Blurry Preview

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Today’s Question: I usually send the image to Photoshop for a touch of midtone contrast and some minor clean up, then save, and close. When back in Lightroom in the Library module the image is slightly blurred, but when the same image is examined in the Develop module its crisp and sharp. What am I doing wrong?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You’re not doing anything wrong. The preview you see in the Library module is different from the preview you see in the Develop module, with the image in the Develop module being a true reflection of the actual image data.

More Detail: Over the last few versions of Lightroom the differences between the previews in the Library module compared to the Develop module have gotten more similar. For example, in earlier versions the effects of sharpening and noise reduction were not reflected in the preview you saw in the Library module.

While the previews presented in the Library versus Develop modules are much more similar in the latest versions of Lightroom, there are still some subtle differences based on how the previews are generated. In the Library module the preview is affected by settings in the Preferences dialog related to the size and quality of the preview. In the Develop module you are always seeing a full rendering of the image based on the original capture with all adjustments in the Develop module applied to the preview you see.

As a result, when performing a critical evaluation of the sharpness and overall image quality for a photo, it is best to perform that evaluation in the Develop module, ideally at a 100% zoom setting (1:1 view).

Photos without Folders

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Today’s Question: I have my pictures organized in one Pictures folder with many, many subfolders. I believe I may have many pictures that are not in a subfolder, just in the main Pictures folder. How can I do a sort or otherwise find pictures (in Lightroom) that are in the main folder but not in any subfolder? I want to move them into appropriate subfolders.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key here is to browse the top-level folder, and to turn off the option to view photos that are contained in sub-folders of the current folder. By doing so, you will be able to see only the images that are in that top-level folder, not in any sub-folders.

More Detail: The first step is to navigate to the top-level folder that you want to check for photos. In many cases, however, this folder may be hidden by Lightroom, because only the actual folders being managed by Lightroom are displayed on the list of folders. So, if the parent “Pictures” folder can’t be seen on the list of folders on the left panel in the Library module, you’ll need to enable the display of that parent folder.

To display the parent folder for the subfolders being displayed in the Folders list on the left panel, start by right-clicking on one of the folders that is contained within the parent folder you want to gain access to. Then choose “Show Parent Folder” from the popup menu. Later you can hide this folder again by right-clicking on the parent folder and choosing “Hide This Parent” from the popup menu.

With the parent folder displayed you can now click on that folder in the Folders list on the left panel to view images within the folder. However, you’ll also want to make sure you aren’t seeing images contained within subfolders of the currently selected folder. To view or change that option, click on the Library menu on the menu bar and look at the “Show Photos in Subfolders” item.

If there is a checkmark next to “Show Photos in Subfolder” that indicates that you are currently viewing not only images in the currently selected folder but also in any subfolders within that folder. In this case you want this option turned off, so you don’t want there to be a checkmark next to “Show Photos in Subfolders”. You can toggle the setting by simply choosing “Show Photos in Subfolders” from the Library menu.

Once you’ve navigated to the top-level folder you want to review, and have turned off the “Show Photos in Subfolders” setting, you’ll see only photos contained within the top-level folder. You can then drag-and-drop them to other folder locations using the list of Folders on the left panel.

Finding Missing Photos

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Today’s Question: Every so often I import photos into Lightroom before my second round of deletions. After deleting photos outside of Lightroom during that second round, I then end up with a bunch of missing photos in Lightroom. Is there any easy way to sort the photos in Lightroom so that I can remove the missing images from Lightroom all at one time? It doesn’t appear that I can use any of the filter options and it doesn’t appear that the sort options allow that possibility either.

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can actually find all missing photos (and videos) in your Lightroom catalog very easily by choosing Library > Find All Missing Photos from the menu. You can then review the missing photos and remove those that you had previously deleted from your hard drive.

More Detail: In general I recommend that photographers perform all image-management work within Lightroom, in part to avoid situations where photos are missing from your Lightroom catalog. That said, I also understand that some photographers prefer using software other than Lightroom for various tasks. The ability to find all missing photos in a Lightroom catalog enables you to clean up your Lightroom catalog if you do choose to delete photos outside of Lightroom.

It is important to keep in mind that when you filter your photos to see only those that are missing, it is possible that some of the missing photos are not images that had intentionally been deleted. This is a particular concern if you tend to perform various image-management tasks outside of Lightroom.

Therefore, I highly recommend reviewing the photos found with the “Find All Missing Photos” command to make sure they are all images you intentionally deleted.

