C. David Tobie: SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and its effects on Photo and Video Editors


Recent studies have found a new type of light sensor in the eye, in addition to the rods and cones we are familiar with for color, and black and white vision. This type of sensor has nothing to do with vision, but may have a big impact on photographers and videographers, as it relates to a condition commonly seen in those who edit images for a living. This article will describe that condition: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), its symptoms and its triggers, as well as offering suggestions to avoid SAD when doing photo and video editing work under controlled light conditions. Lets take a look at how SAD works.

Imagine that you are a caveman (or woman) who had been wandering the wilds for the last several months. Now it is the cold or rainy season, and you are staying in your cave, near the fire. In order to conserve energy, and help you make it through this season, your body triggers the “hibernate” signal, and several things happen.

First, you start craving carbohydrates. And the carbs that you eat start forming more fat than in other circumstances. This adds both insulation, and extra energy storage. You become more lethargic, with reduced energy, increased sleep cycles, even reduced libido. These changes allow you to stay in the cave, instead of feeling the urge to wander the countryside looking for more food, etc. This describes what happens, but it is also important to understand how it is caused.

The newly discovered sensors are simply luminance detectors, involved in setting our day/night cycle, but also our seasonal cycle. If multiple days go by without high light levels, then the detectors produce chemicals that are key to the hibernation response. There are other factors, though how they interact with the light level sensors is complex. Getting generous amounts of physical exercise also assists in avoiding the hibernations response, as does keeping mentally active and happy.

We still inhabit Stone Age bodies, and these responses are still lurking inside us. It would be easy to think of SAD as a medical condition afflicting some small percentage of humankind. But research seems to indicate otherwise. In the more northerly regions of Scandinavia, where there is little or no sun for months at a time in the winter, virtually all residents show symptoms of SAD. In the year-round sunshine of Southern California, on the other hand, most people aren’t aware of SAD ever triggering.

But SAD is not just for those arctic Scandinavians. Large areas of Northern Europe and the Northern West Coast of North America, while much warmer than the Arctic, are still very gray for months on end. This also increases incidences of SAD.

Now lets move on to the specific jobs of interest: those who spend much of their time in the low-light environments ideal for work on color calibrated displays, typically editing photos or video. It is easy during the shorter winter days to start work before the sun is high, and stay at it until it drops again. Unfortunately, this may be what triggers SAD. First, our eyes are not getting the bright sunlight that keeps the luminance sensors from triggering, plus we are not getting much exercise or physical activity. So we may find that we are gaining a bit of weight, feeling less inclined to go to the gym, and generally not being as active.

Medical options are available for SAD treatment, such as high-luminance daylight balanced light sources. It is important to be quite close to very bright light sources to reach the required dose, so don’t think that replacing the ceiling fluorescent tubes with daylight balanced bulbs will do the trick. But once you are aware of the issue, in many areas there is enough sun, on enough days, to use that as your therapy light source. Those places too gray, or too close to the Arctic Circle, will require artificial light sources instead.

Notice that it is short doses of high level sunlight that are the key here. So while working in a dim editing environment may be the problem, increasing the room lighting while you work is not the solution. That will make your editing environment less effective, while never reaching the brightness levels needed to avoid SAD. So think of SAD treatment, in the form of light and exercise, as something to be done in small doses on breaks, and especially at lunchtime, rather than something that requires changing your all-day work environment.

The best prescription for avoiding SAD turns out to be in-line with the best advice for healthy computer work in general:

  • Take frequent breaks; and by breaks, this means getting up and moving. Don’t eat your lunch in front of your screen.
  • Alternate sitting and standing. If you can’t do your editing work standing, then perhaps you can set up a laptop on a higher surface for other tasks such as email.
  • Get out in sunny locations for at least one longer session in the brightest part of the day. Ideally get outside and exercise at this time. If not possible, consider SAD lights as an alternative.
  • See that the others working in your environment are also aware of SAD, and the value of these methods to avoid its onset, as well as to improve health and energy levels in general. Happy Editing!

