Category Archives: Photoshop

Adobe’s CreateNow Event: New Photoshop 13.1, Muse, Creative Cloud For Teams

Apparently, the new Retina versions of Photoshop and Illustrator were just the tip of the iceberg. Besides announcing those, Adobe is announcing major updates to the Creative Cloud service and upgrades to Photoshop (besides the Retina enhancement) and Muse, Adobe’s webpage builder for non-coders. The biggest announcements have to be multi-seat Creative Cloud subscriptions for enterprise teams and Creative Cloud Connection for synching the 20GB+ of cloud storage with users’ desktops. Click here to see the CreateNow announcement live this morning.

Photoshop 13.1: Conditional actions, CSS output and more

For whatever reason, Adobe opted to announce Photoshop’s new Retina display support last night at midnight—before the CreateNow event. It ends up that Photoshop 13.1 has many more new features available today:

  • Blur Gallery and Liquify filters can now be saved as non-destructive Smart Objects. Non-destructive edits are wonderful time-savers and I recommend using them whenever possible.
  • Conditional Actions: Insert if-else logic that executes one of two actions depending on set criteria.
  • Layers can now be exported as CSS code for web developers to apply to their projects.
  • Improvements to the Crop tool.
  • Better OpenGL 3D shadow previews and better lighting controls.
  • Note that 512MB video RAM is now required for 13.1. Moreover, Windows XP is no longer supported.

Out of all the new features, the CSS export baffles me the most—Adobe had moved away from outputting code with their creative applications, perhaps because the code has never been very clean. I got my hands on the 13.1 build a week ago and have been looking at the CSS code produced by the new Photoshop (see below). It’s much improved. Photoshop generates CSS class rules for one or more layers that are absolutely positioned, z-indexed for the correct layering, and given background-image rules referring to PNG files for each layer (“images/Layer 1 copy.png”). I do not see a method for extracting those PNGs, which is strange. It’s also strange that the CSS uses inches instead of pixels for measurements, but my document is using inches so that makes sense.

.Group_1 {
position: absolute;
left: 0.767in;
top: 0.26in;
width: 6.753in;
height: 5.51in;
z-index: 6;
}
.Layer_3 {
background-image: url(“images/Layer 3.png”);
position: absolute;
left: 0in;
top: 0.107in;
width: 4.87in;
height: 4.877in;
z-index: 5;
}
.Layer_1_copy {
background-image: url(“images/Layer 1 copy.png”);
position: absolute;
left: 0.477in;
top: 0in;
width: 6.277in;
height: 5.51in;
z-index: 4;
}

Also, Photoshop can generate CSS code for single layers or a single layer group but not the entire document. This makes sense because developers often want just snippets for specific elements, but if the CSS output is all about positioning and specific measurements then I’d want code for all the elements so I don’t have to figure out how they line up.

My pick for the new features that’s great but could be a lot better is the Conditional Actions. In theory, they should be great: the action can execute one of two things depending on a condition in the document. However, two things hamper its usefulness:

Conditional options in Photoshop 13.1
Conditional options in Photoshop 13.1
  • You can’t specify one of two commands to be executed—only actions. So if you want an image cropped a certain way if it’s landscape but another crop if it’s portrait, you have to save both crops as actions and apply them that way.
  • The conditions to be met are hard-coded into Photoshop and there’s 24 total. Most are based on the document’s status (color mode, pixel depth) or layer’s status (mask, adjustment layer, effects).

It’s obvious that overcoming these two points would require a very robust interface for selecting commands and creating conditions, so I am cool with not having it in 13.1. I would love to see this be developed further in version 14 (CS7?).

Creative Cloud: New teams, training service and desktop sync

Creative Cloud has some major momentum—200,000 members have joined in the last four months and most of them select an annual plan. I see this growing as Adobe continues to add value to the subscription and legacy users decide to stop purchasing standalone software. The new Creative Cloud for teams is going to accelerate the process.

David Wadhwani, senior vice president, Digital Media, Adobe, says, “Our goal is to make Creative Cloud the ultimate hub for creatives, where they can access the world’s best creative tools, store and collaborate around their work and ultimately showcase their creations. Now with the availability of the new Creative Cloud offering for teams, we’re making it easier for workgroups to create and collaborate.”

Creative Cloud for teams has some features that you find in subscription-based enterprise services:

  • Virtual workgroup management
  • 100GB of cloud storage per user (up from 20GB)
  • Expert support services
  • An admin interface for adding/removing seats
  • Easy migration from individual to team memberships
  • Annual contract is billed $69.99/month or $49.99/month for first year for users of CS3 or newer

I am really digging the Creative Cloud Connection, Adobe’s new desktop synchronization service for Creative Cloud. There are several cloud services out there now—Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, Box and more—and they all provide some space for free, but it is not a lot. SkyDrive offers the most at 7GB. Creative Cloud isn’t free but subscribers do get a good 20GB along with all the Adobe programs. Some cloud services can sync files to users’ computers but not all; Creative Cloud can do so now today. Note that folder sharing is coming soon.

Adobe is also announcing today the new Creative Cloud Training service for subscribers. It’s a collection of training videos from various providers available free to subscribers. I wouldn’t be surprised if many customers already have subscriptions to these video providers such as Kelby Training and Lynda.com (who isn’t listed on the press release, so I don’t think they are participating) but it’s a good added value for those who don’t.

Muse: Better for tablet and mobile web layouts

Create new tablet and mobile layouts in Muse
Create new tablet and mobile layouts in Muse

Adobe Muse gets one major updates but it’s quite major: it can now create web layouts for the desktop, iPhone, iPad and other devices. Designers can work with all views within Muse, which is handy. I haven’t seen the new Muse so I don’t know whether it is generating a responsive website or just building multiple versions of a site—if it’s the latter, it’s unclear if Muse provides the code for device detection and serving up the correct version.

Availability

Tune in to see the full details unveiled at the Create Now online event at 10am PT with new Creative Cloud capabilities, including Creative Cloud for teams, available for download and purchase starting at 11am PT/1pm CT. Unless specified, everything announced today is available to users at that time.

Adobe Photoshop CS6 and Illustrator CS6 Now HiDPI Retina Display-Enabled

The rumor is true: Adobe has updated two flagship products for the ultra-high-resolution Retina Display screens. Photoshop CS6 and Illustrator CS6 is now capable of high-resolution graphics on Retina displays (such as those on the newest MacBook Pro models); Creative Cloud subscribers can log in and grab the update immediately as of 9PM PST/12AM EST, yet another bonus for users who subscribe through the Creative Cloud.

I’ve been running the Retina-capable Photoshop CS6 for several days now and the product works well–the user interface is sharp and clear, and views at various zoom settings work as expected. I wish Adobe was able to push this update sooner than this–the Retina models have been on the market for almost six months now–but I’m happy to see it here now.

More news?

Adobe probably has more in store for us today: their “Create Now” event to be broadcasted live on December 11 at noon CST says we’ll “explore what’s next in Creative Cloud.” I bet we will see more new features, or perhaps a Creative Cloud offering for enterprise clients (which has been often requested.) Click here to see the “Create Now” livecast on Facebook.

Alien Skin’s Eye Candy 7 Plugin Released

Eye Candy 7 interface

Alien Skin has announced that version 7 of their popular Eye Candy plugin for Photoshop will be released next month. Eye Candy has always had some spectacular effects, but what I’m most excited about in this version is a new modern user interface that looks like a big improvement. (You can see some images of this UI on Alien Skin’s blog post here.)


PRESS RELEASE

Alien Skin Software Announces Eye Candy 7 Graphic Design Effects Plug-In for Photoshop

Realistic effects look natural, including the new Lightning, Electrify, and Clouds. All effects are now in one user interface, making experimentation easy.

Raleigh, North Carolina – November 14, 2012 – Alien Skin Software today announced Eye Candy® 7, the new version of its graphic design effects plug-in for Adobe® Photoshop® and Photoshop Elements. Eye Candy 7 renders realistic effects that are difficult or impossible to achieve in Photoshop alone, such as Fire, Chrome, and the new Lightning. The completely redesigned user interface lets you quickly browse all of Eye Candy’s effects through icons and instant previews.

Eye Candy 7 contains the spectacular new Lightning, Electrify, and Cloud effects. There are over 1,000 presets that handle every design situation elegantly, from slick Web interfaces (Chrome, Glass, Perspective Shadow) to tasteful logos (Bevel, Brushed Metal, Extrude) to spectacular titles (Chrome, Corona, Fire). Realism sets Eye Candy effects apart from the generic filters built into Photoshop. Effects like Animal Fur, Smoke, and Reptile Skin are rendered in exquisite detail down to individual hairs, turbulent wisps, and shiny scales. Eye Candy helps designs look more natural and organic.

Eye Candy’s new, modern user interface makes it easy to explore and design looks. In Eye Candy 7, the effects are chosen through easy to recognize icons rather than text menus. As users move their mouse over presets, the thumbnail preview instantly shows how they will look within the design. Effects adapt to the size of artwork, so preset can be used without any modification.

“I’m proud of our big simplification of the Eye Candy 7 user interface,” said Terence Tay, the designer of Eye Candy. “Now you can browse effects visually, which is how designers naturally work.”

Eye Candy is made for professionals in demanding production environments who need support for 16-bit/channel images and CMYK mode. Eye Candy provides multiple techniques for non-destructive editing in Photoshop, including Smart Filter support and rendering effects on a new layer.

Pricing and Availability

Eye Candy 7 will be available in December 2012 through www.alienskin.com for $199 USD. Owners of any previous version of Eye Candy may upgrade for $99 USD. Free upgrades will be automatically sent to all users who purchased Eye Candy 6 directly from Alien Skin Software in September 2012 or later.

Host Requirements

Eye Candy 7 is a plug-in and requires one of the following host applications:

  • Adobe Photoshop CS5 or later
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 or later

System Requirements

Microsoft Windows users need Windows 7 or later.
Apple Macintosh users need Mac OS X 10.7 or later.
An Intel Core 2 processor or compatible is required.
A monitor with 1024×768 resolution or greater is required.

Updates to Adobe Touch Apps: Photoshop Touch 1.3 and Proto 1.5

Adobe Photoshop Touch and Adobe Proto, two of Adobe’s Touch Apps designed for tablets, were updated in the past month. Today, Photoshop Touch was updated to version 1.3 with a few new features designed for iPad users with Retina screens. Last month, the web design app Proto was updated to version 1.5 with more integration between desktop and cloud applications.

Photoshop Touch 1.3: High-resolution improvements

Adobe Photoshop Touch

According to Adobe’s blog post, Photoshop Touch 1.3′s primary goal is to support the new batch of high-resolution Retina screens being used by Apple in their new iPads (3rd generation). The app also supports images up to 12 megapixels, including print-quality resolutions. (The blog post makes it sound like you have to sacrifice the number of layers you can work with in order to gain the extra pixels.)

