Canceling Creative Cloud


Today’s Question: What happens if you organize your photos in Lightroom Classic and then decide not to continue your Creative Cloud subscription next year? What happens to your photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you discontinue your Creative Cloud subscription, Lightroom Classic will become limited in terms of the features available, but you won’t lose any of your photos since the source images are stored locally.

More Detail: One of the advantages of the overall architecture of Lightroom Classic is that your source photos are stored separately from the application and the catalog. As a result, even if you were to uninstall Lightroom Classic, or stop paying for a Creative Cloud subscription, you would not lose your source photos.

In addition, you would not lose access to the information about your photos within your Lightroom Classic catalog. You would lose access to certain features, such as applying changes to your photos in the Develop module. Most of the other features will still be available, including the ability to export copies of your photos.

In other words, you don’t need to worry at all about losing access to your photos if you discontinue your subscription to Lightroom Classic. In addition, you’ll still be able to launch Lightroom Classic to access information about your photos, and even to work with your photos in a many ways. You’ll simply lose access to some of the key features (primarily the Develop and Map modules) in Lightroom Classic after your subscription ends. But you won’t lose access to your photos or the information about your photos.

It is important to note that things are a bit different with the cloud-based version of Lightroom. If you discontinue your subscription to the cloud-based version of Lightroom, you’ll need to be sure that you download all photos to your computer before you lose access to Lightroom, to ensure you have local copies of all source images.

Sharpening for Output


Today’s Question: Is there any difference in the sharpening that should be applied when you are printing an image compared to sharing digitally? It seems to me that if the sharpening works good for one type of output, it should work well for any type of output. Am I missing something here?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is indeed a difference. Sharpening should be tailored to the specific output size for the image, and sharpening for print will generally be a bit more aggressive than sharpening for digital display.

More Detail: Sharpening is a process of optimizing the appearance of detail in a photo. In some respects you can think of sharpening as being similar to the notion of getting an image in focus. More specifically, sharpening enables you to compensate for factors that cause a photo to appear less in focus (sharp) than you would like.

When an image is shared digitally, you are essentially sharing the “actual” pixels. In other words, the image should be sized based on the digital display, and the sharpening would be relatively modest. In this scenario, you can apply sharpening based on a preview of the image on your computer’s monitor, and expect that the final result will be comparable.

With printing the process of sharpening is a little more complicated, in large part because it is difficult to evaluate a preview of sharpening when preparing an image to be printed. This is due to the fact that you are previewing the image on a monitor display, while the final image will be printed with ink on paper.

When an image is printed to paper (or similar medium), there is a degree of lost sharpness due to the spreading of ink on paper. This effect is amplified when printing to matte paper as compared to glossy paper. The result is that it is more difficult to preview the final effect when preparing a photo to be printed. Furthermore, it is generally necessary to apply sharpening that appears to be too strong when displayed on your computer monitor, if the intent is to print the image.

In other words, different sharpening needs to be applied when preparing images for digital display as compared to printing. In general, the preview you see on your computer’s monitor can be trusted for most digital displays. When it comes to preparing a photo for printing, you will need to at least slightly over-sharpen in the context of what you see on your monitor, in order to produce a print that looks as sharp as you intend.

Considering a Variable ND Filter


Today’s Question: Are the variable neutral density filters worth the money?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While variable neutral density (ND) filters are convenient, I personally prefer to work with solid ND filters.

More Detail: One of the key benefits of a variable ND filter is that it provides the range of multiple solid ND filters in a single filter. For example, the variable ND filter I prefer ( makes it possible to reduce the amount of light reaching the image sensor in a range from about three stops up to eight stops.

In other words, with a single variable ND filter you have the same range of options as you might otherwise achieve with three or more solid ND filters. That is obviously a potentially significant benefit, both in terms of not having to carry multiple filters and being able to achieve a specific exposure setting more quickly since you wouldn’t need to change filters.

However, I generally prefer to work with solid neutral density filters. One of the key reasons is that a single filter has a single density value that you can adjust for dependably. For example, a six-stop solid ND filter involves adjusting the existing exposure by six stops when you add the filter.

With a variable ND filter you never really know precisely how much light you’re blocking, and therefore how much you need to adjust your exposure settings. You can often use the exposure simulation feature (or even metering) for your camera to set your exposure, but this often isn’t accurate especially at high density settings.

To be sure, variable ND filters offer a degree of convenience. However, I find that it is easier to simply have individual solid ND filters with predictable behavior. In addition, it is easy to adjust the ISO setting to refine the overall exposure setting, providing a similar (though admittedly not identical) capability compared to variable ND filters.

