Sun Spots

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Today’s Question: I was inspired by your recent photo “Sunrise in the Palouse”, and went out to try capturing photos that include the sun in the frame. I was able to get the exposure pretty good (setting a minus exposure compensation), but ended up with lots of somewhat bright (but not colored) circles in the photo. Is that lens flare of some sort? What can I do to avoid these circles?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Your description sounds like the effect from having dust or other debris on the front element of your lens. When including the sun in the frame (or nearly in the frame) it is critically important to clean the lens. I recommend making use of a lens cloth, brush, blower, or similar device to clean the front of the lens frequently when photographing with the sun in (or near) the frame.

More Detail: Fortunately, in most cases it is relatively easy to clean these spots after the capture, especially if the spots appear in an area of open sky. However, because the sun will cause the dust or other contaminants on the front lens element to “glow” with light, then can interfere with textures and details within the photo. Therefore, it is important to try to avoid this issue in the first place.

I make a point of cleaning the front lens element once I’m ready to capture my shot whenever I’m including the sun in (or near) the frame. I’ll then keep an eye on the front lens element, especially when I’m in a dusty area, and clean the lens as often as is needed (or more often than that!).

The photo referenced in today’s question can be found on my 500px page here:

https://500px.com/photo/111950955/sunrise-in-the-palouse-by-tim-grey

In this case I was working before (and during) sunrise in a very dusty area, and ended up with some of the spots referred to in today’s question even though I had cleaned the lens a few frames before the image seen above was captured. Even though I was trying to be careful, I didn’t get the front lens element completely clean (or more dust accumulated after I cleaned the lens), so I had a bit of cleanup work to do after the capture.

If you are very careful to keep the front lens element clean, you’ll able to minimize the effect of these glowing circles, which can be very distracting in the photo. Lens flare, of course, can’t be completely avoided if you are including the sun in the frame. But even that can often be cleaned up or minimized in post-processing.

JPEG for External Editing?

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Today’s Question: Having added a folder of RAW images to my new Lightroom catalog, I sent a photo to Photoshop to do some edits, then returned to Lightroom. In the process, Lightroom made my picture into a TIFF file, but I would prefer to have it in the more compact form of a JPEG. I don’t see how I can stop Lightroom from converting to TIFF. It seems to offer no option in Preferences for JPEGs. Is there a way?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, it is not possible to send a photo directly from Lightroom to Photoshop and have it created as a JPEG image in the process. The only options within Lightroom are to create a TIFF or PSD (Photoshop Document) when using the External Editing Feature.

More Detail: In theory you could create a workaround here, though it would not be as smooth. Also, I don’t recommend using JPEG images for this purpose, because doing so would create a situation where you are likely going to be re-saving the JPEG image with updates, resulting in a compounded loss of quality due to the JPEG compression.

You could export the RAW capture as a JPEG, adding the JPEG image back to your catalog as part of that process. To do so, turn on the “Add to This Catalog” checkbox in the “Export Location” section at the top of the Export dialog. You can then send the resulting JPEG image to Photoshop using the Photo > Edit In command on the menu. When prompted, you can choose the “Edit Original” option.

It is important to keep in mind that in addition to the issue of compounded loss of image quality when re-saving an updated JPEG image, there are a variety of other benefits you are giving up by using the JPEG file format as an editing format. With a JPEG image you can only work in 8-bit per channel mode (rather than 16-bit per channel mode), increasing the risk of posterization in your images. In addition, with a JPEG image you aren’t able to include multiple image layers, adjustment layers, saved selections, and other features that require the use of a TIFF or PSD image in Photoshop.

In other words, I highly recommend using either the TIFF or PSD file format for the RAW captures you send from Lightroom to Photoshop. I also recommend making use of layers while you are working in Photoshop. Those layers will then be preserved in the TIFF or PSD image, and you can retain access to those layers if you re-send the image to Photoshop using the “Edit Original” option when you use the Edit In command in Lightroom.

Catalog Location when Traveling

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Today’s Question: If I use an external disk [when traveling] for my primary photo files (with a second external disc for backup), should the catalog be also placed on the primary external disk? That would save a step when merging to the home (main) computer, and keep it all together. My laptop has limited storage.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The answer here depends on your priorities. Having the catalog on an external hard drive along with your photos is very convenient when it comes time to transferring the photos to your “master” catalog. However, this approach will also generally have a bit of a negative impact on overall performance in Lightroom.

More Detail: Lightroom makes extensive use of the catalog files, which contain the information about all of the photos being managed by Lightroom. Therefore, having that catalog on a hard drive that provides the best performance possible. In most cases, that translates to having the Lightroom catalog files stored on an internal hard drive.