Other improvements include:

  • Two new Effects: Shred and Colorize
  • Smoother animation and scrolling in the organizer, tutorial browser and file picker
  • New three-finger tap gesture to toggle 100 percent view and fit screen
  • New pixel-nudging mode for precise movements
  • Support for Apple Photo Stream on the iPad

Adobe Proto 1.5: Little improvements can mean a lot

Adobe Proto Logo

Proto is one of my favorite Adobe Touch Apps (see my review of it here), but Proto 1.5 provides some very useful improvements that should have been in the original release. The more comprehensive list of improvements is here on John Nack’s blog, and here’s a selection of that list:

  • Email interactive wireframe as attachment or share via Dropbox and other Adobe Touch Apps
  • Copy and paste objects to different pages
  • Share common objects across pages
  • Navigations can now be pinned on all pages
  • Z-index (stacking over) can be changed via Context Menu
  • Show undo/redo count
  • Objects snap to both CSS Column and Design Grid
  • Code generated is now ordered according to the appearance in the page
  • All pinned objects generate a separate common CSS file (common.css)

Generally, the improvements provide a more productive workflow within Proto, a more efficient use of materials like common navigation elements, and more useful code outside of the Proto environment. Dreamweaver users should watch this Adobe TV clip to learn how to bring native Proto files into Dreamweaver CS6.

For more information, check out the product pages for Photoshop Touch and Proto or the Adobe Touch Apps homepage.

BOOK REVIEW: Joe McNally’s Sketching Light

Sketching Light cover

Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash is the third of photographer Joe McNally’s books that I’ve reviewed, and I never really grow tired of reading his stories. The quality of his storytelling and the depth of knowledge he has gained from years in the field is what makes his books so interesting, and Sketching Light is no different.

As you can gather from the title, Sketching Light focuses on using flash in photography and there are a variety of stories about the topic. Unlike The Art of Photographic Lighting, which I just reviewed, Joe’s chapters are full of text, intriguing and imaginative photography, and a lot of storytelling. All this is on top of technical details supported by first-hand field experience. The book really is an awesome read, and I’d recommend it to any professional photographer. (Amateurs and prosumers will enjoy it too, but Joe’s writing as a professional and some material just doesn’t apply to what they are shooting.)

I was also inspired by some of Sketching Light that did not really pertain to lighting. Joe works with a lot of models and subjects and he writes quite a bit about working with people. There’s also a section, “How Do You Get Fired from LIFE?”, that I was particularly interested in because I grew up reading LIFE magazine in the 1990s and surely saw Joe’s work without knowing it. He doesn’t even mention lighting in this section; instead, the section is about the actual value of accolades and how temporary the perfect gig can be.

There’s a couple criticisms I want to make about Sketching Light. Joe has published three highly-regarded books now, and I think the content is starting to sound the same. The previous book, The Hot Shoe Diaries, is also about lighting and I’m not sure another book about lighting was the best idea. The content is appealing but it also seems too similar to the other two books. I’ve also noticed that Joe’s writing style is very conversational, which I usually enjoy, but it makes for longer books. Sketching Light is over 400 pages long, and I think some editing could pare that down to 350 or even 325. Some of the verbiage in Sketching Light is not necessary. I criticized Eib Eibelhaeuser for an unusually dry writing style in The Art of Photographic Lighting, but I’d say Joe McNally’s writing style could be more streamlined and direct without losing its impact.

Despite this, Sketching Light is a wonderful book and any pro photographer would do well to have it on his or her shelf. I’m putting my copy next to Joe’s other two books, which I refer to regularly.

Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash
Joe McNally
Published by New Riders
US $49.99
Rating: 9/10
Buy from Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: The Art of Photographic Lighting

Art of Photographic Lighting cover

Eib Eibelhaeuser’s The Art of Photographic Lighting is an interesting book and not the typical book that I see written for photographers. Many books about photo lighting focus on the fieldwork—lighting setups, equipment, handling natural light and other details. The Art of Photographic Lighting is part history book, part art theory book and part photo lighting book. I’m not sure whether this is a good or a bad thing.

Eib’s writing style is clean and clear, which I appreciate. There aren’t many anecdotes or stories from the field, so the writing is not very vivid or interesting like other photographers’ books. (Joe McNally’s books on lighting are practically the opposite.) I also was somewhat disappointed that there wasn’t more actual writing in the book: subjects are sometimes given just a few pages, and the pages often have plenty of white space and photography. The book design is nice and clean, but there is not as much content as I’m used to.

The content is solid. Eib is knowledgeable about many different aspects of photography lighting, including light bulb structure and history, flash configurations, color temperature, and quality of natural light at different times of day. I liked the chapters on natural light the best, and sections were well-defined (“Day,” “Night,” “Indoors” and more). As mentioned above, The Art of Photographic Lighting does not dive deep and these subjects aren’t always covered in detail.

Many pages in The Art of Photographic Lighting are devoted to photography, but quite a bit of it is bland and not very memorable. They do a good job of illustrating the lighting principles described in the text, and the images are technically good, but they are really just not too imaginative, exciting or artistic. I’m not sure how I feel about this because The Art of Photographic Lighting seems more of a textbook and the images do their job. Maybe Eib should strive to find or make images that do more than that.

Ultimately, like I mentioned above, The Art of Photographic Lighting is a good example of a textbook on photographic lighting. Its spare, clean style and comprehensive survey of lighting history and composition make it a very useful guide. However, I think the artfulness of lighting is lost and there’s very little text that sparks the imagination. That should be added to this book if it is ever given a second edition.

The Art of Photographic Lighting
Eib Eibelhaeuser
Published by Rocky Nook
US $44.95
Rating: 6/10
Buy from Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: Photographically Speaking by David duChemin

I enjoy David duChemin’s books because he speaks about artistry and philosophy, and not just about the technical details in his photography. Many photographers do the same thing and talk about composition, light and other aspects of photography beyond the camera, but David really brings his thoughtfulness into his writing.

duChemin book cover

Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images is David’s latest book and one more example of his inward-looking style. The book considers what makes a photograph successful and how to apply these qualities of visual storytelling to future images. There are many techniques illustrated here that you can get in many other books—the rule of thirds and the golden spiral come to mind—but the real takeaway is how David explains these concepts and examines them at their most philosophical level.

For example, there’s a small sidebar on “reading” versus “viewing” photographs where David describes the difference between passive viewers and active “readers” of images. I learned a similar concept when I was studying music history: to really understand a work of art, you have to go beyond your superficial reaction to it. In today’s saturated world of images, it’s easy to jump at first impressions when viewing photography, but David is wise enough to avoid that and frame the discussion with that single word.

The last section of the book—almost 100 pages—is devoted to 20 of David’s photographs. Those are a lot of pages to devote to just 20 images, but I appreciate the focus. In this section, Photographically Speaking applies the concepts of visual language that were developed in the previous section, such as orientation and the rule of thirds. I enjoy the philosophical aspects of the first section more than the technical focus in the second, but it does help make the book well-rounded.

Photographically Speaking is a very enjoyable book with beautiful images and very thoughtful writing from David. Photographers who have a firm grasp of their craft and want to really think through the images they produce can’t go wrong with this book.

Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images
David duChemin
Published by New Riders
US $44.99
Rating: 10/10
Buy from Amazon.com

REVIEW: Lightroom 4 Prepares For The Future

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 has been available a few months but only in the last week Adobe has included Lightroom in Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions, which is potentially even bigger news than the new version 4. Photographers who have purchased Creative Cloud subscriptions now get Lightroom whenever and wherever they want it, and that makes Lightroom even more relevant than before. I’ve been working with Lightroom 4 since it was released and Adobe has made some smart improvements to the application that embrace new digital technology.

I believe the most vital improvements in Lightroom 4 happen in the new adjustment brush features. Lightroom became much more useful when the adjustment brush was added a couple years ago, but Lightroom 4 lets photographers make spot adjustments to counter moiré, reduce noise or adjust white balance. The white balance adjustment is very useful and I was surprised no one thought to spot-adjust white balance before. I was so surprised I actually launched Lightroom 3 to confirm it!

Lightroom 4 white balance adjustments

Basically, the Temp and Tint sliders in the Develop module can now be adjusted within a single adjustment brush point on the photo or as a general adjustment across the photo. My color correction techniques have always emphasized correction across entire images—color casts and white balance mistakes will almost always affect everything the camera sees. However, there are a few times when multiple light sources can skew results in a part of an image. There are also many photographers today who want to be more creative with their images than just getting the color correct. These photographers will really enjoy the new controls available in Lightroom 4.

I am also really excited that Lightroom 4 now supports video formats. Prosumer cameras have been shooting video for a few years now and it’s becoming mainstream—some photographers like Vincent Laforet are experimenting with the art form while wedding and event photographers are supplementing their income shooting video as well as their usual photos. Adobe worked to make Lightroom 4 provide a complete video workflow. I don’t think Lightroom 4 provides a complete workflow—it’s missing basic features like sound editing, though Creative Cloud users will have all the software they need for video editing. But Lightroom 4 does provide easy importing and exporting to Facebook and Flickr as well as to your hard drive. I think exporting to YouTube is essential though.

Lightroom 4 does provide Quick Develop module tools for video editing, which is where workflow comes in. Photographers can change exposure, white balance and all the tone controls used for images. You can also trim clips and capture a poster frame for presenting the video. This is the extent of video editing in Lightroom 4, and I think it’s a decent enough editing suite for photographers in the field but a photographer who wants to sell his video footage should invest in Creative Cloud, CS6 Production Premium or Adobe Premiere Elements. Amateur videographers should really consider Premiere Elements, though serious photographers might want to invest in CS6 Production Premium (or, better yet, hire someone who already has mastered Adobe’s video applications.)

Lightroom 4 map module

One of the most visually spectacular new features in Lightroom 4 is the Map module, powered by Google Maps, that lets photographers place their photos in specific locations. It’s a thrill to navigate the world in Lightroom 4 and see exactly where your photographic journeys have taken you, but I have a feeling Adobe will have to constantly play catch-up with advances in GPS and mapping technology. 3D mapping is starting to emerge and I think tagging photos by building floor as well as GPS location would be useful. I also thought the process of matching photos up with their locations was tedious (except when the photo already had location metadata). If there’s no location data, you can drag-and-drop photos onto the map to set their location. This is probably as good of a manual system as you can get, but it’s still a slog.

Lightroom 4 boasts improved shadow and highlight recovery, and you’ll have to learn some new sliders in the Develop module to master this. In Lightroom 3, the Basic sliders in the Develop module included exposure, recovery, fill light and blacks along with brightness and contrast. (Brightness and contrast have been together in Adobe’s settings lineup since the early days of Photoshop.) In Lightroom 4, exposure and contrast are together and the other four sliders are highlights, shadows, whites and blacks. It’s confusing to consider whites and highlights two separate things (same with shadows and blacks) and there aren’t many differences between the two that I can see. Generally, the Highlights and Shadows sliders will affect darks or lights without ruining the other and will avoid excessive contrast. I still prefer working with the Tone Curve settings to pinpoint the tone regions I want to work on, though I like how fast and easy I can produce results with the Highlights and Shadows sliders. If you don’t have time to work with the curves, try the new sliders.

Lightroom 4 soft proofing

For photographers who make prints of their work, the new soft proofing in Lightroom 4 might be useful. A “soft proof” is an on-screen representation of the final printed product, and it’s often hard to get a precise soft proof since a screen and a sheet of paper are two totally different substrates. I’ve relied on hard proofs on paper since the beginning of my career. Lightroom 4′s soft proofs look like they might be helpful but I still don’t trust them completely—there are too many factors in printing that can skew the results. But what I do find really useful in Lightroom 4 are the new gamut warnings which will show regions that are too bright or too dark to display any detail. Lightroom 4 will provide not only printer gamut warnings but monitor gamut warnings too, which I’ve not seen before.

Lightroom 4 book module

Lightroom has always had a fairly robust set of output modules (Slideshow, Print and Web) but in version 4 there is a new Book module for creating photo books. I have seen photo books offered by several photo production websites but I usually like to design my own in InDesign. I wondered if Lightroom’s Book module would be easy to use as well as robust, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn there’s a balance between software-generated layouts (see the Auto Layout panel in the sidebar) and fine controls. The Cell panel lets you put white space around images on all sides or each side separately. I found the caption and type tools very intuitive—text was overlaid on images right where I wanted them to be and I didn’t need to handle text frame corners. Everything is done inside the Book module sidebar. I found one user interface element to be particularly annoying: the inability to add photo cells on my own. The pages’ photo layouts are determined by the Auto Layout presets; you can make your own presets but they still adhere to predetermined layouts. You cannot simply drag and drop new images onto the page either, unless a photo cell already exists. The only real way to tweak photo placement is to add padding to photo cells, but this isn’t a great way to do it.

Lightroom has had integrated social sharing for awhile now, but it’s been improved in Lightroom 4 in a way I didn’t really expect. If you share to comment-capable albums (a Facebook album, for example), photos’ comments will be shown in Lightroom 4′s sidebar and you can write your own there as well. Your comments will then appear on the Facebook album entry. I thought this was a really neat way to leverage Facebook’s API and integrate social comments directly into Lightroom. I also love how you can include your Facebook albums in the Publish Services panel and push photos up to it just by dragging them onto the album name.

Lightroom 4 is another quality upgrade for a quality product, and its inclusion into Adobe Creative Cloud makes it available to even more people. On the other hand, I feel Lightroom is a mature application now and some of the features are not so exciting or unique. Other mature applications, including Photoshop and Illustrator, deal with the same problem sometimes. But the improvements in spot adjustments, shadows and highlights, and photo book layout in particular make me say Lightroom 4 is an upgrade worth buying.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4
Adobe Systems
US $149 full/$79 upgrade
Included with Adobe Creative Cloud
Rating: 8/10
Buy at Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: Visual Stories by Vincent Laforet

Visual Stories cover

I wrote in my recent review of Jerod Foster’s Storytellers that the best storytelling techniques seem to span across art forms and can be applied to writing, composing and design as well as photography. I think that is one reason I really love Visual Stories: Behind The Lens With Vincent Laforet—the storytelling comes through not just in the pictures but in the words and the storytelling in the book itself. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Vincent is a top-notch photographer with a diverse portfolio—he shoots landscapes, people and nature equally well (though I think his people shots are the best). He’s also shot for a variety of publications and has lived and worked in many different locales around the world, so his subject matter and light are always changing and providing opportunities. The breadth of material makes Visual Stories a great resource for photographic storytellers.

The real gems of storytelling in Visual Stories come through in the writing. I’m not sure what makes Vincent’s stories compelling, but I think it’s through experience. Vincent writes about shooting in a Pakistan refugee camp; catching match point in an Olympic fencing match; making only two decent shots at a Super Bowl; and many more exotic situations. Vincent is lucky—not many photographers get such juicy assignments. His lucky break with the fencing match, described on page 91, just might make you sick with envy. (Don’t worry, I’m sure there are five failures for every success in Vincent’s career.)

Fortunately, Vincent’s luck and his ability to write stories have given Visual Stories beautiful writing to go with the photography. His stories are vivid and sometimes fairly personal, which I also like—this is a book about a photographer as much as it is a book about photographs. Visual Stories does provide some good details on lenses and camera settings, but they are not emphasized often.

I don’t really have anything bad to say about Visual Stories. I enjoyed reading it and photographers of all kinds will find it fascinating. All photographers have some stories to share, but Vincent seems to have more than most and they paint a vivid picture. The book’s price is a little high but it’s worth purchasing.

Visual Stories; Behind The Lens With Vincent Laforet
Vincent Laforet
Published by New Riders
US $54.99
Rating: 10/10
Buy at Amazon.com

REVIEW: Adobe Photoshop Elements/Premiere Elements 10

Elements 10 box

The Photoshop Elements/Premiere Elements bundle version 10 has been on the market for several months now but I wanted to review the product and give my impressions of it. Ironically, it has been just a couple weeks since Adobe released the Adobe Creative Cloud, which delivers their Creative Suite applications via a subscription. This is pertinent to the Elements products because, out of all Adobe’s products, they probably have the highest hurdles to overcome in order to convince home users to upgrade.

Photoshop Elements 10

The most game-changing and impressive new feature in Photoshop Elements 10 is the Smart Brush and its variety of effects and pattern overlays. The Smart Brush is comparable to Photoshop’s Adjustment Brush, but instead of adjustments you can apply one of almost 100 artistic effects, filters, adjustments, patterns and color fills. These are applied with a mask based on where you brush with the Smart Brush.

Smart Brush

The Smart Brush does a good job detecting boundaries for masking, similar to the quality masks produced by Photoshop Touch (though not as good as ones you can create in Photoshop). The Smart Brush effects are layer-based, so you can revise your work in the Layers panel or just click on other effects in the drop-down menu to apply them. This is a feature that seems simple but has a lot of usefulness, especially if you enjoy creating fun and interesting images. Users who just want to color correct and polish up their family photos might want to browse the Portrait subset of Smart Brush effects but otherwise won’t have too much use for this feature. There are better tools for color correction, such as Levels and Curves.

Elements’ Organizer has become smarter in version 10 and offers a few new features based on detection algorithms. Duplicate Photo Search, for example, uses a simple algorithm to detect and warn users about duplicate images. The Visual Search algorithm—which is new to Mac users in version 10—is integral to the new Object Search feature, which runs Visual Search on selections of photos in order to detect and display photos with a common object like a building or animal. It does a remarkably good job but the results depend on the clarity of the photos it’s given. Typical tourist photos and photos with a clearly defined foreground are great candidates. There’s not much control over Object Search: you can refine your search to focus on color or shape just like Visual Search.

Visual Search

People Recognition, which has been in Elements Organizer for some time, is still your best option for facial recognition. Adobe has integrated Facebook data with People Recognition to enable users to tag photos with Facebook friends. I think this is a really smart use of Facebook’s API to make photo tagging more fun and less hassle. It’s particularly cool for users moving a lot of photos from Photoshop Elements 10 to Facebook albums.

Photoshop Elements 10 also has three new Guided Edits to steer users through complex effects:

  • Orton Effect provides a soft, dreamy look for portraits and glamour shots
  • Picture Stack will segment an image into individual layered images suitable for a collage
  • Depth of Field produces a bokeh-like blurring of image backgrounds
  • depth of field

    Guided Edits have been a part of Photoshop Elements for a few versions and with each upgrade they release a few new ones. These are fun to use and I am glad two of them are for more professional-looking images—bokeh is a professional term for basically what the Depth of Field edit provides. However, the new features are not groundbreaking. The same can be said for Photoshop Elements’ new “Text on a Path” features, which insert text on a path, shape edge or selection.

    Photoshop Elements 10 Plus hasn’t changed from earlier versions and still provides 20GB of storage—the regular product provides only 2GB—as well as some tutorials and the ability to share photos on iOS and Android devices. Other than the Smart Brush, most of Photoshop Elements 10′s new features are nips and tucks, extensions of existing features or additions that should have been in place already (such as the ability to save JPEG and PDF files).

    Premiere Elements 10

    Premiere Elements 10′s most exciting new feature is the Pan & Zoom Tool, which lets users put together movie clips based on photos and animated with pan and zoom implemented by a framed interface. To use the Pan & Zoom Tool, you use rectangular frames to define where the shot should focus, the duration of the pan/zoom and how long it should hold at each frame position. Animators and anyone who has dabbled with Flash, Edge or web animations will be familiar with the approach. I’m frankly surprised the Premiere Elements team would have considered an animation paradigm to build a video production feature, but it is intuitive and makes sense. I think the user interface might be a little clunky and it can be hard to revise frame durations after the fact, but it’s a powerful little tool as is and I think it’s a nice addition.

    Pan and Zoom

    The Pan & Zoom Tool might be the most exciting new feature in Premiere Elements 10 but the AutoTone & Vibrance effect might be the most useful. This effect applies high-quality color correction to clips and I know from my experience in color correction with Photoshop that quality color really makes both videos and images look their best. I think color correction is given less attention in home video production so AutoTone & Vibrance is sorely needed. And since the Elements Organizer integrates with Premiere Elements 10 now, the application uses a Project Bin to provide file management for projects.

    AutoTone

    AutoTone & Vibrance’s primary benefit is to punch up color saturation without making skin tones look excessive. I tried this effect on a few clips and generally the performance is very good—colors look snappy but faces and hair remain natural. The effect also makes the shadows darker and richer, which generally improves the contrast. To maximize what you get out of AutoTone & Vibrance, be sure to click Edit Effects after applying it, uncheck Auto under AutoTone and edit the settings manually. There are five settings: Brightness, Contrast, Exposure, Black (shadows) and White (highlights). There’s also a single Vibrance slider to manage color saturation. These settings provide a simple but powerful way to color correct your clips.

    3 Way Color

    Adobe also added one more color correction effect: the Three-Way Color Corrector. Unfortunately, this effect is very complicated compared to the simple AutoTone & Vibrance effect. The Three-Way Color Corrector basically provides a large interface for changing the saturation and balance of highlights, shadows and midtones. You can use an eyedropper to set the balance or drag an anchor point on a color wheel in the effect settings. The results are effective but the user interface is complex, perhaps too complex for average users. The good news is the Three-Way Color Corrector encapsulates aspects of Curves and Levels, the two most important color correction procedures, which AutoTone & Vibrance does not do (that effect is more closely related to Camera Raw). However, I think the Three-Way Color Corrector can be made more efficient and easier to use.

    Premiere Elements 10 has been able to import AVCHD video since last version but now the application can also export and share movies in the native AVCHD format. You can also burn AVCHD footage to a DVD or Blu-ray disc for playback on a DVD or Blu-ray player. And one more note for Mac users: Premiere Elements 10 now includes the SmartSound feature which will let them add music to movie and dynamically adjust the length to match the movie length. This is a really nice feature I like to use, and I’m happy to see it now on the Mac.

    Users who like to post their movies on Facebook and YouTube will be happy to learn version 10 of the Elements Organizer has an interface for posting videos to both social media sites. The uploading process to YouTube is easy and clean but doesn’t leverage all of YouTube’s settings, such as tags. You also can set a video to be public or private (restricted to specific YouTube users) but not unlisted, which I think is more useful in several situations. The interface for sharing to Facebook is more robust but Facebook actually has fewer settings to manage anyway.

    Conclusion

    Adobe deserves praise for staying on top of the photo/video industry’s changes—their support of AVCHD and social media sharing are all important features that needed to be in this release. Both applications have received a worthy upgrade in version 10 but, as with many software upgrades, the necessity of upgrading depends on the user and I think the Photoshop/Premiere Elements 10 bundle has wide appeal but isn’t for everyone. I think many would make the switch just to work with AVCHD footage. Photoshop Elements 10 doesn’t have a new killer feature like Premiere Elements 10 has, but the Smart Brush is quite useful.

    Users should look at the upgrade price, look at their existing and future cameras and camcorders, and make the decision. Upgrading to version 10 offers a lot of new features—particularly for prosumers—but not everyone needs them.

    Photoshop Elements 10 / Premiere Elements 10
    Adobe Systems
    US $149.99 full, $119.99 upgrade
    Rating: 8/10
    Buy from Amazon.com

Adobe Releases Creative Suite 6 and Creative Cloud

Adobe announced today the release of Creative Suite 6 (CS6) and the Adobe Creative Cloud, representing the latest in the company’s lineup of applications for creative professionals. They will be available for purchase in May.

Both products had been previously announced—Creative Cloud was first announced back in October at Adobe MAX—and there are many official and unofficial “sneak peek” videos online of new CS6 features. Some applications have also been available as public betas, including Photoshop CS6 (1 million downloads as of this writing), Edge and Muse (over 1 million downloads each). Despite this early exposure, the creative community seems more excited over this release than some previous Creative Suite releases and the response to the public betas have been very positive. The Photoshop CS6 beta has been downloaded more than any in Adobe’s history.

The Creative Cloud structure

Adobe Creative Cloud is a response by Adobe to the changing nature of software and online services. It’s become clear that large version releases every 18 to 24 months is an anachronism compared to bug fixes pushed over the Internet or online apps handled by many hands across Github. Most of the CS6 products are the same familiar ones we’ve used for years, but Creative Cloud provides a new pricing model, online services and a new activation/updating system.

Adobe Creative Cloud includes:

Lightroom 4 and the Digital Publishing Suite will not be included until the summer. Adobe Touch applications for iOS are planned for release before the summer, particularly Photoshop Touch which my source says will be available in May.

Adobe Creative Cloud is not dependent on an Internet connection; software is downloaded to the user’s computer and can run without a connection. The installed software does check Adobe’s servers once a month to ensure a valid Creative Cloud license exists for the user based on his/her Adobe ID. Software updates can be pushed directly to the user’s computer and content will be available on all devices through Creative Cloud synchronization.

Purchasing software through a Creative Cloud subscription has some advantages. Typically, a Creative Suite customer gets a boxed product that can be installed on two machines—typically a desktop and laptop computer—but the box contains either Mac or Windows versions. Creative Cloud users are still restricted to two machines but one can be a Mac and the other Windows. This is a sweet deal for Mac users who happen to use a PC laptop.

There is also a free subscription available for prospective Creative Cloud customers. The free subscription includes 2GB of cloud storage for projects and trials of all available software. Note that if you buy into Creative Cloud and then cancel at some point, the software will stop working (after it pings the server) but your cloud storage space remains for several months.

Creative Cloud Pricing

Adobe Creative Cloud costs $49.99 per month annually or $74.99 per month, paid monthly. There’s also an introductory rate of $29.99 per month for users of CS3, CS4, CS5 or CS5.5. A version of Creative Cloud optimized for teams will cost $69.99 per person per month. This team-optimized product will include expert services and support, company IT tools and workstation synchronization, but it’s buried deep in Adobe’s development timeline and a fall release would not surprise me.

What if I don’t want Creative Cloud?

Adobe expects many users to create on tablets and mobile devices first, then polish their creations with CS6 and eventually “publish anywhere” with software like Edge—which converts animations to HTML5—and services like Business Catalyst. I reviewed the Adobe Touch apps and I thought they were not robust enough as a whole to bring more than a kernel of a final product back to the desktop, so I’m glad to see a typical Creative Suite workflow—without most of the Creative Cloud-specific features—is still possible.

CS6 icons

There are four Creative Suite 6 suites:

  • Design Standard includes:
    • Acrobat X Pro
    • InDesign CS6
    • Illustrator CS6
    • Photoshop CS6
  • Design Premium and Web Premium have been combined into one suite that includes:
    • All Design Standard products
    • Dreamweaver CS6
    • Fireworks CS6
    • Flash Professional CS6
    • Photoshop CS6 Extended replaces Photoshop CS6
  • Production Premium includes:
    • After Effects CS6
    • Audition CS6
    • Illustrator CS6
    • Photoshop CS6 Extended
    • Premiere Pro CS6
    • Encore CS6
    • Prelude CS6 (new)
    • SpeedGrade CS6 (new)
  • Master Collection includes all CS6 applications.

Adobe Edge, Muse and Lightroom 4 are not CS6 applications and aren’t available in any CS6 suite, though they are included in Creative Cloud.

Prices are:

  • CS6 Design Standard: $1,299 full, $299 upgrade
  • CS6 Design & Web Premium: $1,899 full, $399 upgrade
  • CS6 Production Premium: $1,899 full, $399 upgrade
  • CS6 Master Collection: $2,599 full, $549 upgrade

Flash Builder 4.6 and Acrobat X will not see an update, but Creative Cloud users will get their updates automatically when they are available. CS5.5 single-product subscribers will be able to continue their subscriptions at $19.99 per month per product, and they will also score 10GB of Creative Cloud space. However, CS5.5 suite subscribers will need to transition to Creative Cloud.

What’s in Creative Suite 6?

A lot of readers will really just want to know what’s in the newest versions of the Creative Suite products. There are two new CS6 applications, both in the video category:

  • SpeedGrade CS6, for color grading and color-correcting video
  • Prelude CS6, for adding metadata to clips on import and handling shoot data

There are a huge number of new features for CS6, particularly for some of the flagship products like Photoshop. I think this is why so many public beta users are getting excited for the launch. I am using a few prerelease betas of CS6 software but I prefer to work with the shipping product before I write a review, so those will be forthcoming.

Conclusion

Adobe is naturally excited about the CS6 and Creative Cloud launch, which Scott Morris—Senior Marketing Director for Creative Pros—said might be the most important launch in Adobe’s history. The Creative Cloud product is what makes it so important—it’s a rethinking of the way Adobe delivers products, and it’s the first single product that puts the entire creative workflow in the user’s hands.

Adobe Releases Photoshop CS6 In Public Beta

The splash screen for the Photoshop CS6 pre-release, codenamed “Superstition.”

Adobe announced today the immediate availability of Photoshop CS6 as a public beta. Photoshop is expected to be one of the primary products in Creative Suite 6 (CS6) and in the past Adobe has released other Creative Suite products in public beta. The only version of Photoshop released as a public beta until now was Photoshop CS3.

Photoshop CS6 (and presumably other CS6 applications) will be paired with an Adobe ID rather than computer hardware, thus ending the old activation/deactivation method for license management. Fouled-up activations have always been difficult for users to deal with and often keep software from running at all without a call to Adobe customer service, so to do away with activation altogether is a nice improvement.

The change that I’ve seen leaked most is Photoshop CS6′s new dark user interface. Photoshop CS6 now has more in common visually with After Effects, Premiere and other video apps than the design apps including Illustrator and InDesign. You can actually change the user interface’s color in the Preferences menu to one of four shades of gray. I have usually preferred the old light gray, but I come from a background in design and that’s what I’ve been used to. I’ve used my Adobe video applications more in the past couple years though and now I’m keeping Photoshop CS6 with the default dark backgrounds. It looks more professional and the grays don’t compete with images, though technically none of the options will give your images a color cast.

The Photoshop team has made performance improvements in recent versions (the OpenGL support in CS4 comes to mind) but Photoshop CS6′s main performance improvement is the new Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine. Photoshop CS6 uses the MGE to accelerate filters and effects including Liquify, Lighting Effects and warping effects. I’ve worked with these tools in prerelease builds of Photoshop CS6 and they work smoothly most of the time. I hope public beta users have the same experience.

Note that some of Adobe’s video applications employ a “Mercury Playback Engine” for much-improved video performance with NVIDIA CUDA video cards. This is not the same thing as the Mercury Graphics Engine, and the MGE works with a variety of video cards.

Content-Aware technology has been behind many of Photoshop’s recent jaw-dropping features, and Adobe has expanded it into two new tools in Photoshop CS6:

  • Content-Aware Patch marries Content-Aware technology with the existing Patch tool. There’s now a Patch menu in the tool’s options, and selecting “Content-Aware” will help you patch regions more accurately.
  • Content-Aware Move is similar to the Content-Aware Patch feature but it behaves like the Patch tool’s opposite. Rather than select a region and fill it with another region, the Content-Aware Move tool lets you select a region and move it to another place on the image. It works beautifully when moving objects and backgrounds to other places on the image: backgrounds become seamless, usually without any extra work required.

There are a bunch of little improvements in Photoshop CS6 as well. According to Zorana Gee, Senior Photoshop Product Manager, the newest version of Photoshop has 62% more new features than CS5 and 65 enhancements requested by users. These include:

  • Multiple layers can be selected and then locked, labeled or have their blend modes changed at the same time.
  • Layer opacity can now be set to zero by typing “00.”
  • Layer > Rasterize > Layer Style has been added to rasterize layer styles in one step. Previously, users had to create a new layer and merge the two layers together.
  • Brushes can now be as large as 5,000 pixels.
  • The Eyedropper tool can now select layers current and below, and can also ignore adjustment layers.
  • Layer effects are now rearranged in the Layer Effects menus so they match the order they are blended together.
  • Windows users can now right-click on a document tab and open a new or existing file.
  • The hexadecimal field in the Color Picker dialog box will now accept a hash mark, which is useful when copying and pasting hex color values.
  • A new menu command, Type > Paste Lorem Ipsum, will generate placeholder text.
  • The Blur Gallery, which provides a new UI for tweaking blurs and also two new panels, Blur Tools and Blur Effects, for adding bokeh and other details. Note that this only applies to the three new blur filters—Field Blur, Iris Blur and Tilt-Shift.
  • Photoshop CS6 now auto-saves files and has an auto-recovery system.

The press release is on the next page. To download Photoshop CS6, visit Adobe Labs. Macintosh users will need OS X Snow Leopard or Lion; Windows users will need Windows XP or Windows 7.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Released From Public Beta, Now $149

After a relatively short beta period, Adobe has released version 4 of Photoshop Lightroom, its photography application for management, development and production of digital photography.

A larger review will be forthcoming, but here are some of the major new features in Lightroom 4:

  • A Map Module that includes location tagging controls and a standard map that places photos in the locations they were shot
  • Video format support for trimming and extracting frames from video clips, applying adjustments to clips and sharing video to Facebook and Flickr
  • Simplified basic adjustment controls
  • Soft proofing features in the Develop module
  • More local adjustment controls such as Noise Reduction and Moiré
  • Templates and tools for creating photo books in the new Book module
  • An email engine within Lightroom for sending mail directly from the application

Adobe has also added some aggressive pricing to Lightroom 4, making it just $149 for the full version and $79 for the upgrade. Lightroom has typically cost $299 for the full version. Tom Hogarty, Lightroom’s main product manager, said, “Lowering the price makes Lightroom more accessible to a broader range of photographers—from pros to amateurs.” This makes sense to me—more and more amateur photographers want to work with professional tools and take their work to the next level—but I also think Adobe wants to compete aggressively with free and cheap photography products on the shelves and online.

Press Release

Innovative Shadow and Highlight Recovery and Enhanced Digital Photography Workflows Mark A Milestone Release

SAN JOSE, Calif. — March 6, 2012 — Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) today announced the availability of Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 4 software for Mac OS and Windows. Lightroom is the essential digital photography workflow solution helping amateur and professional photographers quickly import, manage, enhance and showcase their images. First released as a public beta in January 2012, the final version of Lightroom 4 is now available for US$149 for the full version and US$79 for the upgrade, providing an incredible value for photographers. Lightroom 4 introduces refined technology for superior shadow and highlight processing, ability to create photo books, additional local adjustment controls, and enhanced video support.

“Feedback from our customers is invaluable in developing Lightroom and the real trick to a great release is to combine these insights with Adobe’s unrivalled image processing innovation,” said Winston Hendrickson, vice president products, Creative Media Solutions, Adobe. “Lightroom 4 is a stunning new release that will enhance photography workflows and help photographs stand out from the crowd.”

New Features in Lightroom 4

Lightroom 4 is a major release, adding significant new capabilities and innovations. New adjustment controls maximize dynamic range from cameras, recovering exceptional shadow details and highlights. The software features new and improved auto adjustments to dynamically set values for exposure and contrast, and additional local adjustment controls including Noise Reduction, Moire and White Balance.

Lightroom 4 provides photographers the tools to create beautiful photo books with text controls and a variety of easy-to-use templates, as well as a direct link for photo book creation from within the new Book module. A new intuitive Map module displays images already assigned a location, provides location tagging and reverse geo-tagging controls and saved locations for easy assignment of a photographer’s common locations.

Now, native video support gives photographers the capability to play, trim and extract frames from video clips shot on DSLRs, point-and-shoot cameras and smartphones. Video-specific presets and many standard Lightroom image adjustment controls can be applied to video clips, and adjusted videos can be exported as a H.264 file or published directly to Facebook or Flickr*.

In the Develop module, presets fully utilize new processing technology and the addition of soft proofing helps photographers tune images in a destination color space to ensure content looks its best. In addition, customers can now email images directly from Lightroom using an email account of their choice.

Pricing and Availability

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 is now available for Mac and Windows at www.adobe.com/store. The estimated street price is US$149 for new users or US$79 for upgrades. For more detailed information about product features, upgrade policies, pricing and language versions, please visit www.adobe.com/go/lightroom.

Users can also connect with the Lightroom team directly on Facebook (www.facebook.com/lightroom), via Twitter (www.twitter.com/lightroom) or on the Adobe Lightroom blog (http://blogs.adobe.com/lightroomjournal). For Lightroom how-to videos, visit http://www.youtube.com/lightroom.

Adobe Photoshop Family

Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Extended are at the heart of the Photoshop family, joined by solutions for users at every level who want to bring out the best in their digital images either at home, in the office or on the go. Photoshop Lightroom addresses the workflow needs of amateur and professional photographers, helping them create, manage and showcase images in impactful ways. Photoshop Elements provides consumers with powerful yet easy-to-use tools that organize, edit, create and share photo memories. For mobile devices, the Adobe Photoshop Touch app helps users transform images with core Photoshop features custom-built for tablets; and Adobe Photoshop Express is a free app for simple photo fixes and enhancements, and sharing to social networks*.

About Adobe Systems Incorporated

Adobe is changing the world through digital experiences. For more information, visit www.adobe.com.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Enters Public Beta


The alternate splash screen for Lightroom 4 with its “Sprocket” codename.

Last week, Adobe announced Photoshop Lightroom 4 and released the photo management software as a public beta available on Adobe Labs. Lightroom has enjoyed a public beta for each of its four iterations and it’s one reason the product has been popular among photographers. “Giving early customer access to new versions of Lightroom has helped our team deliver an outstanding battle-tested product that really stands up to the demands of photographers worldwide,” said Winston Hendrickson, vice president of Digital Imaging Products for Adobe.

The new features in Lightroom 4 are ready to be tried and tested, including:

  • A Map Module that includes location tagging controls and a standard map that places photos in the locations they were shot
  • Video format support for trimming and extracting frames from video clips, applying adjustments to clips and sharing video to Facebook and Flickr
  • Simplified basic adjustment controls
  • Soft proofing features in the Develop module
  • More local adjustment controls such as Noise Reduction and Moiré
  • Templates and tools for creating photo books in the new Book module
  • An email engine within Lightroom for sending mail directly from the application

I saw a quick demo and what I found most interesting were the new Map and Book modules. The Map module provides a really striking visual representation of the photographer’s journey around the world, though it’s probably a bit depressing for the user who doesn’t jet around the world very often. The bookmaking features are intriguing to me, and the Book module exports to PDF or publication at Blurb.com, an online publisher.

There are also many smaller features, including “fast load data” in DNG files for faster load times in Lightroom 4. You can also have a lossy (less than top quality) comp for fast loading. Another nice addition is soft proofing and gamut warnings for screen and print profiles. I’ll be curious to try these but I know it’s traditionally hard to get precise color management exactly right. One more note for holdouts on Windows XP: Lightroom will require Windows Vista and newer with version 4.

Adobe’s press release on the Lightroom 4 announcement is here.

Adobe Carousel Renamed “Adobe Revel”

Adobe Carousel, which was announced and released last fall, has been renamed “Adobe Revel.” Adobe has published a blog post explaining the name change and also announcing version 1.1 with a few new features, including automatic import from your iOS device’s Camera Roll and a new Flickr importing feature.

The major news here is obviously the name change, which doesn’t happen very often for a new product just out the gate a few months. I remember when Adobe Carousel was just announced and some people speculated the name might be confused or outright infringe upon Kodak’s slide projector products, which used a rotating slide carousel. Kodak actually stopped producing slide projectors back in 2004, but Carousel’s icon—which looks like two intertwined slide carousels—and the app’s function as an image viewer connect to the old experience of watching slideshows projected on a screen.

Adobe’s blog posts confirms that the Carousel name was selected because the app displayed photos in a circular manner. But Adobe also “plans to offer additional photography solutions on the platform in the future,” and wanted a broader term for the app’s name. “Revel means to take great pleasure or delight…and that’s what we hope to do in the future as we continue to add more functionality and fun to the app. In the future, you can expect we will also be able to offer additional photography solutions on the newly named Adobe Revel platform.” This could mean more apps beside Revel or even more functions rolled into the Revel app. We’ll learn more in the future.

Adobe Revel can be purchased at the iTunes App Store here. Revel is expected to be released for the Android and Windows Mobile platforms yet this year.

REVIEW: Adobe’s Touch Apps for Android

Last month, Adobe released its line of Adobe Touch Apps for Android tablets. Adobe has been testing the mobile and tablet software markets for some time now, first with Adobe Ideas for iOS and Photoshop Express, then the Photoshop SDK and the three Photoshop-related touch apps for iPad, then with Adobe Carousel which also runs currently on iOS, and now with six apps for creative professionals on Android tablets:

  • Adobe Collage, where users can build mood boards with images, text and graphics,
  • Adobe Debut, suitable for presenting graphics and concepts to audiences,
  • Adobe Ideas, a vector application suitable for creating and marking up images,
  • Adobe Kuler, which provides an interface for picking and refining color schemes,
  • Adobe Proto, where layouts for websites can be constructed, and
  • Adobe Photoshop Touch, a tablet-based version of Adobe Photoshop.

I’ve worked with all six and I think the suite of apps are a mixed bag: some really stand out for their usefulness and ability to leverage many tools available in the Android SDK, while others are not as helpful and robust. I can’t tell whether some of the apps are hamstrung by limitations in the APIs or were designed by Adobe to focus on a very specific set of features.

The crown jewel: Photoshop Touch

PS Touch image

Photoshop Touch is probably the Adobe Touch app being promoted the most, and it got a lot of love at the Adobe MAX developer conference in October. Many Photoshop users—including myself—have been wanting “Photoshop on a tablet,” and I think Adobe delivered. Photoshop Touch has a lot of Photoshop’s tools, effects and adjustments, including some I wasn’t expecting (such as Warp). There are a few Photoshop tools that aren’t present, including some animation tools such as the Animation panel. But Photoshop Touch stands out as the most feature-rich and robust of all Adobe’s Touch apps.

I also think Photoshop Touch has the most robust user interface, and incorporates a helpful menu bar at the top of the screen. All the Adobe Touch Apps have a top menu but most only show a few icons and don’t have submenus. Photoshop Touch needs an extensive UI like this, and even though it’s packed with features it’s not hard to use. The only criticism I can make is that some tools aren’t in the same place they are in Photoshop, and Photoshop users might find this counterintuitive. I think the Photoshop Touch development team sometimes strayed too far from the example set by Photoshop.

ps-touch

The results you can achieve with Photoshop Touch are remarkable, particularly with the Scribble Selection tool which lets you mark areas to keep and remove. The app figures out the rest with very good accuracy. This tool reminds me of Photoshop’s old Extract filter, which was removed from that product a couple years ago and still hasn’t been given a suitable replacement. Most of major features are borrowed from Photoshop—layers, brushes, text, adjustment filters and effects are all integrated into Photoshop Touch. One missing feature is the layer mask, which I think is a major oversight. Fortunately, Photoshop Touch exports its files in a new .psdx format, which Photoshop can open with a plugin, so you will be able to bring the full power of Photoshop to your Photoshop Touch projects.

PS Touch image

Photoshop Touch performs best as part of a workflow that also includes Photoshop, though you can do exceptional work without it. Creative professionals who use the Creative Suite extensively will find Photoshop Touch to be a solid extension of their Photoshop tools into the mobile space.

Impressed by Proto

The other Adobe Touch app that really impressed me is Adobe Proto, a web wireframing tool for web designers. Like Photoshop Touch, it has a robust set of tools and a UI that also includes gesture shortcuts. For example, draw a box on the canvas and an HTML div element is created. Draw a “play button” triangle and an HTML5 video element is created. The gesture UI is very easy to work with and I wish Proto was not the only Adobe Touch app that implemented it, but each app has its own development team and the Proto team happened to be the only one to weigh gestures important enough to include in the initial launch. Proto’s gesture UI makes creating website wireframes quick, easy and even fun.

Proto image

Proto projects can contain multiple pages and link between them, and there’s a lot of emphasis on basic HTML elements, form elements and navigation powered by jQuery, the ubiquitous JavaScript framework. Projects can then be pushed up to Adobe Creative Cloud—Adobe’s upcoming cloud service for creative professionals—and then brought into Dreamweaver or any other programming application. I’ve looked at the code Proto renders out and it’s fairly basic but functional, consisting of HTML5, CSS and jQuery as needed. Each page in a project gets its own CSS file, which is not usually advantageous.