If you are interested in a variable ND filter, one that I highly recommend is the Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter. You can find the 77mm version of this filter here:

Limiting Catalog Backups


Today’s Question: I backup “every time Lightroom exits” because I’m not in Lightroom Classic every day, or even most times once a week. Is there an option to tell Lightroom to only keep “x” number of backups or to purge backups older than a specific date?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Unfortunately, no. The only option is to periodically delete older backups, so that only a handful of recent (and perhaps one or two older) backups of your Lightroom Classic catalog remain.

More Detail: I hope that all photographers are regularly backing up their photos, so that if anything goes wrong with their computer or storage device they won’t lose any of their precious photos. Of similar importance, however, is backing up the catalog if you are using Lightroom Classic to manage your photos.

The Lightroom catalog contains all of the information about your photos, including updates and changes you apply within Lightroom Classic. Backing up the catalog regularly ensure that you’ll have something to fall back on if your catalog is lost or corrupted.

Of course, the backup feature in Lightroom Classic doesn’t include an option to clean out old backups. Instead, you’ll need to navigate to the backup location yourself through your operating system. There you’ll find folders named for the date upon which the backup was created.

I generally recommend keeping a few recent backups, including, of course, the most recent backup. I also recommend keeping a backup from a few months ago, and one from perhaps about six months ago, just so you have some options in case there is corruption of your catalog that also impacts the backup copies of your catalog.

All other backup copies can be deleted, which means simply deleting the folders that contain catalog backups you no longer need. This process can be repeated periodically to reduce clutter and wasted storage space in the location where you store the backup copies if your Lightroom catalog.

Sharpening Workflow


Today’s Question: You said, “I would actually tend to leave output sharpening as a separate process [in Photoshop] within the context of a workflow for preparing a photo for output, rather than as part of your “normal” workflow. At that point, layers would no longer be a factor.” What is the workflow you recommend for this type of output?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The process I prefer for preparing a photo for final output in Photoshop involves creating a duplicate flattened copy of the image, resizing the image to the final output size, and sharpening the image based on the intended output.

More Detail: While you may apply some initial sharpening in Lightroom Classic or Adobe Camera Raw when processing a raw capture, and you may apply some “creative” sharpening in your general workflow for optimizing a photo, I generally recommend applying final output sharpening as a separate process when using Photoshop to prepare a photo for output.

My first priority in this context is to preserve the “master” image, which generally includes a variety of layers (both image layers and adjustment layers). Therefore, I prefer to work with a copy of the master image when preparing the image for printing or other output.

To create a duplicate copy of the image in Photoshop, I’ll first open the master image and then choose Image > Duplicate from the menu. In the “Duplicate Image” dialog that appears I will turn on the “Duplicate Merged Layers Only” checkbox, which will cause the resulting duplicate image to be a flattened version of the original. I then click the OK button to create the duplicate.

Next, I resize the image based on the final output dimensions. For this I use the Image Size command, which can be found on the Image menu. If the image is being prepared for printing, I’ll make sure the Resample checkbox is turned on. I’ll then set the output resolution based on how the image will be output (such as typically using a 360 ppi resolution for images I’ll print using a photo inkjet printer). I’ll then set the output dimensions using the settings for Width and Height. Clicking OK in the Image Size dialog will cause the image to actually be resized.

Finally, I’ll apply sharpening based on the final output. This typically means applying the Smart Sharpen filter. However, in some cases where it is especially important to avoid sharpening smooth areas of a photo, I will use the Unsharp Mask filter so I can adjust the value for Threshold.

After applying sharpening based on the final output, I can print the image or otherwise save it for sharing. And, of course, I could also save the new derivative image if I want quick access to the final output version of a photo. If I want to make any changes to the image, I will return to my original “master” image file that has all of the layers intact. After applying any desired changes to that master image, I could repeat the above output workflow to prepare the updated version of the photo for output.

Dealing with “Live” Photos


Today’s Question: There are some MOV files among the JPEGs [downloaded from my iPhone]. Did I hit the “Live” function when making the photo? I’m guessing that’s the answer since each clip is about three seconds long. Is there a way to extract a single image–maybe from the beginning or the end–from these three-second “live” shots?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, what you are describing indicates that you captured some Live Photos on your iPhone. The latest version of Lightroom will automatically include a JPEG image in addition to the MOV that represents the Live Photo. You could also convert the Live Photos to “normal” photos on your iPhone before downloading so you would only have a still image. In addition, you could use the Apple Photos application to export JPEG still images based on the Live Photo captures.

More Detail: The “Live Photo” feature for the camera on iPhones enables you to capture dynamic photos, which can be thought of as a variation on a three-second video clip. This feature is enabled by tapping on the Live Photo icon in the Camera app. This icon looks something like a “target”, with a series of concentric circles. When the icon is yellow the Live Photo feature is enabled, and when it is white (with a slash through the icon) the Live Photo feature is disabled.

