The Changing Role of Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop: once the be-all and end-all of digital imaging; but no longer. There have always been Photoshop competitors, but none ever had the feature set, or the market reach, to seriously compete with Adobe’s flagship image editing application. But what competition alone could not alter, is changing over time, with other shifts in the industry.

RAW Formats Produced the First Cracks

When RAW file formats become common, and RAW converters from each camera company came on the market, Adobe responded with a RAW utility for Photoshop. Adobe Camera Raw became one of the most common ways to convert RAW files to “real” image files, meaning the types of universal file formats (Tiff, Jpeg etc) that we all considered to be the bedrock of imaging.

The changes did not stop there. Applications which performed RAW conversion, plus image storage and other functions, began to appear. Adobe’s entrance into that market came with the release of the first version of Adobe Lightroom. Before long, it became apparent that the types of adjustment tools in these RAW apps were actually more photo-centric than those in Photoshop. Adobe appeared to see the writing on the wall, and changed Lightroom’s name to Photoshop Lightroom. A technicality, but one that keeps the name Photoshop at the top of the image editing heap, one way or another.

Apple’s entrance into the RAW converter/Image Manager field with Aperture created stiff price competition for Lightroom, forcing the intial price of Lightroom to be much lower than Photoshop, and recent version prices to be lower still. This price differential has been an added factor in the move to RAW format apps for the majority of image editing work.

Mobile Imaging Provided the Second Front

The next sea-change was the move to mobile. While Adobe released a minor app for imaging on the iPhone early-on, other companies launched an all-out assault on the mobile image editing market, resulting in the odd situation of smaller companies like NIK providing superior image editing capabilities in third party image editors, and leaving the lesser features of Adobe’s PS Express in the dust. As the mobile imaging field matured further, both Adobe and Apple responded by releasing major image editing products for iOS.

The future of NIK’s award-winning SnapSeed for the iPhone and iPad, as well as their desktop applications, are in question, following the recent acquisition of NIK by Google. But we can rest assured that the surge in mobile imaging apps will continue unabated, from companies large and small, augmented by web apps of the Instagram-type; which seems the most likely field for Google’s NIK acquisition.

Photoshop CS6 Changes the Rules

The release of Photoshop CS6 heralded the next change in Photoshop’s role in our daily lives. The CS6 version defaults to an interface more like that of Lightroom, and a backdrop that covers the main monitor’s screen behind Photoshop’s pallets and image windows, also somewhat similar to Lightroom’s full-screen interface, but without the total-control attitude of Lightroom.

This is a relatively new feature, and not without difficulties. It is most effective when images are “tabbed”, a function that locks them to the top of the screen, and allows them to be viewed by toggling between the tabs for each image. When using free-floating image windows, the new interface has more noticeable weaknesses, including the disturbing habit of “losing” image windows behind the background (which, by definition, should always be at the back), and difficulty accessing other applications while Photoshop is on-screen.

Photoshop CS6 Application Frame Interface

This rather minor change has wider reaching ramifications for casual Photoshop use. Historically, most users linked all common imaging formats to Photoshop, so that double clicking on most any image file would trigger it to open in Photoshop. However the new “black-out” effect of Application Frame mode makes it less practical for use in conjunction with other applications. Perhaps you need to have an image on screen while writing a critique of it, or need to read text from a screenshot while performing the steps it represents, or a hundred other such multi-app situations.

For such uses, Photoshop’s default state is no longer practical, and must be reset to it’s previous interface by choosing Window >Application Frame to uncheck the new Application Frame feature. However, there are some real advantages to having the Application Frame in place while working with Photoshop for serious image editing work. So an alternate solution is to use Photoshop as a dedicated advanced image editor, not a general image viewer. This means finding another application which can be conveniently used for the types of casual image display that Photoshop does not specialize in.

