Processing Infrared Images in Capture One

Click on any image to see it larger (If you are on a PC at least).



Capture One is generally thought to not be a very capable infrared editor though as I will show, this is not the case.  I will also briefly touch on processing in Photoshop and Lightroom.

This is a technical post that is mainly of interest to those shooting infrared, or contemplating doing so, and also processing in Capture One, or contemplating doing so.  Others might skim down to see the processes of image transformation without bothering to contemplate the details of how it is done.

I have more information on what infrared is all about in my previous post Introduction to Infrared Photography. Processing is particularly important to most forms of digital infrared photography, particularly where you are starting  with a colour image.  


Taking Infrared Images

The wavelength of visible light ranges from 400 nanomentres (nm) (violet) to 750 nm (red).  At less than 400nm there is ultraviolet light and at more than 750nm there is infrared, neither of which we can see.  Digital cameras however, record colours from around 350nm to 1,000nm, more than we can see, and usually have “hot mirror filters” to block UV and IR light in the interests of recording more accurate colours.

You can take infrared images using either a filter over the lens or a converted camera in which a filter allowing infrared light to pass replaces the hot pass filter.  I have a camera with a 560nm conversion, which allows bright colours and includes both visible light and infrared.  The most common filter (and maybe conversion) is 720nm which admits less visible light and more infrared and has reduced colours.  An 800nm filter or conversion is infrared only and produces a black and white image only.

An image from an 800nm filter may require little processing.  For lower-nm filters, it is possible to use a custom white balance and maybe be satisfied with that, though much more is possible.  I aim to transfer the image in post-processing so I don’t bother with a custom white balance and to aid that process I also shoot RAW.


Processing in Photoshop and Lightroom

A few years ago, Photoshop was the primary method of post-processing (and probably still is for most people).  A key part of this was channel swapping, for example, swapping red and blue channels to get blue skies.  You might also make other adjustments using layers for hue/saturation, black and white (with luminosity blending) and selective colour, and even get really complex with luminosity masking or the Orton Effect.

Using Lightroom for infrared images required generating and using a camera profile to extend the range of colours Lightroom sees.  If processing in Photoshop, I would first make adjustments in Lightroom including changing the colour balance to maximise separation of colours. and might also make other adjustments including in the calibration tab and curves adjustments by colour channel.  Only then would I launch to Photoshop from Lightroom.  What you got your starting image to look like would affect the range of possibilities in Photoshop.

A year or two ago, Lightroom introduced Profiles and it became possible to export LUTs from Photoshop to become channel swapping profiles in Lightroom.  So it is now possible to do your processing in Lightroom, though there is more capability in Photoshop.  Rob Shea provides information on how to make your own Lightroom channel-swapping profiles or buy some from him.


Processing in Capture One

Unlike Lightroom, Capture One already has a full  range of available colours for infrared processing without the need for a custom camera profile.  However, it been seen as a not-so capable processor for infrared. Not so, as I will show you….

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This is how you might start out, an uncorrected image out of the camera (appearance will vary according to infrared filter).


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This is what it looks like after moving sliders for colour temperature and tint to maximise colour separation, and after clicking Auto Adjust for levels.


(Click on images if you need to see more detail).


I have created several Editor presets in the colour editor, using a method as shown in this article.  To create a red/blue colour swap preset, you make a selection for the red sector of the colour wheel.  Then you change the hue four times by -30° for a total change of -30° (out of 360).  That’s for the red shift.  For the blue shift, you select an appropriate blue segment and move it four times by 30° to shift it to red.  Then you save it as a custom preset.  Once you have the custom preset, you can select it for an instant effect.

The red/blue colour swap works OK for this image.  The equivalent of a Photoshop channel swap requires combining the red/blue colour swap with a cyan/yellow colour swap.  These Color Editor presets also work on layers so it is possible to have different colour swaps or channel swaps on different layers and combine them using layer opacity.


The easiest way to create such custom presets is off an image of a photographic colour wheel.  You use the colour picker tool in the Colour Editor (tiny yellow tool on the black background to bottom right of the destination colour wheel), adjust hue, unclick, reclick and repeat. Then you can see the colours change as you go.  Its’s best to have only one colour change selected at a time or the results can get confusing.

I had to adjust the orientation of my colour editor segments a bit due to colour inaccuracy in the image I was using.  Red and cyan should align around the horizontal axis, and the other coloujrs around the vertical axis.


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So this is what I get after next clicking on my red blue swap preset in the Advanced tab of my Colour Editor.

Now the next thing is I want to change the yellow-green colour in the landscape.  I could use the incremental change method as above but there’s an easier way.


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Now we go to the Skin Tone tab of the Colour Editor.  Use the picker to select the colour you want, in this case the foliage of the landscape.  Adjust this if required.  In the menu for the Colour Editor, select Create Masked layer from Selection. That creates a new layer with the foliage part of the landscape selected.


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Now in the new layer just created, we go to the Skin Tone pane in the Colour Editor again.  (We are going to change the “skin tone” of the foliage).  The critical thing here is to have the Hue Uniformity slider all the way to the right, as shown.  Then use the picker to select the desired colour again (in this case, the landscape foliage).  Next, drag the selected segment in the colour wheel around to expand it from say 20° or 30° to nearly 360°.  There’s a small handle, opposite the unselected segment and in this case at the bottom-left of the colour wheel.  You can grab this and rotate the colour wheel, changing the colour to whatever you want.    Since we are on a layer where only the foliage is selected, only that colour changes.

Note:  Sometimes the mask on the new layer will have more than you want selected.  If so, you may be able to erase the unwanted parts of the mask.  If that doesn’t work, instead create a new filled layer and use the iterative hue-shift approach on the Advanced tab of the Colour Editor.


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Now we have the landscape foliage colour changed.

The last thing I wanted to do was to change the colour of the foreground foliage of the small trees against the sky.  I created another layer, copied the mask from the initial layer, erased all of the mask except for the small trees and then changed the colour.  There were a number of ways I could have done this and I just used colour balance.


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So this was the final image, also cropped a little further.  I may have also made some other minor adjustments not specific to infrared.


There are many styles of infrared photography and if you are using a different filter or conversion to me, your range of possibilities may be quite different.  I could also have processed this image in Capture One for quite different results.

I have related a few techniques here that may be useful for people using Capture One to interpret in their own way.  Most people opt for a limited range of colours and perhaps minimal processing.  All approaches are valid; it’s only what you end up with that counts no matter how much or little effort you put into it.


The next post will include twenty infrared images with a wide range of very different interpretations.  They include the image from this post and are variously processed in Photoshop, Lightroom and Capture One.


Introduction to Infrared Photography

1982 to 2022, various locations.

Links go to original posts.  These are likely to be IR or Mono posts with little detail but there may be detailed information in a preceding normal-colour post.  (Some images have no corresponding posts, so no link).

Click on any image to see it larger (If you are on a PC at least).


I’ve just finished posting on Istanbul/ Constantinople and next I will post on the Acropolis in Athens.  First, this post.

I have upgraded my IR camera and am selling the old one so one purpose of this post is to provide information to a buyer who may not well understand IR photography.  The IR explanation may be of general interest to photographers and others may just be interested in the images (there’s lots of text but also lots of images further down).

In ancient days of yore, decades ago, we had both colour and black & white infrared film.  Colour infrared film seems all but unavailable now whereas there are a few avenues for B&W IR film.

Normal photographic colour film has layers of red, green and blue.  Infrared light comes in below the red frequencies and ultraviolet is above blue, though ultraviolet is not relevant here.  Infrared colour film had layers of infrared, red and green, and missed out the blue.  Since infrared light is not visible, arbitrary colours were associated to the layers, so it was also called false-colour film.  You could also change the colour combinations by putting colour filters on the end of the lens.  This didn’t just add a colour caste but changed all the colours (since the infrared is invisible) and stacking filters changed all the colors in strange and mysterious ways.

Black and white infrared film was simply much more sensitive to infrared light.  It was also very sensitive to visible light and had to be loaded and unloaded from the camera in total darkness.   It was often grainy and could have an ethereal effect.

I never shot black & white infrared so I can’t show you any images of that but I did shoot colour IR.  I must have quite a few processed colour IR rolls in my film drawers but I’ve scanned hardy any of them but I can show you one example.


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Aboriginal Performance, Canberra, 1982.

This is a curious example.  I was shooting an Aboriginal performance when I ran out of regular fim so I continued with infrared.  Then, after I sent it to the lab to be processed, it came back with Sabattier Effect.  They must have left the inspection port open in the processing machine so that created a partial reversal of the shadows – resulting in a negative audience.  I had tried this myself several times but never got it to work as well as that.

Of course we now live in a digital age and we can take infrared images with digital cameras.  This is not entirely equivalent to colour IR film – you would actually need to combine digital regular and IR images for that, but it offers lots of scope for artistic effects and experiments and can also work particularly well for monochromes.

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St Kilda, 2013.

The cheapest way to take a digital IR image is to attach an R72 (or similar) filter to your cameras lens.  (This works for most cameras but some have too strong an infrared-blocking filter.)  This is how I took the above image and the next two.

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Jarlshof, Shetland, 2013.

The problem with using an R72 filter is that it is almost opaque so you need to use a tripod (or extremely high ISO) and if you’re using a DSLR, you will need to have the filter off to focus and compose.  A converted camera you can use hand held, just like a normal camera.

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Manvar Desert Camp, Rajastan, India, 2014.

This image is to some extent reminiscent of IR b&w film which could have heavy grain but it does not include the characteristic ethereal blurring of highlights.  I could have tried to replicate that with the Orton Effect in Photoshop but I have no interest in copying appearances from another era without a good reason.

Much more convenient than an R72 filter is an IR camera but it is more expensive as you have to send a camera off to get converted.   Mirrorless cameras are more suitable than DSLRs (unless you just plan to use live view) because focusing has a separate sensor to taking the image and they may get out of synch.

Most people use a custom camera white balance, usually taken off foliage.  Otherwise your captured image will start off different shades of a single colour.  There can also be different kinds of conversions.  A 720nm conversion gives you an image suitable for black and white with very little processing (perhaps even none, out of the camera).  A conversion with a lower number such as 560nm or 590nm has more colour in the image and is suitable for either colour or B&W IR but requires processing.

Not all lenses are suitable for infrared photography.  Many perform flawlessly but many have “hot spots”, a circle of diffusion and flare in the centre of the image.   Some lenses are also OK at wider apertures but have hot spots when stopped down.  There are a few guides to this online such as this one from Kolari or this one from Life Pixel, but you can also easily test your lenses yourself (with either an IR camera or R72 filter).

Processing is an important part of creating infrared images, though most people seem to take a relatively minimalist approach.  So while I have generally taken a complex approach to processing using Lightroom and Photoshop, I decided to see what I might get with relatively quick processing just in Lightroom.

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This is what you see in your camera without a custom profile or as the RAW file in Lightroom without any processing.

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This is the change from applying a custom Lightroom profile made using the Adobe DNG Profile Editor, as described here, then making a few minor changes to Temperature and Tint.  This is useful because Lightroom and Camera RAW by default give you a constricted colour range to play with for infrared images.  It is not necessary for Capture One.  This is similar to what you see in your camera with a custom profile there.  (Actually I did not do this in processing this image but clicked the White Balance Selector on foliage instead.  For this image, it provided a similar result.)

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Beijing Garden, Canberra, 2022.

I created this just using Lightroom. 

Apart from the custom white balance, I adjusted some hues in HSL, I played with some settings in Calibration, I optimised individual colour channels in curves, and I made some adjustments to shadows with colour grading.  I’m not suggesting a recipe; I made some adjustments I thought appropriate at the time and I might do completely different things with a different image or at a different time.

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This is the result of a quick B&W conversion in Lightroom.  I usually do my conversions in CaptureOne and Photoshop is also powerful, though may be more complex.

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Beijing Garden, Canberra, 2022.

This is another one from the same place on the next day.  We’ll get to Photoshop soon and one of the things you do in Photoshop with infrared images is swapping channels.  There’s a way to get a profile in Lightroom that does this so I was able to incorporate a red/blue channel swap in this image.  Such a profile is complex to set up, though you can read of this process or purchase swap profiles here.

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Ducks and Ducklings, Mt Ainslie, 2021.

This is an image from out the back of where I live, during a COVID lockdown.  Processed entirely in Lightroom except for neutralising the colour of the water at the bottom in Photoshop, because even with recent Lightroom improvements, masking in Photoshop is much better (Capture One was also possible).

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Carillon in early Spring, Canberra, 2021.

I recently tried processing infrared images in Capture One (which I have been also using for three years now).  It has very powerful capabilities for adjusting colours and masking, and has layers.  It’s better than Lightroom in many ways though channel swapping is not offered and Photoshop is more powerful for this purpose but can be much more complex.  (However, channel swapping is possible.  You can select, say, a blue 120 degree third, make the maximum -30 degrees hue shift four times, do the same for red (except +30) and save as a preset.)

The above image and the next two are processed in Capture One.

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Bushland on Mount Ainslie, 2021.

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Kangaroo on Mount Ainslie, 2021.

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Kangaroos on Mount Ainslie, 2014.

This was one of the first images I took with my old IR camera.  All the following images are from that camera and also half the preceding ones.  The image you end up with is more important than the camera you take it with.

All images from the one above down were primarily processed in Photoshop.

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Grand Canyon by Helicopter (IR), 2014.

Infrared is good for aerial images because it cuts through the haze, even before any processing.

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Zion Canyon (Mono) (image is actually near Zion Canyon), 2014.

Infrared can also be good for monochrome.  This was processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro but in the last couple of years I have gone to using Capture One.

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Louisiana Bayou Monochromes, 2014.

IR can facilitate deep blacks and high drama in mono.


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Louisiana Bayou Monochromes, 2014.

Photographing people can be interesting in infrared.  Easier perhaps in mono; colour image can require delicate tweaking.

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Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail, 2015.

All of these later images were mainly processed in Photoshop, but what you can do there depends on what you start with.  It’s advantageous to process the images first in Lightroom (or ACR) and you can do this in a number of different ways which each led to a different set of possibilities in Photoshop.

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Waimea Canyon and Na Pali Coast from Above (IR), 2015.

Though some people always process their images the same way, for me there is no set way of doing this, in Photoshop, or in Lightroom or Capture One.  It seems as though each time I process an image I think of a new way to do it..

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Taxi! Taxi!, 2015.

So I’m not providing any recipes because I don’t believe in them and don’t use them.  The key is to look at the essence of each image and creatively explore its potential.

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Kipahulu/ Haleakala National Park, 2015.

In Photoshop, the first thing to do is often channel swapping, usually red and blue channels.  But there are lots of things you can do with channel swapping and you can also combine different effects with layers and masks.

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Kipahulu/ Haleakala National Park, 2015.

Then I may use a Hue/ Saturation layer to adjust or change individual colours.

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Oonartra Creek IR, 2015.

I may use a Black and White adjustment layer in luminosity mode to intensify individual colours.

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Dream Lemurs, 2015.

I may make some tweaks with a Selective colour layer.

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Ocean Harbour Dreaming, 2015.

I may also make a range of adjustments using luminosity masks (for which I use TK Actions though there are other alternatives that may be less complex).

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Ocean Harbour Dreaming, 2015.

Of course, you don’t need to use the most complex method possible.  Simple methods are fine if they work for you (and complex methods may not).  I do think it’s important though to always be experimenting and learning….

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Cazneau Tree, Brachina Gorge and Edowie ruins (IR), 2016.

There is potential technical complexity in processing infrared images but it will not work if it becomes just a technical exercise.  It’s the image that you create that is important, not the process you used to create it.  Whether you spend a lot of time doing complex things is ultimately irrelevant, the objective is simply to create Great Art.

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Flinders Ranges Monos 3 IR, 2016.

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Cazneau Tree, Brachina Gorge and Edowie ruins (IR), 2016.

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Parachilna Ruins (IR), 2016.

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Return to Adelaide (IR), 2016.

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Yaxha and Topoxté (IR), 2016.

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Tikal Monochromes, 2016.

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Salton Sea (IR), 2016.

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Salton Sea Monochromes, 2016.

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Sculpture Garden, NGA, 2016.


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KL to KK (Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu), 2019.

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Mount Tamborine, 2021.


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Ashoka (he’s actually a red Burmese), 2021.


I have deliberately refrained from giving detailed methodology and screen shots partly because the article would get too long but more because I think it’s counter-productive.  There is no correct way of doing this and your own individual approach is for you to discover.

I will however, supply a couple of links for further reading.  You can find more with web searches:


Digital Photography

 I gave some of my old cameras and lenses to a friend who was a professional photographer in the film era but lost his equipment through fire and theft and has not photographed for many years.  So this is a brief summary of what has changed.  Hopefully it will be of interest to others as well.

This article doesn’t include an introduction to Photography.  You can find one here.

Digital photography is far more accessible than film was.  It is simple and cheap if you just buy a camera with a kit lens and set it on Program mode (or use a phone), blast away, and upload JPEGs to Facebook .  But to do it seriously is both much more complex and much more expensive than it used to be.


Carillon, Canberra 1988, Part of French contribution to Bicentennial, 5×4 film.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.).




Red crested cranes in river before dawn, Hokkaido, 2012.


In the film days, you used a film which was a given ISO (originally called ASA) and now you can select an ISO for each shot.  But there’s more to it than that:

You can shoot JPEG or RAW (or both).  JPEG has your settings baked into the image and you degrade it if you later edit it.  Photojournalists may shoot JPEG so they can quickly deliver final images to their editor but for most people in most situations, shooting RAW is preferable.  JPEG has a limited gamut (sRGB) whereas RAW captures what the camera can (approximately LAB gamut).  This implies processing and more on that later.

Film had a rounded shoulder in its transition from highlight detail to overexposure, or from shadow detail to underexposure, but for digital, the transition is much more abrupt, so you need to be more careful about overexposure in particular.

The histogram is an invaluable aid to exposure.  It shows the tones, shadow to highlight, left to right in a box.  The shape of the histogram can vary but a line on the right edge is overexposure; a line on the left edge is underexposure.  Usually you want to avoid that but sometimes underexposure doesn’t matter and sometimes specular highlights make the right edge of the histogram irrelevant (eg live music).

In general you want to expose to the right – in other words, not have any blank space on the right of the histogram.  This is because detail captured decreases exponentially from the right of the histogram to the left.  In other words, the detail is in the highlights, not the shadows.  There’s a complication here though because the histogram on the back of the camera shows an sRGB image but as long as you’re shooting RAW you have something like an extra two-thirds of a stop of highlight detail available.  (It is a good idea to set the camera histogram to show aRGB but it still doesn’t make much difference).

You can also set the camera to bracket exposures where the contrast range may be too wide for a single exposure, and combine them later in processing if required.  Three exposures two stops apart is perhaps a good place to start for this.  I often leave the camera set for exposure bracketing when shooting landscapes on the fly because I may not pick when I actually need to bracket.  In many cases I may find it was not necessary so I delete unwanted images.  Others may prefer to be more economical in their culling and shoot single images where possible.



Cape Nelson 1987, Arca-Swiss 5×4″,90mm Linhof Angulon, f6.8, 4 hours, Fujichrome 50


With film, the rule of thumb for minimum hand-held shutter speed was the reciprocal of the focal length (eg 1/100 sec  for 100mm lens).  The greater acuity of digital means you may need to add a stop or two (eg 1/200 or 1/400).  This changes again with more modern lenses and bodies with image stabilisation (vibration reduction).  It varies by individual though so the best way to understand what shutter speeds you can hand hold at is to do tests by focal length.

With DSLRs (apart from very cheap ones where this may not be available), for maximum sharpness in landscape images, you should use a tripod and lock the mirror up and use a remote release (or the self-timer).  Or even better, you can use live view which focuses directly onto the sensor with the mirror up.  (… though there are some limitations in the early implementation of this in the Nikon D3 for which this is written so that it may be advantageous to use the self-timer).

Mirrorless cameras of course do not have a mirror to flip but there can still be shutter slap to reduce sharpness.  This can be avoided by using electronic shutter except for artificial light or some cases of marked subject movement.

One of the few advantages of film was with star trails because you can hold the shutter open as long as you like (8 hours was the longest I did).  With digital cameras you are limited by battery often to 30 minutes to an hour, though with the phenomenal battery of the Nikon D3 this may be as much as 6 hours (I tested but don’t remember my findings clearly).

Nightscapes with stars in focus weren’t common in days of film (or maybe I just wasn’t aware).  For a starting point on exposure and shutter speed, refer the NPS Rule.  Phone app PhotoPills can do NPS calculations and also display where the Milky Way will be on the view through your phone.



Lake Hume, 2006 (6×17 Film)


There was much more use of filters in the days of film.  This included skylight filters and coloured gels (for commercial portrait photographers) to modify the colour balance of the film.  This is no longer required because you can either do it in camera or in post-processing.

UV filter are not required in most circumstances.  They don’t really protect lenses (though lens hoods do) and can accentuate flare.  The exception when they can be useful is for sea spray and desert sand storms.

Polarising filters are not much required in general landscape photography any more.  They can overpower skies and you can adjust those in post-processing.  They still have their uses though for dealing with reflections in water and for enhancing colour in forests, especially wet ones.  For DSLRs you need circular polarisers though instead of the old linear ones, though linear ones are fine for mirrorless cameras.

Apart from polarising filters, the most likely filters to use these days are neutral density filters, so you can get a daylight exposure of say five minutes for smooth clouds and water surfaces.  You may also need a dark cloth over the camera to prevent light leaks.  This can look impressive and I do it occasionally though I also find it a fashion trend tending to a bit of a cliché and generally prefer to do my long exposures without filters after dark.

When shooting black and white film, filters translated the colours in different ways.  You can still do that if you are using a Leica Monochrom or when using inbuilt filters while shooting JPEG in mono, but there is little point if you are shooting RAW.  You end up with a colour image and while you can still apply mono camera settings to it, you have much greater power for monochrome conversion in post-production.  It can be useful though sometimes to set your camera for a mono display to aid your composition even if your objective is not monochrome.


Other Camera Operations

Bearded Dragon, Mt Ainslie, Canberra, 2019 (focus stacked)


I have already mentioned automated exposure bracketing. 

You can also generate panoramas either hand-held (for distant panoramas) or on a tripod with varying degrees of complexity and expense for additional equipment. This requires separate exposures and overlapping by about 20%.

Another option is focus bracketing – combining multiple exposures at different point of focus to get a greater depth of focus than would be possible in a single exposure, especially but not exclusively for macro.  Stopping down to f8 or f11 helps.  On older cameras like the Nikon D3 you have to set the focus manually but many more recent models have various forms of semi-automatic focus bracketing.

All these operations require post processing, and I will cover that under the Processing section.

There is also the option for time lapse photography and video but since I have not done these I will do no more than mention them.


Lens Calibration

Deception Island, 2011.


DSLRs have a sensor that records the image and another sensor for autofocus.  If the two get out of whack for a particular lens and camera, the lens may be consistently front-focusing or back-focusing. 

Your camera may be able to record correction values for each lens.  This will not be the case though if you have a lower-range model and most cameras can only record one value for a zoom lens.  You determine those values with a testing utility.  I use FoCal; others may consider Lens Align simpler and cheaper.  Some people don’t bother.  It’s not an issue for mirrorless cameras (or when using live view on a DSLR).


Tripods and Monopods

19 Twenty at the Abbey, Canberra, 2020.

Compared to the film days, tripods can now be carbon fibre as well as aluminium (or wood).  Aluminium tripods are cheaper but carbon fibre ones are the way to go where possible because they are lighter, more durable and more vigration resistant. Cheap tripods are still counter-productive but I suspect they’re not quite as rickety as they used to be.

For a detailed review of tripods and monopods, see this site.

Also here is a review of a new version of my favourite ball head, from Acratech.  Its open design makes it ideal for outdoors, beause it is easy to clean and doesn’t get grit around the ball.



Crested Tern, Montague Island, 2019.


You can use applications to plan landscape excursions.  For example, The Photographer’s Ephemeris allows you to see the hours of different measures of twilight at a particular date and location, and you can even determine when the sun will peek out over a mountain at sunrise to illuminate your subject.  (The latter capacity does take time and dedication though).  I’ve already mentioned the phone application PhotoPills.



Verraux’s Sifaka, Madagascar, 2015 (IR)


If you are planning to shoot JPEG-only, with all the shortcomings that entails, you will still need an basic photo editor/ image database such as ACDSee Pro.

Most people will want to shoot RAW and that implies post-processing with a RAW processor and a pixel-level image editor.    In general I recommend the Adobe Photographic Plan for $14.29 per month.  This is primarily the desktop-based Lightroom Classic plus Photoshop and includes various capacities for processing on the web including on phones or iPads.  I often use FastRawViewer for the initial cull; it is quite cheap and the only way to get an accurate histogram of a RAW file.  Lightroom Classic is a very good RAW Processor, an excellent image database, very good for printing and has many other capabilities that alternatives do not.  It is also very good for very quick adjustments.

Note that image selection requires some processing including exposure correction and perhaps some cropping.  Lightroom‘s Auto Tone gives a very quick starting point.

However, I also use Capture One and often edit in that.  It is a superior editor, particularly for layers, masking and control of colours but is not as good as an image database and does not have many of the capabilities of Lightroom.  The learning curve is steeper than Lightroom though. You can buy it subscription of stand alone and it costs a little more than the Adobe Photography Plan.

Other alternatives for RAW processing are Luminar, On One Photo Pro and DxO PhotoLab.  I haven’t used any of them but according to reports I have read, Luminar and On One are not really options but DxO might be.  If you’re not subscribing to Adobe, you still need a pixel based editor which is likely to be Affinity Photo.  It is quite cheap and capable though not as powerful and Photoshop.  For example, only Photoshop has the capacity to invent missing data using content aware fill.

It requires care to make a choice of RAW processor though because if you change your mind your capability to export processed files to another application will be very limited.

I also sometimes use TK Actions which operates inside Photoshop to adjust images using luminosity masking, in other words, particular tonal ranges of an image.  This can be very powerful but is extremely complex and requires experience in Photoshop.

You can do mono conversions in Lightroom or Photoshop but Nik Silver Efex Pro is more powerful and I find Capture One is better again.

There is a variety of ways to do HDR processing which can be quite realistic, not the garish results that Photomatix used to champion.  The easiest way is in LightroomPhotoshop is a bit more accurate, especially if you have registration issues or moving objects between the frames.  There are also various manual ways to do it in Photoshop and there are various third party applications, of which I occasionally use SNS-HDR.

Panoramas you can also do in Lightroom or Photoshop.  My favourite utility is AutoPano Giga but it was bought out by GoPro and closed down, so you can’t buy it any more.  The best high-range utility is now probably PTGui though there are many other simpler ones.

You can process focus stacks in Photoshop (though not in Lightroom) and the main third party programs are Helicon Focus and Zerene Stacker which usually work better than Photoshop unless you have registration issues (eg from shooting hand-held).  I prefer Zerene Stacker as it has better editing capabilities.

I have much more detail in A RAW workflow … and Alternatives.



Moai, Ranu Raraku, Easter Island, 2011.


Assuming we are talking desktop computer, the main requirements for an up-to-date machine are lots of RAM (at least 16GB), adequate storage and processing on M.2 NVMe SSDs. 

Photographic monitors are important especially if you intend printing or to have images printed.  Eizo are the best, NEC nearly as good and somewhat cheaper (though Image Science no longer recommends them because NEC Australia does not guarantee against dead pixels) and some Benq monitors are good and more affordable.  All other monitors are likely to be a compromise.  Large monitors are good; 4K is not necessary.

Backup is also important.  You should have three copies of your images, including a remote copy which can be in the Cloud.

I have written a few articles on these matters:



Aboriginal concert, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1984?, IR colour film plus sabbatier effect.


Digital printing has greatly improved since the days of the fume room.  You don’t need to dodge and burn each print, you do that to the image before you print it and then when you get it right it’s repeatable.

(There is one minor annoyance in terminology though.  Dodging in Photoshop is making parts lighter whereas burning is making parts darker.  That’s because the early Photoshop designers were black and white printers, which is a negative to positive process.  When printing Cibachrome it was the other way round.  Dodging made parts darker whereas burning made parts brighter.  Printing from slides was a positive to positive process.  And so is digital processing, so the terminology is the wrong way around.)

There is also a great variety of papers with a wide range of effects, quite unlike the limited range for black and white let alone colour in the film era.

You don’t get good quality prints from Harvey Norman, Office Works or similar places and custom prints are not cheap.  Even if you intend to mainly get prints made by a custom printer, it may be worthwhile to also do your own, especially if you will print more than a few.  Then you will have a better understanding of preparing images for printing on different papers and after all, arguably, if you get someone else to make your prints, they aren’t entirely your own work.

I have also written a range of articles on printing:



Pimilea Physodes, Australian National Botanic Gardens, 2020.


Your comments are welcome. 

  • Have I missed something? 
  • Do you have a different point of view?
  • Would you like more information on something?

Technical Posts


Links to technical posts on this Blog….




RAW Processing







A RAW Workflow … and Alternatives

This post is of interest to people who use cameras and process images.  I originally wrote it for the Canberra Photographic Society.



There is of course no ultimate workflow for processing RAW files. Everyone will have a different approach. So I’m not offering a recipe. However, there may be some ideas or information that you can adapt to your own unique processing style.

  • The first part deals with why you might want to assess images using FastRawViewer (the only way to see an accurate picture of a RAW file) and why you might want to consider bracketing files.
  • The second part shows a way to quickly process images in Lightroom using Autotone as a starting point.
  • The third part is a somewhat detailed survey of alternatives, including Fuji-specific issues, plug-ins, other RAW processors, Capture One and Luminosity masking.

There is something for everyone and it covers quite a lot of ground so some may prefer to come back multiple times for different sections.

The most important thing in Photography is to use your own vision to produce an image the way you visualise it, not what the camera or computer decides for you, or what fashions dictate. Post-processing is a very important part of that.




Otowa Bridge at dawn, Hokkaido. This is a stitched panorama with very little other processing. All images benefit from some processing, a few require very little.


