Whites and Blacks Adjustments


Today’s Question: This question concerns the Whites and Blacks sliders that are found in Adobe Camera Raw as well as Lightroom. It is not clear from the literature exactly what they are meant to do. Would you please be so kind to elaborate on their purpose and how they are to be applied?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While the tonal value of virtually all pixels in the image may be adjusted by changing the value for the Whites and Blacks sliders, the primary goal is to establish the value for the brightest and darkest pixels in the image, respectively.

More Detail: To better understand the effect of the Whites and Blacks adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom, I think it is important to reflect on the histogram for the image. In addition, I think it is helpful to think of that histogram as being an elastic object that can be stretched out or compressed as needed.

The distribution of tonal values represented on the histogram effectively indicates the overall tonal range captured in your photo. A low-contrast scene may have a relatively narrow histogram, while a high-contrast scene will have a wider histogram. The far left of the histogram represents the darkest pixel values in the image, and the far right represents the brightest pixels in the image.

As a very general rule, with a typical photograph we want the brightest pixels to be white (or nearly white) and the darkest pixels to be black (or nearly black). There are obviously countless exceptions to this general rule, but the Whites and Blacks sliders are perhaps most important (or at least easiest to understand) if we assume this goal to be valid.

By increasing the value for the Whites slider you are brightening the image, essentially pulling the right end of the histogram further to the right. Naturally, other tonal values within the image beyond the very brightest pixels will also be affected. The Blacks slider performs a similar function, with the emphasis on the left end of the histogram that represents the darkest pixels in the image.

You can adjust the values for the Whites and Blacks sliders to effectively define the tonal value for the brightest and darkest pixels in the image. In many cases that might mean going right up to the point of just about clipping highlight or shadow detail. In other cases it might mean “pulling back” these values to help preserve detail that might have otherwise been lost. In all cases it is important to keep in mind that after adjusting the values for Whites and Blacks, any modification of the other tonal adjustments (Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, and Shadows, for example) may effectively override the adjustment you applied with the Whites and Blacks sliders. As such, it is important to revisit the Whites and Blacks sliders to check for clipping toward the end of your final adjustment review.

Note, by the way, that you can see a clipping preview display while adjusting the Whites and Blacks sliders by holding the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while dragging the slider itself.

Feathering for Content-Aware


Today’s Question: If I use Photoshop’s Content Aware tools to move or eliminate an object in a photo would I get a better result if you select the offending object with feathering or without? Any general rules about feathering?

Tim’s Quick Answer: As a general rule I recommend applying a small amount of feathering to selections used with the Content-Aware technology in Photoshop. The amount of feathering will vary based on how much blending you will need along the cleanup edges in the photo.

More Detail: The whole point of the Content-Aware technology in Photoshop is to intelligently remove various blemishes from a photo, including advanced blending to ensure that the cleanup work blends in seamlessly with the surrounding area. That may call for different degrees of blending along the edges based on the degree of texture in the photo.

As a very general rule you will get good results with a feathering of about 10 pixels before using the Content-Aware Fill command (or other tools or commands that employ the Content-Aware feature). For cleanup areas that have significant fine texture and detail, you may need to use a lower value, possibly even excluding that feathering altogether. But those are, in my experience, somewhat rare scenarios.

For images with very little texture, you may want to use more feathering, perhaps as much as around 25 to 50 pixels. Again, the specific value that will work best varies based on the texture in the area in which you’re performing the cleanup work. A value of 10 pixels is a good general starting point, but you’ll want to carefully evaluate the edges of the cleanup area to confirm you achieved a good result. If there isn’t enough blending, undo to the step before feathering and repeat your cleanup with more feathering applied. If there is too much blending along the edge, resulting in oddly blurred artifacts, step backward to the step before feathering and repeat the process with a lower value for feathering.

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Removing Keywords


Today’s Question: How do you remove a keyword from a set of photos in Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: To remove a keyword from multiple photos in Lightroom you can select the photos, make sure you are in the grid view (not the loupe view), and then turn off the checkbox for the keyword you want to remove from the Keyword List section of the right panel in the Library module.

More Detail: There are, of course, several ways you can add or remove keywords within Lightroom. When you want to and or remove a keyword for multiple images, the critical step is to make sure you are in the grid view rather than the loupe view. When using the loupe view, even with multiple images selected, changes will only affect the single image shown in the loupe view.

