Lunar Eclipse Composite

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Today’s Question: I want to take a series of photographs of the lunar eclipse and stitch them together to show the phases. Most specifically I want to know if cropped photos can be successfully stitched.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can assemble these images, including if they are cropped, into a composite image. However, you will need to assemble the images manually rather than through an automated approach such as that used to assemble a composite panorama.

More Detail: The weather in my location did not cooperate for the recent total lunar eclipse, so I’m glad that some readers were able to get out and photograph this event. For those who captured images at various times throughout the progress of the eclipse, you can assemble a composite image showing those phases together.

Because of the nature of the images, however, you won’t be able to assemble them the way you could assemble a composite panorama. Instead, you’ll need to take a more manual approach to assemble these images, for which I recommend using Photoshop.

You would start off by opening the images as layers in Photoshop. If you’re using Lightroom Classic you can select the images and then from the menu choose Photo > Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop. If you’re not using Lightroom Classic you could select the photos in Adobe Bridge and then from the menu choose Tools > Photoshop > Load Files into Photoshop Layers.

The result will be a layered image in Photoshop, and you can then go about assembling those layers into a blended composite. This would involve selecting individual layers and using the Move tool to move each layer into the appropriate position. Along the way you will need to drag an image outside of the existing canvas area to put it into the right position, essentially dragging that layer out of view. You can expand the canvas after each of these moves by choosing Image > Reveal All from the menu.

With the layers arranged in the right positions, you can add a black (or very dark) background. I would add a Solid Color adjustment layer for this purpose. Click on the “Add Adjustment Layer” button (the half-black/half-white circle icon) at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Solid Color from the popup. Select the color you want to use that will best blend in with the sky around the moon and click OK in the Color Picker dialog. You can then drag the thumbnail for this adjustment layer to the bottom of the order on the Layers panel.

Finally, you’ll need to mask the individual moon photos so they will better blend into the background. I would use the Elliptical Marquee selection tool to create a loose selection around the moon one layer at a time. With a selection for a given frame of the moon make sure the appropriate layer is active on the Layers panel and click the “Add Layer Mask” button (the circle-inside-a-rectangle icon) at the bottom of the Layers panel. On the Properties panel go to the Masks tab and increase the value for the Feather slider so that the masked moon image blends smoothly into the background.

With this basic approach you can adjust the position of each image, blend each of those images into a background, and otherwise refine the result. You could even use the Free Transform command found on the Edit menu to resize individual frames of the composite as needed. The result can be a nice composite showing the transition of the total lunar eclipse.

Docking Folders in Lightroom Classic

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Today’s Question: What is “docking” for folders in Lightroom Classic, and is it only available in the Import dialog?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Docking a folder in Lightroom Classic will cause other folders at the same level to be hidden, making it easier to navigate among a complex folder structure. This feature is only available in the Import dialog within Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: The Import dialog in Lightroom Classic includes an option to “dock” a folder within the Source section of the left panel as well as the Destination section on the right panel. When a folder is docked, all other folders at the same level to be hidden from view. This feature is not available outside the Import dialog.

To dock a folder within the Source or Destination section you can double-click on the folder or right-click on the folder and choose “Dock Folder” from the popup menu. For example, let’s assume you had top-level folders for “Photos”, “Scans”, and “Smartphone”. If you double-click on the “Scans” folder the “Photos” and “Smartphone” folders would be temporarily hidden.

You can undock a folder by double-clicking on the folder again, or by right-clicking and choosing “Dock Folder” again to turn the feature off.

The idea is that you may find it easier to navigate among a complex folder structure using this docking feature. By docking a parent folder, for example, you’ll only see that folder and the subfolders within it, making it a little easier to select only the folder you want to work with.

I don’t personally find this feature very helpful, in large part because most of the time when I’m importing photos into my Lightroom Classic catalog I am doing so from a media card taken out of my camera. In other words, I am not working with a complex folder structure most of the time when importing photos into my catalog. Even if I am importing existing photos from a hard drive rather than a memory card, I don’t generally find docking folders to be especially helpful, since I tend to use a relatively streamlined folder structure to begin with.

Lunar Eclipse is Always a Full Moon

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Today’s Question: Thank you for letting us know about the total lunar eclipse. I was able to capture some nice photos thanks to that. I was reading that a total lunar eclipse only occurs during a full moon. Why is that?

Tim’s Quick Answer: A total lunar eclipse can only occur during a full moon because an eclipse requires an alignment of the sun, earth, and moon.