Part 1: Why?

Why RAW?

RAW files offer potentially greater quality for both tonality and colour than JPEGs though they do require processing. A JPEG file is a subset of a RAW file with limited capacity to make further changes. Some people choose to shoot JPEG so they don’t have to process the image but that only works well if your subject has a limited tonal range and you expose accurately.

For any exposure, it is better to “expose to the right”. This means that the histogram for an image in your camera should be as far as possible to the right side without there being a white line shooting up the border which indicates overexposure. There are partial exceptions to this where bright lights are part of your image such as concert lights, streetlights, the sun or specular highlights. Exposing to the right is important because there is much more information in highlight areas with detail than in shadow areas.

A histogram with a solid white line to the right, indicating overexposure

Your camera shows a histogram for a JPEG file, not a histogram for a RAW file. (Well, unless you have the rare and expensive Leica Monochrom). This makes exposing to the right straightforward if you are shooting JPEG but more mysterious if you are shooting RAW. Usually for RAW you will have about two-thirds of a stop extra highlight room from what the histogram shows (and shadow room) but that varies for different cameras, exposure situations and probably lenses. Your camera “blinkies” are also based on the JPEG histogram.

If parts of your image really are completely overexposed, those parts will have no detail and there is nothing to recover. Similarly with shadows that really are completely underexposed. But if your image is just generally underexposed (and not out the the left of the histogram), you may still be able to recover a viable image, perhaps with some increase in noise. Modern camera sensors have greater dynamic range (they can record a greater range of tones) so there’s more leeway than there used to be.

I shoot RAW because the dynamic range of a scene is often greater than a JPEG can capture. I often bracket when shooting landscape because the dynamic range is often greater than a RAW file can capture. I also shoot RAW because I am interested in the best image quality I can get. A JPEG is what the camera sees but I want more than that. For live music I want to express the music, for landscapes I want to create the feel of it or create something entirely new from it. Photography for me is about creating images, not capturing them, and the exposure is only part of that.



Why Bracket?

There’s usually no point in bracketing when the subjects are moving, such as live music, wildlife, street photography and most portraits. It becomes useful in landscape and architectural photography. Sometimes, even when parts of your image are moving, you may be able to deal with that later and may want to bracket for the parts that are still.

There are three reasons for bracketing:

  1. Focus bracketing (For a greater depth of field than a single exposure)
  2. To accurately expose to the right
  3. Exposure bracketing (For a larger tonal range than a single exposure)

Focus bracketing is relevant in specific circumstances and I will briefly touch on this later.

Bracketing for accurate exposure to the right is a logical way to find the optimal exposure for a single exposure, bracketing upwards by say third stop intervals. I must admit it’s not something I’ve ever bothered to do.

Exposure bracketing is the most common reason. You bracket because the range of tones in a scene may be greater than the dynamic range of a camera. It’s often a good idea to bracket all your shots and work out afterwards which exposure or exposures to use. You may then end up with a more accurate exposure or you combine the exposures later in an HDR application or manually in Photoshop.

If you’re using a mirrorless camera, it’s easy to determine how many exposures you need because you can look at histogram and blinkies and manually change exposure to see the effect before you take the photos.

Further reading: When in Doubt, Bracket by Iliah Borg. Also: QAD HDR: Expose to the Left and Right by Thom Hogan


Why FastRawViewer?

In order to determine which images you want to process, it is obviously important to determine which ones are correctly exposed.

We have already seen that your camera shows you a JPEG histogram (in the sRGB colour space), which is much smaller than the tonal range that your sensor can capture in a RAW file. Similarly, your monitor is sRGB or aRGB and printer somewhere around there so neither your monitor nor your print can show you the full range of a RAW file. So even though Lightroom uses ProfotoRGB as its working space, which is probably similar to your camera’s sensor, it cannot use that to display the image and therefore does not use it for the histogram. This also applies to any other RAW processor except for FastRawViewer.

Many people are using Photo Mechanic or ACDSee for image review as they have both been around a long time (since 1994 for ACDSee and since 1998 for Photo Mechanic; FastRawViewer came out in 2014). However, they don’t show you a RAW histogram and they are also much more expensive. They do have additional functionality but Lightroom has that functionality as well. FastRawViewer is the only way you can see an accurate picture of the exposure of your RAW file. It is also cheap, at $A32.

So I use it to help determine which images I may wish to process and I will show you how in due course.


Why Lightroom?

Lightroom is a RAW processor that mainly makes overall changes to your files and includes image management and bulk processing capabilities. Photoshop is a pixel-level image editor that allows complex regional changes and generally processes one image at a time. If you’re getting into image editing, it’s usually better to start in Lightroom, which is much more accessible.

I should add that when I say Lightroom I mean Lightroom Classic CC 2019. If you’re using Lightroom 6, use of FastRawViewer will still apply but I’d stay away from the [Auto] button, and most of the more advanced features of Lightroom I touch on will not be available.

If you’re using Lightroom CC, it’s currently a cut-down version of Lightroom Classic CC and I don’t know how much will apply. Perhaps in time, all functionality will be there.

If you’re using Bridge CC and Adobe Camera RAW, most of this article will still apply but Camera Raw will not allow you to bulk process with the [Auto] button the way you can in Lightroom.

Lightroom and Photoshop are the industry standards and most people use one or the other or both. There are alternatives though. ON1 Photo Raw, Skylum Luminar, DxO PhotoLab and Capture One Pro are the main alternatives to Lightroom. Affinity Photo and Photoshop Elements are alternatives to Photoshop.

Capture One has been around longer than Lightroom (2002 vs 2007). Martin Evening does an interesting comparison of the two and finds that some people’s claims of better sharpness for Capture One are simply different initial settings that can be easily changed, they both have advantages over the other and they are more similar than most people think.

ON1 Photo Pro, Luminar and DxO PhotoLab are more recent competitors and many of their controls copy those of Lightroom. If you are using one of those then read on by all means though I suspect much of what I have to say on Lightroom for the [Auto] button and some recent changes may not apply.

Matt Kloskowski has some interesting articles on The state of post-processing and photo editing and Is there a Lightroom replacement?

I’ve been using Lightroom since Beta 1 and Photoshop since I think Version 5 and feel no need to switch. I think the Lightroom/ Photoshop subscription is good value and while I can understand that people with erratic incomes may prefer standalone applications, if you purchase all the upgrades, the cost may end up about the same. If you’re using one of the programs just mentioned, there’s probably no need to switch but if you’re using a free editor you will likely benefit from considering alternatives. This article refers to people processing RAW files on their computers and will probably not apply to most people using their phones (I don’t use a mobile phone myself).


Why Auto Tone?

The Auto Tone (or just Auto) button in Lightroom is on the Basic panel of Develop. It used to be a waste of time but a recent update has introduced artificial intelligence based on a database of photographers’ processing. So the effect is customised for each image.

There are two advantages of this. One is that it allows to compare images without having to manually adjust many of them. In particular, images can look quite different at different levels of exposure and if you compare differently exposed images, you may select the wrong one. So if you are not using the [Auto] button, in order to determine which you want to prioritise, you will likely need to adjust images for at least exposure using the Quick Develop controls in the Library module.

The other is that it speeds up your subsequent workflow. The closer you start to your final intention, the easier the processing task. So I find it useful but I stress, only as a better starting point.



Part 2 Process

Importing to Lightroom

Lightroom Import module

I import my files into Lightroom, assess them in RawFileViewer, then update the files in Lightroom. Others may prefer to copy the files to disk, assess them in FastRawViewer, then add them to Lightroom. Nothing wrong with that, but there are a couple of reasons I prefer to do it this way. First, I don’t delete any files that I identify using FastRawViewer, I mark them for deletion, so I’m still going to import them into Lightroom anyway. This is because that my “good” copy of an image may later prove to have something wrong with it and I may want to look at alternatives I earlier discarded. Also, I’m comfortable with the semi-automated interface of the Lightroom Import module and feel I’m less likely to make a mistake than doing it manually.

Top right of Import Dialogue

There are a few options I select when importing images.

I select Build Previews: 1:1. This creates a full-sized JPEG that Lightroom can use when you zoom into an image in the Library module, thus speeding up the process. There are a couple of other options. Standard previews are full-screen previews but not large enough to be used when you zoom in to 100%, for example to check sharpness. Embedded & Sidecar Previews are from your camera, so Lightroom doesn’t need to generate them. They are usually roughly equivalent to standard previews, except for Fuji and Olympus and maybe other mirrorless cameras, where they are smaller and not useful. They speed up import but Lightroom regenerates them to standard previews when it gets a chance, so they may slow down editing. None of these “normal” previews have any effect in Develop.

I also generate smart previews. They are very small RAW files that still retain detail and speed up operations in Develop, including zooming in to 100%. They have no effect in the Library Module. Both kinds of previews slow down the import process but speed up subsequent editing.

[Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates] is an obvious option to check. When I am travelling I will also check [Make a Second Copy To …] to create a backup to an external disk.

I have also selected a custom import preset that I previously created (The selection for Develop Settings). I have several of these, mainly depending on what camera I am using.

You may also choose to add keywords at this stage that are common to this batch of files.



Creating an Import Preset

Workflow 3a

Presets Pane and New Develop Preset dialogue box.

I use import presets to speed up my process, to make by default the changes I want to make to all images. Otherwise, I might end up making the changes image by image or forget to make them.

To create an import preset, you start with an unedited image in the Develop module, make the changes you want to be your default. Then you click the [+] in the left pane to the right of Presets. This produces the dialogue as shown, so you can specify what you want to save and click [Create].

One of the things I include is a default sharpening setting, such as the presets Adobe provides (shown above). They don’t work so well for Fuji files though, which require a different kind of sharpening, so in this context, different presets.

I used to have a set of default values for the sliders at the top right of Develop (Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks) but I don’t any more since I’m using the [Auto] button. These came from Michael Clark’s A Professional Photographer’s Workflow.

I also make some choices for Lens Correction. I check [Remove Chromatic Aberration] because why wouldn’t you?. Conversely, you should probably leave [Enable Profile Corrections] unchecked unless you know your camera does not write profile corrections to RAW files for any of your lenses. In the screen capture above, you can see the note at the bottom Built-in lens profile applied. In other words, the camera has already written a profile into the RAW file. In the case of fisheye lenses, where you might want the image uncorrected, corrected or to use a different method of correction, but you can always change the checkbox later.



