Track Log for GPS Metadata


Today’s Question: In response to your answer about adding GPS metadata by dragging photos to the map [in Lightroom Classic], isn’t it also possible to use a smartphone to record GPS data and add it to photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can use a smartphone app to record a track log during a photography outing, and then synchronize that track log with the photos in Lightroom Classic to add location metadata to the images.

More Detail: The easiest way to add GPS metadata to your photos is to capture those photos with a camera that has a GPS receiver. With this approach your photos will have GPS information added to metadata automatically, so the photos will simply appear on the map in Lightroom Classic with no additional effort.

As noted in a previous answer, it is also possible to drag photos to the map in order to add location information to metadata. However, recording a track log makes that task even easier when you’re using a camera that doesn’t have a built-in GPS receiver or an attached accessory device.

Some GPS navigators and similar devices have the ability to record a track log. You can also use a smartphone app for this purpose. For the iPhone I use an app called GPS Tracks ( For Android users I’ve tested an app called A-GPS Tracker ( and found it to work well.

The process of using a track log to add GPS coordinates to the metadata for photos is relatively straightforward. You record the track log in the GPX format (not the KML format) and then I recommend saving that track log in the same folder with the photos it corresponds to.

In the Map module in Lightroom Classic you then select the photos on the filmstrip that relate to the track log, click the track log button on the toolbar below the map, and choose “Load Tracklog” from the popup menu. With the track log loaded and the photos selected, click the track log button again and choose “Auto-Tag Selected Photos”.

The capture time for the photos will be synchronized with the time from the track log, so that GPS coordinates can be determined and added to the metadata for each photo.

Understanding Fast Lenses


Today’s Question: What does it mean for a lens to be “fast”? I see references to “fast glass”, but I don’t understand what this means or how it would benefit me.

Tim’s Quick Answer: A fast lens is one that will achieve autofocus faster based on a relatively large lens aperture (small f-number).

More Detail: When a lens features a lens aperture that can open to a larger size (smaller f-number) it allows more light to reach the image sensor. That, in turn, means that the lens will generally be able to achieve autofocus more quickly, thanks to the additional light. This also means the lens is capable of providing narrower depth of field since the lens aperture can be opened to a larger diameter.

Strictly from the standpoint of autofocus, this means that you’ll get better performance with a lens that features a larger maximum aperture size. For example, an f/2.8 lens is capable of faster autofocus than an f/4 lens, all other things being equal. This is one of the reasons, for example, that some lenses are available in two different models with different maximum aperture sizes, with otherwise identical specifications.

A lens with a larger maximum aperture size will generally be more expensive than a lens that doesn’t have as large a maximum aperture size. It is therefore worthwhile to consider whether you actually need the faster autofocus performance.

For some types of photography, such as birds in flight and sports, faster autofocus performance can be very important. For other types of photography, such as landscape photography, the autofocus performance generally won’t be as important. Therefore, the maximum lens aperture size is only one factor to consider, taking into account how important faster autofocus is to you, along with the potential for narrower depth of field afforded by a lens with a larger maximum aperture size.

Mapping without GPS


Today’s Question: I don’t have a GPS receiver on my camera, though of course my iPhone records where I am if I import iPhone images into Lightroom Classic. Is it possible when importing images to say that, for example, a batch are from Rome, another batch from Istanbul, so in the future I could go to the map, point to a place, and see all the images ever taken there?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There’s not a particularly efficient way of adding GPS metadata to images during import in Lightroom Classic. However, you could apply location-based keywords during import, or you can add GPS metadata to the photos quite easily after import.

More Detail: It would technically be feasible to assign GPS metadata to images upon import into Lightroom Classic by creating a metadata preset that contains GPS coordinates and applying that preset during import. However, this would require the extra effort of creating a metadata preset prior to import, and would not provide the flexibility of using multiple locations for a single batch of photos being imported.

As a very basic workaround you could assign location-based keywords during import, such as adding the name of the city and country where the photographs were captured. This would enable you to locate the applicable photos such as by using the filter option for keywords on the Keyword List in the Library module, but it would not enable you to locate photos based on the map.

