Underwater Smartphone Photography


Today’s Question: Given your recent underwater iPhone photos, could you provide a brief outline on the best attributes and brands of waterproof cases for the smartphone?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I have had great fun using an underwater case for my iPhone in a variety of locations. Admittedly, this involves what might be considered a bit more risk than you would take if you purchased a waterproof point-and-shoot camera. But since I always travel with my iPhone it seemed the more efficient to make use of my iPhone, with a degree of caution. I’ve opted for the LifeProof FRE case (http://amzn.to/1UbMLXo) in conjunction with the LifeProof LifeJacket flotation device (http://amzn.to/1S4BuZU).

More Detail: Most recently I was using my iPhone to capture underwater photos and videos while snorkeling in Huatulco, Mexico. You can see one sample (and follow me!) on Instagram here:


To be sure, it is important to take a cautious approach when you are taking a smartphone underwater. If the case leaks your phone could be ruined, and you might lose the data that is on your device.

There are two very important precautions that I recommend in order to minimize the risks. First, be sure your device is completely backed up before every underwater photography adventure. That way, if your case leaks and your smartphone is ruined, at least you’ll only lose your underwater photos (and the phone) without losing existing data.

Second, be sure to test the underwater case for leaks before every outing. I recommend submerging the case in a sink full of water, for example, using a weight to keep the case underwater. After an hour or so, check very carefully for any water inside the case. Then be sure to seal the case properly before use, and to limit any diving to the depth limit indicated by your specific case.

Since I use an iPhone, I was looking specifically for cases that fit the iPhone. Based on reviews and in-person evaluations, I decided on the LifeProof FRE case. There are other underwater cases available for different make and model smartphones, but I have not evaluated any of those in great detail.

I also highly recommend the LifeProof LifeJacket flotation device if you are an iPhone user. First you put the LifeProof FRE case onto your phone, then you slip that assembly into the LifeProof LifeJacket. The LifeJacket serves primarily as a flotation device, so your iPhone can float on the surface of the water. But I’ve also found the LifeJacket to be a real smartphone saver for activities on dry land. For example, if I want to take photos while riding a bike, the LifeJacket helps protect the phone in the event I should drop it. I can assure you from personal experience just a few days ago that the LifeJacket can indeed keep an iPhone safe when dropped from a moving bicycle.

Another option that works well for virtually any smartphone is the Phone Pouch from Ewa-Marine. I use an Ewa-Marine underwater bag for my digital SLR, and have found their products to work very well. You do need to be sure that the iPhone rests against the “back” surface of this underwater bag without any ripples, in order to ensure the best photos. But this bag does work very well, with the added flexibility of being usable with a variety of different devices. As long as your device fits in the underwater bag, you can use that device for underwater photos.

It is important to keep in mind, of course, that an iPhone or other smartphone won’t perform as well as a digital SLR for underwater photography. The smaller sensors on smartphones work best with good lighting conditions, and you don’t have to get very deep underwater before the light levels drop off significantly. That said, getting an underwater case for your smartphone is a great way to have fun while capturing some interesting photos!

Here are links to the products mentioned above:

LifeProof FRE for iPhone 6: http://amzn.to/1UbMLXo

LifeProof LifeJacket for iPhone 6: http://amzn.to/1S4BuZU

Ewa-Marine Phone Pouch: http://amzn.to/1UbNbgp

Printing iPhone Photos


Today’s Question: I have several photos I have taken with my iPhone, just having fun and seeing what I can do with it. While taking photos with the iPhone and editing them on the iPhone, I have created some nice images that I want to print. The app I use to capture the photos allow me to save as a TIFF file, but the software I edit with will only save as a JPEG. This has allowed me to print them as 8×10 and they have kept good resolution, but a couple of them I would like to print larger, maybe up to 24×30. Normally not an issue with my Canon 5D, but this is with the iPhone images. I was thinking of printing them as 4×5 and then scanning them in at 600dpi or higher.