Accessing the Application Frame Interface Control

Image Viewer Utilities Come to the Rescue

For Mac and Windows users, Graphic Converter is one reasonable low cost choice, which allows navigation amongst a group of images. But there is an even less expensive alternative on the Mac, with some clear advantages. That is Apple’s own Preview app, which is installed free with Mac OS X.

Graphic Converter Interface

Preview is ideal for opening a range of file types, including common image formats. And it offers an excellent way to view a group of images. Command click on the various images you would like to view. Now Control-Click on one of them, and from the contextual menu that appears, choose Open With > Preview.

Apple’s Preview Interface

This will result in an image viewing window with a vertical set of thumbnails of your selected images on the left, and the first image in the group at a larger size on the right. The size of the previews can be adjusted by moving the border between the preview and main view sections to the left or right. The size of the larger image can be adjusted by dragging the lower right corner of the window. The Arrow Down and Arrow Up keys can be used to navigate the series of images. Preview is a color managed utility, so your images will display correct color on screen.

This method of displaying one or more images, and an array of other file types, while not losing the convenient ability to work in other applications at the same time, makes Preview a useful tool for everyday imaging tasks. Give it a try, or start your own search for a favorite image viewer for daily use.

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

Using the SpyderCube with Photoshop CS6 & Camera Raw 7.1

Once Lightroom 4 directions were completed, next on the list was a matching list of directions for using with Photoshop CS6 and its mate, Adobe Camera Raw 7.1. I’ll post those directions here, so that anyone using the SpyderCube who has upgraded to  CS6 can give this a try, and can send me comments if desired. I will include the annotated illustration for Photoshop CS6; I created a similar illustration for Lightroom, but did not include it with the previous post, since it was focussed on sample before and after images.

Adobe Photoshop CS6/ACR 7.1 introduces improved adjustment controls, and requires a new method of adjusting images using the SpyderCube.

1. Trigger ACR 7.1, by opening a RAW file that includes the SpyderCube, in Photoshop CS6. Set the White Balance by using the eyedropper to sample from the center of the lighter of the two gray faces, which represents the primary light source’s color temperature and tint.

2. View RGB values in the Histogram Section. Set the Exposure control so that the lighter gray face has RGB values of 128, or your preferred card gray value.

3. Set the Whites control so that the lighter white face has RGB values of 230, or your preferred card white value.

4. Turn on White Clipping Indicator. Check that Specular Highlights in Chrome Ball reach 255 and trigger White Clipping Indicator. If not, increase Whites level to achieve Specular Highlights, and adjust white face back to 230 using Highlights control. Optimize relation between Specular Highlights and Card Whites with Whites and Highlights controls.

5. Turn on the Black Clipping Warning. Adjust the Blacks control until the SpyderCube’s black trap is mostly or entirely to the Black Warning color; RGB values of 3 or less.

6. Adjust the Shadows control until the black face shows RGB values of 13 to 26, depending on the amount of “bounce light” illuminating the black face. Turn Black Clipping off for visual check that black trap can be easily distinguished from black face.

7. Recheck the card white and card gray RGB values again, as each adjustment can effect the adjustments made before it. Retune until optimal.

8. Apply this set of adjustments to all other images shot under these lighting conditions by saving a Preset from the Settings Menu, and applying to each image, or apply to an entire group of images using Adobe Bridge.

This method now has five controls, instead of the three used in earlier Processes, offering finer control of shadow-to-black ratios and black clipping, and highlight-to-whites ratios and white clipping.

Adobe CameraRaw 7.1 interface, with the key elements noted.

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

ZDNet picks up CDTobie’s Photo Blog on Retina Display MBP

ZDNet’s logo

ZDNet, a major tech publisher, picked up this blog’s recent series of articles on the Retina display MacBook Pro, and published an article of their own consisting of quotes from my series, with short comments by the ZDNet’s writer David Morgenstern. This is a common ZD practice that follows copyright rules of fair usage. So far the result has been an increase in blog traffic, though it has yet to reach the levels of the first few days after I published those articles.