Once you are in the grid view, you can remove a keyword in a variety of ways. However, I recommend using the Keyword List, because it is a simple option with minimal risk of making a mistake. Simply turn off the checkbox for the keyword you want to remove from the selected images, and that keyword is removed from all of those images.

Note that if the keyword is only applied to some (but not all) of the selected images, then a dash will appear (instead of a checkmark) in the checkbox within the Keyword List. In that case you would need to click the checkbox twice to remove the keyword. The first time you click you will be adding the keyword to all selected images that don’t have that keyword yet, so that a checkmark then appears for that keyword. The second time you click you will be removing the keyword from all of the selected images.

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Revert to Original Filename


Today’s Question: A while back you talked about preserving the original filename in metadata when you rename photos. Is there any way to then use that information to rename a photo back to the original filename?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can rename photos back to the original filename in both Adobe Bridge and Lightroom. In Adobe Bridge you can use the “Preserved Filename” option in the Batch Rename dialog (as long as the original filename was preserved). In Lightroom you can use a template for file renaming that employs the “Original Filename” option.

More Detail: When you rename photos in Adobe Bridge or Lightroom, you can preserve the original filename so that you can later revert to that original filename if you’d like. Lightroom preserves the original file automatically whenever you use the Rename Photos command available from the Library menu in the Library module. In Adobe Bridge you need to turn on the “Preserve current filename in XMP Metadata” checkbox in the Batch Rename dialog in order to actually save the original filename so it can be used later.

To revert to the original preserved filename in Adobe Bridge, you can once again use the Batch Rename command found on the Tools menu after selecting the images you want to rename. Remove all but one renaming element from the list under the New Filenames label. Then click the first popup for the one element that remains and choose “Preserved Filename” from that popup. You can then simply use the “Name” option from the second popup, since the filename extension can be left as it is. The third popup can be left at the “Original Case” setting. Adjust any other settings as desired, and then click the Rename button to apply the renaming to the selected images.

If you’re using Lightroom, you’ll need to define a new file-renaming template that includes the “Original Filename” option. Start by selecting the images you want to rename, and then choose Library > Rename Photos from the menu. In the Rename Photos dialog click the “File Naming” popup and choose “Edit” from that popup.

In the Filename Template Editor you can clear out the text field that defines the renaming structure. Then, within the Image Name section below, make sure “Original Filename” is selected from the second popup. Then click the Insert button to the right of that “Original Filename” popup to add that element to the renaming structure. Click the Preset popup at the top of the Filename Template Editor dialog and choose “Save Current Settings as New Preset” from that popup. In the dialog that appears type a meaningful name for the preset and click the Create button. Click Done in the Filename Template Editor dialog to close it, and then click OK in the Rename Photos dialog to apply the renaming to the selected images.

Culling Workflow


Today’s Question: What is your workflow for culling through images before or immediately following importing images into Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My preferred workflow involves importing photos into Lightroom immediately in order to have a more streamlined workflow, and then use star ratings as a first tool for identifying favorites versus outtakes. I then perform additional updates to metadata to further refine the management of my photos.

More Detail: While Lightroom is not the fastest tool for downloading your images or rendering previews of those images, I prefer not to use tools outside of Lightroom for my initial download and image review. While other tools may enable me to download faster or review photos faster, I feel there is also a risk that this type of “hybrid” approach creates some risks of making mistakes from an organizational standpoint (such as forgetting to import some of your photos into Lightroom later). It also adds additional steps that may cause you to lose many of the benefits you were otherwise gaining. In short, I prefer to keep my overall workflow as streamlined as possible.

Once I’ve downloaded my photos as part of the process of importing those photos into my Lightroom catalog, I use star ratings for my initial review of keepers versus outtakes. For my first pass I simply add a one-star rating to all images I feel deserve to be ranked among my favorites, and I leave no star rating for images that I feel are outtakes.

After this initial review, I try to allow a bit of time to pass (if possible) to help ensure I’m not reacting with too much emotion to my photos based on the experience I had when capturing them. I will then review the images I assigned a one-star rating to, and consider “upgrading” my real favorites to a two- or three-star rating. At this point a two-star rating to me means the photo is one of the best from that photo outing, and a three-star rating means it may be one of my best photos overall. Later, after working to optimize my photos and perhaps getting feedback from others, I might upgrade some of my very best photos to a four- or five-star rating.

Somewhere along the way you might want delete the photos that don’t have a star rating, since they represent outtakes. I personally tend not to delete my outtakes, for purely emotional reasons that I fully realize are irrational. I just don’t want to risk deleting a photo I might later wish I had, especially since storage is relatively cheap and I can easily filter my photos by star rating so I don’t see the outtakes unless I want them.

