Quick Selection is Slow

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Today’s Question: My Quick Selection tool on Photoshop CC is very slow. I have 16GB of memory. It is so slow that it is difficult to use at all. Do you have any suggestions??

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are a few things I would do to help improve this issue, but I think the most important may be to adjust the Performance settings in Preferences.

More Detail: First, I would adjust the cache settings on the Performance page of the Preferences dialog. You can bring up this dialog by going to the menu and choosing Photoshop > Preferences > Performance on Macintosh or Edit > Preferences > Performance on Windows. Set the Cache Tile Size option to 1024K, and the Cache Levels setting to 6.

Once you’ve established these settings, click OK to close the Preferences dialog and restart Photoshop. Test whether this has resolved the issue with the Quick Selection tool.

If you are still experiencing an issue, I would also try to clear the preferences altogether. There are a variety of issues caused by corrupted preferences files. To reset, quit Photoshop and then prepare to hold the Command, Option, and Shift keys on Macintosh or the Ctrl, Alt, and Shift keys on Windows. Launch Photoshop, and immediately (while Photoshop is still loading) press and hold the keys referenced here on the keyboard. Click “Yes” in the confirmation dialog that appears, and test the results. Note that this process will cause the settings in Preferences and Color Settings to be reset to their defaults, so you’ll need to re-establish your preferred settings after performing this task.

If the issue still hasn’t been resolved, I would then disable GPU acceleration. To do so, turn off the “Use Graphics Processor” checkbox on the Performance page of the Preferences dialog. It is very much preferred to have this option turned on in order to maximize performance, but in some cases this setting can cause problems. If turning off this option improves the issue, I would highly recommend updating the drivers for your display adapter, and see if you can then enable GPU acceleration again without any problems.

A last recourse would be to uninstall and reinstall Photoshop, but I suspect one of the above steps will resolve the issue.

Version Numbers

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Today’s Question: My Adobe Creative Cloud subscription upgrade says Lightroom CC 2015. You call it Lightroom 6, but my program says 5.7.1. Why this confusion?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The latest version of Lightroom is referred to both as Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC, depending on whether you purchased a standalone license for the software or subscribed via the Creative Cloud, respectively. If you’re seeing a version number earlier than 6, that indicates you’ve not yet installed (or aren’t properly running) Lightroom 6.

More Detail: It sounds like you have found Lightroom CC (aka Lightroom 6) within the Creative Cloud application, which is how you can install this latest version. If you haven’t yet installed Lightroom CC, you can simply click the “Install” button within the Creative Cloud application to have the new version installed.

I suspect in this case you may very well have installed Lightroom CC, but you’re still running Lightroom 5. This is a common source of confusion, because installing a “full” upgrade version of Lightroom (such as from version 4 to 5, or from version 5 to 6) isn’t actually updating your existing installation. Instead, a completely new copy of Lightroom is installed.

In other words, when you install Lightroom CC (version 6) you’ll still have Lightroom 5 installed on your computer. Once you’ve upgraded your Lightroom 5 catalog for use in Lightroom 6 (which again will make a full copy of the catalog rather than replacing your existing catalog), you will want to be sure to launch Lightroom 6 rather than Lightroom 5.

For example, you may want to create a new shortcut for Lightroom 6 to replace any shortcuts for Lightroom 5, to be sure you’re always running the latest version of the software. And once you have Lightroom 6 up and running and have confirmed everything is working properly, you can uninstall Lightroom 5 from your computer.

Transporting Photos and Catalog

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Today’s Question: I am about to go north and will be running Lightroom on a different desktop up there. Can I use the method to export (Export as Catalog) to an external drive and then connect Lightroom to that catalog, and photos, for use up north? Is this the best approach. Then I’d reverse the process when I return to Florida in the fall.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “Export as Catalog” command (found on the File menu) can certainly be helpful for this approach, since this command causes both the selected photos and a catalog to be copied to a new location. If you already store your photos on an external hard drive you could also simply copy the catalog to that drive.

