Folder Structure Mismatch


Today’s Question: My photo folders in Lightroom Classic are structured in an orderly manner, but when I look at the structure on my external hard drive, it doesn’t match. However, I’m not missing any photos in Lightroom. Should I be concerned that the folder structures don’t match exactly?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If there are not photos (or folders) missing within your Lightroom Classic catalog, this is probably simply a matter of confusion caused by the way folder structures can be displayed within Lightroom Classic. In other words, if no photos are missing, there’s most likely nothing to worry about.

More Detail: By default Lightroom Classic only shows you folders that either actually contain photos being managed by Lightroom, or folders that you created within Lightroom (even if there are no photos in some of those folders). This can lead to a bit of confusion if you browse the folder structure for your photos outside of Lightroom.

The primary source of confusion relates to “parent” folders. Let’s assume, for example, that you import photos into a folder for each trip, and that those folders are contained within a “Photos” folder on your external hard drive. That “Photos” folder would be considered a parent folder to the individual folders containing your photos. Depending on how you created your folder structure in Lightroom, the “Photos” folder would not be displayed on the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module.

If the folder structure on your hard drive is quite complicated, having parent folders hidden can lead to a bit of confusion, since the apparent folder structure in Lightroom would not match the folder structure you see directly on your hard drive.

You can help clarify the confusion related to parent folders by simply making those parent folders visible. Using the example folder structure above, you could right-click on any of the folders containing photos from individual photo shoots on the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module. Then choose “Show Parent Folder” from the popup menu. The next folder up in the folder structure will then be revealed. You can repeat this process as needed to reveal parent folders all the way up to the actual hard drive itself, which can also be presented as a “folder” at the top of the tree on the Folders list.

Note that you can also hide parent folders that don’t contain photos, in order to reduce clutter on the Folders list. To hide a parent folder, simply right-click on that folder and choose “Hide This Parent” from the popup menu that appears.

With no missing photos or folders, I’m sure this issue of hidden parent folders is the source of confusion here. After all, if the folder structure in Lightroom truly did not match the folder structure on your hard drive, a variety of folders and photos would appear as missing within your Lightroom catalog.

Opinion on Raw to DNG


Today’s Question: What do you think of converting raw to Adobe DNG?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are certainly some benefits involved with converting proprietary raw capture files to the Adobe Digital Negative (DNG) format. However, my personal preference is to retain the original proprietary raw capture files, and not convert to DNG.

More Detail: The Adobe Digital Negative (DNG) file format was created in part to provide an openly-documented alternative file format to proprietary raw capture formats. The DNG format retains the key benefits of raw capture, without the proprietary nature of those raw capture formats.

Some cameras offer the option to capture photos directly into the Adobe DNG file format. In addition, Lightroom Classic provides an option to convert to DNG when importing proprietary raw captures, or to convert those raw captures to DNG later in your workflow.

One of the common reasons photographers might consider converting their raw captures to the Adobe DNG format is the proprietary nature of raw capture formats. The idea is that if at some point in the future all software capable of processing raw captures were to disappear, you could still access your Adobe DNG images. Even if Adobe were to stop providing software that could process Adobe DNG files, since the format is documented someone could create custom software to process those images.

This sort of issue is not something I am at all concerned about, since so many software applications (including Adobe’s applications) have been able to interpret the proprietary raw capture formats.

There are two other key potential advantages of converting to Adobe DNG. First, lossless compression applied to Adobe DNG files means the file will typically be around 20% smaller than the source proprietary raw capture, without losing any pixel data. This is obviously an advantage in terms of storage requirements. Note that you may get better or worse compression results depending on the specific file formats you are processing.

The other potential advantage of the Adobe DNG file format is that unlike proprietary raw captures, with DNG files you can save metadata updates directly in the DNG file. With proprietary raw captures metadata updates will be saved in XMP “sidecar” files rather than within the source raw capture.

Of course, I consider it a bit of an advantage for my workflow to have metadata updates stored separate from the original raw capture. For example, with a typical incremental backup solution if you update metadata in a DNG image the entire file would need to be backed up again. When only an XMP file gets updated with metadata changes, only the very small XMP file needs to be updated for an incremental backup, while he source raw image would not need to be backed up again, because the file will not have changed.

So, on balance I prefer to retain my original raw captures, rather than converting those captures to DNG. In addition, I simply feel better keeping my original raw captures, rather than converting them to DNG and potentially discarding the original raw files.

