Sharpening Steps


Today’s Question: I am one of those who apply sharpening after resizing at the end of the editing process. As I have read lately, sharpening is a process (as opposed to one-time pass). Would you please write about your experience in this respect?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key advantage of a multiple pass sharpening workflow is that you are first compensating for slight softness in the original capture, and then compensating for the final output. The second step is especially important for images that will be printed, and that sharpening should be applied based on the final output size. But rest assured that it is also possible to get excellent results with a single application of sharpening based on the final output size for the image.

More Detail: When you apply sharpening in more than one pass, you are able to focus each stage of sharpening based on specific goals. As noted above, the first stage of sharpening would be applied to the original image at the original pixel dimensions. This sharpening is intended to compensate for the various factors that reduce sharpness in the original capture.

For example, if your camera includes an anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor (which most cameras do include) then the image will be slightly softened. Sharpening to compensate for the various factors that impact the sharpness of the original capture would be a very modest application of sharpening.

Some photographers also like to apply a “creative” application of sharpening as a second step of their workflow. This application of sharpening would also be applied at the full resolution of the image, and is aimed at drawing out detail or adding a creative effect to the photo. I think it would be perfectly fair, for example, to think of the Clarity adjustment available in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw as a type of creative sharpening effect.

Finally, you want to apply sharpening to compensate for the final output. The best example here would be preparing a photo to be printed. When the ink in a photo inkjet printer comes in contact with the paper, for example, that ink will spread out to some extent. This issue is generally referred to as “dot gain”, and it is especially significant with uncoated matte papers.

Sharpening to prepare an image to be printed or otherwise shared should be applied based on the final output size of the image. This stage of sharpening may need to be applied at a strength that makes the image appear to be over-sharpened, in order to adequately compensate for issues in the final print. Images shared online would need much less sharpening than an image being printed.

It is possible to achieve excellent results for a photo by using a single application of sharpening at the final stage of preparing the image to be shared. That said, you can achieve some benefits in terms of overall sharpness and detail in a photo by focusing specific sharpening stages on specific goals related to optimizing the appearance of a photo.

Flecks on Prints


Today’s Question: We are experiencing some small issues of flecking on our large prints. I have made sure that the head and print areas are clean, covered the printer and used an anti-static draftsman brush before printing. Still white flecks.

So I guess my question is what do you recommend for spotting luster and matte inkjet papers? I am a veteran of the Spotone days (I know they are gone).

Tim’s Quick Answer: Actually, it sounds like your issue may relate to debris on the paper rather than within the printer. I recommend using an air blower or high-quality brush designed for this type of use to remove all debris from the paper before printing.

More Detail: From your description it sounds like debris (such as remnants from the paper cutting) are preventing ink from reaching the paper in certain areas, revealing a tiny white spot when the debris falls away from the paper.

You may have noticed white “dust” inside your boxes of photo inkjet paper, especially along the edges where the sheets were cut. That “dust” and other small debris can get onto the surface of the paper. The result is that where that debris sits on the paper during printing, the ink sprayed by the printer will get onto the debris rather than the paper surface.

When the debris falls off of the surface of the print, the white area where the ink wasn’t able to reach is revealed.

Fortunately, I’ve found that a quick spray with an air blower, or a quick brush with a camel hair (or similar) brush does a great job of removing most (or hopefully all) of the debris, preventing the “flecks” you’re referring to.

I should hasten to add that the days of “spotone” aren’t really over. You can still touch up a print using products such as those from SpotPen. For example, a set of colored pens can be found here:

Collections and Editing


Today’s Question: My questions have to do with editing a photo I have put into a collection in Lightroom. When I edit a photo in my collections does it change it in the folder where it lives as well? I have purchased the MacPhun software collections and have been re-editing my photos from my collections since that is usually where my favorite photos are. Once I edit the photo in the collection it creates another photo a places it beside the already edited version, if I like the edit better than the first edit done in Lightroom then I delete the edited Lightroom photo in the collection. I then started to wonder whether I am starting to create a mess of my photo cataloging?

Tim’s Quick Answer: A photo in a collection in Lightroom is (by default) a reference to the original photo in a folder. Thus, if you make changes to a photo in a collection, those changes will also be reflected in the original photo in Lightroom. However, there are some nuances here that can be important to understand.

More Detail: To begin with, it is possible to create a virtual copy when adding a photo to a collection. As noted above, by default a photo added to a collection is simply a reference to the “original” photo found in a particular folder. Thus, changes you make to the “copy” of the photo in the collection will be reflected in the original photo in the source folder.

However, if you use the option to create a virtual copy of a photo when adding that photo to a collection, then this behavior changes. In this case the changes applied to the virtual copy version of the photo would not be reflected in the original. But again, as long as you don’t create a virtual copy, this isn’t a concern.

There is some similar variability related to removing photos from a collection that you’ll want to be aware of. If you have added a photo to a collection without creating a virtual copy, then “deleting” the photo from the collection is simply removing that reference within the collection. The source photo would not be affected.

However, if you created a virtual copy when adding a photo to a collection, the adjustments you applied in the Develop module would only apply to the virtual copy. Thus, if you remove the virtual copy from the collection, you would lose that version of the image in terms of the adjustments applied. But again, you would not lose the source photo from the applicable folder.

When you use a plug-in to work with a photo, a new version of the image is created as a separate file (generally a TIFF image). With the workflow described in the question, a derivative image (presumably a TIFF file) is created from the photo contained within the collection. If you’re happy with the results for this derivative image, you could certainly delete the photo from the collection, assuming it is not a virtual copy. In other words, just as outlined above, the version of the image in the collection would be a reference to the original, and deleting that reference is really just removing the reference from the collection. The source photo will still be contained in the applicable folder.

So, if you have not created a virtual copy of a photo, then removing a photo from a collection will not harm the original photo. And furthermore, removing that reference from a collection will not affect the new file you created when sending a photo to a plug-in from Lightroom.

Lightroom on a Laptop


Today’s Question: My work takes me on the road for 40 weeks a year. I would really like to sell my iMac [desktop computer] and connect a large Apple display to my MacBook Pro [laptop computer]. Would it be advisable to run my master Lightroom catalog on my MacBook Pro using the 2TB solid-state drive?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I can tell you from personal experience that you absolutely run Lightroom very effectively on a well-configured laptop computer. In fact, because I similarly am traveling much of the year, my MacBook Pro has become my primary computer for all purposes, including running Lightroom to manage my catalog of over 300,000 photos.

More Detail: There are, of course, some advantages and disadvantages of using a laptop computer compared to a desktop computer, especially when it comes to image management.

One of the key potential advantages of a desktop computer is that you are generally able to configure a desktop with better performance specifications compared to a laptop computer. It is often possible to employ faster processors (or more processor cores) as well as more memory (RAM) on a desktop computer. You will also often be able to make use of more video memory (VRAM) and a faster graphics processor unit (GPU) on a desktop computer.

So, in general it is possible to achieve greater performance with a desktop computer compared to a laptop computer. However, I have found that a well-configured laptop computer can provide excellent performance for Lightroom and other critical tasks.

In addition, a laptop provides some advantages in terms of portability. Obviously there is the direct advantage of being able to move your computer from place to place. But perhaps more importantly, by having your Lightroom catalog on a laptop computer that you travel with, you’ll avoid the challenges associated with trying to manage multiple catalogs. In addition, you’ll avoid the perhaps greater challenge associated with attempting to transfer key files (such as your Lightroom catalog) between multiple computers when you depart for or return from a trip.

In other words, using a laptop computer as your primary (or only) computer can be a tremendous benefit if you travel frequently. Rather than keeping track of which files are on which computer, or trying to make sure you are always working on the latest version of a file, you simply bring your laptop with you when you travel and use the same laptop when you are at home. The result can be a much more streamlined workflow compared to other approaches you might take involving multiple computers.

Panel Thumbnail Size


Today’s Question: Is there a way to increase the size of the thumbnails for the layers of my images on the Layers panel in Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes! You can adjust the thumbnail size for the Layers panel as well as the Channels panel by choosing “Panel Options” from the panel popup menu found at the top-right corner of either of these panels. Then choose the desired thumbnail size and click OK to close the dialog and apply the change.

More Detail: It can be very helpful at times to have a large thumbnail for each of your layers on the Layers panel in Photoshop. Of course, at other times it can also be helpful to have smaller thumbnails, or even no thumbnails at all, such as when you are working on a document with a particularly large number of layers.

