Vignette Style Options


Today’s Question: Can you explain a little about the Highlight Priority, Color Priority, and Paint Overlay options in the Post-Crop Vignetting setting [in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom]? How do they differ?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The Highlight Priority and Color Priority options are very similar, enabling you to have bright highlights overpower the vignette effect. The Paint Overlay option causes a simple black or white overlay, which carries the risk of having areas with the vignette effect appearing very muddy.

More Detail: In theory the Highlight Priority and Color Priority options for the Style popup in the Post-Crop Vignetting are slightly different, but in actual practice you likely won’t see any significant difference between them. The Color Priority option ostensibly preserves more natural colors in the vignette areas, while the Highlight Priority retains higher saturation. In practice, the difference between these two options tends to be extremely subtle.

The Paint Overlay option will produce a result where either black or white (depending on whether you’re darkening or lightening with the vignette effect) will create an overlay at the corners of the image. The result is a relatively muddy appearance in those areas, which I personally find is not a pleasing effect in most cases.

With both the Highlight Priority and Color Priority styles the Highlights slider will be available once you have applied a negative (darkening) value for the Amount slider for the Pont-Crop Vignetting effect. When you increase the value for Highlights, any bright (highlight) areas that have been darkened by the vignette effect will be brightened up to “shine through” the vignette.

A somewhat extreme example of the value of the Highlights slider would be having the sun at the corner of the frame. The vignette effect would darken the sun to some extent, but you can brighten it up again to have it “overpower” the vignette effect by increasing the value for the Highlights slider. When you have very bright areas of an image being darkened by the vignette effect, this can create a more realistic (and pleasing) result.

I generally use the Highlight Priority option for the Style popup, in large part because it is the default setting and is virtually indistinguishable from the Color Priority setting. I don’t like the Paint Overlay setting because more often than not it tends to create a muddy appearance (with poor contrast) in areas where the effect is applied. In addition, the Highlights slider is not available with the Paint Overlay mode.

Folder for Image in a Collection


Today’s Question: [In Lightroom] how can you find the original folder for an image that is in a collection?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can navigate to the source folder for any image in Lightroom by right-clicking on the image and choosing “Go to Folder in Library” from the popup menu.

More Detail: The “Go to Folder in Library” command can be tremendously helpful in a variety of situations, where you have located a particular image but you don’t know which folder that image is contained in. As noted in today’s question, this solution is helpful when you have located an image in a collection but don’t know which folder the image is stored in. Similarly, when you search for an image within your Lightroom catalog it may not be clear which folder the image is in.

With the “Go to Folder in Library” command you will be taken directly to the folder for the image you right-clicked on. That means the folder in question will be highlighted on the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module. In addition, the image you right-clicked on will be selected, so it is the active image and therefore readily visible.

Soft Proofing Explained


Today’s Question: What is soft proofing?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Soft proofing involves changing the appearance of an image on your monitor display to simulate what that image will look like when printed using a specific printer, ink, and paper combination.

More Detail: As most photographers have probably realized by now, sometimes it can be difficult to anticipate exactly what a given image will look like when printed using a particular paper type with a specific printer and ink setup. Soft proofing enables you to simulate on your monitor display what that print will look like.

Obviously in a perfect world soft proofing would be completely unnecessary, as the print would be a perfect match of the image as you’ve optimized it based on your monitor’s display. Of course, in the real world there is a somewhat significant difference between what an image looks like with the emitted light of a monitor display compared to the reflected light from a print. And that doesn’t even take into account the tremendous difference the paper type can make, such as the difference between a glossy versus matte print.

Various software tools (such as Photoshop and Lightroom) enable you to employ soft proofing to simulate the printed output on your monitor display. You simply specific the profile for the printer, ink, and paper combination you intend to use for printing the image, and the presentation of the on-screen image is altered to simulate what the print will look like.

To be sure, soft proofing isn’t perfect, because you are still using a monitor display to present what a print is expected to look like. But soft proofing can be helpful for troubleshooting problems with a print, getting a sense of what a print will look like, and choosing which paper might provide the best results for printing a given image.