Storage Location After Import


Today’s Question: If I import all of my photos to a folder using Lightroom Classic, can I still have my photos on my computer? I intend to subscribe monthly for Lightroom and Photoshop.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, when you import photos into your Lightroom Classic catalog, the source photos can be stored wherever you’d like. That typically means storing the photos on an internal or external hard drive on your computer.

More Detail: One of the reasons many photographers (including myself) make use of Lightroom Classic rather than the newer cloud-based version of Lightroom is that Lightroom Classic enables you to store your source photos locally, such as on an internal or external hard drive directly connected to your computer.

In other words, with Lightroom Classic you directly control the storage of your photos, and those photos will typically be stored on a hard drive directly connected to your computer. By contrast, with the cloud-based version of Lightroom your photos are primarily stored on Adobe’s servers, via the storage space included with the Creative Cloud plan you subscribe to. You don’t directly control that storage, though photos are synchronized to your various devices.

However, with the cloud-based version of Lightroom, not all source photos will necessarily be stored on your local storage device, depending on availability of storage space. That means if you don’t have enough storage capacity on your computer, for example, all photos will be stored in the cloud but only some photos will be stored on your computer.

The key is that with Lightroom Classic you have direct control over how and where your photos are stored. And you can learn more about how Lightroom Classic works with my course “Understanding Lightroom”, which you can get for 26% off by using this link to get started:

Synchronization Limitations


Today’s Question: What are the limitations on synchronizing images from Lightroom Classic to the Creative Cloud? Are the full-size versions of the images being synced, or only a preview? Can a full RAW be sent up to the cloud through Lightroom Classic? Or is the new Lightroom required for that?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When you synchronize photos from Lightroom Classic to the Creative Cloud, the synchronized image is a Smart Preview, which is essentially a reduced-resolution image converted to an Adobe DNG file. The cloud-based version of Lightroom, by contrast, synchronizes your original source captures across all devices.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic revolves around photo storage that you manage locally on your own computer. The synchronization feature enables you to easily share photos across a variety of devices, but only photos included in collections with synchronization enabled will actually be shared in this way. And those images will be reduced-resolution copies of the source photos, not the original photo files themselves.

More specifically, when photos are included in a collection in Lightroom Classic that has synchronization enabled, the photos will be synchronized as Smart Previews. Those are essentially Adobe DNG files with the resolution reduced to 2,540 pixels on the long side.

Keep in mind that you are also limited in the total storage capacity available for photo synchronization, based on your specific Creative Cloud subscription plan. For example, the basic Creative Cloud Photography Plan ( includes 20GB of cloud storage, with higher-priced plans offering additional cloud-based storage capacity.

By comparison, the cloud-based version of Lightroom will actually synchronize the all original image files (including proprietary raw captures) to the Creative Cloud servers, making those source images available to all devices that you use to access the synchronized photos.

Canceling Creative Cloud


Today’s Question: What happens if you organize your photos in Lightroom Classic and then decide not to continue your Creative Cloud subscription next year? What happens to your photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you discontinue your Creative Cloud subscription, Lightroom Classic will become limited in terms of the features available, but you won’t lose any of your photos since the source images are stored locally.

More Detail: One of the advantages of the overall architecture of Lightroom Classic is that your source photos are stored separately from the application and the catalog. As a result, even if you were to uninstall Lightroom Classic, or stop paying for a Creative Cloud subscription, you would not lose your source photos.

In addition, you would not lose access to the information about your photos within your Lightroom Classic catalog. You would lose access to certain features, such as applying changes to your photos in the Develop module. Most of the other features will still be available, including the ability to export copies of your photos.

In other words, you don’t need to worry at all about losing access to your photos if you discontinue your subscription to Lightroom Classic. In addition, you’ll still be able to launch Lightroom Classic to access information about your photos, and even to work with your photos in a many ways. You’ll simply lose access to some of the key features (primarily the Develop and Map modules) in Lightroom Classic after your subscription ends. But you won’t lose access to your photos or the information about your photos.

It is important to note that things are a bit different with the cloud-based version of Lightroom. If you discontinue your subscription to the cloud-based version of Lightroom, you’ll need to be sure that you download all photos to your computer before you lose access to Lightroom, to ensure you have local copies of all source images.

