Revealing Cropped Pixels


Today’s Question: You said that a non-destructive crop in Photoshop causes the cropped pixels to just be hidden from view. But how do you get those pixels back if you change your mind about the crop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: To reveal pixels that extend beyond the current image canvas area in Photoshop you can simply choose Image > Reveal All from the menu.

More Detail: As noted in yesterday’s answer, in Photoshop it is possible to crop non-destructively, which essentially means hiding cropped pixels from view rather than deleting them altogether.

There are other reasons that pixels may extend beyond the image canvas area as well. For example, when working on a composite image you might drag one of the layers into a position that extends beyond the canvas area.

If you later want to reveal the pixels that extend beyond the edge of the canvas, you can simply extend the canvas. One option for this is the Reveal All command found on the Image menu. This will cause the canvas to be expanded to the outer bounds of all pixels that are currently outside the canvas area.

You can also exercise control over the specific extent to which the canvas is extended, rather than simply expanding it to reveal all pixels. You could use the Crop tool, for example, and drag the crop box outward to the extent desired on any or all sides of the image.

You could also use the Canvas Size command, also found on the Image menu, to expand the canvas in one or more directions to a specific extent. Within the Canvas Size dialog you can specify the amount you want to extend the canvas horizontally and vertically, and designate an anchor position to determine in which directions the canvas will be expanded.

Background Layer Confusion


Today’s Question: I’ve just noticed that all my layered TIFF files have a Layer 0 instead of a Background layer [in Photoshop]. I have no idea how or why this is happening. Is there some automated way to change all these TIFF files? Why is this happening?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This simply indicates that the Background image layer had been converted to a “normal” layer. I recommend leaving that layer as it is, without converting it back to a Background layer.

More Detail: When you convert the Background image layer to a normal layer the default name for the layer is “Layer 0”. You can, of course, rename the layer, and you could also convert the layer back to a Background layer. However, I don’t generally recommend making that conversion.

Since in this case the Background layer wasn’t intentionally converted to a normal layer, my guess is that a crop was applied with the “Delete Cropped Pixels” checkbox on the Options bar turned off. This applies a non-destructive crop, meaning that instead of deleting the pixels outside the crop box those pixels are just hidden from view.

In order to hide rather than delete the cropped pixels, the Background layer needs to be converted to a normal layer, because a Background layer can’t extend beyond the image canvas area. There are, of course, other ways to convert a Background layer to a normal layer, but a non-destructive crop is the most likely cause in this case.

If you were to convert the “Layer 0” image layer to a Background image layer, you would be permanently removing the cropped pixels. If you want to do that, you can simply select Layer 0 on the Layers panel and then from the menu choose Layer > New > Background from Layer. This will convert the layer to a Background image layer, which locks the layer in several ways. Of course, as noted above, it also would cause the cropped pixels to be permanently deleted.

If you did decide you wanted to convert all these images for any reason, you could use an action to record the steps on one of the images and then apply that action in batch to the other images. However, in my view there’s no reason to convert the layers for these images, and good arguments to leave them as they are.

Pixology Magazine January 2023


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

  • Resolutions for Organization: Get ideas for some New Years resolutions that will help you keep your photos more organized.
  • Choosing a Monitor: Learn about the key specifications to consider when choosing a new monitor display for your digital darkroom.
  • Counting Subjects in Photos: Discover a “hidden” tool in Photoshop that makes it easy to count the number of subjects in a photo.
  • The Quick Collection: Gain insights into a simple yet powerful feature in Lightroom Classic for grouping photos together.
  • Photo Story: Winter on the Merced: Read the story behind a photo captured during a winter workshop experience in Yosemite Valley.

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

Workflow on the Go


Today’s Question: Here’s a situation that happens with me occasionally: I have a large batch of photos from some event. I download them and start the culling/processing. Then I need to go out of town, so I export the folder to a drive and take it with me where I can continue the work from the portable drive. When I get back to my home computer, I have to re-import this catalog, which has my latest edits. Then I end up deleting the original folder (which is now old). I’m guessing there’s a better way. Suggestions? I know there’s a way to remotely edit using smart previews, but I prefer to work on the raw files.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I would recommend either taking the original catalog with you or, even better, synchronizing the photos to the cloud and doing the additional work either in a web browser or using the Lightroom mobile app.

More Detail: I think this type of scenario is a very good example of a situation where synchronizing photos from Lightroom Classic to the cloud is a great solution. All you need to do is add the photos to a new collection and enable synchronization for that collection.

When you’ve synchronized photos in this way, you can then access those images through the Lightroom cloud-based ecosystem. That includes being able to see the photos as an album in a web browser by visiting the Lightroom site ( or in the Lightroom app on a mobile device.

The feature set when working with Lightroom in the cloud is not as feature-rich as using Lightroom Classic, but I think it is more than adequate for a typical image-review workflow. You can, for example, assign star ratings and pick or reject flags, add keywords, apply adjustments, and more.

If you didn’t want to use cloud-based synchronization for some reason, I recommend either keeping your catalog on an external hard drive permanently, or at least doing so temporarily. What I don’t like about this approach is the risk that you might get confused about which copy of the catalog is the “real” updated version, and accidentally revert to an older version of the catalog. Still, I think this is better in general than having to export and then re-import photos.

To move the catalog to a different location you first want to make sure Lightroom Classic isn’t running. Then copy the folder containing the catalog and all related files to an external hard drive you’ll have with you when traveling. Open the catalog directly from that external hard drive while traveling, and you’ll have access to all the organizational features even if you don’t have the source image files with you. If you want to work in the Develop module you can simply generate Smart Previews for the photos in question before transferring the catalog to an external hard drive.

RAID as Backup Solution


Today’s Question: You’ve answered several questions about recommendations for backing up your photos both locally and remotely. But I don’t believe I’ve seen you recommend RAID as a backup solution. Wouldn’t that provide an easier approach, at least for some aspects of a backup workflow?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I actually tend to prefer not to use RAID as a backup solution, or more to the point not as an exclusive backup solution. I always prefer to have my data backed up instead to a completely separate storage device from the original.

More Detail: RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks (or Drives). To oversimplify, you can think of RAID as providing an option to have your data written to two (or more) drives at the same time. The drive only appears as a single drive on your computer, but the data is being stored redundantly on two (or more) drives within the RAID device.

While RAID provides an option for a completely automatic real-time backup, it also includes some risks. There are various levels of RAID, which include different levels of redundancy and error-checking, among other factors. The overall specifications of a RAID storage device can be fantastic. However, there are limitations.

The primary reason I prefer not to use RAID for data backup is that the drives are all within a single device and all those drives are connected to the computer at the same time. That means if there is a serious issue that causes the RAID device to be damaged beyond repair, you would lose all your data and the backup stored on the same RAID device.

Because of this concern, I don’t recommend using RAID as an exclusive backup solution. My personal preference is to not use RAID redundancy at all, but if you’re going to use it I still recommend also backing up to at least one additional separate drive that you manage locally, and at least one offsite backup such as with a cloud-based backup solution.

Catalog Settings versus Preferences


Today’s Question: I don’t understand why the options in the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom Classic aren’t just included in the Preferences dialog. Why do we need two dialogs to establish different settings?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key difference is that the Preferences dialog contains settings that relate to Lightroom Classic on the computer it is installed on, while the Catalog Settings dialog relates only to the current catalog. In other words, if you had more than one catalog, the Catalog Settings options would be unique for each catalog.

More Detail: As many of my readers know, I strongly recommend using a single catalog in Lightroom Classic. That would mean that the distinction between Preferences and Catalog Settings would not be applicable, since you would only have one catalog to manage settings for.

However, if you ever need to use a different catalog, such as when traveling, it is important to realize that the options in the Catalog Settings dialog only relate to the currently open catalog. If you create a new catalog to temporarily manage photos during a trip, for example, you would want to evaluate the Catalog Settings for that catalog.

If you are using multiple catalogs on the same computer, the settings in Preferences would apply equally regardless of which catalog you were using. Of course, if you’re using Lightroom Classic on more than one computer, you would need to configure Preferences individually for each of those computers.

So, in summary, Preferences are applicable to a single computer for Lightroom Classic, and Catalog Settings are specific to an individual catalog.

Saving Adjustments to Metadata


Today’s Question: Does the “Automatically write changes into XMP” feature also save any editing I’ve done in the Develop module such as exposure, clarity, lens correction, etc.?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, adjustments you apply in the Develop module in Lightroom Classic (or with Adobe Camera Raw) are preserved in the XMP sidecar file as long as the metadata is saved to that sidecar file either automatically or manually.

More Detail: When you save metadata to the source image files in Lightroom Classic, for the most part only standard metadata fields are preserved. Features specific to Lightroom Classic such as collections and virtual copies (among others) are only saved in the catalog and can’t be saved to the source image files.

However, adjustment settings are saved to the source files along with standard metadata, which in my view is a pleasant surprise. If you have enabled the “Automatically write changes into XMP” option on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog the metadata will be saved automatically whenever you make changes in Lightroom Classic. If that option is not enabled, you can still save the metadata manually by selecting images and choosing Metadata > Save Metadata to Files from the menu.

One of the reasons I prefer to enable the option to automatically save metadata is that it provides something of a last-ditch fix should you somehow lose your catalog and all useable backups of the catalog. In that (hopefully unlikely) scenario you could simply create a new catalog and import all existing photos, and all standard metadata along with the adjustment settings from the Develop module will be included with your photos upon import.

For Photoshop users who aren’t using Lightroom Classic, the same basic concept applies, with the difference that the sidecar file will be created or updated automatically when you process an image using Camera Raw. This does not apply, however, to the Camera Raw filter within Photoshop.

Attaching Multiple Hard Drives


Today’s Question: With more than a dozen hard drives, how do you keep them attached to your computer? Do you use daisy chained hubs? And how do you manage the spaghetti of cables and cords?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I generally don’t need to connect more than three hard drives at a time to my computer, and when I do I need to use a hub ( that provides both additional ports and power.

More Detail: Today’s question was in response to a previous answer about hard drive failures where I mentioned that I have more than a dozen hard drives in active use. However, what I didn’t mention in that answer was that most of those drives are backup drives, not primary data drives.

For each hard drive that stores primary data, I maintain at least two local backups on separate hard drives, as well as an online backup via Backblaze ( So, I have about four key hard drives, plus a couple of other secondary drives, which I would call primary drives in the context of not being backup drives.

As I’ve noted in previous answers, my primary computer is a laptop. In many cases when I’m working, I don’t need an external hard drive connected at all. Sometimes I might need one or two drives connected, and in general I never need more than about three hard drives connected at one time.

Still, with a laptop, that does require that I use a USB hub in most cases when I’ll be using more than one external hard drive. Because I use bus-powered hard drives, that hub also needs to be powered, so that it is able to provide power to the hard drives I connect.

There are seemingly countless hubs to choose from, and of course each photographer will have slightly different needs. You need to consider how many ports and of what types you’ll need, and whether you need to have accessory power supplied to the hub as well, such as if you’ll be using bus-powered hard drives.

You can find an example of a USB hub that provides multiple ports and includes accessory power support here:

Disable Home Screen in Photoshop


Today’s Question: Since my last Photoshop update, I now get a screen with the last 20 files that I opened displayed as thumbnails on the home page. I find this annoying. Is there any way of preventing that from occurring?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can disable the home screen you’re referring to by turning off the “Auto show the Home Screen” checkbox on the General tab of the Preferences dialog in Photoshop.

More Detail: Photoshop includes a home screen that shows a list of recently opened photos, along with options for creating a new file, opening an existing file, and more. While I’m sure some Photoshop users find this home screen helpful, I find it to be cluttered and not helpful at all. I therefore prefer to prevent the home screen from appearing automatically when I launch Photoshop (or when I’ve closed all open documents).

To disable the home screen from appearing automatically go to the General tab in the Preferences dialog. Turn off the “Auto show the Home Screen” checkbox in the Options section and click the OK button to close the Preferences dialog.

I’ve also found that this setting won’t function properly unless you open an image or create a new image, so I then recommend creating a new image by choosing File > New from the menu. You can then close the image without saving it and quit Photoshop. The next time you launch Photoshop the home screen will not appear.

Note, by the way, that for anyone who likes the home screen in Photoshop, you can bring it up at any time by clicking the house icon at the far left of the Options bar.

Customizing Metadata Field Display


Today’s Question: Can you explain how to go about customizing the metadata fields shown in the Metadata section of the right panel in Lightroom Classic? You referred to this in a previous answer and I’d appreciate the details on how to go about making this change. Thanks!

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can customize which fields are displayed and in what order using the Customize option when you have selected the Default metadata field set for the Metadata section of the right panel in the Library module.

More Detail: The metadata fields can only be customized for the Default configuration option for the Metadata section. So, the first step is to select “Default” from the popup found to the left of the Metadata heading on the right panel in the Library module within Lightroom Classic.

After selecting “Default” from the popup you will find the Customize button at the bottom of the Metadata section. Click that button to bring up the “Customize Metadata Default Panel” dialog.

Within the dialog you’ll see a long list of metadata fields divided into sections. Turn on the checkbox for the metadata fields you want to include in your custom configuration and turn off the checkbox for any fields you want to exclude.

After updating the checkbox status for the metadata fields based on your preference, you can also customize the order in which the fields will appear in the Metadata section. To do so, click the “Arrange” button at the bottom of the “Customize Metadata Default Panel” dialog. This will bring up the “Arrange Metadata Default Panel” dialog.

Within this dialog you can click on the button showing three lines to the left of any metadata field you’d like to move within the list. Then drag on that button to reposition the field to the desired position in the order. When you’re finished adjusting the order of the metadata fields, click the Save button.

Note, by the way, that if you ever want to restore the Default configuration to its default arrangement, you can click the “Restore” button within the “Customize Metadata Default Panel” dialog.