Cleaning Up Halftone Images


Today’s Question: I am recovering old photos from family history. I have discovered a good one, but it is a newspaper clipping. Therefore, it is made up from dots, like a Roy Lichtenstein painting. It is a great image, remarkably sharp and worth working on. Can you give guidance on how to bring this back to a normal photo eliminating the dots in Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Photos printed in a newspaper are produced with a halftone printing process, which creates a pattern of circles in the image that can be problematic. You can help minimize this halftone pattern by applying a blur to the image and then sharpening the image. Image cleanup techniques can then help remove remaining artifacts.

More Detail: The first step in cleaning up the halftone pattern in an image is to blur the image to blend the halftone dot pattern. In Photoshop you can use the Unsharp Mask filter for this purpose. Choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur from the menu. You will likely need to use a relatively high value for Radius, though this will depend on the size of the halftone pattern. Set the value for Radius just high enough to blend the halftone dot pattern in the image.

You can then sharpen the blurred image to enhance edge contrast. Choose Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. You’ll need to use a relatively high setting for Radius in most cases, compared to what you would normally use when sharpening a photographic image. Depending on the resolution of the image you’ll probably need a Radius setting of at least 5 and possibly higher. Adjust the value for Amount as needed to achieve improved edge contrast. You can also increase the value for Threshold if needed to prevent relatively smooth areas from being sharpened.

The key with this technique is to carefully balance the blurring and the sharpening. In some cases you’ll need to get very aggressive with both the blurring and the sharpening to get a good result. I recommend testing the process multiple times on the same image to get a sense of what is possible in terms of balancing the blurring and sharpening.

Once you’ve blurred and sharpened the image you can use normal cleanup techniques to deal with any remaining artifacts from the halftone printing. You may find the Dust & Scratches filter helpful for cleaning up a large number of small blemishes, which can be found on the Filter > Noise menu.

Moving from Lightroom Cloud to Classic


Today’s Question: I need to move my photos along with edits, metadata, etc. from Lightroom mobile to Lightroom Classic. I need to avoid the sync process if possible because my Internet is extremely slow and I have over 9000 photos to move. What is the best, most efficient way to do this?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Synchronization may be your best option if you want to retain as many of the updates you have applied to your photos as possible (though keywords will be excluded). You could also export your photos from the cloud-based version of Lightroom to get them available locally, which would preserve most (but not all) updates. However, exporting may also require the photos to be downloaded via the internet.

More Detail: The cloud-based version of Lightroom uses online storage as the primary storage location for photos. Photos are not necessarily available locally at all times, as they may be removed from local storage based on available storage space. When you need to access a photo that is only stored remotely, that photo will be downloaded as needed.

Of course, all this synchronization requires an internet connection, and ideally a relatively fast internet connection. This is one of the reasons I do not consider the cloud-based version of Lightroom to be a good fit for my workflow and prefer instead to use Lightroom Classic.

If you want to preserve as much metadata as possible, you’ll need to synchronize to Lightroom Classic. Unfortunately, this doesn’t preserve all albums the way they were organized in the cloud-based version of Lightroom and keywords won’t be included. If you open Lightroom Classic and enable synchronization using the button with the cloud icon at the top-right of the interface, the photos from the cloud-based version of Lightroom will start to synchronize. When that process is completed you will find them in the “All Synced Photographs” collection in the Catalog section at the top of the left panel in the Library module in Lightroom Classic.

Once all the photos have synchronized to your Lightroom Classic catalog, you can of course manage those photos in any way you’d like, including defining a new folder structure. Note that with the cloud-based version of Lightroom there isn’t an inherent folder structure, as albums (collections) are used in the place of folders. Also, the albums you’ve created in the cloud-based version of Lightroom will be included as collections in a “From Lightroom” collection set in the Collections section of the left panel in the Library module in Lightroom Classic. The actual image files will be located in a folder structure based on the setting established on the “Lightroom Sync” tab of the Preferences dialog.

Another option would be to export all photos from the cloud-based version of Lightroom. I recommend doing this via the Lightroom desktop application rather than the mobile app. Within Lightroom you can go to the All Photos collection, select all photos, and click the share button (the rectangle with the arrow pointing out of the top) at the top-right of the interface. From the popup choose “Original”, and follow the prompts to export copies of your photos with most metadata included.

Note that if the photos are currently stored in the cloud this export process will require that the photos be downloaded for export, which obviously makes use of the same internet connection you would otherwise need to use the synchronization feature in Lightroom Classic.

Needless to say, there isn’t an easy and simple way to transition directly from Lightroom cloud to Lightroom Classic. This issue only amplifies the reasons I do not use the cloud-based version of Lightroom in my workflow, preferring Lightroom Classic with local storage management for my photos.

