Photoshop Version when Printing


Today’s Question: Does allowing different Photoshop versions to control the printing with Epson printers produce different results?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In a general sense, no, different versions of Photoshop would not cause significant variations in the printed result. That said, there have been changes to the print engine in Photoshop over the years, which in particular have an impact on the specific settings available to you during the process of preparing a print.

More Detail: Photoshop has long supported established color management standards, which means each version enables you to employ a custom printer profile to produce an accurate print.

Of course, over the years there have been changes to the Print dialog as well as other features, causing changes to the specific workflow you need to use to produce an accurate print. Therefore, you need to pay attention to the specific settings being used when printing, to ensure you’re using the correct settings to produce the best print.

In addition, the settings available for the specific printer you’re using to produce the print can impact your workflow. For example, among different printer brands and even different printer models the dialog containing the printer settings is different, which can lead to confusion.

Whenever there is an update to the printer settings found in Photoshop, or there is a new configuration for the printer settings dialog, I invariably get a number of emails from photographers who are no longer getting accurate prints. The initial assumption is that the software update broke something. More often than not the actual issue is that the available settings (or default settings) changed with the software update, and configuring those settings correctly restores dependable printing.

So, while there have certainly some subtle changes over time in terms of how your image may be interpreted when printing, in general you will get consistent prints across various versions of Photoshop provided you are using the optimal print settings in each case.

Camera Raw from Lightroom


Today’s Question: When I right-click an image in Lightroom it does not give me the choice to open in Adobe Camera Raw, only to open in Photoshop CC. Can you give me a hint how to have the ability to open in Camera Raw from Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In terms of a “normal” workflow with Lightroom, you’re not able to send an image from Lightroom to Adobe Camera Raw. The primary reason for this is that the Develop module in Lightroom provides the same processing engine as Adobe Camera Raw, so when you send a photo from Lightroom to Photoshop there’s no need to put Adobe Camera Raw in the middle of that process.

More Detail: In other words, at least in concept there shouldn’t be any need to use Adobe Camera Raw if you have processed an image in the Develop module in Lightroom and then want to send the photo to Photoshop.

If you still want to employ Adobe Camera Raw in this type of situation, you do have a couple of workaround options available.

First, you could export the image from Lightroom using the “Original” option from the Image Format popup in the File Settings section of the Export dialog. You can then open that RAW capture in Photoshop, which will cause the Adobe Camera Raw dialog to appear.

Another option is to employ Adobe Camera Raw as a filter, so you can perform the same adjustments on an image that is currently open in Photoshop. In the case of sending a photo from Lightroom to Photoshop the image in question will no longer be a RAW capture (it will be a TIFF or Photoshop PSD file instead, based on your Preferences settings in Lightroom). However, you can still use Adobe Camera Raw on that image by employing the filter option.

In this type of situation if you wanted to use Adobe Camera Raw as a filter I would suggest first creating a copy of the Background image layer by dragging the thumbnail for that layer to the “Create a New Layer” button (the blank sheet of paper icon) at the bottom of the Layers panel. Note that you could also convert to a Smart Object if you prefer, using the Filter > Convert for Smart Filters from the menu.

You can then choose Filter > Camera Raw Filter from the menu to bring up the Adobe Camera Raw dialog. All of the same adjustments you would otherwise use for a RAW capture will be available for the current image, simply being applied as a filter within Photoshop rather than as tool for processing the RAW capture upon opening that image in Photoshop.

Finding Out of Gamut Colors


Today’s Question: One follow up [to yesterday’s question]: How would I know what colors are actually out of gamut? What colors are in and not in gamut?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key to determining which (or whether) colors are out of gamut for the intended print is to perform a “soft proofing” check. In Lightroom or Photoshop, for example, you can enable a soft proofing display along with an indication of which colors are out of gamut based on the printer, ink, and paper combination you intend to use to produce a print.

