No Transformer Required

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Today’s Question: The voltage in Australia and New Zealand is 220-230 [volts]. Is it your experience that, like with the iPhone, you need an adapter but don’t need a transformer for charging camera batteries?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Most electronic devices will work perfectly well with higher voltages found in other countries. It is important, however, to confirm your battery charger and other electronic devices support the higher voltage levels.

More Detail: On your battery charger and other electronic devices you should find a label that typically has the serial number and other details on it. You want to make sure that the specifications cover a wide enough range to include the power in the countries you’ll be visiting.

In the case of Australia and New Zealand you want to make sure that the input voltage for the device goes up to 240 volts at 50 hertz. In the US, as you know, the power is 110 volts. Typically you’ll see an indication of the voltage on a device as something like “AC 100-240V 50/60Hz”. That means the device can handle AC (alternating current, as opposed to direct current) power anywhere between 100 and 240 volts, at 50 or 60 hertz.

These days most devices will support the higher voltages found internationally. There are, however, some devices (such as hair dryers) that often only support a narrow range of voltages. That means the device might only support US power voltages, or only higher voltages found in other countries. In that case a transformer would be required to be able to use the device.

If you plug in and turn on a device that can’t support the higher voltages found in other countries, the device will either blow a fuse (if you’re lucky) or be fried and potentially start a fire. But as long as the label for the device you’ll plug in shows a voltage range up to 240 volts, only a plug adapter would be required, with no need for a transformer.

For what it’s worth, none of the devices I own require a transformer to be plugged into any international outlet. They only need a plug adapter. And I didn’t do that on purpose! It is just that most devices support international voltages right out of the box. But even so, I still check the rating of every device before using it on an international trip.

Labeling Drives

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Today’s Question: In you course “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom” you suggest labeling our drives with a label maker. What brand and model do you use?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I use a Brother P-Touch label maker to label my hard drives (among other things), and I’m very happy with it.

More Detail: I do highly recommend labeling your hard drives to avoid any confusion, and a label maker is a great way to accomplish this. I put the name I associate with each drive as a label on the drive, and also clearly mark my backup drives with an indication they are a backup, so I don’t accidentally try to use those drives for anything other than backing up my master drives.

The specific model label printer I am using is the Brother PT-65. This is an older version of the P-Touch line that has since been discontinued. I have had this label printer for probably ten years now, and it continues to perform great.

A comparable Brother P-Touch label maker would probably be the PT-70BM, though I’ve not had a chance to test this specific product since my older label maker continues to serve me well. You can learn more about this current model (and read reviews) here:

https://amzn.to/2Rb3UJS

Sharpening Options

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Today’s Question: Some photographers don’t like the sharpening feature of Lightroom. They prefer using the High Pass filter in Photoshop. Sharpening in Lightroom is a standard feature with standard values. Is there a way to adjust these standard sharpening values during import? What is your opinion about the sharpening by Lightroom compared to the High Pass filter in Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I think the initial sharpening available in Lightroom’s Develop module is excellent. Output sharpening (such as when printing or exporting a copy of a photo) is also very good, but doesn’t provide a preview that would help you make the right decisions about settings. It is possible to adjust the default settings for sharpening, but in my opinion the best way to approach this is to create a preset that you apply during import or later in your workflow.

More Detail: Sharpening is one of the photo adjustment options that many photographers seem to want to over-complicate. Granted, the math behind sharpening isn’t necessarily all that simple, but the basic concepts are relatively straightforward.

In the earlier days of digital imaging I certainly felt that many sharpening tools were a little too aggressive, and that using special “tricks” in software such as Photoshop could provide superior results. With more recent software updates, however, the sharpening algorithms have gotten much more sophisticated, to the point that no special tricks are generally necessary.

The initial sharpening available in Lightroom (and Camera Raw) is excellent, and so I recommend using this for your initial sharpening. The Clarity (and Dehaze) adjustments provide similar benefits, and in my mind largely eliminate the need for techniques such as the use of the High Pass filter for a sharpening effect. Note that the High Pass technique produces results that are closer to Clarity than actual Sharpening.

