Track Log Workflow

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Today’s Question: I’m interested in the GPS track log option you mentioned in Monday’s email, so that I can have location information for all of my photos without the extra battery drain caused by in-camera GPS. What does the workflow look like in Lightroom [Classic CC] for adding location information to photos based on a track log?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The basic process of synchronizing a GPS track log with your photos in Lightroom is very simple. All you need to do is load the track log and use the synchronization feature to add location information to the photos on the filmstrip that match the capture time range based on the track log.

More Detail: In my opinion, Adobe Lightroom Classic CC provides what is perhaps the simplest approach to adding location metadata to a series of photos based on a GPS track log recorded during the time the photos were captured.

Of course, the first step is to make sure the GPS device (such as a smartphone) and your camera are set to the same time, so that the track log can be accurately used to add location information to the photos. Then you can import the photos into your Lightroom catalog, and navigate to the applicable folder so the images you want to add location metadata to are on the filmstrip.

In the Map module you can then click the Track Log button on the toolbar below the map, and choose “Load Tracklog” from the popup menu. Navigate to the location where you have saved your track log (I recommend saving it in the same folder as the photos to which the track log relates), and select the track log file to load. The path represented by the track log will appear on the map.

Next, select all of the photos on the filmstrip (or the range of photos you want to add location information to). You can then click the track log button on the toolbar once again, and choose the “Auto-Tag Photos” option. This will cause location information on the loaded track log to be added to all of the selected photos. Those photos will then appear on the map, and GPS coordinates will be included in the metadata for the images.

Cropping Philosophy

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Today’s Question: What is the “normal” protocol for cropping? Should I maintain the aspect ratio that came out of the camera, or can I choose something else? Are there some guiding principles to refer to when deciding what ratio to use? As a photographer is it good to be consistent with the chosen crop factor across all my images, especially when putting them in a portfolio?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I’m not sure that there is really a “normal” protocol. That said, my personal philosophy on cropping is that for the most part you should crop based on your aesthetic sense for the image, not based on any specific aspect ratio.

More Detail: There certainly isn’t a single “right” answer when it comes to the aspect ratio to use for cropping a photo. Naturally there are some photographers who prefer to always crop to a specific ratio, such as with a square crop. There are also situations where you may want to crop a series of images with the same aspect ratio, such as when they will be included full-bleed in a book or presented as part of a series that will be matted and framed at the same dimensions.

But as a general rule, my feeling is that the decision about how to crop an image should be based on the image itself, and your preference for that image. Therefore, when I am cropping an image, I will almost always disable any lock on the aspect ratio, so that I can crop the photo freely based on my preference for the photo.

When you need to use a consistent crop aspect ratio (such as when you will present framed images as part of a unified series), I don’t personally feel you need to choose any specific aspect ratio, other than to make sure you’re using the same settings for all of the images in the series.

In other words, while I feel there is aesthetic value to some of the “standard” crop aspect ratios (such as 3:2 or 16:9), I don’t personally feel it makes sense to crop all images to the exact same aspect ratio under all circumstances.

Location Metadata Options

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Today’s Question: After your recent discussion of cameras that include GPS capability, could you recap the general options that are available for getting GPS-based location metadata added to my photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In my mind there are four basic options for adding location information to your photos via GPS. Those include “location snapshots”, recording a track log while you are photographing, using an accessory GPS receiver that connects to a camera, or opting for a camera with a built-in GPS receiver.

More Detail: If your primary camera does not include a built-in GPS receiver, there is still a good chance you have a camera (such as a smartphone) that does include a GPS receiver. If so, you can use the GPS-enabled camera to capture what I refer to as a “location snapshot”. This basically involves capturing reference photos of key locations with your GPS-enabled camera, and then using the embedded location metadata from those photos to add location information to the photos captured with your primary camera that does not include a GPS receiver. The disadvantage to this approach, of course, is that there is more work involved in adding location information to your photos.