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Transparency in Images


Today’s Question: Regarding the PNG image format: What does “supports transparency in the image” mean?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Transparency in a PNG (Portable Network Graphics) image means that in certain situations when you place a PNG image against a background, that background will show through in the transparent areas of the image. JPEG images, by contrast, do not support this transparency feature.

More Detail: Transparency can be used in a variety of situations to isolate an area or element within an image and allow another background to show through. This is similar in concept to the creation of composite images in Photoshop, where you use a layer mask on an image layer to hide specific areas, and allow underlying layers to show through in the masked out areas.

With a PNG image, it is possible to preserve transparency in a final derivative image that you can then share in a variety of ways while preserving that transparency. For example, let’s assume you have “cut out” the key subject in a photo, hiding the rest of the image from view through the use of a layer mask in Photoshop. If there are no other image layers below the masked layer, then there will be no pixels in the areas that are masked out. You can save that masked image as a PNG image with the option enabled to preserve transparency.

You can then place that image onto a web page, into a slide show, in a document using a word processor or other software for creating documents, among other options. With any software that supports transparency in PNG images, the background onto which you’ve placed the image will show through the masked out (transparent) areas, so that the isolated subject in the photo will be set against that background.

So, for example, if you have a background texture on a web page or slideshow presentation, the isolated subject in your PNG image will allow that background texture to show through in the transparent areas of the image. Had transparency not been supported, those areas around your key subject would have been white instead, which would not blend in with the background texture where you had placed the image.

Disabling Sharpening


Today’s Question: I have been using Lightroom CC for a couple years and I am just discovering that Lightroom automatically sharpens every image. I discovered this in my efforts to use Topaz Denoise. How do I disable this auto sharpening?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can disable sharpening for images that are not yet in your Lightroom catalog by changing the default settings in the Develop module or by applying a preset during import. If you want to apply that change to existing images you will need to synchronize only the Sharpening adjustments across all photos in your catalog.

More Detail: Lightroom applies a small degree of sharpening by default to all photos you import into your catalog. It is possible, however, to change the default settings for the Develop module or to synchronize specific settings (such as to remove sharpening) across a large number of photos.

For example, you could select all of the photos in a given folder (or all photos in your Lightroom catalog) in order to synchronize settings for those photos. In the Develop module you will still be working with a single active image, even though you have selected multiple photos. To reset the sharpening for the current photo, simply set the Amount value under Sharpening in the Detail section of the right panel to a value of zero.

Next, click the “Sync” button at the bottom of the right panel to bring up the Synchronize Settings dialog. Click the “Check None” button to clear all of the checkboxes. Then turn on the Process Version and the Sharpening checkboxes, and click the Synchronize button. This will synchronize the updated sharpening settings (with no sharpening being applied) for all of the selected photos.

If you want to change the default settings for all new images you import into Lightroom, you can change those defaults or employ a preset during import. I recommend using a preset during import because this provides a little more flexibility and makes it easier to be consistent with all images.

So, for example, you could create a new preset that includes only the settings you want to update during import. That might include the removal of chromatic aberrations and the application of a lens-based profile, as well as removing sharpening. Start with a “sample” image, and then click the Reset button at the bottom of the right panel in the Develop module to reset to the default settings. Adjust the settings you want to apply to all images, such as changing the sharpening to remove this effect.

When you have the settings adjusted as desired, you can click the “plus” (+) button to the right of the Presets header on the left panel in the Develop module. Name the new preset, and click “Check None” to deselect all adjustment options. Then turn on the checkbox for all adjustment options you want to include as part of this preset.

When you import photos, select this saved preset from the Develop Settings popup in the Apply During Import section of the right panel. This will enable you to apply specific settings for images you import into Lightroom. Note that this will also become the default option for all future import operations, since the settings are mostly “sticky” within the Import dialog.

Bridge to Lightroom


Today’s Question: How can you move an extensive list of folders from Adobe Bridge to Lightroom and maintain the folder structure?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can simply import your entire folder structure using the “Add” option in Lightroom’s import feature, and your complete existing folder structure will be retained and reflected within your Lightroom catalog.

More Detail: Many photographers have a misconception about the Lightroom catalog and the impact of that catalog on an existing folder structure. Put simply, the Lightroom catalog references your existing file and folder structure, so that any folder structure you’ve been using to manage your photos thus far can still be used if you choose to transition to Lightroom.

