Lightroom Hacks – Adding a second curve to your processing

Right now, Lightroom is limited to one curve per file…or so I thought. A happy accident showed me how to apply two different curves to a Lightroom file.

The curve dialog in Lightroom offers us several ways to apply a curve to apply a curve. The most relevant here are the “point curve” and the “parametric”. you choose these by using those icons nest to “Adjust” in the curve box.

Parametric Curve

I had assumed that you could only use one of these, but it turns out that you can use both a point curve and a parametric curve, and that lets you add a second curve adjustment to your Lightroom files.

The catch is you have to be careful with the parametric tool, which I feel is a poorly designed approach to using curves. But used with care, it can help you take just a little more control of your file until later this year when Lightroom gets the ability to use curves in the mask tool.

If you are not using curves, you should. If you’d like to learn more about how I use curves, it is a tool I teach as part of my four session color and black and white processing workshops, and is covered in my upcoming book.

Point Curve

New Highlight Step Wedge

Getting highlights right is a critical part of making fine quality prints. To help me in that, I created a step wedge that lets me see how specific highlight and shadow tones are printed. These values are so important that every ICC printer profile at West Coast Imaging had to pass this test to be approved for production. I’ve got a new version of this step wedge that you should be using. Why a new version? My original was created using Joe Holmes’ Ekataspace PS5 color profile in the days of drum scanning. That version works great in Photoshop, but using Ektaspace causes some differences from the PROPhoto workflow of Lightroom. The new version in PROPhoto RGB allows the brightness percentages to match up with how Lightroom is used. If you’d like a copy of this file, you can get it from this link:

How do you use it? Well that is a much longer story, but a good starting point is to print it out on the paper(s) you regularly print on so you can see how much highlight detail they are printing. On a really good printer profile, you should just barely be able to see the 254 RGB patch. Tell me in the comments how you’ve found to use this tool!

Gigapixel AI for Large Prints

Are you using Gigapixel AI? What do you think of it? I needed to make some large prints for a museum show recently, so I decided to give it a try and Wow!…I’m amazed by this software! It has changed my expectations of what is possible, and is letting me make better large prints than ever before. I can now get 4×5 film like quality at larger sizes, and it really helped with all the large prints I had to make for the museum show, some up to 76 inches wide! It is now a standard part of my personal workflow, and I’ve put together a 2 hour mini clinic so I can walk you through how I use it. Check out the link below for more information:

What Motivates Your Photography?

What motivates you to make photographs? Motivations are so unique to each photographer and what brings them reward from the process. I have friends who find little personal reward from printing, which is a complete contrast with the reward I get from making a print that brings to fruition what I saw and felt, and what I wanted to say.

I was talking with a friend recently that said he would rather be outside than be inside printing, where for me both motivate the other. Going out and making photographs of nature makes me want to make prints that can communicate and express what I saw, and then in the process of making those prints, I am filled with awe and wonder at all that is contained in creation which drives me back into the field to make more photographs and the cycle repeats. 

There is no right or wrong, that’s not the point of this musing. The point is to discover what motivates you! The things that motivate us seem easier to do, make it easier to endure the work or hardships required to attain our goal because it often doesn’t seem like work. 

For me, sitting in front of the computer for hours working on one of my photos does not seem like work. Make no mistake, I am giving it intensive focus and effort, trying to tune my perception to tease out the essence of the subject and the light, and to work through the nearly limitless options that can be expressed through color  and density correction, sharpening, masking, and more. It can be exhausting mentally, often requires obsessing over small details that actually make a big difference, and it can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. For me the reward is worth it. Once I see in my mind’s eye what the photograph could be, it is as if I have no choice but to spend the time necessary to create that vision. The foreknowledge of what I can create makes the effort seem less like work than it is, and makes it easy to enjoy the journey. 

What is sheer brutal drudgery for some is joy and rewarding for me.  But what about you? What do you find most rewarding? How do you use that knowledge to improve your photography? 

What don’t you enjoy? Are you putting off things that can help you grow just because you don’t enjoy them? What can you do to grow your skills in those areas to get better at them, and make them easier so that your dislike of that part doesn’t hinder your photographic goals? What could you learn if you just journeyed a little further to see what is over the next hill? Photography can be both fun and work, and if you neglect the work, you won’t keep growing. 

The answers to these questions will be as unique as you are. The point is finding the things that motivate the pursuit of photography so you can lean into it and continue to grow and enjoy the art and craft of expressing yourself and the world around you though light and lens. 

RAM Upgrade from 16GB to 64GB

Photoshop loves RAM. Having too little can make your computer run slow, which can make image processing either frustrating or impossible. And the larger your file size, the more ram you need. 

For years now, I’ve been making 16GB work, because that is the limit of my Macbook Pro.  If I’m not running other apps, and I’m careful with not opening too many Photoshop files (My typical files are about 1GB in size) It works fine. But if I want to keep open all my productivity apps like mail, web browsers, spreadsheets, spotify, etc, it’s very easy to use up all my RAM and slow things down. 

This winter I transitioned to a 2018 MacMini with 16gb of RAM. I selected this model because it was one of only two mac models at the time that allows me to upgrade the RAM myself, and can hold the amount of RAM I need, all at a better price than apple’s top of the line models. This week I finally got a break in my production schedule that allowed me the time to take it apart and upgrade it to 64GB of RAM. And what a difference it has made. Even running only Photoshop, there is a noticeable difference in speed for several common functions, which has made it easier for the computer to keep up with me and the speed at which I apply processing changes. But the most noticeable difference is that I can now run all the other applications I need with no penalty. I can have several 1GB files open in Photoshop, have my Lightroom catalog accessible, along with all my productivity apps.  I’ve been using the mac “Activity Monitor” to see how much RAM that uses, and I’m usually using 32-38GB of RAM unless I really push things in Photoshop. 

I wanted to know how much RAM lets me run smoothly because the current generation of macs does not allow you to upgrade your RAM or storage. What it comes with is what you are stuck with till you upgrade. And Apple charges a premium for extra RAM and storage, so over provisioning will cost you. So if I were buying a new mac today for Photoshop use, how much RAM would I want? First of all, the new macs use RAM a little differently, so the theory is you can get by with less. For a hobbyist, I think 8GB is too little, as it will cause some slowdowns based on my limited observation. 16GB should be functional, but may have some some slowdowns if you try and have too many apps open while Photoshopping. 32GB would make it easier if you are spending more time processing and will let you keep more apps open. I think that would get you 80% of the benefit of going up to 64GB. And based on what I’ve experienced this week processing for an upcoming exhibit, I haven’t been able to use all 64GB I installed. 

So some takeaways. If your mac can be upgraded, and you use Photoshop, I’d recommend going up to at least 16GB. Depending on your mac, you might be able to upgrade to 24GB or 40GB, which are really good break points. How much just depends on cost. Check out Other World Computing to see what RAM your mac uses and how much it costs. They also have install videos that can show you if it’s easy to install, like on a 27 inch iMac, or if it requires taking out the motherboard like it did on my 2018 macmini. I have bough all my RAM from OWC for nearly twenty years, both for all the computers at West Coast Imaging, Aspen Creek Photo, and my personal computers. They offer a lifetime warranty and have never let me down. 

One final question, why did I go with the Intel based MacMini instead of the new Apple Silicon Macs? In November, there were only two mac options if I wanted more than 16GB or ram, the 27inch iMAc and the 2018 Mac Mini. Based on raw specs, the new macs are faster, but Photoshop is more RAM dependent, and would have far more effect for how I use it than a faster processor. So I saved a good chunk of money with the MacMini and still exceeded my performance expectations. The computer is waiting on me to make decisions more than I am waiting on it, so there was no ROI on a faster model. If I was doing video day in day out or other extremely processor intensive work, then I’d want something faster, but as it is, I think I’m able to work about 95% of optimum, and that last 5% would cost me a lot more for minimal gain. My photography would get more out of another trip than it would processing a couple percent faster. 

Life, and photography are full of tradeoffs. This is how I made the tradeoffs for my computer system. I hope it gives you some ideas for upgrades for your system, and just how far you do (or don’t) need to go. 

Maine Coast Workshop – January 2023

“Without question, maritime Maine is the most ruggedly beautiful stretch of the United States east coast. It’s one of those special places that hooks you, and keeps calling you back. Most of us fortunate enough to visit here do so in summer or autumn, though the Maine coast in winter – serene and free of summer’s crowds – yields remarkably intimate and evocative photographs, making a compelling case that this sublime landscape, and the charming Down East culture that inhabits it, are well worth experiencing during the colder months.”

