August Meeting Notes: Digital Processing with Tina Carter

Hi Mamas!

On August 22nd, we enjoyed hearing from Tina Carter, a local photographer and digital imaging guru from Adobe.  She has tons of experience working with both Photoshop and Lightroom and, thanks to her day job as a support expert at Adobe,  is well-versed in both programs from a technical standpoint as well.  We sent her a list of questions, so she framed her presentation around those.

Digital editing programs:  Photoshop is an image editing program that’s not just for photographers — it’s used extensively by graphic artists, etc.  This is the program to use if you want to manipulate your images (i.e. make changes to the actual content of your images rather than just the settings).  The advantages Photoshop has over Lightroom include masking, 3D, filters, image sizing, and layering.  These are functions that are necessary if you want to do creative work with your images, such as montages, composites, and HRD.

If you don’t want to or don’t have the time to learn Photoshop, Photoshop Elements includes a lot of the functionality but unfortunately does not include the “cool” stuff that really lets you  manipulate an image.  And although Elements is more user-friendly, it is harder to control due to the limited functionality.  Even though Photoshop seems to have too much stuff, no one ever uses all of it — it’s simply all there for those times you might need it.  Some good references for Photoshop support/training include:

Lightroom is a vertical (narrowly-defined) application for photographers.  It provides the majority of functionality that photographers need to work with large numbers of images quickly.  These functions include

  • importing and file management (using catalogs and folders)
  • tags and keywords
  • ability to apply edits to a large number of photos at once
  • basic workflow modules (library > develop > print > web)

Image file format: Tina highly recommends shooting in RAW (NEF format in Nikon, CR2 format in Canon) if you have the space.  RAW files are huge because nothing has been done to them — all of the metadata about the image is included.  To keep RAW files pristine, all of the metadata is attached as a separate file.  This means that any manipulation you do to the image is saved as metadata in a separate file and your image itself is untouched.

In a JPG, all of the metadata is compressed into the image file itself.  Every change you make damages the file, because it re-compresses it and the lost data cannot be recovered.  However, one way to work around this if you don’t have the space to shoot/edit in RAW is to make a copy of your JPG before you do any editing.  Thus you can keep the original as complete as possible while you edit on the copy.

Why convert RAW to DNG?  DNG is an non-proprietary open format that is supported by Adobe and is the only file format that is being standardized.  There are numerous other RAW file formats (NEF, CR2, KDC, PEF, ORF, etc.), with many being introduced while others are abandoned.  Because Adobe is a well-established company and does not have ties to any particular camera brand, you don’t have to worry so much about your image files becoming obsolete.  In Lightroom, you can choose to “Copy as DNG” when you import your photos, which will save your original RAW file while making a DNG copy in your catalog.  (Note from Wenmei:  This means you will have two very large files for every image, because the DNG copy is saved onto your computer once it is imported.  I deal with this by saving my RAW files on an external drive and import the DNG copies onto my hard drive.  Thus I only have the DNG files on my hard drive and I can detach from the external drive and still work on my images.)

Fixing blurry shots:  It’s hard to completely fix a blurry shot, because the digital information you need in the image simply isn’t there.  However, you can improve blurriness by using the Clarity tool in Lightroom.  The Clarity tool defines color shades, which gives you better distinction of lines.  You can also try to Sharpen the image.

The main adjustments Tina does to every image:


  • crop
  • white balance – use the eyedropper to select a white or neutral gray tone in the image
  • exposure – changes the whole image with more focus on highlights
  • recovery – adds data to the whitest whites
  • fill light – adds data to the darks
  • contrast
  • brightness – adds overall light with more focus on midtones
  • clarity – defines lines between colors to sharpen the image
  • saturation – saturates everything in the image evenly
  • vibrance – increases muted colors while leaving over-saturated colors alone, and doesn’t touch skin tone


  • levels – bring in right slider to open up the highlights, adjust the middle slider to the right to open up the midtones, move left slider to the right to get richer blacks (option + alt keys while sliding will display the high/lowlights in the image)
  • save file (not “save as”) when finished editing if you opened it inside of Lightroom — this will bring the file back to Lightroom

Tips & Tricks

In Photoshop, you can create snapshots when you want to capture a baseline while you are editing.  You can always go back to any of your snapshots to reverse the editing you did after you took the snapshot.  In Lightroom, you can do a similar thing by creating a virtual copy of your image.  Lightroom takes the metadata of the image at that point and uses it as the baseline.

When converting to black & white, you can adjust your gray tones by using the B&W sliders (in Lightroom) or the Adjustment Panel (in Photoshop)

In Lightroom, you can multi-select images in the Library or the filmstrip at the bottom of the Develop module.  The image borders will turn to light gray to show that they are selected, and the first image you selected will have a brighter/white border.  The brighter image is the “master image” and can be used to synchronize settings.

The Lightroom catalog holds all of the metadata, NOT the images themselves.

  • If you lose your catalog, you will still have all of your original images (without any of the edits you made in Lightroom).
  • If you lose your images, you will not be able to use the thumbnails you see in your catalog.   Therefore, it’s a good idea to make a back-up of your images as well as of the catalog.  If you lose one copy of your images, as long as they are named the same and in the same file structure, you can simply redirect your catalog to the location of your back-up copy of images.
  • You need to export your files out of Lightroom (via export, publish, or print) in order to use the edited versions.

Tina backs up her images to an external drive regularly and burns everything to DVDs quarterly.


Because our meeting was a bit shorter than usual (the Fremont Library closes at 8PM, so we did not have our usual after-speaker photo-sharing session), we did not give an assignment for next month.  However, we will be having a follow-up meeting about digital processing in November, in which we will further elaborate on many of Tina’s tips and see how they apply to photographs of children and other people!  Stay tuned!


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