Review: Acorn, Intermediate Image Editing for the Mac

What is Acorn?

Acorn is a basic image editing application for the Mac from Its standard price is $49.99US, but it is specially priced at $29.99 US during the month of May 2013. It can be purchased from the developer, or from the Mac App store; with all the usual advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Where’s the Market for Acorn?

Acorn uses the tag-line: The Image Editor for Humans. While that line casts me on the role of non-human, I understand perfectly what it means. Apple owns the low-end of this category with iPhoto, for organizing images, and doing simple, mostly global, corrections to them. And Adobe owns the high-end with Photoshop and Lightroom. In fact, the only Mac application that comes to mind in between these two extremes is Adobe’s Photoshop Elements, which is a stripped down version of Photoshop for non-power users. Acorn certainly fits in the same zone as Elements, without the name recognition that Photoshop offers, or the value of having the app you’ve been learning be an exact subset of the app you may end up graduating to, as is the case with Elements and Photoshop.

How’s the Interface?

Since virtually all non-Apple, non-Adobe image editors are on Windows, or from Windows, it is typical to expect a rather unattractive look and interface in such programs. Acorn, refreshingly, looks like a well-designed Mac app. With its most recent update Acorn uses much the same general layout as Elements or Photoshop, with a double-row vertical tool palette on the left edge of the screen, and further tool control windows to the right of your image. While it is not an actual subset of Photoshop, a Photoshop user has no difficulty navigating the app, and learning in Acorn would not leave a new user at a big disadvantage in moving to Photoshop later.

Acorn Interface

Acorn Interface

What’s the Feature Set?

If you are not the type of user that feels a need to work in Lab space, convert images to CMYK, or perform other power functions, Acorn might well fit your more-advanced-than-iPhoto needs. It offers many of the typical basic and intermediate functions, including layers, masks, and even alpha channels; as well as most common selection, cropping and adjustment functions. One interface element that takes a moment to get used to is that many of the tools found in the Image column of Photoshop’s menu bar are under Filters in Acorn. We’re used to looking under Filters for Blur, Sharpen, and Stylize effects; in Acorn you’ll find Color Controls, Exposure, Gamma, Grayscale, and other such items there as well.

Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 1.46.04 PM

What about HighBit Files, and Other Formats?

Acorn has no trouble opening images saved at 16 bits per channel, or saved as Tiffs with common Tiff compression formats. Pings are also supported. Even layered Photoshop (.psd) files. So most formats the typical user will come across are covered.

Does It Deal with RAW?

Acorn is capable of opening RAW files in at least some formats. Its RAW converter is simple, and best used for emergency situations where a RAW image needs to be viewed, or a quick Jpeg created from it, and a full fledged RAW editor is not convenient or available. The controls in Acorn are not powerful enough to be effective in adjusting RAW images using the SpyderCube. HSL controls for use with SpyderCheckr are also lacking. So consider Acorn not as a RAW converter, but a RAW converter substitute.

Acorn RAW Import Dialog

Acorn RAW Import Dialog

How’s the Color Management?

This question is of special interest to Datacolor customers. Color presents identically on-screen in Acorn and in recent versions of Photoshop. sRGB and ProPhotoRGB versions of the same image present identically in Acorn as well. So clearly the application is utilizing the display profile; and converting from the tagged image space to the display profile correctly.

Acorn Image over Photoshop Version

Acorn Image over Photoshop Version

The printing dialog from Acorn presents are the standard versions accessed other applications for the same graphics printer, allowing a custom printer profile to be selected. Printing sRGB and ProPhotoRGB versions of the same image gives matching results; so printer color management seems to be functioning correctly as well.

Acorn even has an Assign Color Profile command. There is no matching Convert to Color Profile command, so this limits users from converting the pixels in an image from one color space to another (such as the conversion from sRGB to ProPhoto used for the tests above), and allows only the more practical task of setting the correct color space for an image which is either mistagged, or more likely untagged. Assigning sRGB to the ProPhoto version of the test images used for this article instantly changed the colors to be incorrect, as would be expected, and reassigning ProPhoto instantly corrected them again.

Acorn's Assign Color Profile option

Acorn’s Assign Color Profile option

So What’s the Conclusion?

More and more photographers are going without a copy of Photoshop, given its price tag of several hundred dollars. Many of these users are using the much more affordable, and for most photo tasks much more practical, Lightroom to organize and edit their images. There are also the users still working in iPhoto, but who have reached the point of wanting more advanced features than iPhoto offers.

Such users have the need to occasionally make localized edits, layered files, composited images, images with text added, and other such tasks not covered by Lightroom or iPhoto. Acorn is a very legitimate option for both these cases. It can even be set as the optional second editor from Lightroom, to open Lightroom exported files directly into Acorn for pixel editing.

With Photoshop Elements listing at $99US, and even on special tending to run well above Acorn’s price, Acorn is certainly an easy-editor worth considering.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: Return to Blog’s Main Page


Adobe Lightroom 5 Beta for Datacolor Users


This week Adobe released a beta version of Lightroom 5. Here is my initial report on what Lightroom 5 Beta means for those using Datacolor products:


Lightroom, while it has added many printing conveniences over the years, has always lacked certain desirable functions for color managed printing. Black Point Compensation is always on when printing from Lightroom; Adobe invented BPC, and is very proud of it, but there are legitimate reasons for choosing not to use it, and the lack of a checkbox for this feature makes Lightroom printing less robust. And while there are four (or at least three and a half) rendering intents in ICC printer profiles, Lightroom chooses to only offer two of them to users. So those who prefer Saturation intent when printing using Datacolor’s SpyderPrint profiles, will have to continue using the SpyderPrint Preference option to switch the Saturation and Perceptual intents to create a version of their profile for printing from Lightroom using the Saturation intent (accomplished in Lightroom by then selecting Perceptual, and the special version of the profile with the switched intents).  None of this has changed in Lightroom 5 beta; though hope springs eternal. Perhaps Lightroom 6…


The Rendering Engine in Lightroom 4 was significantly different from previous versions, necessitating major changes in how the SpyderCube was used; but providing better controls for working with the Cube in the process. Lightroom 5 has no such engine changes, allowing the same process for using the SpyderCube with LR5 as with LR4.


The lack of Rendering Engine changes, or Color changes, mean that creating Camera Calibrations is done the same way in Lightroom 5 beta as it was in Lightroom 4, and that results are the same as well.

Spyder Display Profiles

How Lightroom uses display profiles does not appear to have changed, so it is not necessary to reprofile your displays to use Lightroom 5 beta. But its still a good idea to recalibrate at least once a month anyways…


Lens Auto-Focus Calibration is a camera firmware function, so does not effect Lightroom, or any application, other than providing sharper images to work with.

A Word on LR5B In General

Most of the changes in Lightroom 5 beta involve allowing it to perform more image editing functions. Some of these are functions that used to require moving the image into Photoshop (and out of RAW) that now can be done in Lightroom; and in some cases more easily and automatically than in Photoshop. And a clever new version of Proxy Editing allows images on drives not currently on-line to be edited using a new, larger preview image. This will have some interesting Cloud implications in the long run.

For me the improved rendering engine was the key feature of LR4, while the softproofing function and its ability to create custom tuned virtual print versions of an image for various papers was the elegant new addition. This time around the off-line editing capability has a similar feel of being the elegant new addition, while the LR5 “engine” changes are limited to added capabilities in the Lens Profile section. I will plan to cover these Lens Profiling changes, and what they mean for advanced users, in a future article.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2013. Website: Return to Blog’s Main Page

WEBINAR: Exploring Architectural Photography, Today 3PM EDT


This webinar will be an unscripted discussion of the concepts and techniques used in architectural photography, sponsored by Datacolor. David Saffir and I will be discussing a range of sample images, chosen for their value in illustrating architectural concepts and the techniques used to shoot them. Please join us for what we hope will be an interesting discussion on this very challenging theme. And stay tuned, as there will be a Datacolor Spyder product given away to one attendee at the end of the session, plus some excellent discounts for all attendees.

Sign up now at :

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: Return to Blog’s Main Page

Using SpyderCheckr Camera Calibrations with Video

Datacolor’s SpyderCheckr produces color correction presets for Lightroom, ACR, and Phocus. These presets are typically applied to still images processed in these applications. Now that Lightroom 4 can catalog, clip, and even make basic adjustments to your video, the question of using SpyderCheckr Lightroom Presets to correct color for your video cameras arises. This possibility is particularly interesting when it comes to adjusting video capture from different types of cameras, such as GoPro cameras and DSLRs, or different types of DSLRs, to match their color as closely as possible.

The answer is: yes, it is possible to apply an existing SpyderCheckr preset, from a still image shot with your camera, to video shot with the same camera. However, since that preset was most likely shot in RAW, and certainly as a still image, its best to start from scratch, and shoot the SpyderCheckr target in a video clip, to capture the actual video workflow for color correction.


Video of The SpyderCheckr, to Color Correct the Camera

You can then capture a still frame from the video, and process that still frame the same way you would any SpyderCheckr target shot.


The Capture Frame Option, to Grab a Still Frame from the Video

The resulting Preset can then be applied to a still image, and by selecting that still image and one or more video clips, the Sync Settings button can then be used to apply the color corrections to video clips.


The Sync Settings Option, used to Apply the Calibration to Videos

The dialog box shown below will appear, showing which of the Lightroom Development Settings can be applied to video. Be sure the Color Adjustments box is checked, so that the HSL Adjustments from SpyderCheckr will be applied to the video clips.


The Synchronization Dialog Box, Where the Settings are Selected

Once the clips have been color corrected for the camera they have been shot with, they can be exported from Lightroom for processing in any other Video Editing application you use. Be sure to check the Include Video Files checkbox. Versions of Lightroom 4, up to 4.4 appear to have a bug when Video Export is set to Original in Lightroom 4. If your video clips appear to render instantly, without taking the necessary time to apply the corrections to each frame, it may be necessary to choose another Export format in order to have your Lightroom Cuts and Adjustments (including your Color Correction) applied to your video clips.
It may also be possible to force the edits to render, even in Original format, if you first flag the video clips. However, the flag icons are conditional in Lightroom 4 Library mode, and disappear when a video is the selected item. So instead, set the Painter tool to Flag, and “spray” the videos you wish to flag, so that a flag icon appears in the upper right of each in grid and filmstrip mode. These flagged videos should (this may be a conditional bug, so no guarantees) render with edits in the Original format.

The Video Format section of the Export Dialog

A future article will focus on the process of tuning output from different cameras for use in the same video project.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012.   Website:   Return to Blog’s Main Page

C David Tobie Presents at Stanford University’s SCIEN Coloquia Lecture Series


David Cardinal recently wrote an article on my presentation at Stanford University for the Datacolor SpyderBLOG. For those of you interested in color management, it covers some of the issues I addressed in that lecture.

Click HERE to view the article.

Photo Credit: David Cardinal, Copyright 2013. Website: Return to Blog’s Main Page

WEBINAR: Artistic Techniques in Phone Photography, Today 3PM EST

A1 Diner

A1 Diner, shot with iPhone 4S, Processed with NIK Snapseed

This webinar will be a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of phone cameras, and ways to utilize them effectively, including add-on lenses and editing applications. This webinar is sponsored by Datacolor . David Saffir and I will be discussing a range of sample images, chosen for their value in illustrating phone photography methods and techniques. Please join us for what we hope will be an interesting discussion on this hot topic. And stay tuned, as there will be a photography product given away to one attendee at the end of the session.

Sign up now, we’re hoping to see you at today’s webinar.

A recorded version of this webinar will be made available at a later date

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: Return to Blog’s Main Page

C David Tobie to Present at International Printing Week, Cal Poly


Anyone attending International Printing Week at the Cal Poly, or in the San Luis Obispo, CA area, please join C David Tobie, Datacolor Product Technology Manager, for a one-hour presentation on Display Calibration for All Your Viewing Devices. This session runs from 4PM to 5PM on Tuesday, Jan 28. This session will cover calibration for a wide array of display types, multiple display tuning, projector calibration, and iPhone/iPad calibration. This session is restricted to Cal Poly students and those with International Printing Week passes; please contact the Graphic Communication Department at the URL above if you are interested in attending.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: Return to Blog’s Main Page