The Difference Between Flow And Density In Lightroom

Previously, I posted an explanation of the different sliders available with the adjustment brush. I’ve had a few questions come in asking for more clarification about the difference between the flow and density sliders in Lightroom so, in this post, I’ll talk about each more in depth.


Flow, as it sounds, controls the speed at which the adjustment is applied to your image when painting with the brush. When your flow is at 100, the effect from the adjustment brush happens very quickly; one stroke of the brush applies the full effect. With a lower flow, it will take longer for the effect to be completely applied. That’s a handy tool when you’re trying to slowly apply and control the effect on an image.

I’ve seen other tutorials suggest that with a flow of 50 that you can reach the full effect by painting over an area twice, but in practice, I’m not sure that’s true based on how the effect i actually applied. Check out the illustration below. Two brush strokes do not achieve the full effect, at least not consistently. I needed to make multiple passes at 50% flow to get the full effect.

Lightroom Fanatic - Adjustment Brush Flow

Lightroom Fanatic – Adjustment Brush Flow

Try it yourself. On an image, set the exposure to -4 and the flow to 50. Without moving the mouse, click once to apply the effect. With each click, it should darken. After about 12 clicks, it was hard to distinguish from the 100% flow.

adobe lightroom adjustment brush flow density

Lightroom Fanatic – Adjustment Brush Flow Sample


Density, however, puts a cap on how much of an effect is applied. A density value of 50 caps the effect at 50%. For example, if your effect applies a +2 exposure, a 50% density means that, no matter how long you paint the effect, it will never get more of a change than a +1. The example below shows a 100% density adjustment of a -2 exposure, a 50% density adjustment with the same exposure value, and a -1 exposure applied with 100% density. The last two should be, and are, identical.

Lightroom Fanatic - Adjustment Brush Density

Lightroom Fanatic – Adjustment Brush Density

So why use density at all? Why not just adjust the sliders to match the target effect? That’s a great question! If you’re just messing with the exposure or a single adjustment, it’s probably easy enough to do just that. However, if you’re applying a combination of adjustments with your brush and you want to apply a lighter touch to one piece of an image, instead of trying to figure out the right rations to adjust all the sliders, you can simply adjust the one density slider and soften the effect. When you move to another section of the image that can take a harder adjustment, you can simply move the density slider back up.

Combining Flow And Density

The more comfortable you get with using both sliders, the more you’re likely to use them to in your workflow. The ultimate in brush control comes from combining the flow and density sliders to both control the rate at which an effect is applied and to limit its impact on an image. The adjustment brush is one of the most powerful ways to take your image from good to great by isolating adjustments to where they are needed. Mastery of the adjustment brush and effectively and efficiently using it as a part of your workflow will help you get the most out of Lightroom.


Expanding On The One Catalog Idea In A Mobile Workflow

Last week, Scott Kelby wrote a post in his “10 Things I Would Tell New Lightroom Users” series in which he recommends to new Lightroom users that they stick to using one catalog.

I remember, not that long ago, when the Adobe forums were full of people suggesting that your Lightroom catalog should not have more than a few tens of thousands of images or risk the ire of the angry Lightroom gods. But, as Scott suggests, as the application has matured, you can now have more than 100,000 images in your catalog and still run safely and smoothly.

I love the one catalog suggestion. I don’t like having to fumble through multiple catalogs to figure out where my images are. I like the one-stop shopping that maintaining a single catalog offers. So do I use just one? Well, no. But let me tell you why.

I do have one “primary” catalog that contains all my images. I’m safely under 100,000 images suggested limit and haven’t experienced any issues with a catalog of that size. The problem for me comes in with my mobile workflow. I do a lot of editing on my laptop, and I’m synchronizing over Dropbox. If I tried to do that with my primary catalog, I’d easily exhaust the space on my Dropbox account. But I’d also run in to an issue during metadata synchronizations and other updates that make a large number of changes to the catalog because each of those changes would need to be synchronized Dropbox, as well. That would create a big queue of changes that would take awhile to recover from.

Instead of keeping my primary catalog on Dropbox, I have a smaller one that I call my “working” catalog. It has my active projects in it, so it’s a smaller subset of images. That limits the size of the catalog and the potential for cascading changes that need to be synchronized across Dropbox. For mobility, I take advantage of smart previews so that I can edit my images on the go without direct access to the original images.

Once I’m done with a project, I’ll switch back to my primary catalog on my desktop and import the project from the working catalog. There are a number of ways to handle the import process, but importing allows me to keep the history intact with minimal fuss.

One variation that I’ve toyed with in this workflow is to have a small catalog for each project. I could create a new catalog in Dropbox, import the images and generate Smart Previews, and use those on my laptop to edit the images. But when I’m editing multiple projects at the same time, I run in to the problem of switching catalogs constantly to go between projects. Having one working catalog for all my active projects helps with the clutter. Otherwise, the workflow would be the same. After the project is done, I’d import from the project catalog in to my main catalog and then discard the project catalog.

Again, while I love the one catalog suggestion, I’d recommend one primary catalog, but use a smaller, working catalog if you’re doing any editing on the go.

Here is a look at my current workflow. Everything north of the Mac Mini is original files and my primary catalog. Between the Mini and the Macbook are smart previews and my working catalog.

adobe lightroom mobile workflow catalog

If you want to give Dropbox a try, you can sign up with this referral link and get 2GB of space for free. That’s plenty of space for a mobile Lightroom catalog.

If you’re looking for an automatic backup solution, I’ve been very happy with Backblaze. Plans start at just $5 a month. How much are your pictures worth?

