Pixology Magazine May 2023


The May 2023 issue of Pixology magazine is now available, featuring the following articles:

  • Blend Modes in Photoshop: Explore adjustments and creative possibilities using layer interactions.
  • Guided Upright for Perspective: Learn how you can solve a common perspective problem with remarkable ease.
  • Spot Metering: Learn to leverage the benefits of setting exposure based on a small area of a scene.
  • Photo Versions in Lightroom Classic: Learn about different options fr exploring different possibilities for a photo.
  • Photo Story: Wet Feet: Sometimes you have to get your feet wet to find the best light.

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


Drop Shadow for Printing


Today’s Question: Can you tell me how to add a drop shadow to an image before printing from Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can add a drop shadow to an image with the Layer Style feature, but first I recommend that you prepare a copy of the image for output.

More Detail: While it is rather easy to add a drop shadow (or other effect) to an image using the Layer Style feature, it can be a little more complicated when you take into account the Background image layer that will generally be present for any photo you’re working on in Photoshop.

When the drop shadow is intended as a creative effect such as when printing an image, I recommend creating a copy of the image for this specific purpose. Start by opening your master image with all layers intact. Then go to the menu and choose Image > Duplicate. In the Duplicate Image dialog you can update the default document name for the new image if you’d like. Then be sure to turn on the “Duplicate Merged Layers Only” checkbox, which will cause the duplicate to be a flattened copy. Click the OK button to create the copy.

Next, double-click on the thumbnail for the Background image layer for your new flattened image. In the New Layer dialog you can update the Name field for the layer if you’d like, then click the OK button.

You can then click the “fx” button at the bottom of the layers panel to bring up the Layer Style (or effects) popup, and choose “Drop Shadow” from that popup. This will bring up the Layer Style dialog, with the Drop Shadow effect highlighted.

At this point you won’t see the drop shadow effect in the image, because it will fall outside the document canvas. You can use the preview on the right side of the Layer Style dialog as a basic guide, however, and establish initial settings for the drop shadow effect. Then click the OK button to apply the initial effect.

Now go to the menu and choose Image > Reveal All. This will enlarge the canvas so you can see the full drop shadow effect. Then, on the Layers panel, double-click the Drop Shadow effect below the image layer to bring the Layer Style dialog up again. Refine the settings as you’d like based on an updated view of the image.

If you enlarge the drop shadow effect you can use the Image > Reveal All menu command to enlarge the canvas so the full effect will be visible. If you reduce the size of the drop shadow effect so it doesn’t extend all the way to the edge of the canvas, you can use the Image > Trim command. After choosing this command choose the Transparent Pixels option in the Trim dialog and click OK to apply the change.

You can continue refining the settings for your drop shadow effect, using the Reveal All and Trim commands as needed to adjust the canvas size with ease. When you’ve finalized the effect you can simply print the image as you otherwise would.

Blend Mode for Image Alignment


Today’s Question: I recall quite a while ago you demonstrated how you could align the frames of a composite panorama in Photoshop using a technique that involved making the overlapping areas black, but I can’t remember the details. Could you remind me of how to use this trick for image alignment?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key to getting optimal alignment among image layers, such as with a composite panorama, is to use the Difference blend mode for comparing the overlap between layers.

More Detail: While there are various ways to automate the process of assembling a composite panorama, in many cases it can be helpful to use a manual approach. While this provides you with greater flexibility, it also means you need to do more work to ensure proper alignment. The Difference blend mode is perfectly suited to this task.

When you initially assemble the frames of a composite panorama in Photoshop, and before you start adding layer masks to actually blend the layers, you can use the Difference blend mode to achieve optimal alignment for each image layer.

I generally establish the lowest layer on the Layers panel as the reference layer, and work my way up from there. So, for the second image layer from the bottom of the Layers panel you can change the blend mode to Difference. The blend mode popup is found at the top-left of the Layers panel, and has a default value of Normal.

The Difference blend mode causes pixel values that are an exact match to appear black, with non-matching pixels indicated with a value representing the difference between pixel values. You can then use the Move tool to adjust the position of the upper layer to maximize the amount of black. Furthermore, the mismatched pixels can be helpful in terms of evaluating which direction you need to move the layer to achieve better alignment. Note, by the way, that you can use the arrow keys on the keyboard to nudge the layer position when the Move tool is active.

Once you’ve aligned the bottom two layers, you can change the blend mode back to Normal for the upper of those two layers, and then set the layer above that to Difference. Continue aligning one layer at a time in this way until all layers are positioned well. You can then add layer masks to each layer to blend the resulting panorama into a seamless image.

Remove Catalog from “Open Recent”


Today’s Question: Is there a way to remove a catalog from the Open Recent menu in Lightroom Classic? I have one master catalog (as you recommend), but I also have a “test” catalog that I use for testing out features without risking my main catalog. I switch between catalogs by choosing File > Open Recent from the menu. But on that menu is an out-of-date catalog from an older version of Lightroom Classic, and I’m worried I might accidentally choose that catalog at some point.

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can remove a catalog from the “Open Recent” list by moving the catalog to a different location, renaming it, or deleting it. When you then restart Lightroom Classic, that catalog will no longer appear on the list.

More Detail: The list of catalogs shown on the File > Open Recent menu is based on catalogs you’ve opened in Lightroom Classic and that are still located in the expected location. If you open a catalog, such as to check to make sure a backup is working properly or to check the contents of an older catalog, that catalog will then appear on the “Open Recent” list.

Within Lightroom Classic there isn’t an option to remove catalogs from the Open Recent list. Instead, you need to cause the catalog to no longer appear where it is expected.

If you’re certain you don’t need the catalog at all, you could simply delete the catalog and related files. Just be very careful to only delete files associated with that catalog that you don’t need. If you’re not sure, you might delete files that are associated with a different catalog, which could cause serious problems.

Therefore, I recommend that you instead rename or move the catalog that you don’t want to have appear on the Open Recent list. That will take the catalog off the list, while leaving the files behind just in case you removed the wrong catalog.

You could, for example, simply rename the catalog file, which is the file with the “lrcat” filename extension. I typically add the word “BACKUP” in all caps to the beginning of the filename, so that the filename no longer matches the original and there is a clear indication of the status of that catalog.

You can also simply move the catalog files to a different location, such as within a “Backup” folder in the same location as the other catalog files. If the catalog you want to remove from the list is in its own folder without any other catalogs, you could also move or rename that entire folder.

Once you’ve moved, renamed, or deleted the applicable catalog, restart Lightroom Classic and the catalog in question will no longer appear on the Open Recent list.

Unable to Disable Adjustments


Today’s Question: With a recent update to Lightroom Classic I’m not longer able to turn off a section of adjustments in the Develop module. The toggle switch that used to appear to the left of the section headings has been replaced by an eye icon. If I click that eye, the adjustments are disabled, but as soon as I release the mouse the adjustments are turned back on. Is there no longer a way to turn off a section of adjustments?

Tim’s Quick Answer: It is still possible to turn off a section of adjustments on the right panel in the Develop module in Lightroom Classic. A recent update just changed how this feature operates.

More Detail: In previous versions of Lightroom Classic there has always been a toggle switch to the left of the heading for all sections except “Basic” on the right panel in the Develop module. These toggle switches enabled you to turn off all adjustments in a given section, which could be helpful for a “before and after” review or for simply turning off adjustments you decided you don’t want to have applied to an image.

With a recent update those toggle switches have been replaced with an eye icon to the left of the heading for all sections on the right panel in the Develop module. If you click on the eye icon the adjustments in that section will be disabled for a “before” view, but as soon as you release the mouse the section will no longer be disabled so you’re back to the “after” view with all adjustments enabled.

However, you can get the previous toggle switch functionality by simply holding the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh. While holding the Alt/Option key, the eye icons to the left of each heading will change to the previous toggle switch. While holding the Alt/Option key you can then click on the toggle switch for a section to disable the adjustments in that section.

Note that while there is an eye icon for the Basic section, enabling you to use a “before and after” view for that section, the toggle switch option is not available for the Basic section. In other words, it is not possible to permanently disable the adjustments in the Basic section, since they represent the fundamental adjustments for interpreting an image.

No Photo Selected


Today’s Question: Every now and then I run into an issue in Lightroom Classic where the preview simply shows “No photo selected”. Obviously I can then select an image to work with it, but how do I avoid this issue in the first place?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No photo will be selected if you either set a filter that no photos meet the criteria for, or you use the Select None command, or you click in an empty area of the grid view or filmstrip.

More Detail: Generally speaking, you will always have one or more photos selected in Lightroom Classic. For example, if you navigate to a different folder by default the first photo in that folder will be selected. However, there are several ways to not have any photos selected.

If you see the “No photo selected” message without having intentionally deselected all photos, then it was most likely because you inadvertently clicked in an empty area of the grid view or filmstrip. For example, if the last row of thumbnails in the grid view display doesn’t fill the available space for that row, there will be an empty area without thumbnails. Clicking in that area will cause no photos to be selected. Similarly, if the filmstrip is not fully populated you can click in the empty area to the right of the last thumbnail to deselect all photos.

If you set filter criteria that no photos in the current location match, then all images will be hidden from view based on that filter. That means no photos will be visible on the filmstrip or in the grid view, and so no photo will be selected. In this scenario you can simply turn off the filter or adjust the filter criteria so you can see some or all the photos, at which point a photo will be selected again.

There is also a “Select None” command found on the Edit menu, which you can also access by pressing Ctrl+D on Windows or Command+D on Macintosh. If you use this command intentionally or accidentally, no photos will be selected, and so you would once again see the “No photo selected” message. In the Library module if you switched from the grid view to the loupe view an image would be selected automatically, so you would no longer see the message.

In most cases you would naturally want to have one or more photos selected, so you can actually work with the selected images. However, there are situations where you would want to intentionally deselect all photos. For example, when using the “Export as Catalog” command I recommend selecting no photos, which will cause all photos in the current location to be exported. This helps ensure you don’t accidentally exclude certain photos, such as by having a filter applied.

Changing Color Label Opacity


Today’s Question: At one time, I found an option that allowed me to change the intensity of color of a Color Label in Lightroom Classic. For example, I could change a red label from light to dark shade of red. I can no long find this function and would appreciate your help.

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can adjust the opacity for the color label that appears on the frame around photos in the grid view using the “Tint grid cells with label colors” popup in the Library View Options dialog.

More Detail: In Lightroom Classic an indication of the color label you have assigned to a photo is shown as a color tint on the frame around the image in the grid view display, as well as on the filmstrip on the bottom panel. By default, this tint is set to an opacity of 20%, which results in a color tint that doesn’t necessarily stand out as much as you might like. Fortunately, you can adjust the setting for this color label tint.

To get started, go to the Library module and from the menu choose View > View Options to bring up the Library View Options dialog. Go to the Grid View tab, and in the Options section at the top of the dialog you’ll find the “Tint grid cells with label color” checkbox. Make sure the checkbox is turned on, and then select an opacity setting from the popup to the right.

The available options for opacity range from 10% to 50% in 10% increments. In my opinion the 10% option is far too faint, to the point that I feel I would not really notice the color labels at all. I personally prefer the 50% option, because it makes the color labels stand out very clearly, and I do tend to use color labels somewhat frequently in my workflow.

If you make sure that images with color labels assigned are visible before you bring up the Library View Options dialog, you will see the tint for color labels update in real time in the background, so you can better determine which setting you prefer to use. Note, by the way, that you can also turn off the color tint altogether by turning off the “Tint grid cells with label colors” checkbox.

Font Constantly Resets in Photoshop


Today’s Question: When I go to use the Type tool in Photoshop no matter which font I select, the font reverts to Myriad Pro when I add a text layer to the image. I then type in what I want and highlight the text and then I can switch the font to something other than Myriad Pro. Anything else you might suggest?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can correct this issue by turning on the “Fill new type layers with placeholder text” checkbox on the Type tab of the Preferences dialog in Photoshop.

More Detail: At first this seemed like a very odd issue that I assumed would only affect a small number of users, perhaps even only affecting the one person who sent the inquiry. But I have been able to reproduce the issue and find the somewhat unexpected solution.

In short, if you select the Type tool in Photoshop and then select a font from the Options bar before adding a text layer, the font will revert to Myriad Pro. I’ve confirmed this behavior on several different computers, so I believe it is a general bug in Photoshop.

However, I have discovered that if you turn on the “Fill new type layers with placeholder text” checkbox on the Type tab of the Preferences dialog, the font is retained even if you select the font before adding the text layer. Regardless of the setting, you can always successfully change the font after adding the text layer.

So, if the Type tool in Photoshop seems to insist on making use of the Myriad Pro font, open the Properties dialog by choosing Edit > Preferences > Type on Windows or Photoshop > Settings > Type on Macintosh. Note that on older Macintosh operating systems the menu command is found at Photoshop > Preferences > Type.

In the Type Options section of the Type tab of the Preferences dialog you can then turn on the “Fill new type layers with placeholder text” checkbox. Click the OK button to close the Preferences dialog.

With this option turned on, you can select a font before adding a text layer and the layer will retain the selected font. The layer will also be filled with the “Lorem Ipsum” placeholder text, which will be highlighted. You can therefore simply start typing the text you wanted to add, and the placeholder text will be replaced while retaining the selected font.

Safely Using Catalog on Two Computers


Today’s Question: I keep all my images on a mirrored hard drive setup, so I have ready access to my images regardless of which computer I’m using. The “issue” has to do with the Lightroom Classic catalog: how do I make sure I’m always using the same catalog without having to keep current copies on both computers? I’m thinking that putting the catalog on a small, external, SSD that I plug into the computer I’m using at the moment would be the solution?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, in my view the best solution for using Lightroom Classic on more than one computer is to store the catalog (and generally the photos) on an external hard drive that you transfer between the computers.

More Detail: With Lightroom Classic the catalog is used locally to manage the information about your photos, and the catalog can’t be stored on a network drive. It is possible to store the catalog on a synchronized cloud-based storage service, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, but I do not recommend using this approach due to the risk of the catalog files getting out of sync when used across more than one computer.

Therefore, I consider the safest approach to be storing the catalog on an external hard drive. You can quit Lightroom Classic and then copy the entire folder containing the catalog and related files to an external hard drive. If you have your photos on an external hard drive, you could use that same drive for the catalog folder.

Once the catalog is stored on an external hard drive, you can simply open the catalog from that external hard drive from whatever computer you’re currently using. If the photos are also on that same hard drive, this provides a convenient way to manage all your photos and catalog files in one location. The important thing is that on each computer the path to the photos remains the same. That means, for example, having the same drive letter assigned to the drive on each computer if you’re using Windows, or making sure the volume label remains the same if you’re using Macintosh.

So, if you keep the catalog on an external hard drive, you can simply move that hard drive between computers and open the catalog from the external hard drive, so you never need to worry about using the wrong copy of the catalog when you switch between computers.

Extracting a Photo from Video


Today’s Question: I accidentally hit Video instead of Photo while taking iPhone photos of my grandchildren, and would like to know how to retrieve single photos from the video.

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can extract a still image from a video clip by opening the video in Photoshop, by using the Capture Frame option in Lightroom Classic, or even by capturing a screenshot on your iPhone.

More Detail: There are several ways you can extract a still image from a video clip, but it is important to keep in mind that the resulting photo may be at a lower resolution than a still image, depending on the video format that was used. When selecting which frame of the video to use, be sure to confirm that frame is sharp. Video is generally recorded with a relatively slow shutter speed, so there is a chance that some frames will be slightly blurry even if the video doesn’t seem blurry during playback.

You can open a video file in Photoshop, and then use the playhead slider on the Timeline panel to go to the frame you want to save as a still image. Then go to the menu and choose File > Save a Copy, which will enable you to save the current frame as a new image.

If you’re using Lightroom Classic you can also use the Capture Frame command to create a still image. Browse the video in the Library module using the loupe view, and drag the playhead to the position of the desired frame in the video. Then click the frame icon to the right of the timecode showing the minutes and seconds, and choose “Capture Frame” from the popup menu. This will create a still image from the current frame, which will be saved alongside the video.

You can also capture a screenshot on the iPhone to create a still image based on the video. To do so, open the video in the Photos app and pause at the point in the video you want to capture a still image from. Tap the screen to hide the controls, and then press the power button and the volume up button at the same time.

If you use Photoshop or Lightroom Classic to create a still image from the video, the still image will have the same resolution as the original video. That would be either 4K (approximately 4,000 pixels across) or 1080p (1,080 pixels across) depending on the setting for the Camera app in Settings on your device. If you create a screen capture the resolution will depend on the display resolution of your specific iPhone model.