More Color Labels

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Today’s Question: In an earlier post you mentioned that it was possible to have more than five color labels. However, there was no detail for specific application, notably Adobe Lightroom Classic and Adobe Photoshop. Is it possible to add additional color labels to these applications?

Tim’s Quick Answer: It is possible to use more than five color labels in both Lightroom Classic and Adobe Bridge, though in my view it is a little easier to implement in Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: While color labels are represented by a color (red, yellow, green, blue, purple) in software such as Lightroom Classic and Adobe Bridge, in actual fact the metadata value for those labels is simply a word.

In Lightroom Classic the name of the color is used for the color labels. In Adobe Bridge workflow concepts are used instead, such as “Select” for a red color label. But when you assign a color label you’re really just adding a word to the Label field in metadata.

With Lightroom Classic you can define more than one set of color labels and switch among them as you see fit. Start by choosing Metadata > Color Label Set > Edit from the menu while in the Library module. The default values will show the name of each color for the color labels, but you can change these words to anything you’d like, such as to convey workflow status. When you create your own definitions, you can then click the Presest popup, choose “Save Current Settings as New Preset”, and enter a meaningful name for the preset you are creating.

You can then switch between your different color label definitions by going to the menu and choosing Metadata > Color Label Set, and then the name of the color label set you want to use. Note that images with a color label assigned from a different color label set will appear with a white color label, while color labels that match the current color label set will show the applicable label color.

In Adobe Bridge you can change the label definitions on the “Labels and Ratings” tab of the Preferences dialog. There isn’t an option to save the settings, so you would need to manually update them each time you want to use different words for color labels.

The primary reason to create more than one set of definitions for color labels would be to add utility and flexibility to your workflow. For example, you could define one set of color labels for use when reviewing photos to find favorites, and another set to use when preparing photos to be printed.

The topic of color labels is covered in more detail in the January 2022 issue of Pixology magazine. Pixology is included in the GreyLearning Ultimate Bundle (http://timgrey.me/atg99bundle), but you can also sign up for a standalone subscription if you prefer. Details can be found on the GreyLearning website here:

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

Bit Depth Bug in Camera Raw

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Today’s Question: Have you addressed the bug related to the bit depth setting in Adobe Camera Raw?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is a glitch with the latest update to Photoshop that causes the Camera Raw workflow settings to be reset to a bit depth of 8-bits per channel with Adobe RGB (1998) as the color space.

More Detail: I had not been aware of this issue, so thanks again to Mark for letting me know about it. I have confirmed this to be an issue and recommend that all photographers who process photos with Camera Raw (via Photoshop) update their workflow settings to a bit depth of 16-bits per channel and their preferred color space.

First, in Photoshop, go to the menu and choose Edit > Preferences > Camera Raw on Windows or Photoshop > Preferences > Camera Raw on Macintosh. Choose the Workflow page from the list on the left side of the Camera Raw Preferences dialog. Then, in the Color Space section toward the top of the dialog set the Depth popup to “16 Bits/Channel”. Set the Space popup to your preferred color space. I generally recommend ProPhoto RGB, but the best option will depend on your overall workflow in terms of color management.

A summary of these workflow settings is shown at the bottom-center of the Camera Raw interface. I recommend that you confirm the settings are accurate within Camera Raw, and if they’re not you can click on the summary text to bring up the Workflow options in the Camera Raw Preferences dialog. Note that if you had previously processed a raw capture in the 8-bit per channel bit depth that will still be the default for that image, and so you may want to re-process the image changing the bit depth to 16-bits per channel.

JPEG to PNG for Editing

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Today’s Question: Is there an advantage to converting a JPEG image to PNG? I have some older images captured in JPEG format that occasionally I will process in either Lightroom or Photoshop to see if I can improve on the final image.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The primary advantage of the PNG (Portable Network Graphics) file format compared to JPEG is that compression artifacts are not created when an image is saved as a PNG file. Therefore, I would opt for a file format other than JPEG when saving a processed copy of the image, but there’s no need to convert all existing JPEG images to a different file format if the JPEG images won’t be processed.

More Detail: One of the drawbacks of the JPEG image format is that lossy compression is used when the image is saved. That means there is always a risk of at least some degree of visible artifacts caused by the JPEG compression. For this reason, it can be advantageous to use an image format other than JPEG.

However, JPEG compression is only applied when the file is first created, or when the file is re-saved after applying adjustments. Therefore, there’s no need to convert the JPEG image to a different file format unless adjustments are being applied to the JPEG. In other words, you can keep the original files in the JPEG format, and only create a new file with a different format for images you will be editing.

The PNG file format is a perfectly good alternative to JPEG images. By default, there is only lossless compression applied to PNG images, so compression artifacts won’t be an issue. In addition, PNG files can use a bit depth higher than the 8-bit per channel maximum for JPEG images. PNG files also support transparency, though this feature is not generally meaningful for photographic images under normal circumstances.

Keep in mind that if you are using software such as Photoshop that includes special features such as layers, you’ll need to save the image in a format that supports those features if you want them preserved for future editing. That would mean saving as a Photoshop PSD or TIFF image in the context of Photoshop, for example.

Also keep in mind that if you’re using Lightroom Classic to edit a JPEG image, the source image file is not actually altered directly. Rather, the adjustments are simply metadata values. So, the original JPEG remains unaltered, and a new file will only be created if you export the image from Lightroom Classic.

Choosing a Calibration Tool

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Today’s Question: Do you find any benefit for photographers in either the ColorChecker Display Pro or Plus packages over the basic package?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, in my view there is no reason to spend more for the Pro or Plus package for display calibration, as the basic ColorChecker Display (https://timgrey.me/calibrite) will provide everything you need to calibrate a monitor or digital projector.

More Detail: With most monitor calibration packages you’ll find there are several models available, with additional features included with the more expensive models. This generally includes additional controls for customizing the calibration target, so that you can specify particular values for the white point or luminance.

However, the basic calibration package typically includes all of the features you need, such as targeting standard white point and luminance values. That is the case with the Calibrite ColorChecker Display, and so I don’t recommend spending more for the Pro or Plus packages.

Note, by the way, that there has been some confusion about my recommendation of Calibrite products rather than the X-Rite Photo products I have recommended in the past. Calibrite effectively represents a rebranding of the X-Rite Photo brand, so the same technology in the X-Rite products I had previously recommended is now part of the Calibrite family of products.

You can learn more about the Calibrite ColorChecker Display package here:

https://timgrey.me/calibrite

Creative License with Calibration

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Today’s Question: You recently stated the advantage of calibrating one’s monitor to accurately portray an image, but is it necessary if one tweaks the colors in photos? I frequently tweak an image beyond what the original or accurate colors are. If I do these things, why does it make a difference whether I have calibrated my monitor or not? If I were making an image for a scientific report I could see the value of an accurate color presentation, but if I make the fall leaves redder why is calibration important?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Calibration enables you to see an accurate view of what the image currently looks like, regardless of whether or not you’re applying realistic adjustments or exercising a bit of creative license in how you interpret a photo.

More Detail: Let’s assume you want to make fall leaves appear redder than they actually looked in nature. Without calibrating your monitor display, you wouldn’t really know if you were making those leaves appear redder rather than more orange or yellow, for example. You can’t evaluate the adjustments you’re applying without an accurate view of what the image currently looks like, and that is exactly the role of calibration for your display.

Put another way, a typical monitor display is about one stop too bright out of the box. If you don’t calibrate, you might end up making all of your images one stop too dark to compensate.

If you are the only one who ever looks at your photos, and you always use the same computer configuration to review the images, this isn’t necessarily a problem. But if you’re preparing photos for printing or other sharing, you’ll definitely want to ensure you’re applying adjustments based on an accurate view of the current state of the image.

Calibration is about making sure you’re accurately seeing what the image currently looks like, not ensuring the image necessarily looks realistic relative to what the subject matter would have looked like under perfectly white light.

