Tag: macOS

Computer Angst…Solved!

I’ve been going through a fair amount of angst as of late…

Back in October, the week prior to my London Camera Club presentation, my MacBook Pro (2011) began to crap out on me. It was not starting up properly – on the start-up screen, everything that was supposed to be shades of grey became shades of red. At first, I thought, “Right – Product RED; or is this for Breast Cancer Awareness Month” as the shades of red were really shades of pink. Ha, ha – No!

THANK GOODNESS I REGULARLY BACK UP MY HARD DRIVE!!! Did I yell this loudly enough for you?!? I was able to use my school MacBook Air to access the back-up copy of my presentation on my Time Machine hard drive. Time Machine is Apple’s proprietary and wonderfully easy and useful back-up app built into the operating system. I copied the presentation to the MacBook Air and could then add the tweaks I wanted – and voilà, I could present. Whew! Dodged that bullet. Little did I know bullet #2 was headed my way.

In the meantime, I had a presentation at the Halton Camera Club. The MacBook Air performed flawlessly again and the presentation went off without a hitch.

So I took my MacBook Pro into Datamatrix here in Guelph who attempted to fix it. They are a great group of guys who have saved hard drives and other computer woes in the past In fact, I thought they had fixed it until I sat down this morning to do some overdue printing. Same problem! Yikes!

So, I grab the MacBook Air again – which, at 5 years old, is no a spring chicken. It has only a 128GB SSD with only 8GB of RAM. Yet… it is blazingly faster than my MacBook Pro (w/ 16GB of RAM), primarily due to the SSD. I have 5 Chrome windows open with at least a dozen tabs in each, yet hiding it allows me to work with Lightroom as if nothing else is open. I plug in my external monitor – and it works flawlessly. I plug in my external hard drive with my Time Machine backup. It, too, works flawlessly. At this point, I’m thinking I have horseshoes up my a**!

But… what do I do about Lightroom? I have LR on the MacBook Air, but it’s set-up for the school yearbook photos I work on. Will the copy on my Time Machine back-up work? I try double-clicking on the LR catalogue icon – nope. I’m not permitted to write to the back-up. Frustrating, but a very thoughtful precaution! Well done, Apple.

But, what if I copy my catalogue file to the MacBookAir? Wow – the folder is huge at around 20GB with Previews and Smart Previews. Hmmm, all I really need is the catalogue, though, as LR will generate new previews for the few files I use. So, I copy the LR catalogue to the MacBook Air. I then open Lightroom, but not from the Dock as that would open my School LR catalogue. Instead, I double-click on the LR catalogue I’ve just copied to the Desktop and – voilà – it opens… but it can’t find my photos. There are question marks beside each and every folder of photos. Okay, that makes sense, actually. I did move the catalogue, so it broke the file connections, the “breadcrumbs” leading from LR to the photos. I need to “tell”  it where my photo library is. So, I select the top-most question-marked folder (named LRPhotoLibrary) and choose “Find Missing Folder”, then navigate to my LR Library on my backup HD and voilà, my photos blink on, one by one, in the Library view. Whew!

So I begin working on a print job – some “Fiery Sumac” ArtCards for a friend, plus a bunch of other ArtCards. Hmmm… no User Templates. I need to create a new “User Template” for the ArtCards using a copy of a previous one. Finally, all is ready.

When I go to print… Right – I need to install my printer on the MacBook Air. No go… it doesn’t have the drivers installed. So off to the Epson site I go to download the latest drivers for this version of Mac OS (El Capitan) and install them. Done.

But I still can’t print, as this laptop doesn’t have the paper profile needed for the ArtCards. I use MOAB Entrada Rag Natural “Entradalopes”, so I go to the MOAB site, download and install the needed drivers. Still no go. Lightroom doesn’t “see” the profiles. Ugh! I then try the old stand-by and restart Lightroom. Yes! The drivers are there.

Then, it’s just ensuring the printer is set up properly for Matte paper and Matte Black Ink with the Colour Management turned off at the printer. Three minutes later I have a near-perfect ArtCard printed, complete with the titling text I always use for the back of the cards (compliments of going back into the Time Machine hard drive and copying the Pages file I use to generate the text).

Woo-hoo! Success! OMG! This all started around 10am. It took about 90 minutes to set all this up (between answering a few emails and grabbing another coffee), but I’m in business.

It worked because I back-up, regularly. It also worked because I have a system for doing things. It may seem pedantic at times to someone watching me work, but it sure makes a difference when things don’t go as planned. So, to all my photographer friends… BACK-UP! BACK-UP! BACK-UP!!! Do it NOW!!! And, if you are not already doing so, use a repeatable system so that you can troubleshoot and repeat it when things go wrong. If you are not sure you can fix computer on your own, get some help from PC Revive.

Also, a quick shout-out to Apple. First of all, my MacBook Pro gets a lot of use. It has travelled with me everywhere and is on or asleep constantly and here it is 6 years later and only now in trouble. Same with the MacBook Air – still working brilliantly and fast after 5 years, with only 8GB of RAM. And, I have a the Benq HD monitor plugged in as well as my Time Machine back up HD and the printer and I can still flip back and forth between Chrome, Preview, Pages and LR without a hitch or delay.

Lastly – thanks Apple for making Time Machine. Back-ups are flawless and integrated into the OS. Lately, it seems, every time I turn on a computing device I have some kind of error, but it’s not with Apple. Usually its with some stupid website that is trying to do something it thinks I want it to do. So, fingers crossed, I haven’t jinxed anything!

Now – back to printing!

Are you editing your photos?

None of the photographs I make and publish are straight out of the camera. They could be, but they wouldn’t have the same impact as there are always improvements to be made. Besides, I want the photograph to represent what I saw and felt, not the machinations of an inanimate box with optics.

If you are shooting jpegs and you’re perfectly happy with them, then perhaps spending the time to learn and do photo editing is not for you. But, if you aren’t satisfied and you can see improvements to be made then read on…

Just to be clear, I’m editing with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, the industry-standard, fully professional app used by millions of Mac and Windows photographers around the world. However, there is a fairly steep learning curve for LR and it’s not the app to use for casual editing. Years ago, I started up the BYO Laptop course on Lightroom at Mohawk College in Hamilton. After 10 weeks of covering all the basics and some in-depth work on importing, organizing, developing, pre-sets, printing, books and black-and-white etc., users still found they needed to be actively and regularly using LR so as not to forget all it’s intricacies. Lightroom is an amazingly complete app, and I use it everyday, but it can be overwhelming without some good tutorials.

LR’s Before-After view showing the difference editing can make – not significant for this photo, but certainly an improvement from dull to glowing.

If you want to get started editing photos, begin by identifying the photos in your collection needing some improvement. We all have photos that need “rescuing” from mistakes we’ve made like under– or overexposure or poor composition. These are mistakes that should be corrected in-camera, but may be a good starting point for you to learn the extent to which photos can be “processed”. No doubt, though, you probably have others that are just lacking that bit of extra “umph’ (I know, how photographic!) to raise them from good to brilliant. Often it’s a slight adjustment to contrast, a raising of the shadows or taming of highlights or a little extra saturation.

This is where craft meets artistry. Photo editing works best if you have a preconceived “visualization” of what you want the photograph to look like. Many photographers start with a “meh” photo and try to breathe life into it using push-button pre-sets. While this can work, and it can teach you what’s possible, it’s better to start with the vision of what you want the photo to look like, then work towards it by learning what each of the options can do, and not do, for you.

Apple Preview > Tools > Adjust Color brings up this handy photo editing panel.

If this sounds intimidating, start with one of the best but basic editing apps out there – the one that’s already on your computer: if you have a Mac, it’s Preview (not Photos, not yet); on Windows 10, it’s Photos. Now, I can’t speak to the Windows experience because I don’t use it, so have a look at this article for some guidance.

Apple’s Preview is easy to use because you can open a photo already on your computer and make small adjustments to it. If you only want to edit a few JPEG files, Preview is the way to go – have a look at this comprehensive article from (surprisingly!) Forbes magazine. My only caution with Preview is that what ever changes you make become permanent once you hit “Save”. I highly recommend duplicating the photo first and adding “-Edit” to the filename, so that you can always go back to the original if you mess up.

Photos for macOS and iOS is much more complete. You can use it in Simple mode to make moderate adjustments or you can open a dozen or so various panels for a more complete editing suite (see below). It will edit both jpeg and raw files; more importantly, the editing is “non-destructive”, meaning, it is not changing the original file, but writing the edits in the background as a set of instructions that are applied only when you export or print the photo. Photos also allows you to add 3rd party extensions that further extend its capabilities.

In fact, Photos is almost as good as Lightroom. It only lacks LR’s ability to add graduated masks, adjustment brushes and bulk editing. LR is also the best possible photo app for printing, but that’s a whole different blog post.

The best article I could find to get you started with Photos is this one from MacWorld. There are also dozens of tutorials and videos online; all you need to do is Google, “How do I (fill-in-the-blank) with macOS (or iOS or Windows) Photos?” The other part of learning to edit is simply exploring; e.g. What happens to my photo when I do this?, but be sure to use the “Undo” button (or Command-Z my favourite keyboard shortcut!)

macOS Photos offers much more complete editing when you select “Adjust” then the blue “Add” in the top right.
macOS Photos – This is the simplified adjustment panel.

Other photo editors include Photoshop (Mac/Win), Pixelmator (Mac only) and Affinity Photo (Mac/Win). Photoshop isn’t really a photo editor, it’s more of an image compositor with editing adjustments that can be applied to photos. People still use it for editing photos because that’s all that was available for years. It has since been eclipsed by Adobe’s Lightroom which was designed from the ground up for photography. To fill the price gap between free and Lightroom, Pixelmator was introduced some years ago. It has since been eclipsed by Affinity Photo.

“AP”, as it’s known, is currently the leader of the pack for low cost, high-end editing, even giving Photoshop a run: AP is now considered Photoshop’s most capable replacement at about 1/10th the cost and it has a near equally-capable iOS app for newer iPads. An alternative to Lightroom is the more expensive, but very capable Capture One, used by those who can distinguish even higher-quality raw files from Lightroom’s (or claim to, anyway!)

If you’re bent on learning Lightroom (or any photo editing app, actually), give me a call or drop me an email. I can get you up and running in a few hours.

If you want really good black and white, then consider getting to know Lightroom.