It is possible to change the default settings for adjustments in Lightroom. You start by clicking the Reset button in the Develop module to clear out all adjustments for a sample image. Then you change the settings you want different from the defaults, and choose Develop > Set Default Settings from the menu. You can then click the “Update to Current Settings” button to confirm the change. However, note that the change will only affect photos captured with the same camera model as your sample image.

If you want to apply these changes more universally, you can create a preset that includes only the adjustments you want to be different from Lightroom’s defaults. You can then apply that preset either during the import process, or later in your workflow either in the Develop module or via the Quick Develop adjustments in the Library module.

For output sharpening, because Lightroom does not provide a preview for the available settings, I often prefer to send photos to Photoshop to resize and sharpen them. This enables me to exercise much greater control over the output, which is especially important for images that will be printed.

Invisible Stroke

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Today’s Question: I’m trying to add a line around a photo using the Stroke feature, but it never actually appears in my image. I have even set the size very large, but it doesn’t show up. Do you have any idea what I’m doing wrong?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Under typical conditions, the most likely reason the Stroke effect isn’t showing up in your image is that the stroke is being added outside the image area, causing it to be beyond the visible canvas. You can use the “Inside” option for the Position setting, or use the “Reveal All” command to reveal a stroke that has been placed outside the image.

More Detail: To add a Stroke (or other effect) to an image layer in Photoshop, that layer first needs to be a “normal” layer rather than a Background layer. To convert a Background image layer to a normal layer you can simply double-click on the thumbnail for the Background image layer on the Layers panel, and then click OK in the New Layer dialog.

Next, click the “Add a Layer Style” button (the button with the “fx” icon on it) at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose “Stroke” from the popup menu. In the Layer Style dialog you can then adjust the settings for the appearance of the stroke.

I generally start out setting the color for the stroke, which in my case is most often black. You can select “Color” as the Fill Type for the stroke, and then click the color swatch labeled “Color” to bring up the Color Picker where you can select the color you want to use for the stroke effect.

Initially you can set the Opacity to 100% so you are better able to see the effect. You can always reduce the Opacity setting later. You can also change the Blend Mode if you want to use something other than “Normal”. And if you have reduce the Opacity setting, turning on the Overprint checkbox will cause the underlying image to show through the stroke, if applicable.

The Position is a key setting that can cause confusion. If the Position is set to Outside, and the current image layer extends all the way to the end of the canvas, you’ll never see the stroke effect. Instead, you can use the Inside option, in which case part of your image will be covered by the Stroke effect. Note that the Center option for Position will cause the Stroke effect to appear half inside and half outside the image.

If you don’t want to cover up any of your image, you can use the Outside setting for Position. You won’t see the actual stroke at this point if the image extends to the edge of the canvas. But after adding the stroke you can choose Image > Reveal All from the menu to enlarge the canvas so the entire stroke area is visible.

When to Use Multiple Catalogs

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Today’s Question: Under what circumstances do you feel it is a good idea to have multiple catalogs in Lightroom Classic CC?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The only time I think it may be helpful to have your photos divided up among more than one catalog in Lightroom is when there is a need to keep certain photos separated from others. But frankly, even then you could still use a single catalog and divide those photos through other means, such as storing them on different hard drives or using metadata values to identify the various categories of images.

More Detail: It seems that many photographers want to maintain multiple catalogs in Lightroom, or at least the idea seems to make sense early on. Eventually, in my experience many photographers who start out with multiple catalogs realize that this approach adds complexity and potential confusion to their workflow. That is when they decide it would be best to merge their catalogs into a single “master” catalog, which is a decision I am in complete agreement with.

As I mentioned in my answer in yesterday’s Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, I recommend keeping your image-management workflow as simple as possible. Ideally that means storing all of your photos on a single storage device and using a single Lightroom catalog to manage those photos. This approach means you always know which catalog your photos are in, because it is your only catalog. And it would also mean you know which drive a given photo is on, because it is your only drive.