More Detail: The “Export as Catalog” command is very convenient, because it creates a copy of your catalog as well as your photos all in one process, copying all files to the destination of your choice. In this case, for example, that destination could be an external hard drive that can then be used to transport the photos where they are needed. The most important thing to keep in mind during this process is that you need to actually select all photos, without any filters applied that would limit which photos are being copied.

You could, for example, choose the “All Photographs” option from the Catalog section of the left panel in the Develop module. Then choose Edit > Select All from the menu (or press Ctrl+A on Windows or Command+A on Macintosh). Then choose File > Export as Catalog from the menu, and specify the destination location where you want to create a new catalog and copy all of the photos. Be sure the “Export negative files” checkbox is turned on so that the photos are actually copied during this process.

You can then simply connect the external hard drive to which you exported the images to the computer at the “other” location, and choose File > Open Catalog from the menu to open the catalog from that drive. You could also copy the files to a different drive as needed, but the point is that you now have a catalog and the photos in the same storage location, so those files can be accessed from another computer.

If the photos are already being stored on an external hard drive, you could also simply copy the catalog to that external hard drive and then open the catalog from that location. You can determine the location of the catalog files by first choosing Catalog Settings from the Edit menu on the Windows version of Lightroom or the Lightroom menu on the Macintosh version of Lightroom. Then go to the General tab and click the Show button to bring up an operating system window showing you the location of the catalog folder, with that folder highlighted.

You can then close Lightroom (so the catalog files won’t be in use) and drag-and-drop to copy the folder containing your catalog to the external hard drive. Just be sure to rename (or delete) the existing catalog folder so you won’t open that copy of the catalog by accident. In other words, if you are going to create multiple copies of a Lightroom catalog, you need to be careful to only use one copy as your “master” catalog, with any other copies becoming backup copies of the catalog.

The key in this case is to make sure that the photos and catalog files are accessible on the other computer. Copying both photos and the catalog to an external hard drive is a convenient approach, but it is also worth noting that this approach results in reduced performance for Lightroom. Therefore, if you’re comfortable with file management tasks, you may want to copy the catalog onto the internal hard drive of the computer, transferring those catalog files (along with the photos) to the computer at your destination whenever you are moving from one location to another.

ND Not Neutral

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Today’s Question: After reading a few comparative reviews on 10-stop neutral density (ND) filters, I purchased a Tiffen 77mm WW IR ND 3.0 as maybe the pick of the litter. Being new to 10-stop ND filters I tried it out taking two shots of the same white picket fence, one at 1/1000 of a second and one with the filter at 1 second. While, the histograms happily looked similar, the ND filter seems to have generated quite a large green cast.Any input would be appreciated.

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is certainly a degree of variability in terms of how neutral a neutral density filter really is, and this is especially true when it comes to very strong (such as ten-stop) ND filters. That said, I have had very good results with the top filters from Singh-Ray and B+W.

More Detail: As the strength (density) of a neutral density filter increases, it also becomes increasingly difficult to achieve a neutral result. Thus, for stronger ND filters I consider it especially important to spend the extra money for a top-quality filter. In my experience Singh-Ray filters generally produce the best results, but B+W filters also provide excellent results (generally at a slightly lower price point).

For relatively weak ND filters, it is not as challenging to achieve a neutral result, and so I think it is reasonable to opt for a less expensive alternative if that is your preference.

In any event, when using any ND filter there is some risk of color shift, and so I consider it critically important to take advantage of your camera’s RAW capture mode so you will have maximum flexibility in optimizing the color after the capture.

In most cases I find that the color shift caused by a neutral density filter is relatively linear and consistent, so correction during RAW processing is not generally problematic. My primary ten-stop ND filter is from B+W, and I find that this filter results in a slight to moderate warming of the photo that can easily be corrected with the Temperature and Tint controls during RAW processing.

Hiding Text Selection

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Today’s Question: When I add text to my photos, I often like to change the color of the text to a color found within the photo. But when the text is selected so I can change it, I find it very difficult to choose a color when the text appears with the opposite color. Is there a better way to choose a color than going back and forth between choosing a color, deselecting the text, then re-selecting the text when I decide the color wasn’t quite right?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can simply choose View > Extras from the menu to hide (or reveal) the highlighting for the text while you’re working, or press Ctrl+H on Windows or Command+H on Macintosh. This will allow you to hide the highlighting so you can see a “real” preview of the changes you make to the text attributes.