Another approach that involves two devices is to record a GPS track log with one device during the time you’re capturing photos with a camera that doesn’t have GPS capabilities. As long as you ensure the clocks on both devices are set accurately, you can later synchronize the photos with the track log to add location information to your photos. You can record the track log with a variety of GPS navigator units, or with a GPS app for a smartphone, for example. Then, using software such as Lightroom Classic CC you can synchronize the photos and track log to add GPS coordinates to the photos. This approach provides location information for potentially all of the photos you capture, without accelerating the drain of your camera’s battery.

For some cameras that do not include a built-in GPS receiver there are accessory units available. These generally plug directly into the camera, and draw power from the camera. You therefore gain the convenience of automatic location information for potentially all of the photos you capture, but with additional battery drain and an additional device attached to your camera.

Finally, you can find a variety of digital cameras (including digital SLR models) that include a built-in GPS receiver. Provided you have a good GPS signal (such as by ensuring you have a clear view of the sky during your photography) this can enable every photo to have location information embedded in the metadata. This is obviously quite convenient. However, having the GPS receiver enabled can also significantly reduce the life of your battery.

I feel that the convenience of having a built-in GPS receiver is worth the additional battery drain, in part because for me location information is generally useful for the photos I capture. In my experience, having the GPS receiver enabled cuts my battery life about in half, requiring me to be sure to have one or two spare batteries available for extended photography outings. The key is to consider the various options available to you, and decide which approach to GPS location tagging for your photos makes the most sense for your particular needs and preferences.

Finding Images without Keywords

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Today’s Question: In Lightroom Classic is there an easy way to find out if all my photographs in the Catalog have keywords?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can indeed locate photos that do not have any keywords in metadata by creating a Smart Collection based on this metadata criterion.

More Detail: A Smart Collection in Lightroom can be thought of as a saved search result. And as it turns out, one of the options for defining a Smart Collection is to filter images based on an absence of keywords.

To get started, click the plus (+) symbol to the right of the Collections heading on the left panel in the Library module, and choose “Create Smart Collection” from the popup menu. In the Create Smart Collection dialog that appears, enter a meaningful name in the Name field, such as “Photos without Keywords”.

Next, click the popup at the top-left corner of the “rules” area, which is the large white box that takes up the majority of the dialog. Choose “Keywords” from that popup. In the popup to the right of that, choose “are empty”, meaning you want to filter images based on a Keywords field in metadata that is empty.

You can choose whether you want to save this collection inside of a collection set (and if so which set) in the Location section of the Create Smart Collection dialog. Then just be sure that there are no other rules listed for your Smart Collection. If anything other than the “are empty” rule for Keywords is listed, click the minus (-) symbol to the right of that rule to remove it.

When you’re finished defining the Smart Collection, click the Create button at the bottom-right of the Create Smart Collection dialog. You can then navigate to the Collections section of the left panel in the Library and select the Smart Collection you created in order to view all images that do not have keywords assigned to them.

Note that the Smart Collection will dynamically update, so that if you add keywords to an image within the Smart Collection, it will automatically be removed from the Smart Collection. And, of course, if you remove all keywords from an image, that image will be automatically added to the Smart Collection.

GPS Add-On

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Today’s Question: Is there an add-on GPS accessory you would recommend for a DSLR without a built-in GPS receiver?

Tim’s Quick Answer: GPS accessories are available for a variety of different digital cameras, including digital SLR models and others. In addition, you can use a separate device to record a track log during your photography, which can later be synchronized to the photos you captured during the recording of that log.

More Detail: Some digital cameras include a built-in GPS receiver, so that you can have location information added to metadata for potentially every photo you capture. For cameras without a built-in GPS receiver, you may find that an accessory GPS adapter is available. In addition, you can use a completely separate device to record a GPS track log during a photography outing.

There are a handful of GPS accessories available for various camera models. In some cases you may find that your camera manufacturer offers such an accessory. In addition, there are some compatible devices available from other manufacturers. A couple of examples include Aokatec (http://www.aokatec.com/AK-G.html) and Promote Systems (https://promotesystems.com/products/promote-gps).

