RAW Interpretation


Today’s Question: As you know, Adobe Standard is the default camera calibration option applied to images in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. I read a recent article discussing high contrast images where the application of Adobe Standard could increase the risk of clipping because of its default contrast enhancement, necessitating the use of exposure, shadow, highlight controls to remedy.

I would much prefer to start with what may appear to be a flatter image and then make my own judgments and adjustments concerning contrast. Secondly, I certainly don’t want the calibration standard to increase the risk of default clipping in my RAW images. So my own conclusion is that Adobe Standard should be abandoned and the use of a “flat” or “neutral” camera calibration should be applied to all imported images.

What are your thoughts?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This isn’t an issue I would worry too much about. In some respects, you can think of this as a situation where regardless of which Profile option you choose for Camera Calibration, you’re going to need to fine-tune your overall adjustments for the image.

More Detail: Processing RAW captures in general involves interpreting the information gathered by the image sensor to create the initial file. This is why each software application for processing RAW captures will produce a slightly (or sometimes significantly) different interpretation of the image.

The Camera Calibration controls in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw are primarily aimed at compensating for the behavior of the camera. For example, you can essentially change the definition of the primary colors (generally Red, Green, and Blue) used to create the final image.

The Profile popup within the Camera Calibration adjustments can be thought of in some ways as an overall preset that determines the basic interpretation of the photo. There are certainly differences in overall tonality and contrast based on the preset you select, but the various adjustments can also be compensated for relatively easily.

If the profile you select (such as the default “Adobe Standard” option) results in too much contrast, you can compensate by reducing the value for Whites and increasing the value for Blacks. If the profile you’ve selected results in a flat appearance you could instead increase the value for Whites and decrease the value for Blacks.

But again, the adjustments based on the Profile setting will not be so extreme that you’re not able to compensate with other adjustments. If you find that you’re happier with the initial interpretation of your images based on a Profile option other than “Adobe Standard”, there is no reason not to switch to that Profile option, perhaps even changing the default settings in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw based on your preferred Profile.

Mask Inversion


Today’s Question: Sometimes I don’t realize that I forgot to invert my selection [in Photoshop] until after I’ve added an adjustment layer, causing the layer mask to be the opposite of what I meant. Is there an easier way to fix that instead of using the Undo command to take a few steps back so I can invert the selection and then add the adjustment layer again?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes! You can simply invert the layer mask to reverse the area of the image being affected by an adjustment layer.

More Detail: I actually prefer to perform most of my work on a layer mask rather than a selection, in large part because this approach enables you to evaluate your work based on the actual effect in the image. Therefore, I often invert a layer mask for an adjustment layer rather than inverting the selection originally created as the basis of that layer mask.

A layer mask is really just a pixel-based image used in a different way compared to “normal” pixels in a photographic image. As such, you can use all of the various tools within Photoshop to alter a layer mask just as you would an image. In this case, for example, you can simply invert the layer mask to reverse the area being affected by a targeted adjustment.

The first step is to make sure that the layer mask is active, which you can do by clicking the mouse on the thumbnail for the layer mask on the Layers panel. Then simply use the Invert command to invert that layer mask. You can, for example, choose Image > Adjustments > Invert from the menu. You can also press Ctrl+I on Windows or Command+I on Macintosh as a keyboard shortcut to invert the currently active layer mask.

End of Nik?


Today’s Question: Do you think Google’s announcement that the Nik Collection is now free means the end of the Nik Collection?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes. I suspect we will never see another update to the Nik Collection, as noted in the latest episode of Tim Grey TV (https://youtu.be/2Z0pYDysVDU).

More Detail: When Google originally acquired Nik Software, there was speculation that Google was really only interested in the Snapseed app for mobile devices. Rumors swirled that staff from Nik Software had been let go, and everything I heard suggested there would not be any updates to the Nik Collection.

I was a bit surprised when shortly after the acquisition there was an update to Analog Efex Pro, but I suspect that was just a matter of delivering an update that had already been nearly complete before the acquisition.