Unable to Perform Second Import


Today’s Question: I’m using a USB hub that includes a card reader to download photos when importing them into Lightroom Classic. This works great for the first import, but when I then insert another card into the reader the card is not found. How can I import from the second (or third) card without having to restart my computer?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When you eject a card from a card reader the reader itself is disconnected as a device. That means you’ll generally need to physically disconnect and reconnect the card reader in order to download images from another card, which for a card reader that is part of a USB hub means you’ll need to disconnect and reconnect the hub itself.

More Detail: When you need to remove a media card from a card reader or disconnect a storage device from the computer, it is best to always use the option in your operating system to safely remove the device. In Lightroom Classic when you import from a removable device you can turn on the “Eject after import” checkbox to have the device automatically disconnected without having to go through the operating system, so you can simply disconnect the device after the import has completed.

When a card reader is the device that is disconnected, in many cases it will be the reader itself that has been disconnected, rather than just the media card that was inserted into the card reader. You’ll therefore need to physically unplug the card reader and then plug it in again when you want to import photos from another card.

If the card reader is part of a USB hub device, that means you’ll generally need to unplug the USB hub since you can’t simply unplug the reader that is built into that hub. This can add an additional challenge, since you may have an external hard drive connected to the USB hub. If so, you would need to safely remove any other storage devices before unplugging the USB hub, so you can then plug the hub back in to gain access to all connected accessories, including the media card reader.

Strong Color Cast Removal


Today’s Question: I remember some time ago seeing you demonstrate a technique for quickly removing a strong color cast from an old family photo using Photoshop. I now have some images that could use this correction, but I can’t find any information about it. Could you refresh my memory of the technique?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes! The technique you’re referring to involves using an inverted version of the image with the Average blur filter applied, combined with the Color blend mode and a reduced Opacity setting.

More Detail: I’ve often found that especially with faded old family photos, it can be very difficult to get good color using normal adjustment techniques. Fortunately, a quick technique can provide an excellent solution to balance the color for images with a very strong color cast.

Open the image in Photoshop, and create a copy of the Background image layer by dragging the thumbnail for that layer to the “Create a New Layer” button (the plus in a square icon) at the bottom of the Layers panel.

Next, choose Filter > Blur > Average from the menu, which will apply a blur to the Background Copy layer that is so strong that all pixels will have the value of the average color of all pixels. In other words, this layer will now represent the color cast for the image.

We want the opposite of the color cast in order to compensate for that color cast, so from the menu choose Image > Adjustments > Invert.

On the Layers panel click the popup at the top-left that shows a value of “Normal” by default, and choose “Color” from the popup. This is the blend mode, which affects how the pixels on the current layer interact with the layers below. In this case that will cause the underlying image to have a stronger color cast than it started with, but of the opposite color.

The final step is to reduce the strength of the correction. To do so reduce the value for the Opacity control at the top-right of the Layers panel. A value of around 50% should work well, though the optimal value will vary based on the original image. Note, by the way, that in many cases you will want to increase the saturation of the image, and of course possibly apply other adjustments to fine-tune the overall result.

Filtering by Keyword in a Folder


Today’s Question: I realize you can filter photos based on a particular keyword on the Keyword List in Lightroom Classic. But is there a way to see a list of only keywords that have been applied to images in a specific folder, so I can then filter just those images based on keyword?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can most certainly filter based on a list of keywords for photos in the current folder or collection using the Metadata tab of the Library Filter bar in the Library module.

More Detail: On the Keyword List on the right panel in the Library module in Lightroom Classic you can click on the arrow that appears to the right of a keyword when you hover your mouse over that keyword to filter your entire catalog of photos so that only those with the selected keyword are displayed. However, this is a filter based on your entire catalog, which may not always be the approach you want to use for your image search.

To filter within a selected folder or collection based on keywords, and to actually see a list of only the keywords assigned to images within that location, you can use the Metadata tab of the Library Filter bar. First, of course, you’ll want to navigate to the folder or collection you want to search in.

If the Library Filter bar is not displayed above the grid view in the Library module you can press the backslash key (\) to display that filter bar. You can also select View > Show Filter Bar from the menu.

On the Library Filter bar choose the Metadata tab. You can then use metadata criteria from several columns to define your search. In this case, for example, you could click the heading for the far-left column on the Metadata tab and choose Keyword from the popup list.

At this point that Keyword column will list only the keywords that are actually applied to the photos in the current folder or collection. You can click on any of the keywords on that list to filter photos so that only those with the selected keyword applied are displayed.

Keep in mind that you can also mix-and-match various metadata values to filter by, including using multiple options from the Text, Attribute, and Metadata tabs of the Library Filter bar. You can also select multiple items from a list within the Metadata tab. For example, you can click on the first item you want to select and then hold the Shift key on the keyboard while clicking the last item you want to select and all values in between will also be selected. You can also hold the Ctrl key on Windows or the Command key on Macintosh while clicking on a value to toggle the selection on or off for that value.