When you are importing photos from an existing folder structure, you can simply select as the source of your import the top-level folder for that storage structure. For example, this might be the “Pictures” folder in your operating system or an external hard drive dedicated to the storage of photos.

By enabling the “Include Subfolders” option at the top of the left panel in the Import dialog, and making use of the “Add” option at the top-center of the dialog, you can add your entire existing collection of photos into your Lightroom catalog.

For subsequent import operations, you can use the Copy option to, for example, download images from the media cards from your camera to the storage location that contains your photos. You can also create a folder as part of that process, based on the folder strategy you’ve already defined for managing your photos.

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Access to Dehaze


Today’s Question: Is there a way to rectify the lack of the Dehaze slider in Lightroom 6?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can access Dehaze within Lightroom 6 by first creating a preset (or series of presets) for the Dehaze adjustment in Lightroom CC and then installing the Dehaze preset(s) in Lightroom 6.

More Detail: The Dehaze adjustment in Lightroom CC is ostensibly not available in the standalone (non-subscription) version of Lightroom 6. However, through the use of presets you can access Dehaze in Lightroom 6.

The first step is to create one or more presets in Lightroom CC that include only the Dehaze adjustment. For example, you might create a preset with the Dehaze setting at various values, perhaps in 20% increments. For each variation you want for the Dehaze adjustment, create a new preset by clicking the plus symbol (+) to the right of the Presets header on the left panel in the Develop module.

In the “New Develop Preset” dialog enter a name for the preset (such as “Dehaze 20”) that will be meaningful. Then click the “Check None” button at the bottom-left of the dialog, and turn on only the “Dehaze” checkbox in the Effects section of controls. Note that the Process Version checkbox will remain enabled, and you want to keep that checkbox turned on. Click Create to create the actual preset, and repeat for as many variations as you want to have.

Next, export the Dehaze presets by right-clicking on each and choosing “Export” from the popup menu. Save the preset you’re exporting with the same name you used for the preset itself, in a location that is convenient for transferring these files later. I recommend saving the various exported presets in a folder called “Dehaze” that is in turn located on the Desktop in your operating system.

Then follow these steps to make these Dehaze presets available in Lightroom 6:

1) Go to the Preferences dialog by selecting Preferences from the Edit (Windows) or Lightroom (Macintosh) menu on the menu bar.

2) Go to the Presets tab in the Preferences dialog.

3) Click the “Show Lightroom Presets Folder” button to open a window in your operating system that will show the Lightroom folder where presets are stored.

4) Close the Preferences dialog and quit out of Lightroom.

5) In the window that opened when you clicked the “Show Lightroom Presets Folder”, open the “Lightroom” folder, and then open the “Develop Presets” folder.

6) Copy the folder containing the exported Develop presets into the “Develop Presets” folder opened above.

7) Launch Lightroom.

At that point you will find a “Dehaze” folder in the Presets section of the left panel in the Develop module. You can click on the presets by name to apply Dehaze at a given percentage strength based on the presets that were originally exported from Lightroom CC.

Locating Source Folder


Today’s Question: When I do a Bridge search for a file number (or other image attributes) is there a way to identify what folder the image file was found in?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can right-click on an image in your search results within Adobe Bridge and choose “Reveal in Bridge” to automatically navigate to the folder where the source file is located.

More Detail: This question was presented in response to a question about a similar feature that is available in Adobe Lightroom. In short, when you use a filter or search feature to locate a specific photo, it isn’t always immediately obvious which folder the image is actually located in.

There are two basic options available in both Adobe Bridge and Lightroom that enable you to navigate to the source folder after locating an image through a filter or search.

The first is to reveal the source folder within the application. In Adobe Bridge you can do so by right-clicking on the image you located with a search, and then choose “Reveal in Bridge” from the popup menu that appears. In the Folders panel the source folder will be highlighted, with the image you selected highlighted within the Content panel. In Adobe Lightroom you can accomplish the same basic task by right-clicking on an image and choosing “Go to Folder in Library” from the popup menu.

In both Adobe Bridge and Adobe Lightroom you can also open up a window from your operating system that reveals the folder where the image is contained. For this option you can right-click on the image and then choose “Reveal in Finder” for Bridge or “Show in Finder” for Lightroom if you are a Macintosh user, or “Reveal in Explorer” for Bridge or “Show in Explorer” for Lightroom if you are a Windows user. This will open a window in your operating system revealing the applicable folder for the image you selected.