However, you can very easily add location information to photos using the Map module. Simply select a group of photos on the filmstrip and drag-and-drop them onto the map in the applicable location. This will add pins on the map representing the photos that were added to the map, and also add GPS coordinates to metadata representing the position on the map the photos were dragged to.

You could certainly drag photos to the specific location on the map where they were captured, provided you could recall those details for all (or some) of the photos. However, you can also use a somewhat generic location on the map for a group of photos.

For example, you could select all photos captured in Rome, Italy, and drag them onto the map at Piazza Navona in the heart of Rome. This would obviously mean that for many of the photos the exact GPS coordinates added to metadata weren’t accurate, but as long as you took that into account when browsing the map or the GPS metadata that wouldn’t be a significant problem.

Lightroom Classic on Two Computers


Today’s Question: Can keep my photos and my Lightroom catalogs synchronized on two computers, so that they are identical? I use a desktop iMac for my photography management and serious editing. Sometimes I take trips, though, and when I take photos on those trips, I like to see the photos and edit them on my MacBook Pro laptop. I know a simple solution is to keep the photos and catalogs on an external hard drive, but since my data storage is all on a RAID array, that isn’t feasible.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The only dependable way I would recommend having a full Lightroom Classic catalog and the related photos on two computers is to store the catalog and photos on an external hard drive that can be moved between computers. Since that isn’t feasible, I suggest using a traveling catalog for photos captured during a trip, and synchronization to the Creative Cloud for photos you want to have available for sharing during the trip.

More Detail: Because of the way Lightroom Classic is designed, it isn’t straightforward to make a catalog available on two computers at the same time. The catalog, for example, cannot be stored on a network storage location. I also strongly recommend against storing the catalog with a cloud-based storage service.

If it isn’t feasible to have the Lightroom Classic catalog (and possibly photos) stored on an external drive, then I recommend using a combination of a traveling catalog and cloud-based synchronization to provide similar functionality.

For photos captured during the trip, you can use a dedicated catalog for that trip. You can work in Lightroom Classic in the normal way making use of any features you’d like during the trip, and when you get home you can merge that traveling catalog with your master catalog and then all the work you did in the traveling catalog will be reflected in the master catalog.

To enable sharing photos from your master catalog during a trip I recommend making collections for the photos you want to share, and then enable synchronization for those collections. You can then use the Lightroom app on a mobile device, or Lightroom in a web browser ( on your laptop, to share photos with others via those synchronized collections.

Synchronizing Selected Adjustments


Today’s Question: I know it is possible to automatically synchronize adjustments in Lightroom Classic so I can apply the same adjustments to multiple photos at a time. But can I copy only the image cleanup work from one photo to another? I spent considerable time cleaning up dust spots in one image, only to then realize the same cleanup was needed for a series of other images. Can I duplicate that work easily?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can synchronize only the image cleanup work from one image to others in Lightroom Classic using the Synchronize Settings command and enabling only the Healing adjustments for synchronization.

More Detail: There are several ways you can synchronize adjustments in Lightroom Classic, including the Auto Sync option for synchronizing adjustments across multiple images in real time. However, that doesn’t help when you realize you need to duplicate previous adjustments to other images.

Image cleanup is a great example of this type of situation, because if you have dust spots on the image sensor those spots will appear in exactly the same position for all photos captured with the same dust on the sensor. In this type of situation you can use the Synchronize Settings command to synchronize selected adjustments from one image to a group of others.

Since the adjustments—in this case image cleanup work—had already been applied, you have a reference image that represents the source of the adjustments you want to synchronize to other images. Therefore, the first step is to select the images you want to synchronize the adjusts to, along with the image you’ve already adjusted.

With that range of images selected, click on the thumbnail—note the frame around the thumbnail—for the image you’ve already applied the adjustments to. That will make the image you clicked on the active image, while still keeping the other image selected.

On the right panel in the Develop module you can now click the Sync button. If the button says “Auto Sync” instead, click the toggle switch on the left side of the button to disable automatic synchronization, and then click the Sync button.

