Sunday, October 30, 2011

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorial - Part XI - The Tonal Scale

Part I - Index and Introduction
Part XII - Presence Controls

Adjusting the Tonal Scale

The Basic panel of the Develop module contains the editing tools to control the tonal scale of the image. Finer tonal scale adjustments can be performed in a variety of ways:

  • Using the basic tonal scale sliders.
  • Using the Tonal Curve tool.
  • Using the histogram.

The effect of using the tonal scale sliders in the Basic panel and the histogram is equivalent: in fact, the histogram just provides an easier (and more "visual" way) of adjusting the tonal sliders. The Tonal Curve tool (or an external program as well) provide a more flexible and powerful way to adjust the tonal scale, but my advice is: always start editing your images fixing the tonal scale using the tonal scale sliders. Only then, perform additional corrections using more advanced tools.

Lightroom provides the following tonal scale sliders:
  • Exposure.
  • Recovery.
  • Fill light.
  • Blacks.
  • Brightness.
  • Contrast.
The first four sliders let you adjust the tonal scale of the image with specific emphasis on a specific region of the histogram. Lightroom visually divides the histogram zones into the regions shown in the following images:





If you want to adjust tones in a specific region, you can click and drag the region to be modified in the histogram: depending on the direction you drag the histogram to, the tonal scale will be adjusted accordingly. Each region corresponds to one of the tonal scale sliders and the corresponding adjustment will mainly target a specific zone, although the entire histogram will be modified as a result (shifting it, expanding it or compressing it).

In the following sections we will describe each tonal scale adjustment.

Exposure

The Exposure adjustment is usually the first adjustment you will use since it fixes the overall exposure of an image, with particular emphasis on the high values of the histogram. The adjustments is measured in f-stops (in the [-4, 4] range) and its effect is very similar to modifying the image exposure by the corresponding number of stops (for example, stopping the aperture up or down).

The effect on the histogram can be seen in the following screenshots:






Raising the Exposure level shifts the histogram to the right while lowering the exposure level shifts the histogram to the left.

The exposure slider is used to correct the overall exposure of the image and ensure that the white is at right level. Sometimes, it's not that easy to spot overexposed pixels in an image: if you click the Alt/Option button while adjusting the Exposure slider, the canvas will turn black and Lightroom will only reveal the pixels a color channel of which is going to be clipped.

If there remain overexposed pixels after correcting the image exposure, you can try to fix them using the Recovery slider.

Recovery

After setting the overall image exposure to the right value, the Recovery slider can be used to correct the tones of overexposed highlights. If the image being corrected is RAW, Lightroom can used additional sensor data and succeed in recovering details of pixel overexposed even more than 1 f-stop.

Adjustments of the Recovery slider are made in the [0, 100] range. The effect of adjusting this slider can be seen in the following pictures:




Raising the Recovery value compresses and shifts left the highest zone of the histogram, thus revealing "lost" details that may be present in the RAW file. On the other hand, if the image being adjusted is not a RAW file, clipped channels will result in information being effectively lost: Lightroom will still compress and shift down the histogram, but it won't be able to recover missing details.

In the following pictures you can see how Recovery helps recover missing details in a picture that was intentionally overexposed by more than 1 f-stop:



You can see as adjusting the Recovery slider to +70 helps recovering details of the overexposed cloud that would have been lost otherwise. The histogram of the pictures before and after the Recovery adjustment are the following:



As you can see, the Recovery adjustment has shifted and compressed the histogram slightly to the left, leaving space to reintroduce the information recorded in the clipped highlights. The following is the histogram of a correctly exposed picture of the same cloud:


As you can see comparing the histogram of the corrected picture above with the histogram of the correctly exposed one, the slope and the profile of the two histogram in the highlights zone is very similar.

Fill Light

The Fill Light adjustment allows you the lighten the shadows of your image without affecting the black point. Adjustments of the Fill Light slider are made in the [0, 100] range, and its effect on the histogram can be seen in the following pictures:




Raising the Fill Light value has the following effect:

  • It slightly compresses and shifts the histogram to the right of the fill light region, without affecting the white point.
  • It slightly expands the histogram to the left of the fill light region, without affecting the black point.

Blacks

The Blacks adjustment is used to set the black point of the image. The adjustment is made in the [0, 100] range. Raising the Blacks value moves the black point to the right, resulting in a higher luminance level to be mapped to black. The effect of this slider mostly affects the darkest tones of the image, leaving midtones and brighter tones almost unaffected.

The effect of the Blacks adjustment can be seen in the following pictures:




Raising the Blacks value has the following effect:

  • It slightly expands and shifts the histogram left, without affecting the white point.
  • Blacks are increasingly clipped, according to the part of the histogram that's shifted beyond the black point.

The Typical Workflow

The typical workflow when adjusting the tonal scale of your image is reflected on the order of the basic tonal scale editing tools in the Lightroom user interface:
  • Overall exposure and the white point is corrected using the Exposure adjustment.
  • White point is optionally fixed using the Recovery adjustment.
  • The brightness of the shadows is corrected using the Fill Lights adjustment.
  • The black point is corrected using the Blacks adjustment.
After correcting the tonal scale of your image with the basic tools, you can fine-tune it using more advanced tool such as the Tone Curve (described in another part of this series).

Difference Between Brightness and Exposure

The Brightness adjustment allows you to correct the overall image brightness, primarily affecting the midtones. Small brightness adjustments may be necessary to correct midtones brightness after correcting the tonal scale of the image with the basic tools. Many Lightroom users wonder what's the difference between Brightness and Exposure. The main difference should already be clear:
  • Exposure affects the image brightness throughout the histogram and moves the white point (where highlights are clipped) shifting channel data beyond the end of the histogram.
  • Brightness mainly affect midtones and affects black and highlights clipping points (black and white points) to a lesser extent, try to not shift channel data beyond the end of the histogram.
To clearly understand the difference between the two adjustments, then, let's look at their effect on the histogram. The effect of Exposure has already been shown in the pictures in the Exposure section; the effect of the Brightness adjustment can be seen in the following pictures:

Brightness - Original (+50)

Brightness - +20

Brightness - +80

Brightness - +100

As you can see, modifying the Brightness level shifts the midtones region of the histogram to the right or to the left. Despite what happens when adjusting the Exposure value, however, Lightroom compresses the histogram towards the clipping points in an attempt to not modify them.

However, huge brightness adjustments end up affecting both the black and the white point: that's why you should only need slight brightness adjustment after tuning the tonal scale with the tonal scale adjustments.

Contrast

The Contrast adjustment allows you to correct the image contrast, mainly affecting the midtones. The effect of adjusting the Contrast value on the histogram can be seen in the following pictures:

Contrast - Original Histogram

Contrast - +100

Contrast - -50

The effect is the following:
  • The right half of the histogram is expanded or compressed to the right, depending on whether contrast is raised or lowered.
  • The left half of the histogram is expanded or compressed to the left, depending on whether contrast is raised or lowered.
As in the case of the Brightness control, it's important to point out that this adjustment affects midtones and can modify both the black and the white points.

Also, if you need to modify the local contrast in another histogram region, Contrast might not be the tool for you: you should have a look to Tone Curves instead.


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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorial - Part X - White Balance

Part I - Index and Introduction
Part XI - The Tonal Scale

White Balance

White balancing an image means adjusting the relative intensities of the colors (in this case, of the three primary channels) to correct the drift. This process is usually performed over white or grey (two neutral colors).

Color Temperature
When adjusting the white balance of an image, you often see the concept of color temperature. This term, borrowed from Physics, describes a characteristic of light. As much as it concerns a photographer, it's sufficient to know the following:
  • Color temperature is usually measured in Kelvin degrees.
  • The lower its value, the warmer the color.
  • The higher its value, the cooler the color.
A photographer would often know the color temperature of well known light sources, to dial into the camera the correct color temperature in advance.

If an incorrect color temperature is used, or if the camera fails in autodetecting it, the resulting colors in the image will have drifted and will appear with an incorrect hue: typically yellow or blue depending on the side of the drift. In the following picture, you can see a strongly incorrect white temperature in a shot taken indoor with a flash:

Incorrectly White Balanced Photo

In the previous picture, the temperature of a tungsten bulb (about 2800 K) has been dialed in the camera and the shot was taken indoor with a bounce flash: you can clearly see how the hues have drifted towards the blue. Now: if you're asking why it's blue and not yellow, it's just because white balance compensates the lightning conditions used to take the shot. 2800 K corresponds to a hot color (a hue towards the yellow), so the compensation is made towards the other side (the blue).

When editing RAW files, Lightroom lets you use the Kelvin color temperature scale to set the color temperature of your image, otherwise the slider will use a [-100,100] range to adjust the temperature. Fortunately, (yet) another advantage of shooting RAW is that you can correct the white balance in post-production without affecting the image nor losing any kind of information; on the other hands, adjustments on a non-RAW file are more limited and they cannot achieve the same level of accuracy that they can achieve on RAW files. This means that, although you should always try to get it right straight out of the camera, you could always go Auto and tune it in post-production.

With Lightroom you can correct the white balance of a shot using the following methods:
  • You can use the color picker to sample the color of a matrix of 5x5 pixels: Lightroom corrects the white balance against the color of the chosen pixels. To use this method, you have to make sure that some neutral color is present in your shot.
  • You can use a preset: Lightroom offers some presets with the temperature of many well known lightning conditions (daylight, cloudy, flash, tungsten, etc.)
  • You can manually dial the color temperature.

In the following picture, you can see the relevant controls in the Basic panel:

White Balance Control

To use the first method, I could choose the color picker (on the left side of the panel) and choose some pixels on the images with neutral color. In this case, I remembered the door (where the two ribbons are hanging from) to be a pretty neutral light gray. If I sample those color, as shown in the following picture, Lightroom would choose a temperature of 5750 K that, indeed, is very close to the correct one (about 5500 K). The 200K difference in the resulting image cannot be appreciated very easily.

White Balance - Color Picker to Choose a Neutral Color

The resulting image is:

Correctly Balanced Photo

If you cannot use the color picker because your image doesn't contain any neutral color, you can balance it manually using your own judgement. The Temp slider is colored, as usually, with a hue scale from blue to yellow, as you can see in the picture of the Basic panel above. If you need to make the colors drift to blue just move the slider to the left and if you need to make the colors drift to yellow just move the slider to the right. The colored slider is a good mnemonic.

As I promised in the previous part of this series, we will check on the histogram what's going on to have a better understanding of each develop setting. In the following picture you can see the histogram of the balanced image and the picture of the unbalanced image with a -1000K compensation and a +1000K compensation:

Histogram of the Balanced Image

Histogram of the Unbalanced Image (-1000K)

Histogram of the Unbalanced Image (+1000K)

The first histogram is the histogram of the balanced image. As you can see, the three channels overlap very well on the right half of the histogram (if you recall what we've seen in the the previous post, Lightroom use the gray color where the three color channels overlap in the histogram). The corresponding pixels are those contained in the big area of the door, which is a neutral gray.

Pushing down the Temp slider adds a blue hue and we can see from the second histogram that the blue channel starts to expand to the right while the green and red channels start to compress to the left. On the other hand, when the Temp slider is pushed up and a yellow hue is added we can see that the blue channel starts to compress to the left and the green and red channels start to expand to the left.

Tint
As we've seen, the effect of changing the temperature is "shifting" (in reality, compressing or expanding) the blue channel apart from the other two channels. Intuitively you could argue that, since the relative position of the green and red channels hasn't changed so much, this process would be insufficient to correctly balance the white, at least in certain circumstances. In fact, you would be right. That's why there's another slider called Tint.

The tint is an adjustment used to correct the green or magenta tint of the image. Lowering the tint value raises the green tint of the image while raising the tint value raises the magenta tint of the image. Why were green and magenta chosen? Let's return to the histogram and see what happens.

The tint adjustment has an effect on the green channel very similar to the one that the temperature adjustment has on the blue channel: it expands or compresses the green channel away from the other two:
  • When the tint slider is moved to the left, the green channel expands to the right, compressing the blue and the red channels to the left. 
  • When the tint slider is moved to the right, the green channel compresses to the left, expanding the blue and the red channels (whose sum is magenta) to the right.
In the following pictures you can see what happens compensating the tint of the previous image:

Histogram of the Unbalanced Image (Tint -20)

Histogram of the Unbalanced Image (Tint +20)

The tint setting is seldom used, much less than the temperature setting is. However, it's important for you to know how it works since it can really help you fine tune your images when tweaking the temperature setting is insufficient. Here's an example of a picture I took recently (contrast in the mid-tones has been increased with Lightroom):

Picture with a Green Cast

Can you see the green tint in the halo around the silhouette of the building? Well, that's a green cast that must be corrected. You can see how the tint setting has been used, adding a +17 compensation, to remove the green cast from the light. The result can be seen in the following picture:

Green Cast Corrected (Tint +17)


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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorial - Part IX - Reading and Interpreting the Histogram - Basic Adjustments

Part I - Index and Introduction
Part X - White Balance

The Image Histogram

The image histogram is a graphical representation of the number of pixels of an image with a specific luminance value. The histogram is shown in the Histogram panel that is available both in the Library and Develop modules.

Lightroom - Histogram Panel

The Lightroom histogram is the superposition of the histogram of the three RGB channels using the following color codes:

  • The histogram is a primary RGB color when the channel histogram of such color is not overlapping any other channel histogram.
  • The histogram is gray when all of the three RGB channels histograms are overlapping.
  • The histogram is a secondary RGB color when the two channel histograms corresponding to the primary colors whose mix is the specified secondary color are overlapping:
    • The histogram will be yellow when the red and green channel histograms are overlapping.
    • The histogram will be cyan when the green and blue channel histograms are overlapping.
    • The histogram will be magenta when the red and blue channel histograms are overlapping.
The histogram is an useful tool to inspect the tones used in a photo and it can provide useful insights about the quality of photo. Remember that there's not a good histogram and a bad one. The histogram is just an analytically computed representation of the colors that are present in a photo. Depending on the result you want to achieve, you can use the image histogram to evaluate whether the tones that are present in the photo are the ones you were looking for or not.

The bottom line is: the histogram is a tool and you should learn how to use it. However, use your eyes and your feelings to judge your photo, not the histogram.

The Luminosity Scale is Logarithmic
One of the keys to correctly understanding the histogram is this: the luminosity scale (the horizontal axis) is logarithmic. This may sound confusing at first but it needs not be: photographers are using logarithmic scales so often that many don't even realize they're doing so.

As we've seen in another post, the basic assumption is that our own eyes behave as logarithmic sensors on most of the spectrum range we're dealing with. If fact, you soon realize that other scales we often use are logarithmic as well: the zone system, shutter speeds and aperture values.

How to Read and Interpret an Histogram
Instead of thinking about a logarithmic scale, let's make it simple and just think about f-stops. The f-stop scale is logarithmic as well with respect to the light quantity we're letting in into our camera sensor): an f-stop increment (resp: decrement) doubles (resp: halves) the quantity of light that will hit our sensor. If you're used to think about f-stops, you can conveniently use them when reading and interpreting a luminosity logarithmic axis such as the one you find in histogram, levels and curves graphs. This way, you're life will be easy.

When looking at a graphic with the luminosity in a logarithmic scale (most of which you're using: histograms, levels, curves), just think: equal distances in the logarithmic scale correspond to an equal difference in terms of f-stops. This is also the reason why, usually, such graphics are often divided into a number of squares: to let you think about f-stops and zones. If you look at the screenshot of the Lightroom Histogram panel, you'll notice that it's horizontally divided into 4 segments of equal width. If you consider the histogram to be 8-stops wide (which it often a good approximation, but you should really be aware of your camera dynamic range), every segment is 2-stop wider. Half of a segment will be 1-stop wide. You don't need any more technicality to proceed and use Lightroom proficiently. However, the web is full of detailed information related to dynamic range, gamma correction, tone mapping and so forth.

In the following posts, when interpreting histogram to understand the effect of a develop setting, we'll always use this trick to make things easier.


Basic Adjustments

The editing workflow is where your real Lightroom artist comes out, so that there's not such a thing as a "right way" to proceed. However, the odds that you'll start using the editing controls in the Basic panel are very high, so that's the place we'll start from. Afterwards, we'll describe every panel in detail in the same order it appears in the Lightroom user interface.

