Planning for Shadows


Today’s Question: I need to find an app that will show me where shadows will be at any given time. A friend suggested Sun Locator, but it’s apparently not available on iPhone. It had a visual that showed the thrown shadow that moved as you moved the time. Is there one that you use?

Tim’s Quick Answer: One of the top apps that enables you to plan for shadows is The Photographer’s Ephemeris ( On the map you can see an indication of the direction and relative size of shadows, as you pan through the timeline.

More Detail: I use The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) as a tool for planning to make use of the sun (or sunlight) and moon in my photography. Among the various features in TPE is an indicator of the direction and relative size of shadows.

You start by setting the position from which you intend to photograph, or for the subject you’ll be photographing. You can then set the date based on when you’ll be photographing, and pan through the timeline. As you pan from sunrise toward sunset, for example, you’ll see the indicator for shadows start to shrink as you move away from sunrise, and then grow again as you get closer to sunset.

The direction of the gray shadow lines indicates the direction the shadows will be cast, which obviously depends upon the relative direction to the sun as it arcs across the sky. The size of the lines gives you a sense of the relative size of the shadows you can expect.

Another tool I use (and for which I am currently producing a video training course) is PhotoPills, which includes a calculator you can use to determine the actual length of shadows based on the height of an object and of course the relative position of the sun.

Smart Collection in Bridge


Today’s Question: I use Adobe Bridge almost exclusively for organizing my photos and I have assigned star ratings on them all. When I go to make a smart collection looking for all my 5-star photos it only culls from the files that I’ve recently looked at and ignores the other thousands of photos I have. What, if any, is the solution?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When creating a smart collection in Adobe Bridge, you need to make sure you have chosen an appropriate top-level source to search for the images, and that you have turned on the “Include All Subfolders” checkbox. I also recommend turning on the “Include Non-Indexed Files” checkbox to help ensure no photos are left out of the search.

More Detail: Adobe Bridge includes the ability to create smart collections, which provide what are essentially saved search results that can be updated continuously. However, there are a few limitations to be aware of.

First, smart collections in Adobe Bridge can only reference a single storage location. Therefore, you won’t be able to have a single smart collection that includes photos from across multiple hard drives, for example.

You also need to make sure to define an appropriate top-level storage location when creating a smart collection in Adobe Bridge. For example, if you store all of your photos on an external hard drive you could set that hard drive as the source for the smart collection.

You can then establish the criteria for the smart collection, such as based on star ratings or other metadata values. To make sure you will actually include all of the photos from the source storage location in the smart collection, you also need to turn on two checkboxes in the dialog where you specify the settings for the smart collection.

First, you’ll want to turn on the “Include All Subfolders” checkbox, so that all folders included in the storage location you’ve specified as the source will be searched. Second, I recommend turning on the “Include Non-indexed Files” checkbox. This will cause the smart collection search to be a little slow, but will ensure that photos are not excluded from the smart collection simply because they haven’t yet been indexed by Adobe Bridge.

Sizing for Print


Today’s Question: I don’t print my own enlargements and instead send them to a lab. My question: I often crop to an odd size since I crop for the image rather than the print ratio. I want to print the image on a standard size paper that is provided by the lab. How do I get that image to a standard paper size to send it to the lab? I assume I will get uneven white borders.

Tim’s Quick Answer: When preparing a cropped image to be printed by a print service, you can simply resize that image to fit within the printable area of the paper size that will be used for printing. For example, you could resize a cropped image to dimensions of 5″x9″ to fit onto a sheet of 8.5″x11″ paper.

More Detail: My own preference is to crop photos based on my aesthetic sense of the image, not based on what size paper I might print to later. That will lead to an uneven white border on the printed page, but that can be managed by custom matting and framing the print. You could also trim the print to have an uneven border (or no border at all) depending on how you’ll share the final print.

