View Mask Overlay


Today’s Question: I’m working on learning targeted adjustments in Photoshop. While watching your lesson on Quick Mask mode in Photoshop, I had a question. Can the same color overlay used with Quick Mask mode for selections also be displayed for layer masks? I find that display to be particularly helpful.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can display the equivalent of the Quick Mask overlay for a layer mask by pressing the Backslash key (\) on the keyboard while the applicable layer is active on the Layers panel.

More Detail: Quick Mask mode in Photoshop provides a workflow for refining (or creating) selections by painting with the Brush tool rather than using the various selection tools. When you press “Q” on the keyboard you’ll see a color overlay (it is red by default) that indicates areas that are not selected. Selected areas of the image appear in normal color.

With Quick Mask mode active, you can add areas to the selection by painting with white in the image. You can subtract areas from the selection by painting with black. In effect, painting with black adds the color overlay and painting with white removes that overlay. Pressing “Q” again returns you to the normal selection mode.

The same color overlay presented as part of Quick Mask mode can be displayed when you’re working with a layer mask. You need to first select the applicable layer on the Layers panel, which can be done by simply clicking on the thumbnail for the layer with the layer mask you want to work with.

With the applicable layer active, you can press the Backslash key (\) on the keyboard to activate the color overlay display. Note that while it is possible to change the color and opacity settings for the Quick Mask mode color overlay, those changes do not affect the layer mask overlay displayed when you press the Backslash key.

Logo Masking


Today’s Question: I have a logo for my photography business that is black on a white background. What is the easiest way in Photoshop to mask out the logo so I can place it without the white background onto a photo like a watermark?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can very quickly hide the white areas of the logo image by adding it as a layer to a photo in Photoshop and then changing the blend mode for the logo layer (using the popup at the top-left of the Layers panel) to the Multiply blend mode.

More Detail: With this type of situation you could obviously create a selection of the white areas relatively quickly, and then create a layer mask based on the selection. However, this would likely result in the edge of the logo having some fringing of white or gray areas, which could be difficult to clean up.

It would also be possible to use the “Blend If” controls described in an article in the November 2017 issue of Pixology magazine. However, this could create similar challenges with fringing (though that fringing would be easier to resolve with this method).

The beauty of using the Multiply blend mode is that it will help create a more seamless result with virtually no effort. This blend mode will cause white pixels in the applicable layer (the logo layer in this example) to become completely invisible. Darker pixels will cause a darkening of the pixels in the underlying image, with black pixels in the logo layer resulting in completely black pixels in the image below. Because of this behavior, shades of gray in the logo layer will result in a darkened area of the image below, which will result in a much smoother blending of any fringed areas along the edge of the logo.

Note, by the way, that for an inverted scenario (with a white logo on a black background) you could similarly hide the black pixels from the logo image layer by using the Screen blend mode in place of the Multiply blend mode.

Upgrade Benefits


Today’s Question: I have been using Adobe Lightroom 5 and still not too efficient with this program. What advantages would I gain if I purchase Lightroom CC?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you opt for subscribing to an Adobe Creative Cloud plan that includes Lightroom, the key benefit would be ongoing updates including support for new camera raw capture formats. Then you would need to choose between Lightroom Classic CC (which is essentially the latest version of what had been Lightroom 5 and then Lightroom 6) or Lightroom CC (which is the new cloud-based workflow solution).

More Detail: As noted in a previous Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, Adobe has released the final update to the version of Lightroom with a “perpetual” license. In other words, you can only get future updates to Lightroom by subscribing to an Adobe Creative Cloud plan that includes Lightroom.

There are a handful of new features included in Lightroom Classic CC that are not included in Lightroom 5. These include the ability to merge high dynamic range (HDR) and composite panoramic images, a facial recognition feature that speeds the identification of people in your photos, greater flexibility with targeted adjustments, and more. For most photographers interested in using Lightroom to manage their photography workflow, I recommend using Lightroom Classic CC.

