Retroactive Sidecars

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Today’s Question: After working on images for a while [in Lightroom] without sidecar files, when I change over to utilize the sidecar files will all of the already adjusted images have sidecar files created?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, when you enable the option in Lightroom to save metadata out to the images themselves, Lightroom will immediately start updating all existing images. Thus, XMP sidecar files will be created for all RAW captures, and the metadata within the image file will be updated for other file types.

More Detail: Enabling the option to have Lightroom save metadata out to the images (instead of only within the Lightroom catalog) provides a couple of benefits. One, it enables you to see standard metadata updates (such as keywords and star ratings) with other applications used to browse outside of Lightroom. Second, it provides a backup for most of the metadata updates for your images beyond the Lightroom catalog.

When you turn on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox in the Catalog Settings dialog, Lightroom will immediately get to work creating (or updating) XMP sidecar files for RAW captures, and updating the image files for other file types. To enable this setting choose Edit > Catalog Settings from the menu on Windows or Lightroom > Catalog Settings on Macintosh. Then go to the Metadata tab and turn on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” in the Editing section at the top of the dialog.

If for any reason you want to make sure the updates were applied, you can also “manually” save the updates so you’ll see an indication of the progress on the identity plate. To do so, go to the All Photographs collection in the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module. Choose Edit > Select All from the menu to select all photos in your catalog, and then choose Metadata > Save Metadata to Files from the menu to initiate the process of saving metadata to your files.

How to Disable Stacking

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Today’s Question: When I send an image from Lightroom to Photoshop and save it back to Lightroom, the TIFF is always stacked with the original and I must right-click to unstack them. Since I do not like stacking at all is there a way to permanently turn it off?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can turn off automatic stacking for images sent to an external editor (such as Photoshop) by turning off the “Stack With Original” checkbox on the External Editing tab of the Preferences dialog.

More Detail: By default, when you send a photo from Lightroom to an external editor such as Photoshop, the new derivative image created in the process will be stacked with the source image used to create the derivative. So, for example, if you send a RAW capture to Photoshop, the TIFF or PSD file that results will be stacked with the RAW image.

You can turn off this feature in the Preferences dialog. Start by choosing Edit > Preferences from the menu on Windows or Lightroom > Preferences on Macintosh. Then go to the External Editing tab and turn off the “Stack With Original” checkbox toward the bottom of the dialog. From that point forward, photos you send to an external editor will not be stacked with the original.

File Size Confusion

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Today’s Question: Due to an accident in the field I shot a lot of images in only JPEG instead of RAW plus JPEG. In order to avoid lossy compression after numerous image edits I saved the JPEGs as TIFFs. The resulting file size increase was hard to explain: 19 MB for the JPEG to 147 MB for the TIFF. What happened here?

Tim’s Quick Answer: These file sizes are actually no surprise at all to me. Images saved as a JPEG will generally have a file size that is significantly smaller than a TIFF, even if the JPEG file is saved at a high quality setting and the TIFF image is saved with lossless compression.

More Detail: Put simply, JPEG compression is relatively aggressive. The results will vary based on the complexity of the image. An image with tremendous texture and detail will result in a larger JPEG image than a relatively simple image with minimal variations in tone and color. But the file size will still be significantly smaller than a TIFF image.

Let’s assume a relatively low resolution image, saved as a TIFF file with no compression applied, with a file size of 8 MB. If that same image is saved with the LZW compression option (which is a lossless compression algorithm), that same TIFF image would be around 5 MB or so in size. Saved as a JPEG at a high quality setting, that same image would be a fraction of a megabyte (probably around 300 KB).

Note that if layers are included in the TIFF image, the file size can grow significantly larger. For example, creating a copy of the Background image layer in Photoshop will cause the TIFF image to double in size.

What is most surprising about JPEG compression is how well image quality can be maintained when you use a high quality setting for the JPEG. While the compression for a JPEG image is always lossy, at a high quality setting the amount of degradation to the image is minimal.

