Tag Archives: photoshop

Adobe attempt to confuse Les

OK, it’s new software versions time. All announced and released today are the latest versions of Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite.

For what I do these days, the only really important one is Lightroom. I get it bundled in the surprisingly nicely priced photography plan with Photoshop, but to be honest there’s not much that I use Photoshop for that I couldn’t do with something else. But hey, it’s a bargain.

But now things are changing. There’s a new shiny version of Lightroom CC, but that’s not the Lightroom you’re looking for. The one with CC in its name is, unlike CC things generally, actually a cloudy thing, intended to work with files synced to the included storage across multiple devices. Being shiny and new, it’s apparently not quite there in terms of features compared with the product formerly known as Lightroom CC. On first reading that, I had an eeerrrrr moment.

But it’s not quite as drastic as that. There’s also a new version of the kind of Lightroom that works with what, being a grouchy old Les who’s used to working that way, will call proper bloody files living in folders exactly where I put them. To maximise confusion, this is called Lightroom Classic, and it has some new features and performance improvements. More on that when I’ve absorbed the information.

Photography Plans now offer a choice:

The closest equivalent to the current one is much the same, and adds the new cloudy Lightroom and 20GB of online storage, which isn’t much these days. So, if (like me) you’re reasonably happy with how things work, there’s no need to change, and you can happily update Photoshop and Lightroom Classic from Creative Cloud.

For people who are more cloud-inclined (typically, people who do most, if not all of their photography on phones rather than cameras), you can have Lightroom CC with 1TB of storage for the same price.

And finally, if you’d like the best of both, you can pay twice as much to have all the software and 1TB of storage.

Usual advice on major new releases: make sure your Lightroom catalog has a good backup or six, test first to make sure any plugins work as expected and make sure you’ve got a good backup. (Yes I did say that twice)

If you have Lightroom on multiple computers, maybe try it on a secondary one first – that’s my plan.

Details from Adobe

Useful article with new features video from Matt Kloskowski

Useful article from Victoria Bampton (aka the Lightroom Queen)

 

TextExpander: Not much to Smile about

Oh dearie me. I do get a bit annoyed when companies I’ve been doing business with for quite some time lose the plot. And that’s what seems to have happened to Smile, creators of the actually very good TextExpander apps for OS X and iOS.

TextExpander, for those not familiar with it, is, as its name suggests, a utility which lets you store  blocks of text and have them typed in for you at the press of a shortcode – before I had a Mac, I used something similar on Windows, and it’s one of those things I really like to have. TextExpander was an ideal solution for me, and it was one of the first apps I bought for my Mac Mini back in early 2008.

Since then, I’ve been happy to buy an upgrade every couple of years. It’s one of the essential things I install when I get a new Mac.

It can do clever things with variables, so you’re not restricted to fixed bodies of text – I use it for my daily report titles, so I just have to type a code of my choice to get the title filled in with the current date, which saves a bit of time, and avoids typos, me forgetting the date and other such things. It does a lot more that I don’t need, but that’s fine – it does what I need it to and it’s been reasonably priced. It happily syncs all my bits with Dropbox, so I have the same setup on the iMac and the MacBook Air, which is just how I like things to work.

But it seems the developers have decided that they don’t want to do that any more. The new version 6 is now tied to a subscription. You no longer buy software updates, you’ll just get them as they’re ready, so long as you’re a paying customer. This is all tied up with a new website, the ability to share your snippets with other subscribers (not something I need, and I suspect not something most home users particularly need). And while there’s an initial discount, the basic price of this subscription is on the order of $5 a month. With the general volatility of exchange rates, you might as well call it £3. Now that’s not a huge amount of money, but let’s do a comparison with some software I currently have on subscription:

Adobe Creative Cloud Photographer’s plan – that gives me Lightroom and Photoshop for £8.57 a month. This is actually good value, and much less painful than paying for full upgrades every year or two.

