Choosing a Lens Extender


Today’s Question: Instead of buying an expensive super telephoto zoom lens, I would rather buy an extender for my 70-200 zoom lens. Canon charges the same price for its 1.4x ( and 2x ( extenders. Are there any downsides picking the 2x extender over the 1.4x extender?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key difference between these two extenders is that the 2x will cause you to lose one additional stop of light. This obviously affects potential shutter speeds in addition to degrading autofocus performance.

More Detail: An extender is effectively a magnifier for your lens. These extenders are often available in a 1.4x and 2x strength for different lens mounts for different camera makes. With a 1.4x extender you will lose one stop of light, and with a 2x extender you will lose two stops of light.

With less light available when using the 2x extender, you would obviously need to compensate with exposure settings. That can lead to a slower shutter speed, which can be problematic depending on the specific circumstances. In addition, that loss of light will reduce autofocus performance, which can be a real hindrance.

Of course, there is also the additional magnification to consider. With a 70-200mm lens, for example, the 200mm focal length would translate to an effective 280mm focal length with the 1.4x extender, but a 400mm effective focal length with the 2x.

Therefore, when considering an extender my view is that the 2x option makes the most sense, as long as you can manage the loss of an additional stop of light.

In a general sense it is also important to confirm compatibility with the specific lens you intend to use with the extender. Many extenders only support prime lenses, plus a handful of zoom lenses (as is the case with the Canon extenders). With some configurations you may lose autofocus altogether, or you may be limited as to which focus points are available.

Mixing and Matching for Selections


Today’s Question: Often the “Select Subject” command in Photoshop works well, but can I add to the selected subject?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can absolutely mix-and-match different selection tools in Photoshop to refine your selection, including in conjunction with the Select Subject command.

More Detail: The Select Subject command in Photoshop does an impressive job of identifying and selecting the key subject in a photo, especially when that key subject stands out reasonably well from the background. However, this command (and the similar Select Sky command) doesn’t always do a perfect job.

Fortunately, whenever an initial selection isn’t quite perfect, you don’t have to abandon that selection and start over with a different tool or technique. Instead, you can mix-and-match among various selection tools and commands.

For example, you could use the Select Subject (or Select Sky) command to create a quick and automatic selection. For areas of that initial selection that don’t match the subject or area you were trying to select, you can add to or subtract from that selection.

I often use the Quick Selection tool, for example, to supplement other selection tools. You can hold the Shift key on the keyboard while painting with the Quick Selection tool to add areas to a selection. You can also hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while painting to subtract areas from the selection.

Another helpful tool for this type of selection refinement is the Lasso tool, which you can use to trace along areas of the selection you need to modify. The same keyboard commands for adding to or subtracting from a selection work with this and other selection tools.

And, of course, there are a variety of other tools and commands you can use in Photoshop to further modify a selection. The key thing to keep in mind is that you can use multiple of the various tools and commands to fine-tune a selection, rather than having to use just a single tool to try to do all work to create a perfect selection.

Unique Filenames with Multiple Cameras


Today’s Question: When I photograph sporting events, I always have two or three camera bodies being used. The problem I have is when I import all the photos into Lightroom Classic there are always duplicated numbers because with each card the file number starts with the number 0001 as per my import preset. The only way I am able to get around this is to rename all the photos after import so there will be no duplicate filenames. I am hoping that there is a way upon import that this process can be simplified to save me valuable time.

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can solve this issue by altering your file renaming template, such as by adding the camera serial number to the filenames or by altering your approach to using the Start Number value for the sequence number for the filenames.

More Detail: Whether or not you’re actually renaming photos during import into Lightroom Classic, it is possible that you’ll have issues with potential duplicate filenames. If there are duplicate filenames in the folder you’re importing to Lightroom Classic will automatically add a parenthetical number at the end of the filename, but this certainly isn’t an ideal solution.

Instead, I recommend one of two types of changes to how you approach renaming photos during import.

The first example in this case would be to add an element to the filename that is unique for each camera. An obvious choice would be the serial number of the camera. You could therefore modify the file renaming template to include a value such as the camera serial number. This would help ensure that you have unique filenames that make sense in your overall workflow.

Another approach would be to change how you define the start number for the sequence number included in your file renaming template. When including a sequence number in a file renaming template you can choose to have up to five digits in that sequence number. You could then use an approach where you assign a single digit number to each camera body, and then use that number as the first digit of the sequence number.