Sharpening for Output


Today’s Question: Is there any difference in the sharpening that should be applied when you are printing an image compared to sharing digitally? It seems to me that if the sharpening works good for one type of output, it should work well for any type of output. Am I missing something here?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is indeed a difference. Sharpening should be tailored to the specific output size for the image, and sharpening for print will generally be a bit more aggressive than sharpening for digital display.

More Detail: Sharpening is a process of optimizing the appearance of detail in a photo. In some respects you can think of sharpening as being similar to the notion of getting an image in focus. More specifically, sharpening enables you to compensate for factors that cause a photo to appear less in focus (sharp) than you would like.

When an image is shared digitally, you are essentially sharing the “actual” pixels. In other words, the image should be sized based on the digital display, and the sharpening would be relatively modest. In this scenario, you can apply sharpening based on a preview of the image on your computer’s monitor, and expect that the final result will be comparable.

With printing the process of sharpening is a little more complicated, in large part because it is difficult to evaluate a preview of sharpening when preparing an image to be printed. This is due to the fact that you are previewing the image on a monitor display, while the final image will be printed with ink on paper.

When an image is printed to paper (or similar medium), there is a degree of lost sharpness due to the spreading of ink on paper. This effect is amplified when printing to matte paper as compared to glossy paper. The result is that it is more difficult to preview the final effect when preparing a photo to be printed. Furthermore, it is generally necessary to apply sharpening that appears to be too strong when displayed on your computer monitor, if the intent is to print the image.

In other words, different sharpening needs to be applied when preparing images for digital display as compared to printing. In general, the preview you see on your computer’s monitor can be trusted for most digital displays. When it comes to preparing a photo for printing, you will need to at least slightly over-sharpen in the context of what you see on your monitor, in order to produce a print that looks as sharp as you intend.

Considering a Variable ND Filter


Today’s Question: Are the variable neutral density filters worth the money?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While variable neutral density (ND) filters are convenient, I personally prefer to work with solid ND filters.

More Detail: One of the key benefits of a variable ND filter is that it provides the range of multiple solid ND filters in a single filter. For example, the variable ND filter I prefer ( makes it possible to reduce the amount of light reaching the image sensor in a range from about three stops up to eight stops.

In other words, with a single variable ND filter you have the same range of options as you might otherwise achieve with three or more solid ND filters. That is obviously a potentially significant benefit, both in terms of not having to carry multiple filters and being able to achieve a specific exposure setting more quickly since you wouldn’t need to change filters.

However, I generally prefer to work with solid neutral density filters. One of the key reasons is that a single filter has a single density value that you can adjust for dependably. For example, a six-stop solid ND filter involves adjusting the existing exposure by six stops when you add the filter.

With a variable ND filter you never really know precisely how much light you’re blocking, and therefore how much you need to adjust your exposure settings. You can often use the exposure simulation feature (or even metering) for your camera to set your exposure, but this often isn’t accurate especially at high density settings.

To be sure, variable ND filters offer a degree of convenience. However, I find that it is easier to simply have individual solid ND filters with predictable behavior. In addition, it is easy to adjust the ISO setting to refine the overall exposure setting, providing a similar (though admittedly not identical) capability compared to variable ND filters.

If you are interested in a variable ND filter, one that I highly recommend is the Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter. You can find the 77mm version of this filter here:

Limiting Catalog Backups


Today’s Question: I backup “every time Lightroom exits” because I’m not in Lightroom Classic every day, or even most times once a week. Is there an option to tell Lightroom to only keep “x” number of backups or to purge backups older than a specific date?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Unfortunately, no. The only option is to periodically delete older backups, so that only a handful of recent (and perhaps one or two older) backups of your Lightroom Classic catalog remain.

More Detail: I hope that all photographers are regularly backing up their photos, so that if anything goes wrong with their computer or storage device they won’t lose any of their precious photos. Of similar importance, however, is backing up the catalog if you are using Lightroom Classic to manage your photos.

The Lightroom catalog contains all of the information about your photos, including updates and changes you apply within Lightroom Classic. Backing up the catalog regularly ensure that you’ll have something to fall back on if your catalog is lost or corrupted.

Of course, the backup feature in Lightroom Classic doesn’t include an option to clean out old backups. Instead, you’ll need to navigate to the backup location yourself through your operating system. There you’ll find folders named for the date upon which the backup was created.

I generally recommend keeping a few recent backups, including, of course, the most recent backup. I also recommend keeping a backup from a few months ago, and one from perhaps about six months ago, just so you have some options in case there is corruption of your catalog that also impacts the backup copies of your catalog.