It is a good idea to find out about the printable area for the paper size your photo will be printing to, whether you’re printing yourself or having the photo printed by a lab. You can then resize the image to fit within that printable area.

Of course, you’ll want to pay attention to both the width and height of the image, to make sure the image will fit into the printable area of the paper the image will be printed to. If you’re using Lightroom Classic, this is quite easy to do thanks to the “Resize to Fit” option in the Export dialog. When exporting you can turn on the “Resize to Fit” checkbox, and then choose “Width & Height” from the popup. Enter the dimensions of the printable area of the paper the image will be printed to, and Lightroom Classic will resize the image appropriately when you export it.

In Photoshop you can use the Fit Image command for a similar purpose, though you’ll need to calculate the output size in pixels since that is the only unit of measure in the Fit Image dialog. For example, let’s assume a 11″x17″ printable area with a print resolution of 360 pixels per inch. That calculates to 3,960×6,120 pixels. In Photoshop you can then choose File > Automate > Fit Image from the menu. In the dialog that appears enter your calculated pixel dimensions and click OK. The image will be sized to fit within those dimensions, without stretching the image in either dimension.

The point is that you can simply resize the image to fit within the printable dimensions and send that image to the printer. Even without adding white space to the image to make it match the exact aspect ratio of the paper size, the image can then be printed to fit on the paper size without stretching the actual image.

Managing Analog Photos


Today’s Question: How do you organize your film photos in your Lightroom [Classic] catalog in relation to your digital photos? I created a folder called Scans and have subfolders in there by camera or other criteria. I’m not sure if this will be viable going forward.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The right answer here depends in large part on how many film scans you’ll include in your Lightroom Classic catalog, However, I do think that having a master folder for analog images is a good starting point for many photographers.

More Detail: Some photographers have a significant library of photos captured on film that they have digitized and want to manage. Other photographers, such as myself, tend to digitize only the best of their film captures, which translates to far fewer analog images than digital captures in their library. The right approach depends to some extent on how many analog images you want to manage within the workflow for your digital captures.

The first thing to decide is whether the film captures you scan should be managed in the same workflow as your digital captures, or whether it makes more sense to manage the film captures in a somewhat separate folder structure. If you’ve been mostly focused on digital photography for a number of years, and are just adding the best of your older film captures into your workflow, it probably makes sense to have a separate folder for those analog images. If the film captures are more significant in number and will be used in much the same way as your digital captures, you may want to blend the film captures into the same workflow as your digital captures.

If you will blend your analog captures into your existing workflow, you should use the same approach to folder structure for the analog images as you do for your digital photos. If you will keep the analog captures in a separate folder structure, you’ll want to think about what sort of sub-folder approach makes the most sense.

If you will be managing a relatively small number of analog images, you may want to simply put all of those photos into a “Film Scans” folder and use keywords or other metadata to help organize the images. If you’ll have a larger number of film scans, you may want to create sub-folders by date (to the extent you know that information) or subject matter for the images.

Ultimately, film scans and digital captures can be managed in the same basic way within Lightroom Classic, with the obvious difference being the absence of EXIF metadata for the film captures you’ve scanned. However, since there is a good chance that for many photographers film captures fall into a distinct category compared to digital photos, it can helpful to have those images separated into a folder structure based on their status as analog photos that have been added to a digital workflow.

Transferring a Catalog


Today’s Question: I am trying to figure out the best way to make the transition from my old computer to my new one. I keep my catalog on the internal hard drive and my photos on an external drive as you have recommended in the past. How do I transfer my catalog to the new computer to be assured that it will be able to access my photos on the external drive?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can simply copy the entire folder containing your Lightroom Classic catalog to the new computer, then make sure the external hard drive has the same drive letter or volume label as it did on your “old” computer. At that point you can open the Lightroom Classic catalog on your new computer, and everything will be just as you left it on your old computer.

