Sensor Size and Depth of Field


Today’s Question: A friend has a Canon PowerShot G1X camera and it appears that when we are both photographing the same subject (me a D800E with a Sigma 180mm macro) that he gets a greater depth of field at f/13 than I do at f/22. Is there a way to estimate the f-stop I need to use to get a comparable depth of field using my full frame sensor versus his smaller sensor?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The overall math involved here could certainly be a bit tricky. However, as a general rule if you are adjusting your position to achieve the exact same framing of the scene, on the full-frame sensor you would need to use an f-number that is about double the aperture setting being used on the smaller sensor, bearing in mind that the f-stop is a fraction based on focal length. So, for example, if the G1X sensor is set to f/11, you would need to use about f/22 on the full-frame sensor with the same framing of the subject to achieve the same depth of field.

More Detail: There are a variety of ways you could look at this issue, but I think the key thing to keep in mind is that several factors are impacted by the smaller sensor size. The image sensor on the G1X is considerably smaller than a full-frame sensor (in this case about the size of a four-thirds system sensor). As a result, the framing of the scene will have a narrower field of view compared to the same focal length on a full-frame camera.

It is common with smaller cameras to reference the “effective” focal length of the lens, rather than the actual focal length of the lens. For example, the kit lens for the G1X is often described as having an effective focal length range of 28mm to 112mm. However, the actual lens focal length is 15.1mm to 60.4mm. The smaller sensor is simply cropping the image circle, resulting in the field of view you would achieve with a longer lens on a full-frame camera.

Because of that smaller image circle then, you are able to achieve the same field of view (cropping) for the scene from a greater distance. Focusing at a greater distance results in greater depth of field. This increased depth of field can be a tremendous advantage in some cases, but of course it can be a tremendous (and frustrating!) disadvantage when you are trying to achieve narrow depth of field.

In this type of situation, my personal approach would be to think about the fact that the focusing distance would be greater (or the focal length shorter at the same distance) for the camera with the smaller sensor compared to the camera with a full-frame sensor, rather than trying to think about the difference in aperture setting that would be required. In other words, I would tend to think about the overall concepts rather than trying to do a bunch of math in my head (or taking out my iPhone to use my depth of field calculator).

Adjustment Order


Today’s Question: How do adjustments in Lightroom (for blacks, whites, shadows, clarity, vibrance, etc.) affect noise? Should noise be dealt with first or last, after all other adjustments?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In general concept, you can make changes to the various adjustments within Lightroom in any order at all, since the order you apply adjustments doesn’t impact the actual effect of those adjustments. That said, it is important to evaluate the impact of one adjustment on another. For example, if you brighten up shadow detail you may need to increase the strength of noise reduction.

More Detail: Lightroom employs a non-destructive workflow for your photos, meaning that when you are working in the Develop module you aren’t actually changing pixel values in your original capture, but rather creating a set of adjustment metadata that is used to adjust the appearance of your photo within Lightroom, and as the basis of the processing for the photo when you export a copy of a photo.

Among other things, this means you don’t need to apply your adjustments in any particular order to achieve a given result for a photo. In theory, for example, you would want to apply noise reduction before sharpening, so that the sharpening doesn’t enhance the underlying noise. In the case of Lightroom (and also with Adobe Camera Raw), it doesn’t matter whether you adjust the settings for noise reduction or sharpening first. All that matters is the final settings established for these controls.

To be sure, if the noise reduction adjustment doesn’t eliminate the noise altogether, other adjustments may make the noise more visible or more problematic. For example, sharpening can serve to emphasize noise in an image, and brightening shadows can make noise more visible in the photo.

Any adjustment that enhances color or contrast, or that brightens up detail in the photo, has the potential to make noise more visible in the photo. But if the noise reduction settings you’ve applied cause the noise to be mitigated adequately, the effect of those other adjustments on any noise that remains will generally be relatively minor.

Smart Collection Sync?


Today’s Question: I saw your presentation about synchronizing photos from Lightroom so I can view and share those photos on my iPad using Lightroom Mobile. I’ve created a smart collection that includes all of my five-star photos, but there is no checkbox to turn on synchronization for this smart collection. Did I miss a step somewhere?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The issue in this case is that you are using a Smart Collection. At least for now, Lightroom is only able to synchronize images via “normal” Collections. Smart Collections can’t be enabled for synchronization to Lightroom Mobile.

More Detail: I would imagine that at some point in the future Adobe will enable the option to synchronize Smart Collections in additional to “normal” Collections, but that’s just a guess on my part. In the meantime, you’ll need to use standard Collections for synchronization to Lightroom Mobile.