As a reminder, I recommend the Calibrite ColorChecker Display for calibrating your monitor or digital projector, and you can learn more about this package here:

https://timgrey.me/calibrite

Identifying External Editor

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Today’s Question: I often edit from Lightroom by invoking “Edit In” to send the image to another application for a particular editing function. Once the image is returned to Lightroom Classic the file name is changed, adding “Edit” to the original name. Is there some process available to identify the application used or actions taken during the external editing?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I recommend simply renaming the edited photo to reflect the application that was used, so you can reference that filename should you need to edit the image again or simply want to know which other software had been used.

More Detail: The name appended to the existing filename when you send a photo from Lightroom Classic to an external editor is determined in the Preferences within Lightroom Classic. The default is to have “-Edit” added to the filename when a derivative image is created, but you can change this to anything you’d like.

Within the Preferences dialog you can go to the External Editing tab, and at the bottom you’ll find the Template popup, where you can select a file renaming template to use. You can also choose Edit from the popup to bring up the Filename Template Editor, where you can define your own structure for renaming the derivative image being created.

You might therefore be tempted to use a template that includes the name of the external editor you use most often, such as Photoshop. However, this does not provide a good solution if you use more than one application for editing photos from Lightroom Classic.

Therefore, I recommend simply renaming the filename after you have created a derivative image by sending a photo from Lightroom Classic to an external editor. This can be done by simply changing the filename in the File Name field available in the Metadata section of the right panel in the Library module in Lightroom Classic. Simply click into the field and make any desired changes to the filename for the image, such as adding “Photoshop” to the end of the filename if you had sent the image to Photoshop for additional editing.

If you don’t see the File Name field in the Metadata section of the right panel you can change to a different metadata view preset using the popup to the left of the Metadata heading on the right panel. For example, the “EXIF” and “EXIF and IPTC” presets include the File Name field.

iCloud to Lightroom Classic

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Today’s Question: I’ve been wanting to have some favorite images taken with the iPhone camera (all done raw) put into a Lightroom catalogue. Looking at directions online, this looks daunting. I have many thousands of images taken with the iPhone, which I guess are all stored in the Cloud. Is there a way to import selected images from my iPhone into Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If your photos are being synchronized to iCloud, you’ll need to ensure that all photos are on your iPhone before you attempt to import to Lightroom Classic, or otherwise ensure that all photos are actually available for import.

More Detail: If you have enabled photo synchronization to iCloud, by default iPhone photo storage will be “optimized”. What that means is that in order to maintain more available storage on your iPhone the full-resolution copies of your photos will be stored in the cloud on Apple’s servers. Only when you attempt to work with a photo directly, such as by editing a photo, will the full-resolution version be downloaded.

What this means is that your photos won’t necessarily be available locally on your iPhone, which in turn means the photos won’t be available to import into Lightroom Classic. For example, when you go to import into Lightroom Classic directly from your iPhone you will only see a fraction of the photos that are on your iPhone in the Import dialog.

You can force photos to remain on your iPhone even with iCloud synchronization enabled, so that you will be able to import all photos into Lightroom Classic. This setting can be changed in the Settings app.

To get started, open the Settings app on your iPhone (or iPad). Then tap on your name at the top of Settings, which will take you to your Apple ID account. Next, tap iCloud, and then choose Photos. Under the iCloud Photos setting as long as you have that option turned on you will see an option below where you can choose between “Optimize iPhone Storage” and “Download and Keep Originals”. Make sure the “Download and Keep Originals” option is selected.

If this setting had been off, you’ll need to allow time for all of your photos to be downloaded from iCloud before you’re able to import into Lightroom Classic. Photos that are still stored in iCloud will have a small cloud icon to indicate that status. Once all photos have downloaded, you’ll be able to import from your iPhone directly into Lightroom Classic.

All of this assumes that you want to keep your photos on your iPhone but also be able to import from your iPhone into Lightroom Classic. If so, you’ll also want to enable the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checkbox in the File Handling section of the right panel in the Import dialog.

My personal preference is to treat my iPhone like every other camera I use, which means I download all new photos from my iPhone and then delete them after they have been imported into Lightroom Classic. Because Lightroom Classic doesn’t enable you to delete all photos after import I use other software (in my case the Image Capture application included with MacOS) in order to download and then delete all photos from my iPhone, with a workflow that is effectively the same as I use for any other camera.