Assessing Images in FastRawViewer

I now open FastRawViewer to assess images.

FastRawViewer screen, As with all images, you can click to see it larger, though for the screen fragments, there’s no point. They stay small.

Top right of FastRawViewer screen above, some of the key information.

FastRawViewer shows an actual RAW file histogram. The image above is a middle image in an exposure stack. The range of tones is too great for a single exposure so parts of the image are overexposed (with no highlight detail) and other parts underexposed (with no shadow detail). As well as the histogram, we can see as a percentage, how much of the red and blue channels are underexposed and how much of the green channel is overexposed.

Not all images should be discarded just because they have overexposed or underexposed regions. Live music, night shots and shots including the sun may have overexposed elements and some specular highlights may be fine as they are. Similarly, although it is usually desirable to have detail in the shadows, in some cases and in some places it may not matter. FastRawViewer gives you an accurate picture of highlights and shadows. Other applications could show an image as having both blown highlights and black shadows whereas neither may be true.

You will notice at the bottom of the above overall screen that I have assigned colour labels to images. Red ones are marked for deletion. By default, if you use the recommended FastRawViewer shortcut key for deletion, it moves the file to a subdirectory (and doesn’t assign a red flag). I don’t see the point of that because moving a file is slower than changing metadata so I use red as marked for deletion. I also use green as the first image in a stack (whether bracketed for exposure, focus, panorama or a combination), yellow as subsequent images in a stack and blue for information signs (in this kind of travelling anyway). I may also assign one star to an image identified for processing.

I mainly use FastRawViewer for assessing exposure and to a lesser extent for assessing sharpness. It can show edge highlights which I find of limited use although you can zoom in and out of 100% view very quickly. I generally prefer to assess sharpness on images with default sharpening in Lightroom. FastRawView also has other capabilities that I usually do not use.

FastRawViewer comes with a useful manual and pressing [F1] shows you a list of shortcut keys. Ones I use include [O] to show overexposed regions, [U] to show underexposed regions, [P] to show edge sharpness highlights, [Ctrl][1] to zoom to 100% on an image where you last clicked and [Ctrl][0] to zoom out.

Workflow 17

You can also define your own keyboard shortcuts with File/ Customise/ Keyboard Shortcuts. Consistent with Lightroom, I have defined 1 for one star, 6 for red label, 7 for yellow label, 8 for green label and 9 for blue label.

Once again, there are two main advantages of FastRawViewer for pruning and selecting images: it gives you a uniquely accurate view of a RAW file and it is faster than Lightroom.

FastRawViewer Review by Nasim Mansurov.



Updating Images in Lightroom

Lightroom stores the changes you make in the catalogue and it can also store them as sidecar files. Most people use only the catalogue because saving changes to sidecar files slows things down. FastRawViewer, though, stores changes in sidecar files and does not update the Lightroom Catalogue, which means you have to update Lightroom for those changes.

(This applies only if the files are already in Lightroom. If you copy them to your hard drive, assign flags in FastRawViewer and next add them to Lightroom, then Lightroom will pick up those metadata changes when you add the files).

Updating metadata in Lightroom

To update the files in Lightroom, I then select them all in grid mode in the Library module and right-click to Metadata/ Read Metadata from Files. (Alternatively, there is the menu command Metadata/ Read Metadata from Files.)

Next, I select all the images with a red flag and press “x” to mark them for deletion.

That works fine with Lightroom. It probably works with ON1 Photo RAW and Luminar, since they copy many of Lightroom’s features. They should either read directly from the sidecar file or if they use a catalogue, there should be a way to update the catalogue.

Some people use Photoshop and Bridge. By default, star ratings came through alright from FastRawViewer to Bridge but the colour flags all came through as white. This is because FastRawViewer is using Lightroom’s labels for colour flags.

Workflow 12

Dialogue box defining labels for colour flags in Bridge.

If you want colour labels to come through from FastRawViewer to Bridge, you can select Edit/ Preferences/ Labels and change Bridge’s default colour labels from Select/ Second/ Approved/ Review/ To Do to Red/ Yellow/ Green/ Blue/ Purple. (If you don’t want to do that, Bridge shows the Red/ Yellow/ Green/ Blue/ Purple text values in the Labels panel at the left. You can select images with text values and use Bridge shortcut keys to assign the correct colour flags).

Marking files for deletion in Bridge is called rejecting them. You can select files with red flags and reject them by pressing [Alt][Del]. Then you hide them by unchecking View/ Show Reject Files.

I would think everything I refer to below for Lightroom will also apply to Camera Raw except that you can only process one image at a time.



Auto Tone

In our Lightroom workflow we now apply Auto Tone. With all images still selected in Grid Mode of the Library Module, I select the Attributes Unflagged Photos Only and at the far right click the “Unlabelled” colour. This hides images marked for deletion and also the images with colour labels. I do not need to apply Auto Tone to bracketed images and I only need to be able to read the images of signs.

Next I go to the Develop tab. At the bottom of the right pane you will see buttons [Sync…] and [Reset]. To the left of [Sync] is the Autosync switch.

Click it up and the [Sync…] button changes to [AutoSync].

Now click the [Auto] or Autotone button in the basic panel. Each selected image is individually adjusted.

Workflow 16

After Auto Tone

To be specific, AutoTone adjusts most of the sliders in the basic panel including Tone sliders of Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows & Whites, and Presence sliders of Vibrance and Saturation. It does not adjust the White Balance sliders of Temp and Tint and it does not adjust the sliders of Clarity and Dehaze.

Workflow 10

Important! Immediately reset the Autosync switch back to show [Synch..] rather than [AutoSync]. If you do not do this, each time you edit an image in Develop when you have multiple images selected in Grid, you will be changing them as well. By the time you discover this, there might be quite a problem to untangle.

I stress again, this is not the end to editing. It just gets you to a better starting point. It does speed up your task but the most important advantage is that it gives you a much better basis for comparing images to assess which to proceed further with.

If you have a Bridge/ Photoshop workflow, you can also apply Auto Tone in Camera Raw, but only to one image at a time.



Further Processing in Lightroom

As I said earlier, I’m not intending to get into detail about how to process in Lightroom and Photoshop because that would require a book or video series and there are lots of excellent ones around, for example: Julianne Kost on Lightroom and on Photoshop. However, I will make a few brief comments and also refer to a few capabilities some may not be aware of.

  • After AutoTone, I will usually make some adjustments to the Tone Curve and Basic Sliders.
  • I may also drag on an area of the histogram in Develop
  • I may increase clarity a little,
  • I may increase Dehaze a little if required and I may adjust Colour Balance.
  • I will straighten the image if it needs it.
  • I will crop as required.
    • I tend to use standard aspect ratios plus a few I’ve defined rather than a custom crop because I feel it helps you see alternatives, I can use standard mattes for prints, and I feel images often look better in precisely a standard aspect ratio (especially square).

I usually leave sharpening at standard and seldom feel the need for noise reduction, even live music shots at high ISOs. (Excessive noise is usually due to underexposure.) I prepare my images with printing to A3+ in mind, for printing a lot larger I might need to be more rigorous in sharpening and noise reduction.

The graduated filter, radial filter and adjustment brush at the top of the Basic panel are all useful for regional modifications. The screen capture shows the radial filter selected (the white circle at the top) with both the brush and the range mask enabled (controls at the bottom, below the main box of sliders).

In the image display, you can use the [O] key to show or hide what is selected. You can decrease or add to that by painting with the brush, and you can restrict the changes to specific colours or tones with the Range Mask. Also, that little down arrow at top right under the word Brush brings up a slider where you can increase or decrease the whole effect.

Those four little squares at top right of the basic panel bring up the Profile Browser. I don’t tend to use Presets (on the left hand side of the Develop Tab), except for specific purposes such as sharpening, because they are saved settings that will overwrite other changes you have made and because I prefer to decide for myself how I want an image to appear. However, I do use profiles for some images. They make an underlying change that doesn’t change any sliders you have already specified. Camera profiles, such as you have in your camera, can be useful, especially perhaps in the case of Fuji cameras. There are also artistic profiles, either as supplied by Adobe or purchased from third parties that I sometimes find useful. They have an aggregate slider so you can calibrate the effect. For me it’s not a case of going for the whole thing and getting a cliché, it’s identifying where an image may be a little deficient and using one to subtly adjust the image. I use camera profiles moderately often and artistic profiles occasionally.

I also print from Lightroom. Printing for me is the purpose of photography and a print has a quality and permanence that a digital image cannot attain. You can get better quality if you do it yourself and in any case, if you get someone else to do your printing it isn’t entirely your own work. Lightroom offers a powerful interface that allows you to save much of the complexity of the printing task in presets. Here are some articles on printing from this Blog:



Launching to Photoshop

For many people, Lightroom may be all they need but Photoshop offers a depth of possibility for regional and pixel-level processing that Lightroom cannot. For some people, Lightroom offers quick processing while others may even spend days on a single image in Photoshop, finessing detail in processing with multiple layers.

Apart from when I use Photoshop for HDR, focus stacking or panoramas, one of my main uses of Photoshop is removing or modifying elements of a photograph in ways that are not available in Lightroom. One of these is content-aware fill and a more powerful new version of this has just been released. With a few images I may get into complex processing with layers and perhaps luminosity masks.

Many profound regional changes are possible are possible through layers in Photoshop. However, it is also a good thing to understand Lightroom or Camera Raw well enough to understand whether they may offer a quick and simpler alternative that may work as well for a specific task and image.

As an illustration of an approach focusing on Photoshop, here is an article from this Blog showing a Photoshop Workflow by Helen McFadden.

As an aside, for people using Photoshop: Have you ever been working with the brush tool and suddenly it turns to a cursor and you can’t use it? I’ve had that happen to me quite a few times over the years and I’ve only just discovered what causes it. It’s accidentally hitting the [Caps Lock] key. That’s some ancient shortcut for an obscure design process. So it just takes hitting the [Caps Lock] again to get the cursor back.