Would you recommend this approach or do you have better workflow?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I would definitely NOT recommend making a print and scanning that print to produce a larger image. If the image is of good overall quality (captured in good lighting conditions, for example) you can produce a relatively large print. I would recommend printing directly from your source file (after you’ve applied adjustments) at the original resolution. This will produce the best possible quality for these photos.

More Detail: Making a print and then scanning from that print will only result in reduced quality. A print contains considerably less information than the original file, depending on the specific print conditions. The result can be an excellent print, but the scanned image from that print will not be as good as the original source image.

To be sure, a JPEG image created with an app on the iPhone won’t have the quality of a RAW capture from a high-end digital SLR. But in many cases the quality will still be excellent. And depending on which specific iPhone model you have, the resolution will most likely be perfectly adequate for a large print.

For example, the iPhone 6 features an 8-megapixel sensor. While there are other factors (such as the small size of the sensor) that impact image quality, that resolution is adequate for producing prints of up to about 16×20 inches. And provided the viewer won’t be getting extremely close to the print, larger sizes are certainly feasible.

I highly recommend producing a test print from one of your favorite photos from the iPhone, at the largest size you think you would typically want to print. I think you may be surprised at how well the print holds up, especially if you’re starting with an image that represents a good exposure and strong overall quality.

Creating Opposite Mask


Today’s Question: When creating targeted adjustments in Photoshop, is there a way to duplicate a layer mask (for the sky, for example) but for the opposite area (the foreground, for example)? Sometimes I want to apply some adjustments to the sky, and then apply different adjustments to the foreground, and I’m looking for a shortcut.

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can indeed create a layer mask in Photoshop that is the opposite of an existing layer mask. There are various approaches you could take, but I generally use a selection for this purpose. Start by holding the Ctrl key on Windows or the Command key on Macintosh and clicking on the thumbnail for the existing layer mask on the Layers panel. This will create a selection based on that mask. Then choose Select > Inverse from the menu to create the opposite selection. Finally, add a new adjustment layer, which will now have a layer mask that is the opposite of the existing layer mask.

More Detail: It is important to keep in mind that in many cases you will need to perform some fine-tuning for the inverted duplicate layer mask you created. Chances are, for example, you have applied some feathering to the original layer mask. That feathering will be reversed for the duplicate layer mask.

Because of that feathering, there will be an area along the transition edges of the two layer masks where very little adjustment is applied. The adjustment for the sky, for example, will taper off before reaching the foreground, and the adjustment for the foreground will taper off before reaching the sky.

The result can be an obvious area where the adjustments don’t blend together very well. You can use the Refine Mask controls (by clicking the Mask Edge button on the Masks tab of the Properties panel) to improve the blending. The “Shift Edge” control in particular can be especially helpful for this purpose.

So, while some refinement to the individual masks may be necessary (depending on the nature of the mask and the strength of the adjustments applied), it is quite easy to create a copy of an existing layer mask with the opposite shape.

White Balance Metadata


Today’s Question: Does the white balance setting in the camera determine the “as shot” white balance setting in Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, the “As Shot” option in the “WB” (White Balance) section on the right panel in the Develop module in Lightroom will establish the same values for Temperature and Tint as were established by the camera at the time of capture.

More Detail: When you establish white balance settings in your camera, those settings are recorded in the metadata for your images. Those values, in turn, are used by various software to determine the initial values for the Temperature and Tint controls you can use to fine-tune your results when processing your captures.

In other words, if you use the “As Shot” option in Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, or other software for processing your captures, you will have established the same overall color balance as was set in the camera. You can then fine-tune from there to optimize the color in the image, in addition to applying various other adjustments.

I should add that there have been some exceptions with certain camera models over the years, with the white balance information being “hidden” in private metadata that software such as Lightroom couldn’t see. But that is somewhat rare, and I don’t know of any current camera models that have this limitation.