Even if you captured a photo as a Live Photo, you can actually disable the Live Photo effect for individual photos before downloading them. This would result in downloading a “normal” photo rather than a Live Photo. In the context of downloading directly from your iPhone, a Live Photo would otherwise be represented by both a video (MOV file) and a still photo.

To turn off the Live Photo effect for an image first locate a Live Photo capture in the Photos app on your phone. Then tap the photo (if necessary) to reveal the various controls, and tap the Edit link. At the top-center of the photo in editing mode you’ll see an indication of the Live Photo status with the same icon used to enable the feature in the Camera app. You can tap that icon to turn off Live Photo for the image. Then, when you download photos, the photos you turned off the Live Photo feature for will be downloaded as still images without the video file.

As noted above, you could also make sure you have upated Lightroom Classic to a newer version that supports the updated capture formats for the iPhone (such as HEIC), in which case a still image will automatically be included when you import Live Photo captures.

Order of Layers in Photoshop


Today’s Question: Is there any preferred order for layers in Photoshop? For example, is it better keep pixel layers together? Should a sharpening layer go near the bottom or, if it is done last, on top?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The order of layers on the Layers panel in Photoshop can be important depending on context. As a general rule, image layers will need to be at the bottom of the stack of layers, and adjustment layers will need to be above the image layers. However, there are variations depending on the specific effect you are trying to achieve.

More Detail: I think there are two key things to keep in mind when it comes to the order of layers in Photoshop. First, the order of layers determines the visibility of layers below. An image layer will block the visibility of layers below, and an adjustment layer only affect the layers below it.

Second, changing the order of layers can alter the overall appearance of a photo. For example, let’s assume a composite image with two image layers. If an adjustment layer is placed above both of those image layers, the adjustment will affect both of the layers. If the adjustment layer is moved down so it is in between the two image layers, that adjustment layer will only change the appearance of the layer below it, not the layer above it.

So, the order of layers on the Layers panel in Photoshop can most certainly have a significant impact on the overall appearance of an image. In some situations it is simply necessary for certain types of layers to be above others. In other cases the bigger issue is to be sure not to change the order of layers after you’ve created a particular effect for a photo.

As a very general rule, you’ll want to have image layers at the bottom of the stack on the Layers panel, and adjustment layers at the top of the stack. But the specific order depends on the task you’re trying to perform and the effect you want to achieve. However, it is important to keep in mind that the order of layers can be important.

For example, image cleanup layers must be above the layers that contain the blemishes you are removing. Similarly, a layer created to sharpen the image must be above all other image layers. But typically the order of layers is not so much something you need to think about directly, so much as it is a byproduct of the order in which you perform specific tasks within Photoshop. That said, in some cases you will need to be sure that you create layers in the correct order on the Layers panel. For example, let’s assume you have added a variety of adjustment layers above your Background image layer. If you then want to perform image cleanup on a separate layer, you need to add the empty layer for that image cleanup above the image layers and below the adjustment layers.

As for sharpening, I would actually tend to leave output sharpening as a separate process within the context of a workflow for preparing a photo for output, rather than as part of your “normal” workflow. At that point, layers would no longer be a factor.

Ultimately, what this all means is that the order of layers does matter in Photoshop. And there are some general rules about layer order. But more important is to understand the basic impact of the order of layers, and to ensure the layers you create are in an appropriate order based on the goal you’re trying to achieve for a given image.

Renaming Derivative Images


Today’s Question: You mentioned editing in Lightroom and then Photoshop, saving the resulting image back into Lightroom. What method do you use for naming the files that are saved? I would love to be able use a system with a numbering sequence for all of the edited versions from each source photo. I would be very interested to know what method you use.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I simply have the word “Edit” appended to the existing filename. Lightroom Classic will then automatically add a sequence number if I create more than one derivative from the same source photo. This also overcomes what I consider to be the very odd behavior in Lightroom, where the sequence number in this context is not calculated on a per-image basis.

More Detail: When you send a photo from Lightroom Classic to Photoshop, a new file is created as part of that process. You can specify a structure to use for the naming of these derivative images on the External Editing tab of the Preferences dialog in Lightroom Classic. However, if you use a sequence number as part of this process, that number will increment based on a tally of the number of times you send images to Photoshop, not how many derivative images you have created from a single source photo.

My approach is to simply add the word “Edit” to the end of the existing filename when creating derivative images via Photoshop. So, for example, if I send a raw capture called “IMG_1234.cr2” to Photoshop, the resulting derivative image would be called “IMG_1234-Edit.TIFF”.

