Back Button Focus Approach


Today’s Question: I recall at a presentation you gave that you said back button focus allowed you to have the choice between continuous autofocus and one shot autofocus at any time. Can you explain how that is possible?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can have both continuous or one-shot autofocus at any time when using back button focus by simply setting your autofocus mode to continuous autofocus. Then press and hold the focus button on the back of the camera to achieve continuous autofocus. When you want one-shot autofocus, press and hold the button to initially achieve focus, and then release the button so the focus will not change until you press the button again.

More Detail: The ability to instantly switch between one-shot autofocus and continuous autofocus is one of the key reasons I prefer to take advantage of the ability to use a separate button on the back of the camera to initiate autofocus. This provides considerable flexibility when photographing a variety of different subjects under changing circumstances in a short period of time.

In addition, back button autofocus enables you to separate the metering functions of your camera from the focus functions, which also provides considerable flexibility in your photography “workflow”.

For more information about back button autofocus, see the article “Back Button Focus” in the July 2015 issue of Pixology magazine. If you’re not already a subscriber you can sign up today and request the back issues at no additional cost by sending an email to Details about subscribing can be found here:

Copy Layer Between Images


Today’s Question: When I want to add an image I’ve edited in Photoshop as a layer in another image, I can flatten the image, select all, copy, switch to the 2nd image and then past in place and it appears as a layer in the 2nd Photoshop file. When I try to drag and drop the first image onto the tab of the 2nd image nothing happens. Should this alternate method work? What am I missing?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You’re just missing one last step. When you drag a layer to the tab of a different image that is open in Photoshop, the image represented by that tab will come to the front so you are able to see that image. However, you can’t simply drop the image layer on the tab. Instead, after dragging (without dropping) to the tab so that the destination image comes to the front, you can then move the mouse over that image and then drop the layer.

More Detail: The tabs used by default for all open documents in Photoshop can be very convenient for working with multiple images and switching between those images with ease. What many photographers don’t realize is that those tabs can also be helpful for copying layers between the various open images.

The key is that when you drag a layer to a tab for a document, while that document comes to the front so you can actually see it, you still need to move your mouse into the actual image area in order to drop the layer you’ve dragged. You can’t simply drop a layer on a tab in order to add the layer to the image represented by the tab.

For example, let’s assume you have added an adjustment layer to the image represented by the first tab, and you want to add that same adjustment layer (with the same settings) to the image represented by the second tab. In the first image, point your mouse at the applicable adjustment layer thumbnail on the Layers panel. Then click and drag that thumbnail toward the tab for the second image. Hover the mouse in position over that tab until the second image comes to the front, keeping the mouse button held down the entire time. Then continue dragging into the image area, and release the mouse once the pointer is over the appropriate area.

Note that if you are copying an image layer or an adjustment layer that includes a layer mask, the alignment of the layer in the destination document can be important. In that case you can also hold the Shift key on the keyboard so that when you release the mouse the layer you’re copying will be centered in the destination image.

Lightroom Mobile Import


Today’s Question: The free Lightroom iPhone app can automatically transfer every photo you take to a folder in your desktop Lightroom. Why not use it instead of extra manual steps?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are two key reasons I prefer not to use the mobile version of Lightroom to import the captures from my mobile devices. First, this process leaves the original captures on your mobile device, and as noted in my answer on Friday I prefer to treat my iPhone as a camera, deleting all photos from my iPhone as soon as they are safely downloaded. Second, using the mobile version of Lightroom in this way doesn’t enable me to employ my normal folder structure strategy, requiring some additional “cleanup” work after the import.

More Detail: The “mobile” version of Lightroom does indeed enable you to import photos from your mobile device directly into Lightroom on that device. Those photos will then be synchronized automatically to your desktop installation of Lightroom, provided you have enabled synchronization. The result is that your iPhone (or other mobile device) captures will automatically synchronize to your “real” catalog on your desktop, while still being available on your mobile device.

To be sure, this workflow can be very convenient. However, as noted above, the workflow employed does not align with my own personal workflow preferences. While I often capture photos on my iPhone, for example, I don’t those photos to permanently consume space on my iPhone. I treat my iPhone as another camera to supplement my digital SLR and other cameras, and I want to use the same workflow for all photos I capture, regardless of which device was actually used to capture the images.

For me personally, I want a solution where I can delete the photos from my camera (such as the iPhone) as soon as they have been successfully downloaded (and backed up) to my normal storage. I also want to be able to use my existing folder structure strategy for those captures.

While the use of an application other than Lightroom for downloading photos from my iPhone does add a step to my workflow, this approach also makes it easier to delete the photos from my iPhone during this process, and to maintain my existing folder structure as well.

If Lightroom included an option to delete all photos from my iPhone as soon as they have been successfully copied (and backed up) into my normal folder storage structure, I would be very happy and I would no longer need to use other software for downloading my iPhone images. Until then, the workflow noted in the Friday edition of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter provides a solution that works for me.

iPhone to Photoshop


Today’s Question: What is the best way to get any image from your iPhone into Photoshop? Right now I am simply copying the image and emailing to myself. Then I simply double-click and it comes up in Photoshop.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “best” way to get images from your iPhone (or other smartphone) to Photoshop depends in large part on your preferences in terms of overall workflow. My personal preference, however, is to treat my iPhone as “just another” camera in the context of photos. Therefore, I prefer to download all of my photos from the iPhone, delete the source images from the iPhone, and then use the same workflow for those images as I would for any other photo, such as those from my digital SLR.

More Detail: To be sure, some photographers prefer to keep all of their photos on their iPhone “forever”. That approach doesn’t appeal to me for several reasons. Most importantly, having all photos captured with the iPhone reside on the iPhone can create a bit of a challenge when it comes to looking for a particular photo. In addition, this approach would prevent me from taking advantage of the variety of other benefits of my image-management workflow when it comes to iPhone captures.

It is possible to import photos directly from your iPhone into a Lightroom catalog. However, I prefer not to use this approach (even though I use Lightroom to manage my photos) because neither Lightroom nor the iPhone Photos app provide an easy way to delete all photos from the phone after they have been successfully downloaded.

It is possible to use the Photo Downloader feature in Adobe Bridge to download photos from your iPhone. You can create a backup copy of the photos during the download process, and also enable an option to delete all photos from the phone after a successful download. This was the method I had been using until a recent Macintosh operating system update caused Adobe Bridge to no longer be able to download photos from my iPhone.

Therefore, at the moment I use the Image Capture application included in the Macintosh operating system to download all of my photos, and then delete all of the photos from my iPhone once I have imported the photos into my Lightroom catalog (copying those photos to an additional hard drive for backup purposes in the process).

Regardless of which software you’re using to manage your photos on your computer, by downloading the images from your iPhone (and then deleting the source captures from the phone, just as you would reformat a media card in your “normal” camera) you can then use the same workflow you already employ to manage your iPhone captures, and open those images in Photoshop as desired.

Underwater Smartphone Photography


Today’s Question: Given your recent underwater iPhone photos, could you provide a brief outline on the best attributes and brands of waterproof cases for the smartphone?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I have had great fun using an underwater case for my iPhone in a variety of locations. Admittedly, this involves what might be considered a bit more risk than you would take if you purchased a waterproof point-and-shoot camera. But since I always travel with my iPhone it seemed the more efficient to make use of my iPhone, with a degree of caution. I’ve opted for the LifeProof FRE case ( in conjunction with the LifeProof LifeJacket flotation device (

More Detail: Most recently I was using my iPhone to capture underwater photos and videos while snorkeling in Huatulco, Mexico. You can see one sample (and follow me!) on Instagram here:

To be sure, it is important to take a cautious approach when you are taking a smartphone underwater. If the case leaks your phone could be ruined, and you might lose the data that is on your device.

There are two very important precautions that I recommend in order to minimize the risks. First, be sure your device is completely backed up before every underwater photography adventure. That way, if your case leaks and your smartphone is ruined, at least you’ll only lose your underwater photos (and the phone) without losing existing data.

Second, be sure to test the underwater case for leaks before every outing. I recommend submerging the case in a sink full of water, for example, using a weight to keep the case underwater. After an hour or so, check very carefully for any water inside the case. Then be sure to seal the case properly before use, and to limit any diving to the depth limit indicated by your specific case.

Since I use an iPhone, I was looking specifically for cases that fit the iPhone. Based on reviews and in-person evaluations, I decided on the LifeProof FRE case. There are other underwater cases available for different make and model smartphones, but I have not evaluated any of those in great detail.

I also highly recommend the LifeProof LifeJacket flotation device if you are an iPhone user. First you put the LifeProof FRE case onto your phone, then you slip that assembly into the LifeProof LifeJacket. The LifeJacket serves primarily as a flotation device, so your iPhone can float on the surface of the water. But I’ve also found the LifeJacket to be a real smartphone saver for activities on dry land. For example, if I want to take photos while riding a bike, the LifeJacket helps protect the phone in the event I should drop it. I can assure you from personal experience just a few days ago that the LifeJacket can indeed keep an iPhone safe when dropped from a moving bicycle.

Another option that works well for virtually any smartphone is the Phone Pouch from Ewa-Marine. I use an Ewa-Marine underwater bag for my digital SLR, and have found their products to work very well. You do need to be sure that the iPhone rests against the “back” surface of this underwater bag without any ripples, in order to ensure the best photos. But this bag does work very well, with the added flexibility of being usable with a variety of different devices. As long as your device fits in the underwater bag, you can use that device for underwater photos.

It is important to keep in mind, of course, that an iPhone or other smartphone won’t perform as well as a digital SLR for underwater photography. The smaller sensors on smartphones work best with good lighting conditions, and you don’t have to get very deep underwater before the light levels drop off significantly. That said, getting an underwater case for your smartphone is a great way to have fun while capturing some interesting photos!

Here are links to the products mentioned above:

LifeProof FRE for iPhone 6:

LifeProof LifeJacket for iPhone 6:

Ewa-Marine Phone Pouch:

Printing iPhone Photos


Today’s Question: I have several photos I have taken with my iPhone, just having fun and seeing what I can do with it. While taking photos with the iPhone and editing them on the iPhone, I have created some nice images that I want to print. The app I use to capture the photos allow me to save as a TIFF file, but the software I edit with will only save as a JPEG. This has allowed me to print them as 8×10 and they have kept good resolution, but a couple of them I would like to print larger, maybe up to 24×30. Normally not an issue with my Canon 5D, but this is with the iPhone images. I was thinking of printing them as 4×5 and then scanning them in at 600dpi or higher.

Would you recommend this approach or do you have better workflow?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I would definitely NOT recommend making a print and scanning that print to produce a larger image. If the image is of good overall quality (captured in good lighting conditions, for example) you can produce a relatively large print. I would recommend printing directly from your source file (after you’ve applied adjustments) at the original resolution. This will produce the best possible quality for these photos.

More Detail: Making a print and then scanning from that print will only result in reduced quality. A print contains considerably less information than the original file, depending on the specific print conditions. The result can be an excellent print, but the scanned image from that print will not be as good as the original source image.

To be sure, a JPEG image created with an app on the iPhone won’t have the quality of a RAW capture from a high-end digital SLR. But in many cases the quality will still be excellent. And depending on which specific iPhone model you have, the resolution will most likely be perfectly adequate for a large print.

For example, the iPhone 6 features an 8-megapixel sensor. While there are other factors (such as the small size of the sensor) that impact image quality, that resolution is adequate for producing prints of up to about 16×20 inches. And provided the viewer won’t be getting extremely close to the print, larger sizes are certainly feasible.

I highly recommend producing a test print from one of your favorite photos from the iPhone, at the largest size you think you would typically want to print. I think you may be surprised at how well the print holds up, especially if you’re starting with an image that represents a good exposure and strong overall quality.

Creating Opposite Mask


Today’s Question: When creating targeted adjustments in Photoshop, is there a way to duplicate a layer mask (for the sky, for example) but for the opposite area (the foreground, for example)? Sometimes I want to apply some adjustments to the sky, and then apply different adjustments to the foreground, and I’m looking for a shortcut.

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can indeed create a layer mask in Photoshop that is the opposite of an existing layer mask. There are various approaches you could take, but I generally use a selection for this purpose. Start by holding the Ctrl key on Windows or the Command key on Macintosh and clicking on the thumbnail for the existing layer mask on the Layers panel. This will create a selection based on that mask. Then choose Select > Inverse from the menu to create the opposite selection. Finally, add a new adjustment layer, which will now have a layer mask that is the opposite of the existing layer mask.

More Detail: It is important to keep in mind that in many cases you will need to perform some fine-tuning for the inverted duplicate layer mask you created. Chances are, for example, you have applied some feathering to the original layer mask. That feathering will be reversed for the duplicate layer mask.

Because of that feathering, there will be an area along the transition edges of the two layer masks where very little adjustment is applied. The adjustment for the sky, for example, will taper off before reaching the foreground, and the adjustment for the foreground will taper off before reaching the sky.

The result can be an obvious area where the adjustments don’t blend together very well. You can use the Refine Mask controls (by clicking the Mask Edge button on the Masks tab of the Properties panel) to improve the blending. The “Shift Edge” control in particular can be especially helpful for this purpose.

So, while some refinement to the individual masks may be necessary (depending on the nature of the mask and the strength of the adjustments applied), it is quite easy to create a copy of an existing layer mask with the opposite shape.

White Balance Metadata


Today’s Question: Does the white balance setting in the camera determine the “as shot” white balance setting in Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, the “As Shot” option in the “WB” (White Balance) section on the right panel in the Develop module in Lightroom will establish the same values for Temperature and Tint as were established by the camera at the time of capture.