When you choose the “Find All Missing Photos” command, a “Missing Photographs” item will be created in the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module in Lightroom, and that option will be selected automatically so you are viewing the photos that are missing. You can also navigate among various folders and collections, such as to confirm that your best photos from a given photo shoot remain in your catalog, and that you’ll only be deleting outtakes.

After reviewing the missing photos, if you would like to remove all of them from your Lightroom catalog (because you had previously deleted the actual image files) you can select the “Missing Photographs” item from the Catalog section of the left panel. Then choose Edit > Select All from the menu to select all of the missing photos. You can then remove all selected photos from your Lightroom catalog by pressing the Delete key on the keyboard or by choosing Photo > Remove Photos from the menu.

Because you are removing photos that have already been deleted, the confirmation dialog will only offer the option to Remove the photos or Cancel the removal, without the option to delete the photos from your hard drive.

Backup Recommendation

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Today’s Question: I’m using an iMac with OS X 10.9.5 installed. I’m using Time Machine and a second backup hard drive. The backup utility that came with it seems erratic and I don’t trust it. Can you recommend a utility? If I were using a PC I would simply use the Microsoft utility SyncToy.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I actually recommend synchronization software (similar to what is possible with the SyncToy utility from Microsoft) for backing up your photos and other important data. For this purpose I use GoodSync (http://www.goodsync.com/) as a great solution.

More Detail: My personal preference is to have a backup that is an exact copy of the original data. In other words, I prefer a “full” backup rather than an “incremental” backup. Put simply, if a hard drive fails I want to be able to connect a backup storage device and continue working without interruption, rather than having to go through an extended restore process. I wrote about this in more detail in the September 2014 issue of Pixology magazine (http://pixologymag.com/).

There are a variety of solutions available for a synchronization backup, but the best solution I’ve found recently is GoodSync (http://www.goodsync.com/). This software is available for both Windows and Macintosh, and allows you to perform a synchronization backup from one drive to another.

I use GoodSync to create an exact copy of my primary photos, my data storage drive, my video production drive, and all of the other (many!) drives I use in my work. By using a synchronization approach to backing up my photos and other data, not only can my backups be performed relatively quickly, but I also have a full copy of my original data that can be used quickly and seamlessly if I experience a hard drive failure. And considering I experience a failure of an external hard drive about once every two years or so, to me this is an important consideration.

Changing Aspect Ratio

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Today’s Question: Is there an easy way to change the aspect ratio of an existing image (Lightroom, Photoshop, etc.)? I have a client who needs the photos I took of his house in 4:3 format versus 16:9.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can crop many images at once in Lightroom to any specific aspect ratio using a crop preset in the Library module.

More Detail: For reasons I’m not aware of, you can’t create a preset in the Develop module in Lightroom that includes cropping. However, you can crop as part of the Quick Develop set of controls available on the right panel in the Library module.

If you want to apply the crop in an automated way to multiple images, the first step is to select the images you want to crop and then make sure you are viewing those photos in the grid view (not the loupe view). To switch to the grid view simply press the letter “G” on the keyboard.

With the images selected in the grid view, you can click the spinner control (the triangle) to the right of the Saved Preset popup to reveal the Crop Ratio popup. Click that popup and choose the desired aspect ratio. All of the selected images will be cropped based on that aspect ratio, with the vertical versus horizontal orientation respected for the crop.

It is important to keep in mind that when you crop multiple images in this way the crop will be centered on the photo. This won’t always create the best result for each image. Of course, you could always revisit the crop for each image by selecting the image you want to refine and choosing the Crop tool in the Develop module.

Locking an Adjustment

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Today’s Question: I always want Lens Correction applied to my photos, but sometimes when I edit a photo and don’t like the result, I zero it out using the “Zeroed” preset in Lightroom. This also removes the Lens Correction details. Is there a way to apply Lens Correction at Import and then “lock” it so that it stays on all the photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There isn’t a way to “lock” specific adjustments in Lightroom, but you can very easily create a new preset to replace the “Zeroed” preset. By excluding the Lens Corrections set of adjustments from the new preset, you’ll be able to reset everything except Lens Corrections by applying that preset to a photo.

More Detail: To create the new preset, you can use the existing “Zeroed” preset as a starting point. Start by selecting a “test” photo in Lightroom, meaning a photo that you don’t mind resetting back to the basic adjustments for purposes of creating the new preset. Then choose the “Zeroed” preset from the Presets section of the left panel in the Develop module to apply that preset to the photo.