In most cases the most significant negative affect of JPEG compression is a grid pattern that can appear. This is caused by the approach used for JPEG compression, where the image is divided into a grid (typically into blocks of 16 by 16 pixels) and the information within each block of the grid is simplified to reduce file size. The result is that pixels on either side of a grid line may not match up as well as they did before JPEG compression was applied, causing a faint (but sometimes obvious) grid pattern in the image. This is the primary reason I recommend avoiding JPEG capture whenever possible.

While file sizes for a TIFF image can be significantly larger than for the same image saved as a JPEG image, if you will be applying strong adjustments to the image and re-saving the image multiple times after applying changes, it is a good idea to save the JPEG capture as a TIFF image. I do recommend using LZW compression for the TIFF image to help keep the file size smaller, but the an image saved as a TIFF will always be quite a bit larger than the same image saved as a JPEG.

Backup Capacity

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Today’s Question: I have a question about how to set up my backup system. Currently my desktop has two internal drives: a 2 TB drive that is using only 225 GB and a 4 TB drive that is using 2.39 TB. I then have an external 4 TB drive that is configured to backup both of the internal drives, and it is almost full. In addition I alternate my external drive with another 4 TB drive and always keep one in a offsite.

What do you recommend I do so that I have access to all of my photos and yet still assure myself of a backup process?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are two basic options I would suggest considering. My preference would be to add an additional set of drives to backup the 2TB internal drive, so the 4TB backup drives are used to backup the 4TB internal drive. The second option would be to “upgrade” to a 6TB drive to backup everything.

More Detail: The reason I would prefer to add a set of 2TB drives to the mix is that I prefer to have a backup that is an exact duplicate of the original. This involves the use of synchronization software (such as GoodSync, http://timgrey.me/greybackup) to backup the full contents of each drive to the applicable backup drive.

That said, in this case we’re talking about backing up internal drives to external drives. That means that in the event of a failure you can’t simply replace the failed drive with the backup drive (although in theory you could accomplish this, depending on the overall hardware configuration).

Therefore, it is also perfectly reasonable to purchase a 6TB drive for backup purposes. You could still use a synchronization approach, simply creating two “master” folders on the backup drive to represent the source drives you are backing up. So, for example, you could create a “2TB Backup” folder and a “4TB Backup” folder on the new 6TB drive, and then create synchronization jobs to synchronize from the internal drives to the applicable folders on the large external backup drive.

Burst for Group Photo

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Today’s Question: For an upcoming family event I will be the designated photographer, and so I’ll need to capture of the group. This calls for the typical timer delay and hustle to join the group for the photo. Is there a way to capture a burst of photos rather than a single frame when capturing a group photo in this way?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My recommendation would be to configure your camera to capture a series of images such as you would for a time-lapse, either with a built-in feature if your camera is so equipped, or with a cable release that includes an interval timer feature.

More Detail: I actually used this time-lapse approach for a group photo at a class reunion I attended last weekend (though I won’t be disclosing how many years this reunion celebrated!).

There are a few advantages to this time-lapse approach. First, you’ll ensure you have multiple captures so you can choose the best one, hopefully with everyone smiling with their eyes open. Second, this approach provides a “hands off” approach, which can help streamline the process. I also find that in many cases when you use a wireless transmitter to trigger the captures that the appearance in the photo for the person triggering the captures can be slightly unnatural.

If your camera includes an interval capture feature, this approach is remarkably easy. You can also employ a cable release that includes an interval feature for the same purpose. I typically set the interval so that a photo is captured every five seconds, with no specific limit on the number of photos to be captured. I just stop the capture when I feel that enough photos were captured to ensure a good result.

Of course, the potential drawback is having a relatively large number of photos to go through. You can mitigate this issue by waiting until everyone is in position before starting the capture process. You might also consider increasing the interval time between captures, although I do find that setting an interval of too much time can create challenges for the group that is being asked to pose for an extended period of time.