Noise Reduction Refinements


Today’s Question: Can you explain how the Detail, Contrast, and Smoothness sliders work in Noise Reduction [for Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom]?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The Detail and Contrast sliders for noise reduction in Camera Raw or Lightroom enable you to improve the degree to which detail is maintained in the image, though at the risk of introducing other visible artifacts in the image. The Smoothness slider improves the blending of any color artifacts that remain based on the current noise reduction settings.

More Detail: The primary control for noise reduction in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw is the Luminance slider for luminance noise reduction and the Color slider for color noise reduction. These sliders provide the strength control for noise reduction.

In addition, there are several controls that enable you to fine-tune the overall behavior of the noise reduction effect.

There is a Detail slider for both luminance and color noise reduction. These both provide the same basic capability, just focused on luminance versus color noise reduction. Increasing the value for Detail increases the threshold for when noise reduction is applied in an image. In other words, with a higher value, detail will be preserved by virtue of the noise reduction not applying (at least not as strongly) along detail edges in the photo.

The risk of increasing the value for Detail, however, is that noise may be revealed in the image. This can be especially problematic since the noise will appear in small areas (even individual pixels), causing it to stand out a bit more clearly.

The Contrast slider is only available for luminance noise reduction, and is similar in concept to the Detail slider, but focused more broadly on contrast rather than fine detail. If the noise reduction is causing midtone contrast to be reduced, you can increase the value for Contrast. However, you will need to keep an eye out for splotchy artifacts with a value that is too high. For smoother detail (with less contrast) you can use a lower value. In other words, you need to balance the setting based on trying to improve contrast without creating a mottled appearance in areas of the image.

The Smoothness slider is only available for color noise reduction, and it is focused on reducing color artifacts that remain after applying color noise reduction. When you reduce color noise, you will often see that noise represented by individual pixels gets blended so that instead you have blotches of color artifacts. Increasing the value for Smoothness will blend those artifacts, often removing their appearance altogether. In general it is relatively safe to use a high setting for Smoothing, but you’ll want to watch for blending of colors along contrast edges in the photo.

The effects of these refinement controls can be more easily seen if you apply relatively strong noise reduction to an image with extreme noise, as a test for getting more familiar with the actual effect in the photo.

Update a Develop Preset


Today’s Question: Can you edit Develop presets [in Lightroom] after saving them?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can update the settings for a Develop preset in Lightroom by using the “Update with Current Settings” command after right-clicking on a preset.

More Detail: Presets in the Develop module in Lightroom enable you to save settings based on the adjustments you’ve applied to one image, and then apply the same settings to another image. You can even include only certain adjustments as part of a preset, so that other adjustments won’t be affected when you apply the preset.

If you want to change the settings for an existing preset, the process is relatively straightforward.

First, I recommend selecting an image that you have not yet applied adjustments to, so you can simply reset the adjustments after using the image as the basis of altering your preset. Then apply the preset to that image by going to the Develop module and clicking on the applicable preset from the Presets list found on the left panel.

Next, make any changes to the adjustment settings for the image that you want to update for the preset. For example, let’s assume the preset only included the application of a vignette effect, and you wanted to make the effect stronger. You could apply the preset, then go to the Post-Crop Vignetting adjustment controls and make the desired changes.

When you’re finished modifying the settings you want reflected in your updated preset, return your attention to the Presets list on the left panel in the Develop module. Right-click on the preset you’re currently working to modify, and choose “Update with Current Settings” from the popup that appears.

This will bring up the Update Develop Preset dialog, which is the same basic dialog you would have used to save the preset in the first place. If you had only included certain adjustments as part of your preset, only the checkboxes for those adjustments will be turned on at this point. In most cases you would probably want to leave the checkboxes as they are, but you can enable (or disable) specific adjustments if you want to change the behavior of the original preset.

You can then click the Update button at the bottom-right of the Update Develop Preset dialog to apply the changes to the preset.

It is important to note that updating a preset in this way will not change the adjustments for images that you had previously applied the preset to. So if you want to update the adjustments for certain images based on the preset, you’ll need to re-apply the updated preset to those images.

Note that this question was posed as a follow-up during my recent “Top Hidden Features of Lightroom” webinar presentation. You can view the recording of that presentation on the Tim Grey TV channel on YouTube here:

Video in Lightroom


Today’s Question: Do you see it as realistic to import my video files to Lightroom or should I consider another app and leave Lightroom only for photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: To me it depends on the nature of the video. My approach is to keep videos that I see as “belonging” alongside my photos in my Lightroom catalog. Videos that are intended for a specific video project (such as training videos in my case) are not imported into Lightroom, and instead are managed through a separate workflow.

More Detail: As I imagine most photographers can appreciate, Lightroom is first and foremost a tool for managing still photos. However, it does support a variety of video formats, and you can import videos right alongside your still photos. You can even apply some basic adjustments and trimming to your video clips within Lightroom.

That said, for “serious” video projects, you would likely be doing the vast majority of your work outside of Lightroom. Perhaps, for example, you might use Adobe Premiere Pro to edit your videos, and perhaps use Adobe Prelude to manage your videos before production. In those types of situations, I wouldn’t import the videos into Lightroom, as they wouldn’t really fit into the context of my Lightroom catalog.

Of course, many photographers (including myself) capture videos that serve as more of a supplement to still photos than as elements of a larger video project. For example, those videos might be used along with still photos as part of a slideshow presentation. These types of video captures were, in my view, captured for much the same reason the still photos were captured. As a result, I import these types of videos into my Lightroom catalog right along with my still photos from the same trip or photo shoot.

So, while I do feel that all of my still photos belong in Lightroom simply because they’re my photos, the same isn’t necessarily true for video captures. For video I recommend considering the context (and intent) for those videos before deciding whether to import them along with your still photos into your Lightroom catalog.

Archive Adjusted Images?


Today’s Question: Do you export photos that you have changed in the Develop module [in Lightroom]?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I do not export copies of my photos from Lightroom unless I specifically need a new image file for some purpose, such as to share the image with others. That said, I do understand the motivation of some photographers to export images in order to preserve their adjusted images beyond the Lightroom catalog.

More Detail: When you apply adjustments in Lightroom, by default the adjustment settings are only saved in the Lightroom catalog, and do not alter the original image file on your hard drive. That is a good thing in terms of providing a non-destructive workflow, but it also means you are dependent upon the Lightroom catalog for the information about the “final” appearance of your optimized photos.

You can save the metadata for your images out to the actual image files, which will include the adjustment data from the Develop module. This can be done by enabling the option to automatically write changes to XMP, found in the Catalog Settings dialog, or by choosing Metadata > Save Metadata to File from the menu (for selected images).

The shortcoming of this approach is that the adjustments that would be preserved in this manner can only be understood by Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. In other words, if the reason you were preserving this adjustment information was to provide an alternative in case you could no longer use these Adobe applications (such as canceling your Creative Cloud subscription) you would effectively lose your adjustments.

For this reason, some photographers prefer to export a full-resolution TIFF image from Lightroom for the images they optimize (or at least their most important among those images). This provides a high-quality copy of the image with all Lightroom adjustments included, that can be opened with virtually any image-editing software.

While I’m generally paranoid when it comes to protecting my photographs, my feeling is that if I ever decided to discontinue my use of Lightroom I could simply export copies of my photos in bulk at that time, in order to preserve the adjustments from Lightroom for my photos. But I certainly understand those who want to perform this work along the way, rather than taking a risk of potentially losing the adjustments for their images.

Adding Notes


Today’s Question: I would like to make notes about adjustments I’ve made in Lightroom or Photoshop. Is there a place for this?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In Lightroom you could add these details into one of the existing text fields in metadata, such as the Caption field if you’re not using that for other purposes. In Photoshop, you might want to use the Note tool, which is designed for exactly this type of purpose.

More Detail: In Lightroom there isn’t exactly a “notes” feature, but you can add information about your adjustments to another metadata field you’re not using for another purpose. If you’re not using the Caption field for other purposes, this can be a good choice because the textbox size for this field is a little larger than other metadata fields. Other good options would include the “User Comment” field found in the EXIF metadata, or the “Instructions” field in IPTC metadata (under the Workflow section).

