DNG at Capture


Today’s Question: I’m looking at a couple of camera systems that offer varied advantages for my intended use. Suggestions regarding RAW conversion with one system are mixed. The other system offers DNG capture files. I’m curious if DNG has a decided advantage over other proprietary capture files when brought into Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In my view the issue of using DNG files is a bit mixed, but on balance I prefer not to use the DNG format. This is primarily related to other workflow issues, however, and doesn’t relate to any image quality issues or other significant concerns.

More Detail: The Adobe Digital Negative (DNG) format was introduced as an openly documented alternative to proprietary RAW capture formats. While I certainly understand the concerns about proprietary RAW file formats, the availability of many software tools for processing these proprietary RAW formats makes those concerns largely unfounded in my view.

Therefore, I prefer to focus on the workflow considerations as they relate to the DNG format compared to RAW capture formats. That said, I would certainly concede that there is at least some advantage to using a format that is openly documented, compared to proprietary RAW formats that need to be reverse-engineered in many cases in order to be supported by image-processing software.

The DNG file format is capable of applying lossless compression to the image data, which helps to produce smaller file sizes than proprietary RAW capture formats without sacrificing any of the image data. In general a DNG file will be somewhere around 20% smaller than a similar proprietary RAW capture format. This can obviously be a considerable advantage when it comes to storage requirements.

One of the features of the DNG file format that is often touted as an advantage is actually something I consider to be a significant disadvantage for my workflow. That feature is the ability to embed metadata updates within the DNG file rather than storing that information in a separate XMP “sidecar” file as is the case for proprietary RAW capture formats.

One of the key problems with storing metadata within the DNG file is that doing so complicates the process of backing up that metadata. If you are using a synchronization-based approach to backing up your photos, for example, then updating metadata for a photo typically requires you to backup a completely new copy of the DNG image rather than simply updating the very small XMP sidecar file.

I would certainly say that there is no problem with using the DNG file format as a capture format in your photography as it relates to overall image quality. However, I do feel there are some disadvantages from a workflow perspective that cause me to prefer the use of proprietary RAW capture formats rather than DNG.

That said, I’m not sure this issue is important enough that I would choose one camera over the other based on whether a DNG versus proprietary RAW capture format were available with the camera.

Changing Storage Location


Today’s Question: I want to move the Lightroom catalog to the internal SSD and store the active photos folder on the second internal hard drive. I can move the catalog to the SSD drive but I’m uncomfortable moving folders within Lightroom. From within Lightroom one can move folders but you cannot copy. Is there a way to copy the photos from the backup to the internal drive outside Lightroom and then reconnect the catalog with the copy that I make on the internal drive without losing Collections and other Lightroom specific settings?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can copy your photos outside of Lightroom and then reconnect the new copy within Lightroom, and none of the data within your Lightroom catalog will be lost in the process. This is a reasonable alternative to moving the photos within Lightroom.

More Detail: The first part of this process (moving the catalog) is very simple. You’ll want to make sure Lightroom isn’t running, and then copy the entire folder containing your Lightroom catalog (along with the previews file and possibly some other files) to the new location.

When the folder is finished copying, you can rename the original folder to reflect the fact that it is now simply a backup copy of the catalog, such as by adding the word “BACKUP” to the beginning of the folder name. Once the catalog is moved you can continue using Lightroom normally, since that catalog will still reference the photos based on where they are actually stored. Then you can set about the task of moving your photos.

In general I prefer to move photos within Lightroom rather than going through the slightly more complicated process of copying and reconnecting, so I’ll cover that process first. In this case you would want to make sure that you have a complete backup copy of your photos before you move the master copy of your photos.

Once you have a backup copy (or two!) of your photos, you can move the master photos within Lightroom. If the destination hard drive does not contain any photos that are being managed within Lightroom, that drive won’t appear in Lightroom. To make that drive visible, you’ll need to create a folder on that drive within Lightroom. To do so, click the “plus” icon (+) to the right of the Folders header and choose the “Add Folder” option. Navigate to the hard drive you want to move photos to, and create a new parent folder in that location with a name such as “PHOTOS”.