Dynamic Range and the Zone System


Today’s Question: We hear about cameras having a dynamic range of 14-15 stops. Ansel Adams’ zone system was 1-10, I assume a form of dynamic range. I wonder how and where the elongation of the classic zone system has taken place? Also, how is the range determined?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Dynamic range has improved as a function of advancements in image sensor technology, with many cameras now offering greater dynamic than was possible with film photography. Note, however, that the zone system doesn’t truly relate to a specific dynamic range, but is rather more of a concept related to tonal distribution in an image.

More Detail: In the context of photography dynamic range is a measure of the range between the brightest and darkest values. For a digital capture the dynamic range indicates the number of stops of light between the darkest value and the brightest value that can be recorded in a single exposure.

We often think of the brightest value in a photo as being white and the darkest value as being black, but in reality it isn’t quite so simple. Think of the difference between “white” for an image that includes bright white clouds in the sky compared to a photo that includes the sun in the frame, which would be considerably brighter.

With film photography we were able to capture a range of around five stops with slide film and around eight stops with negative film. Today’s digital cameras are often capable of capturing a range of about ten stops, with the top cameras reporting a dynamic range of around fourteen stops.

There are a variety of factors that impact dynamic range capabilities for an image sensor, including the size of the individual photodiodes, microlens arrays used to focus more light at each pixel site, improved amplification technology that minimizes noise, and more. And, of course, you can create a photo that represents a greater dynamic range than a camera can record in a single photo by bracketing exposures and assembling them into a high dynamic range (HDR) image.

The zone system typically covers a range of eleven shades ranging from pure black (zone 0) to pure white (zone 10). I think it is fair to say that the emphasis of the zone was the photographic print, where zone 10 for example related to paper white. So, this isn’t a true measure of dynamic range in the context of variable photographic conditions, but rather how a scene was interpreted in the final print. Also, it is worth noting that even treating zone 10 as paper white is a little misleading, considering different papers will have a different effective brightness or whiteness value.

Because the zone system is something of an abstract concept rather than something directly tied to specific luminance values in the real world, the concepts related to the zone system can be applied to digital photography even though digital cameras have exceeded the capabilities of film in terms of dynamic range, and that the zone system was developed in the context of film photography before digital cameras had arrived on the scene.

Adding Location Metadata to Photos


Today’s Question: After reading about how much you appreciate having a camera with a GPS receiver, I have upgraded to a camera that includes this feature. Is it possible though to add location information in Lightroom Classic to existing photos that were captured with my previous camera that was not equipped with GPS?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can very easily add GPS location information to photos in Lightroom Classic by dragging the thumbnails for photos onto the map within the Map module.

More Detail: If you’re using a camera that has a built-in GPS receiver then GPS coordinates will be embedded in metadata automatically as long as the feature is enabled and a good GPS signal is received by the camera when the photos are captured. That, in turn, will cause markers for the photos to appear on the map within the Map module. However, you can still add this information later in your workflow in Lightroom Classic as well.

To add GPS metadata to photos in the Map module simply select the applicable photos on the filmstrip and drag the selected thumbnails to the location on the map where the photos were captured. If you captured a reference photo with a camera that has a GPS receiver (such as a smartphone) you could use that photo’s location as a reference. You can also use the search field at the top-right of the map to navigate to a particular area, and then pan and zoom around the map as needed so you can view the correct location on the map.

You could also copy and paste the information from the GPS field for an image that has those details to an image that doesn’t. It is even possible to record a GPS track log with a device (including a smartphone) and then synchronize that track log to photos that were captured with a camera that doesn’t have a GPS receiver. But in many cases the easiest option is to simply drag the thumbnails for selected photos directly onto the map within the Map module.

Accidentally Clicking on Badges


Today’s Question: I find that I sometimes accidentally click on the button to add an image to the Quick Collection when I’m just trying to click on a thumbnail to select an image. Is there any way to disable the button for the Quick Collection to avoid accidentally clicking on it?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can indeed disable the clickable badges that appear on thumbnails for photos in Lightroom Classic, but do keep in mind that you will miss out on some helpful utility in the process.

More Detail: First off, I should point out that the “Quick Collection” button that appears at the top-right of thumbnails in Lightroom Classic is actually the “Target Collection” button. By default, the target collection is indeed the Quick Collection, but you can right-click on any collection in the Collections list on the left panel in the Library module and choose “Set as Target Collection”. That will cause the letter “B” keyboard shortcut and the circular badge at the top-right of thumbnails to add an image to that target collection rather than the Quick Collection.