Of course, it is relatively common that a laptop computer won’t have adequate internal storage for all of the photos you might capture during a trip. In that case, an external hard drive provides an excellent solution for photo storage. In other words, you will have the catalog on your internal hard drive and your photos on an external hard drive. This provides the additional benefit of being able to review your photos (and update metadata for them) within Lightroom even if the external hard drive with your photos is not connected to the computer.

That said, if you have the catalog on the internal hard drive and the photos on the external hard drive, you will likely want to copy the catalog files to the external hard drive in order to have the catalog and photos available on your primary hard drive for purposes of merging your traveling catalog with your master catalog.

In this situation you could simply copy the folder containing your traveling catalog onto the external hard drive that contains your photos, and then import from that catalog on your primary computer. You could also make use of the “Export as Catalog” command (found on the File menu) to help ensure you are copying all necessary files to an external hard drive that can then be connected to your primary computer.

There are obviously a variety of ways you could approach this workflow. You can see my personal approach in the courses “Tim’s Real Organizational Workflow” in the GreyLearning video training library (http://www.greylearning.com). The key is to develop a workflow that makes sense based on your specific needs, and then use that workflow consistently.

Managing Time-Lapses

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Today’s Question: I recently created 80+ time-lapse sequences in Photoshop. Since Lightroom doesn’t handle time-lapse very well is there a good reason to include them in the catalog?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The answer here depends a little bit on your specific workflow needs, but from my perspective it is still helpful to have your time-lapse captures included in your Lightroom catalog. My approach is to put time-lapse captures into a sub-folder within the primary folder (if applicable) that contains other images captured at the same time. But having those photos available provides a number of benefits, so I recommend including them.

More Detail: To begin with, I simply prefer having “everything” in my Lightroom catalog, in terms of all of the photos and video clips I have captured. I even wish Lightroom would enable me to include audio clips that were recorded as part of my overall photography and videography, but that’s a different matter.

I also consider it helpful to have my time-lapse captures in my Lightroom catalog simply so I will remember that I actually have them. I capture a lot of photos, and can’t possibly remember every photograph I’ve ever captured or every trip I’ve ever taken. By having the time-lapse captures (in their own folder) included in my Lightroom catalog, I have a better chance of remembering that the images actually exist.

Perhaps more importantly, I find there is a tremendous workflow advantage to having my time-lapse captures in Lightroom. As you have probably realized by now, when assembling a time-lapse video from a sequence of individual captures, you generally want to apply some batch adjustments to those images. For example, the images should be scaled down to a smaller size, and often cropped, based on the final video resolution you’re going to produce. I also often like to synchronize adjustments to all of the images I’m assembling into a time-lapse, both to correct exposure or color in the photos and also to apply creative effects to the images.

I personally use Apple QuickTime Pro (an older version) to assemble my time-lapse sequences. I therefore employ Lightroom to synchronize adjustments across all of the images in the sequence, and then export those images from Lightroom to create the derivative images that I will actually use to create the time-lapse video.

The bottom line is that I do find it tremendously advantageous to have my time-lapse captures included in my Lightroom catalog. I realize that the notion of having hundreds (or thousands) of “extra” photos in your Lightroom catalog may seem like a disadvantage, but from my perspective the advantages of having those photos included in your Lightroom catalog exceeds the disadvantages.

Consolidating Drives

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Today’s Question: How can I consolidate the images in Lightroom from two smaller internal drives onto a new, larger hard drive?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The process here is relatively straightforward. First, make sure you have a reliable backup of all of the photos in your entire catalog, just to be safe. Then add a “photos” folder to the new larger hard drive, making that drive visible in Lightroom in the process. At this point you can select all of the folders from the smaller drives, one drive at a time, and drag-and-drop those folders to the new hard drive location.

More Detail: You can make the new larger hard drive visible in Lightroom simply by adding a folder to that drive. Make sure the new drive is connected to the computer, and then in Lightroom click the “plus” (+) button to the right of the Folders header on the left panel in the Library module and choose “Add Folder” from the popup menu. Navigate to the new hard drive, and click the “New Folder” button at the bottom-left of the dialog. Enter a meaningful name (such as “PHOTOS”) for this new folder, and then click Choose to create the new folder. This folder will serve as the “parent” folder for all of your other folders, and once you’ve added this folder in Lightroom the folder (and thus the new hard drive) will appear in the Folders list on the left panel.

Next, you can drag-and-drop folders from the smaller drives to the new drive. This can be accomplished by selecting multiple folders on a single drive to streamline the process. Simply click on the top-most folder on the first drive, then hold the Shift key and click on the bottom-most folder on the same drive. With all of the folders selected, you can then point your mouse to any of the selected folders and drag-and-drop to the new folder you created on the new drive. This process can be repeated for the other hard drive you want to transfer from. Note that Lightroom will ask for a confirmation that you want to move photos from one location to another.