More Detail: In Lightroom the soft proofing feature is available in the Develop module. The reason this option is included in Develop rather than the Print module is that you have the option of applying custom adjustments to the image in an effort to compensate to the extent possible for the limitations of the intended print conditions.

After selecting the image you intend to print, you can go to the Develop module and turn on the “Soft Proofing” checkbox on the toolbar below the image preview area. This will open up a soft proofing section below the histogram display toward the top of the right panel. There you can set the appropriate printer profile for the paper you intend to print to, and also specify the desired rendering intent. I recommend turning on the “Simulate Paper & Ink” checkbox as well to get a better sense of what the overall print will look like.

At this point you are seeing a preview on your monitor of what the print will look like. To display the gamut warning, click (or hover your mouse over) the “Show Destination Gamut Warning” icon (the blank sheet of paper icon) at the top-right of the histogram display. This will present a red overlay on the image indicating any areas that contain colors the currently selected printer, ink, and paper combination is not capable of reproducing.

In Photoshop you can also enable a gamut warning display. Start by configuring the soft proofing display, which you can get started with by choosing View > Proof Setup > Custom from the menu. In the Customize Proof Condition dialog that appears, you can choose the applicable printer profile from the “Device to Simulate” popup. Then set the Rendering Intent based on your preference, and turn on the “Black Point Compensation” checkbox. I also recommend turning on the “Simulate Paper Color” and “Simulate Black Ink” checkboxes so the preview will more accurately reflect what you can expect to see in the final print.

Click OK to apply the settings for soft proofing, which will also cause the “Proof Colors” option to be enabled on the View menu. In other words, at this point you are seeing a preview of what the final print will look like. To enable the gamut warning, simply choose View > Gamut Warning from the menu. By default the overlay on the image indicating areas of the photo that are out of gamut will be gray, but you can change the color on the Transparency & Gamut page of the Preferences dialog in Photoshop.

The soft proofing display can be tremendously helpful for getting a better sense of what a given print will look like. It can also be used as part of your process for choosing which paper might make the most sense for a particular photo. The gamut warning can be helpful in advance of making a print, but it is also a useful troubleshooting tool when the print you produce doesn’t look as expected.

Rendering Intent


Today’s Question: I see from some of your videos on printing that you have “Relative” intent highlighted versus “Perceptual” on the Lightroom panel under color management. Do you use “Relative” all the time or is it based on what you’re printing?

Tim’s Quick Answer: As a general rule I us the “Relative” option when printing from Lightroom (or Photoshop), which is actually the “Relative Colorimetric” rendering intent. This is because of my preference regarding how out-of-gamut colors in my photos should be dealt with when printing.

More Detail: The reason I generally prefer to use the Relative Colorimetric rendering intent rather than Perceptual relates to how these individual rendering intents operate.

First, for those who are not familiar, a rendering intent determines how out of gamut colors are dealt with when printing an image. In other words, if the current printer, ink, and paper combination can’t reproduce a given color in the photo, what color should be printed instead?

With the Relative Colorimetric rendering intent, the colors that can be reproduced will be printed exactly as they appear in the image being printed. Colors that are out of gamut (those that can’t be reproduced) will be shifted to the closest reproducible color value. So, in-gamut colors print accurately, and out-of-gamut colors print as accurately as possible.

With the Perceptual rendering intent, if there are any out-of-gamut colors in the image then all colors will be shifted until they are all in-gamut. The advantage of this approach is that the relative relationships between colors are maintained, which can result in a more natural looking print in situations where there are a large number of colors that are somewhat significantly out of gamut. However, this can also result in a potentially significant reduction in overall saturation for the print, depending on how far the applicable colors fall out of gamut.

The primary reason I prefer the Relative Colorimetric rendering intent is that I prefer to keep as many of the colors in the image as accurate in the print as possible. The only time I will generally consider using the Perceptual rendering intent is when I know there are colors in the image that are extremely out of gamut.

For most of the images I print there don’t tend to be colors that are extremely out of gamut. So, I almost always use the Relative Colorimetric rendering intent, but I’m certainly not opposed to using the Perceptual rendering intent when it enables me to produce a better print.

Note, by the way, that soft proofing your image in Lightroom or Photoshop can help you make an informed decision about which rendering intent to use for a specific photo.

Exposure versus Brightness


Today’s Question: What is the difference between an exposure adjustment and a brightness adjustment?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The answer here depends on the software being used to apply the adjustment. In general an exposure adjustment applies a tonal adjustment with a value based on stops of light, while a brightness adjustment is based on a percentage. In addition, the specific algorithm used for each type of tonal adjustment will vary (sometimes significantly).

More Detail: First off, I think it is important to keep in mind that in general we have a lot of terms that refer to overall tonal levels in a photo. This includes exposure, brightness, tonality, lightness, and luminance, among other terms. In many respects the terms “exposure” and “brightness refer to the same thing. Both terms refer to overall tonal values (another word for the same basic thing). However, these terms are often used in different contexts, such as in the camera versus when adjusting the photo after the capture.

In general I would say that the term exposure is most often used to refer to the tonal levels in the camera at the time of capture. In turn, an exposure adjustment in post-processing software is generally aimed at mimicking what might be accomplished in the camera by adjusting the exposure. Thus, the Exposure slider (such as that in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw) will use a scale based on exposure value (EV), which is measured in stops of light.

A brightness adjustment also obviously adjusts the overall tonal values for an image, though with an adjustment typically measured as an overall percentage rather than exposure values.

Of course, behind the scenes there can also be significant differences between adjustments for tonality that have a different name. In many cases, for example, you may find that an exposure adjustment in post-processing applies an effect that is much more sophisticated than a simple linear increase or decrease in brightness values. With a linear adjustment you are affecting all tonal values in the image equally, while with a more sophisticated adjustment you may have a variable effect on different values, possibly even excluding certain tonal values from the adjustment altogether.

The challenge here is that each different software application might take a different approach to overall tonal adjustments with different names. The method used for each adjustment might even change with different versions of the software. For example, a handful of versions of Photoshop ago, the Brightness slider for the Brightness/Contrast adjustment changed from a linear adjustment to a more sophisticated adjustment that helped prevent clipping in the extreme tonal values.

What that really means is that there isn’t a universal definition for each of the terms that refer to tonality in the context of software used to adjust tonality in an image.

Seeing Dust Spots


Today’s Question: How do you show dust spots in Lightroom or Photoshop so you can correct it?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In Lightroom it is relatively easy to locate dust spots in your photos by using the “Visualize Spots” option associated with the Spot Removal tool. In Photoshop I generally use an exaggerated adjustment using Curves to help locate dust spots.

More Detail: The Visualize Spots option provides a tremendous advantage for locating dust spots in Lightroom. Once you have selected the Spot Removal tool, you’ll find the Visualize Spots checkbox on the toolbar below the preview image. If the toolbar isn’t present, simply press “T” on the keyboard to enable the toolbar.

With the Visualize Spots checkbox turned on, the image will change to a black and white preview, highlighting contrast edges within the photo. The slider to the right of the Visualize Spots allows you to adjust the threshold for that display. While I generally find that spots are easiest to see when the slider is all the way to the right, I highly recommend dragging the slider left and right through the full range for a more complete evaluation of the image.

Note that you can leave the Visualize Spots checkbox turned on while performing cleanup work on the image. However, you’ll want to be sure to turn off the Visualize Checkbox periodically to evaluate the results you’re achieving are blending in well with the surrounding areas of the photo.

In Photoshop there isn’t an equivalent to the Visualize Spots (although this option is available in Adobe Camera Raw). Therefore, when working in Photoshop I will use an exaggerated Curves adjustment to help find any dust spots present in the image. I’ll simply add a new Curves adjustment layer to be used for this purpose, and then drag the curve up and down for an extreme adjustment. This can help make dust spots easier to see.

