Preserving Rating Metadata

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Today’s Question: Which of the rating systems (ratings, flags, and color labels) would be available to a user that is not accessing the photos from Lightroom Classic such as if the file types were all changed to JPEG when exporting?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Star ratings and color labels can be preserved in metadata outside of Lightroom Classic as long as steps are taken to actually include that metadata. Pick and reject flags assigned in Lightroom Classic, however, are only available within the catalog and will not be included in metadata for photos accessed outside of Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: By default, the metadata you add to photos in Lightroom Classic is only saved within the Lightroom Classic catalog. However, there are options for including standard metadata values in photos beyond the Lightroom Classic catalog.

However, information that is not part of a metadata standard cannot be included in the metadata for your source photos, and instead is only available within the catalog. This includes pick and reject flags, collections, virtual copies (unless they are exported as new images), and the history within the Develop module.

The first option for including standard metadata in the source image files is to save that metadata to the source images from within Lightroom Classic. You can manually save metadata to the source images by selecting the images and choosing Photo > Save Metadata to File(s) from the menu. You can also enable the option to have metadata updates saved to source files automatically by turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog.

The second option is to export new copies of the source images with the option enabled to include metadata. In the Metadata section of the Export dialog in Lightroom Classic you can choose which metadata to include in the copies of the photos you’re exporting. If you select “All Metadata” from the Include popup, for example, all of the information in the standard metadata fields will be included in the exported copies of the photos.

Workflow for Multiple Virtual Copies

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Today’s Question: After making the first virtual copy in Lightroom Classic, when I want to make another version of the image should I make the additional virtual copy from the original or from the first virtual copy?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You should create a new virtual copy based on the source image you want the new virtual copy to be based on, whether that is the original image or a previously created virtual copy.

More Detail: Virtual copies in Lightroom Classic inherit the adjustments from the source used to create the virtual copy. For example, let’s assume the original image is in color, and a virtual copy based on that image has been converted to black and white. If you then create a new virtual copy based on the original, that new virtual copy will be in color. If you create a new virtual copy based on the black and white virtual copy, the new virtual copy will be in black and white.

So, you can choose to create a virtual copy based on any image, whether it is an original image or a virtual copy.

Since each virtual copy includes its own metadata and adjustments, I recommend updating the original image with all metadata updates you want to apply and at least a base level of adjustments in the Develop module. While virtual copies can be used to manage different sets of metadata, such as keywords, for different versions of the image, in general they are used for different visual interpretations of the same source image.

After updating all intended metadata fields and applying at least basic adjustments in the Develop module, you can then create a virtual copy if you want to have an additional interpretation of the photo. From that point additional virtual copies can be created to have additional versions of the photo, and you can create that additional virtual copy based on which image you want to use as the starting point for the overall look of the new virtual copy.

Photoshop for Apple M1

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Today’s Question: I just got a new iMac with Apple’s M1 chip. I understand that Adobe offers a special version of Photoshop tailored to that chip instead of Intel’s microprocessors. What are the advantages, and how to switch to the new version?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The primary advantage of software such as Photoshop natively supporting the Apple M1 processor is improved performance. And that native support is automatic as long as you have updated Photoshop after March 2021, when the version supporting the M1 processor was released.

More Detail: Now that Apple has released a number of computer models featuring the new Apple Silicon M1 chip rather than Intel processors, software applications are being updated to natively support the new processor.

Fortunately, even without a software update most applications will continue running just fine on M1-based computers. They will just run in a compatibility mode, which can cause degraded performance.

Adobe has been updating their various applications to support the M1 processor, and Photoshop was updated in March 2021. So, as long as you have updated Photoshop via the Creative Cloud application since March, your M1-based computer will be running Photoshop in native mode, with improved performance.

The only real issue I’ve found with running Photoshop on an M1-based computer is that plug-ins for Photoshop that only support Intel processors will not work with the latest versions of Photoshop. To use those plug-ins you would need to keep (or install) an older version of Photoshop on your computer.

