15 Years of Ask Tim Grey!


Today marks the 15-year anniversary of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter.

cropped-ATGLogoCircle1.pngI had no idea what I was getting myself into when I sent out that first email newsletter. Little did I know I would still be answering questions from photographers through that email newsletter fifteen years later, and that writing those emails would become a major focus of my working life. The time has flown by very quickly, and we’ve seen so much change along the way!

Early questions in the email newsletter (which was called “Digital Darkroom Questions” way back then) related mostly to scanning slides, processing scanned slides in Photoshop, and understanding the potential of digital cameras and when they might replace film.

Today, many of the questions relate to image management, photography, and better understanding the technologies that influence our photography. We’ve transitioned from low-resolution (and heavy!) digital SLR cameras that seemed better at generating noise than creating photographs, to smartphones with greater resolution and higher image quality that fit in our pocket.

I’ve written over 3,000 editions of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter (3,029 as of now, to be exact). I don’t know how any photographers find the time to read the emails, much less how I manage to find the time to write them. But it is so wonderful to have photographers tell me they appreciate the effort.

On more than one occasion when I’ve missed a day or two of the email newsletter due to a hectic schedule, I’ve had photographers write to make sure I was OK, indicating they were worried at the absence of the emails. And a great many photographers have told me how much they enjoy reading the daily emails with their morning cup of coffee.

As a way of celebrating this milestone, I’ve teamed up with some partners to provide discounts on products and services I’ve become a fan of over the years. I am also providing a special offer on a GreyLearning subscription.

You can get all of the details about special “15-Year Anniversary” discounts here:


I am extremely grateful to all photographers who let me into their Inbox with the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter. I appreciate the support I have received and the kind words I’ve heard from photographers for fifteen years and counting. Thank you so very much.

Here’s to another fifteen years!

Tim Grey

Tim Grey

Version Mismatch


Today’s Question: With Adobe not updating Photoshop CS6 with the new profiles, but updating them in Lightroom 6 I now have some questions to ask. When I want to edit an image in Lightroom 6 using Photoshop CS6, I get three options:

1) Render using Lightroom (which gets me a file by the name of filename-Edit.psd)
2) Open Anyway (which gets me a file by the name of filename.psd)
3) Cancel

What is happening with 1 & 2? What conversion am I getting with each?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The choices presented to you translate into whether you want Lightroom (the first option) or Photoshop (the second option) to process the RAW capture. In this case Lightroom has a more recent version of Camera Raw, so you are better off using the “Render Using Lightroom” option.

More Detail: The core issue here is that Lightroom and Photoshop do not have the same version of Camera Raw. As you may be aware, both Photoshop and Lightroom use Camera Raw as the processing engine for RAW captures. When both Lightroom and Photoshop are using the same version of the underlying Camera Raw engine, you will get the exact same results when processing a RAW capture in either Photoshop or Lightroom, and all of the same features will be available.

When there is a mismatch between the version of Camera Raw available in Photoshop and Lightroom, you need to choose which version should be used to process your RAW capture. In this case Lightroom will have a later version of Camera Raw than Photoshop CS6 will have, and so you are better off using Lightroom to process the RAW capture in order to ensure that all of the adjustments you’ve applied within Lightroom will actually be applied to the rendered image.

If you’re concerned about the “-Edit” being added to the filename by Lightroom, that is easy to remove. For derivative images that have already been created, you can simply choose the Rename Photo command from the Library menu after selecting an image in Lightroom. To cause Lightroom to no longer add the “-Edit” text to the filename of derivative images, you can change the Template settings in the Preferences dialog.

To change the file naming template for derivative images, first choose Preferences from the Lightroom menu on the Macintosh version of Lightroom or from the Edit menu on the Windows version of Lightroom. Click the button for the External Editing tab in the Preferences dialog, and then choose Edit from the Template popup at the bottom of the dialog.

In the Filename Template Editor dialog that appears, you can then change the settings for the filename template for derivative images. For example, you could simply remove the “-Edit” text from the template if you want to retain the base filename with a new filename extension (TIF or PSD depending on which file format you’ve chosen to use). Then click the Done button to close the Filename Template Editor dialog, and close the Preferences dialog. Images sent to any external editor (including Photoshop) from that point forward will be named based on the changes you’ve made.

Mysterious Lines


Today’s Question: I’m using the current version of Photoshop and just recently I’ve been getting an artifact (vertical translucent red lines) appearing in the image when making an adjustment on adjustment layers. The problem is intermittent but occurs with regularity. When I flatten the image the artifact disappears. Have you any ideas on how to overcome this problem?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The fact that these lines only appear while you’re working in Photoshop and disappear when you flatten the image is a clear indication to me that the issue at play is the display adapter (graphics processor) in the computer. Turning off the “Use Graphics Processor” checkbox on the Performance tab of the Preferences dialog will most likely cause this problem to be resolved.