Once you’ve created this folder, it will appear on the applicable hard drive in the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module. You can then move all folders from your existing drive to this new location. Simply click on the first folder on the list, then hold the Shift key on the keyboard while clicking on the last folder on the list. You can then drag-and-drop the full range of selected photos to the new folder you created, clicking the “Move” button in the confirmation dialog to confirm you do indeed want to move your photos to the new location.

If you prefer to copy your photos rather than move them, that is an option as well. Start by quitting Lightroom. You can then use your operating system to copy all of the photos from the existing storage location to the desired new storage location. Once that option is completed, be sure to make sure Lightroom can’t see the original storage location. If that location is an external hard drive, you can simply disconnect the drive. If it is on an internal drive, you can rename the parent folder to “BACKUP”, or otherwise make sure that Lightroom won’t find those original copies of your photos where they are expected.

At this point you can launch Lightroom again. All of the folders and photos will show as being missing, because they are not in the location Lightroom is expecting them. You can then right-click on a top-level folder on the Folders list, and choose the “Find Missing Folder” option. Select the exact same folder in the new storage location and click the Choose button.

In most cases, Lightroom will do a good job of recursively reconnecting all other related folders once you have reconnected one of the folders. I’ve had mixed results with this, however, so in some cases you might need to use this “reconnect” option for multiple folders in order to get everything back in order.

With either approach, as long as you are using the same catalog and ensuring that all of the photos and folders are reconnected in terms of Lightroom being able to find them all, you won’t lose any of the information about your photos that is contained within the Lightroom catalog.

Monitor Selection


Today’s Question: I know this is a perennial question, but what current 27” monitors do you consider to be the best for photo imaging?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While the Eizo ColorEdge displays continue to offer exceptional quality, they are also very expensive. Other excellent displays that provide great quality at a lower price point include models in the Dell UltraSharp lineup, the Professional series from ViewSonic, NEC MultiSync displays, and Samsung SyncMaster, among others.

More Detail: If money is no object, I do consider the Eizo ColorEdge displays to be among the best available. They are, however, considerably more expensive than most other displays available. You can find a sample of a 27-inch Eizo ColorEdge display here: http://timgrey.me/1RvjYQJ

I continue to be impressed by the excellent quality and reasonable price available for the Professional line of ViewSonic displays. One excellent 27-inch option can be found here: http://timgrey.me/1RaSRIC

I was initially surprised at the high quality of the UltraSharp displays available from Dell. That was more than a few years ago, and now I am consistently impressed with how good these displays are. You can find a 27-inch Dell UltraSharp display here: http://timgrey.me/1RdsIYA

The NEC MultiSync displays are another great choice, with a good 27-inch option available here: http://timgrey.me/1pFGrOX

And Samsung continues to produce great displays in the SyncMaster lineup, with a 27-inch option available here: http://timgrey.me/1RvmHtk

Needless to say, there are many great options when it comes to monitor displays. Personally, my favorite continues to be the ViewSonic Professional lineup, with the Dell UltraSharp being a close second. I do recommend taking the time to view these displays in person, although you must keep in mind that in many cases the displays you see in the store won’t be calibrated properly. I am confident that any of the displays linked above will provide you with an excellent viewing experience, and there are many other options to choose from as well.

Traveling Workflow


Today’s Question: I keep my main and only catalog on my laptop and my photos on an external hard drive. While traveling I use the main catalog on my laptop and download photos to a folder on [the internal hard drive on] my laptop. When I return home I connect the external hard drive to my laptop and from within Lightroom move the photos from the laptop desktop folder to the external hard drive. I have done this once and it seemed to work out. What are the potential shortcomings of this workflow?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Overall this workflow is perfectly fine in that it enables you to make use of your “master” Lightroom catalog while traveling, without the need to bring your external hard drive with you. The only significant concern I have relates to moving your photos from one drive to another. But as long as you have a backup of the photos before you move them to a different drive, I would say there are no problems with the approach you are taking.

More Detail: Many photographers (myself included) prefer to work with a separate catalog when traveling, just to isolate the photos from that trip in a single “traveling” catalog. The typical workflow for this type of situation involves importing that “traveling” catalog (and thus the photos captured along the way) using the “Import from Another Catalog” command.