Where To Buy The Standalone Version Of Lightroom

Lightroom-logo-300x300I moved to Creative Cloud last year, but there are many people who would rather continue to use the standalone version of Lightroom. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be hard to find. In this short post, I’ll show you where you can still purchase the standalone version of Lightroom so that you can enjoy all the power that Lightroom offers without the monthly commitment.

Keep in mind that if you decide to go the standalone route, you won’t be able to take advantage of Lightroom mobile. Otherwise, though, the features of the Creative Cloud and standalone versions are identical…at least for the current version.

Buy Lightroom Standalone From Adobe

If you click Buy on the Lightroom page at Adobe, it will take you to the Creative Cloud subscription page. They don’t make it easy to find the standalone option, but it’s still there. To find it, navigate to Menu > All Products which will take you to the Products page. From there, scroll down to find Lightroom and you can select the Full or Upgrade version for your platform.

Buy Lightroom Standalone From Amazon

You can also purchase Lightroom from Amazon for both Windows and the Mac, and it’s available as a download. You can even buy the Lightroom 5 Upgrade for both platforms.

Unless Adobe or Amazon are running a deal, the prices are usually pretty close. Amazon sometimes offers a software or music credit, so check for that, too.

The links above are affiliate links meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase using the provided links.

How To Share Common Images Using Lightroom On Different Computers With Different User Names

Hi, Fanatics. Just a heads up,this is a very technical article this week!


I’m running Lightroom on two computers and, on each computer, Lightroom is running under a different user name. In an ideal world, both computers would be running under the same user name, and the path to the folders would be identical, even though they are on two different physical computers. However, the first computer is my personal desktop where I have control over the user name. The second computer is a a shared laptop where my user name was preset.

Both computers use a shared Lightroom catalog that is stored in Dropbox. That allows me to edit on the go thanks to Smart Previews. But I’ve also got a folder of stock images that I keep in Dropbox so that I can work on blog posts whether I’m at home or on the road. Because my computers are using different user names, though, the path to those stock images are different:

Desktop: /Users/dave/Dropbox/MyStockImages
Laptop: /Users/differentusername/Dropbox/MyStockImages

Since I added the stock images to my catalog on my desktop, Lightroom is expecting the stock images to be inside the user “dave” folder, but on my laptop, they’re actually located inside the “differentusername” directory. The result is the dreaded “unable to locate folder” icon.

Being an engineering nerd by trade, I knew there had to be a solution. The first thing that came to mind was a symlink. In the Linux world, there is a construct called a symbolic link (or symlink or soft link). It’s basically a pointer to another file or directory that applications think is a real file or folder. On my laptop, I created a symlink to the user folder that maps to the differentusername folder.

Because you’re touching the Users folder, you’ll need to run this command via sudo, which means your user account will need to have administrative privileges on your computer.


The magic happens with one line in the Terminal application:

sudo ln -s /Users/differentusername/ /Users/dave

The above command creates a pointer dave that maps to the home directory of differentusername. As far as Lightroom is concerned, on my laptop /Users/dave/Dropbox/MyStockImages is now a valid folder, even though in reality its simply a pointer to /Users/differentusername/Dropbox/MyStockImages. Magic! And now both computers will properly point to the Dropbox folders, making my synchronized life so much easier.

From what I can tell, this hack is not necessary if you store your plug-ins on Dropbox, like I do. Checking the Plug-in Manager with and without the symlink didn’t make a difference, and Lightroom showed the local path to the same Dropbox folder on both computers.

Not using Dropbox? Get 2GB of free cloud storage by signing up now! (referral)


How To Remove Location Information From Your Images With Lightroom

Like many of you, I take most of my day-to-day pictures on my mobile phone. It’s convenient and the camera isn’t half bad. But by default, the camera includes the location where the picture was taken. In fact, it’s not only your mobile phone that is adding your location to your images. Many newer point-and-shoot cameras also come GPS-enabled, too.

You can see if your image files contain location information inside of Lightroom by selecting an image in the Library module and checking the Metadata tab. If your camera is attaching your location to each image, you’ll see some coordinates in the GPS field.

adobe lightroom location gps

Lightroom Fanatic – GPS Location

You can turn off the location information at the source on the phone, but sometimes it’s cool to retain the location information so that you can see where you’ve been. Here’s my iPhone library as viewed in the Map module in Lightroom.

adobe lightroom location map module

Lightroom Fanatic – Lightroom Map Module

Having the location embedded in your images once they leave Lightroom, though, is another story. Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and many other common places where people host their images can read and sometimes expose that location information to the public. Listen, I love you guys, but I’m perfectly happy not having you show up on my doorstep! All kidding aside, in a world where privacy and security are at a premium, sometimes its simply prudent to be cautious and control what information you expose about yourself on the internet.

Fortunately, Lightroom makes it easy to remove the location information from your images when you send them outside of Lightroom using either the Export or Publish Manager.

When you are exporting or publishing images, there is an option under the Metadata section that reads “Remove Location Info”. This option will only be enabled if you have either All Metadata or All Except Camera & Camera Raw Info selected.

adobe lightroom remove location info export publish

By checking that option, Lightroom will remove the GPS location information from your images. Here is the exported version of the same image shown above after I brought it back in to Lightroom, now without any data in the GPS field.

adobe lightroom location gps

The option to remove the location information can be saved to your presets, as well, so you can have the piece of mind by removing your location any time you use your export or publish presets.

Remember, once something makes it out in the wild, it’s hard to get back, so it pays to know what you’re putting out there and make the choice for yourself about how much or little information you want to be available.