All other backup copies can be deleted, which means simply deleting the folders that contain catalog backups you no longer need. This process can be repeated periodically to reduce clutter and wasted storage space in the location where you store the backup copies if your Lightroom catalog.

Sharpening Workflow


Today’s Question: You said, “I would actually tend to leave output sharpening as a separate process [in Photoshop] within the context of a workflow for preparing a photo for output, rather than as part of your “normal” workflow. At that point, layers would no longer be a factor.” What is the workflow you recommend for this type of output?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The process I prefer for preparing a photo for final output in Photoshop involves creating a duplicate flattened copy of the image, resizing the image to the final output size, and sharpening the image based on the intended output.

More Detail: While you may apply some initial sharpening in Lightroom Classic or Adobe Camera Raw when processing a raw capture, and you may apply some “creative” sharpening in your general workflow for optimizing a photo, I generally recommend applying final output sharpening as a separate process when using Photoshop to prepare a photo for output.

My first priority in this context is to preserve the “master” image, which generally includes a variety of layers (both image layers and adjustment layers). Therefore, I prefer to work with a copy of the master image when preparing the image for printing or other output.

To create a duplicate copy of the image in Photoshop, I’ll first open the master image and then choose Image > Duplicate from the menu. In the “Duplicate Image” dialog that appears I will turn on the “Duplicate Merged Layers Only” checkbox, which will cause the resulting duplicate image to be a flattened version of the original. I then click the OK button to create the duplicate.

Next, I resize the image based on the final output dimensions. For this I use the Image Size command, which can be found on the Image menu. If the image is being prepared for printing, I’ll make sure the Resample checkbox is turned on. I’ll then set the output resolution based on how the image will be output (such as typically using a 360 ppi resolution for images I’ll print using a photo inkjet printer). I’ll then set the output dimensions using the settings for Width and Height. Clicking OK in the Image Size dialog will cause the image to actually be resized.

Finally, I’ll apply sharpening based on the final output. This typically means applying the Smart Sharpen filter. However, in some cases where it is especially important to avoid sharpening smooth areas of a photo, I will use the Unsharp Mask filter so I can adjust the value for Threshold.

After applying sharpening based on the final output, I can print the image or otherwise save it for sharing. And, of course, I could also save the new derivative image if I want quick access to the final output version of a photo. If I want to make any changes to the image, I will return to my original “master” image file that has all of the layers intact. After applying any desired changes to that master image, I could repeat the above output workflow to prepare the updated version of the photo for output.

Dealing with “Live” Photos


Today’s Question: There are some MOV files among the JPEGs [downloaded from my iPhone]. Did I hit the “Live” function when making the photo? I’m guessing that’s the answer since each clip is about three seconds long. Is there a way to extract a single image–maybe from the beginning or the end–from these three-second “live” shots?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, what you are describing indicates that you captured some Live Photos on your iPhone. The latest version of Lightroom will automatically include a JPEG image in addition to the MOV that represents the Live Photo. You could also convert the Live Photos to “normal” photos on your iPhone before downloading so you would only have a still image. In addition, you could use the Apple Photos application to export JPEG still images based on the Live Photo captures.

More Detail: The “Live Photo” feature for the camera on iPhones enables you to capture dynamic photos, which can be thought of as a variation on a three-second video clip. This feature is enabled by tapping on the Live Photo icon in the Camera app. This icon looks something like a “target”, with a series of concentric circles. When the icon is yellow the Live Photo feature is enabled, and when it is white (with a slash through the icon) the Live Photo feature is disabled.

Even if you captured a photo as a Live Photo, you can actually disable the Live Photo effect for individual photos before downloading them. This would result in downloading a “normal” photo rather than a Live Photo. In the context of downloading directly from your iPhone, a Live Photo would otherwise be represented by both a video (MOV file) and a still photo.

To turn off the Live Photo effect for an image first locate a Live Photo capture in the Photos app on your phone. Then tap the photo (if necessary) to reveal the various controls, and tap the Edit link. At the top-center of the photo in editing mode you’ll see an indication of the Live Photo status with the same icon used to enable the feature in the Camera app. You can tap that icon to turn off Live Photo for the image. Then, when you download photos, the photos you turned off the Live Photo feature for will be downloaded as still images without the video file.

As noted above, you could also make sure you have upated Lightroom Classic to a newer version that supports the updated capture formats for the iPhone (such as HEIC), in which case a still image will automatically be included when you import Live Photo captures.