Filters to Carry


Today’s Question: Your recent questions about neutral density filters got me thinking that maybe I should add some filters to my camera bag. I currently don’t have any. It sounds like a neutral density filter would be a good addition, but are there other filters I should also add to my bag?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My opinion is that most photographers would probably benefit from carrying both a solid neutral density filter, and a circular polarizer filter.

More Detail: As I’ve mentioned in previous answers published in the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, a solid neutral density filter enables you to achieve longer exposure times than might otherwise be possible. You can think of a solid neutral density filter as sunglasses for your lens, reducing the amount of light that can pass through the lens.

In addition, I think a circular polarizer filter can be a valuable accessory for any photographer. To be sure, this filter can be used to add a bit of drama and contrast to the sky. That effect can be achieved with similar results with post-processing for photos captured without a polarizer filter. Other effects can’t be as easily replicated.

For example, one of the key advantages of a circular polarizer filter is that it is able to cut reflections. That can help boost the saturation and accuracy of colors, and it also enables a seemingly magical ability to see right through the surface of water or other shiny surfaces.

In brief, my feeling is that for most photographers the only filters they need are those that provide an effect that would not otherwise be possible with other camera settings or in post-processing. I have elaborated on some of the reasons why I think these are the only two types of filters most photographers need, along with links to some filters I recommend, in a post on the GreyLearning blog here:

Storage Confusion


Today’s Question: The external drive containing my Lightroom photo library is almost five years old, so I purchased a new drive to replace it. After cloning the original drive to the new drive I can’t seem to find a way to get Lightroom to find the photos on the new drive. How can I redirect the catalog to find the photos on the new drive?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The easiest approach in this scenario is to make sure that the “name” of the new hard drive matches the name of the original hard drive. That will ensure that Lightroom can once again find the photos where they are expected on the new drive.

More Detail: The Lightroom catalog is managing your photos based on the filename for each photo, the folder the photo is stored in, and the specific storage device that folder is on. When you clone all of your photos from an existing drive to a new drive, the folder and filename structure will obviously be the same as it had been previously. However, the hard drive itself will have a different “name”.

For Macintosh users the name of the hard drive is referred to as a Volume Label, and it really is simply a name. For Windows users the drive is identified by a drive letter, such as “C” for your primary internal hard drive. In either case you’ll need to note the volume label or drive letter that Lightroom is expecting. You can find this as the header for the drive on the Folders list of the left panel in Lightroom’s Library module, or by connecting the drive and browsing it with your operating system.

You can’t have two drives with the same identifier, so you’ll then need to disconnect the “old” drive and reconnect the “new” drive. For Macintosh users, you can then simply right-click the hard drive in the operating system, choose Rename from the popup menu, and then type the name to match that of the original hard drive you are replacing.

For Windows users you can first right-click on the Start button and choose Disk Management from the popup menu. Then right-click on the drive you want to change the letter assignment for, and choose “Change Drive Letter And Paths” from the popup menu. Then click the Change button, choose the appropriate drive letter from the popup, and click OK to confirm the change.

Once you have updated the hard drive identifier to match that of the old hard drive, when you launch Lightroom there will no longer be any confusion about where your photos and folders are located, so you will see that your photos no longer appear “missing” within Lightroom.

Narrower Keyword Search


Today’s Question: When I use the button to the right of a keyword to view photos that have that keyword assigned to them, Lightroom shows me every photo with that keyword in my entire catalog. Is there a way to have the keyword filter option apply only to the current folder?

Tim’s Quick Answer: To filter images based on a keyword only within the current folder, you’ll want to use the options found on the Library Filter bar rather than the shortcut buttons available on the Keyword List.

More Detail: In the Metadata section of the right panel in in the Library module in Lightroom you’ll find that a variety of the metadata fields have a button to the right of the field. The button for these fields has an arrow pointing to the right, and clicking the button serves as a shortcut to filter your photos based on the applicable metadata criteria.

So, for example, if you click the button to the right of the Lens field, Lightroom will filter all of the photos in your entire catalog to show you only the images that were captured with the same lens as the photo you were browsing when you clicked the filter button.

