Warning: Major Data Loss Potential in Photoshop CS6 & CC2015

As an expert Photoshop user I am meticulous about my processes and I do not expect to lose work. Today I have lost the same job, not once, but twice, before I figured out what was causing the issue. Let me share this “feature” with you before it costs you hours of labor as well.

In Photoshop CC2015, as well as CS6, the dialog box for converting a file from one colorspace to another has a line at the bottom named “Flatten Image to Preserve Appearance”. No matter what well-meaning goals Adobe had for including this box, and defaulting it to checked, the results of doing a conversion of a multilayer file with this box checked can be catastrophic. All text layers are lost as text, all layers are lost as layers, and the resulting converted file is a flattened, one layer image. Unless you notice this change before saving the file, then you have a major data-loss situation

Convert to Profile Window

So, if you value your layers, and all the work they represent, uncheck this box before converting. And from now on keep one eye on the bottom of this window, rather than converting without checking these options, for fear that this option may once again have become active, and ready to lose your layers and your work!

C. David Tobie 2015

Image Capture and Screenshots with the Apple Watch

The title of this article is a bit redundant; there is only one way to capture an image with the Apple Watch: by taking a screenshot. This choice seems odd to those thinking in terms of a Dick Tracey spy-watch, but in fact it is quite brilliant, given the adverse reaction to Google Glass and its privacy invasive photo and video functions, to create a Wearable device that is totally free of image capture functions. It also makes sense for a number of other reasons; the wrist is a natural spot for a watch, but not a flexible location for aiming at things you might want to photograph.

This does not mean that the Apple Watch is not a useful photo accessory, but the emphasis is on accessory. Its initial function is as a remote trigger, allowing you to put your phone in an awkward location, or in a spot far enough away from you to lure animals in for a close-up, or in front of you for a less cramped version of the group selfie, and then trigger the phone’s camera with your watch. As third party apps become more powerful, other photo functions are inevitable.

But internal image capture with the Apple Watch is restricted to screenshots, and we tend to think of screenshots as something only reviewers and how-to authors use. In fact, there are many end-user justifications for screenshots. These include capturing a sketch someone sends from their Watch to yours, or an image that you have on your Watch, but not on your phone, and want to forward to someone, or basically having a visual record of anything that may pop up on the watch face.

There are a few details to be aware of when dealing with images on the  Apple Watch. First, to maximize screen real estate on such a tiny screen, the non-screen border is used to create the outside edges of the watch layout. But screenshots will only capture the “live” section, and will not include this black border, resulting in shots of black background apps (and virtually all apps should be black background on the Apple Watch), that will look tight and poorly laid out in the screen capture. In some cases you may want to place a larger black background (or Canvas, if you are working in Photoshop) behind your shots to restore the elegance that they show on the Watch itself.

Next is the issue of image orientation, proportions, and borders. All images moved to your Watch will be in portrait orientation (so it is best to focus on portrait images when choosing images to store on the Watch), and at the Watches 4:5 screen ratio. This means borders from landscape images, such as the one shown below, will be clipped on the edges, but retained at top and bottom, which is less than ideal. Best to crop borders from images before selecting them for storage on the Watch.

Image Captured from the Photos App on my Apple Watch

Image Captured from the Photos App on my Apple Watch

Triggering a screenshot on the Apple Watch is as simple as pressing both buttons at once, similar to the “two button” approach on iPhones and iPads. The only difference is that the two buttons are side by side, so require a thumb on the opposing side of the Watch to squeeze against them, assuring that this is not an action that is likely to occur by accident.

The remaining mystery has to do with where the Watch shots go, after the familiar camera sound and screen flash occurs. They do not show up in the Photos app on the Watch, which is certainly the first place most people would look for them. Instead they are saved in a much more useful location: the Camera Roll on your iPhone. There are many more things you can do with them from here, so once this method is understood, it makes a great deal of sense.

So enjoy creating Apple Watch screenshots, and try to not post your daily activity graph to Facebook too often.

