Folders or Collections?


Today’s Question: Do you do more of your work from the Folder component rather than the Collection component [in Lightroom Classic]?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, I consider folders to be my primary organizational tool within Lightroom Classic. I reserve the use of collections for special projects, and in fact often use special keywords to effectively take the place of collections.

More Detail: There is no question that collections in Lightroom can be very helpful for organizing photos for a wide variety of ways that go beyond the utility of folders. For example, at a very basic level, a given photo is only stored in a single folder on your hard drive, but can be referenced in any number of collections based on various projects or other organizational needs.

However, it is also important to keep in mind that collections in Lightroom are only managed within your Lightroom catalog, and are not saved to the metadata for your photos. That means that if your Lightroom catalog were to become corrupted or otherwise lost, the collections you are using to manage your photos would also be lost.

Obviously this is a reason to maintain a good workflow for backing up your catalog. But I also prefer to take an approach that helps reduce my dependence upon collections.

Therefore, I tend to use collections for temporarily organizing photos for various projects. Along the way (or at least at the conclusion of the project) I will use a special keyword to identify the photos that would otherwise be included in a collection.

For example, if I created a collection to manage photos I wanted to feature in a book about the Palouse, I might add a keyword such as “BOOK-Palouse” to the photos within that collection. By using this approach, even if I lost my Lightroom catalog (and therefore the collection containing the photos for the book) I would not have actually lost anything. The keyword “BOOK-Palouse” would still be included within my photos (since I enable the option to automatically save metadata to my photos), and therefore I could easily locate and identify the photos that had previously been included in a collection.

So, I tend to use collections somewhat sparingly. And when I do use a collection to manage photos for a particular project, I use special keywords to preserve the details about which collections a given photo is intended to be included in.

Preserving Capture Date


Today’s Question: One of my biggest issues is file naming and organizing in such a way that I will be able to recover the actual date of capture in case the actual original shooting date is lost. How do recommend accomplishing this with Lightroom [Classic]?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While it is not likely that you would lose all capture date and time information from the metadata for your photos, you can preserve that information in Lightroom Classic by renaming your photos with a structure that includes the date of capture.

More Detail: There are a wide variety of options available for renaming your photos in Lightroom Classic. One of the more flexible options is to use a template for batch-renaming photos, either during import or later in your workflow.

It can be a good idea to retain the original filename from the camera, especially if there is any chance you have referenced or shared (such as with a client) the original filename. Therefore, in the context of today’s question, I would recommend adding the capture date to the beginning of the filename, while retaining the original filename as part of the overall name.

Lightroom Classic includes a file renaming template that consists of the capture data along with the original filename. So, to get started you could select the photos you want to rename. Then, in the Library module, go to the menu and choose Library > Rename Photos. In the dialog that appears, you can choose “Date – Filename” from the File Naming popup menu. Note that you can also choose “Edit” from this popup if you want to make changes to the file naming template.

After selecting the desired template, you can click the OK button to have the selected photos renamed based on the selected template. Note that the “Date” option in this case relates to the date of capture for each individual photo, which Lightroom will extract from the metadata for each image.

Import as DNG?


Today’s Question: Do you import [into Lightroom Classic] as DNG? Some photographers recommend saving RAW files in a separate folder on the hard drive and then importing as DNG into Lightroom. I’d like to know your thoughts.

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, I do not convert my raw captures to the Adobe DNG format during import into Lightroom Classic. I prefer to retain the original raw captures, for a variety of reasons.

More Detail: I have certainly heard many photographers recommend converting proprietary raw captures to the Adobe DNG format, but I do not generally recommend this approach.

Part of the reason I prefer to retain the original raw capture format is that I prefer to preserve the original capture just as it came out of the camera. In some cases, for example, there are proprietary details included with the raw capture that you would not be able to take advantage of if you converted the capture to the Adobe DNG format.

As I’ve mentioned in previous editions of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, I also prefer to have my metadata updates stored separate from the original capture. When you save metadata to the source image in Lightroom Classic, that metadata is stored in a different location depending on whether you’re working with a proprietary raw capture or an Adobe DNG file.

For proprietary raw captures, metadata updates will be stored in an XMP “sidecar” file saved alongside the raw capture. For DNG images, that metadata updates will be saved directly within the DNG file. While saving metadata directly in the source image can certainly be convenient, it can also cause incremental backups of your photos to take more time.