Part 3: Alternatives

RAW Conversion of Fuji Files

There are a couple of issues that are specific to Fuji cameras with an X-Trans sensor.

Some people see artifacts (“worms”) in the fine details of Fuji images. X–Trans files require different sharpening settings than files from Bayer sensors and this problem is caused by inappropriate sharpening. Thomas Fitzgerald has some free Fuji sharpening presets and there is a link on that page to an inexpensive eBook on the issue.

Some people also claim the Lightroom does not demosaic these files well, particularly for landscape files, so they are lacking in fine detail in foliage. Some claim that Iridient Developer (Mac only) or Iridient X-Transformer or Capture One can give better results and others claim they see no practical difference. I can see no difference in most files and where there is a difference you may have to look at the files at 100% or more.

With Iridient X-Transformer, you can still use Lightroom and do a round trip with selected processed NEF files to incorporate the difference. The file comes back as a DNG and you then [Sync Settings …] from the NEF. If you’re interested, this video shows the process and Thomas Fitzgerald has a small e-book that shows you how to set minimal processing in X-Transformer and comes with some relevant sharpening presets. You can get X-Transformer as an indefinite trial that leaves watermarks.

I tried duplicating the output of X-Transformer and Capture One in Lightroom and found most of the difference is from increased clarity for the foliage. I found I could get similar effects by: (1) creating a gradient outside an image to create a mask for the whole image; (2) In Range Mask/ Colour, use the selector tool to select an appropriate green range; and (3) increase clarity considerably and sharpness a little for the selected foliage.


The bright yellow-green is the area highlighted as being “in focus” by the “Focus Mask” in Capture One and is mainly foliage. Rather than the image being in focus at a particular distance, this shows that Capture One uses additional clarity/ sharpening for Fuji files.

However, as of 13 February 2018, there is a new feature in Lightroom that addresses this issue (right-click to “Enhance Details”).

  • If you encounter an error message “requires Windows 10 October 2018 or later”, this is because Microsoft aborted an update last year. In Windows, you need to go into Settings/ Update & Security/ Windows Update/ Check for Updates, select reboot when it finishes, and probably go back in there and select reboot again when your PC comes back up. This may take some time.

This creates a DNG beside the file in Lightroom, rather like Iridient Transformer. For the image above, I found a significant improvement with the new algorithm, better than Iridient Transformer and about as good as Capture One. I had to compare the differences at 100% but the differences were significant.

On my PC (which is fairly fast), it took 15 seconds for the dialogue box to load and it then predicted 15 seconds processing time but took 25. It will be slower on a standard or older PC. Most images will probably have little or no effect. It mainly applies to T-TRANS images where there is fine repetitive detail, particularly with foliage.

Like Iridient Transformer, to save time and space, you can run this on some of your final processed images,to get a new DNG version of your RAW file, and then copy the changes from the original file using [Synch Settings]. This might be most appropriate for an image you want to print large.

The file size changes (and implications for disk space are also significant). The original file is 22MB; the Iridient Transformer DNG is 56MB (2.5x); the Enhanced Details version is 104MB (4.75x); and the TIFF returning from Capture One is 137MB (6.3x), though all the changes are stored in Capture One, I can use JpegMini to reduce it to an 8MB JPEG (0.4x).




Monochrome conversion in easy in Lightroom and Photoshop, and also there are many obscure and complex ways to do it in Photoshop, but I use Nik Silver Efex Pro, both easy to use and versatile. I usually create virtual copies of a set of images in Lightroom, do a quick b&w conversion, and decide from them which to process in Silver Efex Pro.

You can process for HDR (exposure stacking) and panoramas in Lightroom and Photoshop. You can also process for focus stacking in Photoshop. It’s a good idea to explore these if you subscribe before investigating third party alternatives.

For HDR, I also use an obscure Polish program called SNS-HDR and may do manual blending in Photoshop or luminosity masking in Photoshop. I also have Photomatix but I haven’t used it for some years because it used to favour a grungy look I had little sympathy for. The new version looks better so I may reassess that. The other alternative is Aurora. I downloaded a trial to check it out but couldn’t get it to work. Too many options. You don’t need them all.

Apart from using Photoshop to process focus stacking, the main options are Zerene Stacker and Helicon Focus. I tend to favour Zerene Stacker because it has better correcting options. However, sometimes extensive manual adjustment in Photoshop is required and sometimes focus stacking just doesn’t work. Consider combining two images with a flower in front of a mountain. The flower is in focus in one and the mountain in the other, but in the image with mountain in focus, the out-of-focus flower will be larger than the in-focus flower in the other image. Consequently, you’ll get an out-of-focus area around the flower in the combined image that is not easy to correct.

There are many panorama software options apart from Lightroom and Photoshop including some free ones. I use Kolor Autopano Giga which is more powerful than Lightroom and Photoshop but is no longer available from Kolor (though still from B&H).

I also use JPEGmini, which intelligently downsizes JPEGs to a minimum size without loss of detail, and can be a Lightroom export preset.



Alternative RAW Processors

The main reason people look for an alternative to Lightroom is to find a cheaper alternative that does not include a subscription. Personally I find the Lightroom / Photoshop subscription good value at $A170pa for the simplicity of the interface, the functionality it offers and the profusion of videos and books available. Of the alternatives, ON1 Photo Pro costs $A140 to purchase and $A112 to upgrade; Luminar costs $A99 or $219 with Aurora HDR (upgrade cost not specified) and DxO PhotoLab costs $A280 (Elite edition; upgrade cost not specified).

All of them are good RAW processors with some unique features though they all lack functionality compared to Lightroom so none is a true substitute for Lightroom or for Lightroom and Photoshop. This may change though. If you’re going this way to avoid a subscription, you may want to also purchase Affinity Photo as a Photoshop substitute which costs $A80 (no discount for upgrade). Luminar and DxO PhotoLab offer layers though, as a partial alternative to Photoshop and DxO PhotoLab offers Nik U-Point capability.

Another alternative is to use them as an addition to Lightroom because all of them allow round trips from Lightroom. The images must come back as TIFFs (or similar) which are about five times the size of a RAW file.

There are also free versions of Capture One for Sony and Fuji though they are fairly basic and don’t include spot removal.

Another alternative I’ve been ignoring is Lightroom CC, where you store your images on the Cloud, rather than Lightroom Classic CC, where you store images on your hard drive. It currently has less functionality but that will improve over time. The plan for this casts Photoshop aside and instead you have up to 1TB of Cloud storage space. The problem is that it loads all your images from your hard disk to the Cloud. That might be alright if you’re sure you’ll never have more than 1TB of images but if you do, storage space on the Cloud becomes very expensive. I suspect that for many people this is a financial trap.

If you cancel a subscription to Lightroom Classic CC, you lose access to Develop and Map tabs but everything else still works including Import, Export, Print and Quick Develop in Library. If you cancel a subscription to Lightroom CC, you’d lose web storage so you’d need to first ensure you have all images on your hard drive. If you cancel a subscription to Capture One, you can still use the free Sony or Fuji versions. You won’t be able to import files from other cameras but you’ll see all files already in the Capture One catalogue and can modifythem to some extent or export them but not print them.



ON1 Photo Raw

ON1 Photo Raw is a well featured application that comes at a reasonable price.  It works as a browser so you don’t need to import images and it has useful features including layers, HDR and panoramas.  It also has a good capacity to import a catalogue from Lightroom, say 80% effective for the images.

The main obvious drawback is that many users find it slow but there are also other issues that may be of more concern.  It stores all changes in a database in a hidden location on your C Drive.  You should set it to save changes to sidecar files, otherwise if the database becomes corrupted you will lose all those changes.  There is no capacity in ON1 to back up the database.  If you need to uninstall ON1 and reinstall it, you may find it does not uninstall cleanly so you should save a system image before you install ON1 for the first time.  Since it is a hidden system file, I would presume an ordinary backup programme won’t be of use to back up the database, you would need incremental system images.  You may also need to use Acronis to restore a system image to dissimilar hardware if you upgrade your computer and want to transfer the database.

Another potential issue is the since the database is a hidden file sitting on your C Drive, it will get larger over time and may tend to fill up your C Drive, causing performance issues.

So it may be cheap but there are some potentially significant issues to consider and it becomes less cheap if you also need to purchase Acronis.

For more information, see this review by Spencer Cox.  I will update for other applications as other reviews become available.



Capture One

I said at the beginning of this paper that this was just my workflow at the time of writing and that it changes. It’s changing as a consequence of writing this because I’m seriously considering Capture One.

Capture One is a different prospect to the other choices to Lightroom. It’s not cheaper, it costs twice as much ($A480, upgrade $210 or $380pa for subscription paid monthly). And then if you need additional functionality of Lightroom or Photoshop, it costs three times as much.

Capture One was designed for professionals and was originally for use with Phase One medium format digital backs and for sessions in the studio. It has a highly customisable interface which is both a good and a bad thing. I don’t think it’s very suitable for a beginner. Lightroom has all controls displayed on set screens and it is fairly easy to work out most functionality just from a general understanding of how it works. Capture One takes quite a lot of initial study and while the onsite videos and user guide are very good, there is not the depth of videos and articles available for Lightroom and almost no books.


The color editor is very powerful, much more so than HSL or the colour option in the range mask in Lightroom, more equivalent to Select Colour Range or Hue/ Saturation in Photoshop, but easier to use, probably more powerful and does not require conversion to TIFF or PSD. Skin tone controls are also very good and Capture One is also very capable for camera tethering.

Masking is very good in Capture One including fine tuning by using “Refine Mask”. It allows a degree of local adjustment not available in LR, especially in conjunction with the use of layers. There are also four kinds of clarity (and structure) can quickly give effects I don’t think are easily available in Lightroom or Photoshop. For some images I can extract more detail in Capture One.

Black and white conversion is also very good in Capture One. I’ve had some results I haven’t been able to get in Nik SilverEfex Pro.

There are also disadvantages. The Lightroom catalogue can probably be as large as you want but the Capture One catalogue slows down if it gets too large. I’ve read 35,000 and 50,000 but probably it varies. It doesn’t have a History, which is a significant disadvantage. It also doesn’t have Lightroom‘s Map, Book, Slideshow and Web modules, photo organisation is better in Lightroom and very few plug-ins are available. There is also no HDR, panorama or focus bracketing. You also can’t change an image’s Date/ Time if you’ve mis-set your camera when travelling.

Browsing and selection functionality is quite hidden in Capture One and requires significant research to work out how to set it up. Lightroom‘s interface is much easier to understand but Capture One is probably as powerful. (I’m still coming to terms with it). Similarly for searching and filtering.

The printing interface is much inferior to LR. You can’t do side-by-side before-and-after soft proofing, there are no gamut warnings and though you can define printing presets, they don’t include printer settings. I also much prefer Lightroom’s semi-automated output sharpening because you can’t see correct print sharpening on the screen and would otherwise have to work out a strategy for different papers by trial and error.

I expect to subscribe to Capture One. I will also continue subscribing to Lightroom and Photoshop because both have functionality not available in Capture One. It is likely to take several months to develop a new workflow partly or fully incorporating Capture One.



Using Lightroom and Capture One

I am currently using Capture One in conjunction with Lightroom and PhotoshopCapture One is a powerful editor but there are many things Lightroom and Photoshop do that it cannot.  Also, there is no point trying to transfer my images over from Lightroom, so I maintain my Lightroom catalogue which I don’t need to split up.  I’ve only been using Capture One for three months and I’m still feeling my way but it seems better for rainforest, live music under stage lighting and more complex local edits, especially involving colours, whereas Lightroom seems better for straightforward outdoor shots involving people.

Currently I use FastRawViewer and Lightroom for culling and selection.  I import and process some of the selected images in Capture One. I either use Ratings to select images for edit in Capture One, or I first move them to a subfolder in Lightroom.

To export images back to Lightroom, I use a standard directory, then move the files to where they need to go.  I at first grabbed the files in Lightroom by right-clicking the standard folder and choosing Synchronise Folder…,  but it’s easier to define the standard folder as a watched folder and then the exported files just pop up in a subfolder (/File/Auto Import/Auto Import Settings, then /File/Auto Import/Enable Auto Import).  Usually those files are full-sized prophoto jpegs, minimised in size with JPEGmini.  No point to have TIFFs or DNGs, which are much larger.  If I need to work on them in Photoshop, they will be TIFFs.  They may also be TIFFs if I need to print them, though JPEGs are probably good enough there as long as I don’t change them much.



Luminosity Masking

Luminosity masking is making a selection in an image from the lightness or darkness of a tonal range and using that to make a range of changes to the image.

ON1 Photo Pro, Luminar, Lightroom and Capture One have all recently incorporated luminosity masks and it’s been in Photoshop since the digital Middle Ages. It’s in Lightroom in a basic form as the “Range Mask” and similar in ON1 Photo Pro. Capture One has a slightly more flexible form and in Luminar it’s very basic.

In Photoshop it’s very powerful and potentially mind-blowingly complex. You can do it manually but it’s easier to use an embedded application, which you pay for or use in a very simple way for free. David Kingham provides a review of them which includes a very informative but very long video. I have TK Actions, which is the most powerful but requires significant Photoshop experience. ADPpanel is probably more suitable for most and Lumenzia is another alternative. They require a fair level of dedication so don’t feel compelled to explore one. Probably you don’t need to.



Switching RAW Processors

If you’re looking to switch to another RAW processor, your existing files may be a logistical issue. Each application processes files in a proprietary way and you may be able to export few changes to your RAW files unless you export a TIFF, at around five times the size of the RAW file. So if you have a lot of files, this may require more disk space than you have.

The best case is likely to be migrating from Lightroom to ON1 Photo Pro, which will import most Lightroom changes because it is designed as a Lightroom substitute with many of the same commands. Luminar is also working on a tool to migrate from Lightroom. Capture One imports only the most basic changes from Lightroom.

Except as TIFFs, I would think it’s most unlikely you’d be able to import any layer-based changes from ON1 Photo Pro, Luminar or Capture One to another RAW-processing application and obviously not where the functionality does not exist in the destination application.



Application Mortality

Kolor Autopano Giga has recently gone bankrupt, is no longer available for purchase and will no longer be updated.

DxO Labs, which owns DxO PhotoLab and the Nik Collection, has declared bankruptcy but continues to trade and a new version of the Collection is due next year.

Aperture used to be the main alternative to Lightroom, but Apple abandoned it.


The camera market is declining due to smart phones and the same pressures will apply to photographic software. Also at present, China’s and Europe’s economies are not doing well, the US has a boom financed by ballooning debt and Trump is threatening a trade war not seen since the Depression, so a World recession or depression is possible. This would not help.

You would think that Adobe would be pretty secure though Kodak demonstrates that even the mightiest can fall. Phase One (maker of Capture One) has been around for a long time so you’d think they’d be secure though Fujifilm is clearly undercutting their medium format cameras and backs. DxO PhotoLab may be the most vulnerable since DxO Labs is already bankrupt. ON1 Photo Pro and Luminar might also prove vulnerable.

If one of these companies goes under, it might get bought out and maybe nothing changes. Otherwise, you probably have a program that will never be updated and at some point an operating system change might stop it working. You’d have to consider the security of your files.



Backing Up

Backing up is an essential part of every photographer’s workflow.

My data drive is a RAID 10 array which provides extra security but not an extra level of backup because the whole RAID array can fail. I use Acronis to backup to a Drobo and also have a set of backups on disconnected disks. I use CrashPlan for Small Business for my third level of backup, to the cloud (BackBlaze or IDrive is probably more suitable for most).

More on backing up for photographers in an article in this blog here.

There’s also an article in this Blog on Computers for Photography.



Final Comments

The wake of a ketch. Some images require subtle processing.

We’ve looked in this article at a workflow for processing RAW files primarily with FastRawViewer and Lightroom: FastRawViewer is the only program that offers an accurate view of a RAW file; Lightroom is powerful and enables bulk processing.

If you’re starting off I recommend the Lightroom/ Photoshop subscription combo. It is likely to be more comprehensive than the alternatives and more training materials are readily available. I can’t say there’s anything wrong with the other choices I’ve mentioned above though.

I suggest starting with Lightroom and only feeling your way into Photoshop when you find a need for its features. You can quickly come to a basic understanding of Lightroom and do a lot with that. Gradually you may come to understand much of what Lightroom can do. Hardly anyone fully understands Photoshop though many people have sophisticated individual approaches.

Effectively processing a single image is most desirable and it’s also important to have an efficient workflow. Digital photography often involves taking lots of image so it is most useful to have an efficient method or assessing and processing those images en masse. That is the main subject of this article.

Just as buying lots of cameras and lenses is not a substitute for developing your individual vision and getting out there and taking photographs, so buying lots of processing applications is not really a substitute for understanding the ones you have.

I’ll repeat what I said in the beginning: The most important thing in Photography is to use your own vision to produce an image the way you visualise it, not what the camera or computer decides for you, or what fashions dictate. Post-processing is a very important part of that.

I’ve tried to write this concisely for everyone at all experience levels.

Feel free to make comments or ask questions.

New Auto Changes in Lightroom

I am back from Ladakh but not yet ready to start posting on the trip. In the meantime, I will post technical articles I have already published for the Canberra Photographic Society Blog .:

  • Computers for Photography
  • Why Print?
  • What do you need for Printing?
  • How to Print
  • Getting Lightroom to Fly
  • New Auto Changes in Lightroom
  • Backup for Photographers

Following this, I will start posting on the trip to Ladakh, then the Atacama (2015), then the Caribbean (2016).


New Auto Changes in Lightroom


Auto Button

The Auto button in Lightroom Develop module is now actually useful (as of Lightroom CC Classic 7.1 in 20 December 2017).



When you click the [Auto] button, Lightroom now applies artificial intelligence based on the practices of many photographers to make individual adjustments to each image.  This can provide a very useful basis for further adjustments.   It entirely comprises changes in the basic panel and does not include white balance, clarity, tone curve, sharpening and lens correction amongst others.



For example, here is a live music image.  Lights are flashing on and off and one is coming straight at the camera.  This is a difficult exposure situation because the appropriate level of exposure compensation can change moment by moment.  Here the image is significantly underexposed.



So we hit the [Auto] button.  Kaboom!  What a difference!  You can see over on the right, it’s not just that the exposure increases by over one and a half stops, most of the sliders in the Basic panel have changed too.  (Click for larger image if necessary).  How those sliders change will differ for each image.

Of course, the [Auto] button won’t always be right, you will usually need to modify some settings and you can always reverse it and start again.

And we’re finished with this image.  Wwe still need to apply lens corrections, sharpen, straighten, reduce the brightness of the “white” (actually blue) light, crop, maybe adjust some colours and in Photoshop, remove the microphone at top left and the mike stand at lower right.  Where the [Auto] button has got us to is impressive though.


Auto Button en masse

You don’t have to click [Auto] for each image, you can do it for a whole batch of images.

  • Select images in Grid mode in the Library module.
  • Switch to Develop module
  • At bottom right, click the little switch to the left of the [Sync] button to change it to the [Auto Sync] button
  • Click [Auto]
    • Auto changes are appled to all selected images
  • Important:  Click the little switch to the left of the [Auto Sync] button to change it back to the [Sync] button
    • If you don’t do that, any changes you subsequently make to an image in Develop will be applied to all selected images.


Other automated changes via Presets

If you’re going to use the [Auto] button, there are a few other changes you might want to automate:

  • Capture sharpening
  • Lens corrections
  • For Fuji cameras at least, perhaps Camera Calibration Profile

If you start with an unedited image you can make such changes and then save them to a Preset.


For capture sharpening, in the left column in the Develop module under Presets, select Sharpen – Faces or Sharpen – Scenic.

  • Note that this will not work for Fujifilm cameras with the X-Trans sensor.  See instead this article and create your own presets.


Almost always, you will want to check [Remove Chromatic Aberration] and [Enable Lens Corrections] in the Lens Corrections panel at the right in Develop.  (Probably the only exception is if you’re playing around with a fisheye lens and don’t want to use the lens profile).