Correcting Keyword Errors


Today’s Question: Over the years I have entered keywords in Lightroom that were spelled wrong. For instance, I have both aloa and aloe. Is there a simple way to change the aloa to aloe?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In this particular situation you can’t simply edit the “wrong” keyword, because the keyword with the correct spelling already exists. Instead you need to filter the images to view those with the “wrong” keyword. Then add the keyword with the correct spelling, and delete the keyword with the spelling error from the Keyword List section on the right panel in the Library module.

More Detail: When you have a keyword that is spelled incorrectly, but you’ve never added the correct version of that keyword to any images, you can simply edit the incorrect keyword. To do so, right-click on that “wrong” keyword in the Keyword List section of the right panel in the Library module, and then choose “Edit Keyword Tag” from the popup menu. In the Edit Keyword Tag dialog enter the correct spelling and click Save to apply the change. The keyword will be updated for all images in your Lightroom catalog that had the keyword you’ve just edited.

In this case, however, Lightroom won’t let you edit the “aloa” keyword to “aloe” because you already have “aloe” as a keyword. Instead you’ll need to add the correct keyword to those images that have the “wrong” keyword, and then delete the keyword that has the spelling error altogether.

The first step is to add the correct version of the keyword to the images that have the incorrect spelling. To get started, go to the Keyword List section on the right panel in the Library module and click on the arrow icon that appears to the right of the incorrectly spelled keyword when you hover your mouse over that keyword. This will apply a filter so you are only looking at images with that keyword.

Next, select all of the current images (those with the misspelled keyword) by choosing Edit > Select All from the menu. Note that you can also select all of the current images by pressing Ctrl+A on Windows or Command+A on Macintosh. Then go to the Keywording section of the right panel, click in the field that shows “Click here to add keyword”, type the correct keyword, and press Enter/Return on the keyboard to apply the change.

Now that the images with the incorrectly spelled version of the keyword also have the correct version of the keyword, you can return to the Keyword List section of the right panel, right-click on the keyword with the spelling error, and choose Delete from the popup menu. Click “Delete” in the confirmation dialog that appears, and the keyword with the spelling error will be deleted from all images in your Lightroom catalog.

Capture Settings


Today’s Question: I’ve always assumed that shooting in RAW there was no camera sharpening being applied, but I wanted the JPEG thumbnail to reflect the RAW image as far as possible. Other camera settings (contrast, saturation, etc.) I do set to my taste. Are those capture parameters reflected in the RAW file in Lightroom or only in the resulting camera JPEG?

Tim’s Quick Answer: As a general rule, settings on your camera that cause your photos to be processed in some way (such as contrast, saturation, or sharpening) are not applied to RAW captures. However, those adjustments are applied to the JPEG preview that the camera embeds with the RAW capture. When you import the RAW capture into Adobe Lightroom or other third-party software, the in-camera adjustments will not be visible. That said, the adjustments may be available if you use the software from your camera manufacturer, with this option varying among different camera manufacturers.

More Detail: For most cameras, the only settings that affect a RAW capture are the lens aperture, the shutter speed, and the ISO setting. Some cameras also include special options that will affect a RAW capture, such as in-camera noise reduction and special processing to preserve highlight detail, for example.

In other words, the majority of settings in the camera won’t actually affect the RAW capture. Keep in mind that when you capture a RAW photo, the camera will generate a JPEG preview based on the RAW capture, and embed that preview with the RAW capture file. This JPEG preview is what you see on the camera’s LCD display, for example. This can be a little confusing, because what you see on the LCD display is not entirely reflected in the RAW capture itself.

If you are using the software from your camera manufacturer, you will generally have access to most (or all) of the in-camera settings. However, if you are using third-party software such as Adobe Lightroom, those changes will not be visible to you.

Many photographers like to add certain adjustments (such as contrast and saturation) on the camera, so they can get a better sense of what the final result might look like when reviewing their images on the camera’s display. Just keep in mind that when using software such as Lightroom, those settings won’t actually apply to your RAW captures, so you may have a little extra work to do to achieve the intended result for each image.