In the announcement posted on Google+ (https://plus.google.com/+NikCollection/posts/AFGsG2Di7EK), part of the explanation indicates that, “As we continue to focus our long-term investments in building incredible photo editing tools for mobile, including Google Photos and Snapseed, we’ve decided to make the Nik Collection desktop suite available for free….” Perhaps that means that means the Nik Collection will be updated and still be offered for free, similar to other apps that are available. But I interpret this statement as an indication that this is the end of the line for the Nik Collection.

I’ve been a big fan of many of the tools in the Nik Collection, and continue to use several of those tools in my workflow. I would love to see future updates to make these tools even better than they already are, but I suspect that won’t be the case.

Dye Sublimation Printers


Today’s Question: In your video about making photo buttons you recommended using a “dye sublimation” printer. Can you explain what this type of printer is, and why you recommended it?

Tim’s Quick Answer: A dye sublimation printer is a printer that uses solid dyes that are converted to a gaseous form and then impregnated into the surface of the paper. The result is a print that is more durable than other types of prints where the ink sits on the surface of the paper.

More Detail: In many respects, dye sublimation printers are very well suited for photographic prints. As noted above, prints made with a dye sublimation printer tend to be more durable than other types of prints, because the dyes are impregnated into the paper and thus better protected from the elements.

In addition, because dye sublimation printers employ dyes that are applied to paper in a gaseous form, these printers are a true continuous tone printer. A photo inkjet printer, by contrast, must apply many small ink droplets of varying colors and sizes to produce smooth gradations of tone and color. Dye sublimation printers produce smoother gradations because they are truly continuous tone, without the use of individual “dots”.

These attributes make dye sublimation printers an excellent choice for a variety of photo printing applications. As noted in the latest episode of Tim Grey TV (https://youtu.be/EaTgqyke-9I), one such use is for the creation of photo buttons. With a dye sublimation print you don’t even need to use the clear plastic sheet that would otherwise be necessary to protect the photo being applied to the button.

Of course, there are drawbacks to dye sublimation printers as well. In most cases dye sublimation printers are only able to print at a single paper size, which can be a significant limitation in many cases. In addition, dye sublimation printers tend to be a little slower than other types of printers, in part because of the multiple passes required to produce the final print.

These days I consider dye sublimation printers to be a specialty printer that is an excellent choice for certain applications, but not necessarily an ideal choice for all photographic situations.

DNG at Capture


Today’s Question: I’m looking at a couple of camera systems that offer varied advantages for my intended use. Suggestions regarding RAW conversion with one system are mixed. The other system offers DNG capture files. I’m curious if DNG has a decided advantage over other proprietary capture files when brought into Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In my view the issue of using DNG files is a bit mixed, but on balance I prefer not to use the DNG format. This is primarily related to other workflow issues, however, and doesn’t relate to any image quality issues or other significant concerns.

More Detail: The Adobe Digital Negative (DNG) format was introduced as an openly documented alternative to proprietary RAW capture formats. While I certainly understand the concerns about proprietary RAW file formats, the availability of many software tools for processing these proprietary RAW formats makes those concerns largely unfounded in my view.

Therefore, I prefer to focus on the workflow considerations as they relate to the DNG format compared to RAW capture formats. That said, I would certainly concede that there is at least some advantage to using a format that is openly documented, compared to proprietary RAW formats that need to be reverse-engineered in many cases in order to be supported by image-processing software.

The DNG file format is capable of applying lossless compression to the image data, which helps to produce smaller file sizes than proprietary RAW capture formats without sacrificing any of the image data. In general a DNG file will be somewhere around 20% smaller than a similar proprietary RAW capture format. This can obviously be a considerable advantage when it comes to storage requirements.

One of the features of the DNG file format that is often touted as an advantage is actually something I consider to be a significant disadvantage for my workflow. That feature is the ability to embed metadata updates within the DNG file rather than storing that information in a separate XMP “sidecar” file as is the case for proprietary RAW capture formats.

One of the key problems with storing metadata within the DNG file is that doing so complicates the process of backing up that metadata. If you are using a synchronization-based approach to backing up your photos, for example, then updating metadata for a photo typically requires you to backup a completely new copy of the DNG image rather than simply updating the very small XMP sidecar file.