Fuji cameras have a great selection of camera profiles in the Camera Calibration panel at the right in Develop.  You might want to select one as a default. You can always change it later, for individual images or en masse.  For Nikon, Canon and other brands, this may not be so useful.  Have a look, see what’s there and try the alternatives though.  It’s manufacturer specific and camera specific.


OK, you’ve got some default changes in an otherwise unedited image.  To save them as a preset, click the “+” sign at top right of the Presets panel (three images above).  Then, you can apply them to individual images or groups of images from the Presets Panel (under /User Presets).

To apply as an import preset, select your saved preset under Develop Settings in the Apply During Import panel at top right of the Import screen (The one of mine illustrated is called Nikon Scenic Import).


Auto button and previews

When you import images into Lightroom, you can select to build previews, which can be either Embedded and Sidecar Previews, Standard Previews or 1:1 Previews.  If you later click the Auto button for an image, or especially for all images you import, the image may change greatly as you see it in the Develop module but it will look as imported in the Library module because the previews have not changed.   So what you will need to do is regenerate the previews with the command Library/ Previews/ Build Standard-sized Previews or Library/ Previews/ Build 1:1 Previews.

Therefore, if you are going to run the Auto Button on all images yo import, there is no point building previews when you import.  You should run the presets on import, select all images (as shown above) and run the Auto Button, then build standard previews or 1:1 previews.





Getting Lightroom to Fly


(Pipeline, Hawaii, 2015).



Previews enhance Lightroom’s performance.  They can also help free disk space and restore missing files. We will discuss:

  • What are previews?
  • Speeding processing with smart previews
  • Optimising performance in Lightroom and Photoshop
  • Saving disk space by trimming your Lightroom catalogue
  • Missing and excluded images
  • Regenerating missing images


What are Previews?

Lightroom creates a variety of previews to speed up display and processing of images.

  • Standard previews let you quickly see the image full screen in the Library module.
  • 1:1 previews let you zoom into 100% in the Library module, for example to compare the sharpness of one image against another to determine what to delete or what to retain. This doesn’t apply to viewing images in the Develop module or zooming in one-to-one in the Develop module because there you are accessing the actual RAW file.
  • Smart previews speed viewing images in the Develop module but don’t apply to zooming in 1:1 where you are directly looking at the RAW file. Their original use was to still allow most processing of images stored on a disconnected drive and we will discuss them separately.


You can see the settings defined for your previews in the Edit/Catalog Settings/File Handling dialogue.

  • Standard previews default to your monitor resolution.
  • The setting “Preview Quality: High” relates to thumbnails.
  • You can set to discard your 1:1 previews after a day, a week, a month or never.


Previews - Import File Handling 2

You can define previews when you import files, by specifying a value for “Build Previews” under File Handling in the top right corner of the Import dialogue. Here 1:1 previews are selected, as well as to build smart previews (covered below).

For Lightroom CC Classic (and probably Lightroom CC), under Build Previews you can also select Embedded & Sidecar. This allows you to import the embedded jpeg files from your camera.For Nikon and Canon these are full-size, for Fuji, Olympus and Sony they are reduced size. This may speed the import process but Lightroom will replace them with standard previews as you make changes to your files.


Alternatively, you can select files in Lightroom and use the command Library/Previews/Build Standard Previews or Library/Previews/Build 1:1 Previews.

If you don’t have a problem with disk space you might as well retain 1:1 previews indefinitely and create them while importing files. This slows down import but makes Lightroom run faster in the Library module, especially when zooming in to 1:1 to check sharpness.  If you don’t define 1:1 previews, Lightroom will create them on the fly which may have a significant impact on performance.

Speeding processing with smart previews

Normal previews and 1:1 previews speed operations in the Library Module; smart previews speed processing in the Develop module. They are actually miniature RAW files and save in a folder under your catalogue taking about 2% to 5% of the space of the photos themselves. They were introduced some years ago as a means to let you keep processing while disconnected from your data when travelling. However, they are just as useful to greatly improve response time in normal editing.

First you need to generate the smart previews, which you can do on import, or by the command Library/ Previews/ Build Smart Previews (see second and third screen shots from the top of this article).


In current versions of Lightroom (from CC2015.7 and 6.7), you can select a checkbox to use smart previews instead of originals for image editing. (Edit/ Preferences/Performance).

Changes transfer instantly to the original RAW files, and stay there even if you discard the smart previews. The only limitation is for sharpening and noise reduction; custom sharpening done on a smart preview will not transfer well to the original file. However, if you zoom to 1:1, Lightroom is showing you the original file so it is safe to use smart previews with custom sharpening, as long as you do that at 1:1.

If you are using an earlier version of Lightroom, you need to trick it that your folder is offline. If you close Lightroom, rename the folder say by adding ” xxx” at the end, then reopen Lightroom, you are working with your smart previews. To transfer the changes to your RAW files, you will need to close Lightroom and rename the folder back.

You might retain smart previews indefinitely if you’re not short of disk space. Still, you only use smart previews when you’re processing in Develop module so you may not need to keep them for long. Unlike the 1:1 previews, discarding smart previews works OK.

Optimising performance in Lightroom and Photoshop

The specification of your PC is one of the main factors affecting the performance of Lightroom and Photoshop. I wrote an article about that a while ago. A new generation of chipsets and motherboards has come out but everything else should be pretty much unchanged:

Adobe also provides useful guides to optimising performance in Lightroom and Photoshop:

Saving disk space by trimming your Lightroom Catalogue

One of the ways you can improve the performance of Lightroom is to use an SSD as the hard disk for your catalogue. Since the storage capacity may be small, the size of your Lightroom Catalogue may become a problem. For example, when I put my catalogue on my new 500GB hard drive (an M.2 SSD), I found I was left with less than 10% free space, too little for reliable performance. So I had to find a way to reduce it.

There are four elements associated with the catalogue

  • The Catalogue itself. Mine was 3.6GB. I have seen people advocate clearing Develop versions in Lightroom but that seems to me a waste of time. You lose functionality and only save a couple of gigabytes, which does not solve the problem.
  • Catalogue backups. I had 22.7GB here and you can save some space by deleting old backups but this wasn’t enough to solve this problem.
  • The Cache. Many versions ago, Lightroom benefited from a huge cache but this is no longer required. The default is 1GB and you can have more than that but 10GB will be plenty for most people. Stored cache files may build up to a few GB and you can clear them with Edit/ Preferences/ File Handling/ [Purge Cache].
  • The Previews. This is where all the files were, 391.3GB in my case. Reducing this is not as easy as one might think.

Catalogue backups offer some scope for space saving by changing the drive where you store the backups. You can’t set this from inside Lightroom but you can change it in the dialogue that appears when Lightroom is about to make a backup. It also makes sense from a security point of view to have the backups on a separate drive to the catalogue.

Previews is where all the action is though for saving space. We saw above that you can discard 1:1 previews after a day, a week, a month or never. I had mine set to Never but you’re supposed to be able to remove them with the command Library/Previews/Discard 1:1 Previews. I decided to remove all 1:1 previews for images rated at less than 3 stars (85% of my images) but it only reduced the stored previews by 0.4%. I then read on an Adobe performance guide that this only works where the standard preview size (2560px in my case) is less than half the resolution of images from your camera (4193px for the Nikon D3s). So I reduced the standard preview size to a low number, reopened Lightroom and tried again. That was better but not much. I only reduced the stored previews by 5%.

So that left only one option – to delete the Previews file and start again. In other words, I deleted the folder Lightroom Catalog Previews.lrdata under the folder for the Lightroom catalogue.

Whoompa! Previews to zero! Lightroom still works!

My next step was to create new 1:1 previews using the Lightroom command Library/Previews/Build 1:1 Previews (see previous image). I decided to create them for all my images with 3 stars or more, plus current working folders. That took a long time. More than a day and a half for 23,000 images. After that I had a previews folder 141.4GB in size, 64% smaller than it was. That solved my disk space problem. Lightroom also seemed to create standard previews for all images automatically, which I wasn’t expecting.

It is also worth mentioning that when a new version of Lightroom asks you to upgrade your catalogue, it leaves the old catalogue and its previews in place.  When you are comfortable with that new version, you can save space by deleting the old catalogue as well as its previews and smart previews.

Missing and excluded images

Do you have missing images or images unintentionally excluded from your catalogue?

On the left-hand side on the library module, right click on a folder and select “Synchronise folder…” .


The Synchronise Folder dialogue appears. It may show you have photos in that directory that have not been imported into Lightroom, or photos in the catalogue that are missing on your hard drive.

If [Import New Photos] shows images in that folder that are not in Lightroom, you can click [Synchronize] to import them and see what they are. After the import, you can select them all under “Previous Import” at top left of the Library Module and then click on their folder (left pane in Lightroom) to compare the new selected images with the ones already there. They may be images you want to have in your catalogue or they may be images you meant to delete from the disk but instead just removed from Lightroom.

Missing photos may simply have been moved in Windows Explorer (so Lightroom doesn’t know where they are). If you have some, you can click [Show Missing Photos] to see what they are. You can then click on the little exclamation mark that appears at the top right corner of an image to locate them. Alternatively, the missing images may have been deleted or lost.

However, before you remove any previews, especially 1:1 previews, you should check that you don’t really need them. As we shall soon see, you may soon be able to use the previews to recreate missing images.

Regenerating missing images

A few years ago, I had three hard drives fail within a week, two in my main data drive (a RAID array) and one in my Drobo backup (essentially another RAID array). When the smoke cleared (metaphorically), I realised I had holes in my backups. Whole directories of files now showed in my Lightroom catalogue as missing. Fortunately, I left them there and did not delete the previews. Quite recently, I realised I could regenerate those missing images which were still in my catalogue, using Jeffery Friedel’s Preview Extraction Tool. Because they were 1:1 previews I was able to recover them as full-sized jpegs, good enough to print from.


You can have to copy the regenerated images to a different location, but you can copy them all into a single folder or preserve a whole folder structure. You can also retain image metadata and Lightroom’s metadata including star ratings and colour labels.



  • To increase Lightroom performance by running it on a small fast SSD, you may need to reduce the size of your Previews file
  • You may be able to recover deleted or lost images by regenerating files from the 1:1 previews
  • Standard and 1:1 previews speed Library module operations; smart previews speed Develop module operations