Microsoft Office 365 – gives me the latest versions of Office for all my Macs, and I can also install on Windows and other devices, all for £7.99 a month, which is again much easier than paying the eye-watering prices Microsoft used to charge for the full suites.

So, is TextExpander worth a third of Lightroom and Photoshop? Or Nearly half of MS Office? Well, no. Not even close.

It looks like they’re hoping that their even more expensive business package will catch on with businesses who want their users to share text snippets. Perhaps they’re right, and there’s a huge untapped market for this, and they’ll Smile all the way to the bank. And perhaps not…

While Smile have said they’ll continue to support the current version on OS X 10.11 and “the next release”, I’ll be looking for alternatives. I’m quite happy to pay moderate amounts for useful software, and to buy the serious expensive stuff by subscription, but I can’t see that a subscription model makes any sense for an easily replaceable utility.

It’s also worth noting that if you do go for the subscription, your data lives on their servers. If your subscription lapses, it seems the app won’t even let you see the data you’ve entered. That’s not very friendly at all.

 

Weight and Stuff Report – 16 February 2015

Hmmm, down again today. Unless of course the scale is being weird. I’ll go with the first option.

I’ve been delving into the past for today’s photo, which I took with the Fujifilm X-E1 in the summer of 2013. I’ve given it a bit of a going over with Photoshop (to remove some humans[1] and a bit of quite unnecessary graffiti[2]) and Silver Efex Pro (to make it all black and white and slightly grainy).

Angel

Angel

Camera: X-E1
Aperture: ƒ/8
Shutter speed: 1/450s
Focal length: 18mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 4 July, 2013
Location: 54° 54.8467′ 0″ N 1° 35.377′ 0″ W

Apparently it was the Angel’s 17th birthday at the weekend.

[1] They were, as Kate Bush would say, running up that hill
[2] Grrrrr. Actual street art, I can appreciate, and often admire. Tagging on somebody else’s art[3] annoys me
[3] And that includes bridges. Bridges are art, OK. Well, the nicer ones are.

Tonality Pro – Another Monochrome Tool

Regular readers might have noticed that I like a bit of black and white photography, and might even recall me mentioning tools like Silver Efex Pro (part of the Google-owned Nik Collection) or Perfect B&W (part of the OnOne Perfect Photo Suite), quite apart from using the standard functions of Lightroom.

Well, there’s now another contender – Tonality Pro from Machphun software. It works as a standalone app for OS X or as a plugin to Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture and Photoshop Elements. Current price is £41.99 £53.08[1], and a free 15-day trial is available. There’s also a more basic version available from the App Store for just £17.99 – that lacks a few features, and doesn’t do the plugin bit.

I’ve installed the trial, and started to play with a few of the numerous presets. Usefully, the interface lets you see exactly which parameters the preset is working on, making it easier to adjust it and create your own settings. Here’s a basic conversion of one of my iPhone photos of the Temple Church in Bristol:

Temple Church

Temple Church

Camera: iPhone 5s
Aperture: ƒ/2.2
Shutter speed: 1/120s
Focal length: 4.12mm
ISO: 64
Taken: 30 July, 2014
Location: 51° 27.118′ 0″ N 2° 35.21′ 0″ W

Presets range from subtle to extreme, including some quite grungy HDR-style ones, which I can see having some use. This is a view of Cardiff Castle given some suitable treatment:

HDR Castle

HDR Castle

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/8
Shutter speed: 1/600s
Focal length: 24mm
ISO: 400
Taken: 24 June, 2014
Location: 51° 28.86′ 0″ N 3° 10.9942′ 0″ W

More playing will follow – given the low price, I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying this one…

[1] Displayed price on the site is ex-VAT, mutter

Fishy Sage Revisited

On Wednesday, I posted a few pictures taken with the Samyang 8mm fisheye lens on my Fujifilm X-E1. I didn’t do much in the way of editing at the time, and posted the images pretty much as the JPGs came out of the camera. But one of them started nagging at me, and demanding that I make a bit of an effort with it, and that’s what I did. Well, actually, I ignored that image, and looked at one a couple of frames earlier in the set.

I started by using Photoshop CC to remove an annoying bit of Tyne Bridge that was a distracting element on the right, then made a load of adjustments in Lightroom 5, and finally added a slight vignette to darken the corners using Perfect Effects. And this is the result:

Fishy Sage

Fishy Sage

Camera: X-E1
Aperture: ƒ/1
Shutter speed: 1/280s
Focal length: 8mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 26 June, 2013
Location: 54° 58.087′ 0″ N 1° 36.1268′ 0″ W

I’m moderately happy with this one.

Lightroom 5 Beta 1 is available

It’s not much over a year since Lightroom 4 was released, but there’s already a beta version of Lightroom 5 for us all to play with.

New features, which I’ll need to do some playing with, include a new healing brush, so we’re no longer restricted to cloning out circular spots, and an automagic straightening thing that claims to deal with those wonky horizons and converging verticals. The former was always easy enough to do with the ruler in the crop section, but the latter wasn’t so well served. Tests will have to be done…

As always with beta software, use at your own risk. Work on copies of your files. Back things up. May crash and burn, drink all your booze and kick the cat, even if you don’t have one. These things are unlikely, but I do think it’s a good idea to be prepared for the worst.

Get the details and the download link from the Adobe Lightroom Journal.

Scott Kelby has a video highlighting the 7 Hottest Features – I didn’t know about the press F for fullscreen image until I saw that!

And there’s loads more at the Photoshop User Lightroom 5 Launch Center.

The beta is free, but will stop working when the real version is released, probably in about two months.

iMac 27″ 3.4GHz i7

Having briefly mentioned this last week, I suppose it’s time I went into a bit more detail about my new improved computing environment. I bought my first iMac in June 2009, and it served me well for a long time, especially after having its RAM upgraded to what seemed like a quite large 8GB. As with any computer, I’ve had the occasional issue, but overall it’s been stable and reliable and has generally melted into the background and let me get on with stuff.

But in the last six months or so, I noticed a distinct slowdown. Well, I don’t think it was so much the iMac getting slower as the things I was asking it to do getting bigger and more complex. Starting Lightroom was taking what seemed like ages, for instance. I even resorted to splitting my catalog into smaller ones, which did speed things up, but removed the convenience of being able to work on photographs from any time since 2006. Another problem was loading my weight tracking spreadsheet in Excel, which was getting distinctly grungy.

As the machine already had as much memory as it could take, and I didn’t really want to perform the more serious surgery involved in replacing the hard disk, and well, it was getting on a bit, the time had really come to consider a replacement. Ideally, something a bit whizzier, which should last me at least as long. And ideally, available soon enough for the first iMac to still have a moderate resale value.

So when the latest iMac models were announced, I was interested. There are numerous reviews and comments around about the extreme slimness of the cases, the less reflective screens and so on, so I’ll pass over those more obvious details. What I wanted was a major performance boost, and that was definitely on offer. Nicely zippy processors, and in the case of the larger iMac, a maximum RAM configuration of 32GB. But what seriously interested me was Apple’s take on hybrid SSD/HDD storage, which they call a Fusion drive. Basically, you get a 1TB or 3TB hard drive with a smaller solid state drive linked to it. This appears as a single drive, which the user doesn’t have to think about. Instead, the operating system does some nifty stuff which involves putting frequently used applications and data on the SSD fro maximum performance. This sounded interesting, and I knew I wanted one.

Anyway, after some dithering, and despite a quoted lead time of three to four weeks when I made my decision, I ordered a build to order model direct from Apple. I went for the 3TB Fusion drive on the grounds that I was getting to the point where I’d have so little free space on the old machine’s 1TB HDD that I’d have to start shuffling data around, which I prefer to avoid. I also specified one of the whizzier graphics cards. But I went for the minimum 8GB RAM, as Apple still like to charge silly prices for memory. Instead, I ordered a 32GB kit from Crucial, who have always been my preferred memory supplier.

I then settled down to wait. I had an estimated delivery window of 20-28 February, so I wasn’t seriously expecting it to arrive until this week. I did wonder if I should revise my expectations when I got a dispatch notification on February 14, but as that estimated delivery on 25 February, I decided not to hold my breath. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when it was actually delivered last week, a day earlier than the earliest originally estimated date. By a totally random coincidence, the extra RAM arrived the same day, which was convenient.

The previous iMac came in a box that was just about manageable. As I recall, I walked along Grey Street and caught the bus[1] home with it. But this was just a wee bit bigger, which made that seem like a bad idea, so I got a taxi home[2].

After unboxing the computer, and freeing up some desk space and an ethernet cable, I plugged it in and gave ti a quick test. First impressions were pretty good, so I shut down and installed the new memory – this involves pressing a little button located where the mains lead goes in[3], which makes a little hatch pop out. Inside the hatch are a couple of levers, which can be used to swing out the four memory slots. Two were occupied by the standard 8GB RAM, which I removed and then filled all the slots with my new Crucial RAM. Once those were properly seated, and the iMac plugged back in, this was the happy result:

RAM

RAM

Then came the moderately boring bit of copying my music library over the network and letting iTunes sort itself out. While that was going on, I set up my email accounts, which was the usual simple task, as Mail.app quite intelligently recognised my domains as using Gmail and configured the server settings for me. Then came the really fun job: importing my photographs into Lightroom. I decided to revert to a single catalog, as the split thingy I’d done on the old machine was purely to get around the limitations of the hardware. I used Lightroom’s “Import from another Catalog” function, which ensures all the metadata comes across. As I had eight of the things to import, this took a while, but I was able to do other things while the computer did its stuff, so that wasn’t a problem.

I finished off installing software and copying data, took a final updated backup of the old iMac, then  connected the 20″ secondary display. It’s a funny thing, but when I bought my first 20″ display, it seemed huge. Now it looks, well, tiny:

Big and small screens

Big and small screens

Camera: BlackBerry 9780
Location: 54° 56′ 25.14″ N 1° 37′ 12.72″ W

Anyway, everything is now nicely set up, and I’m actually using the new iMac, which leads to my first impressions thingy. OK, this thing is fast. The Fusion drive magic does appear to work. Lightroom, which used to take minutes to get to a usable state, now loads and is ready for work in about seven seconds. Excel, which used to take what seemed like forever to load my only moderately large weight record spreadsheet, now takes hardly any time at all.  Photoshop CS6 is similarly quick.

Nice kit, does what I was hoping for.

[1] I always have things delivered to work, much easier than missing deliveries, having to rearrange them, etc
[2] Not something I do often
[3] So it’s physically impossible to open the memory hatch with the machine powered on

Stuff Report – 15 February 2013

After a bit of a lie in and some breakfast, my brother[1] and I took the train[2] to Cardiff Bay for a bit of a walk and some lunch. The walk involved such sights as the mysterious vanishing photographer, as not seen in the reflections in the currently dry water tower thingy:

Where am I?

Where am I?

Camera: FinePix X100
Aperture: ƒ/8
Shutter speed: 1/280s
Focal length: 23mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 15 February, 2013
Location: 51° 27.8792′ 0″ N 3° 9.8663′ 0″ W

If you look carefully, you might spot my shadow, but I appear to be absent. No Photoshoppery or other such trickery was used to achieve this.

Lunch was at JRC Global Buffet, which was pretty good. We then had a bit more of a wander before getting the train back to Cardiff city centre, where we wandered a bit more, including into the city market:

Cardiff Market

Cardiff Market

Camera: FinePix X100
Aperture: ƒ/8
Shutter speed: 1/60s
Focal length: 23mm
ISO: 1600
Taken: 15 February, 2013
Location: 51° 28.8095′ 0″ N 3° 10.7143′ 0″ W

The market is remarkably unchanged – not only is it pretty much the same as I recall it from when I was a kid, it’s much the same as the pictures on display showing how it looked in the late 19th century.

After a bit more wandering, we got the train back to Pencoed, and here we are.

[1] Hi Geoff  :wave:
[2] Well, three trains[3], actually
[3] But not all at once. That would be silly.

Touching a RAW nerve

Hmmmmmmm. From about a month after getting my first DSLR, which was apparently six whole years ago, I’ve generally shot in RAW. The general received wisdom is that this is what you should really do if you’re taking your photography at all seriously. Raw format is more or less the data that was captured by your camera’s sensor with little or no actual processing applied. This means that you’ll need to do some work in your choice of software – you could use your camera manufacturer’s own offering, or Adobe’s Lightroom or the Camera RAW plugin that comes with Photoshop, or Apple’s Aperture, or indeed something else. The key point is that you’re going to have to do some work to make that picture you took look like something you’d want other people to see.

Now for a lot of pictures, that work won’t be all that much – just tweak a few sliders and you’ll have a pretty good image. Others may require more effort, of course.

But while I’ve been doing that, the electronics in cameras have been getting better and better. Now as I knew I’d be taking an enormous number of pictures during today’s airshow visit, I decided that shooting in JPG might be a good idea. This would allow longer sequences of images when I felt the need to keep the shutter button pressed, and would avoid filling my memory card. This was the first time I’d let the 5D Mark III loose in this way, and I have to say from the results I’ve looked at so far, it was a good move. It helped that it was a bright sunny day, with minimal cloud, of course. But it seems the camera’s internal processing is extremely good. Here’s an example – all I’ve done to this image is crop it down:

Xtreme Air Sbach 300

Xtreme Air Sbach 300

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Aperture: ƒ/8
Shutter speed: 1/1250s
Focal length: 322mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 21 July, 2012

I may have to reconsider my “always shoot in RAW” policy….

Fun with HDR

It’s been a while since I showed off any HDR images, and since then the software has improved a bit and I seem to have acquired a camera which can save me all the trouble of faffing around in software by doing the merging stuff itself. So, how good is the 5D Mark III’s built in HDR? Well, it depends. You obviously don’t have as much control as you would if you did the job in Photoshop or another package, but there are a few presets to chose from, which in the right conditions can produce some moderately appealing images.

This is a fairly restrained version of Newcastle’s Central Arcade. It’s an interesting place to photograph because of the mixture of light sources – lamps, light from shop windows, bright light from the glass roof, and so on.

Central Arcade HDR

Central Arcade HDR

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Aperture: ƒ/6.3
Shutter speed: 1/100s
Focal length: 28mm
ISO: 250
Taken: 18 June, 2012
Location: 54° 58.3939′ 0″ N 1° 36.7708′ 0″ W

Then again, with a different effect selected, you get more of the stereotypical HDR look:

Central Arcade OTT HDR

Central Arcade OTT HDR

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Aperture: ƒ/6.3
Shutter speed: 1/125s
Focal length: 28mm
ISO: 250
Taken: 18 June, 2012
Location: 54° 58.4059′ 0″ N 1° 36.7833′ 0″ W

This is the kind of thing that I quite like in small doses, but I know other people hate…

I think the extreme treatment works well for this view of the Tyne River God at Newcastle Civic Centre:

River God HDR

River God HDR

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Aperture: ƒ/8
Shutter speed: 1/400s
Focal length: 95mm
ISO: 250
Taken: 18 June, 2012
Location: 54° 58.7324′ 0″ N 1° 36.6884′ 0″ W

But what it can’t cope with very well is movement between images. Here’s one where some people got a bit chopped up. Using a more conventional software approach would sort this out, but here it is for your amusement anyway

Emmerson Chambers HDRoops

Emmerson Chambers HDRoops

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Aperture: ƒ/8
Shutter speed: 1/640s
Focal length: 24mm
ISO: 250
Taken: 18 June, 2012
Location: 54° 58.4404′ 0″ N 1° 36.79′ 0″ W

All good fun, anyway. I may well do some more of this…