An article providing more details on my experience with a computer featuring the new Apple M1 processor is included in the September 2021 issue of my Pixology magazine. You can learn more about this digital magazine on the GreyLearning website here:

https://www.greylearning.com/courses/pixology-magazine

Photos Won’t Import

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Today’s Question: My Lightroom Classic catalog does not show two folders that exist on my external hard drive. When I try to import those folders, they do show in the folder structure for importing but the photos are greyed out and can’t be imported. Normally when this type of problem occurs, I remove the folders/files from the catalog (without deleting the originals) and re-import. Since the folders of interest don’t show in the catalog view, I can’t do this. How do I proceed?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In this case the photos can’t be imported because Lightroom Classic has determined that the same photos are already in the catalog, just not in the same folder location. You can still import these duplicate photos if you turn off the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checkbox in the Import dialog, but you’ll also want to address the actual duplication and make sure you’re not losing metadata updates in the process.

More Detail: In general, I recommend keeping the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checkbox turned on in the Import dialog of Lightroom Classic. This helps ensure you don’t accidentally import the same photos more than once.

However, if the apparent duplication is the result of there being more than one copy of the same photos on your hard drive, then it can be helpful to import the duplicates into your Lightroom Classic catalog and then manage the duplication (and the metadata for the photos) from within the catalog.

If you turn off the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checkbox when attempting to import the “missing” folders into your catalog, you’ll be able to import the photos normally. In this context where the photos are already located in the intended storage location, I recommend using the “Add” option at the top-center of the Import dialog to simply add the photos from their current location.

You can then locate the “other” copies of the photos in question, and compare the metadata to determine how to proceed. You could likely search by filename, for example, or sort the image by capture time to find the duplicates alongside each other while browsing the “All Photographs” collection from the Catalog section at the top of the left panel in the Library module.

The key is to determine whether both copies of the photos have been updated with metadata or adjustments, for example. If one folder represents the photos that have been updated and the other represents the photos that have not been updated, you can simply discard the copies that haven’t been updated and refine the folder structure as needed.

If both copies of the photos have been updated, you’ll have a bit more work on your hands, such as by copying updates for individual photos. The goal would be to have one copy that includes all desired metadata updates, and another copy that can be discarded.

Note, by the way, that I strongly recommend that you not remove photos from Lightroom Classic and then re-import them, because doing so can cause you to lose metadata updates that had been applied within Lightroom Classic.

To learn more about cleaning up (or avoiding) a mess in Lightroom Classic, check out my “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom Classic” course on the GreyLearning Website here:

https://www.greylearning.com/courses/lightroom-mess

Evaluating Black and White Tones

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Today’s Question: Thank you for your video on black and white conversions using Lightroom Classic (https://youtu.be/mLTl1VlRoqc). When you have finished your black and white adjustments, do you have a test to determine the distribution of tones across the image?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The primary approach I take to evaluating the tonal distribution in a black and white image is to first evaluate the clipping preview display and then simply view the overall image on a calibrated display. However, you could also measure tonal values throughout the image and review the histogram for the finished image as well.

More Detail: Many photographers are likely familiar with the “Zone System”, where a full range of tonal values from black to white is divided into eleven zones. It is somewhat common for photographers who create black & white images to try to ensure that all eleven zones are reflected in the final image.

Some software actually presents information about the tonal values in an image using the Zone System. For example, Silver Efex Pro, which is part of the Nik Collection by DxO, includes the Zone System as part of the histogram display. You can hover over a button for each zone to see an overlay on the image showing which areas represent that zone.

Lightroom Classic does not include such a feature, however. You can still use some techniques for evaluating the tonal values within the image.

To begin with, while adjusting the overall tone for a black and white photo in Lightroom Classic I recommend using the clipping preview display, which is accessed by holding the Alt/Option key while adjusting most of the tonal value sliders. This enables you to see exactly where in the image detail is being lost due to clipping.

You can also simply evaluate the image on the screen, provided you’re using a calibrated display. If you’re not already calibrating your monitor display, I highly recommend doing so with a package that includes a colorimeter device, such as the Calibrite ColorChecker Display (https://timgrey.me/calibrite).

The histogram can also be used to get a reasonable sense of the overall distribution of tonal values within an image. This isn’t an especially precise approach, but it does provide some sense of the tonal values represented within the image.