More Detail: The photographer who submitted this question included a sample screen shot image that showed the lines that are appearing on his photos. Those lines resemble corruption artifacts that you might otherwise see with a corrupted digital capture. The fact that these artifacts disappear when the image is flattened suggests that the issue relates to the way the image is being rendered on the screen, not the actual contents of the photo.

Photoshop (among other applications, including Lightroom) makes use of the display adapter (graphics processor) for a variety of tasks, primarily aimed at improving overall performance for the application. Using the graphics processor can most certainly improve performance, but in some cases it can also lead to compatibility issues and stability problems.

Whenever you see visual artifacts that seem to relate to the Photoshop interface, the display adapter is the most likely culprit. For example, I’ve seen issues where the mouse icons for tools will only partially appear. Fortunately, you can easily turn off the “Use Graphics Processor” checkbox to test whether that resolves the problem. In many cases this does provide a solution.

Turning off the “Use Graphics Processor” checkbox won’t have any significantly harmful effects on Photoshop, other than a potential degradation in performance for certain processor-intensive tasks. However, certain features that require the graphics processor will be disabled as well, such as the HUD Color Picker. But all of the features that are disabled can be accessed through other means, so you’re not actually losing any core features.

To access the “Use Graphics Processor” checkbox you need to bring up the Performance tab of the Preferences dialog. To do so on Macintosh you can choose Photoshop > Preferences > Performance from the menu. On Windows the same menu command can be found under Edit > Preferences > Performance.

Sensor Size and Depth of Field


Today’s Question: A friend has a Canon PowerShot G1X camera and it appears that when we are both photographing the same subject (me a D800E with a Sigma 180mm macro) that he gets a greater depth of field at f/13 than I do at f/22. Is there a way to estimate the f-stop I need to use to get a comparable depth of field using my full frame sensor versus his smaller sensor?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The overall math involved here could certainly be a bit tricky. However, as a general rule if you are adjusting your position to achieve the exact same framing of the scene, on the full-frame sensor you would need to use an f-number that is about double the aperture setting being used on the smaller sensor, bearing in mind that the f-stop is a fraction based on focal length. So, for example, if the G1X sensor is set to f/11, you would need to use about f/22 on the full-frame sensor with the same framing of the subject to achieve the same depth of field.

More Detail: There are a variety of ways you could look at this issue, but I think the key thing to keep in mind is that several factors are impacted by the smaller sensor size. The image sensor on the G1X is considerably smaller than a full-frame sensor (in this case about the size of a four-thirds system sensor). As a result, the framing of the scene will have a narrower field of view compared to the same focal length on a full-frame camera.

It is common with smaller cameras to reference the “effective” focal length of the lens, rather than the actual focal length of the lens. For example, the kit lens for the G1X is often described as having an effective focal length range of 28mm to 112mm. However, the actual lens focal length is 15.1mm to 60.4mm. The smaller sensor is simply cropping the image circle, resulting in the field of view you would achieve with a longer lens on a full-frame camera.

Because of that smaller image circle then, you are able to achieve the same field of view (cropping) for the scene from a greater distance. Focusing at a greater distance results in greater depth of field. This increased depth of field can be a tremendous advantage in some cases, but of course it can be a tremendous (and frustrating!) disadvantage when you are trying to achieve narrow depth of field.

In this type of situation, my personal approach would be to think about the fact that the focusing distance would be greater (or the focal length shorter at the same distance) for the camera with the smaller sensor compared to the camera with a full-frame sensor, rather than trying to think about the difference in aperture setting that would be required. In other words, I would tend to think about the overall concepts rather than trying to do a bunch of math in my head (or taking out my iPhone to use my depth of field calculator).

Adjustment Order


Today’s Question: How do adjustments in Lightroom (for blacks, whites, shadows, clarity, vibrance, etc.) affect noise? Should noise be dealt with first or last, after all other adjustments?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In general concept, you can make changes to the various adjustments within Lightroom in any order at all, since the order you apply adjustments doesn’t impact the actual effect of those adjustments. That said, it is important to evaluate the impact of one adjustment on another. For example, if you brighten up shadow detail you may need to increase the strength of noise reduction.

More Detail: Lightroom employs a non-destructive workflow for your photos, meaning that when you are working in the Develop module you aren’t actually changing pixel values in your original capture, but rather creating a set of adjustment metadata that is used to adjust the appearance of your photo within Lightroom, and as the basis of the processing for the photo when you export a copy of a photo.

Among other things, this means you don’t need to apply your adjustments in any particular order to achieve a given result for a photo. In theory, for example, you would want to apply noise reduction before sharpening, so that the sharpening doesn’t enhance the underlying noise. In the case of Lightroom (and also with Adobe Camera Raw), it doesn’t matter whether you adjust the settings for noise reduction or sharpening first. All that matters is the final settings established for these controls.