Fortunately, several options are available, ranging from “None” for no thumbnails, all the way through “small”, “medium”, and “large” sizes for the thumbnails. Note that each of the sizes is represented by a graphical icon rather than by any text. But you can choose one of the sizes in the applicable “Panel Options” dialog and click OK to apply the change. And, of course, you can switch back and forth between the different sizes for the thumbnails based on what is most helpful for your current task.

Rename in Bridge?


Today’s Question: [As a follow-up to the questions recently about renaming photos in Lightroom:] Adobe Bridge has more robust renaming capabilities than Lightroom. Is there a way to use Adobe Bridge to rename photos without breaking the Lightroom catalog?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, you cannot use Adobe Bridge to rename photos that are being managed in Lightroom. Doing so would cause the file names on your hard drive to be changed, but those changes would not be reflected in Lightroom. As a result, the photos you rename outside of Lightroom would appear as “missing” photos within Lightroom.

More Detail: Both Lightroom and Adobe Bridge employ what is essentially a template-based method of renaming photos. Both offer most of the same features, but there are a few additional options available in Adobe Bridge that are not available in Lightroom. For example, the Batch Rename feature in Adobe Bridge allows you to use a “String Substitution” option where you can essentially “search and replace” text within existing file names.

However, as noted above, if you are using Lightroom to manage your photos, you cannot use Adobe Bridge or any software tool outside of Lightroom to rename your photos. In essence, once you’re using Lightroom to manage your photos, all tasks that relate to your photos should be initiated within Lightroom. That is especially important as it relates to image-management tasks.

Rename One Photo


Today’s Question: If one were not interested in developing a methodical template-based renaming system, why not just simply add the desired text in the File Name box in the Metadata section of the Library module?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The only reason I prefer to use the template-based renaming feature in Lightroom is that it provides a consistent workflow regardless of whether you want to rename a single image or multiple images. But if you want to rename a single image without using the template-based approach, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that as long as you rename that image from within Lightroom.

More Detail: This question was a follow-up to a question last week about appending text to the file name of a photo in Lightroom. I provided a workflow for creating a template that can be used with the “Rename Photos” command. With this approach, you would be using the same workflow regardless of whether you wanted to append text to the file name for one photo or multiple selected photos.

It is possible to rename a single photo by simply changing the text in the “File Name” field of the Metadata section of the right panel in the Library module in Lightroom. If you don’t see the “File Name” field near the top of the Metadata section, choose “Default” from the popup to the left of the Metadata header and you’ll see that field.

If you click the mouse into the File Name field, you can update the actual file name and the change will be reflected on your hard drive as well as within Lightroom. Simply press Enter/Return on the keyboard once you’ve typed the updates to the file name, and the change will be applied.

Tablet Recommendation


Today’s Question: Do use a Wacom tablet or similar device?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, I use a Wacom Intuos Pro, and consider this to be a powerful tool for photographers to use when optimizing their photos. I prefer the medium size Intuos Pro, which you can learn more about here:

More Detail: The way I generally describe the advantages of a tablet compared to a mouse is to imagine signing your name with a mouse on your computer versus using a pen. A tablet such as the Wacom Intuos provides the same basic experience as a pen, which can greatly improve the accuracy and precision of your work.

In the context of optimizing photos, I generally find a tablet most helpful when applying targeted adjustments or creating composite images. So, for example, I find a table tremendously helpful for painting to define the area to be affected by a targeted adjustment, to draw selections to be used as the basis of a layer mask in Photoshop, to dodge and burn with various techniques depending on the software being used, and more.

Some photographers find they prefer to use a tablet as a complete replacement for their mouse, using the stylus to select items from the menu and to click buttons, for example. Personally, I prefer to use a mouse for more of what I consider the “normal” computer tasks, using the stylus only when I am performing a task that I feel benefits from the use of a stylus on a tablet rather than the use of a mouse.

It is worth pointing out that it can take a little bit of time to get completely comfortable using a stylus and tablet in place of a mouse. Some photographers transition very quickly, feeling comfortable with the stylus after just minutes or perhaps hours. Some photographers find that it takes a few days to get completely comfortable with the use of a stylus.

I do feel that for most photographers it is worthwhile to work with a stylus, because of the precision it provides for certain tasks. Keep in mind that it does take some time to get comfortable with the stylus. I usually find, however, that if a photographer takes the time to get comfortable using a stylus, they quickly decide that a stylus is a critical component in their image-optimization workflow.

Crop on Resize?


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


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.