Taking the histogram a step further, you can actually evaluate the tonal value for individual pixel areas within the image by using the histogram display in the Develop module within Lightroom Classic. Simply hover your mouse over the image and below the histogram display at the top of the right panel in the Develop module you will see the values for red, green, and blue presented as percentages.

For a black and white image all three values will be the same, so you can simply focus on one of the three. With this display a value of 0% represents pure black, 100% represents pure white, and of course the values in between represent shades of gray.

You can view a recording of my webinar presentation on “Black & White with Lightroom Classic” on my YouTube channel here:

https://youtu.be/mLTl1VlRoqc

Organizing Across Multiple Drives

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Today’s Question: I keep all my photos on a portable external hard drive, but I have outgrown the capacity of the drive. In one of your webinars, you mentioned that this happened to you, but you did not explain how you worked this out with splitting your photos onto two external hard drives. How did you approach that? What happens when I do a search and only one portable hard drive is connected to the computer?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When I got to the point that I was running out of storage space on the hard drive I use for storing my photos (https://timgrey.me/rugged5t), I moved what I considered my “lower priority” images to the secondary hard drive, keeping my “higher priority” photos on the primary drive.

More Detail: When your photo storage starts to reach the capacity limit of the hard drive, you’re using to store your photos, there are three possible solutions. You can get a hard drive with a higher capacity, you can delete outtake photos to reduce your storage needs, or you can divide your photos across more than one hard drive, hopefully with some organizational structure that will prevent confusion about which photos are on which drive.

I felt that the process of reviewing my large library of photos and deleting outtakes would involve a significant time investment. Eventually I will undertake that project, but I needed a faster solution in the short term.

I would have been happy to buy a hard drive with a higher capacity, but there isn’t a good solution here for my needs. I store my photos on LaCie Rugged portable hard drives (https://timgrey.me/rugged5t) because I typically travel somewhat extensively and want to have my photos available during my travels. The model that I use has a maximum capacity of five terabytes. There is a model with an eight-terabyte capacity (https://timgrey.me/rugged8tb), but the form factor makes this drive less convenient in my view.

So, for me, at least for now, the solution was to divide my photos across two hard drives. That meant I had to decide how to choose which photos would remain on the primary hard drive, and which would be moved to a secondary hard drive. For me the easiest approach was to move folders containing photos that I was less likely to use to the secondary hard drive, keeping the photos I was most likely to use on the primary hard drive.

What that amounted to for me was moving folders representing trips where I didn’t feel I had captured my best photos to the secondary hard drive. That would include trips that weren’t completely focused on photography, trips to locations that I didn’t find especially photogenic, or trips where the weather didn’t cooperate. You could also obviously divide photos based on age, with the older photos going to the secondary hard drive and the newer photos remaining on the primary hard drive.

The folders containing photos from my favorite trips remained on the primary hard drive, and I made a point of leaving plenty of free space on this hard drive so I wouldn’t need to move additional photos to the secondary drive for a while.

Hopefully a new portable hard drive with much higher capacity will be available soon. If not, I’ll need to make a point of undertaking a project soon to delete outtake photos in order to reduce the amount of storage capacity required for my photos.

Long-Term Storage

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Today’s Question: Is it okay to store external hard drives in plastic boxes for safekeeping once used and replaced? If not, what do you recommend for long term storage?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My general recommendation for storing any type of hard drive is to avoid extreme conditions. In the case of “traditional” hard drives (rather than solid state drives), I also recommend using the drive about every six months or so to help avoid having the drive components seize up.

More Detail: Computer storage devices are reasonable durable, especially in the context of general storage. As long as you keep the device safe from relatively extreme temperature and humidity, there shouldn’t be any problems with the device.

For traditional hard drives with moving components, there is the additional risk of the internal components seizing up if the drive is not powered up periodically. I don’t consider this an especially high likelihood, but it is enough of a concern that I recommend testing the drive every six months or so.

This approach of testing the drive can also help ensure you are aware of any impending failures. For example, if you test copying files to or from the drive, if there is a problem with the drive there’s a good chance there will be an error with this operation. If there are any such problems, I recommend replacing the drive with a new backup.