In Photoshop, the Note tool is well suited for your intended purpose. This tool isn’t especially well known, in part because it is somewhat “hidden”. To access the Note tool, you can first right-click on the Eyedropper tool on the toolbox to bring up a popup of additional tools. From that popup choose the Note tool.

After selecting the Note tool, to actually add a note to the current image simply click anywhere within the image. The Notes panel should appear automatically at this point, but it is also accessible by choosing Window > Notes from the menu, or by clicking the Notes Panel button on the Options bar.

Within the Notes panel, simply add the desired text to the note field. Note that you can cycle through multiple notes if you have added more than one to the image, and delete a note, using the buttons at the bottom of the Notes panel.

It is important to note (no pun intended) that in order to save notes added to an image using the Note tool, you must save the image as either a Photoshop PSD document or a TIFF file.

Maintaining Folder Structure


Today’s Question: I currently use Camera Raw for editing (same options as Lightroom), but I would like to use Lightroom, IF I can find a way not to give up my current file organization in my folders.  Is this possible?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes! With Adobe Lightroom Classic CC you can import (and maintain) your existing folder structure, and continue using the same folder strategy moving forward. With the new cloud-based Lightroom CC, however, your photos are organized with a date-based folder structure.

More Detail: One of the most common areas of confusion related to Lightroom Classic CC relates to your existing storage structure and strategy. When you import existing photos into Lightroom, you can simply add those images to the catalog without moving or copying them to a different location. Your existing folder structure for those photos would therefore be reflected in the Folders list on the left panel in Lightroom’s Library module.

When you import new captures from a media card or camera, you can specify the folder structure you want to use. In other words, you can continue using the same approach you’ve already been using for your folder structure.

The only thing to keep in mind in this context is that once you start using Lightroom, it is important to initiate all tasks within Lightroom. So if you wanted to rename or move folders (or photos), that should be done within Lightroom, not from the operating system. The changes you make to your folder structure within Lightroom will be reflected in your operating system as well.

As noted above, the new Lightroom CC (which focuses on cloud-based synchronization of all of your photos) does not maintain your existing folder structure. Instead, it uses a date-based folder system. Therefore, for photographers who want to manage their own folder structure locally, Lightroom Classic CC (rather than the new Lightroom CC) would be the better choice.

Mask Overlay Display


Today’s Question: In the develop module of Lightroom Classic when I use the Adjustment Brush tool I just see the pink mask and can only see the effect after I close the window [by clicking the Done button]. How can I preview with the effect without closing?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can turn off the translucent red mask overlay when working with any of the targeted adjustment tools in Lightroom by turning off the “Show Selected Mask Overlay” checkbox on the toolbar below the image.

More Detail: When working with any of the targeted adjustment tools (Graduated Filter, Radial Filter, or Adjustment Brush) in Lightroom’s Develop module, you have the option of displaying a translucent red overlay on your image to indicate the mask area. The red overlay appears on areas affected by your adjustment, with the rest of the image appearing normally. When this option is enabled, you won’t see the effect of your targeted adjustments.

The mask display can certainly be very helpful as you work to improve the accuracy of the mask that is being used to define which portions of the image will be affected by your targeted adjustment. But it can obviously be a bit of an impediment when it comes time to actually apply an adjustment.

You can turn off the mask overlay by turning off the “Show Selected Mask Overlay” checkbox on the toolbar below the image preview area. If you don’t see that toolbar, simply press the letter “T” on the keyboard to toggle its visibility.

My personal preference is to keep this checkbox turned off. In fact, I find it is more helpful to apply an exaggerated Exposure adjustment, and use the effect of that adjustment to show me the shape of my mask. When I’m finished getting my mask cleaned up, I then reset the exaggerated adjustment and fine-tune as needed.

If you just want to view the mask overlay temporarily, note that you can also just hover your mouse pointer over the edit pin that appears on the image for each mask you define for a targeted adjustment. I find it easier to simply hover over that edit pin when I want to see the mask overlay, rather than toggling the “Show Selected Mask Overlay” checkbox.