More Detail: When you establish white balance settings in your camera, those settings are recorded in the metadata for your images. Those values, in turn, are used by various software to determine the initial values for the Temperature and Tint controls you can use to fine-tune your results when processing your captures.

In other words, if you use the “As Shot” option in Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, or other software for processing your captures, you will have established the same overall color balance as was set in the camera. You can then fine-tune from there to optimize the color in the image, in addition to applying various other adjustments.

I should add that there have been some exceptions with certain camera models over the years, with the white balance information being “hidden” in private metadata that software such as Lightroom couldn’t see. But that is somewhat rare, and I don’t know of any current camera models that have this limitation.

Correcting Keyword Errors


Today’s Question: Over the years I have entered keywords in Lightroom that were spelled wrong. For instance, I have both aloa and aloe. Is there a simple way to change the aloa to aloe?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In this particular situation you can’t simply edit the “wrong” keyword, because the keyword with the correct spelling already exists. Instead you need to filter the images to view those with the “wrong” keyword. Then add the keyword with the correct spelling, and delete the keyword with the spelling error from the Keyword List section on the right panel in the Library module.

More Detail: When you have a keyword that is spelled incorrectly, but you’ve never added the correct version of that keyword to any images, you can simply edit the incorrect keyword. To do so, right-click on that “wrong” keyword in the Keyword List section of the right panel in the Library module, and then choose “Edit Keyword Tag” from the popup menu. In the Edit Keyword Tag dialog enter the correct spelling and click Save to apply the change. The keyword will be updated for all images in your Lightroom catalog that had the keyword you’ve just edited.

In this case, however, Lightroom won’t let you edit the “aloa” keyword to “aloe” because you already have “aloe” as a keyword. Instead you’ll need to add the correct keyword to those images that have the “wrong” keyword, and then delete the keyword that has the spelling error altogether.

The first step is to add the correct version of the keyword to the images that have the incorrect spelling. To get started, go to the Keyword List section on the right panel in the Library module and click on the arrow icon that appears to the right of the incorrectly spelled keyword when you hover your mouse over that keyword. This will apply a filter so you are only looking at images with that keyword.

Next, select all of the current images (those with the misspelled keyword) by choosing Edit > Select All from the menu. Note that you can also select all of the current images by pressing Ctrl+A on Windows or Command+A on Macintosh. Then go to the Keywording section of the right panel, click in the field that shows “Click here to add keyword”, type the correct keyword, and press Enter/Return on the keyboard to apply the change.

Now that the images with the incorrectly spelled version of the keyword also have the correct version of the keyword, you can return to the Keyword List section of the right panel, right-click on the keyword with the spelling error, and choose Delete from the popup menu. Click “Delete” in the confirmation dialog that appears, and the keyword with the spelling error will be deleted from all images in your Lightroom catalog.

Capture Settings


Today’s Question: I’ve always assumed that shooting in RAW there was no camera sharpening being applied, but I wanted the JPEG thumbnail to reflect the RAW image as far as possible. Other camera settings (contrast, saturation, etc.) I do set to my taste. Are those capture parameters reflected in the RAW file in Lightroom or only in the resulting camera JPEG?

Tim’s Quick Answer: As a general rule, settings on your camera that cause your photos to be processed in some way (such as contrast, saturation, or sharpening) are not applied to RAW captures. However, those adjustments are applied to the JPEG preview that the camera embeds with the RAW capture. When you import the RAW capture into Adobe Lightroom or other third-party software, the in-camera adjustments will not be visible. That said, the adjustments may be available if you use the software from your camera manufacturer, with this option varying among different camera manufacturers.

More Detail: For most cameras, the only settings that affect a RAW capture are the lens aperture, the shutter speed, and the ISO setting. Some cameras also include special options that will affect a RAW capture, such as in-camera noise reduction and special processing to preserve highlight detail, for example.

In other words, the majority of settings in the camera won’t actually affect the RAW capture. Keep in mind that when you capture a RAW photo, the camera will generate a JPEG preview based on the RAW capture, and embed that preview with the RAW capture file. This JPEG preview is what you see on the camera’s LCD display, for example. This can be a little confusing, because what you see on the LCD display is not entirely reflected in the RAW capture itself.

If you are using the software from your camera manufacturer, you will generally have access to most (or all) of the in-camera settings. However, if you are using third-party software such as Adobe Lightroom, those changes will not be visible to you.

Many photographers like to add certain adjustments (such as contrast and saturation) on the camera, so they can get a better sense of what the final result might look like when reviewing their images on the camera’s display. Just keep in mind that when using software such as Lightroom, those settings won’t actually apply to your RAW captures, so you may have a little extra work to do to achieve the intended result for each image.