More Detail: A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the shadow of the earth. That requires that the moon is directly opposite the earth relative to the sun. In other words, the sun, earth, and moon line up, with the earth in between the sun and moon. This causes the shadow of the earth to fall on the moon.

By definition, if the earth is in between the sun and the moon, the moon will appear as a full moon from the perspective of the earth because the sun will be illuminating the entirety of the moon that is visible from earth.

If, on the other hand, the moon is not aligned with the sun and earth, it will not appear full from the perspective of earth. For example, if the moon is in a position that extends from a 90-degree angle relative to the alignment of the sun and earth, the moon will appear half full because in terms of the illumination of the sun we are viewing the moon from the side.

Similarly, when the moon is full it will rise or set around the same time as sunset or sunrise, because of the alignment of the sun, earth, and moon at the time of a full moon.

So, the alignment that enables the moon to pass through the shadow of the earth for a lunar eclipse also results in a full moon from the perspective of earth.

False Duplicates on Import

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Today’s Question: Twice recently I have tried to import photos from a card and when it showed in the Import panel there were two copies of each photo, and one set was all out of order! I found that if you select your source from the Devices menu at top, you get that weirdness. But if you select from Files, you do not. Is that true? If so, is there a way to have the Devices options not show?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is the current behavior in the Import dialog in Lightroom Classic, which I consider to be a very weird bug that shockingly hasn’t been fixed yet. You can’t remove the Devices section, so the only solution is to always make sure you select the source from the Files section, not from Devices.

More Detail: One of the key options you need to set in the Import dialog in Lightroom Classic is the source of photos you want to import. For most photographers in most cases, that means selecting a removable device such as a media card in a card reader in the Source section of the left panel. However, because of the odd behavior of Lightroom Classic I strongly recommend selecting your source from the Files section.

If you select your source from the Devices section, you will most likely see two copies of every photo. If you have the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checkbox turned on as I recommend, the duplicates among these photos will be disabled for import. Regardless, this is a very confusing display in the Import dialog and a weird and frustrating bug in Lightroom Classic as far as I’m concerned.

To avoid this issue, simply be sure to select the source of photos from the Files section. Any devices that appear in the Devices section, such as media cards or connected mobile devices, will also show as the equivalent of a storage device in the Files section. Simply choose the top-level folder from the applicable device, and you’ll be able to import all photos from the device without the duplication in the display.

From what I understand, selecting the source from the Files section will also cause the import to be a little faster, for whatever reason. Regardless, hopefully Adobe will resolve this issue by simply removing the Devices section on the left panel in import or otherwise fixing this odd bug.

Partial Import Recommendation

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Today’s Question: My new camera allows me to shoot at 20 frames per second. Following a few birds recently, I quickly amassed over 700 images. In Lightroom Classic, can I select just my favorite few for import and discard the rest, while not overburdening my hard drive capacity?

Tim’s Quick Answer: It is possible to selectively import only certain photos from a memory card into Lightroom Classic. However, in general I recommend importing all photos and then reviewing them and deleting the unwanted outtakes.

More Detail: As a rule, I strongly recommend importing all photos from a memory card into Lightroom Classic as one overall process, rather than importing only some photos from a media card. You can then delete outtakes, adjust folder structure, or otherwise manage those photos. This approach helps to streamline your overall workflow and helps to ensure you photos are backed up and you don’t overlook any photos for eventual import.

Having said that, you most certainly can choose to import only some of the photos on a media card or other source of photos as part of the import process. The basic idea is that only photos that have the checkbox turned on at the top-left of the thumbnail when in the grid view display for the Import dialog will actually be imported.

Therefore, you can simply turn off the checkbox for photos you don’t want to import. If you only want to import a small portion of the photos in the selected source, you can click the “Uncheck All” button at the bottom-left of the Import dialog to turn off the checkbox for all photos. You could then turn on the checkbox at the top-left of each thumbnail only for those photos you want to import.

You could also select ranges of photos and turn off (or on) the checkbox for all selected photos at once. You can click on the first thumbnail in the range you want to turn off (or on) the checkbox for, then hold the Shift key on the keyboard while clicking on the last photo in the range. That will select all the photos in that range, and you can then click the checkbox for any of the selected photos to toggle the checkbox for all of the selected photos.

The point is that there are a variety of ways you can ensure that the checkbox is only turned on for the photos you want to import, with the checkbox turned off for the photos you don’t want to import. Adjust all other import settings as desired, and when you click the Import button at the bottom-right of the Import dialog only the images with their checkbox turned on will actually be imported into your catalog.