The Basic panel contains the most basic image adjustments. Namely, they are:
  • Treatment: colorblack & white.
  • White balance: temperature and tint.
  • Tone: exposurerecoveryfill lightblacksbrightness and contrast.
  • Presence: clarityvibrancesaturation.
Don't be deceived by their name, though. Basic doesn't mean powerless. On the contrary, they're pretty powerful and they will be fundamental adjustments for your image more often than not.

I also found that their own meaning is deceiving and many people find it difficult to understand what their purpose exactly is. To make sense of them and unleash all of their power, we're going through a detailed explanation of what's their effect and what they're meant for.


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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorial - Part VIII - Developing Your Images, The Basics

Part I - Index and Introduction
Part IX - Reading and Interpreting the Histogram - Basic Adjustments

The Develop Module

If you're still reading this series it means that:

  • You found it interesting, and I'm really happy to hear that this is helping you somehow.
  • It's now time to start editing your images.
The Develop module is the module in which most of the post-production editing will be done. The structure of the Develop module window is very easy to understand:
  • Most of the editing tools are located in the panels in the right palette.
  • The left side palette contains the panels used to manage the presets, the change history and the collections.

The Basics

One big advantage of using a tool such as Lightroom, is that it is a non destructive editing tool. What does this mean and why should it matter to you? Well, this is a very important characteristic that unleashes your creativity without ever worrying about damaging your original files.

When you edit an image in a Lightroom catalog, you're really never modifying the original file. Instead, Lightroom is tracking down each and every modification you apply and stores them in the catalog database. The advantages of this approach are manifold:

  • You can experiment without restraint. Lightroom is protecting your master files and you won't touch them. Ever.
  • You can create as many virtual copies of the master as you need, if you want to apply different settings to the same images.
  • Lightroom will keep track of the complete modification history of each image in the catalog. If, at a later time, you want to review it, it's there for you.
  • The modification history can be snapshotted at any time. If, for example, you take snapshots of an image at different stages of your work, you will be able to reload a different snapshot at any time in case you want to start over from a previous point of the image history.

Virtual Copies

A virtual copy of an image is another version of the same image to which you can independently apply a set of adjustments of any kind. Although a virtual copy is undistinguishable from a regular image, it's most often used to apply a different set of develop settings to an image.

A virtual copy of an image can be created both in the Library and in the Develop module, selecting the Create Virtual Copy item of the Lightroom Photo menu or of the image contextual menu. In the Library module, a virtual copy is easily identifiable by the "twisted corner" of its thumbnail, as shown in the following picture:

Lightroom - Virtual Copies

In the previous screenshot, the first thumbnail is a regular image, and the other two are virtual copies of the same image with (slightly) different develop settings and metadata (the first is not rated, the second has a rating of 4 and the third has a rating of 5).

You can create a virtual copy at any time: Lightroom will create a new virtual copy with the same settings as the source image at that point in time. After creating a virtual image, you can take advantage of its modification history, copied from the original file as well, to roll back to a different point in time or to select one of its snapshots (if available). And if you feel like starting over again, you can reset an image state using the Reset item of the Develop Settings submenu.

Virtual copies are an useful tool to maintain different copies of the same image without duplicating the image itself. Let's suppose that you want to maintain three versions of an image: a color one, a black and white one and a duotone one. Just create two virtual copies, apply the settings you desire and you'll be able to maintain the three images as if they were completely unrelated. Under the surface, however, Lightroom will only store one image (the master file you imported in the catalog), and you won't suffer any space consumption overhead.

History

Almost every program you use every day supports at least a basic form of command history. When you undo an action, for example, you're rolling back one step in the modification history of your file. Lightroom history, however, is different: it's persistent. This means that the history is stored alongside any other image setting and it will survive Lightroom restarts. Thus, you will be able to examine the history and roll it back at any time you wish. If you're an Adobe Photoshop user, you will recognize in Lightroom this well known Photoshop feature.

The history of an image is stored in the History panel, on the left side palette of the Develop module, as shown in the following picture:

Lightroom Develop Module - History Panel

In the previous picture, you can see an example of the history of an image. The selected item, a modification of the Tint setting, is not the top of the list but it's the third in time: this means that I'm inspecting the state of the image as it was two modification steps ago. In this case, the new value of the Tint setting is 27 and it's a +20 modification from its previous value.

If I continued to work from this state, and applied a new modification, the following history entries would be deleted and the history would start reflecting the image state since where I am.

This is the kind of situation in which you would consider creating a snapshot.

Snapshots

There are times where you where you'd like to be able to freeze an image settings at a point in time. Lightroom will let you do it and this feature is called a snapshot. When you create a snapshot, you're saving the state of the image at the time the snapshot is taken. An image, moreover, can have as many snapshots as you need and, once more, they are a feature that do not introduce any overhead. If you're experimenting different settings, as sure you will, snapshots are the quickest way of pinning those you like them and marking them as candidates for the final image version.

Snapshots can be managed using the Snapshots panel in the Develop module, as shown in the following picture:

Lightroom Develop Module - Snapshots Panel

In the figure above, you can see that the currently selected picture has got just one snapshot, called Low contrast and corrected green cast.

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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorial - Part VII - Basic Editing Tools

Part I - Index and Introduction
Part VIII - Developing Your Images, The Basics

Basic Editing Tools

Before switching Lightroom into the Develop module and start using its powerful editing tools, you should be aware that basic editing tools are available in the Library module as well.

These tools are very simple and you probably won't be using them so often. However, I think it's good for you to know they exist since they can help you perform some quick adjustment in one or multiple images without leaving the Library module. These tools, especially when used with custom develop presets (more on this on the following parts), can save you a lot of work.

The Quick Develop panel (and probably the Histogram panel as well) is the panel that contains the basic editing tools available in the Library module:

Lightroom Library Module - Histogram and Quick Develop Panels

In the current Lightroom version, the Quick Develop panel will let you:

  • Apply a saved develop preset.
  • Apply a crop preset.
  • Apply a color treatment preset: color or black and white.
  • Apply a white balance preset or modify the temperature and tint incrementing or decreasing their values by fixed steps.
  • Modify the tones of the images incrementing or decreasing their values by fixed steps. The tonal control available are: exposure, recovery, fill lights, blacks, brightness, contrast, clarity and vibrance.
If, for example, you need to quickly adjust the exposure of an image by an f-stop, you can do it in the Quick Develop panel without leaving the library module.

You can also apply modifications to multiple images in the following ways:
  • You can select multiple images and apply a modification.
  • You can copy the modification from one image and paste it into other images using the Sync Settings button.
  • You can copy metadata from one image and paste it into other images using the Sync Metadata button.
When using the Sync Metadata or the Sync Settings features, Lightroom will also ask you about which metadata or settings have to be copied from the source image, as shown in the following pictures.

Lightroom - Sync Metadata Window

Lightroom - Sync Settings Window

In some circumstances, I often use these features to speed up my workflow. If, for example, I voluntarily underexposed a bunch of images by 1 f-stop to keep the desired ISO, aperture and shutter speed values (if you shoot RAW, you often can), I can correct the exposure with just one click in the Library module. If the correction looks right, I can propagate it to all of the images with just a couple of clicks. Then, I'll continue fine tuning every image using the Develop module.


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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorial - Part VI - Importing Your Images

Part I - Index and Introduction
Part VII - Basic Editing Tools

Importing Your Images

The first step in your workflow with Lightroom will often be importing images into the catalog. Images can be imported from any accessible location from your operating system, including cameras connected to your computer.

To import images into your catalog, use the Import button in the lower left corner of the Library module and the import window will appear, as seen in the following picture:

Lightroom Import Window

In the left side palette, the user can choose the source folder or device from which images must be imported. Especially in the case of entire block devices or big folder hierarchies, it's important to know that subfolders can be automatically imported selecting the Include Subfolders checkbox (it appears only when a suitable source is selected). When the source has been selected, Lightroom will begin scanning it and showing previews of the images it found in the main window.