To be sure, if the noise reduction adjustment doesn’t eliminate the noise altogether, other adjustments may make the noise more visible or more problematic. For example, sharpening can serve to emphasize noise in an image, and brightening shadows can make noise more visible in the photo.

Any adjustment that enhances color or contrast, or that brightens up detail in the photo, has the potential to make noise more visible in the photo. But if the noise reduction settings you’ve applied cause the noise to be mitigated adequately, the effect of those other adjustments on any noise that remains will generally be relatively minor.

Smart Collection Sync?


Today’s Question: I saw your presentation about synchronizing photos from Lightroom so I can view and share those photos on my iPad using Lightroom Mobile. I’ve created a smart collection that includes all of my five-star photos, but there is no checkbox to turn on synchronization for this smart collection. Did I miss a step somewhere?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The issue in this case is that you are using a Smart Collection. At least for now, Lightroom is only able to synchronize images via “normal” Collections. Smart Collections can’t be enabled for synchronization to Lightroom Mobile.

More Detail: I would imagine that at some point in the future Adobe will enable the option to synchronize Smart Collections in additional to “normal” Collections, but that’s just a guess on my part. In the meantime, you’ll need to use standard Collections for synchronization to Lightroom Mobile.

The overall synchronization process is actually very simple. The first step is to make sure synchronization is enabled. To do so, first click on the Identity Plate (the Lightroom logo) at the top-left of the Lightroom interface. You should see a “pause” button (two vertical bars) to the right of the “Sync with Lightroom mobile” item. If you see a “play” button (a right-pointing triangle) or the words “Start” you can click that option to enable synchronization.

Next you need to turn on synchronization for one or more collections. If you’ve not already created a collection, you can do that first. In this case, for example, you might want to go to the Smart Collection you’ve already created. Then select all of the photos (choosing Edit > Select All from the menu, for example). Click the “plus” symbol (+) to the right of the Collections header on the left panel, and choose “Create Collection” from the popup that appears.

In the Create Collection dialog you can enter a meaningful name for the new collection. In this case, since you’ve already selected the photos you want to include in the collection you can turn on the “Included selected photos” checkbox. You can also enable the Collection for synchronization by turning on the “Sync with Lightroom mobile” checkbox. Then click the Create button to close the Create Collection dialog and actually create the new Collection.

At this point you’ll see a small icon that looks something like a lightning bolt to the left of the new Collection you created, indicating that this Collection is being synchronized via Lightroom Mobile. You can click on that icon to disable synchronization, of course. And if you want to enable synchronization for an existing Collection you can click in the space where that icon would appear to enable synchronization.

Once synchronization is complete, you can launch the Lightroom Mobile application on your mobile device in order to access all photos that are included in synchronized Collections.

Scale Styles


Today’s Question: I have always wondered what the option to “Scale Styles” adds to the Image Resize window [in Photoshop Elements, or the Image Size dialog in Photoshop].  I usually click it but don’t know what it contributes to resizing.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “Scale Styles” option relates to any effects you may have applied to an image layer. For example, if you apply a Drop Shadow to an image layer, with the “Scale Styles” option turned on the Drop Shadow will also be resized in proportion to the change in size of the photo. With the option turned off, the Drop Shadow would remain at the same size, even though the photo itself would change in size.

More Detail: In Photoshop Elements and older versions of Photoshop, the “Scale Styles” option is available as a checkbox in the Image Resize dialog (or Image Size dialog in Photoshop). You can simply turn this checkbox on to have any layer effects you’ve applied to the photo scaled in proportion to the degree to which you are resizing the photo. Or, if you want to resize the photo without resizing the layer effects, you can turn this checkbox off.

In newer versions of Photoshop, the Scale Styles checkbox is no longer included within the dialog, but the feature is still available. Simply click the “gear” icon toward the top-right of the Image Size dialog to disable or enable the Scale Styles option.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but if you have not applied any layer styles to any of the layers within an image, it doesn’t make any difference whether the Scale Styles option is enabled or disabled.

Quality versus Resolution


Today’s Question: After reading an answer from you about sensor size it made me wonder about the Canon EOS 5DS R compared to the 1D X. Since they both have the same size sensor would the 1D X have a greater dynamic range and less noise since the pixels are larger? Or are they using a different sensor?

Tim’s Quick Answer: As a general rule, with two sensors of the same physical dimensions, the sensor with the lower resolution (larger individual pixel size) will provide higher dynamic range and lower noise levels. But that isn’t always the case, as demonstrated by the fact that 5DS R is capable of providing better performance at low ISO despite having a much higher resolution in a sensor of the same physical size as that of the 1D X.