In addition to the target collection badge at the top-right of thumbnails there are other badges that indicate keywords have been assigned, an image is in a collection, the metadata includes GPS coordinates, the image has been cropped, and adjustments have been applied in the Develop module. These badges are also clickable, such as to click on the GPS badge to navigate automatically to the location where that photo was captured in the Map module. Disabling the badge for the target collection will disable all these badges.

If you want to disable the ability to click on these badges, you’ll need to change settings in two places, one for the filmstrip on the bottom panel and one for the grid view display.

For the filmstrip you’ll want to bring up the Preferences dialog by choosing Edit > Preferences from the menu on Windows or Lightroom Classic > Preferences on Macintosh. Go to the Interface tab, where you can either turn off the “Show badges” button to hide the badges altogether, or turn on the “Ignore clicks on badges” button if you want to disable the effect of clicking on a badge while keeping the badges visible. Both of these checkboxes are found in the Filmstrip section of the Interface tab in the Preferences dialog.

For the grid view display you’ll need to choose View > View Options from the menu and then go to the Grid View tab within the View Options dialog. If you only want to disable the badge for the target collection you can turn off the “Quick Collection Markers” checkbox in the Cell Icons section. If you want to hide all the badges you can turn off the “Thumbnail Badges” checkbox.

The badges do provide a useful reference for certain information about your photos, along with the utility of being able to click on those badges to access certain features. I personally like to keep the badges displayed and clickable, but obviously if you are finding that you often click on these badges accidentally there are options to avoid that issue.

Batch Adjustments in Lightroom Classic


Today’s Question: I was intrigued by your suggestion that it is possible to apply adjustments to multiple images at the same time in the Develop module. How do you enable this? When I’ve selected multiple photos on the filmstrip only the image shown in the preview area is adjusted when I make changes.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The quickest way to synchronize adjustments for a batch of photos in Lightroom Classic is to turn on the Auto Sync feature associated with the Sync button at the bottom of the right panel in the Develop module.

More Detail: There are several ways you can apply the same adjustments to multiple photos in Lightroom Classic, including applying a preset to multiple photos, copying and pasting settings, and synchronizing settings after they have been applied to a primary photo. However, to me the easiest approach is to simply turn on the Auto Sync feature.

Start by selecting all the photos you want to synchronize adjustments for on the filmstrip. For example, you could click on the thumbnail for the first image, hold the Shift key on the keyboard, and click on the thumbnail for the last image to select all photos in that range.

Next, click on the thumbnail (not the frame around the thumbnail) on the filmstrip for the image you want to use as the basis of your adjustments. That will cause this image to be the one you see in the large preview area within the Develop module.

At this point you can click the little toggle switch on the left side of the Sync button at the bottom of the right panel in the Develop module. I think of this as being like a light switch that you flip up to turn on and flip down to turn off. When you click that toggle the Sync button will change to indicate “Auto Sync”.

With Auto Sync enabled all adjustments you apply in the Develop module will be automatically synchronized across all the selected photos. When you’re finished you can turn off the Auto Sync feature by clicking the toggle button again, so that you’re back to only adjusting a single image at a time.

Quick Develop Advantage


Today’s Question: I understand the Quick Develop section in the Library module of Lightroom Classic might save me a tiny bit of time by virtue of not having to switch to the Develop module to apply a basic adjustment, but it doesn’t otherwise seem all that helpful. Is there some other benefit to the Quick Develop adjustments?

Tim’s Quick Answer: To me the biggest benefit of the Quick Develop adjustments in the Library module is that they enable you to apply relative (rather than absolute) adjustments to multiple images at once. The ability to apply adjustments without switching to the Develop module is a smaller benefit in my view.

More Detail: When you apply adjustments to multiple photos at the same time in the Develop module you are applying absolute adjustments. In other words, each image will be adjusted to the exact same value for a given adjustment. If you apply an adjustment of +0.5 for the Exposure slider to multiple images, for example, all of the images will be set to exactly a value of +0.5 for Exposure, regardless of what adjustments to the value for Exposure had been previously applied to the individual images.

When using the adjustment controls in the Quick Develop section in the Library module, on the other hand, the adjustments are relative.

For example, let’s assume you have selected three images. The first has the Exposure value set to -0.5, the second had no adjustment (so a value of 0.0), and the third has had the Exposure value set to +1.0. With all three images selected if you then click the double right-arrow button for Exposure in Quick Develop, each image will be adjusted by one full stop. So, the first image will go to an Exposure value of +0.5, the second will go to a value of +1.0, and the third will go to a value of +2.0.

This relative adjustment feature of Quick Develop can be helpful for situations where you have applied adjustments to individual images to compensate for specific issues, but then want to apply the same relative adjustment to all three. This can be helpful when you are preparing images to be printed, for example, and the printer has indicated the files need to be brightened in order to print properly.