Proto image

Proto is a solid wireframing app that provides a lot of tools despite its restrictions in the tablet. Developers need to apply some design work to the output and perhaps clean up some of Proto’s code, but I think Proto can provide a decent starting point for many projects.

Two new apps: Collage and Debut

Collage image

Adobe Collage is a fun tool for producing “mood boards,” which agencies and design teams sometimes use to bring images and text together to communicate a concept for development. Collage leverages the tablet interface very well, including support for multi-touch gestures that brings a tactile behavior to the mood board experience. Moving items around with your fingers is different than using a mouse and a monitor. Collage also interfaces with the tablet’s camera so you can take pictures of your environment and make it part of your mood boards instantly. There’s a small set of tools as well for markup, including a vector brush, text tool and a drop-down menu for duplicating, deleting and stacking elements. You can also include playable video into your mood boards, but they play in a new window and not on the project board itself.

Collage image

Unfortunately, there are not many more features in Collage and I find it to be lacking a few features. Why not include a microphone or allow importing video from the tablet camera? Both of these could really bump up the personal experience of creating projects in Collage. Also, Collage files are currently imported into Photoshop by converting them into a PSD file that can’t be converted back into a Collage file. The converted PSD doesn’t retain video elements either. I think there’s a few kinks to work out in the Adobe Touch Apps/Creative Suite import/export process.

Debut image

Adobe Debut is the least powerful and weakest member of the Adobe Touch Apps family. Debut is a presentation tool that imports graphics and images from various sources and lets users swipe through them. It’s the kind of feature that can be handy in a client meeting or a portfolio presentation. Debut’s best feature is the breadth of sources it can pull images from, including from the tablet’s camera, the Creative Cloud, Google and Flickr. The Creative Cloud gives access to users’ Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator files, which is a real plus for creative professionals. You can also toggle Photoshop file layers on or off when importing. A vector markup tool allows Debut presentations to be marked up on the fly, which can be handy in client meetings.

Debut image 1

However, the fact that I’ve just described the extent of Debut’s functionality goes to show how little it can really do. Collage can do pretty much anything Debut can do except present multiple slides, which is what makes me think Adobe should combine these two apps into a more powerful mood board creation and presentation app for client experiences.

BOOK REVIEW: Digital Alchemy

Most technical photography books—the ones that are more about producing images than about creative expression—deal with pixels and the digital photography medium. These books discuss Photoshop techniques, speedlight setup, working with lenses or any number of other hardware or software topics. It’s pretty rare to read one that discusses denatured alcohol, emulsions and other hands-on techniques that bring back memories of the darkroom.

Digital Alchemy by Bonny Pierce Lhotka is just such a book, and I really enjoyed reviewing it. Digital Alchemy is more about digital printmaking than digital photography, but producing the initial transfer images involves photography, Photoshop and whatever digital tools are needed to realize the artist’s vision. Bonny produces her own print transfer products (such as the SuperSauce medium that is used often in the book) and has done extensive testing and experimentation to formulate the techniques in this book. Her pedigree is a strong foundation for the book.

A lot of the book is made of printmaking tutorials. Most require creating an inkjet print on transfer film, applying a transfer medium and then the actual transferring of the image to one of a variety of surfaces—including metal, wood, stone and even metal leaf (including aluminum foil!). Bonny has created techniques for all of these projects and Digital Alchemy really feels like a cookbook—follow the instructions, play with the techniques, and in the end you’ll have a finished product in your hands. This combination of printmaking craftsmanship and digital creation is very satisfying and fun.

I don’t always view DVDs that come with books because they usually contain images and photos from the book’s tutorials. In Digital Alchemy‘s case, however, the DVD contains an hour of well-produced video tutorials showing Bonny in action on a few different projects. I thought they were clear and well-done, and nicely complemented the book. I have seen worse video tutorials being sold by themselves for a lot more money. Here, you get the video and a book for a fair price.

Digital Alchemy is not for everyone: if working in a darkroom sounds messy and unappealing, then you probably aren’t one to apply smelly solutions to film and materials you get out of the home improvement store. However, photographers who started in film photography or even started out as painters and printmakers will absolutely love it. I highly recommend it.

Digital Alchemy
Bonny Pierce Lhotka
Published by New Riders
US $49.99
Rating: 10/10
Buy at Amazon.com

Adobe Releases Touch Apps Tablet Applications For Android

Today Adobe officially released their lineup of Touch Apps for Android tablets, deepening their dive into products for mobile devices. The company has devoted considerable resources to mobile applications for a few years now, so the Touch Apps represent a major investment for Adobe.

The Touch App lineup released today includes six applications:

  • Adobe Collage, for creating “moldboard” layouts including photos, drawings and text.
  • Adobe Debut, a presentation tool for mockups and Touch App projects.
  • Adobe Ideas, which is similar other vector drawing programs like Illustrator.
  • Adobe Kuler, a color palette builder.
  • Adobe Photoshop Touch, which is designed to deliver core Photoshop features on a tablet.
  • Adobe Proto, for building interactive prototypes of websites and mobile apps.

Even though it’s considered part of the “Touch Apps family,” the previously-announced Adobe Carousel photo management app isn’t listed as one of the “Adobe Touch Apps.” It also is only available on iOS devices at the moment; see below for more details. Kuler and Ideas both exist in other forms as well.

I received a demo tablet from Adobe just last Saturday and I’ve just started to work with the applications, so no review for now. However, these applications were shown extensively at Adobe MAX (including the Day 1 keynote) and I’m fairly familiar with how they work. Together, they provide a solid collection of core tools from most of the major Creative Suite products—Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver and minor elements from a couple others. The hurdle Adobe has to clear is to provide a user interface that works in a tablet but has the power and flexibility to get serious work done in a variety of environments.

The Touch Apps are on the Android Market now and sell for $9.99 each, a price well over the $3.13 average price of paid Android apps. Adobe will have to appeal to the professional community to justify the price. The apps are also restricted by language (English only) and by hardware specs: 8.9-inch, 1280×800 minimum screen size and resolution with Android 3.1 or higher, which eliminates all current Android non-tablets. The apps are currently available only on Android, but they will be ported over to iOS devices in early 2012. There’s no word yet whether the apps will be restricted to the larger iPad.

BOOK REVIEW: Vincent Versace’s Welcome to Oz 2.0

Vincent Versace’s reputation as a photographer and lecturer is strong, and he is a fixture in Scott Kelby’s stable of PhotoshopWorld instructors. However, he hasn’t written many books compared to Scott, Joe McNally or other photographers in his class. The only real example, until now, was his Welcome to Oz: A Cinematic Approach to Digital Still Photography with Photoshop which published in early 2007. It’s highly regarded, and so when he published a “version 2.0″ edition this year I was sure to review it.

Welcome to Oz. 2.0: A Cinematic Approach to Digital Still Photography with Photoshop is really a Photoshop book rather than a photography book: most of the pages are for four long, detailed Photoshop tutorials that improve just four images. I’ve never seen anything like it in a 300-page book. With so many pages devoted to so few chapters, you can bet either the tutorials are masterpieces that cover every detail of photography retouching or lessons that are so packed with steps and Photoshop adjustments that they get twisted upon themselves. I think there’s some of both.

I am a fan of advanced books, since there are so many beginner and “prosumer” books on the market. Welcome to Oz 2.0 is a book for advanced and intermediate readers, and Vincent’s tutorials are not simple or quick but constitute a “deep dive” into many features at once and produce great results. Photographers and retouchers who really want to be the best are the perfect audience for Welcome to Oz 2.0.

However, some of Vincent’s work in Welcome to Oz 2.0 really do go over the top sometimes. There’s value in retouching a background in six steps that, in this book, might take 15. Welcome to Oz 2.0 is not a book for in-house retouchers or photographers who don’t have a lot of time to spend tweaking images. I’ve trained with another highly regarded Photoshop operator, Dan Margulis, and one year he had us work with an image of a woman in white satin. He joked that he got the image from Vincent and gave him grief when he made the image look better than his in just a few minutes. Ironically, that same image is in Welcome to Oz 2.0; Vincent’s retouching lesson on it lasts 60 pages!

Welcome to Oz 2.0 is not just a few Photoshop tutorials. Vincent lets his philosophy on photography shine through in the tutorial intros and also several page in the beginning and end of the book. I think these nuggets of wisdom are the best part of the book. Vincent has thought a great deal about his craft throughout his career and it’s good advice for a photographer at any skill level. I enjoyed reading it, but my taste is for more straightforward and succinct prose.

One more thing: If you enjoy WWelcome to Oz 2.0, you should know that Vincent plans to make the “Oz” books part of a three- or four-book series. From Oz to Kansas: Almost Every Black and White Conversion Technique Known to Man is available now for pre-order. Return to Oz is the third book’s title and the fourth will be Every Picture Tells a Story: Cinematic Digital Still Photography and 21st Century Composition Theory. Like I said, Vincent’s verbiage is rarely succinct.

Welcome to Oz. 2.0: A Cinematic Approach to Digital Still Photography with Photoshop
Vincent Versace
Published by New Riders
US $49.99
Rating: 8/10
Buy at Amazon.com

Adobe Announces Carousel For Cross-Device Photo Management

Last month at Photoshop World, Adobe announced the release of Adobe Carousel™ for iOS and Mac OS X devices. Carousel is a cross-device application for browsing, adjusting and sharing photography with synchronization in the cloud for multiple devices. It’s definitely a consumer product, and I’ll explain its severe limitations on working with professional photography, but the notable aspect is its focus on the iPad, iOS and (eventually) other mobile and tablet devices.

“With Adobe Carousel we are extending the power of Adobe’s imaging expertise beyond the desktop and onto tablets and smartphones, delivering instant access to your complete photo library and the freedom to edit and share photos anywhere, any time,” said Winston Hendrickson, vice president of Digital Imaging Products, Adobe. “Thanks to Adobe Carousel, users never need to worry about wasting time syncing, remembering if a photo was saved to a particular device, or worrying about maxing out storage on their iPhone or iPad.”

Adobe has a really slick way to marry the cloud and device storage with Carousel. Images are hosted on the main computer but they’re copied to the cloud’s servers immediately and Adobe’s system distributes the copies on demand to other devices. The press demo showed images being uploaded to Carousel and available on other devices almost immediately. Chris Quek, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Carousel, called it a “content-aware mesh.” This system also allows users to edit images at the same time and merge their changes, though I think doing so can lead to wild results.

Carousel is currently available for Apple iOS devices only, which is intriguing to me since Adobe has a colder relationship with Apple compared to other device manufacturers such as Google (Android) and BlackBerry. Adobe’s efforts have shifted around as the tablet and mobile device landscape fluctuates, and they are protecting their Flash Platform product as well as investing in technology like iOS and HTML5, with projects like Project ROME (now defunct) and Edge, which generates HTML5 animations.

Carousel seems like a product that was developed only for iOS to go after the iPad market, and it was decided later to embrace the “create once, publish anywhere” mantra and extend it to Android and Windows Phone. Carousel is expected to reach those platforms in 2012, and in the future I expect there might be a web application to complement these device-specific apps—an internal prototype does exist within Adobe.