More Detail: There are, of course, many factors that impact overall sensor performance. Therefore, general rules about what you can expect always need to be compared to actual real-world results produced under real-world circumstances.

The Canon 5DS R and Canon 1D X cameras have full frame sensors with the same overall dimensions. The 5DS R, however, features 50.6 megapixel resolution compared to the 18.1 megapixel resolution of the 1D X. That means the 5DS R has individual photosites (pixels) that are much smaller than those found on the sensor for the 1D X, which would reasonably cause you to assume that the 5DS R would offer lower dynamic range and higher noise levels compared to the 1D X.

The 5DS R is actually capable of producing higher dynamic range and lower noise levels compared to the 1D X, which is impressive (and perhaps a little unexpected). But you need to take a couple of additional details into account here.

First of all, the 5DS R was released more than three years after the 1D X. That’s a long time when we’re talking about advanced technology. While smaller individual pixels on a sensor generally translate into higher noise levels, it is also true that with technological advancements the noise performance of imaging sensors has improved over time.

In the specific case of these two cameras, it is also important to look at the testing data a little more closely. The results that I’ve seen show that the 5DS R does indeed perform better than the 1D X in many image quality respects, but only at relatively low ISO settings. About an ISO setting of somewhere around 400 or 800 ISO, the 1D X actually starts to perform better than the 5DS R.

So, again, general rules can be helpful in evaluating the overall landscape of digital cameras, and in providing a sense of what you can expect and what you might want to look out for. But it is also critically important to keep in mind that general rules are just general rules, and there are typically exceptions to every one of those rules. Also, as noted above, when a particular camera is described as “better” in some regard compared to another camera, that comparison is often an over-simplification of what actually detailed testing will reveal.

As always, it is therefore very important to go beyond the published specifications and general statements about a particular camera, and instead critically evaluate the specific performance numbers that are important to you based on your particular needs as a photographer.

Skip Import Screen?


Today’s Question: I’m adapting (begrudgingly) to the new Import dialog in Lightroom. However, I feel it is redundant to choose a source of photos in the “first” screen when I can also set that source in the “second” screen. Is it possible to skip the first screen and go strait to the actual Import dialog?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can most certainly disable the “Add Photos” screen, which is the first screen you’re referring to with the new Import experience in Lightroom 6.2 (2015.2). Simply turn off the “Show ‘Add Photos’ Screen” checkbox on the General tab of the Preferences dialog.

More Detail: I should hasten to add that the response to the new Import experience in Lightroom has not been all that great, to the extent that Adobe recently announced they will soon be releasing a new version of Lightroom that reverts the Import experience to the previous interface before the changes in version 6.2 (2015.2) of Lightroom.

It seems that the “Add Photos” screen was causing frustration for some photographers not only because it added a step to the import process, but also because it seems to have been contributing to some issues that were causing Lightroom to crash. Thus, turning off this “Add Photos” option could streamline your Import experience, but also possibly improve the stability of Lightroom.

To disable the “Add Photos” feature, you need to first bring up the Preferences dialog. On Macintosh you can bring up the Preferences dialog by choosing Lightroom > Preferences from the menu. For Windows users you will find this option under Edit > Preferences on the menu.

Next, choose the General tab within the Preferences dialog. In the Import Options section you will find the “Show ‘Add Photos’ Screen” checkbox. Simply turn this checkbox off and close the Preferences dialog, and the initial screen will no longer be displayed when you initiate the Import process.

I will include a note in an upcoming edition of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter as soon as the Lightroom update that reverts the Import experience has been released by Adobe.

“Hidden” Tools


Today’s Question: This may be a silly (or at least very simple) question. I was trying to use the Magic Wand tool [in Photoshop], but I couldn’t find it! I see the Quick Selection tool on the toolbar, but is the Magic Wand tool still available? I saw one of your tutorials that suggested using the Magic Wand tool, but I don’t seem to have it!

Tim’s Quick Answer: The Magic Wand tool is indeed available, it is just “hiding” beneath the Quick Selection tool on the Tools panel. You can access the Magic Wand tool by clicking and holding the mouse button down (or right-clicking) on the button for the Quick Selection tool on the Tools panel, and then choosing the Magic Wand tool from the flyout menu that appears.

More Detail: There are several tools on the Tools panel in Photoshop that appear on a flyout menu connected with the “primary” tool for each button. Those tools that include additional “hidden” tools are indicated by a small triangle icon at the bottom-right corner of the buttons found on the Tools panel.

In all cases, if you click-and-hold the mouse on the button, or right-click on the button, you will see a flyout menu that includes the additional tools available. So, for example, when you click-and-hold the mouse on the button for the Rectangular Marquee tool, you’ll see a flyout menu that includes the Elliptical Marquee tool, the Single Row Marquee tool, and the Single Column Marquee tool, in addition to the Rectangular Marquee tool.