Monthly Archives: August 2008

Flickr-flavored craftiness

I’m always intrigued by what people can produce by mining & transforming a big image set:



On non-Flickr but somewhat similar fronts:


Friday Illustrations: Beer, bathrooms, & The Shining

A pair of panos: Obama & Olympics

The NY Times has been making more use of interactive panoramas these days, offering a new take on storytelling & dropping the viewer into context in a way that’s hard to match with still images alone:


  • Gabriel Dance and Raymond McCrea Jones captured the electrified atmosphere preceding Barack Obama’s speech last night in Denver.
  • A pano taken from the 10-meter platform in Beijing’s Water Cube features narration from American diver Thomas Finchum.  (Now you know: the Cube is, technically speaking, "ginormous.")  Photo credits go to Bedel Saget, Mike Schmidt, and Gabriel Dance.

On-demand skate decks & more

I’m always intrigued by technologies that enable on-the-fly creation of media (print, Web, video)–what Adobe dubbed "network publishing."  Recent examples I’ve found interesting:


  • "MagCloud enables you to publish your own magazines. All you have to do is upload a PDF and we’ll take care of the rest: printing, mailing, subscription management, and more."  (Kind of a step up from my 8th-grade experiences publishing a skate ‘zine with a friend’s Mac & my dad’s office Xerox.)
  • On another skating note, Zazzle now enables creation of customized skateboard decks. [Via Bryan O’Neil Hughes]
  • Faber Finds publishes out-of-print titles, generating a unique cover for each on the fly. [Via]

Noise Ninja for Lightroom; LR2 videos and news

Fernando Z.* at Picture Code writes, “I just released version 2.1.2 of the Noise Ninja
application, and this release features support for
sending multiple photos at a time from Lightroom 2 to Noise Ninja. I’ve
also just added a new video to our FAQ that shows how to take advantage
of this new build and Lightroom 2’s enhanced External Editor support.” [Via Tom Hogarty]


  • “To celebrate the launch of LR2,” writes John Arnold, “I’ll be doing one tip per day for at least a week – probably 2 weeks.”  You can check out John’s set of videos to date on  (I’m looking forward to checking out the entries covering graduated filters.)

  • The Adobe Design Center has posted Getting Started with Lightroom 2.  In it Matt Kloskowski of NAPP offers a sequential set of 15 videos that take a brand new LR user through the basics of what Lightroom does and how to get started using it, while Adobe’s Julieanne Kost has posted a set of 3 videos that go over all that’s changed in LR2 (“Think of it as a Getting Started for upgrade users,” she writes). [Via Luanne Seymour]

  • Syl Arena provides detailed info on The Benefits of Shooting Tethered Into Lightroom.


* I suspect I’d be much cooler if named “Fernando Z.,” and I just may have to appropriate that handle (sorry, actual Fernando Z).

Recent infographic goodness

  • Stefanie Posavec creates beautiful, sometimes abstract images from data in her “On the Map” project.
  • The NYT renders Olympic medal counts by country, also enabling the user to navigate through time.  (Tossing it around too freely, I managed to blow up Safari.)
  • UFO sighting convincibility” is on the rise, thanks to Photoshop. [Via Rob Corell]
  • offers a cool way to visualize 2008 box office results. [Via]
  • I think I should chart my mood on a line stretching from “Earnest” to “Scurrilous*,” as Vanity Fair does with the content of their Blogopticon. [Via Tom Hogarty]  It’s similar to New York Mag’s Approval Matrix.


*Defined as “grossly or obscenely abusive… characterized by or using low buffoonery; coarsely jocular or derisive.”  Hells yeah.

iPhone GUI bits

  • The guys at teehan+lax have created a slick, well organized iPhone GUI PSD file.  Geoff Teehan writes, "We created our own Photoshop file that has a fairly comprehensive library of assets – all fully editable."  Nicely done! [Via Joel Eby]
  • Felix Sockwell offers a detailed walk-through of how he developed icons for the NY Times’ iPhone app.
  • Vaunted info-design expert Edward Tufte critiques iPhone interfaces in terms of their info-to-overhead ratio. [Via]


Marginally related at best, but too good not to share: the highly unique unboxing video for the Samsung Omnia. [Via Russell Williams]

"Dear Adobe…"

Dear Adobe is a site devoted to rants & raves (but mostly rants) directed at the Big Red A.  You can "Submit Your Gripe" and vote others’ contributions up or down.  Although much of this stuff is hard to hear (in part because some of it echoes what’s said privately at Adobe), the site is a valuable exercise.  It has driven lots of conversation here: I count 30+ emails from yesterday alone, and that was just among Photoshop team members.  We’re listening, and in response to a request from Adobe VP Dave Story, site creator Erik Frick quickly created a Top 25 list (thanks, Erik).


Some thoughts, in no meaningful order:


  • About the CS3 installers and updater: We know. Painfully. We could blame it on trying to mash together Macromedia & Adobe in one rev while moving to Mac Intel and Vista simultaneously, but at the end of the day things never should have happened as they did.  That’s as much as I personally can say about it.


  • Just because it would be unprofessional of me or others to rant about this or that aspect of the company in public, don’t for a second think it’s not happening behind closed doors.  As I remind my teammates, "I swear because I care"–and I care a lot, at high volume.  It is, to borrow a phrase, "an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about."


  • Similarly, it may look like all we do it ladle on more features (more coats of paint on a creaking house).  What’s not apparent is that we–Photoshop at least–are devoting a large chunk of our resources to architectural work that will yield greater speed, stability, and extensibility.  I’ll share some more specifics on that soon.


  • Russell Williams wrote, "Of course the top engineering item, ‘Stop creating new features and make
    your software fast, stable and straightforward,’ really means ‘stop creating
    new features except for the ones that really help me.’" Everyone likes to complain about "bloat" while asking for just one or two "wafer-thin" features.  Apps will inexorably grow more powerful, and it’s extraordinarily difficult to remove features, but we are taking real steps to make things better.


  • Re: "Consistent interfaces. Sweat the details. Designers notice how much you fake this crap."  That’s nice.  Have you noticed how much more aligned things became in CS3, and how much further that’s been taken in the CS4 betas now revealed?  We’re actively making things more consistent, and that will necessarily entail change, pain, and thus bitching.  So it goes.


  • Re: "Please allow cross-platform upgrades! Thanks to you, I can’t switch from PC to Mac :-("  Sure you can.  (How is word not getting out about this?)


  • I’m told that the requirement to close your browser during CS3 installation is related to a desire not to overwrite a color settings file that could be in use by Firefox.  I agree that it sucks, but at least you know the rationale.


  • In response to "You f___ing f___ers should be in jail just for calling that software," Caleb Belohlavek wrote, "Anyone who uses the f-bomb as an adjective and an noun together is tops in my book."  He also celebrated, "God help me, your the MILF of the software world. And I love you for it."  (I would have thought that some of our apps are GGILFs by now…)

[Via Joe Lencioni & others]

Saturday drawerings, from Tron to rayguns

Photoshop ephemera

  • PopPhoto’s Debbie Grossman paid a visit to the Adobe Mothership a couple of weeks ago, getting a grand tour from Bryan Hughes & chatting with modest brainiacs like Jeff Chien.  Showing tons of daring, she underwent Kelly Castro’s black & white process–the first woman to do so.  (“That’s because it makes men look tough and women look like hell," she writes.)  [Related/previous: Jeff Schewe’s Visit to Adobe.]
  • At Siggraph last week, Zorana Gee encountered the guys from OnLatte ("You got it right: we make industrial robot machines that do nothing but pretty up tasty beverages") and had them put the Photoshop icon on foam (image two).
  • Photoshop: Helping The Ugly Since 1988. [Spied by Tom Hogarty on the Caltrain yesterday]
  • Slate presents Politishop.  (Is it finally time for us to introduce Brushy the Talking Airbrush ("Hey, pardner, it looks like you’re tryin’ to retouch a photo")?  [Via Adam Jerugim]
  • This isn’t Photoshop-specific, but I noticed that has added a slick new search widget to the site.  Groovy, as previously I’d resorted to using Google (typing "site:" plus a search term into the search field).

Software & Whiskey

Stephen Colbert’s remarks on his job remind me of the process of developing Photoshop:


"We often discuss satire — the sort of thing he does and to a certain extent I do — as distillery," Mr. Colbert continued. "You have an enormous amount of material, and you have to distill it to a syrup by the end of the day. So much of it is a hewing process, chipping away at things that aren’t the point or aren’t the story or aren’t the intention. Really it’s that last couple of drops you’re distilling that makes all the difference. It isn’t that hard to get a ton of corn into a gallon of sour mash, but to get that gallon of sour mash down to that one shot of pure whiskey takes patience" as well as "discipline and focus."


We’ll never, ever lack good suggestions on what to do next, nor is it terribly hard to grab a wad and go work on them.  Given the vast number of customers and workflows Photoshop serves, however, it’s critical that the enhancements we make each serve a wide range of needs.  Finding the really transformative stuff–the fundamental architectural changes that’ll enable numerous other enhancements while standing the test of time–is the fun, aggravating, and ultimately rewarding part.

PS in NYT, crafty imaging tech, & more

  • In "I Was There. Just Ask Photoshop," Alex Williams of the NY Times writes about the pervasiveness of image manipulation in our culture.  Regarding the manipulation of family photos, I found this bit interesting:

    In India, she said, it is a tradition to cut-and-paste head shots of absent family members into wedding photographs as a gesture of respect and inclusion. "Everyone understands that it’s not a trick," she said. "That’s the nature of the photograph. It’s a Western sense of reality that what is in front of the lens has to be true."

  • Seemingly everyone ever is forwarding me this cool demo showing ideas for enhancing video using still images.  I mentioned the work in June, but it’s worth noting that the developers have been collaborating with Adobe folks.
  • The You Suck At Photoshop crew has been posting new bits, involving the Baldwin brothers, among many other things.

Recent motion graphics action

  • Guinness keeps producing terrific spots, now painting with light.  (How much do you want to get a bunch of friends together to try this?)
  • Luchador tennis!  Architecture in Helsinki’s new video gets animated using embroidery.
  • The titles for We’re Here to Help play with the visual language of government forms (with results groovier than that description would suggest). 

10,000-year prints, vintage rides, & more

Wednesday Photography: Giant HDR, sea creatures, & more

I can has monster laptop?

Lenovo has just trotted out the ThinkPad W700, a new portable (luggable?) machine geared towards pro photographers and graphic artists.  This warlock features:


  • Quad-core processor
  • Up to 8GB (!) of RAM
  • Up to three internal hard drives
  • Integrated screen calibrator
  • Mini Wacom tablet (!)
  • Both SD and CompactFlash card slots
  • 17" monitor with 24-bit Dream Color (2.3 million colors)
  • HDMI video output [Thanks to Bob Rose for the correction]
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 3700


Adobe’s Robert McDaniels remarks, "With a 17min battery life and a mere 4" thick and 48lbs case, it also doubles as a space heater, pumping out 52K BTUs per min."  Reminds me of the similarly girthy ThinkPad I named "Battlepig" when I started on the Photoshop team.  I’m pretty fond of the Mac 17-inchers I’ve been rocking ever since then, but I’d love to see Apple answer the challenge (especially from the integrated tablet).  Engadget features more info and a video demo. [Via Tobias Hoellrich, from whom I snatched the subject line as well]

Tuesday Illustration: Iron Man, lasers, and more

  • Semi-political

    • Politicians often serve as pincushions, but it’s rare that they’re actually made of pins, as in this Thumbtack Obama. [Via]
    • Gene Tempest’s long but interesting essay covers the Posters of Paris ’68, talking (among other things) about how the French artists played on memories of Nazi collaboration.
    • "Did United Artists doctor a photo of anti-Hitler plotter Claus von Stauffenberg to make him look more like the Top Gun actor?" asks the Guardian. [Via]  (Even weirder: My wife just glanced at the image and said, "I thought that was you for a second.")
  • Designer Marian Bantjes
    has been producing great stuff lately:

    • Her Design Ignites Change is a limited-edition, laser-cut poster that dramatically changes appearance under different conditions.  Proceeds benefit kids orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Kenya. [Via]
    • In Love Stories she creates a riot of great type–some of it edible!

Quick Lightroom bits: Presets, shortcuts, & more

  • On Lightroom News, Martin Evening interviews Lightroom PM Tom Hogarty about how the LR2 feature set came to be and more.
  • Lightroom Queen Victoria Bampton has posted Adobe Lightroom – The Missing FAQ, "a compilation of the most frequently asked questions, presented in a 397-page PDF eBook format."  It’s now updated to cover LR2 as well as LR 1.4.1.  She’s also posted a free PDF reference listing Lightroom 2 keyboard shortcuts.
  • Presets:
    • Sean McCormack has created a set of over 70 graduated filter presets for LR2. "Covering both landscape and portrait orienations, as well as hard and soft line filters," he writes, "these filters come in 3 standard colours: ND (Grey), Blue and Tobacco."  Sean is selling them for €5.00 (about $7.75). [Via]
    • At Inside Lightroom Richard Earney lists a ton of handy-looking presets, handling everything from image tweaking to filtering one’s image library (e.g. showing which images contain GPS coordinates, which lack keywords, etc.).
  • On Daring Fireball, John Gruber writes, "I upgraded to Lightroom 2 last week, and I’ve only had time to scratch the surface with regard to learning what’s new. But so far, every single change that I’ve noticed has been for the better. It’s a remarkable improvement over what was already one of my favorite pieces of software ever."  Nice!


Apropos of absolutely nothing Adobe-related, happy 08-08-08!  I’m especially into the date as I was born at 10:08 on this day 33 years ago.  I celebrated my birthday on 8-8-88 watching the first Chicago Cubs night game on TV.  (It being the Cubbies, they got rained out.)  I’m told the series of 8’s is auspicious, so I wish you happiness, good fortune, and delightful pixel-wrangling.  And with that, I’m closing the computer to have some good times with the family here in Illinois.

Thursday Type: The sacred & profane (well, mostly profane)


I recently got word that I’ve been selected to receive an incredibly nice honor–induction into the Photoshop Hall of Fame.  I’ve hesitated to mention it for fear of sounding like a shameless little self promoter; on the other hand, it would be worse to seem ungrateful, so to all the folks at the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, thanks so much!  I am honored indeed.


I do feel kind of sheepish about this–not through any false modesty, but because there are dozens of incredibly talented, hard-working folks who’ve logged many more years than I have on the Photoshop team, and who right now continue to gut it out in all kinds of unglamorous ways.  I can flap my gums all day, but it’s their work that really makes the difference.  They deserve the credit and exposure, so maybe I can get cranking on some profiles so that you can get to know more of the peeps behind PS.  In the meantime, thanks, guys, for letting me represent you.




PS–Here’s a trippy little twist: having returned to O’Hare this morning to pick up luggage we’d abandoned at midnight (following an epic and awful rain-delayed flight with infant), I walked up behind none other than NAPP chiefs Scott Kelby and Dave Moser.  I got to thank them in person for the honor and to wish them good shooting as they teach Chicago Bears bigwigs about sports photography.

Developers: Info on driving CS via AIR, Flash

If you’re interested in using Flash or AIR to extend and automate the apps of the Adobe Creative Suite, check out the Quarterly Creative Suite Developer Update Web conference, scheduled for Thursday, August 7th, at 9:00am Pacific time.


Amidst the other presentations, Adobe engineer Bernd Paradies will be talking for 15 minutes about a pair of technologies he’s developing:


  • "SwitchBoard" (see previous) lets AIR apps communicate with Photoshop and other CS3 apps via JavaScript
  • "PatchPanel" is a library that aims to standardize the scripting interface between Flash panels & the CS apps.  Instead of writing separate commands for each host, PatchPanel will make it possible to write common commands that are translated on the fly for each environment.


The session will be recorded and will be available for later viewing if you can’t make it in person.

The DNG Profile Editor: What's it all about?

When we look back at how things changed with the arrival of Lightroom 2, I think the new DNG Profile Editor (presently kind of a sleeper technology) will stand out as transformative.  The technology was largely developed by Eric Chan, a bright young guy on the Camera Raw team (and aspiring photographer).  I’ve always found his explanations lucid and highly readable, so I’m delighted that he’s written a guest blog post on the subject.  Enjoy.  –J.


Hi everyone. My name is Eric Chan and I’ve been a Computer Scientist at Adobe since February, which doesn’t exactly explain how I ended up on John Nack’s blog. [People often wonder how they ended up here…  –J.] Well, John kindly invited me to share some thoughts on the new color profiles for Lightroom 2 and Camera Raw 4.5… "Whoa, hold on there!" you say, "New profiles? What new profiles? I didn’t see any new profiles!" Ahh, that’s because the new profiles are currently undergoing a public beta and aren’t shipping directly with LR 2 and CR 4.5. Instead, they’re available as a separate download from the Adobe Labs web site. Why a public beta? Simply because there have been many changes under the hood, and we want to give folks a chance to try the new profiles and provide feedback before we bake them for final release.