The new Lightroom CC cloud-based solution revolves around the online synchronization of all original captures in your entire library of photos. This is certainly an interesting feature, and one that some photographers may find very appealing. However, in my mind there are enough features still missing from this new version of Lightroom that for most photographers Lightroom CC does not provide an adequate solution yet. In other words, for most photographers I would recommend waiting until Lightroom CC has been updated to include additional key features before considering it as a potential solution in your workflow.

Note that you can view a recording of a recent presentation in the GreyLearning Webinar Series that addresses the differences between Lightroom Classic CC and Lightroom CC on the Tim Grey TV channel on YouTube here:

Sharing with a Client


Today’s Question: I was looking at the Web module in Lightroom [Classic CC] for possible use sharing photos with clients, but then learned that you can only share these galleries if you have your own website. Is there an easier way to share images online with clients using Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can easily share a gallery of images by synchronizing a collection of images using the Creative Cloud, and then sharing that gallery via a link you can email to clients.

More Detail: The option to synchronize photos to the Creative Cloud is only available with the Creative Cloud version of Lightroom, and in this context specifically Lightroom Classic CC. In other words, this feature is not available for the “perpetual” license version of Lightroom, which has now been discontinued by Adobe.

The first step in sharing a gallery in this way is to synchronize a collection from Lightroom on your computer. You can create a new collection, add photos to the collection, and then make sure you’re signed in (this option is available by clicking on the Identity Plate at the far left of the top panel). Next, turn on the checkbox to the left of the collection name, and a “sync” icon will appear that looks something like a horizontal lightning bolt.

Once the photos have synchronized to the Creative Cloud, you can view those photos by pointing your web browser to and signing in to your Adobe Creative Cloud account. Navigate to the collection (album) in your browser, and then click the Share button shown above the thumbnail display of the images in the album.

In the popup that appears, click the “Share This Album” link. Then, on the Share tab, click the “Share this Album” button to confirm you want to share the images. On the next page you can set additional options, and copy the link provided. Click “Done” to finalize the share.

You can then send the link you copied to anyone you want to be able to view the images in your synchronized collection. Note that those you share the album with can “like” and comment on the photos as well, provided they too sign in with an Adobe Creative Cloud account.

Defining Color Labels


Today’s Question: I’ve started using Lightroom after previously using Adobe Bridge to manage my photos. The color labels I had applied to some of my photos now appear white. How do I get the original color back?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can recover your original color labels in Lightroom by either changing the color label definition to the Adobe Bridge defaults, or by repeating the assignment of color labels so they reflect Lightroom’s definitions.

More Detail: When you assign a color label to an image you’re actually just adding a word to a metadata field. Software such as Adobe Bridge or Lightroom then presents a color based on the word in metadata. The problem is, Bridge and Lightroom use two different definitions for color labels. For example, Bridge uses the term “Select” for the red color label and “Second” for the yellow color label”, while Lightroom uses the more logical approach of using the name of the color for the label definition. If you have color label values in metadata that don’t match the current definitions in Lightroom, the label will appear white.

One quick solution is to simply change the definition of color labels in Lightroom to match the terms used by Bridge. You can do so by going to the menu (while in the Library module) and selecting Metadata > Color Label Set > Bridge Default.

If you prefer to use the Lightroom definitions for color labels, you can leave the color label definitions set to “Lightroom Default”, and then change the color labels assigned to your images based on the original label you had applied. To work across your full catalog you could first choose All Photographs from the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module to view all photos in your catalog.

Then press the backslash key (\) to bring up the Library Filter bar. Make sure there aren’t any other filters applied, and then in the Metadata section click one of the column headers and choose Label from the popup. Click the name of the label you want to change, such as “Select” for the red color label assigned in Adobe Bridge.

With a filter established based on an “incorrect” color label definition, you can choose Edit > Select All from the menu to select all of the images that have the wrong color label definition, and then assign the correct color label. In the case of the “Select” color label assigned in Adobe Bridge, for example, you could press the number six (6) on the keyboard to assign the red color label based on Lightroom’s definition.