I would certainly say that there is no problem with using the DNG file format as a capture format in your photography as it relates to overall image quality. However, I do feel there are some disadvantages from a workflow perspective that cause me to prefer the use of proprietary RAW capture formats rather than DNG.

That said, I’m not sure this issue is important enough that I would choose one camera over the other based on whether a DNG versus proprietary RAW capture format were available with the camera.

Changing Storage Location


Today’s Question: I want to move the Lightroom catalog to the internal SSD and store the active photos folder on the second internal hard drive. I can move the catalog to the SSD drive but I’m uncomfortable moving folders within Lightroom. From within Lightroom one can move folders but you cannot copy. Is there a way to copy the photos from the backup to the internal drive outside Lightroom and then reconnect the catalog with the copy that I make on the internal drive without losing Collections and other Lightroom specific settings?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can copy your photos outside of Lightroom and then reconnect the new copy within Lightroom, and none of the data within your Lightroom catalog will be lost in the process. This is a reasonable alternative to moving the photos within Lightroom.

More Detail: The first part of this process (moving the catalog) is very simple. You’ll want to make sure Lightroom isn’t running, and then copy the entire folder containing your Lightroom catalog (along with the previews file and possibly some other files) to the new location.

When the folder is finished copying, you can rename the original folder to reflect the fact that it is now simply a backup copy of the catalog, such as by adding the word “BACKUP” to the beginning of the folder name. Once the catalog is moved you can continue using Lightroom normally, since that catalog will still reference the photos based on where they are actually stored. Then you can set about the task of moving your photos.

In general I prefer to move photos within Lightroom rather than going through the slightly more complicated process of copying and reconnecting, so I’ll cover that process first. In this case you would want to make sure that you have a complete backup copy of your photos before you move the master copy of your photos.

Once you have a backup copy (or two!) of your photos, you can move the master photos within Lightroom. If the destination hard drive does not contain any photos that are being managed within Lightroom, that drive won’t appear in Lightroom. To make that drive visible, you’ll need to create a folder on that drive within Lightroom. To do so, click the “plus” icon (+) to the right of the Folders header and choose the “Add Folder” option. Navigate to the hard drive you want to move photos to, and create a new parent folder in that location with a name such as “PHOTOS”.

Once you’ve created this folder, it will appear on the applicable hard drive in the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module. You can then move all folders from your existing drive to this new location. Simply click on the first folder on the list, then hold the Shift key on the keyboard while clicking on the last folder on the list. You can then drag-and-drop the full range of selected photos to the new folder you created, clicking the “Move” button in the confirmation dialog to confirm you do indeed want to move your photos to the new location.

If you prefer to copy your photos rather than move them, that is an option as well. Start by quitting Lightroom. You can then use your operating system to copy all of the photos from the existing storage location to the desired new storage location. Once that option is completed, be sure to make sure Lightroom can’t see the original storage location. If that location is an external hard drive, you can simply disconnect the drive. If it is on an internal drive, you can rename the parent folder to “BACKUP”, or otherwise make sure that Lightroom won’t find those original copies of your photos where they are expected.

At this point you can launch Lightroom again. All of the folders and photos will show as being missing, because they are not in the location Lightroom is expecting them. You can then right-click on a top-level folder on the Folders list, and choose the “Find Missing Folder” option. Select the exact same folder in the new storage location and click the Choose button.

In most cases, Lightroom will do a good job of recursively reconnecting all other related folders once you have reconnected one of the folders. I’ve had mixed results with this, however, so in some cases you might need to use this “reconnect” option for multiple folders in order to get everything back in order.

With either approach, as long as you are using the same catalog and ensuring that all of the photos and folders are reconnected in terms of Lightroom being able to find them all, you won’t lose any of the information about your photos that is contained within the Lightroom catalog.

Monitor Selection


Today’s Question: I know this is a perennial question, but what current 27” monitors do you consider to be the best for photo imaging?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While the Eizo ColorEdge displays continue to offer exceptional quality, they are also very expensive. Other excellent displays that provide great quality at a lower price point include models in the Dell UltraSharp lineup, the Professional series from ViewSonic, NEC MultiSync displays, and Samsung SyncMaster, among others.

More Detail: If money is no object, I do consider the Eizo ColorEdge displays to be among the best available. They are, however, considerably more expensive than most other displays available. You can find a sample of a 27-inch Eizo ColorEdge display here: http://timgrey.me/1RvjYQJ

I continue to be impressed by the excellent quality and reasonable price available for the Professional line of ViewSonic displays. One excellent 27-inch option can be found here: http://timgrey.me/1RaSRIC

I was initially surprised at the high quality of the UltraSharp displays available from Dell. That was more than a few years ago, and now I am consistently impressed with how good these displays are. You can find a 27-inch Dell UltraSharp display here: http://timgrey.me/1RdsIYA

The NEC MultiSync displays are another great choice, with a good 27-inch option available here: http://timgrey.me/1pFGrOX

And Samsung continues to produce great displays in the SyncMaster lineup, with a 27-inch option available here: http://timgrey.me/1RvmHtk

Needless to say, there are many great options when it comes to monitor displays. Personally, my favorite continues to be the ViewSonic Professional lineup, with the Dell UltraSharp being a close second. I do recommend taking the time to view these displays in person, although you must keep in mind that in many cases the displays you see in the store won’t be calibrated properly. I am confident that any of the displays linked above will provide you with an excellent viewing experience, and there are many other options to choose from as well.

Traveling Workflow


Today’s Question: I keep my main and only catalog on my laptop and my photos on an external hard drive. While traveling I use the main catalog on my laptop and download photos to a folder on [the internal hard drive on] my laptop. When I return home I connect the external hard drive to my laptop and from within Lightroom move the photos from the laptop desktop folder to the external hard drive. I have done this once and it seemed to work out. What are the potential shortcomings of this workflow?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Overall this workflow is perfectly fine in that it enables you to make use of your “master” Lightroom catalog while traveling, without the need to bring your external hard drive with you. The only significant concern I have relates to moving your photos from one drive to another. But as long as you have a backup of the photos before you move them to a different drive, I would say there are no problems with the approach you are taking.

More Detail: Many photographers (myself included) prefer to work with a separate catalog when traveling, just to isolate the photos from that trip in a single “traveling” catalog. The typical workflow for this type of situation involves importing that “traveling” catalog (and thus the photos captured along the way) using the “Import from Another Catalog” command.

However, if you keep your Lightroom catalog on the laptop you travel with, you can most certainly use that “master” catalog while you’re traveling, even if you’ll be downloading your photos to a storage location that differs from your “master” storage location. A common example, as outlined in today’s question, is that you might have your Lightroom catalog on the internal hard drive on your laptop, with your photos stored on an external hard drive you left at home.

In this type of situation, you can most certainly use your master catalog on the internal hard drive, and download photos to a folder on that same internal hard drive. When you return home and connect your external hard drive, you can then move the photos from the internal hard drive to the external hard drive from within Lightroom, simply by dragging the folder from one location to the other.

The only real risk involved with this type of approach relates to the fact that you would be moving the photos from one drive to another. A safer approach would be to copy the photos from one drive to the next, and only delete the photos from the source drive once you know that the files have been moved properly. But, of course, in any event you would always want to be sure that you have a backup copy of your photos.

Of course, if you have a backup copy of your photos before you initiate the move operation, then you don’t really have anything to worry about. If something goes wrong, you can always recover from your backup. In other words, if you have a backup copy of your photos before you move the source images to their final destination, there is really no problem with moving the photos between drives in Lightroom.

Bus-Powered Drives


Today’s Question: I like to keep my catalogue and photos on an external drive. Is a “desktop” external drive more stable or otherwise preferable over a “passport” drive like the LaCie where one does not have to deal with plugging it to power?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In my opinion a bus-powered hard drive (one that gets its power through the data connection rather than from a separate power connection) is absolutely preferable compared to a “desktop” external hard drive that requires a power connection in addition to the data connection. In my view there is a tremendous advantage to not needing to use a separate power connector, and bus-powered hard drives are also generally smaller than “desktop” external hard drives.

More Detail: A bus-powered hard drive obviously has the advantage of not requiring a separate power adapter. Instead, the same connection used for data transfer also provides power to the drive. This is beneficial when traveling in terms of not having to pack a power adapter for the drive. Frankly, I always prefer bus-powered drives when possible because they also eliminate the risk of having the power get accidentally disconnected for the drive.

I have often heard about risks of data corruption or inadequate power for bus-powered hard drives, especially when connected to a USB port. From my perspective this was an issue with lower-powered USB ports in the past, but is not a real concern for most hardware available today, both in terms of computers and bus-powered hard drives.

I have extensive experience in this regard, and have never had any problems related to the lack of a power adapter for bus-powered drives. All of my photos are stored on a 4 terabyte bus-powered hard drive, with backup copies on an additional bus-powered drive. In addition, all of the content I produce, such as the video training courses I publish in the GreyLearning video training library (http://timgrey.me/greylearningnew), are stored on another bus-powered hard drive. In other words, I make extensive use of bus-powered hard drives, and have done so for many years, without any problems caused by the fact that the drives I’m using don’t have a separate power supply.

No storage device is completely immune to potential data loss, caused by a variety of factors. In my view, there is no need to avoid bus-powered hard drives based on fears of risk to your data. In fact, I feel that bus-powered drives offer considerable advantages. Of course, it is also always important to have an excellent backup system in place to minimize the risk of data loss.

Catalog on External Drive


Today’s Question: My Lightroom catalog is on my external drive, and you say it should be in the computer’s internal drive. What is the downside of having the catalog on an external drive? Or how I can move it to the internal drive?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The only real disadvantage of having the Lightroom catalog on an external hard drive is that you will likely experience slower overall performance in Lightroom. However, having the catalog on an external hard drive also helps to streamline a workflow for being able to access that catalog on multiple computers easily.

More Detail: For optimal performance, I do recommend keeping your Lightroom catalog on an internal hard drive. In most cases this will ensure the fastest access to the catalog and other related files, so that Lightroom can perform at its best. In most cases an external hard drive will result in degraded performance, and with some hardware configurations that performance degradation can be significant.

However, if you need to access your Lightroom catalog on multiple computers, keeping the catalog on an external hard drive can be a good solution. With this approach you can switch to using Lightroom on a different computer by simply connecting the external hard drive to that computer and opening the Lightroom catalog that is stored on the external hard drive.

By keeping the Lightroom catalog on the external hard drive, you are minimizing the risks associated with other potential solutions. For example, if you copy the Lightroom catalog from one computer to another as you switch locations, there is the risk of losing track of which copy of your Lightroom catalog is truly the latest version.

Many photographers have employed online synchronization solutions such as DropBox (http://bit.ly/Pix-Dropbox) to enable them to access their Lightroom catalog across multiple computers. I have tested this solution myself and found that it can work very well. However, this approach also makes me nervous about the potential for files to get out of synch, especially if you use Lightroom on a computer that isn’t always connected to the Internet.

As a result of all of these considerations, I recommend keeping the Lightroom catalog on your computer’s internal hard drive for optimal performance. If you need to share the catalog across multiple computers, then I recommend keeping the catalog on an external hard drive instead.

If you want to move the Lightroom catalog to a different location, that process is relatively straightforward. First, within Lightroom you can determine where the current catalog is located. To do so, choose “Catalog Settings” from the Lightroom menu on Macintosh or the Edit menu on Windows. Then go to the General tab and click the Show button to bring up a window in your operating system showing where the Lightroom catalog is stored.

Next, quit Lightroom so the catalog files will not be in use. Then copy the entire folder containing your Lightroom catalog to the preferred location. As a precaution, I then recommend renaming the “old” catalog folder to indicate it is no longer in use, such as by adding the word “BACKUP” to the beginning of the folder name. You can then double-click on the “lrcat” file (the actual catalog) in the “new” catalog location to open that Catalog in Lightroom and continue working.

For more detail on the options for where to store your Lightroom catalog, you may be interested in the article “Location, Location, Location”, which appeared in the August 2013 issue of Pixology magazine. For photographers who have subscribed to the GreyLearning “Everything” Bundle, you can find all of the back issues of Pixology magazine in the “Pixology Magazine” course in the GreyLearning library. And if you aren’t a subscriber you can sign up here: http://timgrey.me/greylearningnew