Sharpening Steps


Today’s Question: I am one of those who apply sharpening after resizing at the end of the editing process. As I have read lately, sharpening is a process (as opposed to one-time pass). Would you please write about your experience in this respect?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key advantage of a multiple pass sharpening workflow is that you are first compensating for slight softness in the original capture, and then compensating for the final output. The second step is especially important for images that will be printed, and that sharpening should be applied based on the final output size. But rest assured that it is also possible to get excellent results with a single application of sharpening based on the final output size for the image.

More Detail: When you apply sharpening in more than one pass, you are able to focus each stage of sharpening based on specific goals. As noted above, the first stage of sharpening would be applied to the original image at the original pixel dimensions. This sharpening is intended to compensate for the various factors that reduce sharpness in the original capture.

For example, if your camera includes an anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor (which most cameras do include) then the image will be slightly softened. Sharpening to compensate for the various factors that impact the sharpness of the original capture would be a very modest application of sharpening.

Some photographers also like to apply a “creative” application of sharpening as a second step of their workflow. This application of sharpening would also be applied at the full resolution of the image, and is aimed at drawing out detail or adding a creative effect to the photo. I think it would be perfectly fair, for example, to think of the Clarity adjustment available in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw as a type of creative sharpening effect.

Finally, you want to apply sharpening to compensate for the final output. The best example here would be preparing a photo to be printed. When the ink in a photo inkjet printer comes in contact with the paper, for example, that ink will spread out to some extent. This issue is generally referred to as “dot gain”, and it is especially significant with uncoated matte papers.

Sharpening to prepare an image to be printed or otherwise shared should be applied based on the final output size of the image. This stage of sharpening may need to be applied at a strength that makes the image appear to be over-sharpened, in order to adequately compensate for issues in the final print. Images shared online would need much less sharpening than an image being printed.

It is possible to achieve excellent results for a photo by using a single application of sharpening at the final stage of preparing the image to be shared. That said, you can achieve some benefits in terms of overall sharpness and detail in a photo by focusing specific sharpening stages on specific goals related to optimizing the appearance of a photo.

Flecks on Prints


Today’s Question: We are experiencing some small issues of flecking on our large prints. I have made sure that the head and print areas are clean, covered the printer and used an anti-static draftsman brush before printing. Still white flecks.

So I guess my question is what do you recommend for spotting luster and matte inkjet papers? I am a veteran of the Spotone days (I know they are gone).

Tim’s Quick Answer: Actually, it sounds like your issue may relate to debris on the paper rather than within the printer. I recommend using an air blower or high-quality brush designed for this type of use to remove all debris from the paper before printing.

More Detail: From your description it sounds like debris (such as remnants from the paper cutting) are preventing ink from reaching the paper in certain areas, revealing a tiny white spot when the debris falls away from the paper.

You may have noticed white “dust” inside your boxes of photo inkjet paper, especially along the edges where the sheets were cut. That “dust” and other small debris can get onto the surface of the paper. The result is that where that debris sits on the paper during printing, the ink sprayed by the printer will get onto the debris rather than the paper surface.

When the debris falls off of the surface of the print, the white area where the ink wasn’t able to reach is revealed.

Fortunately, I’ve found that a quick spray with an air blower, or a quick brush with a camel hair (or similar) brush does a great job of removing most (or hopefully all) of the debris, preventing the “flecks” you’re referring to.

I should hasten to add that the days of “spotone” aren’t really over. You can still touch up a print using products such as those from SpotPen. For example, a set of colored pens can be found here:


Collections and Editing


Today’s Question: My questions have to do with editing a photo I have put into a collection in Lightroom. When I edit a photo in my collections does it change it in the folder where it lives as well? I have purchased the MacPhun software collections and have been re-editing my photos from my collections since that is usually where my favorite photos are. Once I edit the photo in the collection it creates another photo a places it beside the already edited version, if I like the edit better than the first edit done in Lightroom then I delete the edited Lightroom photo in the collection. I then started to wonder whether I am starting to create a mess of my photo cataloging?