For solid state drives (SSD’s) this periodic testing is less of an issue, at least in terms of there not being any moving parts that might seize up. I still recommend checking the drive periodically, so you’ll know if the device has failed.

Because there is always the potential for a storage device to fail unexpectedly, even if a drive is intended for long-term archival storage, I recommend maintaining one or two backups, and ideally an offsite backup (such as an online backup) as well.

Modifying Folder Structure

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Today’s Question: I am moving my photos from one external hard drive to another with a slight change to the folder structure in the process. Is it recommended to just create a new catalog for the new folder structure by just importing with the “Add” option? If I do that, will I lose track of all the modifications that I’ve made in the past within Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, I do not recommend re-importing photos to account for a modified folder structure. Rather, you should modify the folder structure from directly within Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: There are two potential problems created by making changes to your overall folder or storage structure outside of Lightroom Classic.

First, if you make changes to the folder structure outside of Lightroom Classic then the connections to your photos will be lost. You would then need to reconnect the missing folders and photos, which could be an arduous task if the changes to the folder structure were significant.

If you try to overcome this issue by importing the photos from their modified folder structure into a new catalog using the “Add” option, then you will lose at least some of the information about your photos. If you had enabled the option to automatically save metadata updates to XMP sidecar files in the Catalog Settings dialog, then most standard metadata would be preserved.

However, with this approach of importing photos from a new location you would lose Lightroom-specific features such as collections, virtual copies, and the history within the Develop module, among other information.

Therefore, I strongly recommend making any desired changes to your folder or storage structure from within Lightroom Classic. That includes the ability to rename folders, create new folders, move folders or photos to a different location, and more. The key is to perform all of that work within Lightroom Classic to avoid disconnected photos or missing metadata.

Note that these issues (and much more) are covered in my comprehensive video course “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom Classic”, which you can learn more about here:

https://www.greylearning.com/courses/lightroom-mess

Including Videos in Backup

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Today’s Question: With recent backup options you mentioned, do these also backup movies and mp4 files? I have used Carbonite, but they do not backup movies and videos.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Both tools I use to back up my photos and other important data include video files as part of that backup. That includes GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) for my local backup and Backblaze (https://timgrey.me/onlinebackup) for my remote online backup.

More Detail: Some online backup services may exclude video files from the backup, which obviously can be a concern for photographers. For example, Carbonite requires that you upgrade to a “Plus” or “Prime” plan for videos to be included in your online backup.

The Backblaze online backup service I use (https://timgrey.me/onlinebackup) does not have this limitation. With a standard Backblaze plan you can include videos as part of your online backup, with unlimited file sizes and unlimited total capacity.

In addition, the GoodSync software I use for local backups (from one hard drive to another) will backup all files on the source drive you have designated.

Needless to say, it is important to make sure that your backup solution is indeed backing up all of the files you think it is. For example, you’ll want to ensure external hard drives are included as part of your backup, not just the internal hard drives on your computer.

Filtering Photos by Lens

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Today’s Question: Can Lightroom Classic show me only photos captured with the selfie lens (or the main lens) the way I can in the Apple Photos application?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can filter images in Lightroom Classic based on which lens was used, which in the case of a smartphone means you can filter based on images captured with the “front” camera (such as for selfies) or the “rear” camera (for “normal” captures).

More Detail: Lightroom Classic includes a wide variety of options for filtering your photos, which can be tremendously helpful for locating a specific image. As I often say, with the various metadata filtering options there’s a good chance you can locate a photo based on whatever details you can actually remember about the image.

This filtering includes the option for showing only photos captured with a specific lens. For smartphones that generally include both a front and a rear lens, you can filter images based on which of those lenses were used to capture photos. That means you can effectively filter based on photos captured with the “selfie” lens versus the normal lens.

Not all capture attributes are included in the filtering options in Lightroom Classic, which does create some limits for smartphone captures. For example, you can’t filter images captured as a Live Photo or in Portrait mode for iPhone captures, nor can you easily filter images captured as panoramas.

However, despite the limitations, the filtering options within Lightroom Classic do provide very effective options for locating specific photos.