More Detail: Many photographers have this type of situation, where they are storing their Lightroom Classic catalog on an internal hard drive on their computer, and their photos on an external hard drive. This actually makes it quite easy to transition your Lightroom Classic workflow to a new computer.

The first step is to copy your Lightroom Classic catalog to the new computer. This requires, of course, that you know where that catalog is located. You can find this information in the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom Classic. Windows users can bring up this dialog by choosing Edit > Catalog Settings from the menu, and Macintosh users can select Lightroom Classic > Catalog Settings from the menu.

In the Catalog Settings dialog go to the General tab. Then click the “Show” button to the right of the Location field, which shows the path to the actual catalog file. Clicking the Show button will bring up a window in your operating system, with the folder containing your catalog highlighted.

Before copying the catalog folder, quit the Lightroom Classic application. You can then use an external hard drive, for example, to transfer the catalog folder. Drag the folder to a connected external hard drive, then switch that external hard drive to your new computer and drag the catalog folder from the external hard drive to the desired location on the internal hard drive on your new computer. Note that by default when you drag-and-drop a folder from one hard drive to another, you will be copying rather than moving the folder. I recommend renaming the folders on your old computer and on the external hard drive to indicate they should no longer be used, such as by putting “BACKUP” at the beginning of the folder name.

Next, connect the hard drive containing your photos to the new computer. For Windows users, you’ll also want to make sure that the drive letter assigned to the external hard drive on the new computer matches the drive letter that had been assigned on the old computer. You can change the drive letter in Windows using the Disk Management console. For Macintosh users you only need to make sure the hard drive name (volume label) is the same, which will be the case as long as you haven’t changed that yourself.

At this point you can open the folder containing the Lightroom Classic catalog on your new computer and double-click the catalog file with the “lrcat” filename extension. That will open the catalog in Lightroom Classic on your new computer (assuming, of course, that you’ve already installed Lightroom Classic on your new computer). Since the external hard drive also matches your setup on the old computer, everything will operate normally at that point on your new computer.

Mirror as Dust Stopper?


Today’s Question: With the advent of the new products (ie: Canon’s R5/R6 today) rolling out almost monthly, I see photos of cameras without a lens attached and the sensor seems to be in a very vulnerable position. Is there a much higher risk of sensor dust given that there isn’t a mirror in front the sensor when changing lenses??

Tim’s Quick Answer: I would contend that the mirror of a digital SLR provides a very slight degree of protection against blemishes on the image sensor. I do not, however, think this is a reason to avoid a mirrorless camera.

More Detail: Needless to say, I have not conducted any testing that would even remotely qualify as a scientific study of this issue. I also don’t know of any other such studies that would provide a definitive answer.

The primary benefit of a mirror in the context of contaminants getting on the image sensor is the fact that the mirror physically blocks the sensor to some extent. Similarly, the shutter mechanism (in cameras that include a physical shutter mechanism) blocks the sensor.

However, physically blocking the sensor when changing lenses won’t protect the sensor from all contaminants. For example, a water droplet that strikes the mirror on a digital SLR might evaporate and never cause any problem for the image sensor. Dust, on the other hand, can linger inside the camera and eventually get attached to the image sensor.

Keep in mind that the image sensor in a camera creates static electricity that can act like a magnet for dust. So, while a mirror or shutter mechanism may protect the image sensor from certain sources of contamination, any dust that gets into the camera could eventually find its way onto the image sensor.

In my mind, much of this is theoretical, and only reflects the potential statistical chances of a particular contaminant getting on the image sensor. To me it is more important that you exercise caution when changing lenses, regardless of what type of camera you’re using. And I also think the many other features of a given camera model are more important to consider when it comes to making a purchase decision, rather than whether or not the camera happens to have a mirror.

