My Adobe DNG chat with Eric Chan

For the past several years I’ve used Adobe’s DNG file format to store the raw image data captured by my digital cameras. I convert my Canon CR2 raw files to DNG early in my workflow and don’t keep the original raw captures. I’ve had great success with a DNG workflow and since DNG files contains the original raw image data, I’ve seen no need to retain the native files.

In every class and workshop I teach, the subject of DNG inevitably comes up. There’s a lot of confusion and uncertainty about DNG. So when researching subject matter for my next book, I thought I’d polish up my knowledge of this essential image file format.

In doing so, I reached out to one of today’s leading imaging software developers, Eric Chan, Senior Computer Scientist at Adobe. Following is a [very minimally edited] transcript of our email conversation. (more…)

Mark Johnson releases Photoshop Workbench Volume Two

Photoshop Workbench Volume Two features episodes 201 – 250 of Mark Johnson’s world-renowned Photoshop Workbench series.  Representing more than 11 hours of inspiring and enlightening Photoshop CS4 and CS5 education, this DVD is an extraordinary value at only $24.95.

Mark’s friendly and conversational approach to teaching invites the viewer to explore a non-destructive editing style that encourages joyful and imaginative use of Photoshop. Topics span the gamut from creative to practical, including Spirographic Splendor, Photoshop CS5’s Pixel Bender Plug-In, and Fixing the Hairline Between a Replaced Sky and the Horizon.

Each Workbench is presented in its original quality and size (1024 x 768 pixels) and the Table of Contents is keyword searchable. To view the complete Table of Contents and to order, visit

Lightroom Catalog Upgrades

Whenever you’re working within Lightroom, you’re working in a catalog. A Lightroom catalog contains all the information about the image files you’ve imported, as well as any adjustments you’ve made or metadata you’ve added to them. The catalog is a file residing on your hard disk; see figure below.

Lightroom Catalog Files

A catalog file is specific to the version of Lightroom that created it. For example, a Lightroom 2 catalog is different than a Lightroom 3 catalog. When you upgrade Lightroom between major versions (such as from v2 to v3) — and sometimes between “point versions” (such as from 3.0 to 3.2) — you also need to upgrade the catalog.

When you launch the new version of the program, Lightroom looks for the default (or most recent) catalog used, and if it finds an older version, you will be prompted to upgrade the catalog. You must allow this upgrade to be successfully performed before you can access your old data with the new program!

Lightroom Catalog Upgrade Dialog

During a catalog upgrade, the Lightroom installer copies your old catalog to a new file and then performs the upgrade to the copied catalog. As a result, you end up with two catalogs – one from the old version and one for the new version.

After you’ve performed a catalog upgrade and confirmed the integrity of all the data it contains, it’s imperative that you remove the old catalog(s) from your system. This will prevent accidentally opening the old catalog when you didn’t mean to.

If you have multiple catalogs from the old version of Lightroom, all of them will need to be upgraded to support the newer version, and then all the old catalogs should be deleted. (If this makes you nervous, back them up first.)

Also, at this point you should completely uninstall the old version of Lightroom.

If you ever launch Lightroom and are unexpectedly prompted to upgrade the catalog (and you haven’t just done a program upgrade)… STOP! If you’ve already upgraded this catalog, don’t do it again – you will just end up with more copies of the same catalog. One of the worst things you can do in Lightroom is work in multiple catalogs without knowing it!

You can always confirm the catalog that’s open by using the Catalog Settings command. On Mac, it’s located under the Lightroom menu at the top left of the screen. On Windows, it’s under the Edit menu.

Lightroom Catalog Settings

Lightroom and Photoshop Noise Reduction Plug-Ins

Recently, a reader of my Lightroom 2 book wrote to ask me about how to integrate Topaz DeNoise into an automated Lightroom workflow.

DeNoise is a Photoshop plug-in that requires its processing to be done within Photoshop (not Lightroom).

This case study illustrates one very pwerful method of integrating Lightroom’s capabilities with processing files inside Photoshop. Here’s my reply to the reader:

Re: integrating DeNoise in your workflow: since DeNoise is a Photoshop plug-in, you would automate the batch process using a combination of Lightroom Export and Photoshop Actions. (In my book, there is some info in the Export chapter about this; I’m adding more to it for my next version on Lightroom 3.)

You’d set up the Photoshop action first. With a file open, create a new action and give it a meaningful name. Then, while recording the action, launch DeNoise and apply auto settings for noise reduction. (You can set up another action that will allow you to manually adjust, too… I’ll explain this in a bit.) Click OK to apply the DeNoise adjustment. Then, with the action still recording, save and close the file. Then stop recording.

If you want to be able to selectively apply manual adjustments during the batch process, all you need to do is activate the Menu option at the DeNoise part of the script. The window will stay open for you to make your manual adjustments, then when you click OK, the Action will resume.

Next, create a droplet from the action. Depending on your version of Photoshop, it will be somewhere under the File menu; probably under Scripts or Automate. With the Create Droplet dialog box open, select your new action, and save the droplet to your desktop. You can move it somewhere else if you want, but put it somewhere it can remain.

Back in Lightroom, in the Export dialog box, select a sample file and click Export to set up all the criteria for your exported files. I’d recommend you keep them in the same folder as the Originals, enable Add to This Catalog and use TIF as the file format. You can use whatever bit depth and color space you prefer.

Next, select the droplet as a Post Processing action in the bottom section of the Export window. (If you move the droplet later, this link will need to be re-established.)

Finally, make sure to save your new settings as an Export Preset.

To process a batch, select all the files you want to run through DeNoise, and export them using that preset. Lightroom will render the files to disk, then one by one open them in Photoshop, run DeNoise, save and close the files.

(The Droplet containing your action will open and process all the photos for you; you won’t need to do it yourself. All you will see are the windows quickly opening and then closing. That’s the “batch process” in operation in Photoshop.)

A key point here is that Photoshop can only apply settings to one image at a time. And each image has to be open in a Photoshop document window for it to be processed by Photoshop or DeNoise. That’s what we use actions and droplets for.

After Photoshop is done processing and saving your photos, they will be automatically added back into your catalog.

I recognize that this is a somewhat compressed explanation; I hope it presents a clear solution. This method is useful for anything you want to automate between Lightroom and Photoshop, especially plug-ins.

Lightroom Slideshows: Going from Desktop to Laptop

A question from a client:
“I have a slideshow on my desktop, and I’d like to be able to play it on my laptop. What’s the best way to transfer the file(s) over to the laptop?  None of the images are on the laptop at the moment.  If I save the desktop slideshow as a PDF, I don’t think the music will go, nor can I replace it when I play it on the laptop.  Is that correct?”

My answer:
“Correct, from Lightroom, Exported PDF slideshows cannot contain music.

The best way to do what you describe:

1. On your main machine (in your master catalog etc.) put the desired files into a Collection, if they’re not already.
2. Right-click/control-click on the Collection name and choose “Export Collection as Catalog”. Choose your desktop as the location and give it a descriptive name. Also enable the option to copy the original (master) files.
3. Copy that folder, with the catalog and all the image files, onto your laptop. It will be easiest if you just copy the folder to the desktop (Finder or Explorer). Using a USB jump drive would probably be easiest for this.
4. On the laptop, open the new folder, and double-click the exported catalog to open Lightroom with that catalog loaded.
5. Set up your slideshow and play it from there.

NOTE: You will also need to copy your music file(s) to the laptop.

ALSO NOTE: This is one of those cases involving multiple catalogs where you will need to check next time you open Lightroom that the correct catalog is loaded, before you continue working!”

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