However, if you keep your Lightroom catalog on the laptop you travel with, you can most certainly use that “master” catalog while you’re traveling, even if you’ll be downloading your photos to a storage location that differs from your “master” storage location. A common example, as outlined in today’s question, is that you might have your Lightroom catalog on the internal hard drive on your laptop, with your photos stored on an external hard drive you left at home.

In this type of situation, you can most certainly use your master catalog on the internal hard drive, and download photos to a folder on that same internal hard drive. When you return home and connect your external hard drive, you can then move the photos from the internal hard drive to the external hard drive from within Lightroom, simply by dragging the folder from one location to the other.

The only real risk involved with this type of approach relates to the fact that you would be moving the photos from one drive to another. A safer approach would be to copy the photos from one drive to the next, and only delete the photos from the source drive once you know that the files have been moved properly. But, of course, in any event you would always want to be sure that you have a backup copy of your photos.

Of course, if you have a backup copy of your photos before you initiate the move operation, then you don’t really have anything to worry about. If something goes wrong, you can always recover from your backup. In other words, if you have a backup copy of your photos before you move the source images to their final destination, there is really no problem with moving the photos between drives in Lightroom.

Bus-Powered Drives


Today’s Question: I like to keep my catalogue and photos on an external drive. Is a “desktop” external drive more stable or otherwise preferable over a “passport” drive like the LaCie where one does not have to deal with plugging it to power?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In my opinion a bus-powered hard drive (one that gets its power through the data connection rather than from a separate power connection) is absolutely preferable compared to a “desktop” external hard drive that requires a power connection in addition to the data connection. In my view there is a tremendous advantage to not needing to use a separate power connector, and bus-powered hard drives are also generally smaller than “desktop” external hard drives.

More Detail: A bus-powered hard drive obviously has the advantage of not requiring a separate power adapter. Instead, the same connection used for data transfer also provides power to the drive. This is beneficial when traveling in terms of not having to pack a power adapter for the drive. Frankly, I always prefer bus-powered drives when possible because they also eliminate the risk of having the power get accidentally disconnected for the drive.

I have often heard about risks of data corruption or inadequate power for bus-powered hard drives, especially when connected to a USB port. From my perspective this was an issue with lower-powered USB ports in the past, but is not a real concern for most hardware available today, both in terms of computers and bus-powered hard drives.

I have extensive experience in this regard, and have never had any problems related to the lack of a power adapter for bus-powered drives. All of my photos are stored on a 4 terabyte bus-powered hard drive, with backup copies on an additional bus-powered drive. In addition, all of the content I produce, such as the video training courses I publish in the GreyLearning video training library (http://timgrey.me/greylearningnew), are stored on another bus-powered hard drive. In other words, I make extensive use of bus-powered hard drives, and have done so for many years, without any problems caused by the fact that the drives I’m using don’t have a separate power supply.

No storage device is completely immune to potential data loss, caused by a variety of factors. In my view, there is no need to avoid bus-powered hard drives based on fears of risk to your data. In fact, I feel that bus-powered drives offer considerable advantages. Of course, it is also always important to have an excellent backup system in place to minimize the risk of data loss.

Catalog on External Drive


Today’s Question: My Lightroom catalog is on my external drive, and you say it should be in the computer’s internal drive. What is the downside of having the catalog on an external drive? Or how I can move it to the internal drive?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The only real disadvantage of having the Lightroom catalog on an external hard drive is that you will likely experience slower overall performance in Lightroom. However, having the catalog on an external hard drive also helps to streamline a workflow for being able to access that catalog on multiple computers easily.

More Detail: For optimal performance, I do recommend keeping your Lightroom catalog on an internal hard drive. In most cases this will ensure the fastest access to the catalog and other related files, so that Lightroom can perform at its best. In most cases an external hard drive will result in degraded performance, and with some hardware configurations that performance degradation can be significant.

However, if you need to access your Lightroom catalog on multiple computers, keeping the catalog on an external hard drive can be a good solution. With this approach you can switch to using Lightroom on a different computer by simply connecting the external hard drive to that computer and opening the Lightroom catalog that is stored on the external hard drive.

By keeping the Lightroom catalog on the external hard drive, you are minimizing the risks associated with other potential solutions. For example, if you copy the Lightroom catalog from one computer to another as you switch locations, there is the risk of losing track of which copy of your Lightroom catalog is truly the latest version.

Many photographers have employed online synchronization solutions such as DropBox (http://bit.ly/Pix-Dropbox) to enable them to access their Lightroom catalog across multiple computers. I have tested this solution myself and found that it can work very well. However, this approach also makes me nervous about the potential for files to get out of synch, especially if you use Lightroom on a computer that isn’t always connected to the Internet.

As a result of all of these considerations, I recommend keeping the Lightroom catalog on your computer’s internal hard drive for optimal performance. If you need to share the catalog across multiple computers, then I recommend keeping the catalog on an external hard drive instead.

If you want to move the Lightroom catalog to a different location, that process is relatively straightforward. First, within Lightroom you can determine where the current catalog is located. To do so, choose “Catalog Settings” from the Lightroom menu on Macintosh or the Edit menu on Windows. Then go to the General tab and click the Show button to bring up a window in your operating system showing where the Lightroom catalog is stored.

Next, quit Lightroom so the catalog files will not be in use. Then copy the entire folder containing your Lightroom catalog to the preferred location. As a precaution, I then recommend renaming the “old” catalog folder to indicate it is no longer in use, such as by adding the word “BACKUP” to the beginning of the folder name. You can then double-click on the “lrcat” file (the actual catalog) in the “new” catalog location to open that Catalog in Lightroom and continue working.

For more detail on the options for where to store your Lightroom catalog, you may be interested in the article “Location, Location, Location”, which appeared in the August 2013 issue of Pixology magazine. For photographers who have subscribed to the GreyLearning “Everything” Bundle, you can find all of the back issues of Pixology magazine in the “Pixology Magazine” course in the GreyLearning library. And if you aren’t a subscriber you can sign up here: http://timgrey.me/greylearningnew

Traveling Catalog


Today’s Question: Can you please give simple directions on how to create a travel catalog? I believe you can create one, then import it and add the photos to the main Lightroom catalog at home.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The basic workflow here is reasonably straightforward. For simplicity I recommend creating a “traveling” catalog on an external hard drive specifically for a given trip. Then import images into that catalog and onto that hard drive while traveling. You can then merge this traveling catalog with your master catalog when you return home.

More Detail: I should point out from the start that using an external hard drive as the “home” for a Lightroom catalog isn’t the best option from the standpoint of performance. However, this approach is a little simpler. So, keep in mind that you could make some changes to this workflow based on your priorities and comfort level. But for purposes of this question I’ll focus on a single approach.

The first step would be to create a new “traveling” catalog. So, launch Lightroom on the laptop computer you’ll be traveling with and connect an external hard drive that has enough capacity for both the catalog and the new photos you’ll capture during your trip. Then choose File > New Catalog from the menu. Navigate to the external hard drive in the “Create Folder with New Catalog” dialog and enter a name for the catalog. I recommend naming the catalog based on the trip you’ll be taking, just for clarity.

During the trip you can then work with that “traveling” catalog, importing new photos to the same external hard drive that the catalog is stored on. Along the way you can, of course, perform any work you’d like within Lightroom for those images. For example, you can assign keywords, apply star ratings, add other metadata, and apply adjustments in the Develop module.

When you return home, connect the external hard drive to the computer with your master Lightroom catalog. Launch Lightroom and make sure that your master catalog is open. Then choose File > Import from Another Catalog from the menu. Navigate to the external hard drive and select your traveling catalog as the basis of the import. In the following dialog, choose the option to copy the photos to a different location, and specify your primary storage location for photos as the destination. The existing folder structure for your “traveling” photos will be retained.

With this process you are able to work with your new captures while traveling without any limitations. Upon returning home you can then merge the photos and all of the information from your “traveling” catalog into your master catalog, so that the new photos will appear in that master catalog right alongside all of your existing photos.

Note that you can see this workflow in more detail in my video course “Tim’s Real Organizational Workflow” in the GreyLearning video training library here:


Lens Hood Replacement


Today’s Question: I broke the hood for one of my lenses by bumping it into a wall. Fortunately the lens was not damaged. Do I need to buy the replacement hood from the lens manufacturer? I saw that there is a generic lens hood available that is supposed to work with any lens that has the same diameter.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I highly recommend purchasing a replacement lens hood that is specifically designed for the lens you will use that hood with, especially for wide-angle lenses. Purchasing a replacement lens hood from the lens manufacturer obviously helps to ensure you are getting a hood designed specifically for your lens, but if you can find an alternative that has the exact same shape as the original, that would work fine also.