Depth Filtering Option


Today’s Question: I was watching one of your videos about using the metadata filtering options in Lightroom Classic, and so I explored the options in my catalog. I saw an option for “Depth” under Metadata, but when I choose it there are only options for “All” and “No Depth”, with the same count of photos for both. What does this filter option relate to?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “Depth” option for metadata filtering relates to the depth map created as part of certain captures, such as the Portrait mode available on certain smartphone models.

More Detail: Some newer models of smartphones include the option to capture photos with reduced depth of field, which are created automatically by the camera app on these smartphones by blending an in-focus and out-of-focus image. A depth map is created as a mask defining which areas should be in focus versus blurred, based on distance from the camera.

Lightroom Classic supports images with this type of a depth map, with perhaps the most common example being the Portrait mode capture option available with the Camera app on the more recent Apple iPhone models.

The Depth filter option available with the Metadata tab of the Library Filter bar (View > Show Filter Bar) enables you to filter between images captured with an embedded depth map, and those without.

Images with a depth map can be filtered by selecting the “Has Depth” option, and photos without a depth map can be filtered with the “No Depth” option. This is obviously a filter setting that is primarily useful for tracking down photos that were captured on a smartphone using the feature (such as Portrait mode) that employs a depth map to create the final photo.

Convert Virtual Copy to Primary Photo


Today’s Question: Thank you for the information about virtual copies in Lightroom Classic [in yesterday’s Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter]. I understand it is easy to delete a virtual copy if I decide I don’t like the adjustments applied to that virtual copy, so I still have the original image. But what if I decide I like the virtual copy better than the original? Is there a way to easily copy the adjustments of the virtual copy to the original, so I can then delete the virtual copy without losing the adjustments?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can swap the adjustments between a virtual copy and the original photo with the “Set Copy as Master” command in Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: Virtual copies make it easy to create multiple interpretations of the same image. This can be helpful when you actually want more than one version of a photo, or when you’re exploring different possibilities before deciding on the final look for an image.

If you decide a particular virtual copy isn’t working out, you can simply remove that virtual copy by right-clicking on it and choosing Remove Photo from the popup menu that appears. The virtual copy will be removed, but the original image will of course remain.

It might seem tricky, however, if you decide that you like the adjustments represented by the virtual copy more than the version represented by the source image. Fortunately, Lightroom Classic makes it easy to swap the adjustments between a virtual copy and a source photo.

Let’s assume you have a source photo you have optimized as a color version of the image, and a virtual copy that you have converted to black and white. You decide that you want to keep the black and white version of the image, discarding the color version.

However, the color version is the original image, with the black and white image being the virtual copy. You certainly don’t want to delete the source image, since the virtual copy requires that source. Instead, you simply want to swap the adjustments between the source and the virtual copy.

To make that swap, first select the virtual copy rather than the source image. Go to the Library module, and from the menu choose Photo > Set Copy as Master. Note that this command is not available on the menu when you are in the Develop module. When you use this command, the adjustments for the virtual copy will be applied to the source image, and the adjustments that had been applied to the source image will instead by applied to the virtual copy.

At that point you could also delete the virtual copy if you only want the version of the image that is represented by the source photo at that point.

If you will be working with virtual copies in this way, it is important to be aware of which image is a virtual copy and which is a source photo. Virtual copies have a turned page icon at the bottom-left of the thumbnail. Virtual copies also show a name (“Copy 1” by default for the first virtual copy) after the filename of the source image, on the information display for the selected photo on the left side of the filmstrip, above the thumbnail display. Be sure you aren’t deleting a source image when you intend to delete a virtual copy.

Of course, keep in mind that all adjustments in Lightroom Classic are non-destructive, so even if you later decide you really do want to have the image in color, you would still be able to switch your black and white interpretation applied to the source image back to a color version (or even add a new virtual copy for that purpose).