More Detail: For Macintosh users it is worth noting that the first time you use the Command+H keyboard shortcut from within Photoshop you’ll be asked if you want to use this keyboard shortcut to hide Photoshop or to hide “Extras”. This is because the Macintosh operating system uses the Command+H keyboard shortcut for hiding the current application, while Photoshop includes this keyboard shortcut for hiding extras. Once you’ve chosen an option the first time you use this keyboard shortcut, you won’t have to confirm your choice in the future. And, of course, you can always use the menu command if you prefer.

Haze Reduction

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Today’s Question: Using Lightroom, is there a way to minimize “haze” in digital photographs?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, indeed! You can greatly reduce the appearance of haze in your photographs using the Clarity adjustment. This adjustment is found in both Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. A positive value will reduce the appearance of haze, and a negative value will create a more ethereal look for the photo.

More Detail: The Clarity adjustment produces a result that is similar to sharpening, but with an effect that applies across a larger range of pixels. In other words, instead of enhancing contrast between individual pixels, the Clarity slider allows you to enhance contrast along larger transitions. The result is similar to sharpening, with an enhancement of overall detail and a reduction of a hazy appearance.

One of the great things about the Clarity adjustment is that there is very little risk of problematic artifacts in the photo. While you need to worry about the creation of visible halos when applying a strong effect with sharpening, there is little risk of such artifacts with the Clarity adjustment.

It is important to ensure you don’t produce an overly “crunchy” appearance by using an extremely high value for Clarity. But in many cases you can use a moderately high value for Clarity without introducing any problems for the photo, with the benefit of a significant reduction in the appearance of haze in the photo.

HDR Increments

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Today’s Question: Is there a benefit to using one-stop increments for the individual exposures of a high dynamic range image? I have been using this approach, but a fellow photographer recently told me that two-stop increments are just as good. What’s your opinion?

Tim’s Quick Answer: As far as I’m concerned there is no real benefit to capturing photos with one-stop exposure increments compared to two-stop increments when creating a high dynamic range (HDR) image.

More Detail: As long as you cover the full tonal range of the scene, with reasonable overlap between exposures, you will be able to achieve good results for the final HDR image. I almost always separate my individual exposures by two stops when capturing a sequence of images for an HDR image.

The only time I use a one-stop increment between captures is when the images are being captured with the camera mounted on a tripod, I have plenty of time to work without any concern of the scene changing, and I’m feeling especially detail-oriented.

When I have captured HDR sequences with a one-stop increment I have actually perform tests where I create two versions of the HDR image. The first image uses all of the images captured at one-stop increments, and the second image uses every other capture, resulting in two-stop increments. From a quality perspective the results have always been the same with both approaches.

What I consider to be more important than one- versus two-stop exposure increments is to cover the full range of tonal values in the scene. I also make a point of ensuring that the brightest exposure is captured so that the darkest areas of the scene are relatively bright, helping to ensure high detail and minimum noise in those areas.

For more information about my recommended approach to capturing high dynamic range (HDR) scenes, see the article “Optimal HDR Exposure” in the September 2012 issue of Pixology magazine. If you’re not a subscriber already, you can get more details (and free back issues) at http://www.pixologymag.com.

Aligning Cleanup Work

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Today’s Question: I’m finding it very difficult in Photoshop to clean up blemishes that appear along the edge of an object, in terms of being able to get the pixels I paint (with the Clone Stamp tool, for example) to properly align to the edge. Is there a way to position some sort of “ruler” along the edge to help with alignment? I’ve tried using the grid display, but that doesn’t really help very much.

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is actually a very simple solution to aligning your painting when working with the Clone Stamp tool or the Healing Brush tool in Photoshop. Simply turn on the “Show Overlay” checkbox on the Clone Source panel.