More Detail: Lens hoods are specifically designed for the lens they will be used with. Admittedly, for a telephoto lens this is not a significant concern. You’ve probably noticed that for lenses with a relatively long focal length the lens hood has a very simple shape, similar to a basic cylinder.

For wide-angle lenses the shape of the lens hood is actually quite important. The “funny” shape of these lens hoods is a result of attempting to shade the lens as completely as possible without allowing the lens hood to actually encroach into the field of view of the lens.

Because of the importance of the shape of the lens hood for a wide-angle lens, I do recommend purchasing a replacement lens from the same manufacturer as that lens, just to be sure you are getting a lens hood that is optimally designed for the lens you’ll use that hood with.

Also, be sure to check out the latest episode of Tim Grey TV, which also features lens hoods. You can watch that episode here:


Incremental Solution


Today’s Question: FYI, there are backup applications that can do incremental backups on a block base. For large files, only changed parts (blocks on the disk) are backed up during incremental runs. For example: CrashPlan.

Tim’s Quick Answer: This isn’t a question, so much as a clarification. In yesterday’s edition of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, I said (in the context of incremental backup) that “it isn’t possible to simply ‘update’ the parts of a file that have changed”. As noted above, my statement wasn’t accurate, as there are some software solutions that enable updating backed up files rather than backing up the same file a second time.

More Detail: The focus of my answer in yesterday’s email related to the benefits of a synchronization (or incremental) backup solution compared to creating an entirely new copy of your data (such as photos) for every backup operation.

As noted yesterday, I do highly recommend a synchronization backup solution compared to a more typical incremental backup solution. Both are incremental in the sense that they aren’t creating full copies of your files every time you backup. Instead, only the files that have changed are updated in the backup.

The key difference between what I refer to as an incremental backup versus a synchronization backup relates to what the backup copy of the data looks like. With software that I would place into the category of an “incremental” backup, the recovery process requires more time because the data must be restored in what can be thought of as an incremental process as well.

By contrast, software that I would fit into a category of a synchronization backup is making a backup that is an exact match of the “master” copy of the files. In other words, in the event of a hard drive failure if you have a synchronization backup you could essentially just replace your master hard drive with the backup hard drive and continue working (making an additional backup copy of your data first, of course).

Thank you, by the way, to the readers who pointed out my error in yesterday’s email. I love being able to help photographers find solutions to their challenges, and I appreciate it when readers catch an error and let me know, so I can pass the clarification on to readers.

Incremental Backup


Today’s Question: I think I remember that you suggested a program that would perform incremental backups as well as full backups. I run into this problem whenever I add photos to a master file and catalog. The photo file is now very large, and to completely backup a current master and catalog each time an addition is made to Lightroom would take forever. I would like to set a backup program that would do an incremental backup within some set period.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I do indeed recommend what in some ways can be thought of as an incremental backup, but that is more along the lines of a one-way synchronization approach to backing up. This helps to streamline the backup process, especially as it relates to the time required to “update” your backup.

More Detail: When it comes to large files such as the “previews” file associated with your Lightroom catalog, an incremental or synchronization backup doesn’t provide a significant benefit. That’s because it isn’t possible to simply “update” the parts of a file that have changed. Instead, every time a file is updated that entire file must be copied to the backup drive.

However, there is no need to backup your entire collection of photos just because you have downloaded new photos. This is the key benefit of an incremental or synchronization backup. When you download new photos, for example, only those new photos need to be copied to your backup hard drive, because all of your existing photos are already on that drive.

There are differences between an incremental and synchronization backup. In general, an incremental backup involves making a copy of files that have changed, but in a way that requires recovery software to restore lost files if you experience a hard drive failure, for example. A synchronization approach involves updating the backup drive so it is an exact copy of the “master” drive, so that a failure is easier to recover from.

The software I have recommended (and continue to use) for a synchronization-based backup solution is called GoodSync. You can learn more about GoodSync here: