DNG Benefits?


Today’s Question: I am a wedding photographer and, along with my other photographers, sometimes take as many as 2000 pictures at a wedding. Of course, I upload these into Lightroom as soon as I get back to the studio (along with backing them up on two external hard drives). Downloading 2000 RAW picture into Lightroom takes a long time, but if I also convert them to DNGs, it takes a very long time. I realize that DNGs are smaller files and will save me space but is there any advantage or disadvantage to working with camera RAW images versus working on DNG images? I am tempted to just upload the camera RAW images and not convert them to DNGs to save time.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Personally, I would favor the use of the original RAW captures rather than converting to Adobe DNG, especially in a situation where you need to be able to work as quickly as possible.

More Detail: To be sure, as a general rule you can expect a RAW capture converted to an Adobe DNG file to have a file size that is around 20% smaller than the original RAW file. Your specific results may vary, but in general the DNG file will be smaller than the original RAW capture due to compression. And it should be noted that the compression used for those DNG images does not degrade image quality in any way.

It should be noted that there is not an issue with processing DNG versus RAW captures in the Develop module in Lightroom (or in Adobe Camera Raw). Overall image quality will be preserved with the conversion from a proprietary RAW capture to the Adobe DNG format.

Of course, as noted in today’s question, additional time is required to create a DNG image based on each original RAW capture, which adds additional time to your overall workflow. That additional time can be significant, especially when you are trying to hurry to get photos to clients.

There is another reason that I prefer to retain the original RAW captures rather than convert to DNG, related to how metadata is stored. I prefer to turn on the option on the Metadata tab in the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom to “Automatically write changes into XMP”. This causes key metadata values (such as star ratings and keywords) to be saved out to the original image file, or to an XMP “sidecar” file in the case of proprietary RAW captures.

Some photographers prefer to convert their RAW captures to the DNG file format for exactly this reason. They prefer not to have an XMP “sidecar” file for every RAW capture for which they’ve applied any standard metadata updates. With a DNG image, the metadata updates are added to the actual DNG file, without the need for a sidecar file.

My issue with this relates to my use of a synchronization-based backup solution. In short, each time I backup my photos I’m really just updating the existing backup based on which files have changed. In the case of a metadata update, the updated XMP file will be significantly smaller than the updated DNG file. So by not converting to DNG I’m also saving time with my backup workflow.

There are certainly some advantages to the Adobe DNG format as compared to proprietary RAW capture formats. But on balance my preference is to retain the original RAW captures, and to not convert my captures to DNG.

Missing Photos After Photoshop


Today’s Question: For reasons that are beyond me I find certain photos in Lightroom (often ones I have worked on in Photoshop and saved back to Lightroom) have been grayed out and I have no idea how to recover the file. Lightroom tells me the file is missing. Can you help?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I have found that the most common cause for missing photos in this specific scenario is that the “Save As” command was used in Photoshop. Instead, when you send a photo from Lightroom to Photoshop you want to only use the “Save” command, then close the image and return to Lightroom.

More Detail: The issue I describe here is clearly somewhat intermittent, and I’ve only been able to reproduce it a handful of times. However, I’ve seen enough photographers run into this that it is clear to me that it is an issue.

As a general rule, the most important step you can take to avoid having missing images in Lightroom is to make sure that all tasks you perform with your photos are initiated from within Lightroom. Whether you’re updating metadata, getting photos reorganized, optimizing the appearance of a photo, or anything else, that task should always start inside of Lightroom. Otherwise, the catalog will get confused as to the location of some of the photos being managed within the catalog.

As noted above, it is also important to make sure that when you send a photo from Lightroom to Photoshop (using the Edit In command found on the Photo menu), that you don’t use the Save As command within Photoshop. Instead, when you’re finished working in Photoshop, simply choose File > Save from the menu, followed by File > Close. This should ensure that the updated photo will always still be included within your Lightroom catalog, and will never appear to be “missing” from within that catalog.

Gamut Warning for Black and White


Today’s Question: For monochrome images ready to print, will any shade of gray ever be out of gamut? If not, do various rendering intent settings actually do anything at all, or will all produce the same print?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, the gamut warning won’t be useful for black and white prints, at least for any normal printer. Put simply, all shades of gray will be considered to be within the gamut of any normal printer.

More Detail: When it comes to producing a print, the overall color and tonal values in your print are essentially “mapped” based on the behavior of the current printer, ink, and paper combination. White in the image will be translated to the color of the paper (meaning no ink will be applied), and black in the image will be translated to the darkest value the printer is able to reproduce.

All of the shades of gray in between are therefore going to be within the capabilities of the printer, since they fall somewhere between black and white and don’t require any color. You will generally only find that colors fall out of gamut when they are very highly saturated, so that the color goes beyond the saturation level of the inks being used to produce the print.

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.