More Detail: The “Show Overlay” option is available for the Clone Stamp and Healing Brush tools, both of which allow you to select a source area within the image to be used for replacing a blemish in another area of the photo. When the “Show Overlay” option is turned on, after you have selected a source area by holding the Alt/Option key and clicking on that source, the mouse cursor will display a representation of the source pixels. You can then use that display to properly align the source pixels with the destination area before actually painting.

The “Show Overlay” checkbox is found on the Clone Source panel. To display the Clone Source panel you can either click the Clone Source button toward the left end of the Options bar after selecting the Clone Stamp tool or the Healing Brush tool, or you can choose Window > Clone Source from the menu.

Personally I find the “Show Overlay” option to be a bit of a distraction, so I prefer to keep it turned off until I actually need it. But when the alignment of pixels for cleanup work is critical, the “Show Overlay” option can be invaluable.

Crop to a Zoom Setting

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Today’s Question: I’ve noticed that sometimes when I’m working with an image in Photoshop CS5 and I magnify the image to say 25% or 50%, this provides what I consider to be an ideal cropping for the image. Is there some way that I can crop the image to what I’m seeing on my monitor? I’ve seen references to say a 50% crop or a 100% crop. How does one do this in Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There isn’t a simple way to crop based on a zoom setting, in part because the zoom setting is inversely related to the percentage of the image that is visible. There are, of course, several approaches you could use to crop based on the visible portion of the image, though none of them are especially precise.

More Detail: To begin with, you could apply a crop based on the visible image, by manually adjusting the size of the crop box. With the image sized so you can see the area of the photo you want to keep, you can then choose the Crop tool from the toolbox and click-and-drag from one corner of the image to the opposite corner. Of course, because Photoshop will attempt to automatically scroll the image as you near the edge of the visible area, this can be a little tricky.

Instead, you might prefer to simply apply a manual crop to the image. You could constrain the aspect ratio to that of the original photo if you prefer. To do so, choose “Original Ratio” from the popup at the far left of the Options bar after selecting the Crop tool. You can then adjust the corners of the crop box and the original aspect ratio will be maintained.

By making sure that the “shield” area around the crop box is relatively dark, you can also get a stronger preview of the final effect while you’re working to refine the crop. If you click the “gear” icon on the options bar you can set the value for Opacity, using a value of 75% or more to make sure you are mostly only able to see the photo within the crop box without the distraction of the rest of the image.

While it can sometimes be tempting to crop based on a zoom setting where you can only see part of the image, I think it is also important to keep in mind that when you’re in this situation you aren’t able to see what portion of the image is hidden. Instead you might want to create a basic crop based on the portion of the image that is visible, and then zoom out and refine as needed.

Catalog and Photos Backup

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Today’s Question: Is there any difference (effective or otherwise) between: (1) creating a backup via “Export as Catalog” and (2) copying both the catalog and photograph files outside of Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The only difference relates to the process itself, with the net result being the same provided you copy or export all photos and the related catalog files. This assumes, of course, that you ensure that you are copying the same photos (presumably all of them) and that you copy all files related to your Lightroom catalog.

More Detail: The only real issue here is to make sure that you are copying all photos and the full set of catalog files. Both approaches involve a slight risk of “user error”, and thus I encourage taking a methodical approach.

Exporting as a catalog ensures you are copying the full catalog along with the photos. This is the approach I generally recommend for backing up “everything” related to your photos. The key is to make sure you are actually exporting all photos within the catalog when you use this process.

To be sure you export all photos, start by choosing the “All Photographs” option in the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module. Then make sure no filters are enabled, so all images in the catalog are actually available for selection. Then choose Edit > Select All from the menu to select all of the images, and then choose File > Export As Catalog from the menu. You can then specify where you want to copy the catalog and photos, making sure to turn on the “Export negative files” so that the photos themselves are copied as part of this process.

While you need to exercise a degree of caution when using the “Export as Catalog” option, in my mind there is even more risk of making a mistake when taking a “manual” approach to copying the catalog and your photos. To begin with, the catalog files and your photos might be stored in different locations. And, of course, there are other potential issues involved as well. But provided you copy all of the files associated with your Lightroom catalog and all of the photos referenced by your Lightroom catalog, the net result will be the same as using the “Export as Catalog” command.