To be fair, the Adobe DNG file format employs lossless compression that will cause no loss of pixel detail for your photos, and that can help reduce file size by around 20%. In theory, the fact that there is open documentation for the Adobe DNG file format means there is less reason to worry about a lack of future support for DNG images compared to proprietary raw captures. In reality, I don’t consider this a legitimate concern, especially considering that most raw-processing software applications today employed reverse-engineering to provide support for proprietary formats.

So, on balance, I prefer to retain my original raw captures. And as long as I’m going to do that, I don’t see a reason to save those raw captures in one place, and then convert to Adobe DNG for purposes of a Lightroom-based workflow.

Moving Photos to an External Drive


Today’s Question: How hard/easy would it be to move my photos from my laptop hard drive to a larger external hard drive using Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: It is very easy to move photos from an internal drive to an external drive, as long as you perform that work within Lightroom Classic rather than using other software or your computer’s operating system.

More Detail: Moving photos (or folders containing photos) is quite easy within Lightroom Classic. When it comes to migrating to a new hard drive, you will need to create a new folder on the destination drive from within Lightroom, so that the drive itself is available in Lightroom.

With the new hard drive connected you will first want to create a “master” folder on that drive to be used for photo storage. To get started, click on the “plus” (+) button to the right of the Folders heading on the left panel in the Library module, and choose “Add Folder” (not “Add Subfolder”) from the popup menu.

In the dialog that appears, navigate to the hard drive that you want to move photos to (the external hard drive in this example). Then click the New Folder button at the bottom-left of the dialog. Type a name (such as “Photos”) for the new folder, and click the Create button. Then click the Choose button. The new folder will be created on the hard drive you selected, and that folder will be visible under a heading for the hard drive in the Folders list of the left panel.

The folder you just created can then be used as a destination folder for moving photos from the internal hard drive to the external hard drive. You could, for example, select all folders on the external hard drive by clicking on the first folder on the list and then holding the Shift key and clicking on the last folder. You can then drag-and-drop the selected folders to the new folder you created on the destination hard drive. Note that you will need to confirm that you want to actually move the folders and photos on the hard drive in a dialog that will be presented by Lightroom.

I recommend, however, that you move folders in relatively small batches. This is because I have found that sometimes things go wrong when moving a large number of folders, which can create some confusion within Lightroom. So I generally select small groups of folders at a time, and drag and drop them to the desired destination folder. I also recommend, by the way, that you flatten any folders that include subfolders, helping to streamline the process of selecting and moving multiple folders at a time.

You can see the process of migrating to a new hard drive in detail in Chapter 7, Lesson 3, of my “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom” video course. For a 25% discount on this course, use this link to get started (and to learn more about the course):

Map Unavailable with Older Lightroom


Today’s Question: Have you ever seen this [error message about the map being unable to load in the Map module in Lightroom Classic] before? I went to the Java settings and everything seems up to date.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The error message in question relates to the lack of availability of the map display in the Map module for versions of Lightroom before Lightroom Classic 8. You will need to sing up for a Creative Cloud subscription plan ( if you want to regain access to the map display in the Map module.

More Detail: Starting late last year (November 2018) Adobe disabled the map display in the Map module for older versions of Lightroom Classic. That includes Lightroom 4 and 5, as well as Lightroom Classic CC 6 and 7. You need to be running Lightroom Classic 8 or later to be able to view the map display in the Map module.

For photographers who prefer to continue using an older version of Lightroom Classic (such as to avoid paying a monthly subscription fee), there is a workaround that will enable you to view the location for photos in the context of a map display.

To view the location for a photo on a map, first copy the coordinates found in the GPS field in the Metadata section of the right panel in the Map module (or in the EXIF section for the Metadata section on the right panel in the Library module). Then paste that information into the search field for Google Maps in your web browser, which you can access by pointing your web browser here:

A subscription is required if you want to regain full access to the various features that involve the actual map display in the Map module in Lightroom Classic, such as being able to drag photos to the map in order to add GPS coordinates as location information for photos. You can find details about the various Adobe Creative Cloud subscription plans by following this link:

Photoshop Before Lightroom


Today’s Question: If I start with a photo in Photoshop, how do I get it into Lightroom [Classic]?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you’re already using Lightroom Classic it is best to start from Lightroom if you want to work with a photo in Photoshop. If, however, you do start with a photo in Photoshop, you’ll need to use one of the import options to get the image into Lightroom, such as by synchronizing the folder the contains the image you created in Photoshop.