In the Synchronize Settings dialog that appears you can click the “Check None” button at the bottom-left of the dialog to turn off the checkboxes for all adjustments. Then, in this example, turn on the “Healing” checkbox, so that you’ll be synchronizing the image cleanup work. You can also turn on any checkboxes for other adjustments you’d like to synchronize from the active image to the other selected images.

Click the Synchronize button at the bottom-right corner of the Synchronize Settings dialog, and the adjustments for which you turned on the checkbox will be synchronized from the active image to the other selected images. In this case that means the image cleanup work done for the first image will be applied to the other selected images.

Finding Original Captures


Today’s Question: Is there a way to see the only the original images that were imported into Lightroom Classic, rather than the many copies that might coexist side by side?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can set a filter for “Original Photos” to exclude virtual copies from the current view. You can also filter based on file type, such as to only display raw captures.

More Detail: In Lightroom Classic you can create additional copies of an original photo in two ways. You can create a virtual copy, which represents an additional set of metadata (such as adjustments) for the same source image. You can also create an entirely new file, such as a TIFF image that might be created when you send a photo to Photoshop or another external editor or plugin.

To exclude virtual copies, you can select the “Original Photos” option associated with the Kind setting on the Attribute tab of the Library Filter bar. If the Library Filter bar isn’t displayed, you can choose View > Show Filter Bar from the menu. Then go to the Attribute tab and click the first button to the right of the Kind label, which is the “Original Photos” option. The second button is for virtual copies and the third is for videos, so you can toggle each of those buttons on or off based on the filter you want to apply.

To exclude derivative copies of the source image that were saved in a file format such as TIFF, PSD, or JPEG, you can set a filter for the file type. On the Metadata tab of the Library Filter bar click one of the column headings representing the metadata fields for filtering and choose “File Type” from the popup. Within the File Type column choose “Raw” to filter based on raw captures, so that other file types will not be displayed.

Note that if you have a mix of virtual copies as well as derivative image types you can enable both filter settings outlined above to exclude everything except original raw captures.

Selecting Export Presets


Today’s Question: When exporting some photos from Lightroom Classic recently, I noticed that there was a checkbox to the left of each preset name on the list, which I hadn’t seen before. I’ve always just clicked the name of the preset to select it. Am I supposed to turn on the checkbox instead? Why are there two ways of choosing a preset when exporting photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The checkboxes associated with presets in the Export dialog are a relatively new addition, and they enable you to export images using multiple presets at a time.

More Detail: If you export images for a similar purpose somewhat frequently, it can be very helpful to save a preset with the settings for the export to streamline the process. With a preset the process of exporting photos is as easy as selecting the photos, clicking the Export button at the bottom of the left panel in the Library module, choosing the preset, and clicking the Export button to initiate the export.

Thanks to the checkboxes, you can also export photos for more than one preset at a time. For example, you might export photos to share to social media and to submit for a photo contest, with each of these calling for different specifications for the pixel dimensions and other settings. To export for more than one preset you simply turn on the checkbox for all the presets you want to export for, and then click the Export button.

So, if you’re exporting for just a single preset, you can just click the name of the preset in the Export dialog and then click the Export button. If you’re exporting for multiple presets, you can turn on the checkbox for each of those presets and then click the Export button.

Enlarging Analog versus Digital


Today’s Question: You wrote: “Whenever you enlarge a photo you are degrading image quality to some extent.” I think this was also true in my film days, which is why I bought a “Portrait Lens.” Could you comment and compare film and digital?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is indeed a degree of image degradation when enlarging either an analog (film) or digital image. However, film did have bit of an advantage in this context by virtue of being a format that was analog in nature, without having discrete pixel values as is the case with a digital image.

More Detail: It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but you can think of the process of enlarging an analog image as projecting the image at a larger size. For example, if you project a film slide with a projector, you can create a larger image by simply moving the projector farther from the screen you’re projecting onto.

Of course, there is still some degradation, such as the image appearing less sharp the more you enlarged it. But the fidelity of the image would be retained very well due to the analog nature of the original.