At this point the Develop settings for the photo reflect the “Zeroed” state, including having the Lens Corrections adjustment disabled. However, you can create a new preset that resets the image with the exception of the Lens Corrections (or other) adjustments.

To create the new preset, click the “plus” icon to the right of the Presets heading on the left panel in the Develop module. In the New Develop Preset dialog you can enter a meaningful name for this new preset, such as “Reset Except Lens Corrections”. You can also choose which folder you want to store this preset in (or create a new folder) using the Folder popup.

Next, click the Check All button at the bottom-left of the New Develop Preset dialog to make sure that all adjustments are enabled for the new preset you’re creating. Then turn off the Lens Corrections checkbox, as well as the checkbox for any other adjustments you don’t want to reset when this new preset is employed.

With the settings established for your new preset, click the Create button at the bottom-right of the New Develop Preset dialog to actually create the preset.

In the future, when you want to reset all of the adjustments to their neutral values based on the “Zeroed” preset, but you want to exclude the Lens Corrections adjustment from that reset, simply choose the new preset you created rather than the “Zeroed” preset.

The key concept to understand here is that presets in the Lightroom Develop module can exclude certain adjustments. When you apply such a preset, only the settings included in the saved preset will actually affect the current image when you apply that preset. Any adjustments that were excluded from the preset will be left as they are.

Thus, with this approach, you can apply a preset that includes Lens Corrections during the Import process in Lightroom, and then use the “Reset Except Lens Corrections” preset described above to reset all adjustments except for the Lens Corrections adjustment.

High Pass Sharpening

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Today’s Question: A friend of mine who is much more experienced in Photoshop than me suggested that I use a High Pass filter to sharpen my images. Can you tell me what that is, how it works, and how I should or shouldn’t incorporate it into my workflow.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The High Pass filter enables an effect that is very similar to what you can achieve with the Clarity slider in Adobe Camera Raw (and Lightroom). It is similar in concept to sharpening, but provides more of a local contrast enhancement that reduces the appearance of haze (and increases perceived detail and sharpness). The technique can certainly be helpful, though I find that the Clarity adjustment often provides a simpler solution.

More Detail: I think one of the best ways to get a sense for the High Pass sharpening technique is to actually try it out on a variety of different images. The process is rather straightforward, and can be automated with an action in Photoshop if you feel you’ll be using this technique on a regular basis.

The first step is to create a copy of the Background image layer, which you can do by dragging the thumbnail for the Background layer on the Layers panel to the “Create a New Layer” button (the blank sheet of paper icon) at the bottom of the Layers panel.

Next, change the blend mode for the new Background Copy layer to Overlay, from the default value of Normal, using the popup at the top-left of the Layers panel. This will create an effect of relatively high contrast in the image, which will be mitigated with the next step.

Now choose Filter > Other > High Pass from the menu to bring up the High Pass filter dialog. The High Pass filter creates an effect similar to an embossed look for the photo, which combines with the Overlay blend mode to enhance local contrast in the image. Start with a value of 10 pixels for the Amount slider, and adjust based on the effect in the image. Note that at this stage the effect will still likely be a bit strong. With practice you’ll get a sense of what value will work best based on the contents and resolution of the photo you’re working with.

Finally, reduce the Opacity setting for the Background Copy layer using the control at the top-right of the Layers panel. This allows you to mitigate the overall strength of the effect for the photo.

There is no question that the use of the High Pass filter in this way can help improve the overall perceived level of detail and sharpness in a photo. Again, the result is very similar to what you could otherwise achieve with a positive value for the Clarity adjustment available in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom’s Develop module. That said, for situations where you want to enhance the detail in a photo without the risk of creating the “crunchy” look that can result from excessive sharpening, this High Pass technique can work very well.

Sharpen on Export?

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Today’s Question: When exporting a sharpened NEF or TIFF as a JPEG from Lightroom, should sharpening be applied to an already-sharpened master image, or should sharpening be turned off?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Under most circumstances you should apply “capture” sharpening to the original image (the RAW capture, for example) as well as “output” sharpening for the final image.

More Detail: In the context of Lightroom that means applying sharpening to the original capture in the Develop module to compensate for the loss of sharpness caused in the capture process, and sharpening when exporting to optimize the image that has likely been resized.

A variety of factors cause your original capture to be less than perfectly sharp. That includes the analog-to-digital conversion process, various filters on the front of the image sensor, a lens that is not optimally sharp, and other factors. This is the reason for “capture” sharpening, which is the reason for the sharpening controls in the Develop module in Lightroom.