The overall synchronization process is actually very simple. The first step is to make sure synchronization is enabled. To do so, first click on the Identity Plate (the Lightroom logo) at the top-left of the Lightroom interface. You should see a “pause” button (two vertical bars) to the right of the “Sync with Lightroom mobile” item. If you see a “play” button (a right-pointing triangle) or the words “Start” you can click that option to enable synchronization.

Next you need to turn on synchronization for one or more collections. If you’ve not already created a collection, you can do that first. In this case, for example, you might want to go to the Smart Collection you’ve already created. Then select all of the photos (choosing Edit > Select All from the menu, for example). Click the “plus” symbol (+) to the right of the Collections header on the left panel, and choose “Create Collection” from the popup that appears.

In the Create Collection dialog you can enter a meaningful name for the new collection. In this case, since you’ve already selected the photos you want to include in the collection you can turn on the “Included selected photos” checkbox. You can also enable the Collection for synchronization by turning on the “Sync with Lightroom mobile” checkbox. Then click the Create button to close the Create Collection dialog and actually create the new Collection.

At this point you’ll see a small icon that looks something like a lightning bolt to the left of the new Collection you created, indicating that this Collection is being synchronized via Lightroom Mobile. You can click on that icon to disable synchronization, of course. And if you want to enable synchronization for an existing Collection you can click in the space where that icon would appear to enable synchronization.

Once synchronization is complete, you can launch the Lightroom Mobile application on your mobile device in order to access all photos that are included in synchronized Collections.

Scale Styles


Today’s Question: I have always wondered what the option to “Scale Styles” adds to the Image Resize window [in Photoshop Elements, or the Image Size dialog in Photoshop].  I usually click it but don’t know what it contributes to resizing.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “Scale Styles” option relates to any effects you may have applied to an image layer. For example, if you apply a Drop Shadow to an image layer, with the “Scale Styles” option turned on the Drop Shadow will also be resized in proportion to the change in size of the photo. With the option turned off, the Drop Shadow would remain at the same size, even though the photo itself would change in size.

More Detail: In Photoshop Elements and older versions of Photoshop, the “Scale Styles” option is available as a checkbox in the Image Resize dialog (or Image Size dialog in Photoshop). You can simply turn this checkbox on to have any layer effects you’ve applied to the photo scaled in proportion to the degree to which you are resizing the photo. Or, if you want to resize the photo without resizing the layer effects, you can turn this checkbox off.

In newer versions of Photoshop, the Scale Styles checkbox is no longer included within the dialog, but the feature is still available. Simply click the “gear” icon toward the top-right of the Image Size dialog to disable or enable the Scale Styles option.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but if you have not applied any layer styles to any of the layers within an image, it doesn’t make any difference whether the Scale Styles option is enabled or disabled.

Quality versus Resolution


Today’s Question: After reading an answer from you about sensor size it made me wonder about the Canon EOS 5DS R compared to the 1D X. Since they both have the same size sensor would the 1D X have a greater dynamic range and less noise since the pixels are larger? Or are they using a different sensor?

Tim’s Quick Answer: As a general rule, with two sensors of the same physical dimensions, the sensor with the lower resolution (larger individual pixel size) will provide higher dynamic range and lower noise levels. But that isn’t always the case, as demonstrated by the fact that 5DS R is capable of providing better performance at low ISO despite having a much higher resolution in a sensor of the same physical size as that of the 1D X.

More Detail: There are, of course, many factors that impact overall sensor performance. Therefore, general rules about what you can expect always need to be compared to actual real-world results produced under real-world circumstances.

The Canon 5DS R and Canon 1D X cameras have full frame sensors with the same overall dimensions. The 5DS R, however, features 50.6 megapixel resolution compared to the 18.1 megapixel resolution of the 1D X. That means the 5DS R has individual photosites (pixels) that are much smaller than those found on the sensor for the 1D X, which would reasonably cause you to assume that the 5DS R would offer lower dynamic range and higher noise levels compared to the 1D X.

The 5DS R is actually capable of producing higher dynamic range and lower noise levels compared to the 1D X, which is impressive (and perhaps a little unexpected). But you need to take a couple of additional details into account here.

First of all, the 5DS R was released more than three years after the 1D X. That’s a long time when we’re talking about advanced technology. While smaller individual pixels on a sensor generally translate into higher noise levels, it is also true that with technological advancements the noise performance of imaging sensors has improved over time.

In the specific case of these two cameras, it is also important to look at the testing data a little more closely. The results that I’ve seen show that the 5DS R does indeed perform better than the 1D X in many image quality respects, but only at relatively low ISO settings. About an ISO setting of somewhere around 400 or 800 ISO, the 1D X actually starts to perform better than the 5DS R.