That would mean that on the first import from the first camera for a given event you would set the sequence number to 10001, and for the second camera you would use 20001. For subsequent imports you would simply need to update the sequence number to the next value, so that if you had for example imported 500 images on the first import the sequence number for the second import could be set to 10501.

Print Resolution when Exporting


Today’s Question: When exporting from Lightroom Classic, regarding resolution, what is the standard number that should be for the pixels per inch value, and what happens when the number is changed?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The pixels per inch (or pixels per centimeter) resolution value only really applies for images you intend to print. In that case the resolution should be set based on the intended output, which typically means around 360 pixels per inch for photo inkjet prints and generally 300 pixels per inch for other types of printing.

More Detail: For images that will only be presented digitally, such as on a computer monitor or with a digital projector, the pixel per inch value in metadata is not applicable. You simply need to be sure that the image contains enough pixels to be displayed at the intended size.

For printed images a pixel per inch value can be used (though isn’t technically required) to establish the overall pixel dimensions and output size for the image. The basic idea is that it can be easier to describe the pixel dimensions based on the output size rather than the actual number of pixels.

For example, many photographers find it easier to describe (or determine) the overall pixel dimensions by saying “eight inches by ten inches at 360 pixels per inch” rather than as “2,880 pixels by 3,600 pixels”.

Using a specific value for pixels per inch when exporting an image will only have an actual impact on the pixel dimensions of the image if you are not otherwise specifying the image dimensions in pixels. If you specify the output dimensions in pixels rather than inches, for example, the image will have the dimensions that match the pixel value(s) you entered regardless of the pixel per inch resolution value.

If you use inches or centimeters to specify the output dimensions, on the other hand, then the pixel per inch resolution value is used to calculate the pixel dimensions for the image being exported.

If the pixel per inch resolution value is changed in metadata, there isn’t really a significant impact, since changing that value won’t change the number of pixels in the image. You can specify the output size when producing printed output, for example, and the image will be printed at that size. If the overall pixel dimensions aren’t adequate for the actual print size, the image will simply be interpolated as part of the printing process.

Blu-ray for Archival Storage


Today’s Question: Have you looked at and considered the use of Blu-ray drives and discs which purportedly can hold an enormous quantity of data and will never degrade in our lifetimes?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While optical media does have some advantages for archival data storage, there are also some concerns that lead me to personally prefer the use of external hard drives for primary, backup, and archival storage.

More Detail: Optical media often provides reliable long-term storage in terms of data integrity, and that is generally especially true of Blu-ray optical media. Blu-ray is effectively an updated version of the familiar DVD format, providing higher data density for higher capacity on a single disc.

Standard Blu-ray recordable discs are typically available in 25GB, 50GB, and 100GB capacities, though some higher capacity discs are available. Still, from the perspective of a photographer this is not a significant storage capacity compared to other media options such as hard drives.

There are higher capacity optical storage options available, including relatively high-capacity options specifically focused on data archive. For example, Sony offers an Optical Disc Archive Desktop Drive ( that can be used in conjunction with Write-Once Optical Disc Cartridges with a capacity of 3.3TB (

While optical media can generally provide great reliability for data storage, the discs do generally tend to be somewhat vulnerable to physical damage. In some cases, such as with the Sony drive noted above, the discs are enclosed in a housing to help protect the data disc. But there is still a degree of concern about physical damage to the discs even with relatively normal handling.

The bigger concern that makes me uncomfortable about using optical media for archival storage is the potential future lack of availability of drives for the specific media format you opt for. For example, most new computers do not come with a CD or DVD drive, let alone a Blu-ray drive. Standalone drives are available, but as has been the case with many other media formats in the past, I’m concerned that Blu-ray drives may become obsolete or at least somewhat difficult to find.

I therefore prefer to use hard drive storage for primary, backup, and archival storage. Even with external hard drives, of course, you need to make sure you maintain compatibility, such as to ensure the hard drive supports the available data connections over time.

Put simply, long-term storage of digital data requires a degree of maintenance over time, to ensure the media remains reliable and to ensure the media format is still supported. From time to time you may need to “upgrade” your archival storage to a different media format to ensure it will remain accessible.