In addition to streamlining the process of capturing multiple frames for a group photo through the use of a moderate interval between multiple captures, you can also have a bit of fun by assembling a time-lapse video of those captures. The result can often be a rather amusing look at the process of posing for photos, which the group may enjoy seeing in addition to the best still photo from the batch.

When to Rename Photos

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Today’s Question: What do you consider the best time to rename photos? In your video you suggest doing it at the time of import, but I was wondering if a more appropriate time might be at the end after I have imported and refined to just the images that I want.

Tim’s Quick Answer: In general I prefer to rename photos at the time of download or import. This helps ensure there will never be any inconsistencies, such as if you sent a copy of a photo to a client right before renaming the photo. However, as long as you don’t delay significantly in reviewing your photos, it also makes sense to rename after you have deleted any outtakes so there won’t be any gaps in the file numbering for the photos that remain.

More Detail: In large part the question here relates to your tolerance for having “missing” image numbers in the filename sequence.

As noted above, my personal preference is to rename as early in the workflow as possible to avoid any risk of confusion. Essentially I want to ensure that the filenames applied when renaming the images represent the only filenames anyone will ever see. If you rename upon downloading your photos or when importing into Lightroom, that will ensure that nobody will have seen any filename other than the “new” filename.

That said, some photographers prefer to rename later in their workflow so that deleting photos won’t cause gaps in the sequence number that is typically used as part of the file renaming structure. I certainly understand this preference, but to me that is secondary to renaming earlier in my workflow.

So, the bottom line is that I recommend renaming photos as early in your workflow as possible. If you want to rename after deleting outtakes, that would mean trying to be sure you review for outtakes as soon after downloading your images as possible, and that you rename immediately after that review.

Keyword Correction Challenge

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Today’s Question: You showed us in several videos how to correct a misspelled keyword in Lightroom with a right click. However, if the word is also listed correctly and you try to change the misspelled one, Lightroom will tell you that word is already used and won’t let you change it. So how do I fix those?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In this scenario you will need to filter based on the misspelled keyword, add the correct keyword from the Keyword List, and then delete the misspelled keyword from the Keyword List.

More Detail: Lightroom enables you to quickly correct a misspelled keyword for multiple photos by simply editing the misspelled keyword tag on the Keyword List found on the right panel in the Library module. However, if the correct spelling already exists as a keyword, Lightroom won’t let you edit the misspelled keyword to the correct spelling. So you’ll need to first add the correctly spelled keyword and then delete the misspelled keyword. Fortunately that process is also quite simple.

Start by filtering all of your images that have the misspelled keyword. You can do this very quickly by hovering your mouse over the misspelled keyword in the Keyword List on the right panel in the Library module, and then clicking on the right-pointing arrow that appears to the right of the number indicating how many images have that keyword applied. This will take you to the All Photographs collection with a filter applied for the keyword you selected.

To apply the correctly spelled keyword to the photos you’ve filtered, you’ll first need to select all of them. You can do that by choosing Edit > Select All from the menu (or pressing Ctrl+A on Windows or Command+A on Macintosh). You need to be in the Grid view (rather than the Loupe view), but this will have been set automatically when you applied the filter based on the misspelled keyword.

To add the correctly spelled keyword to the selected photos, you need to turn on the checkbox for that keyword on the Keyword List. So, click in the space to the left of the correct keyword so that a checkmark appears there. Note that if the correctly spelled keyword had already been applied to some of the selected images you’ll see a dash rather than an empty space to the left of the keyword on the Keyword List.

Now that the correct version of the keyword has been applied to all images that had the incorrectly spelled version applied, you can delete the keyword with the incorrect spelling. To do so simply right-click on the incorrectly spelled keyword on the Keyword List and choose Delete from the popup menu that appears.

Multiple Photos to Photoshop

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Today’s Question: Is there a way to send multiple RAW images from Lightroom to Photoshop as Smart Objects? I’ve selected multiple photos but only one opens in Photoshop.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The solution is to right-click on one of the selected images to access the “Edit In” command, rather than choosing the command from the Photo menu on the menu bar.