Once you have copied all of the folders from the smaller internal hard drives to the new hard drive, it is a good idea to confirm there aren’t any photos that were missed. For example, you can browse the location where photos had been stored on your internal hard drives to make sure no photos remain. This might be the case if you had neglected to import some photos into your Lightroom catalog, for example. You can resolve that issue by importing the photos with the Move option, setting the destination to the new drive you’ve just transferred photos to.

It is worth keeping in mind that the process of moving photos from one hard drive to another can be a time-consuming process. If you have a particularly large Lightroom catalog, you might want to move folders in small batches, to ensure there aren’t any issues created if you need to cancel a large transfer before it is finished. But again, the overall process here is relatively simple.

Vertical Text

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Today’s Question: I sometimes include text along the edge of a photo in Photoshop, and in certain cases want that text to appear vertically. I don’t mean that I want to rotate the text so it appears “sideways”, but rather that I want the letters to appear in the normal orientation, but with each letter of a word appearing directly below the letter above. I’ve been pressing Enter on the keyboard after every letter I type, but was thinking you might know a better approach. Is there a feature I’m missing that you know about?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is actually a special Type tool in Photoshop that does exactly what you’re looking for. It is called the “Vertical Type Tool”, and it can be found “hiding” behind the normal Type tool (the “Horizontal Type tool”) on the toolbox. Simply click-and-hold your mouse on the button for the Type tool on the toolbox to bring up a flyout menu, where you can choose the Vertical Type tool. Then add text in the normal way, and it will “magically” appear in a vertical orientation.

More Detail: There are a wide variety of ways you can interact with (and manipulate) text in Photoshop, while still keeping the text fully editable. The Horizontal Type and Vertical Type tools provide some basic options for adding text, but you might also want to explore other options for adjusting the appearance of text.

For example, just as you can use the various Transform commands to skew and stretch image layers, so too can you apply these transformations to text.  You can apply the Transform commands (found on the Edit menu) directly to a text layer, and also click the “Create Warped Text” button on the Options bar to further distort the appearance of your text.

And, don’t forget, there are a variety of effects you can add to text (such as an emboss effect or drop shadow) by clicking the “fx” button at the bottom of the Layers panel after selecting a text layer. The bottom line is that text in Photoshop is tremendously editable, both in terms of changing the actual text, changing the font attributes, and applying transformations to the text layer itself.

“Upgrading” a Hard Drive

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Today’s Question: I recently purchased an external 5 TB hard drive to be used strictly for the photos in my Lightroom catalog. My question is two-fold: Would it be best to move all of my photos to this new hard drive, or just start using it for the new photos? If it is best to move all the photo the files to the new drive, what is the best way to do it?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My preference is to keep all photos in a single storage location, in large part so that my entire folder listing for photos appears in one section on the left panel in Lightroom’s Develop module. Therefore, I recommend copying all photos to the new hard drive outside the context of Lightroom, then updating the new hard drive so it represents the same path as the old hard drive (with the old hard drive disconnected, of course).

More Detail: You can read more details about my recommended workflow in the article “Step by Step: Storage Upgrade” in the August 2014 issue of Pixology magazine (http://pixologymag.com). In concept the process is very simple. All you need to do is copy the photos from the “old” drive to the “new” drive, disconnect the old drive, and then make the new drive appear with the same path so Lightroom will find photos where they are expected.

This is a rare situation where I perform image-management work outside of the context of Lightroom, in large part because Lightroom doesn’t make it easy to copy photos (rather than move photos) from one location to another without creating potential confusion.

So, I would first make sure I had a full backup of the old storage location, just to be on the safe side. Then quit Lightroom and copy the entire contents of the old photos drive to the new photos drive. Once that process is complete, the folder structure on the new hard drive will match the folder structure on the old drive. At this point you just need to make sure the hard drive represents the same path as the old drive did.

On the Macintosh platform you can simply change the volume label for the new drive to match that of the old drive. This is a simple matter of renaming the drive itself through the operating system. You can, for example, select the hard drive where it appears on the desktop. Then click on the name of the drive to enable renaming, and type the exact same name that had been used by the old photos drive.

On the Windows platform you need to change the drive letter for the new drive to match the drive letter that had been in use for the old drive. This can be accomplished using the Disk Management controls of the Computer Management application under the Control Panel. You can find this option by going to the Control Panel, going to the System and Security section, choosing Administrative Tools, and then launching Computer Management. You can then choose Disk Management from the left pane. Right click on the new hard drive, and choose Change Drive Letter and Paths. Then click Change, set the desired drive letter, and click OK.