Carousel is a subscription-based service and 30 days are complimentary. After that, it will be $59.99/year or $5.99/month. You can import unlimited photos, with no cap on file sizes, and manage them on unlimited devices, but you can only have five carousels and they can be shared with only five people each. Another limitation is Carousel only handles JPEG images. This was asked about quite a bit by my press colleagues during the demo, but the press attendees were generally pro or prosumer photographers shooting RAW images. Adobe has squarely targeted the consumer market with Carousel, and it doesn’t surprise me that JPEGs from point-and-shoot and mobile device camera are the main focus. For the same reason, professional color management and detailed ratings/flags are not really a part of Carousel, though you can “favorite” an image.

Carousel looks like a fun product to me but the photo management market already has a lot of solutions—from Picasa and Flickr to social media tools like Facebook, which I’ve read has more of the public’s photos than any other service. Carousel’s strengths is in its integration with Apple products—you can import from Aperture and iPhoto, and iPhone pics can go to Carousel automatically—and its smooth synchronization capabilities. It also has decent cropping and adjustment tools, which not every service offers. However, the other services have a strong head start and Adobe didn’t do itself any favors by delaying the release to Android. It’s hard to tell where Carousel will be in five years, but Adobe is at least on the right path.

Day 2 Announcements From Adobe MAX: PhoneGap, Flash Player 11, AIR 3 and Unreal Engine 3

Compared to the first day’s MAX keynote, the second day’s keynote was much more focused on hard-core development but also a lot less exciting and with fewer major announcements. The only acquisition that was announced was Nitobi, which brings the PhoneGap development platform into Adobe’s portfolio. PhoneGap is a popular way to publish HTML5 and JavaScript-built applications to most major mobile platforms, including iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile. I bet it will be rolled into either Dreamweaver—which has had similar frameworks like jQuery Mobile integrated with it—or the newly-announced Adobe Creative Cloud, where it could end up as another of its creative services (along with TypeKit and others). They did say that PhoneGap will remain an open-source project available to everyone.

According to the keynote, Adobe’s intention is to “bet on HTML5″ while “doubling down on Flash,” which I expected. Some people, particularly Apple fanboys, expect Adobe to kill Flash—but I don’t think it will happen anytime soon if at all, and right now HTML5 can’t duplicate all of Flash’s capabilities so I don’t think it should. Interestingly, Ben Forta—Adobe’s Director of Platform Evangelism—asked for a show of hands of who has built an HTML5 application before, and almost no one raised their hand.

Flash Player 11 and Adobe AIR 3 were also announced, which focus on games, rich media and data-driven applications—all things that are not easy to implement with HTML5 right now. I’m particularly interested in 3D and gaming capabilities that are being built into Flash Player 11, and a demo of the Nissan Juke website—which features an online driving game—shows some good things with the new technology.

Other announcements

  • Adobe Edge, currently in beta, has reached the third preview iteration and has some new features including loops and hyperlinks. The beta has been downloaded over 150,000 times.
  • The new ThemeRoller product was demonstrated, showing how jQuery Mobile themes can be built with a user interface. This is also something that can be built into Dreamweaver, but at this point it looks like it’s generating a lot of CSS code. Until ThemeRoller can generate lean code, web developers will criticize Adobe for bloated code.
  • CSS Shaders was demoed for the crowd. CSS Shaders is a CSS3 module that Adobe has contributed to the W3C for inclusion in the general CSS3 spec, and it leverages current PixelBender technology to bend and warp HTML elements. The presenter had a very nice demo of a live page curl on an HTML element and also on a live video element. CSS3 is where Adobe can provide the most benefit to developers, because CSS is pervasive across the web and it’s not tied to a particular product.
  • Another CSS3 module presented by Adobe is CSS Regions, which uses CSS to generate text columns and live text wrap. This is already implemented in Google’s Chromium (a beta version of Chrome) and Internet Explorer 10.

The last presenter, Epic Games’ CEO Tim Sweeney, showed something that means a lot to me personally: Unreal Tournament 3 running in Flash. I played a lot of Unreal Tournament 2004 years ago and Unreal Engine 3 (UE3) is now able to run on Flash—how cool is that? According to the press release, Flash Player 11 has up to 1,000 times faster 2D and 3D rendering than Flash Player 10, which sounds…unreal. If Flash can gain a foothold as a runtime for top-of-the-line games, Adobe can pivot the technology into a data-centric and graphics-centric product and leave web graphics and rich Internet experiences to HTML5, which is what I think will happen one way or another.

Day 1 Announcements From Adobe MAX: Adobe Creative Cloud And Adobe Touch Apps

Today Adobe announced a variety of newsworthy items, mostly acquisitions and new products that will greatly impact creative professionals. Ironically, “Flash Platform” was not mentioned once at this event, traditionally Adobe’s largest for Flash developers, but I and other press colleagues think more developer news will be announced at tomorrow’s keynote.

Adobe Creative Cloud Combines Apps, Services and Community

This was the big-picture announcement: Adobe has a new service called Adobe Creative Cloud that combines their desktop products, tablet and touch applications, a community website with cloud storage, and a variety of services. The Adobe Creative Cloud’s discrete components will be detailed separately below, but the outline includes:

General pricing and availability of the Adobe Creative Cloud will not be announced until November 2011. The product itself looks absolutely beautiful, and is what I expected from a company like Adobe responding to huge changes in mobile computing and data distribution. Apple and Amazon are doing the same thing in the cloud computing landscape. However, right now we don’t know what a service like Adobe Creative Cloud will cost, so until then we can’t judge how successful it might be.

Another complication is the fact that the Creative Suite 5.5 products have been available with a subscription since May. Will that option go away now that users can subscribe to those and more through the Adobe Creative Cloud? I doubt it will—I know the CS5.5 apps and suites will still be available as standalone products and for sale through the conventional way, and I expect Creative Suite subscriptions will also continue. I also think you can look at the prices of those CS subscriptions, add a bit more money, and have an idea what the Adobe Creative Cloud will cost.

Adobe Touch Apps Released, Includes Photoshop Touch

Adobe has been investing considerable resources into tablet and mobile applications, first with Adobe Ideas and then with Photoshop Touch SDK apps like Eazel and Nav, and the iOS-only Carousel. Today Adobe announced six new “touch apps” currently on Android, which will all be available to Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers.

  • Adobe Photoshop Touch brings basic Photoshop features to tablets, including layers, adjustments, selection and background extraction among other features. Out of all the apps this is the only one to be named after an existing desktop product, and I predicted a “Photoshop on the iPad” product at some point. However, Adobe has made a strategic decision not to put too many Photoshop features into Photoshop Touch and so the app is nowhere near as powerful as its namesake. This was out of both necessity and UX considerations, but I think it will hurt its reception by users.
  • Adobe Collage helps creative people combine imagery, drawing and text to create storyboards and basic layouts. I see this being more useful in the conceptual phase of a creative project, and it doesn’t take the place of Illustrator or InDesign.
  • Adobe Debut is a client presentation application for displaying project materials in meeting situations. Photoshop and Illustrator files can be displayed, among other Creative Suite file formats.
  • Adobe Ideas is a vector drawing application whose files can be opened in Illustrator or Photoshop for refinement. As with Collage, it can’t take the place of Illustrator and it’s useful for off-site work when a laptop isn’t an option.
  • Adobe Kuler is a tablet-based version of Adobe’s existing kuler application, previously just a web and AIR application. Users can build and share color palettes.
  • Adobe Proto builds wireframes and prototypes for websites. It’s the only app that incorporates gestures in a major way: users can draw an “x” to insert an image, or squiggly lines to create headlines and text. There are roughly 16 different gestures already created for Proto.

All the touch apps integrate with Adobe Creative Cloud and share projects and assets in the cloud, so projects can be touched by multiple apps. For example, a project can be conceived by a project manager in Collage, passed on to a designer who builds the color palette in Kuler, then to a web developer who wireframes the product in Proto, and approved by the client in Debut before moving on to final production in Creative Suite. All these apps are also built with Adobe AIR, so they could technically be deployed on the desktop, but the apps’ user interface is designed for small devices and touch screens.

All apps will be available separately for $9.99 each.

Conclusion

After all these announcements, I wasn’t sure if life will be easier or harder now for the traditional creative professional—those who design or develop with Adobe products and have been using the Creative Suite products for years. The Adobe Creative Cloud moves resources to everyone, not just the creative professionals, and the touch apps seem like they are designed for creative users who aren’t necessarily the ones putting publications to bed or deploying code to the web. Even Photoshop Touch, whose namesake is Adobe’s flagship product, feels lightweight and lean. Adobe seems to be focusing on a larger creative audience, and it could complicate things for creative professionals.

However, I like the direction Adobe is taking in marrying everything through the cloud—it had to happen eventually, and the opportunity is huge for business and also for creative productivity. The notion of web fonts being available in the cloud via TypeKit makes sense not only for web fonts but for all fonts—imagine being able to license the entire Adobe type library without installing files on your own network. Out of all this news, the Adobe Creative Cloud has the most implications for Adobe and for consumers.

Adobe Announces CS5.5, Subscriptions, Photoshop SDK and Touch Apps

Major changes are coming out of Adobe today as they announce several new products and technologies:

  • CS5.5, the next iteration of the popular Creative Suite applications for creative professionals,
  • The Photoshop Touch Software Development Kit (SDK), which allows applications using Android, BlackBerry Tablet OS and iOS to interact with Photoshop,
  • Adobe Nav, Color Lava and Eazel—three iPad apps that implement the Photoshop SDK, and
  • A new yearly upgrade cycle and subscription plans for Creative Suite products.

CS5.5 for Design: InDesign leads the way

Besides the Photoshop Touch SDK (described below) and the addition of the already-released Acrobat X, the CS5.5 Design suites have all their major new features in one product: InDesign CS5.5. The emphasis is on improving the use of the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, which was released last fall as a tool for major interactive publications.

InDesign CS5.5 has a new set of tools dubbed Folio Producer, which allows interactive elements to be added to standard page layouts. This includes 360-degree graphics such as QTVR, embedded websites, hyperlinks and slideshows. The Folio Producer outputs a .folio file, which is digested by the Digital Publishing Suite for packaging and final distribution. If you’re not using the Digital Publishing Suite, the benefits don’t apply.

What I like a lot more are the improved authoring features for eBooks, which don’t require the Digital Publishing Suite. Support for HTML5 video and audio for eBook readers and auto-resizing images are the two main features. There’s also a way to apply character and paragraph styles to EPUB, HTML and PDF tags so, for example, a heading style can be applied to an h1 tag for HTML output and another tag for the PDF output. A new Articles panel lets you sequence content elements so they are read in the appropriate order.

Photoshop Touch SDK and Touch Applications

The Photoshop development team is releasing a SDK which will allow developers to build software that interacts with a user’s Photoshop application. Unlike the CS5.5 products, the Photoshop Touch SDK is available immediately. I’ve not looked at the various methods and functions available to applications through the SDK so I can’t tell the scope of what it can do, but the three applications developed by Adobe (below) suggest it can move artwork, color swatches and tool selection from the app to Photoshop and applications can be aware of what’s open in Photoshop.