Yesterday's Activity Graph from my Apple Watch. Yes, I did manage to sneak this in...

Yesterday’s Activity Graph from my Apple Watch. Yes, I did manage to sneak this in…

C. David Tobie

Gradients and Step Wedges in Photoshop

Two common types of synthetic images created in Photoshop are gradients and step wedges. The most common gradient is an even field, from black to white, to test for the smoothness of your display or print. The most common step wedge set is a set of patches from black to white in a specific number of steps, created from the type of gradient described above.

Color Management has required building synthetic images of these types in Photoshop since time immemorial. This gives us the long memory to recall the changes that have occurred over time, with updated versions of Photoshop.

The first of these changes, which happened along about Photoshop 6 (not CS6) was a change to the algorithm used to define gradients. The Photoshop team felt their linear gradients did not look as smooth as they could, so a S-shaped spline curve was introduced into the process. This did, indeed, improve the visual look of gradients, but it was problematic for technical uses, where a linear gradient was needed. So complaints were lodged, and an update included a checkbox for restoring the earlier, more linear, behavior, where the gradient darkened by the same amount for each unit of distance, rather than feathering at the ends.

More recent versions of Photoshop have added a slider control for adjusting this function. It can be found in the Gradient Editor (which appears when you choose the Gradient tool, then click on the gradient itself in the bar at the top). This slider is named “Smoothness”, and its default setting is 100%. This means “100% smoothed” and is the inverse of “100% linear”; so the Smoothness slider is set to zero to get a linear gradient.

Gradient Smoothness Set to Zero

A visual comparison of a smoothed gradient, and a linear gradient, is the best way to understand the difference between the two.

Smoothed Gradient Above, Linear Gradient Below

This may be of value to those wanting to create test images, and know that one inch across is half as much change as two inches across, but there is another, more practical reason that knowing how to create a linear gradient: such gradients are the basis for creating step wedges as well.

A step wedge is a set of patches, typically squares, with known values, typically running from white to black in 10, or 20, or sometimes 256 steps. Such patches can be measured on screen with a screen colorimeter such as a Spyder, or in print with a patch reader such as SpyderPrint.

Gradients are turned into step wedges by using Photoshop’s Posterize function (Image > Adjustments > Posterize), with the appropriate number of levels selected.

Posterize Window

If a gradient is created at Photoshop’s default smoothness setting, the result will be a set of steps which have longer patches at the ends, and shorter patches near the center, due to the smoothing curve. This can cause a great deal of frustration to someone attempting to build a strip or table of patches with both even sizes, and known values.

Smoothed Step Wedge Above, Linear Step Wedge Below

So the magic control for creating evenly spaced step wedges or target patches is the Smoothness control, hiding in the Gradient Editor. Another key to a good set of step wedges is turning off the Dither option in the Gradient bar, to avoid step wedges with grainy edges, from the dithering applied to the gradient when it was created. To assure gradient edges are vertical, and not stepped a pixel here or there, hold down the shift key while dragging to draw the gradient, to be sure it is exactly straight.  And a final tip (thanks to Ernst Dinkla for mentioning this one) has to do with mathematical precision in your patches: choose 16 bit mode, and 16 bit units, if your number of patches does not divide evenly into your scale of 100 or 255. Keep these tricks in mind, next time you would like an even set of patches; for technical, or just for graphic design, purposes.

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

Problems with Lightroom 4 export to Photoshop CS5

There is quite a bit of documentation on an issue where converting your Lightroom 3 library to Lightroom 4 compatability loses any custom tone curves you have applied to images, so I have refrained from moving into Lightroom 4 quite yet, as tempting as the new features may be. I’m still advising adventurous users to backup their libraries first, and run LR4 on a test-drive basis, instead of assuming that the end of the beta period means its time to integrate LR4 into their daily workflow.