Standalone to Subscription


Today’s Question: I have a stand-alone version of Lightroom. If I go to the subscription version of Lightroom CC what happens to my existing catalog? Will it be integrated into Lightroom CC automatically?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Your existing catalog will not be integrated automatically. In the case of a subscription for Lightroom Classic CC, you would need to simply open (and upgrade if necessary) your existing catalog. With the new Lightroom CC you would need to migrate your existing Lightroom catalog.

More Detail: Because Lightroom (both the existing Classic version and the new CC version) employs a central catalog to manage your photos, it is important to properly manage that catalog. When it comes to switching version (or upgrading to a new major release) that involves updating the catalog itself.

When you switch from a standalone version of Lightroom to a subscription to Lightroom Classic, or when upgrading from an older version of Lightroom, you can simply open your existing catalog in the new version of Lightroom CC. If the existing catalog is from an older version of Lightroom, you’ll be prompted to upgrade the catalog the first time it is opened. You can then continue using that upgraded catalog normally with the new version of Lightroom Classic.

If you are switching to the new Lightroom CC, there is the additional step of migrating your existing Lightroom catalog to the format used by Lightroom CC. To do so, launch Lightroom CC and then choose File > Migrate Lightroom Catalog from the menu. You’ll then be guided through the (very simple) process of migrating your catalog so you can start using Lightroom CC without losing any of your metadata from your existing Lightroom catalog.

In both cases the process of updating your catalog is very simple. The key is to make sure you go through that process to ensure you preserve all of the information about your photos, with no interruption in your image-management workflow.

Creating Test Photos


Today’s Question: How can I make a folder of images from Lightroom Classic to try Lightroom CC, as you recommended during your recent webinar?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When you want to test Lightroom CC (or any other software for working with your photos), I do recommend that you create copies of a variety of images to use for testing. From Lightroom Classic, you can use the Export feature to copy images in their original format to a test folder on your computer.

More Detail: Before testing out new imaging software, especially when that software is focused on managing your photos, I consider it imperative to create test copies of some of your photos to use for testing with that software. I also recommend that the duplicate photos be a representative sample of the file formats and capture types that are typical in your workflow.

If you’re managing your photos with software (such as Adobe Bridge) that does not employ a central catalog, you could simply copy a representative folder to a new location, naming it in a way that will make it clear this is a test copy of that folder.

With Lightroom you can create such a test folder by selecting images within your catalog that you’d like to use for testing, and then using the export feature to make copies of the original images.

After selecting the images you want to use (such as by using the Edit > Select All command on the menu to select all of the photos in the current folder), you can click the Export button at the bottom of the left panel in the Library module.

In the Export dialog, you can select the location where you want to copy the photos in the Export Location section at the top of the dialog. If the selection of images also includes video clips, you’ll want to turn on the “Include Video Files” checkbox in the Video section as well, selecting “Original, unedited file” from the Video Format popup. In the File Settings section you should select “Original” from the File Settings popup. This will cause copies of the original image files on your hard drive to be created in the folder location you’ve specified. Note that for raw captures this export will include an XMP sidecar file that includes the Develop module adjustments you’ve applied to the image.

With the export settings established, you can click the Export button to process the images. Once the process is complete, you’ll have copies of your photos in the folder you specified, ready to be used for testing with Lightroom CC or any other software you’re considering for your photographic workflow.

How Full is Full?


Today’s Question: When is the right time to replace a hard drive? For a 2 terabyte drive when is it “full” to the point the data should be moved or copied to a larger storage device?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I tend to make the decision about “upgrading” to a larger hard drive for photo storage based on timing. When I’m getting close to having only about a month or so of storage remaining, I will upgrade to a drive with greater capacity.

More Detail: Of course, this specific timing depends on a variety of factors. In some cases you may need a bit more buffer in terms of time, just in case a big project comes along or your schedule gets full to the point that it is difficult to make time for an “upgrade” project.

