Crop on Resize?

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Today’s Question: Won’t resizing a picture to 1920 by 1080 pixels change the aspect ratio? Most pictures aren’t 16 by 9 natively.

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is a follow-up to a question about exporting photos from Lightroom for the purpose of presenting those photos on a television display. When you choose the option to resize photos when exporting from Lightroom, the aspect ratio of the photos will not be changed. That is because when you specify the “Width & Height” option in the Image Sizing section of the Export dialog you are only specifying the “container” you want the image to fit within. The image will not be stretched or cropped as part of this process.

More Detail: In some cases it is possible to alter the aspect ratio of a photo when you are resizing it. For example, in Photoshop you can use the Image Size command to resize an image. If you turn off the “lock” control (Constrain Proportions) then you can indeed change the aspect ratio of the photo.

In Lightroom, if you want to change the aspect ratio of a photo you need to use the crop tool. You can specify the aspect ratio you want to use from the Aspect popup, and then adjust the crop as needed. When you apply that crop, the aspect ratio of the image will obviously be altered. This would allow you to ensure that the image is resized to precise pixel dimensions for both the width and height, for example.

But when you use the Export command the existing crop (and thus the existing aspect ratio) will be preserved. Resizing the image will cause the image to be resized within the constraints you’ve defined, but without altering the aspect ratio. In other words, the final pixel dimensions for the image may be somewhat different (in one dimension) from what you entered in the Image Sizing section of the Export dialog.

Adding Text to a Filename

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Today’s Question: Occasionally it would be useful to rename a photo that is already in the Lightroom catalog. I simply want to append some descriptive text to the filename for a single photo, while keeping the rest of the filename in place. How is this renaming done?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can most certainly rename a single photo within Lightroom, including the ability to simply append text to the existing filename. The key is to create a new file-renaming template that includes the base filename plus a Custom Text option.

More Detail: To get started select the photo you want to rename. Then, while in the Library module choose Library > Rename Photo from the menu. This will bring up the Rename Photo dialog.

The first time you rename a photo in this way you’ll need to define a template for the structure for the filename. Start by clicking the File Naming popup and choose Edit from that popup. This will bring up the Filename Template Editor dialog.

In the Filename Template Editor dialog choose “Filename” from the Preset popup. This will enable you to start with a simple template based on the existing filename for an image. In the text box below the popup, click your mouse just to the right of the small “Filename” popup to place the insertion point there. You can then type any text you would like to use to separate the existing filename and the new text you’re going to add. For example, you might want to use a dash character here.

Next, click the Insert button to the right of the “Custom Text” label toward the bottom of the Filename Template Editor dialog. This will add a “Custom Text” field at the end of the filename structure you’re defining.

At this point you can save the new template so it can be used to rename your photos. 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 “New Preset” dialog enter a name for this file-renaming template and click Create to save the template. Then click the Done button to close the Filename Template Editor dialog.

You now have a template you can use to append text to the filename for any photo. At the moment the Rename Photo dialog will still be up, so you can type the desired text in the Custom Text field, then click the OK button to rename the photo.

In the future, you can append text to the filename for any photo by selecting the photo in the Library module, choosing Library > Rename Photo from the menu, selecting the template you saved for this purpose, entering the desired Custom Text, and clicking OK.

Protective Filters

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Today’s Question: Do you use any protective filters on your lenses? If so, which filters do you use and why? If not, why not?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I do not use any protective filters on my lenses. My reasoning is, I suppose, mostly philosophical. I like to keep my “workflow” as simple as possible. I also don’t like to buy unnecessary accessories. And at least in theory my aim is to maximize image quality. Naturally this means I take responsibility for not damaging my front lens element.

More Detail: So far this strategy has worked for me, insofar as I have never in my many years of photography damaged a lens in a way that would have been prevented by having a filter on the front of the lens.

To be fair, replacing a filter that gets damaged is much less expensive than replacing the front lens elements (or worse). So there are certainly good arguments in favor of using a filter on the front of the lens purely to protect that lens. I just don’t choose to take that approach.

I should perhaps add that I also don’t use a protective case with my iPhone. So again, this is in large part a philosophical consideration. In theory having a filter on the front of the lens will reduce sharpness to some extent, but with today’s high-quality filters I consider the quality impact to be relatively minimal.