While digital capture provides a variety of advantages, it does introduce some challenges when it comes to enlarging the image. Rather than simply projecting the image onto a larger screen you effectively need to add pixels to the image. This is done by calculating the color values for new pixels based on the color values of surrounding pixels. You’re basically spreading the existing pixels out and then adding new pixels in between. This causes a loss of sharpness and a degree of lost color fidelity.

It is important to note that today’s digital cameras have exceeded the capabilities of most film cameras in terms of resolution and color fidelity. Even with the theoretical advantages of film in terms of enlargement, I would say that today’s digital cameras produce images that can be enlarged with greater quality that what was possible with film due to the inherent limitations involved and the improvements in technology with digital.

It is difficult to compare older technology with newer technology, but in general terms it is fair to say that there are differences in how enlargements were degraded between film and digital captures. There are similarities and differences with both, and of course differences depending on the level of technology for the different capture formats being compared.

The End of DSLR Cameras?


Today’s Question: You said that “the future of photography is definitely mirrorless”, but does that mean you think at some point manufacturers will stop making digital SLR cameras?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes. I completely expect virtually all new cameras to be mirrorless in a relatively short period of time, most likely by the end of this decade.

More Detail: The way I look at this situation is to imagine a scenario where technology is in exactly the same state as it is right now, except that the camera hasn’t been invented yet. If that were the case, what are the odds that an inventor would add a mirror to a camera they were designing? I would say those odds are very low.

The primary reason to have a mirror in a single lens reflect (SLR) camera is to enable the viewfinder to provide a view through the lens, rather than the offset view provided by previous cameras due to the viewfinder being completely separate from the lens.

A mirrorless camera provides the same general functionality without the use of a mirror, by projecting the live image from the image sensor to an LCD display on the back of the camera or to an optical viewfinder that is essentially a very small LCD display that you hold your eye up to.

The earliest models of what led to today’s mirrorless cameras featured an electronic viewfinder (EVF) of relatively low quality, which greatly reduced the utility of these cameras. Now we have EVF displays of exceptional quality, so that you really aren’t giving up anything by not having an optical viewfinder.

In addition, mirrorless cameras provide a variety of benefits beyond simply making up for the lack of an optical viewfinder. We’re already seeing more new models of mirrorless cameras and fewer new models of digital SLR, and I expect that trend to continue until virtually all cameras are mirrorless.

I mean, I’m sure there might be some niche manufacturers out there who continue making cameras with mirrors, but these will be the exception rather than the rule.

Mirrorless versus DSLR


Today’s Question: There is a mass shift in photography equipment to mirrorless. Am I really sacrificing anything in continuing to shoot with my old Canon 5D III DSLR?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If your current digital SLR camera is meeting your needs, I don’t think there’s any need to switch to mirrorless, just as there wouldn’t be a need to upgrade to a newer digital SLR.

More Detail: There has indeed been a tremendous shift in photography from an emphasis on digital SLR cameras to mirrorless cameras. The future of photography is absolutely mirrorless, but that doesn’t mean you need to feel rushed to buy a mirrorless camera to replace a digital SLR you’re happy with.

There are advantages on both sides when it comes to mirrorless versus DSLR. To be sure, mirrorless does generally offer some advantages over DSLR cameras in general, such as often providing smaller and lighter cameras and lenses, some advanced autofocus technology, and features such as focus peaking and a live histogram right through the viewfinder, among others.

However, mirrorless cameras also generally perform worse in terms of battery performance, and still don’t offer as many options in lenses compared to digital SLRs. For photographers with existing DSLR cameras and lenses, there is also the obvious switching cost of potentially changing camera systems by virtue of switching to mirrorless.

For a photographer who is buying their very first camera, I would suggest that mirrorless is the better option in large part because it does represent the direction photography is clearly headed. For a photographer who currently has a digital SLR, my suggestion is to make a decision based on whether the advantages of a mirrorless camera system are meaningful to you, taking into account the cost involved in switching camera systems.

Photography is about the photographer first and foremost. Great pictures can be made even with a camera that isn’t trendy or doesn’t include all the latest and greatest features.