Virtual Copy Workflow


Today’s Question: How aggressive are you about using virtual copies [in Lightroom Classic]? I have considered, but not routinely implemented, a practice of making virtual copies of the original any time I do a significant crop to an original image. Is this something you do, or would support? Catalogue drive space required is small, and cropping options are not absolute in my experience, and without knowing what I have cropped from, these options are effectively foreclosed. Comments?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My general approach is to use Virtual Copies in Adobe Lightroom Classic whenever I want to create a completely different interpretation of a photo, or when I want to create a slight variation on an image (such as with a crop) while being sure not to risk losing the original interpretation of the image.

More Detail: A Virtual Copy in Lightroom Classic enables you to make multiple versions of a single source image, meaning different interpretations based on your adjustments in the Develop module. These can be helpful both in terms of creating different interpretations of a photo (such as a color and a black & white version), as well as for workflow reasons.

In most cases I settle on a single interpretation of a given photo, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes I use different versions of a photo in different contexts. Regardless, if I want to maintain two different interpretations of the same photo, I’ll create a Virtual Copy for that purpose.

Sometimes I may have a difficult time deciding which version of a photo I like best as I’m working toward creating a “final” version of the image. In those cases I would still create a Virtual Copy to explore both options, but if I ultimately decide on a single version as my “final” version, then I would generally delete the “extra” Virtual Copy just to avoid confusion.

I also sometimes use Virtual Copies for workflow purposes. If I decide I will crop an image to suit the limitations of Instagram for example, I might create a virtual copy for the purpose of creating that copy of the photo, to preserve the original version of the image. In this type of scenario I would typically create the Virtual Copy, crop or otherwise alter that Virtual Copy, export for sharing, and then delete the Virtual Copy.

So, I don’t use Virtual Copies extensively, and I try to make a distinction between Virtual Copies I want to retain permanently, and those being used for temporary purposes. If the purpose is temporary, I try to remember to delete the unneeded Virtual Copy as soon as it is no longer needed, to avoid clutter or confusion in my Lightroom Classic catalog.

Missing Bit Depths?


Today’s Question: You addressed a question about bit depth and made reference to cameras with 12-bit and 14-bit support. But I thought images could only be either 8-bit or 16-bit?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While most software only offers options to work with images in either the 8-bit per channel or 16-bit per channel bit depths, there are a variety of other options available depending on the context.

More Detail: Bit depth refers to the level of precision involved in a conversion from an analog data source (such as light in the context of photography) to discrete digital values. In the context of digital photos, the low end of the bit depth scale is 8-bit per channel.

Most software provides support for either 8-bit per channel images or 16-bit per channel images. However, this is not an inherent limitation of image processing. If you capture a JPEG image with any digital camera, the result will be an 8-bit per channel image. With a raw capture, many photographers are familiar with the notion of a 16-bit per channel image.

However, just because most software supports 8-bit per channel and 16-bit per channel images doesn’t mean those are the only options for digital photos.

Again, for JPEG captures the image will always be an 8-bit per channel image. But for raw captures the camera is not necessarily producing a 16-bit per channel image. In fact, most are not. Most cameras offer either 12-bit per channel or 14-bit per channel analog to digital conversion. A few camera models offer full 16-bit per channel conversion.

However, regardless of the bit depth supported by your camera, in most cases when processing the raw capture to produce a final image, you will generally only have a 16-bit per channel option. In other words, whether your camera is producing 12-bit, 14-bit, or 16-bit per channel data, the result will be contained within a 16-bit per channel image file.

It is important to keep in mind that even if you are working with a 16-bit per channel image, that doesn’t mean you actually have 16-bit per channel data for that image. It is simply a matter of only having either an 8-bit per channel or 16-bit per channel option available in most software, so an image that has more than 8-bits per channel of data needs to be contained in a file that supports a higher bit depth, which generally translates to a 16-bit per channel file.

Note, by the way, that for HDR (high dynamic range) images, you might create a 32-bit per channel image. In other words, there are a variety of bit depth options depending on context, but in terms of digital images you will generally have 8-bit per channel and 16-bit per channel options available.