Photo Buttons


Today’s Question: I remember seeing a video lesson where you demonstrated how to make a button featuring a photo. I’ve been asked to provide some photos for a fundraising event and thought a photo button would be a good promotional gift to provide attendees. Can you point me to the information about what you recommend for creating photo buttons?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The video you’re referring to was an episode of “Tim Grey TV”, filmed on location at the headquarters of American Button Machines. They sell all of the equipment, supplies, and software you need to create buttons featuring photos or other artwork. You can find my video about creating a photo button on the Tim Grey TV channel on YouTube here []:

More Detail: When I had the opportunity to visit the American Button Machines headquarters I was surprised at the wide variety of buttons you could create featuring photos or other artwork. I imagine just about everyone is familiar with the traditional “pinback” buttons. In addition there are also a wide variety of variations on this concept, including buttons with a mirror on the back, buttons that function as a bottle opener, and many other options.

I think photo buttons can certainly be a great way to promote a charitable organization or event. For example, the owner of American Buttons Machines is also an accomplished photographer, and creates photo buttons for events supporting a raptor rehabilitation center.

If you’re just getting started creating buttons, and specifically want to create buttons that feature your photography, I recommend considering a kit that includes supplies for 2.25-inch, 3-inch, or 3.5-inch buttons. You can find kits for these photo-friendly button sizes on the American Button Machines website here:


You may also find it helpful to review some of the informative videos available on the American Button Machines website, which you can find here:

And finally, if you decide to purchase a photo button kit, if you use coupon code TGPHOTO during checkout you’ll get a free year of button making software (an $82.95 value) with your purchase. You’ll also get free UPS Ground shipping on the kit to the lower 48 states.

Traveling Workflow


Today’s Question: Which computer do you use in the field? And is it mainly to download and get a quick look at your images or do you do any initial adjustments in Lightroom or Photoshop as well?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When traveling I use a 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop (, both for image download, review, and initial editing, as well as all the other work I need to keep up with along the way. In fact, about ten years or so ago, I switched to using a laptop as my exclusive computer, doing away with my desktop computer.

More Detail: My needs are probably not representative of most photographers, but I do think they are similar to what many photographers might need at least when they are traveling for photography.

I bring a laptop with me on virtually every trip, not because I necessarily need it for managing or processing my photos, but because I need additional utility along the way. For example, even on extended trips I still produce new video content for GreyLearning, continue publishing the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, and more.

While I do need the additional power of a computer for tasks beyond my photography, I still also prefer having a laptop for my photography workflow when on the road. I simply find I prefer the additional features available with a laptop as compared to something like a tablet or portable storage device.

Part of my reasoning for traveling with a laptop is that it enables me to maintain my normal photographic workflow no matter where I am. I travel with a laptop and external hard drives, so I can work with new and old photos along the way. I use Adobe Lightroom Classic CC ( as the foundation of my workflow. With my Lightroom catalog stored on the internal hard drive of my laptop, I’m able to work with my photos from virtually anywhere.

While traveling I download my photos into my Lightroom catalog, copying the image files to an external hard drive (and to a backup drive). I then at the very least identify favorite photos along the way, and optimize and share the photos I consider to be my best.

There are obviously other potential solutions, such as to use the cloud-based Lightroom CC to work from a mobile device such as an iPad. But my preference is to travel with a laptop so I have greater utility while traveling.

Shutter Speed for Video


Today’s Question: When I’m capturing video on my digital SLR, the shutter speed can only be set as slow as 1/30th of a second. But there doesn’t seem to be any limit to how fast a shutter speed I can use. Is there any guideline on what shutter speed I should use when shooting video?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Generally speaking you will want to use a relatively slow shutter speed for video, for a smoother playback experience. Using fast shutter speeds can result in a video that has a bit of a stuttering appearance. I generally aim for shutter speeds of around 1/30th to 1/60th of a second.

More Detail: There has long been a rule of thumb in video that the shutter speed should be half the duration of each frame based on the recording and playback speed. For example, many videos are recorded at 30 frames per second (fps), which would mean a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second would be good.

I don’t consider it critical to strictly follow this “rule”, but it does provide a good general guideline. If you use a very fast shutter speed for video, the playback will have a stuttering appearance. By using a shutter speed that is close to the duration each frame will be visible in the video, you’ll get a more natural and generally pleasing appearance for the video.

The only time I would use a faster shutter speed than about 1/60th of a second for video is if it was important to freeze action in the video. For example, you may have noticed when watching movies that if the camera pans across a scene, it is often impossible to read words on signs that appear in the frame, because at a shutter speed of about 1/30th of a second the panning movement is enough to cause motion blur for each frame in the video.

So, opt for a shutter speed of about 1/60th of a second as a general rule for video. You may find a neutral density filter helpful for this purpose, especially if you want to keep the lens aperture relatively wide open to achieve narrow depth of field. Only use fast shutter speeds for videos where it is important to freeze the action, keeping in mind that the video will have a somewhat stuttering appearance when fast shutter speeds are used.

Download Connection


Today’s Question: Is there a preferred method for downloading images to the computer, such as connecting the camera to the computer via a cable versus inserting the memory card into the computer’s card slot?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In terms of reliability, connecting a camera to your computer or using a card reader are generally about the same. However, I recommend using a card reader for better performance and less risk to your camera.

More Detail: Generally speaking you will get the same reliable transfer of data whether you’re using a card reader or a direct camera connection to download photos to your computer. That said, I do think there is a slightly higher risk of having problems with a direct camera connection, simply because a camera tends to get abused in the field a bit more than a card reader. But if there is a problem with the camera in terms of downloading photos, there may also be a problem capturing photos in the first place. In other words, I wouldn’t consider this to be a major cause for concern.

However, in most cases you will be able to download photos faster with a card reader than with a camera connected directly to your computer. More importantly from my perspective, I prefer using a card reader in order to avoid putting my camera at risk. I’m simply worried that with my camera directly connected to my computer with a cable, there’s too much risk that I’ll manage to snag the cable and knock my camera to the floor.

So, both for performance benefits and keeping your camera safe, I recommend keeping your camera in the camera bag, opting for a card reader to download photos to your computer.

Transform Confusion


Today’s Question: When resizing a layer in a composite image in Photoshop, I used to be able to hold the Shift key while dragging the mouse to lock the aspect ratio for the layer so the image wouldn’t get distorted. With a recent update that isn’t working anymore. How do I get the Shift key working again for resizing layers?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The Transform feature now maintains the aspect ratio by default for a layer you are resizing. So, without holding the Shift key you’ll maintain the aspect ratio, and you can hold the Shift key if you want to alter the aspect ratio while resizing.

More Detail: In earlier version of Photoshop if you were using one of the Transform commands to resize an image layer or layer mask, you needed to hold the Shift key if you wanted to maintain the aspect ratio while dragging the handle for one of the corners of the layer. With a recent update to Photoshop CC, however, the behavior is now reversed.

So, if you want to retain the aspect ratio when resizing using one of the Transform commands, simply drag the handle at any corner of the image you’re resizing. You don’t need to hold the Shift key, as the aspect ratio will be retained automatically. If you do want to alter the aspect ratio while resizing, simply hold the Shift key as you drag the handle for one of the corners.

Note that the various Transform commands can be found on the Edit menu in Photoshop. For most of my resizing I use the Free Transform command, which you can activate by choosing Edit > Free Transform from the menu. In addition, you can access additional types of transformations by looking at the submenu under Edit > Transform on the menu.

DNG to Raw


Today’s Question: I originally imported files in Lightroom Classic CC as DNG files. I switched to importing the CR2 [original raw capture] files a few years back. When I go to the menu and choose Edit > Preferences > File Handling > File Extensions, the only options I see are dng or DNG. How do I make the change back to CR2? And what’s the difference between dng and DNG?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The filename extension (which can be upper or lower case) reflects the file type. While you can convert an original raw capture to the Adobe DNG (Digital Negative) file type, you can’t convert a DNG file to a proprietary raw capture format. Your only option would be to extract the proprietary raw capture file from the DNG if it was embedded originally, or to recover the proprietary raw capture files from a backup.

More Detail: The Adobe DNG file format was created as an alternative to the many varieties of proprietary raw capture formats created by camera manufacturers. Some cameras include the option to capture in the Adobe DNG format in place of the proprietary raw capture format. In addition, when importing photos into Lightroom Classic CC you have the option to convert your raw captures to the DNG format. To do so you select the “Copy as DNG” option (rather than the “Copy” option) when configuring the import for your new photos.

It is not possible to convert and Adobe DNG file to a proprietary raw capture format. However, if you embedded the original raw capture in the DNG file, you can use the Adobe DNG Converter application to extract that embedded raw capture. This would be done using the DNG Converter directly, outside of Lightroom.

The option to embed the original proprietary raw capture in the DNG file would need to have been selected before importing (or otherwise converting) to create DNG files from your proprietary raw captures. That option can be found on the File Handling tab of the Preferences dialog in Lightroom. Simply turn on the “Embed Original Raw File” checkbox, and when you create DNG images the original raw will be embedded as part of the file.

If you did not use the option to embed the original raw capture in the DNG files you created, the only option would be to recover from a backup copy of the original proprietary raw captures. However, if you used the “Copy to DNG” option during import, you may not have such a backup. Unless you manually copied the files yourself, the only backup of the original raw capture files would have been created if you made use of the “Make a Second Copy To” option in the Import dialog. That would cause a copy of the original raw captures from your media card to be copied to the designated location. When copying as a DNG file, the original raw capture file is not retained, so this backup option during import would provide the only other way to access the raw captures.

Dangerous to Delete In-Camera?


Today’s Question: I’ve heard it may not be a good thing to delete shots from the memory card while it’s in the camera body. Does this hurt the card or the camera?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Deleting photos from a media card in the camera does not harm the camera or the media card. It is perfectly safe to delete images directly on the camera.

More Detail: I have frequently gotten this question from photographers, and have heard more than a few people give the advice that deleting in the camera could lead to corrupted images or damage to the media card. That is not true.

Media cards (and cameras) have gotten quite sophisticated, and do a very good job of managing the data stored on the media card. In many respects a media card functions very similar to a traditional hard drive, though with obvious differences based on the different storage media involved.

With these types of storage devices, when a file is deleted the space it was occupying is marked as being available. Other files can then be written in that space on the media. With both hard drives and flash-based media, a single file might be spread across a number of non-contiguous areas of the media. I suspect this attribute of media card storage may be what causes some to conclude that deleting files could lead to file corruption.

Rest assured it is perfectly safe to delete files from a media card directly on your camera. Deleting on the camera can also be helpful, both in terms of freeing up space on the card and deleting outtakes before you get back to your computer. Just be sure you don’t miss a great photo opportunity because you were busy reviewing photos on the back of the camera!

Maximize Compatibility Unnecessary?


Today’s Question: You suggested that the Maximize Compatibility for Photoshop PSD files wasn’t required to open an older PSD file with the latest version of Photoshop. If that’s the case, is there any reason to actually use Maximize Compatibility?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The Maximize Compatibility option for Photoshop PSD (and PSB) files is not generally critical for photographers using a workflow that revolves around Photoshop. If you are using (or planning to use) Lightroom, however, you will want to enable the Maximize Compatibility feature. The Maximize Compatibility option also enables you to preview PSD files with other software applications, and ensures that an image will maintain the same appearance even if opened with a significantly different version of Photoshop than it was created with.

More Detail: As you are probably already aware, in Photoshop you can create images with a variety of different image and adjustment layers. To retain layers in an image, you need to save it as either a TIFF or Photoshop PSD file. With the Photoshop PSD file format you have the option to enable a “Maximize Compatibility” feature. Note that enabling the Maximize Compatibility option will double the base file size for the image, so you may not want to use it unless you absolutely need it in your workflow.

On the File Handling tab of the Preferences dialog in Photoshop you’ll find an option for maximizing compatibility for PSD (and PSB) files. You can always enable the Maximize Compatibility feature, never enable it, or have Photoshop ask you whether you want this option enabled each time you save a Photoshop PSD file.

