How can I add multiple songs to a slideshow?

How can I add multiple songs to a slideshow? I have a 15 minute slideshow and need more music. What’s the trick?

There’s no easy trick. You can join the tracks in some audio editing software, but that’s it – you can only use one track in Lightroom.

So what do I actually do? I actually export JPEGs from Lightroom, import them in to Aperture (luckily I also have a Mac) and then I build the slideshow there. Utterly ridiculous, I know, but it works.

Slideshow has always been the weakest of the Lightroom modules, and in Adobe’s defence, part of the problem is that for a few years “slideshow” has come to mean a few different things. One meaning is little more than being able to run a slide show manually, like a Powerpoint presentation, and Lightroom is still stuck in this mode. At the other extreme, some mean fancy Proshow-style shows with menus and multiple movies, which is more like DVD authoring and perhaps overkill for Lightroom. But another of slideshow’s common meanings is effectively a standalone audiovisual movie, and in my view users rightly expect to be able to compose such slideshows in Lightroom. The expectations are not fancy, and they aren’t too far away from what we’ve always had, but it is pretty easy to pin down critical  key features that are missing. You want to use multiple sound tracks, co-ordinate slide durations to the soundtrack, and choose from a range of transition effects. Aperture 3 has done those things since it was released in 2010, and Lightroom 5 doesn’t. Its Slideshow got some big under-the-bonnet (“hood”) updates, so you just have to hope that such important features aren’t going to be neglected for too much longer.

5 reasons to rename your raw files

Why do you rename your source images? I’ve never renamed any RAW files.

I could probably go on for a while….

  1. Every photo should be uniquely identified, and camera-generated names don’t guarantee that happens. For example, _DSC1234 would repeat each time the camera passes 9999.
  2. Secondly, there’s nothing sacrosanct about the names added by the camera, so why not make it meaningful in a variety of contexts (eg Explorer or Finder) by adding the date and perhaps some text description?
  3. Third, it’s handy to provide clients with sequentially-numbered photos, rather than the jumbled alphanumeric file names generated by some cameras.
  4. Fourth, also giving clients sequentially-numbered photos means they don’t notice gaps and ask to see images which you may have deleted for whatever reason.
  5. Fifth, a scheme such as YYMMDD_1234 also helps you check the completeness of what’s in a folder. If the files are numbered 1-257, you know that you should have at least 257 pictures and that there’s a problem if 125, 126, 127 are missing.

“Make a second copy to”

Why does the second copy upon import go into a folder called “Imported on November-11-13” and not into a folder named to match the folder on the hard disk that was set as the Destination for the import?

second_copyIt’s because “Make a second copy to” is designed to store a second copy of your originals in a logical place, which means you’re safe to go and reformat / re-use your flash cards. What it’s not designed to be is your real, permanent backup.

The problem here is wishful thinking! People see the words “second copy” and eagerly imagine “backup”. But that’s just not its purpose. To repeat, it’s there to ensure the user has a second copy of the originals and can safely re-use the media cards – not replicate whatever folder and filenaming the user happens to choose upon import.

That may be jarring, but if it were to try to replicate the import it simply wouldn’t satisfy a few very common practices. For instance, many users rename photos after reviewing them in Library/Develop and deciding which they want to keep, or other users move images to different folders or rename folders. So any 1:1 correspondence with the import copies is so easily broken that it’s not at all stupid to use “Imported on YYMMDD” – which has the simple virtue of being factual.

So it’s best to understand what this “Make a second copy to” feature does, and not read something else into it. Use it for new imports, but don’t expect it to be more than a temporary safeguard. Once these new files have been picked up by your proper backup routine, you can then safely delete the Imported On folder.

Search Replace Transfer 1.47

I’ve just released version 1.47 of my Search Replace Transfer plugin. Apart from a couple of bug fixes, there are some new capabilities:

One is being able to insert a line break when doing an append or transfer. So for example you can add the filename to the caption, and keep it on a separate line.

Parse and Audit is for auditing your metadata entry. Previously it allowed you to see if important fields like the IPTC Title and Caption were empty – you could filter on “is empty” or “done”. You can still find the empty values, because it’s important to find titles and captions which you may have forgotten, but now all the “done” entries will be shown as the actual value contained in the field. It means you can now filter directly on the title or caption.

In addition, there are now 5 extra fields which you can define for auditing. This means you can choose from almost any EXIF/IPTC/Develop field, run the Parse and Audit command, and filter directly on that field. Here for example I’ve set up the Library Filter panel so I can filter on the Edit Count, or on the ISO, then examine the Exposure, Shadows or Luminance Smoothing adjustments.

Grayscale mode and droplets

Why is it not possible to save tif files in Grayscale Mode from LR?

droplet0Because it’s not needed by many people, and I certainly can’t remember when I last needed to do so.  Not for years anyway, and there’s much more demand from a group of users for exporting to CMYK, for example.

What’s more those who really need Grayscale Mode are usually those who also have Photoshop and can create an action or droplet:

  1. In PS, create a new RGB document
  2. Record an action with one step – Image > Mode > Grayscale
  3. In PS, File > Automate > Create Droplet
  4. Save Droplet In should be your computer’s desktop
  5. In the Play section, point it to your action
  6. In Destination, choose Save and Close
  7. In Lightroom, Preferences, Presets, click Show LR Presets folder
  8. You should now be in Finder/Explorer
  9. Go into this Lightroom folder and Export Actions
  10. Move the Droplet from the desktop and into this folder
  11. Restart LR
  12. Select one or more pictures
  13. File > Export
  14. At the bottom of the Export dialog, notice the Post Processing section
  15. From its dropdown list, choose your Droplet and click OK
  16. Run the export

Once the files have been exported by LR, PS should open them, make them Grayscale Mode, and save and close them.

What’s more, any action can be saved as a droplet and run from Lightroom using the same method.

 

droplet1

In Photoshop, convert your action into a droplet

 

droplet2

In Lightroom, choose your droplet from the Post Processing steps

 

 

New book – Digital Photo Workflow

workflow

My latest book is published today, October 7 – just in time for Christmas (!).

Digital Photo Workflow (Made Easy) is a short book that tries to cover everything and to make it look easy – or at least make it the obvious way to work. That’s quite an ambitious scope and one that may seem beyond 128 pages, but I often find that learning soon grinds to a halt once it’s smothered by a book piling on the detail. Instead this is more about understanding the overall tasks, fitting them together, and equipping the reader with guidance about best practice.

While it teaches you a lot about Lightroom, it doesn’t pretend to be a slider-by-slider manual. It’s a short book that tries to cover everything you need to know to get going. So it might have included a lengthy chapter on catalogues, for instance, but instead steers the reader towards using a single catalogue and not fragmenting one’s workflow. It tells you about folders in Lightroom, but the bullet point is avoiding the (natural) temptation to use them to categorize your pictures. For those who won’t start using keywords because it’s too big a job, there’s some pretty brutal advice about the journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step. There’s a lot of best practice in there, but sweetened and expressed in familiar language. It’s a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

You can figure out the sliders and button once you know which direction to go.

 

You can get the book from Amazon UK / USA or as an eBook (PDF) from Ilex Instant.

Breaking up is hard to do

One common question about Lightroom is the maximum number of images for a single catalogue, and it’s usually the result of some slowdowns and asked with the expectation of needing more than one catalogue once you reach a magic number.

The trouble is, Lightroom is designed and optimized for being used as a single catalogue – eg you can only use one catalogue at a time and there are no cross-catalogue searching features. While it may offer features to support more than one catalogue, those features are designed for specific workflows such as moving work between computers, and you will hit a variety of problems and limitations if you use them to spread your workflow across a number of catalogues and fragment control of your pictures. You can certainly make Lightroom work that way, but it’s not making the best of it.

Slowdowns tend to be unrelated to the number of images in a catalogue and the only thing that is consistently slower is backing it up, and that isn’t a problem since it’s done after you’ve finished work. If you do experience a slowdown, you need to look elsewhere for a reason, so see Adobe’s notes on optimizing performance and troubleshooting performance.  One option may be an “inbox” + master catalogue. New stuff will go into the inbox catalogue and you then periodically import it into the master and create a new inbox. But try running with one optimised catalogue and resolving the underlying problem. Above all, try optimising the large catalogue – that would be the first place to look.

While I recommend only using one catalogue (here, here, here and elsewhere), there are good reasons to use more than one and do so myself. In addition to my main catalogue which controls all my pictures, I also have another which controls a charity’s picture archive. I keep it completely separate – it catalogues only those pictures in a distinct set of folders which are never mixed with any others. I’ll also create temporary catalogues which might be for testing, demos, or working on the laptop. This is perfectly normal, and I’m not sure how you could use Lightroom otherwise, but it leaves no scope for confusion – my own workflow and pictures are controlled in a single Master Catalogue.lrcat.

Because it’s a difficult area, Peter Krogh of The DAM Book fame has released an ebook Multi-Catalog Workflow with Lightroom 5. It comes as a PDF supported by videos and covers a wide range of possibilities. I haven’t had the chance to read it in its entirety (been away and then absorbed in a DIY project), but I did like the idea of importing the videos into Lightroom so I could watch them in context. While others offer poor advice on using catalogues, Peter and I rarely disagree.

Downloading CS6

There are millions of Adobe’s customers who haven’t and perhaps won’t ever sign up to the Creative Cloud (I haven’t so far but may reluctantly do so). Back in May, 700,000 had decided it was the right choice for them and had chosen to subscribe, and while you can put a positive spin on Adobe now reaching 1 million subscribers (see FY2013 Q3 financial presentations) , you could also say that they’ve only put on another 300k since they denied customers any choice. That leaves 7 million Creative Suite customers to go, and for them life goes on.

One of those is a good friend who has always been a loyal Adobe customer and stayed up-to-date with Photoshop and Lightroom. He’s upgraded to every version but usually once he has seen a new tool which he believes he will use, and he sees little point subscribing to CC for its own sake and trusting Adobe will eventually introduce a feature he wants. His main computer is quite new, the operating system equally up-to-date, and I’m sure he’s not unusual in being perfectly happy continuing with CS6.

But while you may think it’ll be years before you can no longer run CS6, bumps in the road may come sooner than you imagine. In his case it was a pleasant surprise – someone offered him a new laptop – but he couldn’t find how to download it from Adobe and after wasting a couple of hours’ valuable time he was in a panic and called John.

You know, SNAG-0003I’m really not surprised he found it difficult. I thought I knew my way around Adobe’s site and I don’t think they have deliberately hidden links to CS6, they’ve not gone out of their way to make it easy to download if you already own the software. It took me a quarter of an hour flapping around, looking at “my products”, following various CS6 links, and getting nowhere. Eventually I found it:

  • Look for the “Sign In” link on the right of the Adobe page and log into your Adobe account.
  • Then on the right hand side, look for the “Welcome, Your Name”  link.
  • It has a menu – go into My Orders.
  • In your order history, you should see your order for CS6 and a Download link is on the right.

Shelter from the Cloud?

If you’ve been using Photoshop as well as Lightroom, you may have been surprised and disappointed by Adobe’s behaviour earlier this year, offering customers the Hobson’s choice of subscribing for Photoshop or being unable to upgrade beyond CS6. For Photoshop newcomers the monthly subscription of $19.99 certainly eased the painful initial outlay of buying Adobe’s software, but existing customers were being offered a price rise disguised by a half-price discount during the first year, after which you pay the normal $19.99. What’s more, they would no longer own the CC software and it would stop working if you ever stopped paying, which would make it pretty difficult to fine tune your pictures. Not surprisingly, this deal wasn’t universally popular among photographers.

So now Adobe have made a concession to existing Photoshop CS customers – the Photoshop Photography Program.

If you own Photoshop CS3-CS6 and subscribe before the end of December,  Photoshop CC’s subscription will now be $9.99 / £8.54  per month and will include Lightroom, plus the 20Gb online storage space and the Behance web service. The monthly price is not a first year introductory discount but will be your normal price so long as you keep subscribing. Any subsequent price rises will be based on that figure.

Anyone who already subscribed to Photoshop CC will now get Lightroom too.

The benefits

It’s not a big step back by Adobe, and it is clear they are not about to abandon their decision to force customers over to their subscription model. But to look on the bright side, they have now tackled a number of problems. Existing Photoshop customers get more for the monthly subscription, not a disguised price hike, and Adobe have soothed the fear that the price will rise once they have a firm grip around your genitals.

Less incentive to innovate?

Of course, there are other big reasons why Adobe have not yet “convinced” people, to use their own expression. One is the belief that guaranteed revenue streams make companies grow lazy and reduce their incentive to produce innovative new features that make you want to upgrade. Obviously this won’t affect the motivation of individual software engineers, and external events may still lead to Adobe responding with new capabilities like the publishing to tablets which was added to InDesign CS6, but it’s hard to question the assumption that dependable revenues inevitably encourages cost-cutting and a less adventurous ethos. Business just works that way (my accounting background comes out again!) and you can only hope that Adobe escape that fate.

The exit strategy

But another big objection is most interesting in this case, and that is the “exit strategy” – what happens to Photoshop and your pictures when you stop subscribing? Previously, of course, you’d buy Photoshop and just expect it to keep going until a major change in the operating system or until you bought a new camera. But with a subscription-limited service, it’s more like electricity or water and sewerage – Photoshop will just stop working. Fair enough in contractual terms, but what about the photos you’ve edited? They are your intellectual property, not Adobe’s. How would you then print or share them, and especially if they needed fine tuning? If you have any sense of thinking ahead, was it ever sustainable to rent Photoshop on its own?

Plan for a proper copy of Lightroom

While it’s easy to welcome this Photoshop Photography Program deal in superficial terms, we’ve got to put aside the “good for photographers” fluff and “for the price of three lattes” hype (real coffee drinkers don’t drink overpriced latte). What’s important is that this deal gives you the subscription-limited Photoshop, you are not getting a proper copy of Lightroom either – if you stop subscribing, Lightroom will stop working. Ending your subscription will sacrifice the ability to fine tune work on layers and other Photoshop-only features, and at that point you’d need to buy a proper copy of Lightroom to adjust and output your pictures.

Whenever I stay in a hotel I always make a mental note of the fire exits – a result of when I had a day’s fire warden training – and I think it’s a pretty good analogy. If you subscribe, remember to look for the exit door.

Lightroom’s “next evolution”

See Tom Hogarty’s presentation starting 33 minutes into this recording of the Photoshop World keynote – see this Adobe demo of Lightroom synchronizing adjustments between computers via the cloud. It’s “the next evolution of Lightroom”.

As you’ll see, adjustments are passed between two devices – a laptop and an iPad – without the user needing to do anything. I’ve often seen people waste so much time copying xmp files around, and how little they are believe in the magical Export to Catalog / Import from Catalogue workflow, so you’ve got to welcome anything Adobe can do to improve the process of passing work between different devices. Presumably that synchronization is only going to be available via the Adobe Cloud.

Lightroom 5.2 available

Lightroom product manager Sharad Mangalick has announced:

Lightroom 5.2 is now available as a Release Candidate on Adobe Labs.   The ‘release candidate’ label indicates that this update is well tested but would benefit from additional community testing before it is distributed automatically to all of our customers.  The final release of Lightroom 5.2 may have additional corrections or camera support.

feather

The spotting tool’s feather slider is a handy addition

Even if you don’t normally bother with release candidates, I recommend upgrading to this version. Most of all, it fixes the noise reduction and sharpening problems, but it includes a couple of small new features.

One is that you can duplicate an adjustment brush pin, but currently all you get is another pin on top that you can’t move.  It simply doubles the effect.  But notice a subtle difference between the “Refinements to the Local Adjustment Brush” paragraph in the LR5.2RC announcement and the similar bullet points in the one for ACR8.2 RC. The latter includes an extra item “Move brush adjustments by clicking and dragging on brush adjustment pins” .

And why 5.2? Why not 5.1?  It doesn’t really matter, but the jump was only to keep LR’s dot number in sync with ACR 8.2.

 

Search & Replace 1.45

I’ve just released version 1.45 of my Search and Replace plug-in over at Photographer’s Toolbox .

This version is a significant upgrade. As well as including new Lr5 fields, I’ve updated the layout and added some handy new capabilities.

  • New: On Transfer tab, you can now save combinations of fields as Favourites
  • New: Replace characters in a text string (eg 12 through 25) – the beta version was used here
  • New: When appending a sequence number, user can now set the initial value
  • New: Lr5 fields available (smart previews, video)
  • New: Thumbnail of image shown ((Lr4 or upwards)
  • New: Creation and modification date and times available
  • New: Search and replace for text in keyword names
  • User able to switch off translation of fields in plug-in’s dialog boxes
  • Menus available when only video files are selected
  • Fixed: Bug in parse and audit where field length greater than 512 characters
  • Fixed: Bug fixed preventing previous tab being displayed upon startup
preview image

The layout is now clearer and Lr5 users will be able to preview the plug-in’s results next to the affected image.

“Read more”…

Charts too?

Since I know at least 4 (!) people found my “not more numbers” post interesting, I’ve just added a link on this site’s home page to Adobe’s stock price.

I’ve heard plenty of crazies pointing with some glee to a 10% drop since the May’s announcement that Adobe were only offering Photoshop and Creative Suite customers the choice of subscribing. I’m not sure those people have been so vocal about the price’s stabilisation and  then its partial recovery last week after the subscription-limited suite was actually released.

You just can’t pay too much attention to short term movements, or consider Adobe in isolation from the market, consider one factor on its own, or just over-simplify the headline movement.  Adobe have smart people and they’ll have anticipated some stock price turbulence resulting from the business risk they have suddenly introduced. Maybe it’s a success that you’ve not fallen off a cliff after such a leap in the dark?

share-priceSo here you see the year-to-date stock price movements (from Yahoo – I’ll see if I can make it live) with a rolling average which evens out the short term bumps and grinds.

The general trend of the last year or so has been consistently upwards, and it has only levelled off after Adobe’s “Great Leap Forward”.

Only time will tell if this is short term volatility owing to (temporarily-greater?) risk.

Not more numbers!

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 20.35.51Look, I spent all those years in accounting, so you’ll have to humour me when I point you in the direction of more financial numbers from Adobe. In fact their stock price never really interested me until recently, so I can readily understand if you have never gone looking for their quarterly results, but do take a look at Adobe Reports Strong Q2 FY2013 Financial Results and the more-digestible powerpoint slides.

There’s probably just one nugget of information worth polishing and keeping in your pocket – they have now reached 700,000 subscribers to their Creative Cloud. So those 700,000 have voluntarily chosen the subscription route over buying a traditional licence. They’ve probably made a rational decision too.

Going forward, new customers and upgraders are no longer offered any choice – you either subscribe, or you don’t upgrade. With the only option being this Hobson’s choice, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in 6 months’ time they Adobe hit or exceed their published target of 1.25 million subscribers at the year end. The cynic in me, or just the former corporate accountant, believes you don’t publish numbers you won’t meet, so you just have to wonder what the real target is. But prepare yourself for Adobe trumpeting this somewhat-hollow success….

Wouldn’t it be great if you could subscribe and tick a box asking not to be included in the count of the willing?

OS support

percentagesHere’s an updated analysis of visitors to this site comparing the proportions using Mac and PC operating systems.

As I’ve said before, you’d have to be pretty crazy to visit this site of you’re not a Lightroom user, so I think it’s a pretty good approximation to the wider user base.

The 60%:40% Mac:PC split shows a continuing drift to Mac – a year ago it was 50:50.

But for me the most interesting detail is the less than 6% using Mac 10.6 or Snow Leopard. Lightroom 5 will not run on that OS or on Vista, and that figure happens to be about the same level as Windows XP users when Lightroom 4 came out last year.

See:

Lightroom 5 favourite no 5: AutoSync and local adjustments

So we get to number 5, and I think this qualifies as a “you read it here first”! AutoSync now works properly with local adjustments!

To explain, especially for those who have never used it, I’ve always been a huge advocate of Lightroom’s AutoSync. When it is enabled you continue working on one image in Develop, but your adjustments automatically apply to all the pictures that are selected in the film strip.

AutoSync is wonderfulwith any series of frames where you want to make the same adjustments to each shot. Last weekend, for instance, I managed to accidentally underexpose more than 30 frames by about 4 stops. They all needed the same exposure, shadows, contrast, luminance noise tweak etc, and AutoSync meant I could quickly correct them all.

Or consider how workflows like the one shown below where I’m working on the component frames for a stitched panorama. Before they are sent over to Photoshop, they need the same colour corrections and dust spotting:

  • With AutoSync enabled, I just correct one image’s spots and drag adjustment sliders, and all six frames are updated without any further effort.
  • Without AutoSync I would have to pause at some point and sync the adjustments. That means I have to press the Sync button, review the settings dialog and clear any adjustments I don’t want to sync, choose which ones I do want to sync, and click OK.

Because AutoSync means simultaneous adjustment, it’s the fastest way to work in Lightroom, so I leave Develop set to that mode all the time. I’ll only disable AutoSync occasionally, for example when I decide I want an adjustment to apply to a single image, but more often in such cases I’d just deselect the other images while I make that specific adjustment.

Incidentally, you should leave Lightroom set to AutoSync all the time or leave it switched off all the time – one way or the other. I recommend leaving AutoSync on, but other people leave it switched off and go into it when needed. They may not be working as quickly or consistently, but you don’t want to confuse yourself by continually switching between AutoSync and normal modes, and you can easily make annoying mistakes if you’re not concentrating 100%. So I recommend leaving AutoSync on all the time, and keeping an eye on the film strip. Work one way or the other.

Unfortunately, AutoSync always had an annoying limitation – it didn’t include local adjustments. So in Lr4 I might add a graduated filter adjustment and it wouldn’t apply to the other selected images, so I’d be forced to go back and sync. Apart from interrupting my mental flow, it was 5 or 6 keystrokes where a single one would have done the job. What a bore!

That annoying limitation has disappeared with Lightroom 5. It’s something I actually discovered by accident, but apparently it is a deliberate change by Adobe. At last, local adjustments are applied in AutoSync mode! Brilliant!

I’ve exaggerated the graduated adjustment here, but now you can simultaneously adjust multiple images with graduated and radial filters or paint with the local adjustment brush.

Lightroom 5 favourite no 4: PNG files

For some people this is a tiny feature, but I’ve always been a supporter of Lightroom being able to catalogue all types of files, so I welcome Lightroom 5’s ability to catalogue PNG files.

Lightroom is supposed to help manage the workflow from shoot to delivery, so it should be the photographer who decides what types of files are part of photographic projects. After all, while a project will be centred on photography, it can often contain files created in Microsoft Office, PDFs and InDesign files etc. It’s simply a waste of energy, and confusing, to be unable to use a single program to manage all these files.

Sadly arbitrary limits remain in Lightroom 5, but video cataloguing arrived in version 4, and we now have PNG files too.

Progress, one file type at a time.

Lightroom 5 favourite no 3 – Managing hierarchical keyword lists

I’m not a big fan of hierarchical keyword lists, although I gladly acknowledge I am unusual in believing they are more trouble than they’re worth. It’s not that I blame Adobe for introducing them, or that I think people are wrong to use them – more a case of saying be careful what you wish for.

Filter Keywords in Lightroom 4

That doesn’t mean I don’t keep experimenting with adding some structure to my own flat keyword list, and I also encounter them in other people’s catalogues. By their nature, longer keyword lists are always unwieldy and they become even more awkward when there is a possibility that that the same keyword may exist in multiple hierarchy branches. So I’ve always been a fan of the Filter Keywords box at the top of the panel.

You type in a few letters and the long list is filtered to keywords containing those characters. Sure, it could do with improvements and has a tendency to list too many irrelevant keywords. For instance, if you typed “Eng” with the intention of finding England, English and other variations on the country, you would see keywords like engineer, engineering, engine, Stonehenge, Engels etc. How big a problem is that? So you type “Engl” and filter out those false positives.

Filter Keywords in Lightroom 5

However, one huge limitation of filtering a hierarchical keyword list was that you wouldn’t then see the children of the filtered keywords. For example, here I’d typed “IPTC” into Lightroom 4 and I could see that “~IPTC Locations” had keywords below it, but I couldn’t see what they were without clearing the Keywords Filter.

Keyword lists are inevitably long and difficult to manage, so it’s important to have a number of ways to visualize them. No single view can ever be right, and the previous lack of flexibility only succeeded in giving me another good reason for my avoiding hierarchical keyword lists and not gaining any advantages from them.

Lightroom 5 has a new option to resolve this problem. You click the little arrow next to the magnifying glass and check “Show All Keywords Inside Matches”.

Filter Keywords in Lightroom 5 – there’s now an option to display the child keywords too

This changes the behaviour of Filter Keywords so that all the matching keywords are displayed along with their children.

It’s a small, subtle improvement that makes your keyword lists more manageable.

The question for me is, will it make me change my mind about using hierarchical keyword lists? Not yet, but maybe.

Lightroom 5 favourite no 2: Radial Filter

The new Radial Filter was originally envisaged as a movable vignette tool, so when you first drag it over part of the image you’ll find that its adjustment affects the area outside the circle.

In some cases that’s fine, but it does seem counter-intuitive, not least because  you soon find that this Radial Filter seems much more than a vignette tool. To me it feels much more natural when you use it to target the specific area inside the circle rather than affecting the area outside. In fact, very often I’m now employing the Radial Filter instead of reaching for the Local Adjustment Brush.

To do this, just tick the Invert Mask check box.

If you also prefer to use the filter for targeting rather than vignetting, it’s best to change the default. Start a new Radial Filter and immediately tick the Invert Mask check box. From now on, each new Radial Filter will be “inverted”.

Other tricks:

  • Start from the exact centre of where you want to apply the filter. So for example, you don’t apply it to a face by clicking on one ear and dragging to the other – you click the nose and then drag outwards.
  • Shift + dragging constrains the filter to the current shape – usually a circle
  • Reshape a Radial Filter adjustment by holding down PC:Alt Mac:Opt and dragging one side
  • Rotate an adjustment by moving the cursor just outside the circle

You can duplicate and move these Radial Filter adjustments:

  • Move an adjustment by dragging it
  • Duplicate a Radial Filter adjustment by dragging its central point while holding down PC:Alt+Ctrl or Mac:Opt+Cmd

My suggestion is to avoid using the Adjustment Brush for a few hours and use the Radial Filter for most dodging and burning operations. You’ll be surprised how well it works.

Lightroom 5 favourite no 1: the Visualize Spots mask

The most obvious and welcome improvement to dust spotting is that you can now drag the brush over an irregularly-shaped area, so you can wave a fond goodbye to the days of removing telephone cables by pretending they were a series of dust spots. In fact, when you are correcting a straight line you can click one end, then Shift and click the other extreme, making Lightroom draw a correction “spot” along that axis. In an example like this, I might still make a series of corrections in more detailed areas, or even switch to Photoshop, but this can be a big time saver.

A changed shortcut

Incidentally, a tiny change is to the shortcut for correcting a dust spot while simultaneously setting the spotting tool’s default size. Previously you would hold down PC:Ctrl Mac:Cmd and drag, but LR5 changes this shortcut to PC:Alt+Ctrl Mac:Opt+Cmd. It’s a trivial change, not ordinarily worth mentioning, but it will trip you up if you already used that feature or be a pleasant surprise if the tip is new to you.

The wonderful Visualize Spots mask

A much more significant improvement to dust spotting is rapidly becoming a favourite, especially when dealing with landscape photos shot with smaller apertures – Visualize Spots.

Ever since we’ve been able to correct sensor dust spots in a raw converter (something that seemed revolutionary in its day) I’ve always found that the biggest problem has been finding the spots. Some are obvious, of course, but sometimes you only notice the more subtle spots when you are reviewing a print, or in the worst cases when someone else is looking at it. So my old method to avoid this costly or embarrassing moments was to begin dust spotting by applying 4 doses of +100 Clarity in the graduated filter (via a home-brewed preset) which really made the less-obvious spots stand out. Afterwards I’d reset the graduated filter. That workaround is now a thing of the past.

Lightroom 5 adds a little Visualize Spots check box and a slider:

You tick the box, and as I have found no good reason for setting the slider at anything below 100%, I just whack the slider up to 100%.

The photo is shown as a mask with dust spots identified as little white bagel-shaped circles. Even subtle ones suddenly become nice and obvious. Here, for example, you can see 3 or 4 spots that I’d initially overlooked.

For me the only thing that would make this feature completely-perfect is if it followed the visibility setting from Tools > Overlay. I leave this set to Auto, which means I can quickly move the cursor outside the frame and evaluate the final results without the distraction of the spotting tool’s circles.

Sadly this Auto option doesn’t affect the Visualize mask. Instead there’s a keyboard shortcut – A.

  • Pressing A will disable Visualize Spots exactly like unticking the checkbox
  • Hold A down so that the mask is temporarily hidden and reappears as soon as you release the key

While this shortcut is “good enough”, at least for a right handed person whose left hand is free to lurk over the Q and A keys, I wonder what a left handed person would make of it. And it is pretty silly to be forced to use both the mouse and the keyboard when a simple flick of the cursor would do the job. Maybe next time?

That’s a minor quibble though, and this Visualize Spots box is certainly an excellent addition. You do a better job cleaning up those dust spots, and do it faster too. What’s not to like? Apart from discovering that your camera’s sensor isn’t as clean as you hoped….