Pixology Magazine January 2022

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The January 2022 issue of Pixology magazine is now available, featuring the following articles:

  • Finding Inspiration
    Get tips for finding inspiration in your photography.
  • Using Color Labels
    Learn ways you can use color labels to mark photos for various purposes to help streamline your workflow.
  • Dodge and Burn
    Learn to selectively lighten and darken areas of an image with great control in Photoshop.
  • Avoiding Noise
    Get tips for minimizing noise when capturing digital photos.
  • Photo Story: Fireworks Over Monaco
    Read about how a minor inconvenience turned into a fun photo opportunity during a visit to Monaco.

Pixology magazine is included in the GreyLearning Ultimate Bundle, and is also available as a standalone subscription here:

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

Converting a PNG Image

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Today’s Question: I have a PNG file that I would like to convert to a JPEG or TIF in Photoshop. Is this possible?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, absolutely. You can convert an image to any other supported image format with either the “Save As” or “Save a Copy” commands in Photoshop. The same is possible from Lightroom Classic using the Export command.

More Detail: Photoshop enables you to save a copy of an image into any other supported image format. The only issue in Photoshop relates to whether the image you are trying to save in a given format includes features that are not supported by the format you’re trying to save in.

For example, the PNG (Portable Network Graphics) image format supports both 8-bit per channel and 16-bit per channel mode, while you can only save a JPEG image in the 8-bit per channel mode. TIFF images can be saved in all supported bit depths in Photoshop.

Understandably, most photographers are accustomed to using the “Save As” command when they want to save the current image as a new file, possibly in a different file format. However, with a recent update to Photoshop you will only see file formats that support all features of the current image if you use the “Save As” command.

Instead, I recommend using the “Save a Copy” command, which enables you to save a new copy of an image in any supported image format, even if the current image includes features that are not supported by the format you intend to save in.

For example, the PNG image you’re trying to save to a different file format may be set to a bit depth of 16-bits per channel. If that is the case, using the “Save As” command you would not see the JPEG file format as an option. You could, however, use the “Save a Copy” command instead, which enables you to save in any format supported by Photoshop, even if the source file includes features not supported by the destination format.

The reason the “Save a Copy” command is helpful in this context is that the source image will remain as it is. You’ll simply be creating a new file in the selected format in addition to the source file you’re saving from.

Image for a Client

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Today’s Question: Many of my clients want a JPEG as a deliverable. Am I better off to shoot the original photo in raw, using Lightroom and Photoshop to develop it and then render the final JPEG image in the size they want? I have tried both ways and the raw seems to win every time; but it could just my bias.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, I recommend capturing in raw, and then processing the image and exporting as a JPEG for the client.

More Detail: As I’m sure every photographer knows, there are a variety of benefits to raw capture compared to JPEG. With a raw capture you have higher bit-depth, greater dynamic range, and expanded dynamic range. In addition, with raw capture you avoid the issue of JPEG compression artifacts in the original capture, which could be worsened when exporting a new JPEG copy.

In short, a raw capture provides you with the best capture from the start. You can then optimize that photo with greater image quality compared to a JPEG capture. If relatively strong adjustments are needed, a JPEG capture will be more likely to display posterization, or a loss of smooth gradations of tone and color. This is due to the lower bit-depth of a JPEG capture compared to a raw capture.

The only reason a JPEG capture might be preferred over a raw capture is that there is the potential that a JPEG capture might be ready to send to a client right out of a camera, without any processing required. However, in my view the quality benefits of a raw capture outweigh the potential workflow advantage of a raw capture.

This issue, by the way, is one of the reasons some photographers prefer to use Raw+JPEG capture. With this approach you get a raw capture for optimal image quality, along with a JPEG capture that could potentially be sent to the client before you even start processing the raw capture.

Keep in mind, however, that Lightroom Classic does not import the JPEG from a Raw+JPEG pair by default. If you want to import both the raw capture and the JPEG generated by the camera, you’ll need to turn on the “Treat JPEG files next to raw files as separate photos” checkbox on the General tab of the Preferences dialog.