But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me backtrack and give you the big picture first. As it turns out, there’s quite a bit more going on here than just a new set of color profiles.

Continue reading

Photoshop Express adds new features

The peeps behind the Photoshop Express online image editor have been keeping busy, adding drag-and-drop upload, more printing and editing options, and more. According to Macworld,


A couple of the new updates use Adobe’s AIR technology. The Photoshop Express Uploader enables photo uploading from the desktop of any Internet-connected computer. AIR is also behind a feature that “bridges the real-time, dynamic capabilities of the Web with the computing power and data capabilities of the desktop computer,” according to Adobe.


Another handy feature is the ability to drag and drop photos directly from your photo application into Photoshop Express. Users can now also print photos through Shutterfly.


Dynamic slideshows can now have music created exclusively for Photoshop Express. For organizing, the addition of tags allows for easy viewing and searching by name, party, venue, subject and anything else you find useful.


A one-click Resize tool with presets for mobile, Web, e-mail or online Profiles is now available and you can now download photos from anyone’s public album and keep a collection of their favorites.


All of the new features are available immediately by logging into the Photoshop Express Web site.


Sunday Photos: White Russians, the Moon, & more

  • Alex Prager mixes mid-century looks with some weird modern twists in her work. On Kitsune Noir Bobby Solomon points out similarities with Philippe Halsman’s wild Dali Atomicus.
  • Make mine a White Russian: I love this shot of a Belarusian commando shrouded in smoke.
  • Hello, moon: Laurent Laveder uses forced perspective to capture some beautiful Moon Adventures. [Via]
  • Take a good look at my crazy, genocidal face: the Faces of Evil collection invites viewers to stare down some of the most infamous figures of the 20th century.  "The pictures are 1,80m x 2,30m, high-resolution digital images that expose every tiny detail of their faces." [Via]
  • Ten years after I remember sticking her into a comp, the "Everywhere Girl" (stock photo superstar) has a blog.
  • Tangential: I think this is way better than any iPhone.

The Lightroom vs. Aperture plug-in situation

Lightroom PM Tom Hogarty has posted some info about how Lightroom & Aperture compare in terms of enabling image editing via add-on code.  Being addicted to bulleted lists, here’s my summary of where things stand:


  • Pound for pound & click for click, "external editor presets" in Lightroom 2 and "plug-ins" in Aperture are the same thing.  In both cases you pick the external engine that you want to use on your image; jump into that editing environment to make adjustments; and return to your LR/Aperture library with an edited bitmap image that sits alongside your original raw file.  You get the same results with the same number of clicks.


  • Unlike Aperture, LR doesn’t require developers to rewrite code to work as a plug-in.  Instead, it simply lets external apps open/save image data as they normally would.  Less work for developers should translate into more options, sooner, for photographers


  • Perhaps ironically, if you’re using external code like Nik’s Viveza plug-in (available as both a Photoshop & an Aperture plug-in), you’ll retain more editability by bouncing your image to Photoshop and doing the edit there.  Photoshop CS3 adds support for Smart Filters, meaning you can go back and tweak your Viveza (or noise reduction, or lens correction, etc.) settings even after sending the results back to your library.


  • If what you’re after is local image editing (e.g. dodging and burning), Lightroom already offers that as a native part of its development pipeline–no rasterization or external edit required.


  • If what you’re after is Photoshop integration, the Lightroom-Photoshop story is unmatched:
    • The jump is faster and doesn’t require creation of an intermediate TIFF/PSD just to open a file in PS.  (Instead the raw file goes through the Camera Raw pipeline, preserving your LR edits.)
    • You can open your raw file as a Smart Object and apply filters to it, preserving the editability of your raw settings and of the filters.
    • You can pass multiple files to Photoshop at once to create panoramas, HDR merges, or multi-layer PSDs.  This works especially well with virtual copies of the same image, making it possible to composite together multiple raw renderings.  Lightroom + Photoshop is the ultimate 1-2 punch.