The three applications are:

  • Adobe Nav, which makes the iPad an input surface for selecting tools in Photoshop and displays open Photoshop files on the tablet,
  • Adobe Eazel, a neat app for painting with fingers or an iPad-sensitive brush,
  • Adobe Color Lava, a color mixer that can deliver swatches to Photoshop.

I am a member of the prerelease beta team testing these three apps and have been using the shipping version for a few weeks now. I feel the three apps need some more work before they are fully mature. Eazel offers a decent painting experience—whether with fingerpainting or by brush—but the five-fingered user interface can be clunky at best and downright difficult when you’re using a brush or happen to be missing a finger. Color Lava is the best of the bunch in my opinion—the water well and mixing action is very intuitive—but I personally think it belongs as an integrated component of Eazel.

Nav was released to the beta team after the others, and we’ve had it just a few weeks. I’m not sure what its usefulness is: selecting a Photoshop tool on the iPad so you can grab the mouse and actually use it on your computer doesn’t seem helpful. Why not just click the tool with your mouse? Nav’s only other major feature is the ability to browse open Photoshop documents from the iPad and select one as the active file on the computer. This at least makes the iPad a portable window into what’s open in Photoshop, which can be useful when showing images in a meeting. However, Photoshop has to be open and your iPad and computer have to be connected via the Internet to get files into Nav.

A far better application using the Photoshop Touch SDK is the brief demo John Loiacono provided at last week’s Photoshop World event. That app demonstrated layers, layer masks, a desaturation tool and a unique “exploded layer” view. We are moving toward a “Photoshop for iPad” app, and whatever app achieves that level of photo manipulation will be very successful. I think the Photoshop Touch SDK will be the catalyst for such an app, but I’ve not seen this app materialize yet.

The three apps will be available in May 2011 on the iTunes App Store and will be priced at $4.99 for Eazel, $2.99 for Color Lava and $1.99 for Nav.

REVIEW: Photoshop/Premiere Elements 9 for Mac

Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements are sometimes difficult for me to review because I use Photoshop Extended and Premiere Pro—the professional versions of these prosumer products—and I inevitably compare the two. I can also see how Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements often borrows technology and features from their pro counterparts, and I’m not sure if this is real innovation or simply providing existing pro features to the prosumer market. In any case, it can’t be denied that prosumers appreciate getting the hottest features in Photoshop Extended or Premiere Pro, albeit some months after they are released to the professional market.

Both Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9 are good upgrades—but not necessarily great. Premiere Elements 9, like Adobe’s eLearning application Captivate 5, is notable just for being available on Mac for the first time. Both Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9 have some smart new features. However, not much innovates beyond what we’ve seen in Photoshop CS5 and Premiere Pro CS5 and some new features are improvements to features that were new in version 8. Let’s go through both applications and outline the new features.

Photoshop Elements 9: “Nips and tucks”

There are a couple existing features that are new for the Mac: the Organizer asset management solution and synchronized image and video storage through Photoshop Elements 9 Plus, which provides 20GB of online storage, templates and stock art. Plus is not new but until now it was included only with Premiere Elements and the Photoshop/Premiere Elements bundle.

Similarly, the Organizer has been a Windows-only component of the Elements family until version 9. I still really enjoy using the Organizer as a small and lean version of Adobe Bridge, which the Creative Suite products still use and was used by Photoshop Elements for Mac until now. All the Organizer’s features are available for Mac now, including People Recognition and the Auto-Analyzer auto-tagging feature. I don’t really see any major differences between this Organizer and the version 8 Organizer, other than Flip camera video importing which is helpful for Premiere Elements users.

Like I mentioned earlier, many of Elements’ new features often come from new features developed for Photoshop or Premiere Pro. The best new feature to show up in Photoshop Elements 9 is the Spot Healing Brush’s Content-Aware mode, which was initially revealed in this Adobe MAX 2009 video and first released with Photoshop CS5. Content-Aware technology has been with us since CS4 but applying it to the Spot Healing Brush came in CS5 and now is available to Photoshop Elements 9 users.

The Content-Aware Fill makes a big improvement in the Spot Healing Brush.

I use Content-Aware mode on the Spot Healing Brush all the time, and it does a great job. It’s one of the great new Photoshop features that I can remember in a long time. For prosumers, it’s great for taking people out of photos and also restoring old photos that need some blemishes fixed. The great thing about it is you can make major fixes quickly and still get a good result—usually, the more time you put into retouching or restoration the better off you are. The Spot Healing Brush has changed that, though I have to say it’s not perfect either. Sometimes I’ll still pick up unwanted details or oddball colors the brush has decided to pull from elsewhere in the photo and add to the brushed region. I have to say that I’ve gone back to the Clone Tool sometimes to manually clone what I want in the area. But I still think it’s an excellent retouching tool to have.

Content-Aware Fill will auto-fill the blank areas left behind after Photomerge is used to build panoramas.

Content-Aware Fill also seems to come into play in a minor improvement to the Photomerge panorama-building tool. When photos are merged together there’s usually some blank areas around the photos that until now have been cropped out. Now Photoshop Elements 9 will fill in those areas with Content-Aware Fill and duplicate whatever’s around it. It makes perfect sense because most of the time those areas need some sky or foliage, which is ideal fodder for Content-Aware moves.

Elements users already know about Guided Edits but there’s a new Fun Edits section with some neat ready-made effects:

  • Lomo Camera Effect duplicates the color saturation, dark shadows and vignetting you typically get from a Lomo camera. I personally don’t enjoy a lot of lomography and would prefer to see a Polaroid Effect that duplicates the old Polaroids from my youth!
  • Out Of Bounds is my favorite Fun Edit: it pulls a selected part of the photo onto its own layer and adds a drop shadow and white stroke so it looks like the photo is “breaking the frame,” with elements protruding outside the edge.
  • Perfect Portrait adds some basic portrait-enhancing filters and contrast improvements to your portraits. Simple but effective.
  • Pop Art is something I would have loved as a kid, when I was making pop art with bitmap clip art (yes, I am from the 1990s). An image is duplicated in a 2×2 grid and color can be added to create a Warhol-esque image.
  • Reflection is another winner, creating a decent reflection of an image below it. I think users have to be careful—water and other natural reflective surfaces are not mirrors—but it produces a nice result if used subtly.

The Lomo Camera Effect.

The Out of Bounds Effect.

The Pop Art Effect.

The Reflectino Effect.

One new feature that I didn’t really like is Photomerge Style Match, which applies color and tonal qualities (black/white values) to photos in a way Match Color might in Photoshop. I think it’s good for applying major color changes, like sepia on a photo, but there’s better ways to add sepia (the Old Fashioned Photo effect in Photoshop Elements comes to mind). The problems often show up when the tonal changes are added to the mix—colors can become dingy and the worst thing is changes can be applied in patches or in a hazy grain on the image. It might be improved by controls separated for color and tone, but in Photoshop Elements 9 there are only controls for how much change is applied. Ultimately the Photomerge Style Match is something to play with but I don’t see improving my photos much with this. Maybe the next version of Elements will improve upon it—I hope so, because it does have some promise.

There are some big changes to the ways people can share and publish photos out of Photoshop Elements. The first is a Share To Facebook dialog box that lets you push photos and albums to your Facebook profile for easy sharing. Adobe did a really good job making the process easy—once you’re logged into Facebook, it’s just a matter of adding your photos and tags and publishing to your page. This feature is built into the Organizer so both videos and photos can be shared.

The other major change is Basic and Advanced layout modes for building layouts to print in a book or just as an image. The Basic mode will build a simple layout with the photos you provide it, which is similar to what iPhoto would do for you. iPhoto has some other tools for you but they’re all basic changes to font, background and more. Photoshop Elements 9 does pretty much the same thing.

The Advanced mode is where Photoshop Elements 9 separates itself from apps like iPhoto and lets its editing tools work on the layout, including images from the layout theme. The sidebar remains on the Create panel so you can’t really use edits from the Edit panel, but the toolbar and menu items are all available. I wouldn’t even bother with the Basic mode unless you only have five minutes to build a greeting card or photo book—use the Advanced mode to really make something unique.

NVIDIA Quadro 4000 for Mac: Smaller, Faster, Better

I was impressed enough last year when NVIDIA® released the Quadro FX 4800, a video card that radically improved performance in tandem with Premiere Pro CS5‘s new Mercury Playback Engine. You can see my review of the Quadro FX 4800 for Mac here along with my review of Premiere Pro CS5 and After Effects CS5. But I was surprised late last year when NVIDIA released the Quadro 4000 for Mac and boasted even more impressive specs.

The Quadro 4000 and other new Quadro cards use a new NVIDIA GPU architecture called Fermi, and NVIDIA seems to have shattered previous limitations in video performance and rendering. Compared to the Quadro FX 4800, the Quadro 4000 offers 33% more GPU cores (256 versus 192), a 426% increase in precision (243.2 MFLops vs. 57.6 MFLops) and 2GB of RAM versus 1.5GB. The Quadro 4000 also costs $600 less and uses 8W less power. I’m not an expert on the technical details of CUDA and GPUs, but most computer users will say that a product with more processor cores and more memory for less cost is a definite improvement.

The most noticeable difference between the Quadro FX 4800 and Quadro 4000 is that the Quadro 4000 is half the size and requires only one card slot in your Mac. The Quadro FX 4800 requires two—the monitor ports are stacked on top of one another, and both are DVI connectors. The Quadro 4000, in contrast, has a DVI and DisplayPort connection side by side. Terry White, Adobe’s Worldwide Creative Suite Design Evangelist, has a good photo of the two cards side by side, with the ports visible. Terry doesn’t mention in his article that the Quadro 4000 ships with an optional 3D stereo connector that mounts on top of the card and uses a second card slot. I installed that as well so I wouldn’t have to hunt for a card slot cover, and if I ever get into outputting video for 3D TVs and displays I’ll be prepared.

The Quadro 4000 is small enough to require only one card slot, but the optional 3D connector takes up a second slot. The connector bracket sits on top of the card and a cord connects it to the card. You can see an image of this configuration at Amazon.com.

The Quadro 4000′s performance gains are hard to compare to the Quadro FX 4800′s because both produce phenomenal improvements. Both can play back projects with multiple simultaneous HD videos and effects, and I didn’t try adding more and more elements until one started to show the stress. Terry calculated the performance difference between the two to be around 10 percent, which is probably about right.

Users who invested in a Quadro FX 4800 last year should rest assured that their card matches with the latest NVIDIA has to offer the Mac. Those who didn’t buy the Quadro FX 4800 have even less of an excuse to turn down the Quadro 4000, which is priced at $1,199 but I see them listed at Amazon.com at under $800. I’m also glad NVIDIA has kept a DVI connector on the card but also implemented a DisplayPort, which is the next generation of display connections. The Quadro 4000 ships with a DVI-DisplayPort adapter and also a DisplayPort-Mini DisplayPort adapter.

NVIDIA Quadro 4000 for Mac
NVIDIA
US$1,199 (under $800 at Amazon)
Rating: 10/10