In either case, the result is that to Lightroom the new drive looks exactly like the old drive in terms of the path and folder structure. At this point you can therefore launch Lightroom again, and all of the photos will be right where Lightroom is expecting them.

Printer Profiling

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Today’s Question: How do you profile your printers?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When I need a custom printer profile I use the ColorMunki Photo package from X-Rite (http://timgrey.me/munkiphoto), which enables you to calibrate and profile monitor displays and digital projectors, as well as create custom profiles for printers (or more specifically, a profile for a particular printer, ink, and paper combination). That said, I don’t need to generate custom printer profiles all that often.

More Detail: This was actually a follow-up question of sorts. The question from Friday asked about both display calibration and printer profiling, but for some reason I overlooked the question about printer profiling.

Quite often I find that it is not necessary to build a custom profile. That certainly wasn’t the case until relatively recently. But now I find that most printer profiles are very accurate, to the point that I’m able to use “generic” profiles for most prints.

To clarify, a printer profile is actually a profile for a specific printer, ink, and paper combination. The profiles included with your printer software will generally support most of the papers that are available from the manufacturer of your printer. For third-party papers, you can generally download profiles from that paper manufacturer’s website (at least for most of the popular models of printers).

I have found most of these profiles to be very accurate, enabling the production of high quality prints that match what I see on my display. In cases where a profile is not available, or I find that a profile isn’t accurate enough to produce an optimal print, I will generate a custom profile using the ColorMunki Photo package.

There are, of course, some other solutions for generating printer profiles, but I’ve found the ColorMunki Photo package from X-Rite to be the best solution for my needs.

The process of creating a printer profile, by the way, is relatively straightforward. You print a target image that includes a number of color swatches, and then use a special device (a spectrophotometer) to measure the color value that was actually produced for each swatch. Those values are compared to what was expected, and a profile is created as a result.

Monitor Calibration Tools

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Today’s Question: After viewing your “Color Management for Photographers” video training course, I have decided that I need to calibrate both my monitor and printer. Which product do you currently recommend for this?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The display calibration tool I consider to represent excellent quality at a good price (and therefore the product I recommend most) is the ColorMunki Display from X-Rite, which you can find here: http://timgrey.me/munkidisplay

More Detail: There are, of course, a variet of options available. While I highly recommend (and do own) the ColorMunki Display, I actually use the X-Rite i1Display Pro package (http://timgrey.me/proi1display). This tool does offer a bit more control over the calibration process, but frankly it isn’t control that is really needed. In other words, I continue to use the i1Display Pro because I own it, but if I were buying a new monitor calibration tool today I would opt for the ColorMunki Display.

There are also a variety of other options available, including some very good tools from DataColor. That includes, for example, the Spyder5EXPRESS package, which you can find here: http://timgrey.me/spyder5x

The most important thing is that you use a package that includes a high-quality colorimeter. This is the device you actually place on the display to read the color and tonal values presented by the included software. Those values are then used to determine the compensation required for the display to be as accurate as possible, which forms the basis of the new display profile that will be created by the software you’re using to calibrate the display.

Blurring a Background

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Today’s Question: In many cases I would like to keep my foreground subject in focus while blurring the background. Sometimes my backgrounds have more detail than I’d like.  I’d like to use Gaussian Blur [in Photoshop], but if I make a selection of my foreground to protect it from the blur, for some reason the blur causes a “bleed” of color from the edges of my selection. Any suggestions on how to work around this?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The simple solution here is to use the Lens Blur filter (instead of the Gaussian Blur filter) in conjunction with a saved selection. The Lens Blur filter can use the saved selection as a mask, which will protect the areas you don’t want to blur and prevent the “bleed” effect you’re seeing with Gaussian Blur.

More Detail: Note that this technique was covered in detail in the article “”Step by Step: Blurring a Background”, which appeared in the March 2015 issue of Pixology magazine (http://www.pixologymag.com). The basic process involves working on a copy of the Background image layer, creating and saving a selection of the area you want to blur, and then applying the Lens Blur filter with the saved selection set as the mask for the filter.

In the days before the Lens Blur filter was available (it was introduced with Photoshop CS), it was possible to work around the limitation of the Gaussian Blur filter. This involved creating a selection of the area you wanted to blur, then applying a one-pixel Gaussian Blur to the selected area. You could then contract the selection by one pixel using the Contract command (Select > Modify > Contract) with the value for “Contract By” set to one pixel.

By repeating the process of blurring and contracting, by one pixel at a time for each, you are effectively building up the blur by an increasing amount as you move the selection outward from the edge of the area you’re protecting. You can automate this process with an action, but it is still far less efficient than using the Lens Blur filter combined with a saved selection.