If you import only a portion of the photos on a media card and then reformat the card, you will have deleted all photos from the card without ever having imported some of the photos from that card into your Lightroom Classic catalog.

XMP Option for Adobe DNG Files

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Today’s Question: I understand the benefits of enabling XMP sidecar files for proprietary raw captures in Lightroom Classic, but what about for Adobe DNG files?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The same benefits of enabling XMP sidecar files for proprietary raw captures in Lightroom Classic apply to Adobe DNG and other supported image formats. The only difference is that for files other than proprietary raw captures the metadata updates are written directly to the source files rather than to an XMP sidecar file.

More Detail: As I’ve addressed previously in the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, I strongly recommend turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom Classic.

The checkbox is a little misleading, however, because when you enable this option XMP sidecar files are only created or updated for proprietary raw captures. For other supported image file types, including Adobe DNG (Digital Negative) images, the metadata updates will be written directly to the source image file.

It is important to remember that these metadata updates are limited to standard metadata fields as well as the actual adjustments applied in the Develop module. With this option enabled you can view standard metadata updates in other software such as Adobe Bridge, but you should not make any changes to metadata outside of Lightroom Classic.

Perhaps more important is to keep in mind that Lightroom-specific updates that are not included in an existing metadata standard will not be preserved in this way and will only be included in the Lightroom Classic catalog. That includes, for example, collections, virtual copies, Pick and Reject flags, and the history in the Develop module.

Primarily because it provides a backup for what is generally the most important metadata updates in your Lightroom Classic catalog, I strongly recommend turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox. You can read more about how important this is in the context of losing information from your catalog on the Ask Tim Grey blog here:

https://asktimgrey.com/2022/05/04/why-xmp-is-critical/

Smart Preview Shortcomings

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Today’s Question: Are there any limitations or downsides to editing a Smart Preview in Lightroom Classic? I am thinking in particular of brush mask edge resolution differences that might exist between a mask created within a Smart Preview versus the full resolution original image file, especially with the “Auto Mask” checkbox turned on.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The negative consequences of using Smart Previews in the Develop module within Lightroom Classic are very minor, and mostly relate to the fact that the overall image quality for the Smart Preview will not match the higher quality of the original image.

More Detail: Today’s question is a follow-up to my answer in the May 10th Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter regarding Smart Previews in Lightroom Classic. If you’d like to review the original question and answer, you can find them on the blog here:

https://asktimgrey.com/2022/05/10/editing-smart-previews-outside-lightroom-classic/

In short, in Lightroom Classic you can build Smart Previews for photos, which enable you to perform various tasks with your photos even when the source image files are not available. That means an external hard drive that contains your photos could be disconnected, but you could still work in the Develop module or export reduced-resolution copies of the photos based on the Smart Previews. There’s also an option in Preferences to prioritize the use of Smart Previews in the Develop module even when the source photos are available, in order to improve performance.

The primary disadvantage to working with Smart Previews is that those previews are a reduced-resolution version of the original image. Therefore, you aren’t seeing a top-quality preview for the photo as you’re making decisions about the adjustments you apply.

This is a very minor issue that really won’t have a significant impact on the final image quality, since the adjustments applied based on the Smart Preview will synchronize with the source image as soon as it is available again. So while in principle I prefer not to use Smart Previews in the Develop module, the negative consequences of doing so are very minor.

This holds true if you are applying targeted adjustments with the masking features, even if you are making use of the “Auto Mask” option for the Brush feature. The masks you create based on the Smart Preview will still be very accurate, and those masks will be scaled for the full-resolution image when the updates are synchronized.

Therefore, if you feel there is an advantage being able to use Smart Previews in the Develop module, then I would not try to discourage you from doing so. If you don’t need Smart Previews in your workflow then I wouldn’t suggest generating them, but the downside to using them is absolutely minimal.

Renaming Photos in the Camera

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Today’s Question: In response to your answer about avoiding duplicate filenames when importing photos into Lightroom Classic, is it possible to rename photos in the camera to help ensure unique filenames when shooting with more than one camera?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, with some cameras you can change the default naming structure. Most will still only allow you to use four digits for the sequence number for photos, but using a unique prefix with each camera can help avoid most common issues related to duplicate filenames.

More Detail: Most cameras only allow you to use four digits for the numeric sequence number, because this is part of the “Design rule for Camera File system” (DCF) specification. Some cameras allow for a five-digit sequence number, but this is not within the DCF standards used by most cameras.

With only four numbers available for the sequence number portion of the filename, you’ll only be able to capture 9,999 photos before the camera rests to image number 1 again. Therefore, many photographers prefer to rename photos as part of their organizational workflow to have greater flexibility with the filename structure.