Maine Winter Coast Workshop with Visionary Wild – January 23-27, 2023

New Website

What can you do with a couple free hours on a snowy Saturday morning? How about create a new website! And yes, I really put this together in under four hours.

I’ve been wanting to redo my website for some time, and have been trying to find a platform that would best fit my needs. After bugging all my friends asking what they use, and researching a few of my own options, I finally settled on Squarespace.

Squarespace has always had an excellent design aesthetic, geared towards the professional photography/design/publishing world. So their built in tools made it effortless to put together galleries that had the look I want but I’m not good enough at graphic design or CSS to create it without a good template.

The online sales features we the other driving factor. There are several really good photo website companies that charge exorbitant transaction fees, but that was a deal killer for me. With squarespace, I can choose a plan where I only pay the credit card processing fees. They don’t take a cut, and I like that business model a lot better.

A couple things helped bring the site together so fast. First of all, I had a clear objective in mind. That helped me at the many decision points and as I learned to think like the Squarespace platform.

Having an existing website also helped, as I could use that as a template and copy test from it for the new site. And building the galleries was easy as I already have my favorite photos exported as web ready jpegs.

So there you go, that is how you get a new website in about four hours. Click on over to and have a look. I’ve never had this much work online before, and I’m excited to be able to share it.

Are your RAW Files Safe?

Can you tell me exactly where all your RAW files are, right now,  and can you access every one of them without having to think about it or ask a search engine how? If the answer is no, then we need to add some skills to your toolbox to make sure they are safe and useable.

Storing your files is just one of the burdens digital has put on photographers, and one that will cause us problems if we don’t actively manage it.

In the film era, we could just put our processed negatives or slides in a box and they were easy to find and sort because it was a tactile, analog process. It was so easy! It didn’t require computer knowledge and it worked pretty well for most people. 

Digital changed that. Now our files are stored somewhere on our SSD or hard drives. Do you know where? Is the computer between you and your photos?

If your workflow was set up with you deciding where your RAWs are imported, then you are already on the right path. You challenges are making sure they keep importing to the right folder or directory, and that the drive they are on is being backed up with the 3-2-1 strategy

And if you aren’t backing up to the cloud, you should add it immediately as your offsite/alternate media. I recommend Backblaze for cloud backup based on years of following them, and as a user of their service. For a flat rate, you can do unlimited backup, even of external drives. (Disclaimer, I am an affiliate and may receive payment if you use the link.)

But if you haven’t made a conscious decision about where your photos are stored, and are relying on an app to do it for you, then it’s time to take more control. 

Your photo app might be part of the problem. If you are using an app like Apple Photos, it might be handling all the importing and storage for you. In that case, I bet you don’t know where your files are because you are just letting the app handle it. Sooner or later that will workflow will break, so it’s part of your workflow you should consider improving immediately before it breaks. 

First of all, Apple Photos imports your files onto your boot drive, which will eventually fill up and force you to take action to free up storage space. But  also makes your files hard to get to, which crops up on my workshops when I ask students to send in RAW files. Apple Photos hides the files inside your “Photo Library” and limits your access to them through the app which causes issues when you want to extract a RAW file to use in a different processing software. 

The approach Apple Photos uses is a good choice for the home user capturing family memories, but if you are embracing the RAW workflow, it’s going to limit you. And it will make a lot more work for you when you want to get at the RAW files. You need to learn how to access those files (heres a article to get you started on that But once you know where your RAWs are and how to access them, I think you’ll find it much easier if you upgrade to a package like Lightroom to import and manage your files. It will let you decide where photos are imported to, will give you easier access to your RAWs, and more powerful editing tools.

Knowing where your RAWs are, and that they are backed up is a foundational level skill for a digital photographer. If you don’t have it, you risk losing the photos you worked so hard to make. Don’t leave it to chance. Upgrade your knowledge and skill so you can preserve and access your photos for years to come.

Color Processing Workshop Starts February 8

Want to learn the secrets that will make color processing easier? Join me for this four week zoom class and I’ll share the techniques and though process I developed for West Coast Imaging to make museum quality prints.

It’s easier than you think, and this is not a “experts only” class. It’s the foundation and fundamentals every photographer needs to know for processing, and it’s like no other class I know. Sign up today and get ready to take your photographs to new heights!