In other words, if you feel more comfortable with an “extra” filter on the front of your lenses to help protect the lens itself, I think you should absolutely use such a filter.

Sharpening Recommendations

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Today’s Question: I have a Canon 1D MkIII and Canon recommends these Unsharp Mask settings as a baseline: 250% for Amount, 0.3 pixels for Radius, and a Threshold setting of 1 for low ISO settings and 4 for high ISO settings. I was hoping you could tell me how these figures translate to the details sliders in Lightroom as I would like to do all my basic editing there.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I would recommend starting values for Sharpening in Lightroom’s Develop module that are relatively subtle, and that will give you results that are somewhat similar to the settings recommended for Unsharp Mask. I would use a value for Amount in Lightroom of around 100, a value for Radius of around 0.7, and a Detail value ranging from around 10 to 25, with higher numbers being used for images with less noise and where more texture and detail are present.

More Detail: The settings for the Sharpening controls in Lightroom’s Develop module don’t provide as much latitude as the Unsharp Mask filter (or Smart Sharpen filter) in Photoshop. This is in large part because the sharpening in Lightroom’s Develop module is intended for “capture” sharpening, meaning the compensation for the slight loss of sharpness in the original capture, rather than creative sharpening or output sharpening.

The specific settings you use for sharpening will depend on your intent for that sharpening, the level of texture and detail in the image, and the resolution of the image. The settings outlined above should provide you with a good starting point as you apply sharpening to a photo in Lightroom’s Develop module.

The Amount setting relates to the strength of the sharpening effect. In other words, a higher setting for Amount produces more contrast along texture edges in the photo.

The Radius setting determines the size of the contrast “halo” effect in the photo. In other words, based on the strength of the contrast increase along texture edges in the photo, how large of an area do you want affected by that increase in contrast?

The Detail slider can be thought of as being similar to the Threshold slider in Unsharp Mask, but with a value that is in reverse. In other words, with Threshold in Unsharp Mask you are starting with sharpening that applies to all areas of texture in the photo, and increasing the value reduces the degree to which more subtle texture will be enhanced. With Lightroom’s Detail slider the higher the value the more detail you are enhancing.

Finally, the Masking slider enables you to focus the sharpening only on the highest contrast edges within the photo, versus the entire photo (or somewhere in between). A higher value focuses the sharpening on only edges that represent relatively high contrast.

It is worth noting, by the way, that with all of these sliders for the Sharpening controls in Lightroom you can hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while adjusting a slider value to see a grayscale preview of the impact of that particular setting on your sharpening effect.

Luminosity Mask

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Today’s Question: During your webinar on targeted adjustments in Photoshop you showed a technique that involved the Threshold command to apply an adjustment based on brightness levels in the image. Could you review the steps involved? I seem to have missed a step when I was trying to reproduce the effect.

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are various ways you can create a layer mask based on brightness levels in a photo, but one of the techniques I commonly use involves the Threshold command. The basic process involves using the Threshold command to create an image that can be used as a layer mask defined by luminance values in the photo.

More Detail: This technique is helpful for situations where you want to apply a specific adjustment to the brightest or darkest areas of a photo. Once you have such a photo opened, the first step is to create a copy of the Background image layer. To do so, simply drag the thumbnail for the Background image layer down to the “Create a New Layer” button (the blank sheet of paper icon) at the bottom of the Layers panel.

Next, change the Opacity setting for the newly created “Background Copy” layer to about 50% using the Opacity control at the top-right of the Layers panel. This won’t have any visible effect at the moment, but will be helpful in the next step.

Now choose Image > Adjustments > Threshold from the menu. This will bring up the Threshold command, which enables you to create an image that is entirely black and white with no shades of gray. The key for this purpose is that we’re able to define the tonal value at which this image will split from black to white.

Because the Opacity for the “Background Copy” layer has been set to about 50%, you are able to see the black and white image as a translucent overlay on top of the underlying image. You can then drag the slider for the Threshold command to define the appropriate split between the dark versus light areas of the photo. When you’ve found a good value, click the OK button to apply the Threshold command.

