Black and White in Camera or Post?

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Today’s Question: A photographer can let the camera convert to a black and white image or shoot in color and then convert it to black and white during post-processing. What are the pros and cons of each method? Which do you recommend?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you’re capturing in raw, you’ll end up with color even if you set the camera to black and white. If you’re not capturing in a raw format I suggest converting to black and white after the capture.

More Detail: While a black and white photo only contains shades of gray, creating a black and white image from a color photo provides greater flexibility in terms of how you interpret that image. Therefore, I recommend capturing photos in color and then converting to black and white after the capture.

As noted above, for raw captures the photo will be in color even if you set the camera to black and white. The preview on the camera will appear in black and white, but when you process the raw capture on the computer it will be in color. Setting the camera to black and white can be an advantage in terms of having a basic black and white preview of the capture, rather than having to try to imagine what the black and white version of a color photo might look like.

If you’re capturing in a non-raw capture format such as JPEG, setting the camera to black and white will truly produce a monochromatic image with no color. That reduces the flexibility for interpreting the black and white image later in your workflow. Therefore, with a non-raw capture I suggest shooting in color and converting to black and white later.

If you capture a color photograph you will have more flexibility when later interpreting the image in black and white. You can, for example, adjust the individual brightness values for pixels based on their source color. You can darken all the blue pixels, for example, to darken the sky, and brighten the yellow and green pixels to brighten foliage. This translates into great creative flexibility in terms of using color information to better convert the image to black and white.

So, for raw capture you can set the camera to black and white if you prefer, as you’ll still have color images for processing. For non-raw captures I suggest capturing in color and converting to black and white during photo processing later.

Sending a JPEG to Photoshop

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Today’s Question: I understand the workflow for sending a raw capture to Photoshop from Lightroom Classic. But when I want to edit a JPEG capture, I must choose an option when the image is initially sent to Photoshop. For that do I want to edit the original or make a copy?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Generally speaking, when sending a JPEG (or other non-raw capture) to Photoshop from Lightroom Classic I recommend using the “Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments” option in the dialog that appears. If you then send the TIFF or PSD file that results back to Photoshop again, you’ll generally want to use the “Edit Original” option.

More Detail: You can send a photo from Lightroom Classic to Photoshop for editing by selecting Photo > Edit In > Edit in Adobe Photoshop from the menu. When you send a raw capture from Lightroom Classic to Photoshop using this command, a derivative image will be created from the raw capture with the adjustments you’ve already applied included in that derivative image. The file will be a TIFF or PSD file depending on the options you’ve set for External Editing in Preferences.

For non-raw image formats if you send the image to Photoshop from Lightroom Classic you’ll be prompted to choose how you want that image processed as part of this process. If you choose “Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments” a new derivative image will be created as a TIFF or PSD (depending on your Preferences setting) with all adjustments from Lightroom Classic included as part of that new image.

If you choose “Edit a Copy” a duplicate image will be created of the same file format as the original, but with the Lightroom Classic adjustments only applied within Lightroom Classic and therefore not visible while you’re working with that duplicate image in Photoshop. The Lightroom Classic adjustments will still be applied when you return to Lightroom Classic with that image after working in Photoshop.

If you choose the “Edit Original” option the source image you have selected will be opened in Photoshop, but the Lightroom Classic adjustments won’t be visible while you’re working in Photoshop. Those adjustments will appear again when you’re back in Lightroom Classic. This is the option I recommend using for derivative images you had previously created by sending a photo to Photoshop, so that you can continue working with any layers or other special features you may have created using Photoshop.

In all cases, when you are finished working with the image in Photoshop you should only use the “Save” command, not “Save As”. If you use Save As and use a different file name or folder location, there is a good chance Lightroom Classic will lose track of the new image and it won’t be included in your catalog.

New Displays Don’t Support Calibration

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Today’s Question: I saw your eNewsletter where you talk about calibration. So, I thought you might be interested in this recent exchange I had with [the Datacolor] Spyder 5 Pro team. I recently purchased the new MacBook Pro with M1 chip and Spyder was not working on it – that’s what caused me to reach out to them. It seems that Apple has disabled the ability to do external calibration on their new computers.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The issue here relates specifically to the new Liquid Retina XDR display on the newest MacBook Pro computers (https://bhpho.to/31HhhrE) and does not affect other computers such as earlier models with the Apple M1 processor.

More Detail: The newest MacBook Pro computers (https://bhpho.to/31HhhrE) feature a Liquid Retina XDR display, which does not support the traditional display calibration workflow. In other words, products such as the Calibrite ColorChecker Display (https://timgrey.me/calibrite) or similar products from Datacolor can’t be used to calibrate the new XDR display.

Instead, you would need to use a custom calibration option that is available in the Display section of System Preferences for computers with the new display type. Apple has provided some details on the process on their website here:

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT212851

Note that this issue only affects the XDR display. At the moment that only includes the latest models of MacBook Pro computers, but I’m sure this will be an issue for additional models when Apple releases them. Additional external displays can still be calibrated normally using the various tools available, however.

Presets Degrading Performance

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Today’s Question: I had heard somewhere along the line that having a lot of presets in Lightroom Classic will cause Lightroom to slow down. Is that still true?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, having a very large number of Develop presets can slow overall performance in Lightroom Classic. However, this is generally not a significant issue unless you have thousands of presets.

More Detail: While too many Develop presets in Lightroom Classic can degrade performance, this isn’t likely to be a significant issue for most photographers.

To begin with, Adobe has indicated that performance does not become a significant concern until you have around 2,000 or more Develop presets. In my experience most photographers do not have anywhere near this number of presets. That said, if you have a large number of presets you don’t use, I do recommend removing them to avoid a degradation in performance.

The more significant issues involve overall system performance. That includes using a fast computer with an adequate amount of memory (RAM) and a fast hard drive especially for the catalog. It can also be helpful to optimize the catalog periodically, which is an option available when you use the built-in catalog backup feature in Lightroom Classic.

So, while having a very large number of Develop presets installed can certainly slow down Lightroom Classic, for most users this isn’t a significant concern and the more impactful issues relate to hardware configuration.

Where to Store Presets in Lightroom Classic

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Today’s Question: What are the pros and cons of checking the “Store presets with this catalog” checkbox in Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I recommend that most photographers leave this checkbox turned off. The potential advantage of turning it on is that presets can be easier to find and share across more than one computer. However, turning the option on is not a universal solution and can cause some confusion.

More Detail: By default, Lightroom Classic stores presets in a somewhat “hidden” location within your user folder for your operating system. However, there is an option on the Presets tab of the Preferences dialog to instead store presets with the catalog. This can make it a little easier to find your presets and enables you to share presets across more than one computer if you’re moving your catalog between them, such as on an external hard drive.

However, there are some issues that cause me to recommend leaving the “Store presets with this catalog” checkbox turned off.

To begin with, turning on the option to store presets with the catalog won’t affect all presets, with certain categories of presets still stored within your user folder structure on the operating system hard drive.

In addition, turning on the option to store presets with the catalog will only affect new presets, and will not cause existing presets to be moved. So, you would need to move the presets manually, which creates its own set of challenges.

As many readers know, I recommend using a single Lightroom Classic catalog to manage all photos. If you store presets with the catalog, that means you would have individual sets of presets for each catalog you use. If you’re using more than one catalog this could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your perspective.

Ultimately, I recommend leaving all presets in their default location. You can always get quick access to the location where presets are stored by clicking the “Show Lightroom Develop Presets” or the “Show All Other Lightroom Presets” button on the Presets tab of the Preferences dialog.

Synchronization for New Catalog

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Today’s Question: I created a mess in Lightroom Classic by moving around my photo files from my computer instead of within Lightroom. I ended up just starting over by creating a new catalog and importing my photos. Lightroom Classic is now asking me to sync my catalog, but I fear my original catalog probably still exists and don’t want duplicates, etc. Should I delete existing catalogs before I sync my newly created one?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can only have one catalog synchronized to your Creative Cloud account. I suggest checking the status of currently synchronized photos before enabling synchronization for your new catalog.

More Detail: In Lightroom Classic you can enable synchronization for individual collections, which will cause JPEG previews for the images in those collections to be synchronized to your Adobe Creative Cloud account. That enables you to view and update those synchronized photos using the Lightroom mobile app on a smartphone or tablet, using the Lightroom cloud-based application, or accessing Lightroom via a web browser (https://lightroom.adobe.com).

Because of the way synchronization works in Lightroom Classic, for many photographers it is perfectly safe to change which catalog is being synchronized. However, there is a risk of losing images depending on your specific workflow.

If you have captured new images using the Lightroom mobile app or have imported new photos into the cloud-based version of Lightroom, without having imported those photos into a Lightroom Classic catalog, changing synchronization can cause photos to be lost. That is because the source of those photos will have effectively been discarded by changing the catalog that is the source for synchronization.

I therefore recommend logging in to Lightroom in a web browser at https://lightroom.adobe.com to confirm that no photos are synchronized to your Creative Cloud account that aren’t accounted for on your local hard drive. As noted above, that would include photos captured using the Lightroom mobile app or imported into the cloud-based version of Lightroom. If any such photos exist, you would want to download them to your local storage first, so they can be imported into your new Lightroom Classic catalog.

As long as all photos have been imported into Lightroom Classic and synchronization has only been used from Lightroom Classic to make photos available for sharing elsewhere, it is safe to enable synchronization for your new catalog, which will disable synchronization for the catalog that had previously had synchronization enabled.

Photoshop Round Trip from Lightroom Classic

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Today’s Question: Is there a way to take a photo from Lightroom Classic to Photoshop, add layers, go back to Lightroom Classic, and then back to Photoshop and see the layers?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, indeed. You can first send the image to Photoshop by using the menu command Photo > Edit In > Edit in Adobe Photoshop. After working with the new derivative image in Photoshop, simply save and close and it will appear in Lightroom Classic. When you want to edit that image (with layers), us the same Edit In command, and choose “Edit Original” from the popup that appears.

More Detail: When you send a raw capture to Photoshop from Lightroom Classic you aren’t prompted with any questions, because no additional information is needed. The raw capture will be processed with the adjustment settings applied in the Develop module, and a new derivative image will be created as a TIFF or Photoshop PSD file depending on the settings established in Preferences.

You can add layers, of course, and otherwise apply any adjustments you’d like in Photoshop. When you’re finished working with the image simply save the final result with the File > Save command (not the “Save As” or “Save a Copy” commands) and close the image. When you go back to Lightroom Classic you’ll find this new derivative image alongside the original photo you had sent to Photoshop.

If you then want to perform some additional work on the layered derivative image, select that TIFF or PSD file in Lightroom Classic and again choose Photo > Edit In > Edit in Adobe Photoshop. This time, because you are not sending a raw capture to Photoshop, you’ll be asked how you want to process the image.y

The first option is “Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments”. This will cause an additional copy of the image to be created but it will be flattened without any layers. The second option is “Edit a Copy”, which will preserve the layers but will also create an additional derivative copy of the image, which you probably don’t need.

I recommend using the “Edit Original” option, which will send the derivative image as it is to Photoshop, including all layers and other work you performed in Photoshop.

There is one important caveat here. When you send the TIFF or PSD image back to Photoshop from Lightroom Classic, any adjustments you had applied after that image was back in Lightroom Classic after Photoshop will not be visible while you’re working in Photoshop. The adjustments will be visible again when you save and close the image and return to Lightroom Classic.

For example, let’s assume you sent a color raw capture from Lightroom Classic to Photoshop, and did some work that included adding layers. Then, after closing the image in Photoshop and returning to Lightroom Classic, you converted the derivative image to black and white. If you then sent the image back to Photoshop with the “Edit Original” option you would see all the layers in Photoshop, but the image would appear in color. After saving and closing from Photoshop, when you return to Lightroom the image would again appear in black and white. This issue is due to the differences between Lightroom Classic and Photoshop in terms of how adjustments are applied.

DNG for Workflow Standard

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Today’s Question: As I understand it, Apple ProRAW (from recent iPhone captures) is a DNG file. Would raw conversions to DNG format from other cameras make workflow more streamlined or convenient within Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can work with Apple ProRAW captures in both Photoshop and Lightroom Classic, in part because they are indeed Adobe DNG files. However, I would not recommend converting other proprietary raw captures to the DNG format just for the sake of a consistent file format.

More Detail: The relatively new Apple ProRAW format is available on the Pro and Pro Max versions of the most recent iPhone models. These captures are a legitimate raw capture stored in the Adobe DNG format, similar to how a handful of other cameras support native DNG capture as a raw capture format.

However, just because you are capturing DNG files with one camera doesn’t mean you should convert proprietary raw captures from other cameras to the Adobe DNG format.

There are two key reasons why I prefer not to convert raw captures to the Adobe DNG format. First and foremost, I prefer to keep my original captures just as they came out of the camera. Since I won’t delete the original captures, in my mind it doesn’t make sense to create another file just to make use of the DNG format.

Second, for many cameras there are special features that require the original raw capture format, in conjunction with software from the camera manufacturer. This includes, for example, features related to automatic dust spot removal for cameras that support this feature.

There are certainly many photographers who prefer to convert their proprietary raw captures to the openly documented Adobe DNG format, in part due to concerns about proprietary file formats. I don’t share that concern, and prefer to preserve the original captures as they came from the camera, regardless of which camera or capture format I’ve used.

Hard Drive Trouble

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Today’s Question: One of my hard drives suddenly will not show up on my computer when it is plugged in. The light goes on, but nothing happens otherwise. What does this mean and how do I deal with it?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This generally means there is a problem with the hard drive, though it is possible that another component is causing the issue. I would perform some basic troubleshooting but would most likely not trust this drive moving forward.

More Detail: Today’s question is actually one that I asked myself, which is to say that I have a hard drive that is misbehaving and thought readers might benefit from learning how to address this issue.

The hard drive in question suddenly failed to show up on the computer when plugged in, even though the light on the drive lit up. I checked the Disk Utility application (on Macintosh, which would translate to Disk Management on Windows). There, I discovered that the hard drive was showing up as a device but was not mounting as a hard drive. That typically indicates that there is some sort of fault with the hard drive, but I wanted to troubleshoot to be sure.

Troubleshooting a hard drive in this type of situation involves a process of trying to isolate the source of the problem. Therefore, I used a different cable and a different port to connect the drive to my computer. I also tested the cable connection with a different hard drive to isolate the issue. My testing confirmed that all ports, cables, and hard drives were functioning normally, and that the hard drive that seemed to be misbehaving was indeed the source of the problem.

At this point I would not trust the hard drive even if it started working again. Therefore, I set the drive aside and immediately ordered another hard drive so I would have an additional backup. In this particular case the failing drive was a backup drive rather than a primary drive, so I didn’t need to restore from a backup. Instead, I just needed to add another backup drive to my collection.

Fortunately, recovering from a backup (or creating a new backup) is very easy thanks to the GoodSync software I use and recommend (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) for backing up photos and other important data. I’m also grateful that I was able to get a replacement hard drive delivered quickly, so I didn’t have to wait long to create a new backup. And, of course, even with the failed drive I still had two backup copies of the source data.

Transferring Catalog for Travel

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Today’s Question: I used to travel with MacBook Pro, importing to a new Lightroom Classic catalog for each trip. Back home, I would merge the catalog with the primary catalog on my desktop computer. If I travel with a copy of my master Lightroom Classic catalog, importing photos along the way, and then copy this updated catalog back to my desktop hard drive, does this sound like it might cause issues? It would allow me to still have access to the full catalog even when traveling.

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is a feasible workflow, but not something I generally recommend due to the risk involved with copying a catalog back and forth between computers. That said, if keeping the catalog permanently on an external hard drive isn’t a great solution, you can indeed (carefully!) move the catalog between computers.

More Detail: I get a little nervous when Lightroom Classic users move a catalog between computers. This is why I’ve generally recommended using a new catalog when traveling with a laptop, merging that catalog into the master catalog back at home upon return. Of course, this does involve a bit of work to merge the catalogs properly.

If you’re able to simply work from an external hard drive regardless of which computer you’re working from, that can be a more streamlined solution. You can quit Lightroom Classic and move the folder containing the catalog files to an external hard drive, and then open the catalog from that external hard drive on whichever computer you happen to be using. Performance may be a little slower, but the workflow is a bit more streamlined.

But if you are comfortable moving your catalog files back and forth between computers, and you’re very careful to make sure you always know which copy is the current copy, then it is indeed possible to move the catalog back and forth as needed.

Another option, which is the approach I’ve taken, is to simply use a laptop as your primary computer. I’ve been using a laptop exclusively, without a desktop computer, for probably more than fifteen years now. With this approach I always have my catalog (and other key files) available because I’m always working on the same computer. When I’m home I use a separate large monitor, keyboard, and mouse, so it feels like I’m at a desktop computer even though I’m using a laptop.