More Detail: When you select multiple photos in Lightroom and then use one of the commands on the “Edit In” submenu found on the “Photos” menu on the menu bar, Lightroom will only send the one active image to Photoshop, without sending the other selected images.

If instead you right-click on one of the selected images and choose the applicable command from the “Edit In” submenu that appears on the popup menu, all of the selected photos will be sent to Photoshop.

So in this case you could select the multiple photos, right-click on one of the selected images, and then choose “Open as Smart Object in Photoshop” from the “Edit In” submenu. If you don’t want to use the Smart Object feature you could instead right-click and choose “Edit in Adobe Photoshop” from the “Edit In” menu. With either command, all of the selected images will be opened in Photoshop.

Again, the key is to right-click on one of the selected images to access the popup menu, rather than using the menu bar at the top of the Lightroom interface.

Unable to Avoid Clipping

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Today’s Question: With some photos when I use the clipping preview while adjusting the Blacks, I see an odd behavior. Usually when I drag the Blacks slider to the white, the pixels gradually disappear until there is no clipping. Sometimes, however, nothing seems to happen for a while, and then all of the pixels that appear clipped disappear all at once. Why does this happen, and should I be concerned about it?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The issue here is that the detail is clipped in the original capture, and thus can’t be recovered. I would therefore tend to set the Blacks value to the point right before all of the pixels disappear in the clipping preview display.

More Detail: The Blacks and Whites sliders found in Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom, and other software for optimizing photos, is designed to enable you to establish the white point and black point for an image. In theory, that means you would increase brightness for the brightest pixels in a photo so that the brightest pixel is white or nearly white, and similarly darken the darkest pixels to produce a true black.

Of course, in some cases the black and white values may have already been clipped in the original capture, meaning detail was lost in those areas based on the original exposure.

When using RAW capture, the initial black and white point values may reflect clipping based on the default interpretation of the capture data, but you may be able to recover what appears to be lost detail by refining the adjustments for the black and white points.

However, while it is indeed possible to recover “lost” detail for a RAW capture by refining the black and white point adjustments, there are limits to what is possible. If the information was truly lost, meaning texture in the brightest or darkest areas of a scene was truly lost, that information can’t be recovered.

For example, if you include the sun in the frame but the exposure settings were such that the sun was completely blown out with no detail, you can’t recover texture in the sun. You may be able to darken the pure white texture to be a pure gray texture, but you can’t actually recover texture variations if the information wasn’t included in the original capture.

In a situation where some detail was lost in the brightest or darkest areas of a photo, in general I prefer to set the black or white point adjustment to the point just before the details is recovered, reflecting the actual clipping that occurred in the original capture while preserving as much detail and contrast as possible. Naturally you will want to fine-tune these adjustments based on the specific image and your preference for how to interpret the image.

Stabilization with a Monopod

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Today’s Question: In a recent “Ask Tim Grey” eNewsletter you recommended turning off the stabilization feature on a lens when using a tripod. Would that also be your recommendation when using a monopod? I often seem to have focus problems when using a Canon 100-400 zoom lens on a monopod, and I wonder if the stabilization feature might be part of the issue.

Tim’s Quick Answer: When using a monopod under typical circumstances I recommend keeping the stabilization feature of your lens (or camera body) turned on.

More Detail: While a monopod certainly provides a degree of stability for capturing photos, that stability is not as stable as what is provided with a tripod. In other words, even when using a monopod, there will generally be at least a slight amount of movement of the camera.

Therefore, I recommend leaving image stabilization features of your lens or camera body turned on when using a monopod. The only exception would be when a monopod is further stabilized. For example, some monopods include expandable levers on the single foot that provide additional stability, effectively converting the monopod into a tripod at least in terms of the stability provided. Similarly, if you were to attach the monopod to a fence or other structure, the monopod would provide the same benefits as a tripod.

But under normal circumstances in the context of using a monopod, I do recommend having stabilization features enabled when using a monopod in your photography.