Category Archives: Lightroom

NIK

In case you missed this, it’s now official.  The Nik suite of plug-ins will not be developed in the future.  From the banner at the top of the Nik website:

“We have no plans to update the Collection of add new features over time.”

The collection is still free to download and use, but the real question is about compatibility in the future, with either Photoshop/Lightroom upgrades or changes in Windows and Mac core OS versions.

TECH TALK: LIGHTROOM/PHOTOSHOP

This post is going to be a bit techie.  OK, don’t say I didn’t warn you up front.

I was surfing the Web recently and ran across a blog post by a well know photographer who does not use Lightroom.  One major point made in the post was the question of why would anyone use Lightroom at all (aside from its cataloging feature) since Lightroom shows percentages for R, G, and B values,  Yes, mouse over an image in Lightroom’s Develop module and the readout is indeed in percentages.  Other RAW file converters show numerical values of 0 to 255 for each of the color channels.  Doesn’t this make using one of those converters better than working with Lightroom?

Most RAW conversion software makes you select a color space.  For example, let’s consider Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).  ACR is a separate program, accessible from Photoshop or from Bridge (which you now have to download from Adobe, rather than it being automatically included with Photoshop).  Bridge is a browser, the same as Window’s Explorer or Mac’s Finder, while Photoshop is a pixel editor.  ACR is a separate in-between software program.  When you open a RAW file in ACR, it needs a color space to use.   In simplistic terms, a color space is a group of colors out of all possible colors.  Remember when you were a kid and your parents bought you a box of crayons?  There were different boxes available, holding just 8 crayons up to 64 crayons.  Yep, more crayons, more possible colors.  No matter how you worked with the 8 crayons, you could never have the possible options and mixtures that the big 64 crayon box held.  It had a larger color space.  The basic digital color spaces are sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB.  Think of these as small, medium, and large.  Open an image in ACR, and immediately below the image window is a clickable link:

Note that the default is sRGB, the “small” color space.  Click on this link, and Workflow Options opens where you can select the color space and bit depth you want.

Whatever you select, make this your RGB working space over in Photoshop’s Color Settings (you might notice that the default in Photoshop is also sRGB).  Personally I use ProPhoto RGB in both ACR and Photoshop.

OK, so we finally get to where Lightroom differs from other converters.  You ever notice that Lightroom does not offer a choice of color spaces?  Internally it uses a variety of ProPhoto RGB.   But Lightroom differs from those other converters because it is a parametric editor.  OK, so what’s that?  In simple terms, it sums up processing instructions, which are not applied to an image until that image is either converted or exported through that instruction set into an actual editable file format.  Open an image from Lightroom into Photoshop, and it is no longer a RAW file.  A file in Photoshop can’t be saved out as a RAW file, but only in a standard graphics file format.

Well, at last we’re back to the question about those R,G, and B percentages.  Because Lightroom does not assign a color space, it cannot show numerical RGB values, since those numerical values depend on the color space in use.  Open a RAW image into some other converter besides Lightroom, mouse over the image, and read the RGB values for any one spot.  Now switch to a different color space.  The RGB readouts for that same spot will be different.  You have to specify a color space to talk about RGB numerical values.  Do I really care about this one way or the other?  No, not at all.  Photography is a visual art, not a bunch of numbers.  Use a quality calibrated monitor, look at the image, and adjust to taste.

In that same blog post I mentioned it was implied that not using Photoshop was a big mistake.  Well, I partially agree.  Photoshop does allow workflow options, such as layer masking and luminosity selections, that no RAW file converter currently allows.  But wait, this is not an either/or question.  It’s not a choice of Lightroom or Photoshop no more than it is of DPP or Photoshop, or of Nikon Capture or Photoshop.  Personally I find Lightroom’s user interface incredibly easy to use, plus I use the database feature to catalog all my image files.  But I also want Photoshop for fine-tuning images.  For me it’s a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop (and a calibrated monitor).

LIGHTROOM AND TRAVEL

How does one coordinate Lightroom used on a laptop when traveling, with a master Lightroom catalog back in the office?  I’ve written about this before (see my blog for October 2, 2012) but the topic keeps coming up at workshops and on tours, so….

I have one main master Lightroom catalog for all my images, which resides on my desktop computer in my office.  That master catalog is on an internal drive (a different drive than the internal SSD drive I use for all my programs).  A backup copy of this master catalog is made to another internal drive (automatically done by Lightroom when I exit the program), and a third copy of the catalog is on a small external USB drive.  Yes, I’m a bit paranoid about loosing all that data.

I have another Lightroom catalog named Travel on my laptop.  When I’m on the road, I download images using Lightroom, in the exact same format structure I use for the image files back in my office.  As the files are downloaded, Lightroom automatically renames the files and adds my copyright information, using templates I’ve created in Lightroom.  My naming template is a YYMMDD_camera-generated-file-name-and-number format, so individual files appear along the lines of 150624_D4S_4752.  Nikon lets you set camera names in the menu system to a three character code, so my cameras are named D4S and D8T.  Yeah, real original thinking there.  Image files are always downloaded into a  _Photos folder (the underscore makes it the topmost folder in my laptop’s directory), into a subfolder named by month and location of shoot.  06 Namibia would by a June trip to Namibia while 09 Denali would be a September shoot in Denali.  Each day’s images are automatically sorted as Lightroom reads the file metadata, makes YYYY-MM-DD folders as needed inside the month-shoot folder (the 06 Namibia or 09 Denali folders), and puts the correct images into the correct folders (I always have my cameras set to the local time, which in turn means all images will be correctly sorted by date).  Once all these parameters are checked in Lightroom they remain as set, so the only thing I ever have to change is the name of the month-shoot folder.  I flag any images I work on in Lightroom, highlight those images, and save all metadata to file by doing Ctrl/Command + S.

While on the road I copy every day’s take to two small external USB powered hard drives, so that by the end of the trip I have three duplicate copies of all my images.  Since the files are already in the organization I use in my office, all I have to do once I get home is to copy the image files to their correct location on my master hard drives, and to add the trip catalog to my master catalog.  I open the Travel catalog on my laptop, select the folder with the trip images, and do File > Export as Catalog, saving the exported catalog on one of the small USB drives.  I make sure to include the image previews.  Since the image files on the USB drive are all current with the correct metadata saved to them, there is no reason for me to do what Lightroom calls Export negative files (“negative files” is Adobe-speak for the actual images).

Back in the office I plug this drive into a USB port on my desktop computer, and use my operating system to copy the image shoot folder, which has all the photos, over to the correct date location on my main hard drive array.  Then I open my master Lightroom catalog, and do File > Import from Another Catalog, and select the catalog on the USB drive.  When this is finished working, I disconnect the small USB drive, at which time Lightroom want to know where the files are located since the imported catalog still thinks they are back on my laptop.  I point Lightroom to the correct image folder I’ve copied over, the 06 Namibia folder or whatever it is, and I’m done.  The backup software on my desktop computer automatically kicks in, and backs up my new images.

When I’m positive that all is well with my desktop system, I remove all the photos from the Travel catalog on my laptop, so that I can reuse the catalog shell again with all my preferences still set.  I reformat the USB drives, reset the time in my cameras, and I’m good-to-go on my next adventure.

LIGHTROOM CC: ADDITIONAL HDR INFO

In my last post I should have mentioned one important fact about the new “merge to HDR” feature in Lightroom.  When working on the resulting DNG file in Lightroom, the exposure slider now offers plus/minus 10 stops of exposure, a 20-stop exposure range, double the standard amount.  This is reminiscent of working with HDR Pro in Photoshop; see my August 2014 post entitled “HDR (A DIFFERENT WAY).”

LIGHTROOM CC (LIGHTROOM 6)

Lightroom CC was announced today.  If you’re like me and have subscribed to the photographer’s Lightroom and Photoshop package, a notice should appear in your desktop Creative Cloud app.  Adobe’s servers are swamped, so this might take a while.  The new Lightroom is also available as a standalone perpetual license program.

Downloading and installing the new version of Lightroom was easy for me.  No problem, until I tried to open the new program.  I clicked on the desktop icon, and nothing happened.  If this is your experience, there is an easy fix:  sign out of your Adobe account via the “preferences” in the desktop CC app (click on the gear icon or the drop down triangle in the upper right) and sign right back into your account.


Lightroom CC has two new features which are of interest to me.

1.  A brush tool option has been added within the graduated filter.  Add a grad just as you did in earlier versions of Lightroom, and then select the brush option within the grad filter, hold down the Alt/Option key, and brush over the image area where you do not want the grad filter applied.  Hey, it’s an editable filter!

2.  Merge to panorama can now be accomplished within Lightroom.  This can be done using RAW files, and the composite image is saved as a DNG file…which means that the resulting pan image is still a RAW file, and can be processed non-destructively in Lightroom.  Select the files you want to merge into a pan, and do Photo > Photo Merge > Panorama. Lightroom does the merging, and saves the merged panoramic in the same folder as are the component files.  It does add -Pano to the end of the combined image’s filename, a feature I’m not really keen about.  I’ve always worked by selecting the images in Lightroom, then opening them in Photoshop to merge images into panoramics, and finally doing a “save as” while added a P_ at the start of the pan’s filename.  I’ve got a smart collection in Lightroom which automatically sorts out all my panoramic images, all the files that have a filename starting with that P_.  OK, so now I’ll add another smart collection, this one to find all the images with filenames that contain Pano.

Lightroom CC also has a new merge to HDR feature, but that’s no big deal for me as I rarely no any sort of HDR.  However, I’m certainly open to playing around with this feature.  Face recognition is also now included, and I’m sure a lot of folks will be pleased with that.  There are also some nice additions to the slideshow module.  I’m sure I’ll discover more as I start using the program, but my initial experience is quite positive.

And one more good point:  all in all, the program runs faster than before.

I highly recommend you go to Adobe’s website and view the videos by Adobe Evangelist Julieanne Kost.  Go to https://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop-lightroom/features.html?promoid=KSKBF and click on the See how it works buttons in the Lightroom CC section.

Be sure to watch her video on some of the other new features:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GZErV1m1uQ.

HDR (a different way)

I’m not a fan of HDR images.  Well, let me clarify that statement.  I’m not a fan of the all-too-typical HDR images I see.  Over-saturated cartoonish colors, with halos around edges, and lots of noise.  No thanks.

But there is a quick and easy way to create naturalistic looking extended dynamic range images, by using Photoshop’s HDR Pro to first create a 32-bit file, and then using the adjustments in either Camera Raw or Lightroom’s Develop module to work on that file.  To be honest, I thought many photographers already knew this trick, but on a recent Van Os Photo Safari which I was leading I discovered that very few of the participants seemed aware of it.  So…OK, here goes, step-by-step.

  • Shoot a series of images varying the exposure by one or two stops between shots, just as you would for any HDR composite.
  • In either Lightroom or Camera Raw make whatever basic adjustments are necessary.
  • Select all the images, and open all in HDR Pro.  From Lightroom: Photo > Edit In > Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop.  From Bridge: Tools > Photoshop > Merge to HDR Pro.
  • In HDR Pro, check Remove ghosts, and select 32 Bit as the Mode.

  • And now you have a choice to make.  If you normally work in Camera Raw, check the box to Complete Toning in Adobe Camera Raw.  If you normally work in Lightroom, just click OK at the bottom of HDR Pro, and then save the file as a TIFF.  Make sure you save it as a 32-bit file.

  • If you’re going the Lightroom route, import this new file into Lightroom, and then open it in the Develop module.
  •  With either method,  process the file in Camera Raw or Lightroom as you normally do… but check out the range of the Exposure slider.  It’s now plus or minus 10 stops either way, double what it was before.  Wow!  That’s a 20 stop exposure range, definitely an extended dynamic range.

Lightroom 5: Visualize Spots

Lightroom 5 introduced an extremely useful feature called Visualize Spots.  However, during my recent workshops I’ve discovered that quite a number of Lightroom users are not aware of it.  Visualize Spots does exactly as its name suggests; it shows you all the dust spots on your image, including many that you might otherwise miss.

In the Develop module, make sure the Toolbar is visible below the image (tap the T key to toggle the toolbar on or off), and set your image view at 100%, or 1:1.

Navigate to the upper left corner of the image (hold down the spacebar, and drag the image), then activate the Spot Tool.  The Visualize Spots checkbox now appears on the Toolbar, at the bottom left.

The image changes to black and while, and all those dust bunnies show up.  Move the Visualize Spots slider to increase or decrease the sensitivity, and start spotting.

Page Down (PC: PgDn; Mac: Function + down arrow) moves the image down by exactly one screen view.  When the bottom of the image is reached, do Page Down again, and the screen image moves over and up to the top.  Keep doing Page Down, until you’ve covered the entire image.  This Page Down trick means you’ll never miss any section of the image.

FILE NAMES

When it comes to image file names, there seems to be two opposing schools.  There is one group of photographers who are happy with the file names created by the camera, and, at the opposite extreme, another group that wants to include all information possible in the file name.  The first group has files with names such as DSC8531.nef, while the second group might have an image named Eddie_in_his_pirate_costume_2013Halloween5375.jpg (and yes, that is a actual file name I saw last week, and which prompted this blog post).

I would suggest a middle ground, a simple file naming convention that precludes ever having two files with the same name (a potential problem for the first group), while eliminating the incredibly lengthy and unwieldy file names of the second group.

I rename my files by the date the image was taken (metadata automatically recorded by your camera, so long as you set the clock in your camera to the correct local time).  My convention is YYMMDD + the filename and number created by the camera.  Nikon allows setting a three digit filename in Shooting Menu > File Naming, so I set my Nikon D4 camera as D4N.  Then I made and saved a file renaming template in Lightroom (and a similar template in Downloader Pro, which I use when I have hundreds of files to download).

By using the template, a file from my D4 downloads along the lines of 131206_D4N_2764.nef.  By using YYMMDD all my files will automatically be in chronological order, and unless I shoot more than 10,000 images in one day with that particular camera, I’ll never have the problem of duplicate file names.

For more about file organization see my October 1, 2012, blog piece on File Storage.

Lightroom & Camera Raw

I recently received an email with a question about processing an image in Lightroom.  When the same image was opened from Bridge into Camera Raw, none of the Lightroom work was applied.  This question has come up before, and there seems to be quite a bit of confusion over what is happening.

Any time you make a change to an image in Lightroom, that information is saved only in Lightroom’s catalog.  It’s not part of the file.  The solution is simple:  after working on a photo in Lightroom, save the final metatdata settings to file (and all edits in Lightroom are metadata edits).  Select the photo or photos you have worked on, and do Ctrl/Command + S.  You can now open an image from Bridge into Camera Raw or Photoshop, and they can see what you’ve done in Lightroom.

You could select Automatically write changes into XMP in Lightroom’s Catalog Settings, but I suggest not to do so, as this has to record every edit you make.  Move any slider from 0 to 1, and then move it to 2, then back to 1, and finally back to 0, and all four of these moves have to be recorded…but in terms of the image nothing at all has happened.  Ctrl/Command +S (menu item: Save metadata to file) saves the summation, which is the only thing that matters.

Suppose you work on an image in Lightroom, and then choose “edit in Photoshop” to finalize the image.  When you’re finished working in Photoshop you select either “save” or “save as,” and the image is returned into Lightroom’s catalog and all is happy.  Lightroom knows what you have done in Photoshop.

But what happens when you do not start from Lightroom?  Use Bridge to open an image that is already in Lightroom’s catalog, make some edits in either Camera Raw or Photoshop, and then save the image…but now Lightroom doesn’t know what you have done.  When you next open Lightroom, the image will be tagged with a small badge, indicating that settings have been changed outside of Lightroom.

Click on the badge, and this message box appears:

So, what do you want to do?   If you want Lightoom to show what you did in Camera Raw or Photoshop, click on Import Setting from Disk.  If you want to to keep the Lightroom settings as they were, click Overwrite Settings.

Lightroom travel catalog

When I travel I make a new Lightroom catalog for that trip on my laptop.  Image files are downloaded and added by date, into a folder with the month and shoot name, such as 09 Alaska (September, Alaska).  I discussed this in a previous blog so please refer back a few entries.  All my images from this particular trip will be within this folder.  Every day I flag any image files I work on, then save metadata to file (select by flag, then Ctrl/Command+S).  And every day I copy all that day’s shoot from my laptop to two external USB powered hard drives, so that by the end of the trip I have three duplicate copies of all my images. I also have Lightroom set to automatically backup its catalog to the external drives every day.

When I get home I export the trip catalog to one of the small USB drives that has all the trip images.  I plug this drive into a USB port on my desktop computer, and copy the folder with the image files over to the correct date location on my main hard drive array, the tower JBOD I discussed earlier.  Then I import the trip catalog into my master Lightroom catalog.  I disconnect the small USB drive, point Lightroom to the location of the trip’s folder of images on the JBOD, and I’m done.   My backup software kicks in, and automatically backs up the new images.

When I’m positive that all the image files are actually on my main system, I wipe the trip catalog off my laptop, reformat the small external USB drives, and I’m good-to-go on my next adventure.