After choosing the source, you must select how to deal with imported images. Lightroom gives you four choices:
  • Copy as DNG: Lightroom will convert the images to DNG in a new location and add them to the catalog.
  • Copy: Lightroom will copy the images to a new location and add them into the catalog.
  • Move: Lightroom will move the images to a new location and add them into the catalog.
  • Add: Lightroom will add the images to the catalog.
The option you'll choose will depend on what you need to do, on how you're used to work and on the type of storage system you own. If you're importing files from your camera, you'll probably copy them into your catalog (and optionally convert them to DNG).

As I already explained in the first part of this blog post, I usually copy into the catalog the new photos and the photos I'm working on and that need to always have with me. Over time, when the images are ready to be moved to long time storage, I move them to a different folder of the catalog, usually located in another storage device.

After choosing how Lightroom has to handle the files to be imported, in the case you chose to have Lightroom copy or move them, you have got to choose their destination using the file chooser in the right column of the window.

Depending on the import operation to perform, on the right palette there will be a series of panels where you can tune the parameters of the import operation:
  • File Handling: This panel lets you tweak the basics of the import operation. You can choose how Lightroom will generate previews of the imported files, whether Lightroom should check for suspected duplicates not to import the same image multiple times and whether Lightroom should perform a secondary copy (a backup) of the imported imaged to a location specified by the user. This panel is always available.
  • Apply During Import: This is a very useful panel that lets you specify whether Lightroom should apply a develop setting and/or a metadata setting to all of the imported images. It also lets you add a set of keywords to apply to all of the imported images. This is a very handy feature, and you will get used to it very quickly. More information on develop settings will be given in the following parts. This panel is always available.
  • File Renaming: If you configured Lightroom to copy or move images, this panel can be used to have Lightroom rename the copied files according to the rules you establish. This panel is only available when Lightroom copies or moves files.
  • Destination: This panel is used to specify the target directory where files will be moved or copied to. The user can instruct Lightroom to organize the files into subdirectories according to date an image was taken. This panel is only available when Lightroom copies or moves files.
Finally, selecting the Import button will start the import operation.

Tweaking Preview Rendering

By default, Lightroom will generate minimal previews of the imported files and will only generate full screen previews when needed. While this is a benefit in terms of space consumption and CPU usage during import, whether is a good choice for you depend on how you work on your images.

In my specific case, I found that generating 1:1 previews during the import operation is beneficial when I'm editing images and continuously jumping from one to another. For the same reasons, I configured my catalogs to purge previews after 30 days.

Depending on your usage patterns, you could find a preset that's more beneficial in your case. If your goal is importing as faster as you can and you rarely inspect imported images, then the default settings or the Standard previews will be sufficient.

On the other hand, if you closely inspect most of the images you import, it might be wise to have Lightroom generate full size preview while importing your images. It will save you time and frustration and won't have to wait for Lightroom to generate a preview every time you open an image for editing.

The deal, as usual, is a tradeoff, and in this case it's a tradeoff between responsiveness and used space. If you don't mind sacrificing some disk space to store full size previews, the user experience will be much better while editing your images. Also, you don't have to wait for Lightroom to generate the previews, either. Indeed, Lightroom will first generate standard previews and you'll be able to use your catalog while Lightroom will generate the remaining previews in the background.

On the other hand, if you're running short of space, you're left only with the choice of using minimal previews and having Lightroom generate them on demand.

However, you can have Lightroom generate previews for an entire folder anytime you need it, using the Render Standard Previews and Render 1:1 Previews items into the Library/Previews menu.

Last but not least, if you want to configure the standard preview size for your catalog, you can do it in the Catalog Settings window, as shown in the following picture:

Lightroom - Catalog Settings

DNG Versus Proprietary RAW Files Formats

DNG is a file format developed by Adobe whose goal is to be a fully compatible, full featured, provider independent digital negative file format. The benefit of converting your RAW files to DNG is that, hopefully, you will be using a standard file format that's being embraced by more and more digital camera producers. You can think of DNG, for simplicity's sake, as the PDF analogous for digital cameras.

The downside of using DNG is that some information found in proprietary RAW file formats cannot be imported into DNG files and may be lost. You can search the Internet for further information about the difference between DNG files and the specific RAW file format you're currently using.


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