If a GPS accessory is not available for your camera model, or if you simply don’t want to use such a device, there are a variety of ways you can record a GPS track log. For example, a variety of smartphone apps are available that enable you to record a track log. In addition, many GPS navigation devices include this feature. The idea is that you can record a GPS track log during the time you are out photographing, and then you can synchronize the track log with your photos using supported software (such as Adobe Lightroom Classic CC) to add GPS location information to the metadata for your photos based on the track log you recorded.

To be sure, the simplest overall solution is to upgrade to a camera with a built-in GPS receiver. A good alternative is to opt for a GPS accessory (if available for your camera) so you can still have location information added automatically. But if this isn’t an option for you (or you want to avoid the additional battery drain caused by the GPS receiver), creating a track log during your photo outings is a great option as well.

Solo Mode for Panels

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Today’s Question: In one of your video lessons on Lightroom I noticed that you only had one section of each panel open at a time, and that when you opened a different section the previously opened section would close. Where is the setting to enable that feature?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The option to have only a single section of a panel open at a time in Lightroom is referred to as “Solo Mode”. You can enable Solo Mode for either panel by right-clicking on an empty area of the panel, and then choosing “Solo Mode” from the popup menu.

More Detail: When Solo Mode is activated for a panel in Lightroom, only one section of that panel will be open (expanded) at a time. When you open a different section on a panel with Solo Mode enabled, the panel that had been opened will close (collapse).

The Solo Mode feature operates independently for each panel (left or right) in each module (such as Library versus Develop). Therefore, you can enable Solo Mode for some panels in some modules, but leave it disabled for others if you prefer.

You can see Solo Mode in action in tip 41 (from April 11, 2018) in my “Lightroom Quick Tips”, which features a new quick tip every single week. This course is available as part of the GreyLearning Ultimate Bundle or the Mastering Lightroom Bundle. In addition, the course can be purchased as a standalone on the GreyLearning website here:

https://www.greylearning.com/courses/lightroom-tips

GPS Indication

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Today’s Question: After reading some of your posts about using a camera with a built-in GPS receiver, I’m giving thought to an upgrade to such a camera. But I’m wondering if there is a clear indication that the camera actually has a GPS signal, so you have some confidence that you really are recording the location information. Do these cameras have such an indication?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Many cameras that include a built-in GPS receiver do indeed provide some form of indication about whether the camera has acquired a good GPS signal.

More Detail: As you can probably imagine, different cameras have different ways of indicating the status of the GPS feature, and some cameras don’t provide any clear indication of the current status.

With digital SLR cameras that include a built-in GPS feature (or the accessory devices available for cameras without a built-in GPS antenna), there is generally an indication on one of the camera’s displays to let you know if the camera has acquired a good GPS signal.

For example, on my primary camera, there is a “GPS” indicator on the top LED display. When the GPS antenna has been activated in the camera’s settings, that indicator flashes. Once a good GPS signal has been acquired, the indicator becomes solid. Other cameras use different indications, but in most cases you will have some indication that you have a reliable GPS signal, and therefore will have accurate location information embedded in the metadata of your photos.

In most cases when the camera does not have a good GPS signal, no location metadata will be added to the images. However, it is worth noting that in some circumstances photos may have outdated (and inaccurate) location information embedded. For example, I’ve had situations where the first few photos I capture at a new location have location metadata from the previous day’s location.

Of course, checking the status of the GPS signal first can help ensure the most accurate location metadata. So, when looking for a camera that includes a built-in GPS receiver, it is a good idea to also take a look at how the GPS signal status is displayed, so you can help ensure the location information in metadata is accurate for all of your photos.

Print from TIFF or JPEG

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Today’s Question: I have started to use Landscape Pro, which saves back to my Lightroom catalog as a TIFF file. If I then export as a JPEG, do I lose quality doing this? If so, when I want to send a file to a lab for printing and they accept TIFF or JPEG, which would you consider the better choice?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While it is possible to produce an excellent print from a JPEG image, I do recommend opting for a TIFF file when possible. While the impact may be minor, there is always at least a small degree of quality loss when saving an image as a JPEG.

More Detail: A JPEG image always has compression applied to it, and that compression always causes a certain degree of quality loss for the image. At a high quality setting the JPEG compression won’t be especially significant, but there is still a degree of risk that some of the compression artifacts will be visible in the image (and in the final print).

Therefore, to help ensure maximum print quality, I always recommend using a file format that enables you to either not apply compression at all, or to employ lossless compression. The TIFF file format is one such option.

If possible, I recommend using the TIFF format (rather than JPEG) when creating derivative images you will send to a lab for printing. When creating a TIFF file, be sure to either not use compression, or to use LZW or ZIP compression (both of which are lossless compression options).

It is most certainly possible to produce high-quality prints from a JPEG image. However, there is also a risk that a print from a JPEG file will exhibit some degree of visible compression artifacts. So, if possible, I recommend the TIFF file format rather than JPEG when creating a derivative copy of an image for printing.

Raw to JPEG Confusion

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Today’s Question: I was recently told by a Lightroom guru that when importing images shot in RAW into Lightroom, they actually come in as JPEG images. If that is true, what then is the advantage of shooting in RAW?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Your raw captures are not converted to JPEG images upon import into Lightroom, so you can indeed retain the original raw captures and the benefits those captures provide. The previews of your captures viewed within Lightroom (other than in the Develop module) are JPEG previews, however.

More Detail: It is possible you may have misunderstood what that Lightroom guru was saying (or that they weren’t in fact a guru).

Lightroom does indeed enable you to import (and therefore retain) supported proprietary raw capture formats. The confusion about converting to JPEG probably relates to the previews that Lightroom generates for your images. You can choose, for example, to generate “Standard” previews for all of your images upon import. These are essentially JPEG images that are approximately the size of your monitor display (depending on your Preferences setting and monitor configuration).

The previews Lightroom generates enable you to view your images more quickly in the Library module, and also to view a preview of the image even when the source files are not available, such as when an external hard drive containing your photos is disconnected from the computer. In the Develop module a full preview based on the source image is generated and updated in real time as you apply adjustments.

So, JPEG previews are most certainly created for your images when you import them into Lightroom or view them within the Library module, but those JPEG previews do not replace your original raw captures. The actual source files you imported would still be available. The only other exception to this would be if you converted your proprietary raw captures to the Adobe DNG format during import, but in that case you would still have the DNG version of your image, which is similar in concept (and provides the same quality) as your original raw capture.

Original versus As Shot

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Today’s Question: When cropping a photo in Lightroom, one is given the option of “As Shot”, “Original”, or “Custom”. What is the difference between the first two, and when would one use one rather than the other?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “As Shot” crop option in Lightroom is for supported images from cameras that enable you to choose a crop that differs from the native aspect ratio of the sensor. With such a capture, the “As Shot” option would activate the crop aspect ratio set at the time of capture, and the “Original” option would activate the full image based on the sensor dimensions.

More Detail: For many photographers the “As Shot” and “Original” crop aspect ratio options will produce the exact same result, either because their camera does not offer the option to alter the capture aspect ratio, or because Lightroom is not able to access that information in the metadata for the capture.

When you select an in-camera crop aspect ratio that differs from the full aspect ratio of the sensor, you are of course capturing an image that does not contain all of the available pixels based on the sensor in the camera. With a raw capture, however, that crop setting is just a metadata value, and the full range of pixels available on the sensor will actually be included in the raw capture.

With supported capture formats, Lightroom is able to access the in-camera crop setting, and make that available with the crop tool. So, if you have taken advantage of this option with a camera that is supported for this feature in Lightroom, you can choose whether or not to crop to that aspect ratio setting based on the availability of the “As Shot” crop aspect ratio option in Lightroom.