When you enable the Maximize Compatibility feature, you are essentially saving a flattened copy of the image as an additional layer, beyond the image and adjustment layers you would otherwise see on the Layers panel. This serves two basic features.

First, with this flattened composite layer as part of the file, other software applications can render proper previews of the image. Note that Lightroom does require that Maximize Compatibility be turned on in order to import these files into the catalog.

Second, the Maximize Compatibility option helps ensure an image can retain the same appearance even if it is opened with a different version of Photoshop than it was created with. For example, the algorithms for some of the adjustment layers have been changed from time to time. If you open a PSD image from an older version of Photoshop with a version that uses different algorithms, the appearance of the image would be altered. With Maximize Compatibility enabled, you can essentially open a flattened version of the image that looks accurate, or a layered version that may not be accurate.

So, Lightroom users most certainly need to enable Maximize Compatibility for all PSD files they will manage within Lightroom. Photographers who won’t be using Lightroom generally don’t need to enable this option.

Working Offline


Today’s Question: If I store my photos on an external hard drive, do I need to always have that hard drive connected to my computer in order to work with my images in Lightroom [Classic CC]?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, as long as the Lightroom catalog is available, you don’t need to have your source image files available to perform many tasks in Lightroom Classic CC. However, some tasks require that you first build Smart Previews, and some tasks require that the source images be available.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic CC stores the information about your photos in the Lightroom catalog. That catalog, in turn, references the actual photos being managed by your catalog, wherever those photos might be stored. Because the information about your photos is contained within the catalog, you can perform a variety of tasks in Lightroom even if the source files aren’t currently available (such as when you have disconnected an external hard drive that contains your photos).

As long as your Lightroom catalog is available (such as by being stored on the internal hard drive on your computer) you can perform a variety of tasks without access to the source photos. For example, you can browse your photos based on the previews Lightroom has generated, and even update keywords and other metadata, even if the external hard drive containing your photos is not currently connected to your computer. If you build Smart Previews for your photos, you can even work in the Develop module when the source image files are not available.

Some tasks do require the source images. For example, if you want to export a copy of a photo in the original capture format, the source file must be available. But there are quite a number of tasks you can perform in Lightroom even when the source photos aren’t currently available, thanks to the catalog Lightroom uses to manage the information about your photos.

Note that the GreyLearning library includes a course on “Understanding Lightroom”, to help photographers better understand how Lightroom Classic CC works. The aim of this course is to help ensure you don’t run into challenges based on a lack of understanding of Lightroom. You can get this course for just $10 if you use the coupon code “understand” during checkout. Or, simply follow this link to get started with the discount applied automatically:

Byte Order for TIFF Images


Today’s Question: In Photoshop CC, when I choose “Save As” to save an image as a TIFF file, the TIFF Options box displays the choice of Byte Order (IBM PC or Macintosh) pre-selected for Macintosh. Is there a way to always make it pre-selected for IBM PC?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is not a way to change the default Byte Order setting in Photoshop, at least as far as I know. However, for the vast majority of users, there’s actually no benefit to choosing one option over the other.

More Detail: There was a time long ago (ten years or so) when selecting the correct Byte Order option for TIFF images was important. This was due to software compatibility issues, specifically as it related to the way image file data was stored on a Windows versus Macintosh computer.

Today’s software (with very few exceptions) is able to read TIFF images regardless of which Byte Order option is selected. Frankly, I would prefer it if Adobe removed the Byte Order setting from the TIFF Options dialog altogether, and simply provided a default setting option in Preferences.

Windows users can most certainly read and write TIFF files that are saved with the Macintosh setting for Byte Order with the vast majority of software available today. In fact, there isn’t a single imaging or video software application I use that doesn’t support TIFF files saved with either Byte Option setting.

So, if it makes you feel better to choose one option over the other, by all means feel free. But I recommend simply ignoring the fact that this setting even exists in the TIFF Options dialog, as it is extremely unlikely you will run into any compatibility issues with any software or operating system regardless of which setting is selected.