Mysterious Interface Change

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Today’s Question: Somehow I find myself in Lightroom Classic without access to my left or right panels, bottom panel thumbnails, and top panel options. What I now get is an option at the top left of Grid/Loupe/Compare/Survey and nothing else. Can you help me?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is an indication that you’ve enabled a second Lightroom Classic window intended for a second monitor display. You will need to turn off the secondary display to enable you to see the primary window for Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: Lightroom Classic includes a very helpful feature to open a second window, which is aimed at using that window on a second monitor display. This allows you to leverage two different views of your photos, such as to have a grid view display on a secondary display while applying adjustments in the Develop module to individual images on the primary display.

Of course, if you accidentally enable this feature especially on a computer with only a single display it can be very confusing, causing you to only see the limited interface of the second window without being able to see the primary window.

You can hide the secondary window from the menu by choosing Window > Secondary Display > Show. Note that rather than hiding the secondary window you can also switch it to a floating window by choosing Window > Secondary Display > Full Screen. Both of these menu options are toggles, meaning you select the command to turn the feature on and select it again to turn it off.

The display of the secondary window can also be controlled with a pair of buttons found at the top-left of the bottom panel in the primary Lightroom Classic window. The two buttons each show an icon representing a window, with “1” for the primary display and “2” for the secondary display. You can click the “2” button to show or hide the secondary window. Just keep in mind that if the secondary window completely obstructs the primary window, you’ll need to hide (or float and move) that secondary window to get back to the full set of controls in the primary window.

Catalog Backup Not Important?

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Today’s Question: I was surprised to read that you don’t recommend keeping backup copies of the Lightroom Classic catalog that are older than six months. I understand recovering from such an old backup means you will have lost all work done in the last six months. But isn’t that better than losing everything?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Part of the reason I don’t feel the need to retain very old backup copies of my Lightroom Classic catalog is that the vast majority of the metadata that I care about most is preserved with my original photos, for which I maintain multiple up-to-date backups.

More Detail: I highly recommend enabling the option to write metadata updates directly to your photos, so updates made in Lightroom Classic are stored both with your photos as well as in your catalog. Among other things, this provides a good recovery option should you ever lose your Lightroom Classic catalog for any reason.

If you have enabled the option to save metadata to the source photos, recovering from a catastrophic loss of your catalog is quite simple. You just create a new catalog and import all your existing photos to that catalog. If your photos are stored in one location (such as on an external hard drive that contains all your photos) you can perform a single import from that drive and be back up and running.

It is important to keep in mind that if you create a new catalog and import your existing photos that have had the metadata saved to them, you will not retain all information that had been contained in your original catalog. There are some features specific to Lightroom Classic that can only be saved within the catalog, not to the metadata for your photos. This includes collections, virtual copies, pick and reject flags, and the history list in the Develop module.

However, with this approach you would retain all standard metadata (and the folder structure) for all your photos. You would therefore still have all your keywords, star ratings, key labels, and other standard metadata updates. This approach also preserves the adjustment settings from the Develop module, even though those can be thought of as specific to Lightroom Classic.

To enable having metadata updates written to the source image files in addition to the catalog, go to the Catalog Settings dialog by choosing Edit > Catalog Settings on Windows or Lightroom Classic > Catalog Settings on Macintosh from the menu. On the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog turn on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox. Lightroom Classic will then write standard metadata out to all existing photos, and will apply future updates to the photos as well.

Catalog Backup Clutter

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Today’s Question: My Backups folder for Lightroom Classic shows a lot of ZIP files that I’m not too sure what to do with. It comes to 8 GBs! Can I just delete these? Every time I quit Lightroom a ZIP file is created, and the folder gets bigger and bigger! I’m not even sure what a ZIP file is. What is the best thing to do?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Those ZIP files represent backup copies of your Lightroom Classic catalogs (not your photos). As long as Lightroom Classic is behaving normally, you can delete most of those backups, retaining a few recent copies, and perhaps a small number of other copies going back as much as six months.