Preserving Rating Metadata


Today’s Question: Which of the rating systems (ratings, flags, and color labels) would be available to a user that is not accessing the photos from Lightroom Classic such as if the file types were all changed to JPEG when exporting?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Star ratings and color labels can be preserved in metadata outside of Lightroom Classic as long as steps are taken to actually include that metadata. Pick and reject flags assigned in Lightroom Classic, however, are only available within the catalog and will not be included in metadata for photos accessed outside of Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: By default, the metadata you add to photos in Lightroom Classic is only saved within the Lightroom Classic catalog. However, there are options for including standard metadata values in photos beyond the Lightroom Classic catalog.

However, information that is not part of a metadata standard cannot be included in the metadata for your source photos, and instead is only available within the catalog. This includes pick and reject flags, collections, virtual copies (unless they are exported as new images), and the history within the Develop module.

The first option for including standard metadata in the source image files is to save that metadata to the source images from within Lightroom Classic. You can manually save metadata to the source images by selecting the images and choosing Photo > Save Metadata to File(s) from the menu. You can also enable the option to have metadata updates saved to source files automatically by turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog.

The second option is to export new copies of the source images with the option enabled to include metadata. In the Metadata section of the Export dialog in Lightroom Classic you can choose which metadata to include in the copies of the photos you’re exporting. If you select “All Metadata” from the Include popup, for example, all of the information in the standard metadata fields will be included in the exported copies of the photos.

Workflow for Multiple Virtual Copies


Today’s Question: After making the first virtual copy in Lightroom Classic, when I want to make another version of the image should I make the additional virtual copy from the original or from the first virtual copy?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You should create a new virtual copy based on the source image you want the new virtual copy to be based on, whether that is the original image or a previously created virtual copy.

More Detail: Virtual copies in Lightroom Classic inherit the adjustments from the source used to create the virtual copy. For example, let’s assume the original image is in color, and a virtual copy based on that image has been converted to black and white. If you then create a new virtual copy based on the original, that new virtual copy will be in color. If you create a new virtual copy based on the black and white virtual copy, the new virtual copy will be in black and white.

So, you can choose to create a virtual copy based on any image, whether it is an original image or a virtual copy.

Since each virtual copy includes its own metadata and adjustments, I recommend updating the original image with all metadata updates you want to apply and at least a base level of adjustments in the Develop module. While virtual copies can be used to manage different sets of metadata, such as keywords, for different versions of the image, in general they are used for different visual interpretations of the same source image.

After updating all intended metadata fields and applying at least basic adjustments in the Develop module, you can then create a virtual copy if you want to have an additional interpretation of the photo. From that point additional virtual copies can be created to have additional versions of the photo, and you can create that additional virtual copy based on which image you want to use as the starting point for the overall look of the new virtual copy.

Photoshop for Apple M1


Today’s Question: I just got a new iMac with Apple’s M1 chip. I understand that Adobe offers a special version of Photoshop tailored to that chip instead of Intel’s microprocessors. What are the advantages, and how to switch to the new version?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The primary advantage of software such as Photoshop natively supporting the Apple M1 processor is improved performance. And that native support is automatic as long as you have updated Photoshop after March 2021, when the version supporting the M1 processor was released.

More Detail: Now that Apple has released a number of computer models featuring the new Apple Silicon M1 chip rather than Intel processors, software applications are being updated to natively support the new processor.

Fortunately, even without a software update most applications will continue running just fine on M1-based computers. They will just run in a compatibility mode, which can cause degraded performance.

Adobe has been updating their various applications to support the M1 processor, and Photoshop was updated in March 2021. So, as long as you have updated Photoshop via the Creative Cloud application since March, your M1-based computer will be running Photoshop in native mode, with improved performance.

The only real issue I’ve found with running Photoshop on an M1-based computer is that plug-ins for Photoshop that only support Intel processors will not work with the latest versions of Photoshop. To use those plug-ins you would need to keep (or install) an older version of Photoshop on your computer.

An article providing more details on my experience with a computer featuring the new Apple M1 processor is included in the September 2021 issue of my Pixology magazine. You can learn more about this digital magazine on the GreyLearning website here:

Photos Won’t Import


Today’s Question: My Lightroom Classic catalog does not show two folders that exist on my external hard drive. When I try to import those folders, they do show in the folder structure for importing but the photos are greyed out and can’t be imported. Normally when this type of problem occurs, I remove the folders/files from the catalog (without deleting the originals) and re-import. Since the folders of interest don’t show in the catalog view, I can’t do this. How do I proceed?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In this case the photos can’t be imported because Lightroom Classic has determined that the same photos are already in the catalog, just not in the same folder location. You can still import these duplicate photos if you turn off the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checkbox in the Import dialog, but you’ll also want to address the actual duplication and make sure you’re not losing metadata updates in the process.

More Detail: In general, I recommend keeping the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checkbox turned on in the Import dialog of Lightroom Classic. This helps ensure you don’t accidentally import the same photos more than once.

However, if the apparent duplication is the result of there being more than one copy of the same photos on your hard drive, then it can be helpful to import the duplicates into your Lightroom Classic catalog and then manage the duplication (and the metadata for the photos) from within the catalog.

If you turn off the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checkbox when attempting to import the “missing” folders into your catalog, you’ll be able to import the photos normally. In this context where the photos are already located in the intended storage location, I recommend using the “Add” option at the top-center of the Import dialog to simply add the photos from their current location.

You can then locate the “other” copies of the photos in question, and compare the metadata to determine how to proceed. You could likely search by filename, for example, or sort the image by capture time to find the duplicates alongside each other while browsing the “All Photographs” collection from the Catalog section at the top of the left panel in the Library module.

The key is to determine whether both copies of the photos have been updated with metadata or adjustments, for example. If one folder represents the photos that have been updated and the other represents the photos that have not been updated, you can simply discard the copies that haven’t been updated and refine the folder structure as needed.

If both copies of the photos have been updated, you’ll have a bit more work on your hands, such as by copying updates for individual photos. The goal would be to have one copy that includes all desired metadata updates, and another copy that can be discarded.

Note, by the way, that I strongly recommend that you not remove photos from Lightroom Classic and then re-import them, because doing so can cause you to lose metadata updates that had been applied within Lightroom Classic.

To learn more about cleaning up (or avoiding) a mess in Lightroom Classic, check out my “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom Classic” course on the GreyLearning Website here:

Evaluating Black and White Tones


Today’s Question: Thank you for your video on black and white conversions using Lightroom Classic ( When you have finished your black and white adjustments, do you have a test to determine the distribution of tones across the image?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The primary approach I take to evaluating the tonal distribution in a black and white image is to first evaluate the clipping preview display and then simply view the overall image on a calibrated display. However, you could also measure tonal values throughout the image and review the histogram for the finished image as well.

More Detail: Many photographers are likely familiar with the “Zone System”, where a full range of tonal values from black to white is divided into eleven zones. It is somewhat common for photographers who create black & white images to try to ensure that all eleven zones are reflected in the final image.

Some software actually presents information about the tonal values in an image using the Zone System. For example, Silver Efex Pro, which is part of the Nik Collection by DxO, includes the Zone System as part of the histogram display. You can hover over a button for each zone to see an overlay on the image showing which areas represent that zone.

Lightroom Classic does not include such a feature, however. You can still use some techniques for evaluating the tonal values within the image.

To begin with, while adjusting the overall tone for a black and white photo in Lightroom Classic I recommend using the clipping preview display, which is accessed by holding the Alt/Option key while adjusting most of the tonal value sliders. This enables you to see exactly where in the image detail is being lost due to clipping.

You can also simply evaluate the image on the screen, provided you’re using a calibrated display. If you’re not already calibrating your monitor display, I highly recommend doing so with a package that includes a colorimeter device, such as the Calibrite ColorChecker Display (

The histogram can also be used to get a reasonable sense of the overall distribution of tonal values within an image. This isn’t an especially precise approach, but it does provide some sense of the tonal values represented within the image.

Taking the histogram a step further, you can actually evaluate the tonal value for individual pixel areas within the image by using the histogram display in the Develop module within Lightroom Classic. Simply hover your mouse over the image and below the histogram display at the top of the right panel in the Develop module you will see the values for red, green, and blue presented as percentages.

For a black and white image all three values will be the same, so you can simply focus on one of the three. With this display a value of 0% represents pure black, 100% represents pure white, and of course the values in between represent shades of gray.

You can view a recording of my webinar presentation on “Black & White with Lightroom Classic” on my YouTube channel here: