Results tagged “software:photography” from kwc blog

flickr_logo_gamma.gifFlickr had a trio of nice announcements today: * Pro Members get stats. You can now track individual photo views over time as well as referral sources. * The Flickr Uploader has reached version 3.0. * For the developer geeks out there, it's also gone open source. Flickr has an easy-to-program API, but the addition of the actual upload tool provides a nice base to build on top of.

Stats + an open-source uploader are giving me second thoughts about moving away from Flickr for my pro photos. The inability to understand my traffic plus the hassle of having to hand-edit photo descriptions was a pain. Yes, I've written to the Flickr API before, but the Flickr Uploadr has nice functionality that I'd prefer not to have to rewrite.

It seems that Flickr is intent on releasing many holiday presents before year's end. I've just been getting acclimated to the built-in Picnik editing that Flickr released a little over a week ago and it's already creating a shift in my workflow. Combine it with an eye-fi and the only photo management tool you need is a Web browser. Powerful.

Vector Magic


Vector Magic is one of the coolest online tools I've seen come along in awhile (seam carving is a close second). Simply put: you give it an image and it outputs a vector version. Why am I so excited? Both of the uses I see are by themselves compelling:

  1. Put in a photograph and you get a cool artsy version.
  2. Put in a logo and get a vector version of that logo

Heck, you could probably do Waking Life or A Scanner Darkly automatically.

There have been plenty of times that I have been stuck with a crummy low-res, jaggy, anti-aliased version of a logo that I needed in higher res. Retracing logos sucks. I could even see doing a logo in Photoshop or in Sharpie first and then running it through VectorMagic to get the resolution-independent version (this will depend on what their vector shapes look like, though).

Corel PowerTRACE and Adobe Live Trace have the same feature, but neither is as simple to use as pointing your browser to a Web page and converting. Vector Magic also has some compelling comparisons. My only knock is that their online editor/tweaker needs a bit of work, but for many things you may be happy with the first-pass result.

I'm at heart a photo person -- I don't really do vector -- so having a tool that handles shapes and lines for me is a beautiful tool.


Photoshop Express



Adobe is previewing an online photo editor called "Photoshop Express", but like many of their "Photoshop" products is something entirely different from Photoshop. As much as a single screenshot can be indicative, it looks like it could be a good product, an online version of Picasa, a simplified editor for personal photos. I like how Photoshop Express lets you choose from different candidates in the autocorrect.

Photoshop product manager John Nack has a bit more.

Photoshop multitouch


Admittedly, not all of this made intuitive sense to me at the first get-go and some of the interactions seemed like they required too much slow, deliberate movement (that may have just been a director's choice -- update: or its possible that this is just a conceptual mockup, i.e. fake), but an interesting take on how to port a Photoshop interface into a multitouch world. But I would be happy just to have a screen that big in the first place.

Update: eric dolecki on John Nack's blog points out that this may be a fake (i.e. concept mockup) as the UI sometimes leads the gesture.

via John Nack

Photoshop CS3: two editions


I've been excited about upgrading to CS3 ever since I played with the B&W conversion tool. Combined with the filter layers and new edge refining tools, I'm sure it will be a huge timesaver for editing photos. I was also excited to later learn that CS3 will have support for 3D objects in it. Although I never seem to get the chance to work in 3D, the idea that you can drop in a 3D object and apply effects to it just like any other layer is pretty cool. But alas, Adobe is determined to compound the 'Photoshop' brand even further as there is now "Photoshop CS3" and "Photoshop CS3 extended." I doubt that I'll be able to afford CS3 extended. My current plan is to do a big upgrade to CS3 + Lightroom as my Photoshop 7 + Elements pipeline has faltered with the 8MP Canon 30D and 2GB flash cards. This will also probably require an upgrade to my motherboard, so I will need save cash however I can.

With Photoshop Lightroom on the way, that now means there will be: * Photoshop CS3 * Photoshop CS3 Extended * Photoshop Lightroom * Photoshop Elements * Photoshop Album

Granted, Lightroom, Elements, and Album are all distinct products, whereas the two CS3s are really the same thing with some features enabled/disabled.

CS3 makes a difference


Omotesando Hills - Ando

The Photoshop CS3 black & white conversion feature is everything I hoped it would be. As a test, I did my normal B&W conversion routine for my Omotesando Hills photos using Photoshop 7 and the Channel Mixer. The lighting was fairly funky so each conversion took minutes.