In addition, you want to ensure the final image that will be shared is sharpened for the final output. For images that will be displayed on a monitor or digital projector (such as in a digital slideshow) the need for output sharpening will be relatively modest. For printing that output sharpening will need to be stronger.

In theory you could perform all of your sharpening in one step, but there are some advantages to taking a multi-step approach. In the context of Lightroom a key reason to perform sharpening in two steps is that the initial capture sharpening is being applied to the full-resolution image, while the output sharpening is being applied based on the final image that has been resized for the specific output you’re preparing for.

Moving Photos

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Today’s Question: I have been using Lightroom on my MacBook Air, which has very little storage. I would like to move all the photos to an external drive and delete them from the MacBook for more space. How can this be done?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My recommendation is to first make sure you have a full backup of the photos that are currently on your laptop, and then move the photos from the laptop to the external drive. To do so you can create a new “parent” folder on the external hard drive, select all folders on your internal drive that are being managed by Lightroom, and then drag-and-drop those folders to the new external drive.

More Detail: There are, of course, several approaches you could take to move your photos from one drive to another. My preference is to take an approach that ensures there is no risk of Lightroom losing track of your photos. Therefore, I prefer to move the photos from directly in Lightroom.

Again, the first step is to make sure all of your photos are already backed up to a separate hard drive, to ensure you have a way to recover your photos in case something goes wrong during the process of moving photos.

Once you have a backup for your photos, you can connect the external hard drive you want to use as the new location for your photos. This drive will not appear in Lightroom because no photos on the drive are currently being managed by Lightroom. However, you can create a new folder on the drive so that the drive will be shown in Lightroom. To do so click the “plus” icon to the right of the Folders header on the left panel in the Library module in Lightroom, and choose “Add Folder” from the popup menu.

In the dialog that appears, navigate to the hard drive you want to use for photo storage, and click the New Folder button at the bottom-left of the dialog. Type a name for a “master” folder to contain all of your photos, such as “Photos”, press Enter/Return to create the new folder, and click the Choose button to add that folder as an available location in the Folders section on the left panel.

At this point you can select all of the folders in the Folders section of the left panel. To do so, click on the first folder on the list and then hold the Shift key and click the last folder on the list. You can then point to any of the selected folders and drag-and-drop to move all folders to the new destination (the folder you created on the external drive). Note that Lightroom will ask you to confirm you want to actually move the photos on the hard drive.

Once the files have been moved, you will have all of your existing folders (and all of the photos within those folders) reflected in the folder structure on your external hard drive, under the new folder you created on that drive. If you prefer to see only the photos containing your photos and not the “parent” folder you created, you can right-click on the parent folder and choose “Hide This Parent” from the popup menu that appears. At any time you can reveal that parent folder again by right-clicking on any of the folders within that parent and choosing “Show Parent Folder” from the popup menu.

Adobe Bridge Needed?

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Today’s Question: As a photographer who currently uses the Lightroom Library module to manage my photo files and use Photoshop and Photoshop Elements as the only other Adobe software. As part of the Adobe CC Photographer package, I see that I am entitled to download and install Adobe Bridge. But since I’m not transferring any files to any other Adobe software, is there any advantage or reason for me to download and install it?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Not really. Some photographers find it easier in certain situations to launch Adobe Bridge (rather than Lightroom) when they want to quickly browse some of their photos. But I find it just as fast (and sometimes faster) to make use of Lightroom, and so I don’t feel any need to have Adobe Bridge installed.

More Detail: One of the advantages of using Lightroom to manage your photos is that you have a central catalog that speeds up the process of filtering images. In addition, if you have Standard (or 1:1) previews generated upon import for all of your photos, you can browse among various photos quickly in Lightroom.

Bridge, by comparison, is a browser without a central catalog (though it does make use of a cache, which provides a degree of benefit in terms of performance in certain situations). As a result, it can take longer in Adobe Bridge to browse among folders and especially to filter images within the folder, because for each folder you navigate to Bridge will need to analyze the images to determine which photos contain which specific metadata values.

There are some potential advantages to using Adobe Bridge if you work among a variety of different Adobe applications, such as InDesign for creating documents and Illustrator for creating illustrations. But if your workflow revolves around photos and you are using Lightroom to organize your photos, in my mind there is no reason to install Adobe Bridge.

If you do choose to make use of Adobe Bridge, I highly recommend that you avoid applying any metadata updates using Adobe Bridge, as that can lead to confusing mismatches of metadata values between Adobe Bridge and Lightroom (or more specifically, between the metadata in your photos and the metadata in your Lightroom catalog).