Types of Backups


Today’s Question: Over the years I have used several different backup approaches, but more recently everything is backed up via Time Machine through my iMac desktop. Can you comment on the differences between Time Machine and other backup options you’ve recommended?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key difference in Time Machine compared to the synchronization backup solution I prefer (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) is how the data will be recovered in the event of a failure. Time Machine requires a little more effort when it comes to recovering large amounts of data, while a synchronization backup provides a backup that is easier to recover from.

More Detail: One of the key advantages of a synchronization backup, such as the GoodSync software (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) that I use, is that the backup is an exact copy of the original. This makes recovering from a data loss much faster and easier.

For example, my primary photo storage is on an external hard drive. I use GoodSync to back up that photos drive to a backup drive (and a second backup as well). The result is that the file and folder structure on the backup drive is an exact match compared to the primary photo storage drive. So, if my photo drive fails, I can simply make sure that the volume label (on Macintosh) or drive letter (on Windows) matches that which had been in use for the primary drive.

With Time Machine you would generally need to go through a restore process in order to recover the files that had been lost. This would require additional time, in part because you would need to copy photos from the Time Machine drive to a replacement drive for the original that failed.

I still consider Time Machine to be an excellent backup solution, just not as a primary backup solution for photos. With Time Machine, for example, you can go back and find earlier versions of files, which can be very helpful if you had accidentally deleted files or made unintended changes to files.

I use Time Machine as a backup of the internal hard drive on my computer. I then use GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) to back up my photo and other data storage on external hard drives. I also use an online backup (https://timgrey.me/onlinebackup) to provide an additional layer of offsite backup storage for my photos and other important files.

Bit Depth for Final Image


Today’s Question: If I have a 16-bit file that is flattened (the original layered file being saved in 16-bit mode) and I want to save storage space, is there any image degradation if I convert it to 8-bit mode?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is some degree of image degradation when converting from 16-bit per channel to 8-bit per channel. However, from a practical perspective this is not a significant concern unless you’ll be applying relatively strong adjustments to that 8-bit image, or the image had been converted to black and white.

More Detail: The bit depth for an image determines the total number of tonal and color values available for the image. For most typical photographic workflows, the benefits of working in the 16-bit per channel mode are largely theoretical. However, there are situations where that higher bit depth can be helpful, and so I do recommend working in 16-bit per channel mode for your master image files.

One of the key risks of an 8-bit per channel image is posterization, which results in the loss of smooth gradations of tone or color in an image. For example, a sky that should appear as a smooth gradation of blue may instead have a banded appearance.

In most cases, with a properly exposed photo and relatively modest adjustments, the risk of posterization is relatively low. However, for monochromatic images (black and white for example) or when strong adjustments are required, the risk of posterization can be very real.

So, first and foremost I recommend retaining the original master image in the 16-bit per channel mode. If you’re going to create a flattened copy of that image, and it is a full-color image that you don’t intend to apply any further adjustments to, then converting that flattened copy to 8-bit per channel mode is perfectly reasonable. Doing so, by the way, will reduce the file size for the image by half.

For images that you may still need to apply strong adjustments to, and for monochrome images in particular, I recommend keeping the image in the 16-bit per channel mode. This will help minimize the risk of posterization for the image, especially if you’ll be using a print workflow that supports 16-bit per channel data, for example.

Hidden Option for Moving Folders


Today’s Question: All my photos are on a hard drive “E:”, which I use only for photos. All the photos are in individual folders. However, all these folders are in a master folder called “Virtual H”. I would like to move the individual folders out of the master folder, directly to the top level of the drive. I have tried dragging one subfolder directly to the hard drive on the Folders list, but it does not move. How can I move these folders to the top level on the hard drive?

Tim’s Quick Answer: To move folders (or photos) to the top level of a hard drive within Lightroom Classic you need to use a “hidden” feature to reveal the hard drive as though it were a folder. You can then drag and drop any folders or photos to the top level of the hard drive rather than a folder.

More Detail: The Folders list on the left panel in the Library module in Lightroom Classic only shows folders that contain photos being managed by Lightroom Classic. For many photographers that means that the hard drive itself is not shown at the folder level, because photos are generally stored within a folder on the hard drive rather than at the top level (root level) of the hard drive.

So, in most cases you will see a heading for each hard drive that contains photos being managed by Lightroom Classic, but not a folder representing the hard drive. As noted in today’s question, you can’t drag-and-drop a folder (or photo) directly onto the heading that represents the hard drive.

Fortunately, there is an easy (though somewhat hidden) way to enable dragging and dropping folders or photos to the top level of the hard drive. To do so, right-click on one of the top-level folders under the hard drive heading and choose “Show Parent Folder” from the popup menu.

You may need to reveal multiple parent folders to get to the hard drive itself. For example, based on the folder structure described in today’s question, the first time you reveal a parent folder for one of the existing top-level folders you would reveal the “Virtual H” folder at the top of the folder list. If you then right-click on that “Virtual H” folder and choose “Show Parent Folder” from the popup menu, the hard drive itself would appear as a folder at the top of the folder structure.

With that folder representing the hard drive at the top of the folder structure, you can drag and drop folders or photos to that hard drive folder. In this case, for example, you could select all the subfolders under the “Virtual H” parent folder, and then drag-and-drop those selected folders to the folder representing the hard drive.

At this point the “Virtual H” folder would be empty, so you could right-click on it and choose “Remove” from the popup menu to remove the empty folder. To streamline the folder display when you’re finished with this reorganization you could right-click on the folder representing the hard drive and choose “Hide This Parent” from the popup menu.

Understanding a “Watched Folder”


Today’s Question: Would you explain the best way to utilize a “watched folder” in Lightroom Classic and where you find it?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I recommend using a watched folder for situations where you will be creating image files outside the context of a camera, such as when you’ll be scanning slides. Using this automatic import feature helps ensure you remember to import all of these types of photos.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic enables you to define an automatic import using a “watched folder”. What that means is that any image you save into the watched folder will be imported to your catalog automatically, based on specific settings you have established.

First you need to configure the automatic import. To get started, go to the menu bar and choose File > Auto Import > Auto Import Settings. Click the Choose button to the right of the “Watched Folder” label and navigate to the folder that you want to have Lightroom Classic monitor for automatic import. You can create a new folder as part of this step if needed. Click the Choose button to apply the change.

In the Destination section click the Choose button to the right of the “Move To” label and navigate to the storage location where you want the newly imported photos to be moved to. For example, this might be an external hard drive you use for storing all your photos. You can then specify a subfolder name for the folder you want to use as the destination for the newly imported images. I generally prefer to use a folder name here that will ensure the folder stands out at the top of the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module, such as by putting an underscore (_) at the beginning of the folder name.

You can then adjust the other import settings as desired, such as to add the photos to a collection, apply a Develop module preset, or apply a metadata preset. If you’re ready to have the automatic import enabled, turn on the “Enable Auto Import” checkbox at the top of the Auto Import Settings dialog and click the OK button.

You can turn automatic import on or off at any time by choosing File > Auto Import > Enable Auto Import from the menu. When this feature is turned on, if any photos are added to the watched folder they will be automatically imported based on the settings you established in the Auto Import Settings dialog, and moved to the folder location you specified.

So, for example, each time you save a scanned image into the watched folder, it will be automatically imported into your Lightroom Classic folder. And because these images are moved to a different storage location as part of that automatic import process, there won’t be any confusion about whether the images have actually been imported into your catalog, since the images are moved out of the watched folder as part of the automatic import.

Initial Sharpening Approach


Today’s Question: In Camera Raw [or Lightroom Classic in the Develop module], under Detail, sharpening is set to 40. Is it better to apply more sharpening there, or leave it as is at the default of 40, and use the Smart Sharpen filter [or output sharpening in Lightroom Classic], or a combination of both?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I recommend keeping sharpening settings at modest levels for the original raw capture (in Camera Raw in Photoshop or the Develop module in Lightroom Classic). You can then apply final output sharpening when you will print or otherwise share the image, specific to the type and size of output you’ll be producing.

More Detail: The sharpening available as part of the adjustments for processing raw captures is often referred to as “capture sharpening” or “input sharpening”. This sharpening is intended for compensating for issues that reduced overall sharpness in the initial capture. That includes, for example, slight softness introduced by the lens and from the conversion from an analog signal (light) to a digital image.

Because this initial sharpening is compensating for the initial capture, it doesn’t generally need to be very strong, and you can generally use relatively consistent settings. I typically set the Radius value to around 1.0 or a little lower, and set the Amount to somewhere between 40 and 80 depending on the image. If an image needs a bit stronger sharpening than is typical, then I might also refine the Detail and Masking controls, which help determine the extent to which fine detail versus smooth areas of the image are affected by sharpening.

Beyond that, the Texture, Clarity, and Dehaze adjustments also provide an effect that is somewhat similar in concept to sharpening, just affecting the image at a different scale.

Finally, when it comes time to share the image, I recommend applying sharpening that is tailored to both the actual output size as well as the method of output. For example, you generally need very little additional sharpening if the image will be shared digitally, such as online or in a digital slideshow. More sharpening is needed for images that will be printed, especially if the image will be printed to an uncoated matte paper.

Virtual Copies Removed with Source


Today’s Question: If you delete the original image, does Lightroom Classic also delete the virtual copy?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, removing an original photo from your Lightroom Classic catalog will cause any virtual copies created from that original photo to also be removed.

More Detail: Virtual copies represent an additional interpretation of a source photo. When you create a virtual copy in Lightroom Classic you aren’t making a copy of the source photo, but rather simply creating an additional set of metadata based on the original. You could then have different metadata and different adjustments in the Develop module for the virtual copy versus the source photo.

You can also create multiple virtual copies of a single source image, so that you have a variety of interpretations of the source photo. This can be helpful for a variety of situations, such as when you’re trying to decide how to interpret a photo in terms of various adjustments, or you need different versions of a photo for different purposes.

A virtual copy is directly tied to the source photo it was based upon. If you move a source photo to a different folder, for example, any virtual copies based on that photo will be moved along with the original into the new folder location. Similarly, if you delete a source photo (or even just remove it from your catalog) any virtual copies created from that photo will also be removed from Lightroom Classic.

So, you can think of virtual copies as being permanently connected to the source photo. While you can have different metadata or Develop adjustments for a source photo compared to a virtual copy, moving or deleting a source photo will also remove the virtual copies based on that source photo.

Collections to Folders


Today’s Question: I have imported a number of older folders from a hard drive into the new catalog as collections. I would like to convert these collections back into folders in my catalog. Is there a way to do this without having to remove the collections from Lightroom and re-import them as folders?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Actually, even though you added photos to collections at import, they are still reflected in your catalog with folders based on the folder structure on your hard drive. You can use the collections as needed to determine which folder the photos are actually in.

More Detail: When you import photos into a Lightroom Classic catalog the images are always included within the Folders section on the left panel in the Library module based on the hard drive and folder location of the source images. The Folders section in Lightroom Classic is a direct reflection of the storage structure of your photos.

Collections can be thought of as being like a “virtual folder”. A given photo that has been imported into your Lightroom Classic catalog will always be listed in the Folders section of the left panel in the Library module. A photo can also be included in the Collections section, but only if you have actually added the photo to a collection.

I think of collections as something of a saved search result, or as an album that groups together related photos. Adding a photo to a collection does not move the photo out of a folder. The source photo is still in the folder, and a reference to the source photo is added to the collection.

If you’re not sure which folder the photos in a given collection are stored in, you can right-click on a photo within a collection and choose “Go to Folder in Library” from the popup menu that appears. This will take you automatically to the source photo in the applicable folder in the Folders section.

If all of the photos in a given collection are stored in a single folder, then of course you only need to use the “Go to Folder in Library” command for a single reference photo. But if the photos had been taken from a variety of different folders, you can use this command on various photos to determine where they are located in your folder structure.

Smart versus Standard Previews


Today’s Question: Can you explain what’s the difference between building a Smart Preview versus a Standard Preview when importing photos into Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: A Smart Preview in Lightroom Classic is a high-resolution DNG preview of your source capture, enabling greater flexibility in your workflow. A Standard preview is a JPEG preview at approximately the resolution of your display. There is also a 1:1 preview option, which is a JPEG preview but at the full resolution of the source image.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic uses previews of your photos for various purposes, primarily as a cache to improve overall display performance and to enable you to view your photos even when the source files are not available (such as when an external hard drive containing your photos is not connected to your computer).

JPEG previews are used primarily in the Library module to enable you to browse your images more quickly (since the source raw capture does not need to be rendered, for example) and to enable you to browse your photos even when the source files aren’t available (since the previews are stored alongside your catalog).

The JPEG previews can be rendered at various sizes, with the primary options available being the Standard versus 1:1 previews. The 1:1 previews are obviously at the full resolution of your source photos, and enable you to zoom in with good quality even when only the preview is available. The Standard previews are sized based on the size (and quality) settings established on the File Handing tab of the Catalog Settings dialog, but are aimed at being approximately the resolution of your display so you can view the full image.

A Smart Preview is a relatively high-resolution preview (though not full resolution) in the DNG format rather than JPEG. This enables greater flexibility and improved preview quality.

Normally you aren’t able to work with your photos in the Develop module if the source image file is not currently available. However, if you have rendered Smart Previews of your photos you can still work in the Develop module even if the source file isn’t available. You can even export copies of your photos based on Smart Previews without needing to have the source files available.

There is also an option to use Smart Previews to improve performance in the Develop module by favoring Smart Previews over the source image file.

Personally, I don’t generate Smart Previews of my photos because I typically have the source images available and I’m not too concerned about improving performance somewhat modestly in the Develop module. Also, the Smart Previews are by their nature somewhat large in size, consuming quite a bit of hard drive space.

I also generate Standard previews rather than the 1:1 previews because I don’t tend to zoom in on my photos beyond full screen very often in the context of the Library module. In the Develop module the source image is being rendered, so the normal previews aren’t employed. Of course, as noted above you do have the option to use Smart Previews in the Develop module.

Of course, every photographer has different priorities in their workflow, so you may prefer to take a different approach than I do. The key is to understand the options available so you can make the best decision based on your own needs.

Choosing a Lens Extender


Today’s Question: Instead of buying an expensive super telephoto zoom lens, I would rather buy an extender for my 70-200 zoom lens. Canon charges the same price for its 1.4x (https://bhpho.to/3oaT4Tm) and 2x (https://bhpho.to/3bnaxQv) extenders. Are there any downsides picking the 2x extender over the 1.4x extender?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key difference between these two extenders is that the 2x will cause you to lose one additional stop of light. This obviously affects potential shutter speeds in addition to degrading autofocus performance.

More Detail: An extender is effectively a magnifier for your lens. These extenders are often available in a 1.4x and 2x strength for different lens mounts for different camera makes. With a 1.4x extender you will lose one stop of light, and with a 2x extender you will lose two stops of light.

With less light available when using the 2x extender, you would obviously need to compensate with exposure settings. That can lead to a slower shutter speed, which can be problematic depending on the specific circumstances. In addition, that loss of light will reduce autofocus performance, which can be a real hindrance.

Of course, there is also the additional magnification to consider. With a 70-200mm lens, for example, the 200mm focal length would translate to an effective 280mm focal length with the 1.4x extender, but a 400mm effective focal length with the 2x.

Therefore, when considering an extender my view is that the 2x option makes the most sense, as long as you can manage the loss of an additional stop of light.

In a general sense it is also important to confirm compatibility with the specific lens you intend to use with the extender. Many extenders only support prime lenses, plus a handful of zoom lenses (as is the case with the Canon extenders). With some configurations you may lose autofocus altogether, or you may be limited as to which focus points are available.

Mixing and Matching for Selections


Today’s Question: Often the “Select Subject” command in Photoshop works well, but can I add to the selected subject?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can absolutely mix-and-match different selection tools in Photoshop to refine your selection, including in conjunction with the Select Subject command.

More Detail: The Select Subject command in Photoshop does an impressive job of identifying and selecting the key subject in a photo, especially when that key subject stands out reasonably well from the background. However, this command (and the similar Select Sky command) doesn’t always do a perfect job.

Fortunately, whenever an initial selection isn’t quite perfect, you don’t have to abandon that selection and start over with a different tool or technique. Instead, you can mix-and-match among various selection tools and commands.

For example, you could use the Select Subject (or Select Sky) command to create a quick and automatic selection. For areas of that initial selection that don’t match the subject or area you were trying to select, you can add to or subtract from that selection.

I often use the Quick Selection tool, for example, to supplement other selection tools. You can hold the Shift key on the keyboard while painting with the Quick Selection tool to add areas to a selection. You can also hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while painting to subtract areas from the selection.

Another helpful tool for this type of selection refinement is the Lasso tool, which you can use to trace along areas of the selection you need to modify. The same keyboard commands for adding to or subtracting from a selection work with this and other selection tools.

And, of course, there are a variety of other tools and commands you can use in Photoshop to further modify a selection. The key thing to keep in mind is that you can use multiple of the various tools and commands to fine-tune a selection, rather than having to use just a single tool to try to do all work to create a perfect selection.