But today’s issue has more to do with the interaction of Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS5. Lightroom 4 comes with Camera RAW 7.0, which is compatible with all the new functions the app has to offer. However, Photoshop 5 still includes ACR 6.6. There is an ACR 6.7 RC (release candidate, meaning not yet final) version on the Adobe Labs site; which is not the usual location for downloading software updates, its more like the photography equivalent of a chemistry set, with various interesting items, some of which will never see official release, others of which just need a bit more testing first.

But the problem is that the Process 2012 (we can assume this is shorthand for the processes added into RAW conversion options in the year 2012) is not actually supported by this 6.7RC. There have been various messages flying back and forth on the Adobe Forums about the issue, the fix, the lack of a fix in the fix, etc.

So a chicken and the egg situation ensues: an image edited in LR4/ACR7.0, opened into PSCS5/ACR6.7 will then use Process 2010 (I don’t think we need to deconstruct this one), which loses you the adjustments you’ve made with your bright, shiny new controls in Lightroom 4. At least it offers a warning that this is going to happen.

This means that perhaps we are now waiting, not just for the first bug fix update to Lightroom 4, but for the next build of ACR for Photoshop CS5 as well (I refuse to bring Photoshop CS6 into the picture). Given the complexity of the situation, I may well have made one or more technical errors in what I’ve written above, or there could perhaps be a perfectly viable workaround… though if so, its a fair distance around to find it.

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

The Rise and Fall of Image Editor Prices

The big Image Editing news of March 6, 2012 was that Lightroom 4 had been released; and that the price for v4 was now half the previous price. This is not an isolated incident, and is cause to review the trends of image editing software pricing in general, to provide a background for this news.

The Long and Hallowed History of Photoshop

Once upon a time, in a land with far fewer electronic gadgets, a copy of Photoshop used to come free with the purchase of most scanners. There are two shocking ideas in that sentence: first, that we used to buy scanners… not just one, but a new one with higher resolution, better bit depth, and perhaps larger format, every year to two. But more to the point of this article: that scanner, which may have cost less than a retail copy of Photoshop goes for today, included Photoshop for free. Now, this was not your current, steroidal, supercharged version of Photoshop. Current users would be quite surprised to see how limited the functionality of the earliest versions were. But it was a necessary tool, at a time when there were few others, and you needed it to work with the images your scanner produced. In fact your scanner driver might well have been a Photoshop Plug-in, leaving you no choice but to have a copy to run the scanner. And some current Photoshop users are still purchasing upgrades to each new version of Photoshop based on one of these early “free with a scanner” versions. This points out a need for Adobe to have a reasonable revenue stream from the upgrade prices, or these long-time users would be a drag on Adobe’s resources.

More recently, Photoshop has been the application that proved you were a “real” photographer. Activation schemes assure that you aren’t running a pirate copy for free, and the pricing guarantees you are serious to own a copy. And many copies of Photoshop are now part of even pricier CS# bundles including other high-powered, high priced professional graphics applications from Adobe, with four digit price tags. Not a bad position for a software company to be in; leading Adobe to be listed as the best company in California to work for, several years running. And also leading to the fact that Adobe had never had a large-scale round of employee layoffs… until the recent recession.

The recession lined up with other factors that affected Adobe’s ability to continue its role as seller of top-priced graphics software and bundles. Not only did companies who had previously automatically updated to the latest Adobe products decide it might be the year to skip a version (which in turn, affected Adobe’s upgrade terms, tightening the upgrade path in some instances to only those who indeed did purchase every version), but other factors in the larger universe of image editing applications played a part as well.

Enter Lightroom… and Aperture

It all started with Lightroom; or with Aperture, depending on how you look at it. Both Apple and Adobe began work on new applications to mange the photographic workflow, covering image organization, rating, selection, slide shows, exports to needed formats, even printing. But the killer feature was import of RAW images, and the global edits that could be applied to the images at this level. Previously every image was opened in Photoshop. With RAW formats, this required a RAW conversion tool to be provided with Photoshop, which Adobe called  Adobe Camera Raw (soon shortened for most uses to ACR). Now, the engine from ACR could be built into this image management tool, and eliminate several pieces of software at once, creating a convenient central place to do much of what used to be done in a motley crew of third party applications.