So on the “turnabout is fair play” theory, I’m writing an article about them writing an article about the articles I’d already written. I hope that is “meta” enough for you. I’ll link Mr. Morgenstern’s piece, but frankly, if you’ve already read my articles on the topic, there’s nothing new there. If you haven’t yet read my pieces: they were good enough for ZDNet, so maybe you should reconsider!

ZDNet’s headline; which may sound fairly familiar…

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

Top Search Terms Today; In a Nutshell: Retina Display Capabilities

In reviewing the incoming search terms on my blog site today, there is a very clear theme, as the first several term sets show.

Today’s Top Search Terms

Do you see a theme developing here? Clearly there are a lot of people looking for information about the gamut and Photoshop compatibility of the new Retina display MacBook Pro…

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

Retina Display MacBook Pro for Calibration and Photography

I have been asked to put together an overview of my observations on the Retina Display MacBook Pro, as related to photography, and specifically to display calibration. The material below draws on my previous analysis, plus further information about calibration of the Retina display.


The Retina resolution of the new display is certainly its top feature, and in use this is the first thing you notice about the display. While Adobe has not yet released an update to Photoshop to take advantage of this higher resolution, they did demo an unreleased version at the WWDC keynote where the Retina MBP was announced, so we should be able to take advantage of this resolution soon; at least in Photoshop CS6; no guarantees about CS5 and earlier. In the meantime, the sharper text is a joy to behold, and will reduce eyestrain, even if it has no direct effect on photography or video work.

Video is certainly the second area where the Retina display will excel, and versions of the more popular video editing tools for the Mac should be forthcoming to utilize this display to its fullest. The image below shows a standard resolution app on the left (current version of Photoshop CS6) versus a Retina resolution app (Apple’s Preview Utility). Click on the image to see full size, for comparison of what Retina resolution can add to an image.


Color Gamut 

Earlier MacBooks and other Apple laptops had a sub-sRGB color space that was not only smaller, but twisted in a way that offset the primary colors from their ideal hues. While this issue had been improved substantially in the more recent MacBook Pro models, the Retina display now offers a very close replication of sRGB on screen. This offers a number of advantages; not just over smaller gamut displays, but to a lesser degree over wide gamut displays as well. In addition to increasing the gamut from earlier devices, emulating sRGB in hardware means that non-color managed applications, browsers, and video players will show more reasonable color even without the ability to use a profile.

Retina Display Gamut

Earlier Unibody MacBook Pro Gamut


The gloss screen on recent Apple displays has been an issue for some people, especially for mobile use, where uncontrolled lighting may mean distracting reflections on screen. While a matte surface helps spread such reflections around and remove their sharp edges, it reduces the contrast of the scene in the process. The Retina display uses low reflectance glass, plus one less layer of glass than earlier MacBook screens, reducing this issue without resorting to a matte surface. The image below shows the reduced reflectance of the Retina display on the left, compared to an older Unibody MBP screen on the right. Again, clicking on the image can provide a more detailed view of the image. Note the second reflection in the Unibody screen, caused by the extra layer of glass.

Retina Versus Unibody Reflectance

Viewing Angle 

Many laptops reduce energy usage and extend battery life by focussing most of their light output in a narrow cone in front of the screen, amplifying the brightness for viewers directly in front of the display. This technique has its drawbacks, however, and means that users can never quite trust the brightness and shadow detail of an image on a laptop display. Are the shadows in the image file actually as seen, or are they a bit more open, or a bit more clogged, as seen when your head is a bit higher or lower in relation to the screen. And are colors exactly as seen on screen? Even to a second viewer, who is reviewing your images with you, and is a bit to your left or right.

The answer to this conundrum is to use a proper IPS screen which shows similar color and brightness at a wide range of viewing angles. The flip side of this coin is increased battery drain to display this wide, even view of the screen. In addition to the increased pixel count of the Retina screen, these two factors (resolution, viewing angle) are the top two reasons the computer uses more juice. Apple’s solution to this is to build a series of custom sized battery cells into the ultra-thin body to provide for the higher energy uses of this amazing display. This produces the highest quality screen I have ever seen on a laptop; but the high drain, custom batteries will not be inexpensive to replace, when the time comes.


The Retina display can produce luminance levels as high as 280 candelas per meter squared. This is not the brightest display on the market, but it is still bright enough for all reasonable uses. The display dimming controls allow a full range of dimming of this screen for use in low light, color managed conditions as well, plus the bonus of an “off” setting at the bottom of the dimming scale, to turn the screen’s backlight completely off, for conditions such as a long, overnight session of moving files to another drive. This range of brightness is valuable for color managed use and calibration, where adjusting the display to an appropriate brightness for the ambient light level is important.

Device Type Category 

The best of current display calibration systems, including the Spyder4 devices, characterizes devices based on display type. The Retina display fits nicely into the Standard Gamut, White LED backlight category. At this time, the Retina display MBP is newer than the latest release of Spyder4 software, so until the next Spyder4 software update, when you calibrate a Retina display MBP, the Spyder’s New Display wizard will ask you to choose a gamut and backlight type for the display (after the next update, this will be done automatically, and invisibly). The choices noted above (Standard Gamut, White LED Backlight) are correct.  Fitting well into this category improves the accuracy of calibration on this display.


Display calibration includes user control adjustments, which are not really relevant for laptops, where the brightness must be changed for use in different environments, with different levels of ambient light; and video LUT adjustments, which gray balance the display and set an appropriate tone response curve (gamma, in simplest terms) for all applications on the device, at a global level. The Retina display is a good citizen, allowing accurate readings of colors for gray balancing, and accurate readings of luminance for tone response mapping. So calibration is very effective on the Retina display, and the resulting “Before and After” demo in the Spyder4 software will show that the uncalibrated state is not bad, but that the calibrated state is indeed better, both in terms of white balance, and densities in images.


The other component of the calibration and profiling process consists of creating an ICC profile describing the current state of your display, its primary colors, its tone response curve or gamma, and other factors. Resolution does not effect color and density measurements, so the main feature of the Retina display is not a problem for profiling. The Retina display, by avoiding problematic technologies or extreme color saturations, allows for very accurate profiling of the display. I will oversee detailed comparisons to a laboratory grade display measurement device next week, but even in advance of that process, I have full confidence that the Retina display is being capable of being very accurately profiled by latest generation profiling tools such as the Spyder4.

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

Photoshop CS6 on Retina Display MacBook Pro

When Apple announced the Retina display MacBook Pro, one of the applications which they demonstrated with it was Photoshop. But not a release version of Photoshop. The current release version of CS6 opens images at the same size, and the same resolution, as on a non-Retina display MBP. In comparison, Apple’s own Preview app opens images at half the width and height as 100% view, and displays all the pixels in the image at that size. For comparison here is an image at 100% view in Preview on the right, and viewed at the same size in Photoshop CS6 on the left. If you look at the narrow yellow leaf stems at the focal center of the image (left of center in the crops shown here), you can see the difference; be sure to click on the image to see at full size.

I expect that the Retina display update to Photoshop will be free… for CS6 owners. But it is unlikely that Adobe will update Photoshop 5 to Retina resolution, as one more reason for users to update to CS6.

Be sure to check out my articles on the Retina display MacBook Pro’s screen, reflectivity, and color gamut, as I publish them over the next day or two.


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

Datacolor Photoshop CS6 & Lightroom 4 Webinar, Wednesday May 16, at 3PM EDT

Wednesday’s Datacolor Webinar will cover color management, and particularly soft proofing, using Photoshop CS6, plus the new soft proofing functions of Lightroom 4. Don’t miss this opportunity to get familiar with these new functions and how to use them, with David Saffir and myself.

You can register for this webinar here.

There will be a Datacolor Spyder4Pro given away to a webinar participant, and there are likely to be some excellent specials as well.

Sign up now to reserve a space.

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