If I send the original raw capture to Photoshop again, Lightroom will recognize that it can’t simply add “-Edit” to the base filename, because that filename already exists for the first derivative I created. In that case, Lightroom will automatically add “-2” to the end of the filename, so that the resulting filename is “IMG_1234-Edit-2.TIFF”. The following derivative would be “IMG_1234-Edit-2.TIFF”, and so on.

In this way, you would have a sequence number on a per-image basis, with the only exception being that your first derivative would not contain a “-1” at the end of the filename. Of course, you could add that “-1” very easily by renaming the first derivative in the File Name field in the Metadata section of the right panel in the Library module.

To configure this approach, you can simply modify the file renaming setup in the Preferences dialog. Start by choosing Lightroom Classic > Preferences on Macintosh, or Edit > Preferences on Windows. Then go to the External Editing tab in the Preferences dialog. At the bottom of the dialog, select “Filename” from the Template popup. Then click the Template popup again and choose “Edit”.

In the Filename Template Editor dialog, click in the large textbox that shows the current filename structure. Add “-Edit” (or other text) after the “Filename” token. Click Done, and then close the Filename Template Editor dialog. This will configure the filename structure for all derivative images created via Photoshop from that point forward.

Mysterious “AAE” Files


Today’s Question: Scattered among my JPG files from the iPhone are some AAE files. What are these, and what did I do to create them? Apparently I need some new app to open them, but maybe they’re not worth the trouble.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “AAE” files accompanying JPEG captures downloaded from your iPhone contain information about adjustments applied to those photos. The presence of one or more of these files indicates you applied adjustments to the images using the Photos app on the iPhone. The adjustments will be retained if you import the photos into the Photos application on your computer, but are ignored by Lightroom.

More Detail: When you apply adjustments to photos using the Photos app on an iPhone, those adjustments are non-destructive. This is similar to the workflow in Lightroom Classic, where the information about the adjustments you apply is stored separate from the actual image files, and the source image is not modified.

When you download photos from an iPhone to your computer, the “AAE” adjustment files are downloaded alongside the source capture. This is similar to the XMP sidecar files you may already be familiar with in the context of Lightroom and Camera Raw. In this case, the AAE files can be interpreted by the Apple Photos application on a Macintosh computer, but are not used by Lightroom Classic.

Therefore, in the context of a workflow that revolves around Lightroom Classic, those AAE files are not useful and can effectively be ignored. Of course, if you want to retain the adjustments applied on the iPhone, that means you would need to create a separate copy of the image with the adjustments applied before you download the photos from the iPhone and import them into Lightroom Classic.

Backup as Adobe DNG


Today’s Question: When I import my images onto Lightroom [Classic] and request that a backup copy be made on my external drive, those backup images are not DNG as they are in Lightroom, but in a format I do not know and that my computer cannot read. How do I get copies made in a DNG form?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The option to create a second copy of the photos you are importing into your Lightroom Classic catalog will create a copy of exactly what appears on your media card, with the exception that if you rename the photos during import, the backup copies will be renamed. The backup copies, however, will be in the original capture format, even if you use the option to convert to DNG during import into your Lightroom catalog.

More Detail: When you import photos from a media card out of your camera into your Lightroom Classic catalog, you want to copy the photos from the media card to a hard drive being used to store and manage your photos. In addition to simply copying the source capture files, Lightroom also provides the option to convert your proprietary raw captures to the Adobe DNG (Digital Negative) file format.

When you select the “Copy as DNG” option at the top-center of the Import dialog, the conversion to DNG is actually something of a two-step process. First, the original capture files will be copied to the destination storage location you have specified during import. For example, even though you have selected the “Copy as DNG” option, your proprietary raw captures will initially appear in their native file format within Lightroom. After the files are copied to your hard drive they will be converted to the Adobe DNG format, with the original proprietary raw captures discarded.

If you enabled the “Make a Second Copy To” option in the import dialog, that will create an additional copy of the files as they are initially copied to your destination hard drive as part of the import process. In other words, the proprietary raw captures will be copied to the backup location in the same proprietary raw format. If you have selected the option to rename photos during import, the backup copy will reflect that renaming as well. But the backup copies will not be converted to the Adobe DNG file format.

If you want to make an additional copy of the DNG versions of the photos created as part of the overall import process, you would need to back them up in some way as part of a follow-up process. For example, you could select all of the photos that had just been imported, and export a copy of those files using the “Original” option from the Image Format popup in the File Settings section of the Export dialog. You could also simply create an updated backup of your primary storage, such as by using GoodSync (, the synchronization backup software I recommend for backing up photo storage.