Q&A Digital Photography

Digital Help is designed to aid you in getting the most from your digital photography, printing, scanning, and image creation. Each month, David Brooks provides solutions to problems you might encounter with matters such as color calibration and management, digital printer and scanner settings, and working with digital photographic images with many different kinds of cameras and software. All questions sent to him will be answered with the most appropriate information he can access and provide. However, not all questions and answers will appear in this department. Readers can send questions to David Brooks directly via e-mail to: goofotografx@gmail.com or editorial@shutterbug.com, or by US Mail to: David Brooks, PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.


Help Us Out...
To aid us in making “Digital Help” as helpful as possible, please be specific in your query and include components, including software, that you use. David says, “Make me guess the problem and I might guess wrong.”—Editor

Large Monitors Or Just Big TVs?
Q. Your column has long been my favorite and this is my first time for a question. I have a 4-year-old Mac Pro that I want to pass along to a relative with a 30-inch Apple Cinema display. I’m thinking about replacing it with a new Mac Pro and a Sharp 32-inch 4K display. I use ColorMunki to calibrate and profile papers and have been very successful at matching my prints to my display. My question: What is your opinion of the Sharp display for good color work? I’ve been unable to find out much about it and haven’t been able to see one.
Robert Sapirstein
via e-mail

A. You are correct: there are scant specification details available for the 32-inch Sharp display. However, it gets very poor user ratings online at Amazon.com. The reason there is so little substantive specification details is that the Sharp is probably a consumer TV display with an added hookup for a computer. But the Sharp display is selling apparently because for a 32-inch model it is priced rather cheaply.
Would I recommend the Sharp display for professional digital photography use? Absolutely not. First of all, because it is obviously just sRGB color width, for photographers it will only reproduce 65 percent of the color information captured by most D-SLR cameras. No one can accurately edit images when only two-thirds of the image file information is reproduced on screen. For 30- or 32-inch display sizes I don’t have any recommendations other than what Eizo and NEC are offering, and those prices are way beyond what most of my readers would want to spend. Asus and Dell are offering displays that size, but they are more costly than the Sharp, and possibly also limited to sRGB color width—but at least they get better user ratings.

Is Lightroom Slow?
Q. I’m a photo enthusiast and enjoy editing my photos. I switched to Lightroom 5 several months ago and I’m learning the Library and Develop modules. I also make my own prints. I am using a late 2009 27-inch iMac with OS X 10.8.5 and a 3.06GHz Intel dual-core processor with 8GB of RAM. It has a slow ATI Radeon HD 4670 - 256MB graphics card.
I’m finding the editing painfully slow at times, especially with noise reduction and after making multiple edits with the new Spot Removal brush and the Adjustment brush. The activity monitor shows that my free RAM drops to 5 percent on the pie chart and the processor speed seems to max out on the two green bars in the lower right corner of my screen and takes 15 to 20 seconds to return to the baseline.
In light of your explanation, would a hardware upgrade to a new MacBook Pro with Retina display with the fastest quad-core processor and video card and at least 16GB of RAM improve the frustratingly slow speed of Lightroom? I would like to stay with Lightroom and use the Library module database in a limited way. I do like the nondestructive editing feature that enables me to return to re-edit at any time. What sort of simpler and more direct workflows for Raw files would you recommend, as an alternative, that do not involve such a complex database?
Joel Shlian
Via e-mail

A. Based on your remarks, I am of the impression that you are an enthusiast but not a professional portrait, wedding, or commercial photographer. Lightroom is primarily a database to assist photographers who have many clients with a means of keeping track of their clients’ images. Most such photographers work in consistent environments that do not demand a lot of image content editing, as all the shots within a session are very similar. If you shoot a lot of very different subjects in varying environments, then the limited editing capacity of Lightroom, because it functions by adding metadata to a Raw image file, will run very slowly and use up a lot of RAM memory.
If I made a correct guess and you are not a commerical photographer, you chose the wrong application to do image editing and you don’t have a display that reproduces the wide color gamut of Raw images. Raw images are wide color gamut and your iMac screen is just sRGB, so you only get reproduction of about 65 percent of the color in any Raw image file. If you can’t see it all it may be difficult to edit efficiently and accurately, so you are slowed down by both inadequate screen reproduction and trying to edit with an application that makes changes by adding metadata to each image file.
The one hardware addition you could make to speed up processing with Lightroom is to add RAM to the maximum capacity of your iMac. That is most easily and economically done by using the services of OWC (Other World Computing) at www.macsales.com. And if you want to edit at the color depth of Raw, then add another display like the Asus PA249Q or the Dell UltraSharp U2413, and get an X-Rite i1Display Pro color management kit to adjust, calibrate, and profile your displays.
However, if you like to do image editing, you should take a look at LaserSoft Imaging’s SilverFast Archival Suite SE at www.silverfast.com. It does all of the actual editing sequentially using a small screen-size preview and then when each edit is finished it applies all of the accumulated adjustments to the whole file at one time in the background, quickly and efficiently.

Simpler Options
Q. I am anxious to know what your recommendation is for a simpler and less complex option to Lightroom for Raw image editing.
Ken Sparks
via e-mail

A. If you want to do less in terms of manual image editing, then I would recommend trying Organic Imaging 2.0. It is an automated image-editing service that is quite easy to use and supports many Canon and Nikon Raw image files. I use it along with the camera software application to batch convert the Raw files to 16-bit standard TIFF files.
There is no cost to download the Organic Imaging software online (www.organicimaging.com) and you also get to process 250 image files at no cost. If you decide to adopt Organic Imaging after trying it, the cost per image processed is between 10 and 15 cents each.

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chyman111's picture

David, bassed on your answer to this reader's question, it seems to me that you haven't actually used Lightroom recently, or if you have, you really don't understand its strengths. I'm not an employee of Adobe, and I'm not here to toot the horn for one tool over another, but I think you do your readers a disservice by not providing a balanced view of one of the most powerful (and inexpensive) pro-level tools out there. Here are some things to consider:

  • Unless you need to do compositing, masking, or layer editing, Lightroom's editing tools and algorithms are equal to or better in some cases than those in Photoshop
  • Contrary to what you claim, the sidecar .xmp files (or embedded metadata if you're doing .dng files) adds only a few kb to the hard disk, and would not slow it down. The benefit of this is that ALL edits are entirely non-destructive and can be undone. In addition, Lightroom can create virtual copies so you can try out as many different versions of an image without having to duplicate the RAW image
  • Lightroom allows you to apply the same edits to any pictures you want, without having to open each and edit individually. This way, if you have multiple images from a shoot under the same conditions, you can get them all to the same point and then make fine adjustments to each image if you want. Applying batch edits to an entire folder of pictures takes less than a second on my computer
  • Lightroom can be slowed down if you use too many Smart Collections, which automatically monitor all of your images based on criteria you specify
  • Lightroom has many, many features that speed up the workflow and allow me to organize and edit my pictures in one application. To dismiss it as simply an image organizer really misses the whole point of Lightroom. If you had said that about Bridge, it would be more accurate.
  • There are many reasons that most of the photographers I know use Lightroom: It's easy to get spectacular results very quickly, it speeds up workflow dramatically, it integrates nicely with Photoshop when you need to use layers, masks, or more advanced tools, it supports publishing images directly to web hosting sites and printing services such as Shutterfly, Zenfolio, Costco, and Facebook (without having to first convert your RAW files to JPEGs), and finally (perhaps most important for some) it runs as a standalone application and does not require subscription to Creative Cloud.
  • There are many other reasons to consider using Lightroom which I think you have summarily dismissed with your comments to this reader, but your claims about the performance of the tool do not stand up to the test of what most people are experiencing with it. Please reconsider your answer.