to be cropped out of the image.

You can, of course, simply manually make sure that the crop box remains inside the actual image area, but the “Constrain to Image” checkbox makes it easy to ensure you don’t miss a small area, creating what would effectively be a blemish along the edge of the photo.