Then I tried doing one photo using CS3's B&W tool -- it only took seconds and I had better control over the result. I had enough time left over that I played around with the Refine Edges tool to produce the cutout above. I still haven't really figured out the Refine tool -- its a bit complicated for all its power -- but there is some promise if I can master it.

B&W Photoshop CS3 tutorial


I've done some very basic playing around with B&W conversions using Photoshop (since then, I've taken to using the Channel Mixer when lazy). All of those techniques seem to pale in comparison to the potential of CS3, as demonstrated by this Russell Brown CS3 B&W tutorial. The tutorial starts off basic enough, but wait until he shows off the click and drag adjustments.

Photoshop CS3! (Beta)


Photoshop cs3The Photoshop CS3 Beta site is live now. You can take the new Mac/PC betas for a spin and, yes, there is a Mac version Universal. Anyone is free to try, though to go beyond a 2-day trial you need a CS2 serial number.

So what's cool about CS3? The best roundup of links I've run across so far is at John Nack on Adobe. I'm personally excited by smart/live filters, which lets you add filters as layers -- I've loved using adjustment layers and smart/live filters is a necessary addition for that style of workflow (lossless compositing, rather than sequential modifications). You can even add a mask to these filters.

I'm also excited by the new black and white conversion tool (implemented as an adjustment layer). I've used the Channel Mixer to do conversions when lazy, but this looks like a much more precise tool. You get more channels to mix across and tinting (hue/saturation) tools.

Here's PhotoshopUser's top ten list of new features. There seem to be a lot of great features targeted at making compositing easier: auto align, auto blend, quick select/refine edges, cloning/healing updates.

One thing really stunned me about CS3: they didn't change any keyboard shortcuts! Maybe Adobe forgot who it was after it acquired Macromedia, but regardless, I'm happy to not have to print out a list of keyboard shortcuts to refamiliarize myself. You can find the very short list of new shortcuts here.

CS3 does overhaul the user interface, which I will refrain commenting on until I actually try it. At the very least, you can revert the behaviors to CS2-style without much trouble.

New Lightroom and Aperture


Photokina brings two good software announcements for digital photographers: Lightroom Beta 4 and Aperture 1.5. My Windows workflow means that it will be Lightroom B4 that I'll be giving a go -- my previous experience didn't wow me, but I'm willing to see if this latest rev is gentler on my CPU. Apple claims that Aperture will even run on Intel Mac minis, so my expectations are higher for Lightroom now.

LightroomI was excited by the announcement that the Adobe Lightroom Beta had been released for Windows. I had been jealous of the Mac platform, which saw the arrival of both Aperture and Adobe Lightroom in fairly quick succession, whereas the Windows platform strangely had no product really targeted at the SLR-amateur-to-pro category. I was also excited because I am currently sitting under a mountain of photos -- 2000+ to be exact -- as I've been one of the 'official' photographers for two weddings this month, and I also have two cycling races and my photos from my Japan trip (in May!) to process.

Aperture and Lightroom are both photo workflow apps and, as far as I know, they are the first of their kind. After watching the positive results of anthropological studies of workflow at PARC, I have been really excited to try out these apps that claim to be the result of workflow studies on digital photographers. Granted, they targetted pros, but I hoped to reap the benefit, and perhaps even learn a thing or two about my process.

There is quite a lot to optimize in a digital photography workflow: if I only spent 1 second processing each of the 730 photos I took at the wedding last weekend, it would still take me over 10 minutes to go through them all. More realistically, it takes 1-5 seconds to decide whether or not to process a photo -- even longer if you have to decide which shot is the best out of several takes -- and another three minutes (my average) to process the selected photos. Anything software can do to either be faster, batch process, or get out of the way can provide huge time savings, which can either be used to enjoy life, or process even more photos.

What follows is a review, but with the caveat that as this really is a beta product, so perhaps a better call this 'feedback'.

Sharpcast Beta review


sharpcast.gifI've spent several hours checking out Sharpcast Photos and thought I'd post my initial thoughts. Sharpcast has a great syncing technology, which they've chosen to showcase by deploying a photo-sharing solution with both Web and Windows clients. You can install Sharpcast on multiple machines in order to easily share your photos between them, and you can also share albums with specific people.

This isn't quite a review because I believe that utility of Sharpcast will largely depend on business model decisions that haven't been made yet: Sharpcast is more alpha than beta, as you are limited to 2GB of storage and the future pricing and limits are unclear. Case in point, Flickr offers me 2GB/month of photo upload (at a price), which guarantees its long-term usefulness for me; Sharpcast's 2GB total is nothing more than a toy to play with for a couple of months. I understand the need to not have to build up a massive storage farm just yet, but I take over 2GB of photos at a single wedding.