So, again, general rules can be helpful in evaluating the overall landscape of digital cameras, and in providing a sense of what you can expect and what you might want to look out for. But it is also critically important to keep in mind that general rules are just general rules, and there are typically exceptions to every one of those rules. Also, as noted above, when a particular camera is described as “better” in some regard compared to another camera, that comparison is often an over-simplification of what actually detailed testing will reveal.

As always, it is therefore very important to go beyond the published specifications and general statements about a particular camera, and instead critically evaluate the specific performance numbers that are important to you based on your particular needs as a photographer.

Skip Import Screen?


Today’s Question: I’m adapting (begrudgingly) to the new Import dialog in Lightroom. However, I feel it is redundant to choose a source of photos in the “first” screen when I can also set that source in the “second” screen. Is it possible to skip the first screen and go strait to the actual Import dialog?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can most certainly disable the “Add Photos” screen, which is the first screen you’re referring to with the new Import experience in Lightroom 6.2 (2015.2). Simply turn off the “Show ‘Add Photos’ Screen” checkbox on the General tab of the Preferences dialog.

More Detail: I should hasten to add that the response to the new Import experience in Lightroom has not been all that great, to the extent that Adobe recently announced they will soon be releasing a new version of Lightroom that reverts the Import experience to the previous interface before the changes in version 6.2 (2015.2) of Lightroom.

It seems that the “Add Photos” screen was causing frustration for some photographers not only because it added a step to the import process, but also because it seems to have been contributing to some issues that were causing Lightroom to crash. Thus, turning off this “Add Photos” option could streamline your Import experience, but also possibly improve the stability of Lightroom.

To disable the “Add Photos” feature, you need to first bring up the Preferences dialog. On Macintosh you can bring up the Preferences dialog by choosing Lightroom > Preferences from the menu. For Windows users you will find this option under Edit > Preferences on the menu.

Next, choose the General tab within the Preferences dialog. In the Import Options section you will find the “Show ‘Add Photos’ Screen” checkbox. Simply turn this checkbox off and close the Preferences dialog, and the initial screen will no longer be displayed when you initiate the Import process.

I will include a note in an upcoming edition of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter as soon as the Lightroom update that reverts the Import experience has been released by Adobe.

“Hidden” Tools


Today’s Question: This may be a silly (or at least very simple) question. I was trying to use the Magic Wand tool [in Photoshop], but I couldn’t find it! I see the Quick Selection tool on the toolbar, but is the Magic Wand tool still available? I saw one of your tutorials that suggested using the Magic Wand tool, but I don’t seem to have it!

Tim’s Quick Answer: The Magic Wand tool is indeed available, it is just “hiding” beneath the Quick Selection tool on the Tools panel. You can access the Magic Wand tool by clicking and holding the mouse button down (or right-clicking) on the button for the Quick Selection tool on the Tools panel, and then choosing the Magic Wand tool from the flyout menu that appears.

More Detail: There are several tools on the Tools panel in Photoshop that appear on a flyout menu connected with the “primary” tool for each button. Those tools that include additional “hidden” tools are indicated by a small triangle icon at the bottom-right corner of the buttons found on the Tools panel.

In all cases, if you click-and-hold the mouse on the button, or right-click on the button, you will see a flyout menu that includes the additional tools available. So, for example, when you click-and-hold the mouse on the button for the Rectangular Marquee tool, you’ll see a flyout menu that includes the Elliptical Marquee tool, the Single Row Marquee tool, and the Single Column Marquee tool, in addition to the Rectangular Marquee tool.

Bad Import Update?


Today’s Question: I haven’t yet upgraded to the latest update for Lightroom, but heard that the Import experience changed dramatically. Can you provide input on whether I should upgrade now, and how best to prepare for the new Import features?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I am not a fan of the new Import experience introduced with Lightroom 6.2 (2015.2 for CC users), and frankly I consider the new experience to be a bit dangerous for those who don’t realize that additional options are available. Adobe has announced that a future update will revert Lightroom to the previous Import experience, and so unless you need updated RAW support or other new features, I might suggest waiting for the next update before upgrading.

More Detail: My primary concern about the new Import experience introduced in Lightroom 6.2 is that if you don’t access the settings panel all of your photos will be downloaded into the “Pictures” folder for your operating system, without a customized folder structure. This can lead to some serious organizational challenges if you imported various sets of photos without being aware of the settings panel.

In addition, the update to a new Import experience removed the option to automatically eject the media you were downloading cards from. I considered that to be a very helpful feature, and was sorry to see it disappear.

The new Import experience also removes the option to preview what your folder structure will look like after the import, which can present a challenge to some users.

Understandably, many photographers were far more concerned about Lightroom crashing more frequently after the version 6.2 update. While these crashes seem to have affected a relatively small percentage of Lightroom users, there was most certainly a very significant issue for those who did experience the crashes. My understanding is that these issues have been resolved for most users via the version 6.2.1 (2015.2.1) update.