For me, as long as I don’t have any extended trips coming up soon, a one-month storage buffer usually works just fine. For example, I tend to capture around 300 photos per day on average when I’m actively photographing. That would translate into about 225 gigabytes per month for me, based on raw captures that are about 25 megabytes in size.

Of course, wanting to be conservative, that means when I start to see that my hard drive has less than about 300 gigabytes free I’m going to start planning for a storage upgrade. That includes choosing how much extra capacity I might need for the new drive, as well as selecting a drive based on various other criteria such as overall performance.

When I buy a new hard drive, I always buy three of the same type, so that I have two backup drives to go with each primary drive. After purchasing the drives, I can copy my photos and other data from the existing drive that is getting full to the new drive that has plenty of capacity. I’ll generally hold on to the smaller drives that were replaced by the new drives, so that I have an “extra” backup for a period of time. Eventually I will then repurpose the drives that had been replaced for other storage, unless they are getting old to the point of needing to be retired.

Note that I outlined the steps I recommend for a “storage upgrade” in an article featured in the August 2014 issue of Pixology magazine. This and all other back issues are available to subscribers. More details can be found here:

Video in Photoshop


Today’s Question: Is it possible to process videos in Photoshop CC?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes! You can apply adjustments to video clips within Photoshop, and then render the result as a new video for use in other projects.

More Detail: When you open a video clip in Photoshop, your initial impression may be that you’ve opened a still photo. The only real clue that you’re working with a video clip is that the Timeline panel will be presented automatically when a video is opened. You can access this panel at anytime by choosing Window > Timeline from the menu.

On the Timeline panel you can zoom in or out on the timeline for the video, and move the play head slider back and forth to locate specific areas of the video. For example, you could move the play head to a representative frame in the video, to be used for applying adjustments.

You can then apply creative filter effects to the video just as though it were a still photo. In addition, other adjustments are available. You might, for example, want to add adjustment layers to alter the appearance of the video.

When you’re finished applying the various adjustments, you can render a version of the video that includes your adjustments. To do so, click the Render Video button (it has a curved arrow icon), and choose the filename and location where you want to save the resulting video. You can even save the video with all adjustments intact as a Photoshop PSD file, so that later you can open this PSD file to refine existing adjustments or add new adjustments.

Managing Video Captures


Today’s Question: Do you keep video captures in your Lightroom catalog and on your photo drive, or do you have a completely separate drive only for video?

Tim’s Quick Answer: For videos captured for the same basic reasons I capture photos (generally “artistic” purposes), I manage video captures right alongside my still photos, within my master Lightroom catalog. The only time I don’t import videos into my Lightroom catalog is if they are for a specific project outside the scope of my normal photography, such as when producing educational video courses.

More Detail: There are two basic categories that my video captures might fit into.

The first category is for the educational videos we produce though my GreyLearning website ( Because these are generally “one-off” videos for a specific production purpose, I file them separate from my other photos and do not import them into my Lightroom catalog. So, when we’re in the field producing educational content, all of the videos and audio we capture go onto a separate hard drive used for producing the educational video content. The stills I capture along the way generally get included into my regular Lightroom catalog, because they are typically photos I might want to use for other purposes.

The second category represents videos that go right alongside my photos. Sometimes, for example, I might be photographing a beautiful Alpine stream, and I decide to capture some video clips as well. Those videos are “artistic” in a manner of speaking, with the potential to be used in a photo slideshow to supplement the still photos, for example. The point is that I think of them in the same general context as my still photos. These get imported into my Lightroom catalog, and stored right alongside the photos captured during the same trip or outing.

In other words, videos that are captured based on the same basic motivation as my still photos get treated just as though they were still photos. Lightroom does a pretty good job of managing video clips right alongside photos. Just note that metadata updates (such as keywords) can’t actually be written directly into the video files themselves the way metadata updates can be saved to still images.