Work. Flow.

Your workflow needs to be exactly that: a flow. A logical sequence of actions.

In my case, that means:

  1. Import the images.
  2. “Asset Manage” them: add keywords; rate them 1-5; backup.
  3. Then from the ones marked 3 and over, pick the ones to actually use.
  4. Edit only these.
  5. Mark the edited ones as finished.
  6. Select the finished ones and output them for use.

So it is basically “input – handle – select – edit – use”. And whether you are a pro or an amateur, it is going to be the same flow for you.

And that flow is where you need to save time: you do not want to spend an hour making photos, followed by two hours in Photoshop.

That is where Lightroom comes in. Lightroom is a one-stop workflow tool. It handles all the steps above: ingestion—asset management—editing—using. And it does it in an amazingly efficient way.

Evidently, if you can save time in Lightroom, it saves time overall. And that is where Wacom comes in. I now also use a Wacom Intuos tablet, which I find very useful; much more useful than I would have imagined. Part of the reason is better quality than the last time I looked, years ago. And part is new functionality. Like customizable buttons per app.

This tablet is especially useful when editing, and especially because of its pressure sensitivity. When using the brush, the harder I press, the more brush effect I get.  Very cool. Skin fixes and other local edits are now much quicker—and that saves me a lot of time. This functionality is simply not available on a mouse.

In the next weeks I will keep you up to date as to how I am using the Wacom tablet. I will start with customizing the buttons: how do I do it? What functions are most useful? As I sort it out, I will give you my recommendations. Stay tuned.


Workflow and Lightroom

I talk about Lightroom a lot, as you will have noticed. The reason is that Adobe Lightroom is hands down the best workflow tool I know. Workflow meaning “what happens between arriving home with the camera to the finished product”.

Lightroom 6, as you will have seen, is a step forward. It has its issues—for now, the speed of the face detection module is way below par—but you can work around those, and they will be fixed.

But you do need to learn how to use it. Thank God it’s not Photoshop: it takes days to learn, not years. But it does take days.

Enter some help.

On May 30, I teach a workshop at Vistek: Lightroom and Workflow”. In it, you will learn backup strategies, computer strategies, Lightroom workflow and editing, and much more. Seating is limited, so sign up soon.

The same is true of the Flash workshop this Saturday in Oakville.If you missed the Vistek workshop, come on Saturday: 1pm, see Seating limited, so be quick if you want in.

Now, a (repeat of) a little flash tip.

If your flash looks too dark in the photo, why is it? It could have two very different reasons:

  1. Metering is wrong; the TTL circuitry decided on too low a level.
  2. With the current ISO and aperture, you simply do not have enough power (eg the ceiling you are bouncing off is too high).

To know which one: set your flash to manual mode, full power (1/1). Shoot. If the picture is overexposed, you had reason 1; if not, you had reason 2.

To solve the issue: For reason 1, go back to TTL and use flash compensation. For reason 2, go back to TTL and lower the f-number and/or increase the ISO.

That’s all – pretty simple, but often overlooked.



Lightroom 6

Lightroom 6 is the latest and greatest in the version history of Lightroom, the best thing since sliced bread. Asset management, editing, and production all rolled into one.

LR 6 is a worthwhile upgrade; as I mentioned in an earlier post, it has lots of new stuff. For me, the main features for me are:

  1. Face recognition. You can now recognize faces, so that all photos that feature uncle Bob can be quickly found. Remarkably accurate
  2. Panoramas. Stick together 2, 3, 4, or more overlapping photos that you have shot.
  3. HDR. Stake one normal shot, and one more more darker and one or more lighter, and pull them together to get either artistic “paint” effects, or just more dynamic range (i..e. the detail in the dark areas will be visible, as well as detail in the light areas).
  4. Brush in filters: you can now use a graduated filter and remove it (or add it) in specific, brushed areas:

(The graduated filter here has the new BRUSH activated in ERASE mode, so I can delete part of the filter)

There’s more, especially the Mobile functions and the reputed speed increase, but I cannot comment on that since I have not observed or used them.

So, how to go about upgrading?

First, make sure that you have backups. And I mean good, verified backups. You never know. Don’t ever lose all your work… make backups and store them off site. Backups of both the photo originals and the work you have done on the (the catalog file, named <something>.LRCAT).

Then, the upgrade. Under “Help” select “check for upgrades”. Make sure that if you have the app, you keep getting the app, and not the “creative cloud”. Adobe really, really wants you to get the Cloud version, which works out much more expensive even in year one if all you use is Lightroom; and after year one the price will go up.  You will have to search the Adobe site; look for “All products”, and look for the price of around $80 for the upgrade. Not the $3-10 per month Cloud price. (Think about it: if the next upgrade is two years away, and I only use Lightroom, I pay $80 for those two years. Cloud users would pay significantly more: 24 times something is something big.)

Before you start, you will need to log in to Adobe, and under “My products”, find the serial numbers for previous versions. You will need the previous version’s serial number to qualify for the upgrade.

When, armed with the login and the serial number, you perform the upgrade, your catalog file will be converted. This takes time. On my catalog, with around 200,000 photos it took most of the overnight that I let it run.

At the end, when you can use Lightroom, you will have a new catalog. But your old catalog will also still exist. Just in case. I advise you keep that around for a little while. Just in case. You never know.

Also, make sure that when you want to use Lightroom you start the new app, not the old one. The new one is called “Adobe Lightroom” and lives in your app folder, inside a folder called Adobe Lightroom.

After the upgrade you will see that Lightroom works as it did before. But new functions have been added. Under “Photo” you can now, after selecting two or more photos, select Panorama or HDR (high dynamic range). Try!

And more importantly, in the grid view you see a new face symbol as one of the following views. Bottom right:

When you click that, you will see the faces Lightroom recognizes. Give them names. Over time, Lightroom gets better and better at naming faces. After you name them, you see:

Initially, of course, all faces are unnamed.

You can turn face recognition indexing off (paused) or on by clicking on the Lightroom Logo on the very top left of your screen. You see:

During this time, the application may be slow, not just when you are looking at the grid view, but also when exporting a picture, printing one, and so on. Allow plenty of time for the indexing to finish, and you can pause the indexing when you need speed. You can index per shoot, or per year, or all at once (though I would not recommend that when you have a large catalog, like mine).

I am still discovering new things, so there will be more blog posts about Lightroom 6. For now, though: recommended!


I also coach privately: bring me your laptop and I will not just teach you, but we will set up your own Lightroom installation in the optimal way. See




White Balance Discrepancy

A Facebook friend asked me this:

I shoot in Kelvin and there is something I don’t understand when I open my raw files up in LR. For example: I have a shot I took and I had the kelvin set to 6500 in camera but when I look at the temperature setting in LR it says the temperature is 5850. Why is this? I’ve verified that no presets are changing the temperature upon upload in to LR.

Good question, and let me explain.

First, the WB setting *is* stored in the EXIF file. Posts on the ‘net that suggest not are simply wrong.

here’s EXIF data from my RAW file:

And here, from my resulting JPG file:

The WB setting is stored, true. But what Lightroom tries to show is the actual look of the file. The WB number has to be interpreted, in other words. And Adobe does this by giving us its best guess as to what the image actually looks like. Don’t forget, colour rendition is complex (it involves colour temperature as well as tint, for a start).

So the phenomenon my friend describes is not a problem; it’s a feature. You can manually set it back to the exact setting your camera was set to, but this would not result in better photos; on the contrary, the quality would be slightly less, assuming you shot correctly.





Lightroom 6

Yesss… Lightroom 6 is out. And that is a reason to rejoice.

After a complicated upgrade (I had real trouble finding the “buy it as an app” option: Adobe really wants the extra revenue of the Creative Cloud, so it pushes you there), and after a subsequent day of converting catalogs (my one catalog contains a quarter of a million photos) I am playing with it now.


First, the feature you do not see: speed. Reports talk of a significant speed increase. I have not seen a giant difference, but based on reports, I am sure I will. It sure is not slower. Faster is good.

Second, the one feature that was cool in iPhoto (now: photos): face recognition. It has now been added to Lightroom, and it works well.

The feature is intuitive: I have not had to read any sort of manual, so far. Lightroom recognizes where faces are in your pictures, and it guesses who they are with an amazing degree of accuracy. You start it; it identifies faces; you conform its guesses or correct it and name the people, and you are done. I did 2015, and am now am doing the preceding years. It will take me a while, but it’ll be well worth it.

Another new feature: HDR, “high dynamic range”. You are now able to take a photo multiple times (2, 3, 10, whatever) with varying exposure, and pull them together into one HDR image. Gone are the days that dynamic range was something to worry about. Select the various photos, do some settings, like deghosting (see below), and you are done.  Lightroom creates a new images named …-HDR.dng: a full DNG. Finally, a good use for the DNG format. And much better than creating a JPG.

Next: Panoramas. You can stitch together pictures that lie beside each other into one wide panorama. Another feature that until now needed additional software. Both Panoramas and HDR appear in a new PHOTO option:

So now you choose “Panorama” and wait as it is built in front of your eyes. You even have an “Auto crop” option: marvellous. And again, a huge, excellent file is built in front of your eyes, as it were. And again, it is a .DNG file, a huge advantage over other software, that creates JPG files. And look what I just created: the city of Las Vegas at this size:

Yes: 25,000 x 3412 pixels. That is, an 85 Megapixel DNG file. Wow!

Here is a small version, “just” 5,000 pixels wide, that I deliberately saved with a logo and at that “small” size and with high compression, i.e. low image quality (it is, after all, a copyrighted image). It still shows the point very well though when you view it at full size. Go ahead and view at full size:

Fantastic, no? I will be doing this all the time now.

I see all sorts of other advantages and incremental improvements in version 6.

Let me give you just one cool little timesaver. To use the entire dynamic range of your image, take a grey, low contrast image, where the bottom end of the histogram does not reach “0″ (the left end) and the top end does not reach 255 (the right end) (i.e. the blacks are not black and the whites are not white).

Now, in DEVELOP, in the BASIC module, shift-doubleclick on the words “Whites” and “Blacks”. Lightroom automatically drags blacks down and whites up until you are using the full dynamic range from 0 to 255. Cool, or what!

In the next little while I will document some more of these advantages and tricks, but for now, let this be enough reason already to upgrade. Enough reason by far. Have fun!