C. David Tobie

Changes to Lightroom Licensing: Adobe’s Other Shoe Drops

Lightroom Classic-1.jpg

Adobe created a tempest in a teapot when they announced the subscription plans for most Adobe applications. Due to the heavy resistance amongst photographers, they crafted a special plan, at a very tempting rate, that offered just Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC for $9.99 per month. That was enough to mollify many photogs, and over time, some of those who dragged their feet initially have joined this custom subscription plan. Life moved on.

However, I still run into photographers, ones who think nothing of buying the latest premium lens or camera body, who are still in the “I want to buy it, and own it forever” camp. Forever isn’t actually forever, but the sentiment is still the same. One very advanced photographer/videographer recently told me that he’s fine with his now-outdated purchased copy of Lightroom, and that it seems Adobe is going to continue supporting new cameras for it, so that’s all he needs.

Enter AdobeMAX 2017. Amongst the spectacle and the visual fireworks, came the announcement of this year’s product lineup, which contained a few fireworks of its own. The for-purchase version of Lightroom will no longer be updated, and at some point in the near future will not longer be sold. Anyone paying attention would have realized that this other shoe was bound to drop before much longer, so in that sense, this is not surprising.

On the other hand, it is inevitable that those who have been making do with the now outdated standalone software would be upset, and a second hullabaloo would ensue. I’m sure Adobe has been expecting it, though certainly not looking forward to it, just as they were well prepared for the initial explosion when the subscription model was introduced. I can envision their experts warning them to hunker down, weather it, not respond to incendiary posts, and all would be for the best in the long run.

I’ve read my share of those incendiary posts, and they have been educational, both in expressing other views on the process, and in highlighting the pain-points in the transition.

One thing that came into focus while reading them was that there was a similar sea-change made, not that long ago; not by Adobe, but by Apple. Remember when Final Cut turned into Final Cut X, with an interface borrowed from Apple’s consumer product, iMovie? And a number of critical features were suddenly missing? Well, that’s not so different from Adobe’s new version of Lightroom CC, which is simplified, offers some web advantages, and has been provided with a much larger cloud storage limit, but which has many limitations not present in the previous version of Lightroom CC.

If the Final Cut model is followed, eventually some of those features will be reinstituted, but its important to think about why both these companies made changes that they were aware would upset their user-base. In both cases, a larger audience was developing, one outside the current professional base; one that needed an easier interface and other simplifications. And the answer, in both cases, was a new, simpler to use application.

But what of the old user-base? In Apple’s case, some hung on, and regained needed feature over time, but many migrated upsteam, to Adobe’s products, to differentiate themselves from the new amateur users. In the case of Lightroom CC, there is no crisis here, the previous application has not (at least at this point in time) been discontinued; it has simply been renamed.

We could ponder the psychology of the quick switch Adobe has pulled: a new, reduced feature, cloud-centric app with the name of the old app: Lightroom CC. And a new, less than flattering name, for the previous app: Lightroom Classic. We’ll hope that the new Lightroom CC will not suffer the fate of the New Coke, but that example is not without value, because Coca-Cola’s method of walking back the failure of New Coke was to introduce a product… wait for it… called: Coke Classic.

Clearly Adobe needed the full strength of the plain, unadjusted Lightroom CC name for the new product. And just as clearly they needed to create a perception that the previous product, with its more advanced feature set, was not an innately superior option, so could not be called Lightroom Plus, Lightroom Pro, or anything else that implied a lack in the new cloud-based version. So, the professional photographers, in addition to all the other indignities they have suffered in the declining pro photo market, were saddled with Lightroom Classic. I can almost envision a tag line to go with it “Lightrooom Classic, for the Good Old Boys.”

So what does this all mean to the good old boys? Those currently paying their $9.99 subscription price each month can pretty much ignore the new Lightroom CC, continue using The Real Lightroom, as well as Photoshop, store their huge hoard of images locally, take care of their own remote backups, and in general, do what they have been doing for the last few years. It will all work the same way it always has… at least until Adobe drops the next shoe.

Those using older, purchased, versions of Lightroom will hear the loud ticking of the clock; they are already missing some nice, recent tools, and soon they won’t have new camera support, so things will break at some point. Forcing them to join the $9.99 subscription program (still a bargain), and use what will now be called “Lightroom Classic”, which will work with all their libraries and images, and offer a few new tools. Not such a huge trauma, after all.