At this point you have defined the starting point for your layer mask. Bring the Opacity setting for the “Background Copy” layer back up to 100% on the Layers panel. Then choose the Magic Wand tool, and click within either the black or white area of the image depending on whether you want to adjust the shadows or the highlights in the photo.

You can now turn off the visibility for the “Background Copy” layer. With the selection active, you can now add an adjustment layer of the desired type. Be sure to increase the value for the Feather control on the Masks tab of the Properties panel to blend the adjustment into the surrounding areas of the photo.

I’ll have more tips for working with luminance-based layer masks in an upcoming webinar, so stay tuned for that!

Television Presentation

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Today’s Question: How should I fill in the Lightroom Export box for images I am sending to Apple TV? Does the size of the TV matter here, analogous to the size of a printed photo? My TV is 48 inches wide.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Most television sets today can be thought of as a larger version of the digital display you’re using for your computer. Therefore, just as the resolution of the display on your computer impacts the optimal pixel dimensions for a slideshow on that display, so too will you want to size the images based on the pixel dimensions of the television’s display. The other settings in the Export dialog would be the same as you would normally use for presenting photos in a slideshow or sharing them online.

More Detail: You should be able to obtain the resolution information for your specific television with relative ease. You can check the owner’s manual, but a quick online search will probably provide the details. In general, most digital televisions today are likely to use a very common resolution, such as “720p” or “1080p”.

For example, the 720p high definition (HD) standard is 1280×720 pixels. The 1080p HD resolution is 1920×1080 pixels. Some television sets will offer a different native resolution, and in some cases you can adjust the resolution as well. In any event, you want to size your images based on the resolution of the display.

So if your television has a native resolution of 1080p, you would want to resize your images to fit within pixel dimensions of 1920×1080. Thus, I would use the “Width & Height” option from the popup next to the “Resize to Fit” checkbox (which should be turned on) within the Image Sizing section of the Export dialog in Lightroom. You can then make sure the unit of measure popup is set to “pixels”, and enter 1920 for the W (width) value and 1080 for the H (height) value.

I would save the images as JPEG images with the Quality setting at the maximum value of 100. I would also use the sRGB option for the Color Space popup. All other settings can be established based on your personal preferences.

The result will be images sized to fit the display resolution of your television, so that the image quality will be as good as possible.

Backup Software

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Today’s Question: What program do you use to back up your photos? I keep my main photo folder on an external hard drive and would like to back up to a second hard drive.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I use a product called GoodSync to backup my photos. This software provides a synchronization approach to backing up your files, and is available for both Macintosh and Windows platforms. You can get more info at http://www.goodsync.com.

More Detail: I outlined my preference for a synchronization backup solution in the September 2014 issue of Pixology magazine (http://www.pixologymag.com). In short, my primary aim is to have a backup copy that is an exact copy of the original files. In other words, I don’t want to go through a “restore” process if I experience a hard drive failure, but rather want my backup to be a direct replacement for the failed drive.

With a synchronization backup, you are creating an exact copy of the source data structure. That means that after your initial backup the software only needs to update files that have changed since the last backup. In other words, each backup will take a relatively short amount of time, all things considered.

There are, of course, other backup solutions available, including other software that enables a synchronization approach to backup. However, I’ve found that GoodSync provides the features I need, and is relatively easy to configure. I’ll also have a video course on the use of GoodSync available soon in the GreyLearning video training library (http://www.greylearning.com).

Image Recovery

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Today’s Question: I recently took a CompactFlash (CF) card out of my camera, inserted it in a card reader and got a shock when all my shots had disappeared. I suspect the CF card may have lost the file allocation table. Is there specific software you would suggest for trying to recover the pictures that were on the card before I pulled it out of my camera?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I highly recommend PhotoRescue from DataRescue for recovering images on digital media cards (and other storage devices). You can download a free trial that enables you to see exactly what images can be recovered, and then purchase a license to actually recover the images. You can find the trial download on the DataRescue website here: http://datarescue.com/photorescue/

More Detail: There are a variety of software tools available for recovering lost photos, but I’ve found PhotoRescue to be among the best.

It is worth keeping in mind that in most cases when you delete photos or even format a digital media card, the photos can still be recovered as long as you haven’t written new images over the space on the storage device where the photos are located.