Tim’s Quick Answer: A photo in a collection in Lightroom is (by default) a reference to the original photo in a folder. Thus, if you make changes to a photo in a collection, those changes will also be reflected in the original photo in Lightroom. However, there are some nuances here that can be important to understand.

More Detail: To begin with, it is possible to create a virtual copy when adding a photo to a collection. As noted above, by default a photo added to a collection is simply a reference to the “original” photo found in a particular folder. Thus, changes you make to the “copy” of the photo in the collection will be reflected in the original photo in the source folder.

However, if you use the option to create a virtual copy of a photo when adding that photo to a collection, then this behavior changes. In this case the changes applied to the virtual copy version of the photo would not be reflected in the original. But again, as long as you don’t create a virtual copy, this isn’t a concern.

There is some similar variability related to removing photos from a collection that you’ll want to be aware of. If you have added a photo to a collection without creating a virtual copy, then “deleting” the photo from the collection is simply removing that reference within the collection. The source photo would not be affected.

However, if you created a virtual copy when adding a photo to a collection, the adjustments you applied in the Develop module would only apply to the virtual copy. Thus, if you remove the virtual copy from the collection, you would lose that version of the image in terms of the adjustments applied. But again, you would not lose the source photo from the applicable folder.

When you use a plug-in to work with a photo, a new version of the image is created as a separate file (generally a TIFF image). With the workflow described in the question, a derivative image (presumably a TIFF file) is created from the photo contained within the collection. If you’re happy with the results for this derivative image, you could certainly delete the photo from the collection, assuming it is not a virtual copy. In other words, just as outlined above, the version of the image in the collection would be a reference to the original, and deleting that reference is really just removing the reference from the collection. The source photo will still be contained in the applicable folder.

So, if you have not created a virtual copy of a photo, then removing a photo from a collection will not harm the original photo. And furthermore, removing that reference from a collection will not affect the new file you created when sending a photo to a plug-in from Lightroom.

Lightroom on a Laptop


Today’s Question: My work takes me on the road for 40 weeks a year. I would really like to sell my iMac [desktop computer] and connect a large Apple display to my MacBook Pro [laptop computer]. Would it be advisable to run my master Lightroom catalog on my MacBook Pro using the 2TB solid-state drive?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I can tell you from personal experience that you absolutely run Lightroom very effectively on a well-configured laptop computer. In fact, because I similarly am traveling much of the year, my MacBook Pro has become my primary computer for all purposes, including running Lightroom to manage my catalog of over 300,000 photos.

More Detail: There are, of course, some advantages and disadvantages of using a laptop computer compared to a desktop computer, especially when it comes to image management.

One of the key potential advantages of a desktop computer is that you are generally able to configure a desktop with better performance specifications compared to a laptop computer. It is often possible to employ faster processors (or more processor cores) as well as more memory (RAM) on a desktop computer. You will also often be able to make use of more video memory (VRAM) and a faster graphics processor unit (GPU) on a desktop computer.

So, in general it is possible to achieve greater performance with a desktop computer compared to a laptop computer. However, I have found that a well-configured laptop computer can provide excellent performance for Lightroom and other critical tasks.

In addition, a laptop provides some advantages in terms of portability. Obviously there is the direct advantage of being able to move your computer from place to place. But perhaps more importantly, by having your Lightroom catalog on a laptop computer that you travel with, you’ll avoid the challenges associated with trying to manage multiple catalogs. In addition, you’ll avoid the perhaps greater challenge associated with attempting to transfer key files (such as your Lightroom catalog) between multiple computers when you depart for or return from a trip.

In other words, using a laptop computer as your primary (or only) computer can be a tremendous benefit if you travel frequently. Rather than keeping track of which files are on which computer, or trying to make sure you are always working on the latest version of a file, you simply bring your laptop with you when you travel and use the same laptop when you are at home. The result can be a much more streamlined workflow compared to other approaches you might take involving multiple computers.