More Detail: A ZIP file is a compressed archive, meaning a file that contains one or more files that has had lossless compression applied so the file will be smaller than the sum of the total size represented by the included files. Lightroom Classic creates a ZIP file to contain the files when backing up your catalog.

While there’s nothing wrong with backing up your Lightroom Classic catalog every time you exit (or once a day), it isn’t necessary to retain every single backup you create for an extended period of time.

I recommend retaining all the backups you’ve created in the past week, and then perhaps a couple of additional backups from the past month. Beyond that I recommend keeping perhaps one backup per month going back about six months.

The purpose of retaining backup copies of your Lightroom Classic catalog is to be able to recover from a backup if your catalog becomes corrupt or otherwise lost. Retaining some older backup copies gives you flexibility in case recent backups also represent a corrupted catalog. At some point, however, recovering from a very old backup may be less helpful than just starting fresh with a new catalog, considering how much work may have done since the date of the catalog backup.

The folders containing your backup catalogs have names representing the date and time of the backup, with the date in a numeric “Year-Month-Day” format and the time as a four-digit number based on a 24-hour clock.

I recommend periodically going through the folder where your Lightroom Classic catalog backups are being saved and deleting older backups so you are only retaining a reasonable number of catalogs and avoiding the clutter and use of hard drive space caused by a large number of catalog backups.

Focus Stacking Explanation

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Today’s Question: I would appreciate an explanation of focus stacking and if it is easily usable by the average photography enthusiast.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Focus stacking is a method for capturing a series of images with overlapping depth of field, and then blending those photos together into a final image that includes expanded depth of field. It is not too complicated, and it can be very helpful when achieving adequate depth of field can be difficult or impossible, such as with closeup and macro photography.

More Detail: Achieving full depth of field for a photo becomes particularly challenging when you are focusing very close to a subject. With macro photography, for example, it is very common to only be able to achieve a depth of field that is a fraction of an inch because by the nature of macro photography you are focusing very close to the subject.

To overcome situations where you’re not able to achieve adequate depth of field, you can use focus stacking. Some cameras include an automatic focus stacking feature, which can be tremendously helpful. There are also accessory devices that can automate the process for you. However, you can also manually capture focus stacked images.

The basic process involves capturing a series of photos with overlapping depth of field. You’ll want to configure the camera settings to maximize depth of field to the extent possible, to help minimize the total number of images you need for the focus stacking. I generally start at the front of the scene and work my way back, so I start by capturing a photo with the focus set at the very front of the range I want to include in the depth of field for the final image.

You can then adjust the focus in small increments to move the depth of field range backward. You want to make sure that you’re overlapping enough that all areas of the subject will be included within the depth of field range with no out of focus areas.

As a simple example, let’s assume you are photographing a ruler that is aligned with the lens, and that your camera settings only enable you to achieve one inch of depth of field. I would start with the sharpest area of focus set at the very front of the ruler. I would then adjust the focus so that the center of sharpest focus is at around the half-inch mark or so, in order to ensure that the area of full depth of field overlaps from frame to frame. Continue adjusting the focus for each photo until you have captured a range of images that include the full subject in focus. In other words, the last photo would have the far end of the ruler at the middle of the sharpest area of focus.

You can then assemble these focus stacked images into a final result that includes maximum depth of field. While you can assemble a focus stacked image in Photoshop, my experience has been that considerably better results can be achieved with other software. My preferred tool for assembling focus stacked images is Helicon Focus, which you can learn more about here:

https://www.heliconsoft.com/heliconsoft-products/helicon-focus/

Smartphone Photos Unavailable

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Today’s Question: I plug my iPhone into the iMac and try to import my photos. It does not find any photos. I don’t know why. I have an iMac running latest software. I have Photoshop and Lightroom Classic both updated. I have an iPhone 13 Pro taking pictures with Camera app. I hope you can give me some advice. Thanks so much.

Tim’s Quick Answer: When you can’t access photos on your iPhone for import into Lightroom Classic it generally means that either your phone is locked or all photos on the phone are currently stored in the cloud rather than in local storage.

More Detail: While it is possible to import photos directly from a smartphone into your Lightroom Classic catalog, note that my personal preference and recommendation is to instead download all photos from your smartphone, import the downloaded photos into Lightroom Classic, and then delete all photos from your smartphone. This provides a workflow that mimics what you would otherwise do with a camera where you remove a media card and then format the card in your camera after downloading.

However, it is indeed possible to import photos directly into Lightroom Classic. If you have your phone connected to your computer and the Import dialog in Lightroom Classic shows that no photos are available, you may simply need to unlock your smartphone so that the photos can be accessed by your computer (and therefore by Lightroom Classic as well).

If you’re using an iPhone that is already unlocked and you’re either seeing none of your photos or only some of your photos, most likely you have enabled iCloud synchronization for photos. That, in turn, means that some (or all) of your photos are stored in your iCloud storage and aren’t currently stored in the local storage on your iPhone.

If you prefer a workflow that involves importing photos directly from your iPhone, I recommend that you don’t use iCloud sync for your photos. Instead, download from your iPhone on a regular basis, delete the source images after they have been downloaded, and otherwise include these photos in your normal workflow that includes backing them up regularly.

Before you disable iCloud synchronization if you choose to do so, or to generally ensure you are importing all photos even if you don’t disable sync, you’ll need to download your photos from iCloud. This can be a little tricky in terms of keeping track of which photos have been downloaded versus not, which is all the more why I recommend disabling iCloud synchronization for photos once you have ensured all photos have been downloaded and brought into your normal workflow.

Because the process of downloading all iCloud photos can be a little challenging depending on how many photos you have synchronized, you may want to consider making an appointment at an Apple Store to get assistance with this process. However, you can also learn about options for downloading all photos from iCloud here:

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT209454

In this context I recommend downloading all iCloud photos to your computer, then importing all of those into Lightroom Classic so you can organize them in your normal workflow. Once you’re confident that all photos from your iPhone are accounted for, you can delete all photos from iCloud, and disable iCloud synchronization for photos.

I discussed my preferred workflow for importing photos into Lightroom Classic without importing directly from a smartphone in the April 2022 issue of Pixology magazine. I also discussed a workflow for migrating photos captured with the Lightroom mobile app to your Lightroom Classic catalog in the August 2022 issue. Pixology magazine is included in the GreyLearning Ultimate Bundle (http://timgrey.me/atg99bundle), but you can also sign up for a standalone subscription and get access to all back issues here:

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

Photos Remain After Sync Disabled

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Today’s Question: When I turn off synchronization for a collection in Lightroom Classic the album representing that collection no longer appears on the Lightroom mobile app but the photos remain. How do I get the photos to go away?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When you disable synchronization for a collection of photos in Lightroom Classic the photos themselves remain in your cloud-based storage. To remove them you’ll need to remove them from the “All Synced Photographs” collection in Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: One of the things I find frustrating about how cloud-based synchronization is implemented in the Adobe Lightroom ecosystem is that it is relatively easy to add photos to your cloud-based storage but somewhat difficult (or at least confusing) to remove those photos later.

For photographers using Lightroom Classic to manage their photos, synchronizing to the cloud involves adding photos to a collection and then enabling synchronization for that collection. Copies of the photos will then be uploaded to cloud-based storage associated with your Adobe Creative Cloud plan. At that point you can access your photos from the Lightroom mobile app or even through a web browser at https://lightroom.adobe.com.

If you later decide you want to disable synchronization for a collection in Lightroom Classic, your photos won’t actually get removed from the cloud-based storage. The album representing the synchronized collection will disappear when you turn off synchronization, but the photos will remain. This can lead to confusion about where your photos actually are and cause a bit of clutter in your cloud-based storage.

To remove these “left behind” photos from your cloud-based storage you need to remove the photos from the “All Synced Photographs” collection in the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module in Lightroom Classic. To do so, in the grid view display simply select the photos you want to remove, right click on one of the selected photos, and choose “Remove from All Synced Photographs” from the popup menu. This will remove the photos from the “All Synced Photographs” collection, and also remove them from cloud-based storage. The original photos will remain in your Lightroom Classic catalog and on your hard drive, since only copies of the photos had been synchronized to the cloud.

This workflow is relatively straightforward, but it can be problematic if you don’t keep track of which photos require action. For example, before disabling synchronization for a collection you may want to mark the photos within that collection with a color label or other marker so you know which photos to remove from the “All Synced Photographs” collection after disabling synchronization for the collection.

I discussed this issue in the context of synchronizing photos from a mobile device such as a smartphone into Lightroom Classic in the August 2022 issue of my Pixology magazine for photographers. If you’re not already a Pixology subscriber you can learn more here:

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

Adjusting Saturation for Individual Colors

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Today’s Question: In Lightroom Classic it’s possible to adjust the level of saturation of specific color channels individually. Is there a way to accomplish the same thing in Camera Raw and/or Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can use the same sliders found under “HSL” in Lightroom Classic in the “Color Mixer” section in Camera Raw, including within Photoshop using the Camera Raw filter. You can apply similar adjustments with a little more control using a Hue/Saturation adjustment in Photoshop.

More Detail: The Develop module in Lightroom Classic uses the exact same adjustments as Camera Raw in Photoshop, with some minor differences in the interface and the names of the adjustments. This makes Lightroom Classic and Camera Raw (as well as the “cloud” version of Lightroom) interchangeable in terms of applying adjustments. Note, by the way, that the Camera Raw adjustments can be applied to an image within Photoshop by selecting Filter > Camera Raw Filter from the menu. The ability to use Camera Raw as a filter in Photoshop makes it possible for Lightroom Classic users to make use of familiar adjustments after having sent an image from Lightroom Classic to Photoshop.

The HSL (Hue, Saturation, and Luminance) adjustments in Lightroom Classic are found under the “Color Mixer” heading in Camera Raw. The sliders are still arranged in groups for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance, with individual sliders for the various color channels, such as Reds, Oranges, and Yellows.

In addition, in Photoshop you can use a Hue/Saturation adjustment to apply similar changes to color ranges, but with greater control. If you add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, for example, you can select a primary color from the channel popup (which has a default value of “Master” representing the full image). You can then adjust the Hue, Saturation, and Lightness sliders to alter the selected color range. Even better, you can use the controls between the gradients below the sliders to alter the definition of the color range you are working on. For example, after selecting the Blues channel you can expand the range of colors being affected to include cyan in addition to blue.

Updating Email Address in Metadata

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Today’s Question: I have long been following your advice with Lightroom Classic to apply a metadata preset upon import to add copyright and contact information to my photos. However, I have now changed my email address. I have updated my metadata preset for assigning to new photos, but how can I update the email address in metadata for all the existing photos in my catalog that have the old address?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can update the metadata for all (or some of) the existing photos in your Lightroom Classic catalog with a variety of automated techniques, depending on the specific circumstances for the existing photos. A preset, for example, can make easy work of this task.

More Detail: As a general rule I would say that the best approach here is to create a new metadata preset that only includes the email address update (and any other metadata fields you want to update for all existing photos), and then apply that preset to all photos in your catalog.

While there are a wide variety of metadata values you can use to search for specific photos, the email address field is not one of the searchable fields in Lightroom Classic. Therefore, if you change your email address and want to update the metadata for your photos to reflect that change in Lightroom Classic, you’ll likely need to simply apply the update to all photos.

Of course, if you’re using a metadata preset to add your email address to all photos upon import, one of the first tasks is to update that preset. You can get started with that task by selecting Metadata > Edit Metadata Presets from the menu while in the Library module. Choose the applicable preset from the Preset popup and change the applicable metadata fields such as the email address in this case. Then choose “Update Preset” from the Preset popup to update your existing preset with the new changes.

For existing photos in the catalog, however, changing the preset will not change any of the metadata for the photos. If your updated metadata preset for import only includes updates you want to apply to all existing photos in your catalog, you could simply apply that preset to all photos. However, the preset may include metadata values you don’t want to update for existing photos, so I recommend creating a new metadata preset for this purpose.

You can create a new metadata preset in the Edit Metadata Presets dialog, which you can bring up by choosing Metadata > Edit Metadata Presets from the menu. Click the “Check None” button at the bottom-left of the dialog. Then turn on the checkbox for only the fields you want to update, such as the “Creator E-Mail” field in this example. Update the value for those fields as needed, and then choose “Save Current Settings as New Preset” from the Preset popup. Enter a name for the new preset, and click the Create button. Then click the Done button to close the Edit Metadata Presets dialog.

You can then apply this new preset to all existing photos. Choose “All Photographs” from the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module. Switch to the grid view display (press “G” on the keyboard) and make sure the Library Filter Bar is set to “None” so that no filters are applied. Then select all photos by choosing Edit > Select All from the menu.

To apply the new preset to update the desired fields (such as email address in this example), use the Saved Preset popup in the Quick Develop section of the right panel in the Library module. Simply select the preset you created for this purpose and the metadata will be updated for all selected photos.

Importing Scanned Photos

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Today’s Question: Is it easy to import the digital images that you get back from scanmyphotos.com into Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, the digital images you get back from a slide scanning service can easily be imported into Lightroom Classic, as they are saved in standard image formats.

More Detail: The specific details of the files you get back will depend on the slide scanning service you use. For example, ScanMyPhotos.com saves all scanned images as JPEG images. Other services, such as DigMyPics (https://www.digmypics.com), offer an option to save the scans as TIFF images, which is a better option if you want optimal quality especially for later printing the images.

Regardless, the image files are saved into standard image formats that are supported by Lightroom Classic. In most cases the files are either available for download through the company’s website, or shipped to you on a portable storage device. In either case you can save the files into the desired folder location and import into your Lightroom Classic catalog.

My typical approach in this type of situation is to save the images into the intended folder location, then import using the “Add” option at the top-center of the Import dialog in Lightroom Classic. If you copy the photos into a folder that is already being managed within Lightroom Classic, you could also right-click on that folder in Lightroom Classic and choose “Synchronize Folder” from the popup. The new photos in that folder will be identified so they can be imported into the catalog with ease.

Ultimately, importing digital files received from a scanning service is basically the same as importing any other photos, except that in many cases you may be adding the photos from their current storage location rather than copying them during import as you typically would when importing from a media card taken out of the camera.

Transferring Catalog to New Computer

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Today’s Question: I recall your online talks warning about “never move photos outside if Lightroom” but here is a new twist. I bought a new computer and need to transfer my Lightroom Classic catalog to that computer. How do I transfer my photos on external hard drives so Lightroom Classic can find them on the new computer?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This migration can actually be handled with relative ease. You just need to copy the entire catalog folder to the new computer, and make sure the new computer is identifying the external hard drives with the same identifier as had been used on the previous computer.

More Detail: Because the Lightroom Classic catalog references your photos based on their specific storage location, it is actually quite easy to migrate to a new computer when the photos are stored on external hard drives. The key is to make sure the hard drives have the same drive letter (Windows) or volume label (Macintosh) on the new computer, so they will appear the same to Lightroom Classic on the new computer based on the configuration from the old computer.

You’ll need to copy the catalog files to the new computer, which involves quitting Lightroom Classic and copying the entire folder containing your catalog and supporting files to the new computer. You can copy that folder to any location you’d like on the new computer, though the default for Lightroom Classic is to store the catalog in the Pictures folder. Make sure you then open that catalog rather than a new empty catalog that may have been created when you installed Lightroom Classic on the new computer.

With the catalog available on the new computer, you can connect the external hard drives and ensure they are configured properly based on what Lightroom Classic is expecting. For Macintosh users this simply means making sure not to change the volume label, which is the name of the hard drive. For Windows users you’ll need to make sure the drive letters assigned on the new computer match the assignments on the old computer. This can be changed in the Disk Management utility, and you’ll find an article outlining the process here:

https://www.technewstoday.com/change-drive-letter-windows-10-11/

When you open the catalog you copied to the new computer and have the hard drives configured as they had been on the old computer, you’ll be right back to your expected workflow in Lightroom Classic, with everything just as it had been on your old computer.