More Detail: One of the most important things to understand about Lightroom Classic is that all tasks related to your photos should be initiated in Lightroom, rather than in Photoshop or other software (or the operating system). That said, there are ways you can initiate working with a photo in Photoshop rather than Lightroom.

That said, it is possible to get photos into your Lightroom Classic catalog after creating a photo in Photoshop. You could use the import feature as you would with other photos, but this can create some potential confusion. For example, in this scenario you would likely be importing from a folder that has photos already being managed in your catalog. In addition, you would need to be careful to use the “Add” rather than “Copy” option for importing.

Instead, I recommend using the option to synchronize a folder, assuming you are saving the image in Photoshop in a folder that is already being managed in Lightroom. After saving an image in such a folder from Photoshop, you can return to Lightroom for the synchronization. Then right-click on the applicable folder on the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module. From the popup menu that appears, choose “Synchronize Folder”.

A dialog will appear indicating how many photos have been found in the folder that are not in your Lightroom catalog. There are also options for removing photos from the catalog if they are no longer in the folder, and checking for metadata updates that may have been applied outside of Lightroom. After enabling the desired options, click the Synchronize button to apply the update.

After this synchronization, images that you created outside of Lightroom will be managed within your Lightroom catalog. To me this is the simplest approach to importing photos into Lightroom, provided those images have been saved in a folder that is already being managed by Lightroom. Otherwise you would need to use the import feature, typically with the “Add” (rather than “Copy”) option selected.

To get a better understanding of how Lightroom works (and why it is so important to initiate most tasks within Lightroom, check out my “Understanding Lightroom” course in the GreyLearning library here:

Preferred Preview Option


Today’s Question: Please comment on Standard vs 1:1 previews at Import [into Lightroom Classic].

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can think of Standard previews in Lightroom Classic as being appropriate for evaluating a photo sized to fill your monitor’s display area. The 1:1 previews are employed when you need to zoom in to evaluate a photo. I think the Standard preview option is best if you don’t tend to zoom in on very many of your photos during review, and 1:1 previews are best if you tend to zoom in on many of your photos to evaluate them.

More Detail: Building previews during the process of importing your photos into Lightroom Classic can help streamline the process of reviewing your photos later. When browsing your photos in the Library module, you need a Standard preview if you will view an image at full-screen or smaller, and you need a 1:1 preview if you will zoom in to review the details of a photo.

If you don’t generate previews during the import process, the previews will instead need to be built on the fly as you browse your photos. In other words, the only real question about the previews is whether you have them all built during the import process or during your image review. By building previews during import, you are having Lightroom do the work of building previews all at once, helping speed up your browsing experience after the import.

I therefore strongly recommend building at least the Standard previews during import, to speed up your browsing experience when reviewing your photos after the import. Whether you should instead build the 1:1 previews depends on your browsing behavior.

If, like me, you tend to view the full photo when evaluating your images, without zooming in on most of your photos, then the Standard preview option is probably adequate. This is my preference, as I typically review all of my photos in either the Loupe view or Full-Screen view, only zooming in on a small number of photos that I want to get a closer look at.

On the other hand, if you tend to zoom in on a relatively large number of photos, you may want to use the 1:1 preview option during import, so that you won’t have to wait for a preview to be generated each time you zoom in on a photo. Keep in mind that the 1:1 previews consume more hard drive space than Standard previews. But if you make somewhat extensive use of the option to zoom in when evaluating your photos, that extra space may be worth consuming on your hard drive.

When to Use Spot Metering


Today’s Question: When is it best to use spot metering versus matrix?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I think it is best to use spot metering when you have a sense of what the exposure needs to be for a specific area of the scene, especially in situations where you are concerned that the camera might be “tricked” by the scene using a different metering mode.

More Detail: My typical answer to this type of question about metering is that it really doesn’t matter which metering (or exposure) mode you use, provided you can achieve an accurate exposure relatively quickly and consistently.

When you use the spot metering mode you are telling the camera that you want to select a specific area of the scene to establish a meter reading from. That typically means evaluating somewhere around 2% of the scene you have framed up with your lens. Because of these issues, when you use spot metering you have the responsibility of pointing the lens at a specific area you want to establish your exposure based on.

With other metering modes such as evaluative or matrix, the camera is evaluating a larger area of the scene. Many cameras will also perform a bit of analysis of the scene the meter is evaluating, so that a more “intelligent” decision can be made about what the proper exposure settings should be.

Of course, the whole point of taking a meter reading is to establish settings for a good exposure. That might mean dialing in specific settings based on the meter reading when you are in the manual exposure mode. It might also mean adjusting the exposure compensation setting if you are in one of the semi-automatic exposure modes such as shutter priority or aperture priority.

Taking into account all of these considerations, to me spot metering is the best choice for situations where the camera may be “tricked” by the lighting situation, and you can achieve a proper exposure more quickly by metering off a small area of the scene. For example, when photographing the full moon at night, spot metering off the moon itself will generally get you a much more accurate exposure much more quickly compared to using other metering modes that will evaluate the entire scene and attempt to brighten up the dark sky.

If you aren’t comfortable using spot metering mode, using it can obviously be quite challenging, as it does require a bit more precision in terms of taking a meter reading, as well as a bit more knowledge of exposure. But there are many situations where spot metering can be faster and more accurate, so I think it is worth taking some time to get familiar with using spot metering for determining exposure settings.

Changing Sky Color


Today’s Question: When wanting to change the color of the sky [in Lightroom Classic], for example, once you select your preferred color, how do you transfer that color into your photo?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can paint (or otherwise add) a color into an area of your photo in Lightroom Classic by selecting a targeted adjustment tool (such as the Adjustment Brush), choosing a color from the Color popup among the set of controls for the targeted adjustment, and then painting into the applicable area of the image.

More Detail: Among the adjustments you can apply to a targeted area of a photo in Lightroom Classic is the option to essentially paint with a color in a particular area of a photo. This option is available for the Graduated Filter, the Radial Filter, and the Adjustment Brush.

To apply a color to a particular area of a photo, you need to select that color from the Color popup. To activate the popup, click on the color swatch that shows the current color, and select the desired color from the color picker. You can then paint (or define a gradient or radial shape) to apply that color to a portion of the image.

Note that the effect will not be visible in areas where the image is pure white. In other words, if you have completely blown out the sky to white in an image, this Color option for the targeted adjustment tools in Lightroom Classic does not provide a good solution for replacing the sky. You could reduce the Exposure for the targeted adjustment to make the color more visible, but then you would not have any texture at all in the sky, which will likely not look very good.

In other words, if you need to replace the sky in a photo where the sky was completely blown out, you are better off working in Photoshop for that work rather than Lightroom.

Storage Location Shortcut


Today’s Question: My favorite Lightroom Classic “hidden feature” is accessed by clicking on an empty part of the “breadcrumb” bar (the black stripe just above the filmstrip). Clicking there opens a list of recently visited folders, collections, etc., and you can add favorite folders & collections to the list. This list is also a more convenient way of getting to All Photographs, Quick Collection, and Previous Import.

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can indeed quickly navigate to your recent, favorite, or “catalog” folders and collections using the popup found near the top-left of the filmstrip panel at the bottom of the Lightroom Classic interface.

More Detail: Today’s “question” is actually a comment received during a recent webinar presentation where I discussed some of my top tips for Lightroom Classic. You can view a recording of that full presentation on my Tim Grey TV channel on YouTube here (

The shortcut popup toward the top-left of the filmstrip panel can most certainly be a convenient way to navigate among your folders and collections. To begin with, this popup will present a list of Recent Sources, meaning the folders and collections you most recently browsed within Lightroom Classic.

In addition, the collections found in the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module appear at the top of the popup menu. That includes, for example, the “All Photographs” and “Previous Import” collections.

Another helpful option is a list of folders or collections you have identified as favorites. You can add a folder or collection to the favorites list by navigating to that folder or collection, and then choosing “Add to Favorites” from the popup on the filmstrip. Similarly, you can remove a folder or collection from the favorites list by navigating to the location and choosing “Remove from Favorites” from the popup menu.