You can then use the folder structure, keywords, star ratings, and other metadata to identify the various properties of your photos that you can later use to locate any photo you need.

If you’d like to merge multiple Lightroom catalogs, and otherwise cleanup your workflow, you can get a special “New Year’s Resolution” discount on my full bundle of video courses on Lightroom by using this link to get started:

https://www.greylearning.com/bundles/lightroom?coupon=newyear19

New Catalog for New Year

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Today’s Question: Do you recommend creating a new catalog in Lightroom Classic CC for the new year? I saw this advice, suggesting that it was better to have a separate catalog for each calendar year. Your thoughts?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Absolutely not. My general recommendation is to use a single Lightroom catalog for all of your photos and videos, and I certainly don’t recommend creating a new catalog for each calendar year.

More Detail: I recognize there are situations where a photographer may want (or need) to maintain more than one catalog in Lightroom. However, in my mind those situations represent an exception to what I consider “best practices” in Lightroom.

In general I recommend using a workflow that is as streamlined as possible. When it comes to managing your photos in Lightroom, I feel that having multiple catalogs can be cumbersome and confusing. After all, if you use multiple catalogs and want to find a particular photo, first you need to know which catalog that photo is contained in.

Therefore, I think it makes the most sense to use a single catalog for all photos whenever possible. And if you’re concerned about performance issues, that isn’t a significant issue. My Lightroom catalog currently contains a little less than 400,000 images, and the performance is nearly identical to when I’m working with a small catalog for demonstration purposes.

If you’d like to merge multiple Lightroom catalogs, and otherwise cleanup your workflow, you can get a special “New Year’s Resolution” discount on my full bundle of video courses on Lightroom by using this link to get started:

https://www.greylearning.com/bundles/lightroom?coupon=newyear19

Odd Error in Photoshop

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Today’s Question: When I launch Photoshop I’m first seeing a message that suggests it is looking for Lightroom photos. Then I get a message that says, “This service is not available. Please check your network settings.” How do I stop this? I never have photos in anyone’s cloud, and I have no idea of what “network settings” the error message refers to. How do I turn this off so I have just the simplest opening screen?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This message indicates Photoshop is attempting to provide access to photos you have synchronized to the cloud via Lightroom. You can bypass this screen altogether for a simpler startup experience in Photoshop by turning on the “Disable the Home Screen” checkbox on the General tab of the Preferences dialog.

More Detail: With a recent update Adobe added a new “Home Screen” to Photoshop. This provides quick access to existing documents from several sources, as well as options for creating new documents. One of the options for accessing existing photos is “LR Photos”, found toward the top-left of the Home Screen.

When the LR Photos option is selected, Photoshop will display photos that have been synchronized from Lightroom. That could include photos added to synchronized collections in Lightroom Classic CC, or photos imported to Lightroom CC on a computer or mobile device.

If you aren’t making use of synchronization in Lightroom, you could choose the “Home” option at the top-left of the Home Screen. If you don’t want to see the Home Screen at all when you launch Photoshop, you can simply disable it.

To disable the Home Screen start by going to the Photoshop menu on Macintosh or the Edit menu on Windows. Then choose “Preferences” followed by “General”. This will bring up the Preferences dialog with the General tab selected. In the Options section of the General tab, turn on the “Disable the Home Screen” checkbox. Click OK to apply the change, and then quit Photoshop. The next time you launch Photoshop, you’ll see only the actual Photoshop interface, with no images opened and no Home Screen to distract you.

Relative Adjustments

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Today’s Question: Is there anyway to make presets [in Lightroom Classic CC] that changes the slider relative to the current setting? For instance, if you have already adjusted a slider value to +30 or +42 or -25 can you make a preset that adds 10 to any of these values, resulting in new values of +40, +52 or -15?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, the adjustments saved in presets in Lightroom are absolute adjustments rather than relative adjustments. The only way to apply relative adjustments is through the Quick Develop panel in the Library module, and you can’t create presets based on the Quick Develop adjustments.

