Time Machine Backup


Today’s Question: I use Time Machine on my iMac for backups. The iMac has external LaCie Hard Drives. Are the external drives included by Time Machine in its backup sequence?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, by default Time Machine does not backup your external drives. However, you can choose to include external hard drives as part of your Time Machine backup if you prefer.

More Detail: Time Machine provides an automated backup solution for Macintosh computers. To the extent possible based on the space available on the hard drive you are using to backup your computer, Time Machine will create hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups beyond that. When the drive gets full older backups will be deleted. Therefore, depending on the storage capacity of the external drive you’re using for your Time Machine backup, and the amount of data being backed up, your oldest backup may not be particularly old.

By default Time Machine will exclude any connected external hard drives from the backup, so that only the internal hard drives are being backed up. However, you can change this setting in the Options for Time Machine.

To get started, connect both the hard drive you’re using for your Time Machine backup and the external hard drives you want Time Machine to include in the backup. Then click on the Apple logo at the far left of the menu bar and choose System Preferences. In the System Preferences window choose Time Machine. Then click the Options button to bring up a dialog that will show you the external hard drives that are currently excluded from your Time Machine backup.

Select any of the external hard drives from the list that you want to include in your Time Machine backup, and click the “minus” button to remove that drive from the exclusion list. Click Save, and your settings will be updated.

Keep in mind that if you want to backup your internal drives and one or more external drives as part of your Time Machine backup, you will need to have an external hard drive with enough capacity to backup all of the data you are including as part of your backup. Furthermore, since Time Machine is designed to preserve older versions of files as well, you ideally want to use an external hard drive for Time Machine that includes considerably more space than the amount of data you are backing up.

Avoiding Condensation


Today’s Question: I have often read that you should seal your cold camera in a bag before bringing it into a warm area and wait until it comes to room temperature. Could you expound? How cold? How warm?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If a cold object is moved into a relatively humid environment, condensation can form. That condensation can potentially cause harm to the camera, such as by causing a short circuit. Sealing the camera in a bag, preferably with a desiccant, can help ensure no condensation forms on the camera. My general rule is that if you need a jacket when you’re photographing, and then are comfortable taking that jacket off when you return indoors, it is probably sensible to take extra steps to avoid condensation.

More Detail: The bigger issue here relates to the dew point, which in turn relates to relative humidity levels. Because warm air is capable of higher humidity levels than cold air, in general there is some degree of risk when bringing a cold camera into a warm environment.

Obviously if a camera has been exposed to cold temperatures for any significant amount of time, the camera itself will get cold. When you return somewhere warm, the humidity in that warm environment can quickly condense on the cold camera, causing potential problems. How much risk there is depends on the humidity of the air.

In theory you can use the dew point to inform your decision about when extra care is needed to avoid condensation. In reality this is more complicated than it might seem. The dew point is calculated based on current weather conditions. The closer the dew point is to the current temperature, the higher the risk of condensation. But the reported dew point relates to outdoor weather conditions, and the conditions may vary significantly indoors where there is heating and air conditioning.

Because of these complications, my recommendation is to be relatively conservative, and to employ some simple guidelines. In short, if the weather outside is cold enough that you are more comfortable with a jacket, and if the conditions you will return to indoors are warm enough that you can comfortably remove the jacket as soon as you are inside, then you should put your camera in a bag before going indoors.

The best approach to avoid condensation on your camera is to put the camera into a bag with an airtight seal while you are still in the cold environment. Putting a desiccant into the bag will absorb any existing moisture, helping to further reduce the risk of condensation. Once the camera is sealed in the bag, you can bring that camera indoors and allow it to come up to room temperature. Under circumstances where this approach is most necessary it will likely take an hour or two for the camera to return to room temperature. Once the camera has warmed up to the current conditions, you can remove the camera from the bag.

It is possible to achieve a good result without the desiccant packs, but I prefer to make use of a desiccant to help minimize the risk of condensation on the camera, especially when photographing in particularly cold environments. For example, these desiccant packs provide a good solution for this type of use:


Format or Erase?


Today’s Question: After I’ve transferred a shoot to my hard drive, does it matter whether I re-format the media card in the camera or simply erase all old picture files, in terms of capture speed, write speed, quality or anything else for my subsequent captures?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I recommend formatting the card in the camera rather than erasing images from the card using your computer, primarily because formatting will recreate the “table of contents” for the file system on the card. This approach can help avoid issues with corruption occurring over time with the file system on the card.

More Detail: In theory it really shouldn’t matter whether you erase all of the images from a card on your computer or format the card in your camera. As long as the space consumed by those photos has been freed up so you can capture new images, you should be in good shape.

Unfortunately, the file system information on the media card can become corrupted over time, and so it is a good idea to use the format option on your camera to “erase” the card and prepare it to be used for new photos. In essence, this process involves re-creating the file allocation table on the card, which is the “table of contents” used by the card.

Most cameras, by the way, don’t actually remove your image data from the card when you format the card in the camera. The same is true in most cases when you otherwise erase images from the card. The actual image data remains on the card, but the “table of contents” is updated to indicate the photos are no longer there and that the space that had been consumed by the photos is available for saving new images. This is what makes it possible to recover lost images that have been accidentally deleted, even if the card was formatted. As long as you haven’t captured new images (or you use a method of erasing that actually over-writes the image data) you can use special software to recover images you thought were lost.

Auto Exposure Adjustment


Today’s Question: Lately, for a reason I cannot identify, when I open Lightroom (LR5) and Adobe Bridge all of my images are getting an automatic adjustment to their exposure. I know the images are shot (for the most part) at reasonably correct exposures because I can assess them in-camera with the histogram, and they first appear in the Library grid and lower ribbon with decent exposure. But in just a few moments their exposure changes consistently to +2 to +2.5 exposure, causing them to all be over-exposed and blown out. Any ideas as to what I’ve done?

Tim’s Quick Answer: It sounds like you have adjusted the default settings for the Develop module, or that you are applying a preset during the import process into Lightroom. In either case, disabling the applicable option should get you back to “normal” previews for your photos.

More Detail: Assuming you have either created new default settings that include an Exposure (or similar) adjustment or that you have enabled the “Auto” adjustment as part of the new default settings, the key is to reset the default settings in Lightroom.

To reset the Develop adjustments to the default settings, first switch to the Develop module. Then, on the Develop menu on the menu bar, choose the “Set Default Settings” option. In the dialog that appears, click the “Restore Adobe Default Settings” button. This will reset all of the adjustments to the default values.

You’ll also want to confirm within the Import dialog that you are either not selecting a Develop preset at all for the images you’re importing, or that the preset does not include a problematic adjustment. You can check this option in the “Apply During Import” section of the right panel in the Import dialog.

I suspect in this case that you have changed the default Develop settings (or applied a preset), and that you have the option set in Catalog Settings within Lightroom to save changes from Lightroom automatically to the actual image files (or to an XMP sidecar file in the case of RAW captures). This would explain why Adobe Bridge is also showing you the extreme adjustments to the exposure for your photos.

Sort Order


Today’s Question: I use Lightroom 6.0 and when import images from my Canon 7D Mark II there is no order to the images being imported. Are there any settings in Lightroom that will bring order to this problem?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key here is to make sure you are sorting photos by the “Capture Time” option. When you have imported new photos into Lightroom the sort order will often change to the “Added Order” option. Simply changing the sort order to “Capture Time” will provide a solution.

More Detail: You can adjust the sort order for your photos in Lightroom both in the Import dialog and also in the Grid view once you have imported photos. Obviously within the Import dialog the sort order is not quite as critical, but it can still be helpful to view images in the order they were captured regardless of whether you are viewing the images before or after importing them.

In both cases the option to sort is found below the thumbnail display for the photos. In the Import dialog that simply involves choosing the “Capture Time” option from the sort order popup below the thumbnail display of the photos.

In the Library module after importing photos, the “Sort Order” option is found on the toolbar below the Grid view display. So, if you aren’t already in the Grid view display, press the “G” key on the keyboard to switch to this view option. You can then click the “Sort” popup on the toolbar below the Grid view to choose the “Capture Time” sort option. Note that if the toolbar isn’t displayed you can press “T” on the keyboard to enable it. And if the Sort popup isn’t displayed on the toolbar you can click the popup at the far right of the toolbar and choose the Sorting option to enable the Sort popup.

The bottom line is that you want the images sorted by Capture Time in this case to make it easier to review the photos. This is the sort option I recommend for most photographers with typical workflows.

Blue Channel Limitations


Today’s Question: In “Evaluating Photos” you talk about the blue channel being the weakest channel. Is there anything I can do in camera to strengthen that?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Not really. Creating a good exposure, or even better an exposure that is as bright as possible without losing highlight details, will help ensure a relatively “strong” blue channel. But the blue channel in an RGB image will still generally be the “weakest” of the three channels in terms of overall quality.

More Detail: In general you will find that wavelengths of light that fall into the “green” range will generally be strongest in a photographic scene, with the “red” range typically being second. The “blue” range is generally the weakest. This is partly because more green and red light tends to be reflected in typical photographic scenes, and partly because image sensors (and the human visual system) are less responsive to blue light.

As a result, you’ll often find that the blue channel in an RGB (red, green, blue) image tends to be the weakest channel, with more noise and less overall detail than the other two channels. When the photograph was captured under relatively bright lighting conditions, the relative lack of quality in the blue channel won’t represent a serious problem. But when noise (and lack of detail) in an image is of particular concern, the blue channel is likely to be a significant contributor to the problem.

While there isn’t much you can do other than ensuring an optimal exposure, it is worth being aware of the potential for challenges with the blue channel, and to review all of the channels as noted in the “Evaluating Photos” course in the GreyLearning library.

If you’re not already a GreyLearning subscriber, you can sign up for the “Everything” bundle to gain access to the “Evaluating Photos” course as well as all of the other courses in the library. You can get more details here:


TIFF Transparency


Today’s Question: How do you get transparency in a TIFF file?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Transparency in a TIFF image is achieved by either erasing pixels or (preferably) by using a layer mask to hide pixels. However, most applications will not automatically reflect that transparency.

More Detail: This question was something of a follow-up to a question (or two) that previously addressed the PNG (Portable Network Graphics) file format, which supports transparency. What transparency means in the context of a PNG image is that most applications will actually support the transparency, so that whatever is “behind” the image will show through in transparent areas. For example, PNG images with transparency are often used on a website for situations where you want to be able to change the background color of the website without having to modify the PNG image.

For TIFF images the situation is slightly different, since TIFF images are typically used for scenarios that are different from the typical scenarios for PNG images. For example, while PNG images are often used for websites, TIFF images are typically used for printing and other situations that tend to call for larger overall image sizes (and in some cases more advanced features).

For some applications (such as page layout applications) a saved selection (or other layer mask or alpha channel) in a TIFF image can automatically be used as a mask for the image. In other words, even if the master image actually contains a full rectangular arrangement of pixels, an alpha channel can be used so that only the area defined by a saved selection or layer mask is shown when the image is placed in a document.

So, if you want to preserve transparency when saving a TIFF image, you really just need to preserve any layer masks, saved selections, and alpha channels that were used to create that transparency in Photoshop. Just keep in mind that only certain applications will actually present the image with that transparency, since the image is at that point a layered image that for the most part can be thought of as a Photoshop-only image file.

Consolidating Subfolders


Today’s Question: I find that I have created a sub-folder, I assume during import, and I really did not want to. Can you tell me how to get rid of this sub-folder so I have a single folder?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This task involves two basic steps. First you want to move the photos from the sub-folder into the parent folder. Then you want to remove the (now empty) sub-folder. Both of these tasks should be performed directly within Lightroom.

More Detail: To move the photos into the parent folder, you’ll naturally want to first navigate to the sub-folder that contains some of your photos. In other words, simply click on the name of that folder in the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module in Lightroom.

Next, make sure there are no filters applied to your images, so that you’re actually seeing all of the photos in the current folder. You can confirm this by selecting “None” on the Library Filter Bar, which can be made visible by selecting View > Show Filter Bar from the menu.

You can then select all photos in the current folder by choosing Edit > Select All from the menu. Then point your mouse at the thumbnail for one of the selected photos, and drag and drop to the parent folder in the Folders list on the left panel. You will see a dialog asking you to confirm that you want to move the photos on your hard drive, where you can click the Move button to finalize the task.

Once the process of moving the selected photos is complete and the sub-folder is empty, you can remove that sub-folder. To do so, simply right-click on the sub-folder and choose “Remove” from the popup menu.

This process of consolidating folders is covered in Lesson 7 from Chapter 2 in my course “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom”, which can be found in the GreyLearning video training library here:


Larger Image Exports


Today’s Question: Is there a way to adjust the export file sizes in Lightroom? I would like for them to be just a tad larger than what I’m currently getting.

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can most certainly specify pixel dimensions (image size) for photos you export from Lightroom, including creating an image that is larger than the pixel dimensions of the original capture. The options related to output size can be found in the Image Sizing section of the Export dialog.

More Detail: By default, when you use the Export feature in Lightroom to create a derivative image, that image will have the same pixel dimensions as the original capture you’re exporting. Obviously, in many cases you will want to change the pixel dimensions for that derivative image, such as for creating an image file for printing at a specific size.

If you turn on the “Resize to Fit” checkbox in the Image Sizing section of the Export dialog, you can specify the output dimensions you want to use. Note that in order to resize the image you are creating as part of this process, you need to have something other than “Original” or “DNG” selected from the Image Format popup in the File Settings Section of the Export dialog.

With the “Resize to Fit” checkbox turned on, you can then specify the output dimensions using the various options. The settings available allow you to choose from a variety of methods for describing the output size of the image being exported, the dimensions, and the unit of measure.

Note that there is a “Don’t Enlarge” checkbox that you can turn on if you want to make sure that the image you are exporting can’t be sized to dimensions that are larger than the original image. This will help ensure that, for example, you aren’t risking a reduction in image quality for lower-resolution source images. But if you leave that checkbox turned off you can specify dimensions that are larger than the original dimensions for the image you’re capturing, and the derivative image will then be sized based on the settings you have established.

I should add that here I’m referring to the overall pixel dimensions of the image file being created during the export process. The Quality setting also impacts the file size when you are creating a JPEG image from your source photo. That file size doesn’t relate directly to the potential output size for the derivative image, but rather to the overall quality. In other words, when it comes to producing derivative images for high-quality output I would focus on the actual pixel dimensions of the image, not on the file size (in megabytes, for example) of that image.

Offline Images in Lightroom


Today’s Question: When I removed my hard drive from the laptop, the photos in Lightroom showed as “this file is missing”. Is this correct? Should the original source remain plugged in order to work in Lightroom? I do understand that I won’t be working on the original photo.

Tim’s Quick Answer: When the source images are not available on the computer you’re using for Lightroom, the images will indeed show as “missing”. There is no need to be alarmed, provided you know that the photos are only missing because your hard drive is disconnected. And even while the drive is disconnected, you can still update metadata and perform certain other tasks based on the Lightroom catalog.

More Detail: Because Lightroom employs a catalog to maintain information about your photos, you can work with your photos to some extent even when the source images are not available. For example, you can still view thumbnails and previews of your photos, because Lightroom generates those images for reference and maintains them with the catalog rather than with the source photos.

You can also update metadata, such as assigning star ratings, adding keywords, and other details, since that information is written to the catalog as well. If you generate Smart Previews for your photos you can even work in the Develop module and even export copies of your photos based on Smart Previews, all while the source files are unavailable due to the disconnected hard drive.

So, while there are situations where you need to have the source photos available to Lightroom, you can also perform a wide variety of tasks even when you have disconnected an external hard drive that contains your photos. This is one of the benefits of using Lightroom to manage your photos, as opposed to other software tools that do not employ a catalog.