And, as noted above, Adobe has indicated that they will be reverting to the prior version of the Import experience with an upcoming “dot” release (presumably a version 6.3 update, but in any event a version later than 6.2.1). For those who don’t otherwise have a need to update to an interim version of Lightroom, I would suggest waiting until the update with a reversion to the prior Import experience.

I suspect the Import experience will change again in the future, as Adobe is obviously looking for ways to improve this feature. Even the prior Import experience could be a little bit cumbersome for some users, so a more elegant solution would be welcomed by many photographers, I’m sure. Hopefully we’ll see more significant improvements (without the loss of any features) in a future update to Lightroom.

Keywording Challenges


Today’s Question: I photograph a number of events and have dozens and dozens of people’s names entered in Lightroom as keywords. I use first-name-first because I don’t want to try to put a comma into a last-name-first entry. If I enter a name for someone who may be a keyword already, I have to remember that person’s first name and whether I entered it as Robert, Rob, Bob or something else. Spouses are a problem, since I probably know one member of the couple but can’t remember the other’s first name. Entering the last name into the keyword entry box does not bring up the keyword. There does not seem to be a sort option as you would find in an address book to sort by last name. I know I can search by last name, but I am more concerned about entering the names. Is there anything I can do to simplify entering names of people other than reentering them all as last name, first name without any punctuation?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I think the Keyword List option in Lightroom is your best solution for adding keywords. This option enables you to filter keywords by text (such as last name in your example) and simply turn on a checkbox to add a keyword to the current image (or multiple selected images in the Grid view display).

More Detail: First off, I certainly recommend using the “full name” approach to adding keywords for the names of people. Adding keywords with the last name and first name separated by a comma is really a matter of adding two separate keywords. I prefer to have the full name reflected, since this approach provides more flexibility.

To begin with, when searching for images that contain particular keywords, you can use the “Contains” option on the Text tab of the Library Filter bar so that you can search for any text (such as first name or last name) that appears within the Keywords field.

In addition, you can filter the list of keywords in the Keyword List section of the right panel in the Library module, allowing you to filter by any text that appears in keywords for any photos. So, for example, when it comes to people names you could type the last name into the “Filter Keywords” field in the Keyword List section of the right panel, causing only keywords that include that text to be displayed. In other words, in the context of full names added as a keyword, you could type only the last name and see all people with that last name. You could then simply turn on the checkbox for the applicable names in order to add that keyword to the current photo (or selected photos in the Grid view).

So, by using full names you are maximizing your flexibility. And by using the Keyword List as a primary method of adding keywords, you can make sure you’re adding keywords consistently while also reminding yourself of names for specific people who might appear in your photos.

Cropped Print


Today’s Question: I shoot with a Nikon 800 full frame camera and edit my photos in Lightroom. When I export my images as JPGs I can see a full picture but when I go to print 8×10 prints the picture is cropped significantly. What’s going on?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are two basic factors here. First, the aspect ratio of the images you are capturing is 2:3, which translates to a print size of 8”x12”. Second, you are printing at a size of 8”x10”, which requires that two inches of the “long side” of the image be cropped. The key is to disable that cropping, which in Lightroom translates to turning off the “Zoom to Fill” checkbox.

More Detail: When you are printing a single image in Lightroom, most of the templates will cause the “Zoom to Fill” checkbox to be turned on. This relates to the way Lightroom defines image sizes for printing via a cell size. A cell is defined for each image to be printed on the page, and the photo will be fit within that cell. The question is whether the image will be cropped in order to completely fill that cell.

For example, when you choose the 8”x10” template in Lightroom’s Print module, the cell size containing the image is exactly 8”x10”, and the “Zoom to Fill” checkbox is turned on. As a result, the photo will be printed at exactly 8-inches by 10-inches, with two inches cropped from the full image. That cropping is literally performed as a “zoom”, so that in this example you would be cutting off one inch on the left and right edge of the photo.

If you want the entire image to be printed without cropping, you can turn off the “Zoom to Fill” checkbox in the Image Settings section of the right panel in the Print module. That will cause the image to be sized within the boundaries of the cell, but with the entire image visible. So, for example, and image that would normally print at a size of 8”x12”, but that is being fit into a cell that is 8”x10”, would print at about 6.7”x10”.

Ultimately, your options when printing involve either showing the full image but not necessarily at what might be a desired aspect ratio, or printing at a desired aspect ratio but cropping the photo in the process. My general preference is to ignore aspect ratio and print the photo in its entirety based on the way I chose to crop my photo. But of course there are certainly situations where a specific aspect ratio is needed for a print, in which case cropping is going to be involved.