As long as the image cleanup tool you’re using ignores the effect of adjustment layers, you can leave this Curves adjustment layer enabled while you perform your cleanup work. For example, the Spot Healing Brush tool this behavior is always active, so you can leave the Curves adjustment turned on without worrying about an impact on your cleanup work. For the Healing Brush and Clone Stamp tools there is a setting on the Options bar that will cause these tools to ignore the effect of adjustment layers. The button for this option is the same basic icon as the half-black and half-white circle icon for the button used to add an adjustment layer.

In addition to using these view options to help you locate dust spots in an image, it is also important to zoom in a little bit to make it easier to see the dust spots, and to review all areas of the photo. I recommend taking a somewhat methodical approach to that review, to make sure you locate all dust spots in the photo so you can remove those dust spots and ensure a “clean” image.

Focus and Zoom


Today’s Question: To achieve focus is zooming in on “Live View” and focusing better than zooming in with the lens itself to focus?

Tim’s Quick Answer: With most zoom lenses if you change the zoom setting you do not maintain focus. So if you zoom in to set focus, then zoom out again, the image would no longer be in focus. When zooming in using the Live View display rather than the lens itself, you don’t have to worry about this issue.

More Detail: There are some zoom lenses that will maintain focus when you zoom. Those lenses are referred to as being “parfocal”, but they are in the minority of zoom lenses. Note that in professional video production it is indeed a common practice to zoom in with the lens to establish focus, and then zoom out again. But that only works with zoom lenses designed to maintain focus when the zoom setting is changed.

If you know that one of the zoom lenses you are using is parfocal, you can certainly zoom in using the lens to establish focus. When in doubt it is best to leave the zoom setting on the lens fixed, and zoom in with the Live View display to establish manual focus (or to confirm accurate focus). And frankly, I would feel completely comfortable trusting that a lens that is parfocal will really perform such that there isn’t any change in focus when the zoom setting is changed, so to me Live View is always the best approach.

It is worth noting that the Live View display will also generally enable an exposure simulation, so that even when the scene is relatively dark you’ll be able to see a reasonable (though possibly noisy) preview on the camera’s LCD display. And keep in mind that if you enable the depth of field preview on your camera (if so equipped), the combination of that depth of field preview and the exposure preview can be tremendously helpful for evaluating your overall camera settings.

Print Adjustment for Shadows


Today’s Question: Do I understand it correctly that you’d move the Levels adjustment slider from 0 to 15 in your Print Target example before pressing “Print” [to compensate for a lack of shadow detail in the print]?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, if testing has demonstrated that my prints are not rendering full shadow detail all the way down to a full black value, I would apply an adjustment using Levels before printing my photos. It is important to note that this would relate to the “Output Levels” adjustment, not the black point adjustment found directly below the histogram in the Levels dialog.

More Detail: The issue here is that in many cases a print will not reflect the full level of shadow detail as actually exists in the image file. Instead, that shadow gets “blocked up”, similar to the way shadow detail gets clipped in an exposure that is too dark. You can compensate for this issue by essentially brightening the value of black, causing all neighboring tonal values to be brightened up accordingly.

The key is to determine the optimal adjustment to apply. This can be done using a print target image that contains a series of dark shades toward black (and a series of bright shades toward white). You can print the test image using your normal printing workflow, and then evaluate the results under a very bright light source.

When you determine which tonal value is the first where you can see a visible difference between the two values, the darker of those two represents your target black point for the print. So in Photoshop you can apply a Levels adjustment just before printing, setting the Output Levels value for black to the value you determined from the test print.

In Lightroom you could use the Tone Curve to apply the same basic adjustment. Be sure you are in the Point Curve mode for the Tone Curve adjustment, rather than the Parametric option. In other words, make sure you don’t see the sliders for Highlights, Lights, Darks, and Shadows below the curve, clicking the button at the bottom-right of the Tone Curve section if you need to switch modes. Then drag the black end point of the curve (the bottom-left end of the diagonal line) upward. The adjustment value will be shown as a percentage in the top-left of the curve area while you are dragging, so you’ll need to convert the tonal level value to a percentage by dividing the value by 256 first.