These buttons provide a quick shortcut to filter photos that match the same metadata value as the current photo. But these shortcut buttons can also lead to an overwhelming list of photos, since they filter based on all photos in your entire catalog, rather than based on the folder you’re currently browsing.

If you want to apply this type of filter more narrowly, you can use the Library Filter bar instead of the shortcuts in the Metadata section of the right panel.

Start by navigating to the folder location you want to search within. Then go to the Library Filter bar above the Grid view display. If the Library Filter bar isn’t currently shown, you can go to the menu bar and choose View > Show Filter bar to bring up the controls. Then choose “Metadata” from the Library Filter bar so you can filter based on metadata values for your photos.

The Metadata option for the Library Filter bar includes several columns you can use to apply various filters to your photos, so you only see images that match the criteria you specify. For example, you can click the heading above one of the columns and choose “Keyword”, so that you can see a list of all keywords for all photos you are currently browsing. Click on a keyword, and the photos will be filtered to display only those with that keyword applied to them.

You can similarly use other column options for the Metadata tab of the Library Filter bar to filter your photos by a wide variety of metadata values. And these filters apply based on the photos you’re currently browsing, providing a way to define a very narrow set of search criteria for your images.

Location Status


Today’s Question: You’ve discussed on several occasions the benefits of having a GPS receiver in the camera, so photos can be marked with location information that can be viewed on a map. Sometimes though, you must not have a usable GPS signal. Is there a way to tell on the camera whether you have accurate location information for the photos you capture?

Tim’s Quick Answer: With most cameras there are two options for confirming you have a reliable GPS signal. An indicator on one of the camera’s displays will generally show GPS status, and you can also generally check more detailed information via a menu command on the camera.

More Detail: Many cameras include a built-in GPS receiver that can enable all of your photos to be tagged with precise location information. That information can then be viewed in the image metadata, and in some cases (such as with the Photoshop Elements Organizer or Lightroom) you can even view your photos plotted on a map.

Many cameras that have a built-in GPS receiver also have some form of indication to help you confirm that the camera is currently recording accurate location information for your photos. The specifics of how this information can be found depends on the type of camera you’re using.

For example, some cameras or accessories include a GPS indicator in the form of a colored light that illuminates or a “GPS” indication on one of the displays. Often you’ll find that this indication will change, such as by flashing when there is not a reliable GPS signal, and becoming solid when a good signal has been achieved.

It is also possible with some cameras to access a menu command to either see overall GPS signal status, or to see your current GPS coordinates. Generally, if coordinates are shown, it is an indication that the location information is accurate based on a good signal from the GPS satellites.

Most smartphones don’t have a direct indication of GPS signal information, but you can browse a map or an app that enables you to record GPS track logs in order to confirm the current location information is accurate.

Obviously you’ll need to check your specific camera to determine what type of indication it provides. Once you know how this information is presented, you’ll be able to know when you have accurate location information being added automatically for your photos, and when that information may be missing or inaccurate.

Photos by Location


Today’s Question: Sometimes when I’m viewing the map in Lightroom I want to locate a photo I took in a particular area. I can click on the pins on the map to view the images, but sometimes it is difficult to locate the right photo because there are so many images on the filmstrip. Is there a better way to locate photos based on their location on the map in Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can actually apply the “Visible on Map” filter so that the filmstrip will only present images that have a location tag for the current map area in Lightroom’s Map module.

More Detail: I also find it can be helpful to locate images using the map in Lightroom. In many cases, for example, browsing around the map will remind me of a photo that I’d like to work with. It can be challenging at times, however, to actually locate the correct image based on a map location. The “Visible on Map” filter can help.

If you know exactly which folder contains the image you’re looking for, you could select that folder in the Library module. Otherwise, you can choose the “All Photographs” collection from the Catalog section of the left panel. Then go to the Map module and navigate to the area on the map where you captured the photograph you’re looking. You can zoom in and pan around to focus on only the area of the map you want to search within.

Then, on the toolbar above the map, click the “Visible on Map” option. If the filter bar isn’t visible above the map, press the backslash key (\) to reveal it. Choosing “Visible on Map” will filter your photos to display only those with embedded location information that falls within the current map area. This provides a quick way to locate specific photos based on where they appear on the map.

Mysterious Tool on Toolbar


Today’s Question: I clicked on the button below the magnifying glass on the toolbar with all of the tools in Photoshop, and the toolbar below the menu says “No options for the edit toolbar”. Is this supposed to be a tool I can use with my photos? It doesn’t seem to do anything.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The button you’re referring to is actually the “Edit Toolbar” button, which provides access to the Customize Toolbar dialog. As suggested by the title of both the button and the dialog, this feature enables you to customize the arrangement of the tools on the toolbar. You can also move infrequently used tools into the slot where the “Edit Toolbar” button is found.

More Detail: Many photographers find there are a number of tools they simply never use in Photoshop, and other tools they use very regularly. With the Customize Toolbar dialog you can rearrange the buttons for the various tools in a way that is more efficient in your workflow.

To bring up the Customize Toolbar dialog, start by right-clicking (or clicking and holding) on the Edit Toolbar button. This will bring up a flyout menu with an “Edit Toolbar” option. Click on “Edit Toolbar” on the flyout menu, and the Customize Toolbar dialog will appear.

Within the Customize Toolbar dialog you can drag-and-drop the tools into a different order. The groupings of tools determines which tools are assigned to each of the buttons. So, for example, by default the Lasso tool, Polygonal Lasso tool, and the Magnetic Lasso tool are grouped together on a single button.

You can group the various tools in any way you’d like, which in turn can affect the order in which the tools appear on the toolbar. In addition, you can drag tools you don’t use very often over to the Extra Tools section to the right of the Toolbar section. All tools you place in the Extra Tools section will then be placed together at the bottom of the toolbar, where the Edit Toolbar button is found. When you’re finished arranging the tools for the toolbar, you can click the Done button to close the Customize Toolbar dialog.

Targeted Sharpening


Today’s Question: Can you explain how to use the Sharpen tool to properly apply sharpening to specific areas of a photo? I often want to sharpen the key area of a photo without affecting the sky or an out of focus background.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Actually, I recommend that you not use the Sharpen tool to apply a selective sharpening effect. Instead I recommend using a copy of the image layer in conjunction with a layer mask, using one of the sharpening filters to apply a better effect that also provides you with greater control over the effect.

More Detail: The primary challenge with the Sharpen tool in Photoshop is that you aren’t able to exercise much control over the behavior of the tool. You can of course paint the sharpening effect into the image with the Sharpen tool, so you’re able to specify exactly which areas of the image you want to sharpen versus do not want to sharpen. You can also adjust the Strength setting on the Options bar to control how much of a sharpening effect is applied. And finally, you can determine the extent to which an area of the image is sharpened based on how long you hold the mouse button down while painting in a given area.

Having said all that, the Sharpen tool does not provide anywhere near as much control as the Smart Sharpen or Unsharp Mask filters. Therefore, I recommend using one of these sharpening filters on a copy of the image layer you want to sharpen. You can then use a layer mask to control where that sharpened layer is visible, which in turn will control which areas of the final image actually receive the sharpening effect.

Note that you can get much more information about selections and layer masking to go far beyond the concept of sharpening in a targeted way through the various lessons included in my “Photoshop for Photographers” video course, with “Photoshop Week” details available on the GreyLearning website here:

Content-Aware Fill Update


Today’s Question: I see on the list of new features in Photoshop that there is now an improved Content-Aware Fill. But when I use the Fill command and choose “Content Aware”, I get the exact same dialog with no changes from the previous version. How do I get the updated features?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The updated implementation of the Content-Aware Fill feature in Photoshop CC 2019 is actually separate from the Fill command (which does still have the Content-Aware option). So now the older implementation of this feature is found with the Fill command, and the new implementation is found with the new Content-Aware Fill command on the Edit menu.

More Detail: I can certainly understand being confused by the apparent lack of any change to the Fill command, based on Adobe having promoted a completely revamped Content-Aware Fill feature in the latest update of Photoshop. The new feature has simply been added as a new command on the menu. So, while you can still use the original implementation of the Content-Aware feature with the existing Fill command (Edit > Fill on the menu), you will also find a new “Content-Aware Fill” command on the Edit menu.

The key benefit of the new Content-Aware Fill command is that you can specify which portions of the image should (versus should not) be used as potential source pixels when removing a blemish or other object from the selected area of a photo.

To get started you simply create a selection of the area you want to cleanup within the image. Then choose Edit > Content-Aware Fill from the menu, which will bring up the Content-Aware Fill workspace. You can then use the Sampling Brush tool with the “Add” and “Subtract” controls on the Options bar to add to or subtract from the sampling area to be used for image cleanup.

This enables you, for example, to exclude areas from being sampled that might be causing unwanted textures to appear in the cleanup area. In other words, this adds a degree of control over a cleanup process that had previously been completely automatic.

Failure Selecting Subject


Today’s Question: I’ve tried using the “Select Subject” feature [in Photoshop] that you mentioned in one of your answers, and I haven’t had any luck with it. The selections don’t follow the key subject in the photo at all. Is there a way to give this feature a little guidance to help improve the results?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “Select Subject” feature that is available for the Quick Selection and Magic Wand tools is one that in my experience rarely makes a great selection and often makes a relatively poor selection. Furthermore, there is no option for altering the behavior of this feature, so you’ll need to use other tools or techniques to create or refine the selection.

More Detail: The “Select Subject” button can be found on the Options bar in Photoshop when you select either the Quick Selection tool or the Magic Wand tool. After choosing one of these tools you simply click the Select Subject button and a selection is created based on an analysis of the photo.

If the subject stands out relatively clearly from the background, the selection achieved by clicking the Select Subject button will likely be relatively accurate. In other cases you’ll find that the selection represents a reasonably good start, requiring some refinement with other tools to create a usable selection. In many cases, however, I do find that the Select Subject feature is not especially helpful.

Part of the challenge with this feature is that if it works well, other selection techniques might have been nearly as fast to implement. In other cases, you may find that so much cleanup is required after using the Select Subject feature, that it just isn’t worth making use of.

In general, I prefer to think of the Select Subject feature as a basic preview of some of the potential of what Photoshop could offer with future updates. In the meantime, I recommend considering the Select > Focus Area command from the menu, or the Quick Selection tool, as better starting points for most of your selection needs.

Creating a Metadata Preset


Today’s Question: You mentioned the option to create a unique metadata preset to add metadata to photos during import. Could you explain how to create such a preset [in Lightroom Classic CC]?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can create a new metadata preset using the Edit Metadata Presets dialog, which can be accessed from within the Library module by going to the menu and choosing Metadata > Edit Metadata Presets. You can then define and save the preset, which can be applied to photos during import or later in your workflow.

More Detail: After selecting Metadata > Edit Metadata Presets from the menu, you will see the Edit Metadata Presets dialog. Within this dialog you will find the various metadata fields that can be included as part of a preset, which can be used to update metadata values for photos. I recommend being thoughtful about which fields you include in a metadata preset, since you will typically use such a preset to update metadata values for a relatively large number of photos. In general, for example, you may want to limit a metadata preset to include only general contact and copyright information.

When you update any of the fields in the Edit Metadata Presets dialog, you’ll find that the checkbox to the left of those fields gets turned on automatically. When you save your preset, only the metadata fields that have the checkbox turned on will actually be included. In other words, when you apply the preset to photos, only the fields that are enabled will be applied to the photos. If you have updated a field but then decide you don’t want to include that metadata in your preset, you can turn off the checkbox.

When you have finished updating the metadata values you want included in your preset, you can save a new preset. To do so, click the Preset popup at the top of the dialog, and choose “Save Current Settings as New Preset” from that popup. In the dialog that appears, type a meaningful name for the preset, so you’ll know which preset to select in the future based on the name of the preset. Then click the Create button to create your new preset, and click the Done button to close the Edit Metadata Presets dialog.

After creating a metadata preset, you can apply that preset to photos during import or later in your workflow. During the import process you can select the preset from the Metadata popup in the Apply During Import section of the right panel in the Import dialog. Later in your workflow you can also select an image and choose the desired metadata preset from the Preset popup in the Metadata section of the right panel in the Library module.