But, the centrality of Photoshop began to slip, as it became clear that most images could be reviewed, rated, and globally adjusted, without ever being opened in Photoshop, particularly once certain localized edits, such as dust busting, became available in these new photo processing applications. One result of this was for Adobe to add the name Photoshop to the name Lightroom in later editions; Photoshop Lightroom might not catch on as a general use title, but it did retain the presence of some Photoshop tool in the whole workflow, instead of marginalizing Photoshop to the position of the advanced editor used only on the best images, at the end of the process.

Since both Apple, with Aperture, and Adobe, with Lightroom, were racing to release the first-in-category product, and thus capture the early market, beta’s of the applications were released publicly, to capture user loyalty in advance, and familiarize users with the new type of application. It was a rocky road, and the earliest question was not “which one will I choose?” but rather “will I want to use one of these at all?” However, by release, or at least by v2, both apps had matured to be important photo tools that most advanced users wouldn’t dream of living without. But which one couldn’t they live without? Over time, Adobe’s Lightroom gained the upper hand, for a number of technical, reliability, and speed reasons, but also for the simple reason that it was cross-platform, and could be used under Windows, not just on the Mac, as with Apple’s Aperture.

But during the beta period, users became used to using these apps for free; and Apple chose an aggressively low price for Aperture; perhaps in hopes of undercutting Adobe’s price and gaining more market share. By Adobe logic Lightroom was a newly developed app with lots of development costs, which offered astounding new features to photographers, reducing processing time and effort, and should have cost as much, possible considerably more, than Photoshop. If $699 was the list for Photoshop, then a price as high as $1999 could have been justified for Lightroom. But this would have driven the majority of the market to Aperture, at its much lower price, and lost Adobe market share with the high end photographers they needed to retain as customers. So one could say that Apple forced Adobe’s hand on Lightroom pricing, assuring that, even if it cost more than Aperture, it would be a few hundred dollars, not a few thousand.

Enter Mobile Apps

Next player in this drama is the iPhone. Once the iPhone App Store was launched, a new software price range was established. Adding the iPad, as well as Android phones and tablets, a point was reached where real image editing apps could be run on newer, more powerful phones and tablets, doing things that previously required thousands of dollars of investment in desktop computers and desktop apps. Even in its infancy, this new category was already showing the potential to threaten Adobe’s position as the creator of THE apps that all serious professionals used. Companies such as NIK, who were free to sell powerful mobile apps such as SnapSeed, did not feel the need to tie every mobile application back to the users dearly purchased copy of Photoshop. So Adobe was facing a new predicament, not from companies attempting to build competing desktop applications that would match Photoshop and the other Adobe graphic apps head-on, but low cost, simpler apps with more user-friendly interfaces, and fun results. And these new apps followed the mobile app pricing strategy: a few dollars per app. Adobe needed to balance their higher price points, and their excellent margins, against remaining relevant, as a new crop of advanced smartphone users began looking for the best apps to use on their phone to edit their images.

Mobile Features and Pricing Jumps Back to the Desktop

And then it happened: NIK’s SnapSeed mobile image editing application won Apple’s “Best App for the iPad” award in 2011. And not long after, NIK announced a desktop version of SnapSeed; at a price under ten dollars. Now the world was looking at fun, easy to use image editing on real computers, at mobile prices. Even NIK had a plan to upsell these users to their more advanced tools, which would mean a copy of Photoshop, since many of those tools are Photoshop plugins. But the trend is evident, and not every company’s game plan will end up requiring a $699 investment with Adobe.

And then there is the question of Lightroom, and where it now fits in the mobile world. Previously Adobe, and others, had built the ability to store, view, and even edit TIFF and JPG files into their RAW apps. This initially was for the convenience of photographers who needed their libraries to include their converted files as well a their RAW files. But over time it also meant storing of ever higer megapixel phone images in the same library, and being able to process them with the same tools as the high end camera’s RAW files. And now those phone photos could be run through SnapSeed on the phone or iPad, and later, high end images from the same location taken wu=ith professional cameras could be similarly processed though SnapSeed for the Mac, or perhaps through more advanced NIK software to get similar effects on high resolution images. The world was converging again. And all of this will inevitably effect professional photo editing app pricing.

On to Video, and the FinalCut X scandal

Still-imaging is merging with video these days, with the high-end DSLR cameras being capable of shooting footage good enough for major motion picture production… and smartphones shooting video good enough for most web applications. Apple’s Final Cut Pro had led the way, with Cold Mountain, edited entirely on Macs using Final Cut, being the first major motion picture to be edited on personal computers, instead of large, expensive dedicated editing systems. That revolution happened with Final Cut still having a four digit price tag; a thousand dollars was nothing in pro editing. But as that market opens to a wider public, Apple did, with the radically altered FinalCut X, just what they did with Aperture pricing before it: the new version was not only much easier for new users to understand and master, the price dropped to less than a third of the cost of the previous version: $300; another factor in the shift towards lower cost editing software.

The App Store Jumps to the Desktop as Well

SnapSeed wasn’t the only thing that jumped from the mobile world to the desktop; Apple introduced a new App Store for the Mac, with many of the conveniences of their iOS App Store, only for applications that run on your desktop or laptop computer, instead of your iPhone or iPad. And pricing followed suit; most of the software on the new Mac AppStore is very affordable. SnapSeed is there, as are many other convenient image apps, including FinalCut X. But not Adobe Photoshop; or at least not the version used by experts; the low cost, vastly simplified Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 Editor is available there.

Back to Where We Started

Adobe Lightroom is also conspicuous in its Mac App Store absence. But what you will find present there is the alternative to Lightroom; Apple Aperture, now $79. So, dropping the price of Lightroom from $299 to $149 makes sense in relation to the current cost of Apeture… and to the series of other image editing price trends described above. So get your copy now; and when you do, remember to thank Adobe, as well as Apple, NIK, and all the others who assured that such a great product is also so affordable.

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

Image Critique: Times Square Pedicab

Times Square Pedicab

I have received a great many comments on the image “Times Square Pedicab” and decided it would be a good image to use for a review of a number of image attributes, and of image editing to the degree that it was used to address the image content.

Image Format

The main factor here is the crop of the file. There are those who believe everything should be uncropped, 35mm proportions. And those taking it a step further and demanding landscape orientation as well, on the basis that the eyes are side by side, and we see in a horizontal rectangle. Personally, I see in a big oval, but thats a bit tough as an image format, so I’ll simply claim the artistic license to crop to the strongest composition. For some images that means a very dynamic panorama scaled crop, and this is one of those image. The Vertical Pano format is even less frequent, but there are many images where it is the logical crop; or even the only crop. I don’t believe that the convenience of the framer should be a consideration in my image creation.

This image works as a vertical, in part due to the relation between the dynamics of a panorama crop, and the busy image content. If any city in the world can justify a vertical panorama, it is New York. And the oft photographed ends of the Square, with their towering signage are the ultimate justification. The tight crop also works to focus the viewer’s attention, in the very chaotic context, on the themes of the image.

Themes

An image is allowed to have more than one theme. Additional themes may weaken the focus of the primary theme, but they also add to the richness and poetry of the image. Here, the foreground element is dominant, and clearly the main theme. This is the pedicab, and its driver. Centered, in focus, with high enough contrast and color contrast to hold its own against the riotous background. One could even call this image an Environmental Portrait, as its main story is that of the Pedicab driver in his native environment.

The secondary theme is Times Square itself, represented by the dominant vertical element, the end-of-square signage. Again, high contrast, high color. Further repetition of this theme occurs with the secondary signage, which is lower contrast, lower color, and serves to move the eye out from the central core towards the edges of the image. Using a shallow depth of field could have provided a pleasant blur on the background, and a jumble of color without the detail this version contains. My decision, in the split second I had, kneeling in traffic to take the shot, was to go for depth of field, so the the subject, and the context, would both be detailed.