However, when it comes to capturing photos with two different cameras, there is obviously the risk that each of the two cameras used on a single photo outing may result in filename duplication. For example, both cameras may capture an image with a filename such as “IMG_1234.cr2”.

In a previous answer I explained how it was possible to use a renaming template in Lightroom Classic to rename photos, including the option to make filenames unique based on the camera used. On option, for example, would be to use the camera serial number as part of the file renaming structure.

However, with many cameras it is also possible to change the structure for the file naming in the camera, so that each of your camera bodies could have a unique filename structure. For example, if you had two Nikon cameras you might change the structure to something like “NC1_1234.nef” for the first camera and “NC2_1234.nef” for the second camera. This would ensure unique filenames across two (or more) cameras, although obviously you could still end up with duplicate filenames from the same camera when you roll over from 9,999 to 0001 for the sequence number.

Accurate Display Color

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Today’s Question: Do you have some information as to how to adjust your screen on the computer to the correct color temperature? I remember years ago there was a lot of emphasis on this. What should we use? If you work for the internet, everyone’s computer screen is different. What color profile would you use?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I strongly recommend calibrating your display using a colorimeter device. I personally use the Calibrite ColorChecker Display (https://bhpho.to/3wi7Aen) for this purpose. When preparing images to share online, I recommend using the sRGB color space to help ensure better accuracy with uncalibrated displays.

More Detail: As a photographer you should absolutely calibrate your monitor display to ensure the colors you see are an accurate reflection of the colors in your images, so that the adjustments you apply will be based on an accurate view of the image. I use the Calibrite ColorChecker Display (https://bhpho.to/3wi7Aen), which was formerly branded as X-Rite Photo. Another excellent option is the Datacolor SpyderX Pro (https://bhpho.to/3ylFSjP).

Calibrating your display will ensure that images look correct for you, but of course many people who may view your images online are not calibrating their displays. I still recommend optimizing photos based on an accurate calibrated display, recognizing that the photos may not appear completely accurate for users who have not calibrated.

To help ensure accurate color for images shared online even among non-calibrated displays, I recommend using the sRGB color space. That is because the sRGB color space was created to encapsulate the colors of a typical monitor display. Therefore, sRGB pixel values will generally appear relatively accurate even on a non-calibrated display.

In addition to ensuring accurate color, calibrating a display will help ensure optimal brightness levels. I consider this quite important as well considering that most displays with a default configuration will be about a full stop too bright, meaning twice as bright as they should be. Solving for this issue on your display won’t guarantee that all viewers will see an accurate view of your photos, but it will help.

Traveling with the Master Catalog

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Today’s Question: I use a laptop as my only computer. When traveling I use Lightroom Classic to import photos and make primary and second copy using two external hard drives drives. How do I best make the transfer from travel hard drives to my larger hard drive at home? I don’t think I should need a second travel catalog.

Tim’s Quick Answer: In this scenario you most certainly do not need to use a separate catalog when traveling. Rather, you can simply import photos into your master catalog on your laptop, and then move the photos to your primary hard drive using Lightroom Classic when you get home.

More Detail: Because you (like me) use a laptop as your only computer, you can always have your master Lightroom Classic catalog available whether you’re at home or traveling. Therefore, there is absolutely no need to use a separate catalog when traveling. You can simply import new photos into your master Lightroom Classic catalog while traveling.

If you’re not going to be traveling with your large hard drive that is used for primary storage at home, obviously you’ll need to copy the photos you import while traveling to a different storage location. That could be on the internal hard drive of your laptop if you have enough storage capacity, or to an external hard drive as you are currently doing.

When you return home and your primary storage drive is available, you can then move the photos from the temporary storage location you were using during the trip to the primary hard drive. Just be sure to do this within Lightroom Classic.

When you have imported photos to more than one hard drive in Lightroom Classic you’ll see a header for each of the hard drives in the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module. With both hard drives connected to the computer you could then drag the folder from the traveling hard drive that contains the new photos to the top-level folder for your photos on your primary hard drive at home.

Note that if your folder structure is contained on the root level of the hard drive, you likely won’t have the root level available to drag the folder to. Instead, you’ll need to reveal the parent folder, which in this example would be the hard drive itself. To reveal that root level simply right-click on a top-level folder on the hard drive and choose “Show Parent Folder” from the popup menu. This will reveal a folder representing the level above the existing folders, and you can drag your traveling folder to that top level. If you want to then hide the parent folder again you can right-click on it and choose “Hide This Parent” from the popup.