This is possible because generally when you delete files or format a card, the data on that card isn’t actually removed. Instead, the file allocation table (which serves as a table of contents for the storage device) is updated to indicate that the files are no longer on the device, and that the space on that device is therefore available.

Software such as PhotoRescue is able to locate files on the space that appears empty on the storage device. Any photos that had been stored on the device and that have not since been over-written by new files can potentially be recovered.

As noted above, one of the benefits of PhotoRescue is that you can download a free trial version to evaluate a digital media card. The software will show you thumbnails of all photos that were located and that can therefore be recovered. In other words, you don’t need to pay for the software until you know it will be able to recover your lost photos.

PhotoRescue is offered in both a “Wizard” and “Expert” version. For most users I recommend the “Wizard” version as being the easiest to use.

Condensation Redux

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Today’s Question: [As a follow-up to a question earlier this week about condensation risks when bringing your camera in from the cold] Any suggestions for the opposite time of year, a cold room on vacation going out into the heat of the day? You said a couple hours to adjust, but when on vacation that isn’t always an option. I have read that you shouldn’t leave the camera in a car because it gets too hot.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key to minimizing condensation on a camera is to have the temperature of the camera match the air temperature. Therefore, you want to take steps to keep the camera warm, since a cold camera brought into relatively warm and humid air is likely to result in condensation.

More Detail: The first thing I would do in this type of situation is try to make sure that the camera doesn’t get cold in the first place. For example, keeping the camera in a well-insulated bag (or adding insulation to the bag) can help keep the camera a bit warmer. You could also increase the temperature of the air conditioning, or turn off the air conditioning an hour or two before you’ll be leaving.

You’ll also often find that some areas of a home or hotel room either don’t have air conditioning vents, or have vents you can close. For example, the bathroom in many hotels tends to be minimally affected by the air conditioning in the room. You can keep the camera in such an area to further help prevent the camera from getting cold.

If the situation enables it, you can also place the camera in a different location altogether. It is true that a car in the sun will tend to get extremely hot, and thus isn’t an ideal location for your camera. But a car that is in the shade can be a good location. You might also be able to find an area outside where the camera can be safely kept, such as a balcony. A garage can also serve as a good place to keep the camera, since it is relatively secure and generally not air conditioned.

The key is to figure out a way to minimize the extent to which the camera will be cold when taken into a warm environment. With a little bit of planning in advance, you should be able to find a solution.

Of course, in some cases such as with extreme humidity levels, even keeping the camera warm won’t prevent condensation. In those cases having a few extra lens cloths available can be tremendously helpful, so you can remove any condensation from the lens before capturing a photo.

Time Machine Backup

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Today’s Question: I use Time Machine on my iMac for backups. The iMac has external LaCie Hard Drives. Are the external drives included by Time Machine in its backup sequence?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, by default Time Machine does not backup your external drives. However, you can choose to include external hard drives as part of your Time Machine backup if you prefer.

More Detail: Time Machine provides an automated backup solution for Macintosh computers. To the extent possible based on the space available on the hard drive you are using to backup your computer, Time Machine will create hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups beyond that. When the drive gets full older backups will be deleted. Therefore, depending on the storage capacity of the external drive you’re using for your Time Machine backup, and the amount of data being backed up, your oldest backup may not be particularly old.

By default Time Machine will exclude any connected external hard drives from the backup, so that only the internal hard drives are being backed up. However, you can change this setting in the Options for Time Machine.

To get started, connect both the hard drive you’re using for your Time Machine backup and the external hard drives you want Time Machine to include in the backup. Then click on the Apple logo at the far left of the menu bar and choose System Preferences. In the System Preferences window choose Time Machine. Then click the Options button to bring up a dialog that will show you the external hard drives that are currently excluded from your Time Machine backup.

Select any of the external hard drives from the list that you want to include in your Time Machine backup, and click the “minus” button to remove that drive from the exclusion list. Click Save, and your settings will be updated.

Keep in mind that if you want to backup your internal drives and one or more external drives as part of your Time Machine backup, you will need to have an external hard drive with enough capacity to backup all of the data you are including as part of your backup. Furthermore, since Time Machine is designed to preserve older versions of files as well, you ideally want to use an external hard drive for Time Machine that includes considerably more space than the amount of data you are backing up.