You can obtain a print target image I use for evaluating black and white levels in my prints by following this link:

iPhone Download


Today’s Question: In a recent Ask Tim Grey you said you used Image Capture to transfer images from your iPhone to Lightroom. My question: what is the procedure you use to accomplish this transfer?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My approach is to first download photos from my iPhone to a folder on my computer. When the download is complete, and before I use the option to delete all photos from the phone, I import the downloaded photos into Lightroom using the Copy option in the Import dialog to copy the images to my normal storage location. At that point I delete all of the photos from the iPhone.

More Detail: Admittedly, this workflow is a bit complicated. The key issue is that I want to treat my iPhone as a “regular” camera. The problem is that the iPhone doesn’t include an easy way to delete all images from the phone, unlike a camera that includes the ability to format the digital media card. I would love it if Adobe added a “Delete After Import” option so I could simply use the Import feature, but since the vast majority of cameras include a format feature, this isn’t exactly a high priority feature for Adobe to work on.

The lack of an easy “delete all photos” feature for the iPhone has caused me to create a workaround workflow. I start by downloading the photos from my iPhone to what is essentially a temporary folder on my desktop. I use the Image Capture application included with the Macintosh operating system, in large part because Adobe Bridge for Macintosh has recently had some issues with the iPhone. Windows users can still use the Photo Downloader feature in Adobe Bridge, or use the “Import Pictures and Videos” feature. Both of these options for Windows users include an option to delete all photos from the iPhone after the photos have been successfully copied.

Once the download of my photos is complete, I will import the new photos into Lightroom. I use the Copy option in the Import dialog to copy all of the photos to a new folder in my normal storage location for photos. In theory I could download the photos to my primary storage location for photos right from the start. However, my preference is to take this more structured approach, in part to help make sure I never forget to import the new photos into Lightroom. The folder of photos on my desktop helps remind me to import the photos, and then serves as a backup copy of the images as well.

After the photos have been imported into Lightroom, I will erase the images from my iPhone. My approach is to keep the iPhone connected to the computer when the download is complete, and to import the photos into Lightroom before deleting photos from the phone, so I retain a backup copy at all times.

And of course, I will then perform a backup of my primary photos storage location, so I have yet another copy of my latest captures, before deleting the “temporary” download folder on my desktop.

Fireworks Photography


Today’s Question: With the Independence Day holiday approaching [in the US], could you provide some tips for photographing fireworks?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In my mind the most important consideration for great fireworks photography is the composition. Try to find a position where you can have something interesting in the foreground. That and proper exposure are the most important factors to keep in mind.

More Detail: To be sure, a “simple” fireworks photo that only includes the burst of fireworks in a nearly black sky can be interesting. But to me it is much more interesting to create a composition with a strong foreground subject. That could be an interesting architectural element such as a bridge or city skyline, or simply people in the foreground enjoying the show, for example.

Obviously you’ll need to ensure a proper exposure, but frankly this is generally somewhat straightforward with firework photography. I recommend that you start with the minimum ISO setting for your camera, a lens aperture of about f/8, and an exposure of around 5 to 10 seconds. Evaluate your initial results, and adjust your exposure settings from there.

Naturally a long exposure will produce streaks of light in your photos from the fireworks display. In addition, it will provide the potential for multiple bursts within the same exposure, creating a more dramatic result.

I often hear the advice to set the focus at infinity. However, that has the potential to result in a scene that is not in crisp focus. Even with a wide-angle lens, sometimes setting the focus at infinity may cause the overall scene (or at least the foreground) to be out of focus. Try using the live view display and zooming in on a foreground element to establish focus manually. It will likely be challenging under dark conditions, but it will help ensure the best photos.

Most of all have fun and try to think creatively. The more you can do to make your fireworks photos stand out from all the rest, the more interesting those photos will be.