More Detail: When you save a preset in Lightroom, you are for the most part saving specific adjustment values you want to apply to other images. The only “variable” adjustments would be things like the Auto Settings option, or the “Auto Black & White Mix” option for black and white conversions.

By contrast, the Quick Develop adjustments found on the right panel in the Library module provide the ability to apply relative adjustments. So, for example, if you have already increased the Vibrance adjustment to a value of +5, clicking the single right arrow for Vibrance under Quick Develop would increase that value by five, to an adjustment setting of +10. If you then click the double right arrow for Vibrance in Quick Develop, the value would be further increased by twenty, to an adjustment setting of +30.

However, the relative adjustments found in the Quick Develop section within the Library module can’t be saved as part of a preset. So if you want to apply adjustments relative to existing adjustments, rather than that replace that adjustment, you’ll need to directly use the Quick Develop adjustments rather than using a preset.

Note, by the way, that you can apply relative adjustments to multiple images at the same time with the Quick Develop controls. You just need to select multiple images first, and be in the Grid view (rather than the Loupe view, for example) before adjusting the Quick Develop controls.

True Tone Displays

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Today’s Question: I’ve just bought a new MacBook Pro. The computer display has a new feature called True Tone, which measures the ambient light color and brightness and adjusts the display accordingly. Do you recommend turning this feature off when editing photos in Lightroom and Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: For evaluating and correcting color I do recommend turning off the True Tone feature, or any other feature that will alter the color or brightness appearance of your display. Instead, to the extent possible I recommend working in a consistent environment that is relatively dark.

More Detail: In theory, a display that automatically adapts to changing lighting conditions is a good thing, ensuring that the display will appear the same to our eyes regardless of how the ambient lighting changes. In reality, this is more complicated than it may seem. Therefore, my recommendation is to try to control the environment to the extent possible, rather than enabling a feature that will cause the appearance of your display to change.

While lighting conditions can absolutely affect our perception of color, it is challenging to change the appearance of a display to correct for perception errors. Therefore, the far more reliable way to ensure you are evaluating an accurate display of an image is to first calibrate your display, and then work in a consistent and relatively dark environment.

In other words, as much as possible you want the view of your photos to be accurate and consistent, without any outside interference. Calibrating your display will help ensure accuracy, and a relatively dark environment will help ensure you are making decisions based exclusively on the actual display and not the surrounding environment.

You can read more about display calibration on the GreyLearning blog here:

Retaining Backups

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Today’s Question: Is it necessary to keep all your Lightroom Classic CC backup folders, or just the last five to ten backups?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, there isn’t a significant reason to retain a large number of backups for your Lightroom Classic CC catalog. I generally recommend retaining several of your most recent backups, as well as one or two backups that are perhaps up to six months old.

More Detail: First, it is very important to note that when you use the backup feature in Lightroom Classic CC, you are only backing up the catalog, not the source photos being managed by Lightroom. So you’ll still need to perform a backup for your photos in addition to the catalog backup.

The catalog backup essentially represents a copy of the actual primary catalog file. If your catalog ever became corrupted, you could replace your corrupted catalog with the most recent backup, and you will have only potentially lost information that was added to the catalog since the time of the most recent backup.

In theory, to recover from a corrupted catalog you only need a single backup. However, it is possible that the backup would still retain some sort of problem that could make that catalog unusable. This is highly unlikely, but out of an abundance of caution I recommend retaining more than one copy of your catalog backup.

Therefore, I recommend retaining your most recent catalog backup, as well as two or three other relatively recent backups. Which you retain will depend in part on how often you update your catalog and how often you backup your catalog.

As an additional precautionary measure, I also recommend retaining a backup that is a bit older. The idea is that if there were some sort of recent issue that caused corruption to your catalog, an older backup would hopefully provide an option for recovery without that corruption.

Of course, restoring from an out-of-date catalog creates a new set of problems, which is part of the reason I also highly recommend enabling the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog.