Removing Film Grain

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Today’s Question: How do you recommend removing film grain from scanned slides?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If possible, I recommend using the scanner software to reduce film grain. Otherwise, you can often get very good results by using noise reduction to reduce film grain.

More Detail: Film grain is similar in concept to digital noise, but it is different and so it can be a more challenging to minimize when processing an image scanned from an analog original. If the software you’re using for scanning supports a grain-reduction feature, that will often provide excellent results. If your scanner software includes a feature to reduce grain, it may be worthwhile to re-scan the images with that option enabled.

The other option is to use noise reduction software to help minimize film grain. The effectiveness of this approach will vary based on the specific grain structure. For images captured with relatively low-ISO film where the grain structure is relatively small and somewhat uniform, noise reduction is more likely to help. For very high ISO films with a more random grain structure, it can be more difficult to achieve a good result.

In particular, I’ve found that the Denoise feature of Topaz Photo AI (https://www.topazlabs.com/topaz-photo-ai/ref/273/) provides excellent results, especially with a combination of the Strength adjustment (for the overall noise reduction) along with the Original Detail adjustment, which helps maintain and enhance details from the original image.

The key with using noise reduction to reduce film grain is to carefully balance the settings to ensure you are reducing the appearance of film grain without significantly degrading detail in the image. Keep in mind, however, that you can also compensate for some loss of sharpness and detail from grain reduction by applying sharpening as well as adjustments such as Clarity and Texture found in Lightroom Classic and Camera Raw, for example.

Backup During Save

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Today’s Question: Is there a way in Photoshop to save a PSD file to two locations at once, one on the computer and one on an external backup drive? I currently save to the computer and then copy/paste to the backup drive.

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is not an option to automatically save to two locations at once in Photoshop. I recommend considering a backup solution such as GoodSync (https://www.timgreyphoto.com/goodsync) to help streamline the process of maintaining a backup of your photos.

More Detail: When you save an image in Photoshop, you’re only able to save a single copy of the file at one time. You could conceivably use the Save As command twice to save the image in two different locations, but I strongly recommend against this approach. Manually saving twice creates a risk that you may not save the master image with the latest updates and creates the potential for confusion about which file is the true primary file, even though you’re saving to two different drives.

My preference in this type of scenario would be to use software such as GoodSync (https://www.timgreyphoto.com/goodsync) to create a backup job for this purpose. For example, if you’re saving the master PSD files to the Pictures folder, you could define a job in GoodSync that causes the Pictures folder on the internal hard drive to be backed up to a “Pictures Backup” folder on an external hard drive. You would just need to be sure to set the destination for the backup as a folder, not simply the external drive, because the latter would cause the contents of the drive to be replaced with only the Pictures folder.

You could also employ a RAID solution (Redundant Array of Independent Drives), which can provide automatic redundancy for all files saved to an appropriately configured RAID drive. However, while this provides an automatic solution that operates in real time, it doesn’t create a separate copy of your photos that you can access directly independent of the RAID configuration.

You can learn how to put GoodSync to use in your workflow for backing up your photos and other important data with my video course “Backing Up with GoodSync”, with more information on the GreyLearning website here:

https://www.greylearning.com/courses/goodsync

Enlarging JPEGs for Print

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Today’s Question: I have many older images stored as small JPEGs and would like to make some 8×12 prints. I thought that Enhance Detail (in Camera Raw or Lightroom Classic) coupled with upscaling the image in Photoshop (resampling using Preserve Details) would be called for. Does it matter in which order they are used? Are both even necessary?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The Raw Detail option for Enhance is only available for raw captures, not JPEGs. The Super Resolution feature of Enhance is available for JPEG images, but in this case I recommend resampling in Photoshop and possibly first using the option to remove JPEG artifacts using the Reduce Noise filter.

More Detail: While the Enhance feature in Camera Raw and Lightroom Classic represent some potentially helpful features, they are mostly focused on raw captures, and I’ve gotten mixed results with their use. If you did want to make use of the Enhance features for a raw capture I would recommend making that the first step of the workflow.

Since the images in this case are JPEG files, they will probably benefit from using the “Remove JPEG Artifact” option for the Reduce Noise filter. The filter can be applied by choosing Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise from the menu. Turn on the “Remove JPEG Artifact” checkbox to enable this feature. You can also use the Strength and Reduce Color Noise sliders as needed to reduce noise, though this is not required. You can also use the Sharpen Details slider to help enhance detail in the image, though you could also simply apply sharpening as a later step instead.

Instead of using the Super Resolution feature in Enhance, I suggest enlarging the images using the Image Size command (Image > Image Size from the menu) in Photoshop. Make sure the Resample checkbox is turned on, and then you can select ” Preserve Details 2.0″ from the popup to the right. Set the output dimensions for the print and click the OK button to resize the image.

At that point you can apply final sharpening for the print, and then save the image in a file format such as TIFF to preserve the highest quality for the image with the updates you’ve applied.

Limitations of Smart Collections

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Today’s Question: Other than being able to change the order [to a custom sort order], is there a reason to use regular Collections instead of keywords with Smart Collections in Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The only other reason to use a regular collection in Lightroom Classic rather than a smart collection based on keywords is to synchronize the collection to the cloud. Cloud synchronization is only available for regular collections, not smart collections.

More Detail: Since collections and smart collections in Lightroom Classic are only saved in the catalog, not to the metadata for the source images, a common approach is to use smart collections based on metadata rather than using a regular collection. For example, you can add a keyword that identifies the purpose you want the applicable images included in the collection, and then create a smart collection based on the keyword.

With this approach you still have the same basic effect of adding images to a regular collection, by using a smart collection based on a keyword. The added benefit is that should anything ever happen to your Lightroom Classic catalog, you could still identify the images that were in the smart collection based on the keyword you used.

However, there are two drawbacks to this approach. First, as noted in today’s question, the custom sort order option is only supported in regular collections, not smart collections. In a regular collection you can drag the thumbnails around into any order you’d like, but in a smart collection you can only sort by the various metadata-based options that are available on the Sort popup.

In addition, you are not able to synchronize smart collections to the cloud. You could work around this by creating a regular collection with synchronization enabled and then adding all images from the smart collection to the regular collection. However, as the contents of the smart collection updated based on the rules that had been defined, those changes will not be reflected in the regular collection.

So, the main limitation of a regular collection is that it only exists within the Lightroom Classic catalog. The limitations of smart collections are that you can’t use the custom sort order and you can’t synchronize to the cloud. Using a keyword (or other metadata) to identify the images you want to have included in a smart collection is a great way to preserve collections beyond the Lightroom Classic catalog.

You could also make a point of similarly adding a collection-specific keyword to all photos in a regular collection. This would provide the benefit of having a keyword in metadata that identifies which photos belong in a given collection, while avoiding the limitations of smart collections. However, both approaches involve some potentially cumbersome limitations depending on your workflow needs.

Choosing the Default Photoshop Version

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Today’s Question: I had responded to Adobe’s promotion efforts of last year and installed Photoshop Beta, but when I did that, the beta version became the default Photoshop for the “Edit In” command in Lightroom Classic. Is there was way I can install both the production version of Photoshop and the Beta, but ensure that the production Photoshop will always be the default choice for editing an image moving from Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can indeed choose which version of Photoshop will be used for the Edit In command in Lightroom Classic, including selecting between multiple beta or production versions.

More Detail: While it has always been possible to have more than one version of Photoshop installed, that hasn’t typically created any problems because in most cases the latest version would be the default version. However, since Adobe added the option for anyone to install a public beta version of Photoshop, that has added a potential challenge. In many cases, for example, the public beta would be the latest version, and therefore the default version.

Fortunately, there is now a “Photoshop version” option for the Edit In command for Photoshop within Lightroom Classic.

To choose the version of Photoshop you want to set as the default, first go to the Preferences dialog in Lightroom Classic by choosing Edit > Preferences on Windows or Lightroom Classic > Preferences on Macintosh. Go to the External Editing tab and click on the “Photoshop version” popup. The popup will include all versions of Photoshop that are currently installed.

In this case, for example, you can choose “Adobe Photoshop 2024” rather than the beta version. With this option set, anytime you use the Photo > Edit In command from the menu the selected images will be opened in the version of Photoshop you selected in Preferences.

If you later decide you want to use a different version of Photoshop for a particular image, simply update the setting in Preferences before opening that image. When you’re done, you can return the setting to your preferred version of Photoshop.

Turning Off Sync Doesn’t Remove Photos

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Today’s Question: I just watched your Lightroom Summit presentation about Cloud storage. If we “unsync” a collection via Lightroom Classic, do those photos disappear from the cloud or do we have to remove them from cloud storage via the process you demonstrated?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you turn off synchronization for a collection in Lightroom Classic, the photos in that collection will not be removed from cloud storage automatically. You would need to remove them manually, checking to make sure they aren’t included in any other synchronized collections first.

More Detail: When you enable synchronization for a collection in Lightroom Classic, the photos in that collection are synchronized to the cloud, so that they are accessible from anywhere in the Lightroom ecosystem. For example, you can then browse those photos in the Lightroom mobile app or in Lightroom through a web browser.

However, if you turn off synchronization for a collection, the photos in that collection are not removed from cloud-based storage, even if the photos are not included in any other collection that has synchronization enabled.

I therefore recommend taking an approach where you keep track of the photos you want to remove from cloud-based storage. This can be important so that you don’t end up with photos orphaned in cloud storage, where they are taking up storage space and creating clutter but aren’t included in any collections or albums.

So, for example, before disabling synchronization for a collection you could mark all the photos in the collection with a unique attribute that you don’t use for any other purpose such as a color label. You can then disable synchronization for the collection and go to the All Synced Photographs collection in the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module.

Within the All Synced Photographs collection you can set a filter for the attribute you used to mark the photos. Then review those photos to see if they are included in any other collections that have synchronization enabled. If you determine the photos don’t need to be in cloud storage at all, you can select the photos, right-click, and choose “Remove from All Synced Photographs” from the popup menu. This will remove the selected photos from cloud-based storage and from any collections they were included in that had synchronization enabled. The source photos, of course, will remain in your catalog and on your hard drive.

Lightroom Sync as Backup

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Today’s Question: I’m using Lightroom Classic to do my importing and editing and I have the sync with Lightroom Cloud function switched on. Are the photos stored on Lightroom Cloud copies of the original photos (together with edits) or are they just previews? I am curious to know whether the photos on Lightroom Cloud provide a further backup, should the two external hard drives fail for some reason or are lost.

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you synchronize photos from Lightroom Classic to the cloud, the synchronized images are reduced-resolution Adobe DNG files, not the original. Therefore, I would not treat this as an additional backup in your workflow.

More Detail: When you add photos to cloud-based storage using the Lightroom mobile app, Lightroom in a web browser, or the Lightroom desktop application (not Lightroom Classic), the original file format is retained. This is true even for raw captures, meaning that if you add a raw capture to the Lightroom ecosystem other than through Lightroom Classic, you have a backup of the original raw capture stored in the cloud.

However, with Lightroom Classic you aren’t synchronizing the original capture format to the cloud, but rather a copy at a reduced resolution (about 2,000 pixels on the long side) saved as an Adobe DNG file. While this provides an image of reasonable resolution and quality, I don’t consider it a replacement for the original capture.

Therefore, I strongly recommend maintaining a good backup workflow for your photos, and not treating the cloud-based synchronization from Lightroom Classic as a true backup. I recommend using software such as GoodSync (https://www.timgreyphoto.com/goodsync) to back up local copies of photos, such as by backing up an external hard drive to two backup drives. I also recommend using a cloud-based backup service such as Backblaze (https://timgrey.me/cloudbackup) to provide a remote backup. Cloud-based synchronization in Lightroom Classic provides only a bonus copy of selected images at a reduced resolution.

Changing Image Aspect Ratio

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Today’s Question: Is there any way to change the aspect ratio of an image from say 3:2 to say 16:9 without losing any of the original image? I know that you can simply crop the original image to 16:9 if there’s ample space surrounding the main subject but what if there isn’t?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You have three basic options when it comes to changing the aspect ratio of a photo. You can simply crop the image to the desired aspect ratio if possible, crop as needed for the subject and then add area to the image such as by using the Generative Fill command in Photoshop, or crop for the subject and then transform the image to fit the desired aspect ratio.

More Detail: The easiest way to change the aspect ratio of the image is obviously to simply crop the image to the desired aspect ratio. However, if you’re going from a common rectangular aspect ratio to a more panoramic aspect ratio, for example, then simply cropping may cause you to crop too closely to the key subject, or even to crop out part of the subject.

If a simple crop won’t work for the image, you can either add area to the image or transform the image to fill the desired aspect ratio, after cropping as much as you’re able to based on the subject in the photo. This type of work will generally require Photoshop or similar software for greater flexibility and more options.

One approach would be to extend the canvas after cropping to match the desired aspect ratio. For example, in Photoshop you can use the Canvas Size command found on the Image menu to change the size of the canvas without altering the existing image. In the case of changing to a more panoramic aspect ratio, for example, you could add additional space on the left and right so that your image is with a canvas that matches the intended aspect ratio. You could then make a selection in the empty areas and use the Content-Aware Fill or Generative Fill commands (both found on the Edit menu) to fill the selected area.

Another option would be to alter the aspect ratio of the image, but this can cause an obvious distortion of subjects in the photo, potentially making it a bad option. But if you only need to stretch the image to a small degree, this can work nicely. For this approach I would still tend to crop to the extent you can based on the subject in the image. Then convert the Background image layer to a new layer by double-clicking on the thumbnail for the layer on the Layers panel and clicking the OK button in the New Layers dialog. Use the Canvas Size command as noted above to extend the canvas to the intended aspect ratio. Then choose Edit > Free Transform from the menu and drag the sides of the bounding box to match the extended canvas, pressing Enter/Return on the keyboard to apply the change. If extending horizontally you would drag the left and right edges, and if extending vertically you would drag the top and bottom edges.

Again, the best option is to crop to the desired aspect ratio. But if that’s not possible based on the subject matter in the photo, you have additional options thanks to some of the features of Photoshop.

Which Previews to Build

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Today’s Question: Another instructor recommended using the “Embedded & Sidecar” option for Build Previews when importing into Lightroom Classic to maximize performance. Do you think that’s the best option for previews?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I do not recommend using the “Embedded & Sidecar” preview option when importing into Lightroom Classic, but instead recommend the “Standard” preview option.

More Detail: When you import photos into Lightroom Classic you can choose what type of previews you want to have built. Those previews are what are used to browse your images in the Library module, for example. You can even view your photos even if the source files aren’t available (such as when an external hard drive is disconnected) based on those previews.

The available options for previews are Minimal, Embedded & Sidecar, Standard, and 1:1 (meaning full resolution). The way I look at it, you can think of Standard previews as being the required minimum previews when browsing photos in the Library module, meaning when you’re browsing photos if a Standard preview doesn’t already exist Lightroom Classic will build one. There can be a brief delay in building the preview, during which time you will be looking at a lower-resolution (and therefore lower quality) preview. You might even mistakenly think the photo is out of focus because of that preview discrepancy.

In other words, Standard previews are going to be built for your photos eventually, so I feel it is best to get that work out of the way right at the point of importing new photos into Lightroom Classic. That means selecting the Standard option from the Build Previews popup when importing photos.

Note, by the way, that the 1:1 previews are only needed when you zoom in beyond 100% for a photo. Those previews will be generated on the fly as needed, but if you tend to zoom in beyond 100% for most of your photos, you may want to choose the 1:1 preview option on import. Just note that by default those 1:1 previews will be deleted automatically after 30 days, though you can change that setting on the File Handling tab of the Catalog Settings dialog.

Choosing the Right Application

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Today’s Question: If I were to be a new Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop [Creative Cloud Photography Plan] subscriber, would you recommend Lightroom, Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, or something else to be the main editing platform starting off?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When it comes to editing (optimizing) photos, the features are virtually identical in Photoshop (Camera Raw), Lightroom, and Lightroom Classic. Therefore, I recommend making a decision based on what is going to make the most sense for organizing your photos.

More Detail: Photoshop (via Camera Raw), Lightroom, and Lightroom Classic share the same underlying engine for optimizing photos, and so while there are differences in terms of the interface (and sometimes the timing of updated versions), the actual adjustments are the same.

Therefore, I suggest choosing between these options based more on which will best fit your needs for organizing your photos.

I certainly have my own biases, but I prefer the use of Lightroom Classic over the cloud-focused version of Lightroom or Bridge (the software you might use to organize if you focused on Photoshop). My preference for Lightroom Classic is partly that I prefer to store photos locally rather than in the cloud, and because I appreciate the benefits of the catalog in Lightroom Classic. Those benefits include being able to easily browse photos even if they aren’t currently available (such as when an external hard drive is disconnected) and to easily search across the entire catalog of photos at once.

My second choice would be Adobe Bridge, which provides the advantage of being a browser rather than a catalog-based application, which helps avoid issues related to the catalog, such as missing folders or photos. However, I’ve found that performance in Bridge can be a bit sluggish at times, especially when trying to perform a broad search for photos.

My last choice would be Lightroom. Initially I decided Lightroom wasn’t for me because it only supported cloud-based storage. While it now supports both cloud-based and local-based storage, I feel that this implementation creates a bit of a fragmented workflow with the potential for confusion about where your photos are actually located.

I shared more details about my recommendations for deciding between Bridge, Lightroom, and Lightroom Classic in a fun and informative webinar. You can view the recording of that full presentation on my Tim Grey TV channel on YouTube here:

[https://www.youtube.com/live/BwpneG4y0nQ]