"Sharpcast Photos is optimized for accessing, sharing, and backing up photos." I kept this in mind when checking it out so that my comments would be contexted to the intended product. I also kept in mind my dad and my sister, because if I'm going to share, I should be able to share with my family (Flickr is not so strong in this regard).

So, going on the three activities that Sharpcast does list -- accessing, sharing, and backing up -- I've recorded my thoughts, followed up with a list of some peeves I had with the UI along the way.

Adobe Lightroom beta, now for Windows


A Windows version of Adobe Lightroom beta is at last available. Lightroom is a photo-editing and organizing software package aimed at the SLR crowd: this Apple Aperture, but free (at least until January 2007). I look forward to trying it out when I get back from Comic-Con. I've got a lot of photos to process in my backlog.

Adobe Lightroom Beta

Adobe Lightroom


It's exciting to see Adobe announced their Aperture competitor, Lightroom, though it might be awhile before I can evaluate it seeing as the Windows version is lagging. But with those tasty Intel Macs coming out, who knows?

Glancing at the first looks, my hunch is that Lightroom has the advantage. Although it's clear that both products have had a long germination, Lightroom will be able to learn from the lessons of Aperture before a final product is released. Even with the beta release it's clear that Lightroom will be less of a resource hog than Aperture, allowing it to run on laptops (ln m says it even runs on his old TiBook). Adobe also has far more experience with image processing, especially with RAW conversion. The poor RAW conversion was one of the biggest complaints about Aperture, and certainly an Achilles' Heel for a professional product.

According to postings on their discussion board, it sounds like the Mac version came out first because they were able to leverage some OS X capabilities that won't exist in Windows until Vista, but who knows. Releasing a free Adobe Lightroom beta to compete against a $499 Aperture, which has enough bugs to be a beta product, and it sounds like a great strategy to me. I hope that the final pricing for Lightroom ends up being low. There's really not that much difference in overall functionality from a product like Photoshop Elements or Bridge. A lot of the difference is which audience the UI is being targetted at. UI is worth paying for, but I'd rather buy a new lens for my camera.

Review: Picasa - good stuff


picasaI installed Picasa on my dad's computer to help him manage all the digital photos that he's been taking and I am impressed. I'm not impressed because Picasa has better features that Adobe Photoshop Elements, Aperture, or any other photo management software out there. In fact, the features of Picasa are fairly streamlined to include only the most basic photo retouching capabilities.

The reason I am impressed is that it's one of the few pieces of software that my dad was comfortable and competent with almost immediately. My dad is a complete computer novice who doesn't use his computer for much more than writing letters, surfing the Internet, and balancing his checkbook. To see him immediately latch onto the red eye tool, retouch several photos, and then print them with only minimal assistance is a great accomplishment in user interface design. Importing photos from the camera was also a snap because Picasa doesn't really care how you import the photos -- it finds them automatically -- so it doesn't really matter which of the numerous import options Windows pops up he chooses, it will probably work, i.e. Picasa gets around Windows' lack of usability.

There are still some features that my dad had trouble with. The selection tools for cropping and red-eye correction gave him some fuss, it's hard to tell which options you have selected on some menus (the highlight around a selected button is too faint), and the button layout is a bit inconsistent, including the placement of the OK/Cancel options. However, Picasa doesn't edit the photos directly, so it's hard to do permanent damage.

Picasa most directly compares to iPhoto. Photoshop Elements 4.0 and Aperture have more features but require more computer-savvy users. Picasa is much faster than iPhoto and I believe it's UI is a better design for photo-editing and browsing, but you'd never really have to choose because Picasa is only for PCs. So, if your parents have a PC and you want to get them good, free, photo-management software, or you love iPhoto and are stuck on a PC, you may want to give it a shot. It will be better than the crap that comes with your digital camera.

Upgraded to Photoshop Elements 4.0


photoshop.elements.jpgI've been a devout user of Photoshop Album for organizing my photos, but my copy was getting a bit old and I've been looking to ditch it for something faster and with improved organizational features. I took advantage of the Black Friday discounts to get a copy of Photoshop Elements 4.0 packaged with Premiere Elements 2.0 for $50. I skipped Photoshop Elements 3.0 because, even with the 'stacks' feature, it wasn't worth $100 to upgrade from Album.