The tertiary theme is the storm brewing in the sky behind the buildings. This could be accentuated with various image editing tools, but a bit of dodging and flashing is all I chose to use, to avoid having this minor theme take too much attention away from the more important themes. This theme is in the background, low contrast, low saturation, and as such, provides a field for the events of the more dominant themes to play out on. This follows the rules for strong images: themes move from foreground to middle and then background, reducing in contrast and saturation as they recede from the viewer.

Eye Movement

The movement of the eye in this image is controlled by the dominantly vertical shape of this image crop, and the related shape of the image contents. From the foreground the eye is drawn to the driver, to his face, and then swept upwards to the signage above, where it slows and spreads to other elements in the composition, and returns for another lap, starting at the wheels of the Pedicab, then up to the subject and beyond.

Image Symmetry

The slightly off center nature of the subject and his pedicab is reflected in the slight off center nature of the main set of signs behind him. In each case secondary elements balance this to create a dynamic balance without an exactly central axis of symmetry.

Pallette

The palette of this image is not heavily controlled, and yet it manages to support the themes. The foreground and middle grounds elements contain bright primary colors and contrasting darks. The background is much reduced in saturation and contrast, with the sky reduced further still, to a range of light grays. The skin tones of the driver are sufficiently smooth and saturated to bring the eye to him, given the innate human predilection for skin. One could make a case for a set of contrasts between the driver in lower saturation skin tones, and the cab and signage forming a non-human context in much more saturated colors. The modeling of the driver’s skin and clothes, against the flatter planes of his environment enhance this contrast.

Perspective

The upward converging perspective caused by the upward camera angle enhances the tension of the image. The natural tendency of converging perspective to draw the eye is part of the upward direction of the eye movement in the image. And yet the convergence is weak enough to not cause difficulty in accepting the cab driver as the natural subject of the image, despite not being at the perspective convergence point (which would be well above the top of the image, given the minor convergence of the buildings). Adjusting the rotation of the image before cropping assured that the center of perspective, where verticals are actually vertical, is aligned with the central figure, and with the signage above him.

Central Figure

Highlight dodging and midtone burning on the Cabbie assured that the tonal range met our expectations of a portrait subject: even though the context of the image is far from portrait lighting, the eye expects certain density ranges for the human face, and is unsatisfied if it is too washed out, or too shaded, or lacks the necessary contrast range. Other adjustments were made with the central figure, its tonal range, saturation, and smoothness in mind. The end result is a figure that reads as part of the larger composition, but also as a person in his own right. The direct eye contact between the subject and the camera gives that sense of acknowledgement and permission that so often occurs in portraits.

Story

Every picture tells a story. Some tell very abstract stories, but there’s some type of story in them, or we would not have any interest in the image. Here the story is quite concrete and engaging, with the cowboy attitude of the driver sitting with his elbow on his knee in the midst of Times Square traffic, in his very informal clothes. His personality shows clearly, even though his image in the photo is relatively small. The backstory about the traffic, the business of Times Square, and even about the storm brewing overhead, adds to the richness of the content. The enigma of the subject’s race somehow adds to the content; a skin tone that occurs around the globe, and features that could be attributed to various races on most continents. In that sense, the perfect representative of our new age, and of New York.

Process Notes

Shot with a Canon 5D. Shutter speed 1/80 sec, f/20, Focal length 28mm, Lens 24-105 f/4 is.

Shot freehand, kneeling in the street, with my “camera elbow” on my knee, a bit like the subject’s pose.

Processed from the original RAW file in Adobe Lightroom 3, exported as a high bit AdobeRGB TIFF, to Photoshop CS5 for local editing. File info added in Photoshop, down sampled to sRGB web rez JPG in Photoshop.

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