I only care about the organizational features of Elements -- I do all my edits in Photoshop -- and so far the upgrade has been worthwhile. Several things stood out immediately (NOTE: the Mac version is very different from the Windows version): * Most important 'feature': faster browsing performance. It's hard to organize your photos if you can't quickly scan through them. * Stacks and version sets let you group similar shots and different edits, respectively. Very nice. * Tags are now stored within the image so that it is easier to share that metadata with others. * The biggest timesaver will probably be "Find Faces for Tagging." The name says it all -- it scans your selected photos, finds faces, and then lets you tag them. The tagging interface for faces is much improved over the generic tagging interface. It keeps tracks of your most recently used tags so that you don't have to keep scanning over all your tags to find the ones you need. I used it on some wedding photos and it almost did too good of a job picking out everyone in the dance photos. * The documentation notes that there is a Photomerge utility, which has to be better than the one that Canon gives you, but I have not tried it out yet.

The only disappointment so far is that it is less well-integrated with Photoshop than Album is. Album doesn't have a builtin editor so they made it very easy to do your advanced processing with other applications. Although Elements allows you to do external editing as well, it appears to be much less smart than before. It doesn't notice when you've finished external edits and it tries to import the edits as new photos instead of new versions of the original.

Elements is not a bad photo-editing tool, so I don't know how much I'll hate upon it. I'm planning to move to Photoshop CS2, which includes it's own photo workflow features, so it may not matter too much in the long run. I may just end up using Elements to organize and CS2 to edit, but this will take some time and money (to buy CS2) to sort out.

I'll end this quick impressions review noting that the Amazon reviewers don't seem happy with the new version, with several complaining that they prefer Photoshop Elements 3.0. I've never really used the previous versions of Elements, so my ignorance in this case appears to be bliss.

Stuff from Microsoft that actually seems cool


I hadn't been the least bit interested in anything Microsoft was doing for quite some time. After seeing some of the laughably bad screenshots for the next version of Microsoft Window, which were mostly bad (and ugly) attempts to copy OS X, I was convinced that they had no clue what they were doing (especially the horribly bad transparencies).

I'm still not sold on the next Windows, but two applications they previewed today seem like they might be interesting. First, there's Microsoft Max, which is a photosharing tool notable for the fact that it has some rather nice looking 3D layouts. I haven't tried it out, though, so it's hard to say whether or not it will be an impressive offering.

What did sell me on some future Microsoft tech is the Office 12 revamp. Office 12 is a major, major overhaul. The focus of this release seems more on improving the usability of features, rather than bogging it down with more useless features. Instead of the cluttered menu bar of the past, they have reorganized everything in tabs that change a toolbar at the top. For example, there is an 'insert' tab that you can click on that fills you top toolbar with things like "table" and "header" and "chart." The coolest bit I think is that when you hover over an option, you get an instant preview of it in the page. If you hover over a font choice, for example, your entire page appears in that font. If you hover over a 3x3 table, you see a 3x3 table in your page. I can see this as being a big timesaver.


The Office 12 UI redesign also demonstrates a better, though not perfect, understanding of Fitt's Law (basically, the smaller something is and the further away it is the harder it is to select with a mouse). The new toolbar has much larger selection buttons and there are new "floaty" menus that appear above selected text in Word. These floaty menus contain the most common commands like bold and underline. An interesting behavior they added is that the menu fades away if you move your mouse away from it.

Screenshots taken from here. Words and still photos don't really convey the differences though, so if you have the time you can check out the Office 12 video (skip past the first 10 minutes or so).

Photo albums with GPS


The World-Wide Media eXchange: WWMX group at Microsoft has released a demo application that lets you create a photo album that interweaves photos, GPS coordinates, and text so that you can view your photos geographically as well as chronologically. Not too useful of an app for today's cameras, but could be a portent of things to come when GPS becomes an inexpensive add-on. Something like this would have been really cool for my Europe backpacking trip.

Example travel log:
Melbourne xmas 2003 (only works on IE due to invalid Windows-only paths)
(via The Scobleizer -- Geek Aggregator)

Photoshop Album 2.0 on the way


... including a free version with some of the more important features stripped out. This was a glaring problem with the first one - there was no way for people to try it out beforehand. I love using Album 1.0 and I hope 2.0 will solve my very few complaints with the original version (too much scrolling in the tags pane, can't export source images with the Web photo gallery, tags are organized hierarchically - even though they themselves are relational).
Adobe offers free Photoshop Album | CNET