Category Archives: Photography

Demo: Camera Raw is coming to Photoshop for iPad

Nine years ago, Google spent a tremendous amount of money buying Nik Software, in part to get a mobile raw converter—which, as they were repeatedly told, didn’t actually exist. (“Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest…”)

If all that hadn’t happened, I likely never would have gone there, and had the acquisition not been so ill-advised & ill-fitting, I probably wouldn’t have come back to Adobe. Ah, life’s rich pageant… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Anyway, back in 2021, take ‘er away, Ryan Dumlao:

Online seminar tomorrow: Russell Brown discusses his latest photographic explorations

I had a ball schlepping all around Death Valley & freezing my butt off while working with Russell back in January, and this seminar sounds fun:

Oct 12, 2021; 7:00 – 8:30pm Eastern

Russell Preston Brown is the senior creative director at Adobe, as well as an Emmy Award-winning instructor. His ability to bring together the world of design and software development is a perfect match for Adobe products. In Russell’s 32 years of creative experience at Adobe, he has contributed to the evolution of Adobe Photoshop with feature enhancements, advanced scripts and development. He has helped the world’s leading photographers, publishers, art directors and artists to master the software tools that have made Adobe’s applications the standard by which all others are measured.

New facial-puppeteering tech from the team behind Deep Nostalgia

The creative alchemists at D-ID have introduced “Speaking Portrait.” Per PetaPixel,

These can be made with any still photo and will animate the head while other parts stay static and can’t have replaced backgrounds. Still, the result below shows how movements and facial expressions performed by the real person are seamlessly added to a still photograph. The human can act as a sort of puppeteer of the still photo image.

What do you think?

“Float,” a beautiful short film

It’s odd to say “no spoilers” about a story that unfolds in less than three minutes, but I don’t want to say anything that would interfere with your experience. Just do yourself a favor and watch.

The fact of this all having been shot entirely on iPhone is perhaps the least interesting part about it, but that’s not to say it’s unremarkable: seeing images of my own young kids pop up, shot on iPhones 10+ years ago, the difference is staggering—and yet taken wholly for granted. Heck, even the difference made in four years is night & day.

Come try editing your face using just text

A few months back, I mentioned that my teammates had connected some machine learning models to create StyleCLIP, a way of editing photos using natural language. People have been putting it to interesting, if ethically complicated, use:

Now you can try it out for yourself. Obviously it’s a work in progress, but I’m very interested in hearing what you think of both the idea & what you’re able to create.

And just because my kids love to make fun of my childhood bowl cut, here’s Less-Old Man Nack featuring a similar look, as envisioned by robots:

Photography: A rather amazing sunflower time lapse

This is glorious, if occasionally a bit xenomorph-looking. Happy Friday.

PetaPixel writes,

The plants featured in Neil Bromhall’s timelapses are grown in a blackened, window-less studio with a grow light serving as artificial sunlight.

“Plants require periods of day and night for photosynthesis and to stimulate the flowers and leaves to open,” the photographer tells PetaPixel. “I use heaters or coolers and humidifiers to control the studio condition for humidity and temperature. You basically want to recreate the growing conditions where the plants naturally thrive.”

Lighting-wise, Bromhall uses a studio flash to precisely control his exposure regardless of the time of day it is. The grow light grows the plants while the flash illuminates the photos.

Anonymize your photo automatically

Hmm—I’m not sure what to think about this & would welcome your thoughts. Promising to “Give people an idea of your appearance, while still protecting your true identity,” this Anonymizer service will take in your image, then generate multiple faces that vaguely approximate your characteristics:

Here’s what it made for me:

I find the results impressive but a touch eerie, and as I say, I’m not sure how to feel. Is this something you’d find useful (vs., say, just using something other than a photograph as your avatar)?

How Google’s new “Total Relighting” tech works

As I mentioned back in May,

You might remember the portrait relighting features that launched on Google Pixel devices last year, leveraging some earlier research. Now a number of my former Google colleagues have created a new method for figuring out how a portrait is lit, then imposing new light sources in order to help it blend into new environments.

Two-Minute Papers has put together a nice, accessible summary of how it works:

Amazing colorization coming? Check out AI-Powered “Time-Travel Rephotography”

A bunch of my former Google colleagues, including with whom I’m now working as she’s joined Adobe, have introduced new techniques that promise amazing colorization of old photos.

By characterizing the quirks & limitations of old cameras and film, then creating and manipulating a “digital sibling,” the team is able to achieve some really lifelike results:

These academic videos are often kinda dry, but I promise that this one is pretty intriguing:

Flying with a Big Train

Dropping by the Tehachapi Loop (“the Eight Wonder of the railroading world”) last year en route to Colorado was a highlight of the journey and one of my son Henry’s greatest railfanning experiences ever—which is really saying something!

This year Hen & I set out for some sunset trainspotting. We were thrilled to see multiple trains passing each other & looping over one another via the corkscrew tracks. Giant hat tip to the great Wynton Marsalis & co. for the “Big Train” accompaniment here:

As a papa-razzo, I was especially pleased to have the little chap rocking my DSLR while I flew, capturing some fun shots:

Tangential bonus(-ish): Here’s a little zoom around Red Rocks outside Vegas the next day:

Photography: “Jay Myself” is terrific

Many years ago I had the chance to drop by Jay Maisel‘s iconic converted bank building in the Bowery. (This must’ve been before phone cameras got good, as otherwise I’d have shot the bejesus out of the place.) It was everything you’d hope it to be.

As luck would have it, my father-in-law (having no idea about the visit) dialed up the documentary “Jay Myself” last night, and whole family (down to my 12yo budding photographer son) loved it. I think you would, too!

Animation: Gmunk & Light

I’ve admired the motion graphics of Bradley Munkowitz since my design days in the 90’s (!), and I enjoyed this insight into one of his most recent creations:

What I didn’t know until now is that he collaborated with the folks at Bot & Dolly—who created the brilliant work below before getting acquired by Google and, as best I can tell, having their talent completely wasted there 😭.

Gone Fishin’, 2021 edition

Hey all—greetings from somewhere in the great American west, which I’m happily exploring with my wife, kids, and dog. Being an obviously crazy person, I can’t just, y’know, relax and stop posting for a while, but you may notice that my cadence here drops for a few days.

In the meantime, I’ll try to gather up some good stuff to share. Here’s a shot I captured while flying over the Tehachapi Loop on Friday (best when viewed full screen).

Just for fun, here’s a different rendering of the same file (courtesy of running the Mavic Pro’s 360º stitch through Insta360 Studio):

And, why not, heres’ another shot of the trains in action. I can’t wait to get some time to edit & share the footage.


Google Pixel brings video to astrophotography

Psst, hey, Russell Brown, tell me again when we’re taking our Pixels to the desert… 😌✨

Pixel owners love using astrophotography in Night Sight to take incredible photos of the night sky, and now it’s getting even better. You can now create videos of the stars moving across the sky all during the same exposure. Once you take a photo in Night Sight, both the photo and video will be saved in your camera roll. Try waiting longer to capture even more of the stars in your video. This feature is available on Pixel 4 and newer phones and you can learn more at

Google makes strides on equitable imaging

“I’m real black, like won’t show up on your camera phone,” sang Childish Gambino. It remains a good joke, but ten years later, it’s long past time for devices to be far fairer in how they capture and represent the world. I’m really happy to see my old teammates at Google focusing on just this area:

Apply for the Adobe Stock Artist Development Fund

I’m really happy to see Adobe putting skin in the game to increase diversity & inclusion in stock imagery:

Introducing the Artist Development Fund, a new $500,000 creative commission program from Adobe Stock. As an expression of our commitment to inclusion we’re looking for artists who self-identify with and expertly depict diverse communities within their work.

Here’s how it works:

The fund also ensures artists are compensated for their work. We will be awarding funding of $12,500 each to a total of 40 global artists on a rolling basis during 2021. Artist Development Fund recipients will also gain unique opportunities, including having their work and stories featured across Adobe social and editorial channels to help promote accurate and inclusive cultural representation within the creative industry.

VFX & photography: Fireside chat tonight with Paul Debevec

If you liked yesterday’s news about Total Relighting, or pretty much anything else related to HDR capture over the last 20 years, you might dig this SIGGRAPH LA session, happening tonight at 7pm Pacific:

Paul Debevec is one of the most recognized researchers in the field of CG today. LA ACM SIGGRAPH’s “fireside chat” with Paul and Carolyn Giardina, of the Hollywood Reporter, will allow us a glimpse at the person behind all the innovative scientific work. This event promises to be one of our most popularas Paul always draws a crowd and is constantly in demand to speak at conferences around the world.

“Total Relighting” promises to teleport(rait) you into new vistas

This stuff makes my head spin around—and not just because the demo depicts heads spinning around!

You might remember the portrait relighting features that launched on Google Pixel devices last year, leveraging some earlier research. Now a number of my former Google colleagues have created a new method for figuring out how a portrait is lit, then imposing new light sources in order to help it blend into new environments. Check it out:

Interesting, interactive mash-ups powered by AI

Check out how StyleMapGAN (paper, PDF, code) enables combinations of human & animal faces, vehicles, buildings, and more. Unlike simple copy-paste-blend, this technique permits interactive morphing between source & target pixels:

From the authors, a bit about what’s going on here:

Generative adversarial networks (GANs) synthesize realistic images from random latent vectors. Although manipulating the latent vectors controls the synthesized outputs, editing real images with GANs suffers from i) time-consuming optimization for projecting real images to the latent vectors, ii) or inaccurate embedding through an encoder. We propose StyleMapGAN: the intermediate latent space has spatial dimensions, and a spatially variant modulation replaces AdaIN. It makes the embedding through an encoder more accurate than existing optimization-based methods while maintaining the properties of GANs. Experimental results demonstrate that our method significantly outperforms state-of-the-art models in various image manipulation tasks such as local editing and image interpolation. Last but not least, conventional editing methods on GANs are still valid on our StyleMapGAN. Source code is available at​.

A little fun with Bullet Time

During our epic Illinois-to-California run down Route 66 in March, my son Henry and I had fun capturing all kinds of images, including via my Insta360 One X2 camera. Here are a couple of “bullet time” slow-mo vids I thought were kind of fun. The first comes from the Round Barn in Arcadia, OK…

…and the second from the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, AZ (see photos):

It’s a bummer that the optical quality here suffers from having the company’s cheap-o lens guards applied. (Without the guards, one errant swipe of the selfie stick can result in permanent scratches to the lens, necessitating shipment back to China for repairs.) They say they’re working on more premium glass ones, for which they’ll likely get yet more of my dough. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What a difference four years makes in iPhone cameras

“People tend to overestimate what can be done in one year and to underestimate what can be done in five or ten years,” as the old saying goes. Similarly, it can be hard to notice one’s own kid’s progress until confronted with an example of that kid from a few years back.

My son Henry has recently taken a shine to photography & has been shooting with my iPhone 7 Plus. While passing through Albuquerque a few weeks back, we ended up shooting side by side—him with the 7, and me with an iPhone 12 Pro Max (four years newer). We share a camera roll, and as I scrolled through I was really struck seeing the output of the two devices placed side by side.

I don’t hold up any of these photos (all unedited besides cropping) as art, but it’s fun to compare them & to appreciate just how far mobile photography has advanced in a few short years. See gallery for more.

Tutorial: Light painting tips from Russell Brown

Back in February I got to try my hand at some long-exposure phone photography in Death Valley with Russell Brown, interspersing chilly morning & evening shoots with low-key Adobe interviewing. 😌

Here’s a long-exposure 360º capture I made with Russell’s help in the ghost town of Rhyolite, NV:

Stellar times chilling (literally!) with Russell Preston Brown. 💫

Posted by John Nack on Thursday, February 4, 2021

Russell never stops learning & exploring, and here he shares some of his recent findings, using a neutral density filter on a phone to prevent blown-out highlights:

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A post shared by Russell Preston Brown (@dr_brown)

Getting our kicks

After driving 2,000+ miles down Route 66 and beyond in six days—the last of which also included getting onboarded at Adobe!—I’ve only just begun to breathe & go through the titanic number of photos and videos my son & I captured. I’ll try to share more good stuff soon, but in the meantime you might get a kick (heh) out of this little vid, captured via my Insta360 One X2:

Now one of these days I just need to dust off my After Effects skills enough to nuke the telltale pole shadows. Someday…!

2-minute tour: ProRAW + Lightroom

Over the last 20 years or so, photographers have faced a slightly Faustian bargain: shoot JPEG & get the benefits of a camera manufacturer’s ability to tune output with a camera’s on-board smarts; or shoot raw and get more dynamic range and white balance flexibility—at the cost of losing that tuning and having to do more manual work.

Fortunately Adobe & Apple have been collaborating for many months to get Apple’s ProRAW variant of DNG supported in Camera Raw and Lightroom, and here Russell Brown provides a quick tour of how capture and editing work:

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Happy St. Paddy’s from one disgruntled leprechaun

We can’t celebrate in person with pals this year, but here’s a bit of good cheer from our wee man (victim of the old “raisin cookie fake-out”):

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Meanwhile, I just stumbled across this hearty “Sláinte” from Bill Burr. 😌

And on a less goofball note,

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

☘️ J.

Insta360 GO 2: Finally a wearable cam that doesn’t suck?

Photo-taking often presents a Faustian bargain: be able to relive memories later, but at the cost of being less present in the experience as it happens. When my team researched why people do & don’t take photos, wanting to be present & not intrusive/obnoxious were key reasons not to bring out a camera.

So what if you could wear not just a lightweight, unobtrusive capture device, but actually wear a photographer—an intelligence that could capture the best moments, leaving your hands & mind free in the moment? Even naive, interval-based capture could produce a really interesting journey through space, as Blaise Agüera y Arcas demonstrated at Microsoft back in 2013:

It’s a long-held dream that products like Google’s Clips camera (which Blaise led at Google) have tried so achieve, thus far without any notable success. Clips proved to be too large & heavy for many people to wear comfortably, and training an AI model to find “good” moments ends up being much harder than one might imagine. Google discontinued Clips, though as a consolation prize I ended up delighting my young son by bringing home reams of unused printed circuit boards (which for some reason resembled the Millennium Falcon). Meanwhile Microsoft discontinued PhotoSynth.

The need remains & the dream won’t die, however, so I was excited ~18 months ago when Insta360 introduced the GO, a $199, “20-gram steadicam” for $199. It promised ultra lightweight wearability, photo capture, and a slick AirPods-style case for both recharging & data transfer. The wide FOV capture promised post-capture reframing driven by (you guessed it) mythical AI that could select the best moments.

Others (including many on the Insta forum) were skeptical, but I was enamored enough that my wife bought me one for Christmas. Sadly, buying Insta products is a little like Russian Roulette (e.g. I have loved the One X & subsequent X2, while the One R has been a worthless paperweight), and the GO ended up on the bummer side of the ledger. I found it way too hard to reliably start/stop & to transfer data. It’s been another paperweight.

To their possible credit (TBD), though, Insta has persisted with the product and has released the GO 2—now more expensive ($299) but promising a host of improvements (wireless preview & transfer, better storage & battery, etc.). Check it out:

“Looks perfect for a proctologist, which is where Insta can shove it,” said one salty user on the Insta forum. Will it finally work well? I don’t know—but I’m just hungry/sucker enough to pull the trigger, F around & find out. Hopefully it’ll arrive in advance of the road trip I’m planning with my son, so stay tuned for real-world findings.

Meanwhile, here’s a review I found thorough & informative—and not least in its innovative use of gummi bears as a unity of measure 🙃:

Oh, and I did not order the forthcoming Minion mod (a real thing, they swear):

Lego: Nanonaxx Conquer Death Valley

Do I seem like the kind of guy who’d have tiny Lego representations of himself, his wife, our kids (the Micronaxx), and even our dog? What a silly question. 😌

I had a ball zipping around Death Valley, unleashing our little crew on sand dunes, lonesome highways, and everything in between. In particular I was struck by just how often I got more usable shallow depth-of-field images from my iPhone (which, like my Pixel, lets me edit the blur post-capture) than from my trusty, if aging, DSLR & L-series lens.

Anyway, in case this sort of thing is up your alley, please enjoy the results.

Snowflakes materialize in reverse

“Enjoy your delicious moments,” say the somewhat Zen pizza boxes from our favorite local joint. In that spirit, let’s stay frosty:

PetaPixel notes,

Jens writes that the melting snowflake video was shot on his Sony a6300 with either the Sony 90mm macro lens or the Laowa 60mm 2:1 macro lens. He does list the Sony a7R IV as his “main camera,” but it’s still impressive that this high-resolution video was shot thanks to one of Sony’s entry-level offerings.

3D dronie!

Inspired by the awesome work of photogrammetry expert Azad Balabanian, I used my drone at the Trona Pinnacles to capture some video loops as I sat atop one of the structures. My VFX-expert friend & fellow Google PM Bilawal Singh Sidhu used it to whip up this fun, interactive 3D portrait:

The file is big enough that I’ve had some trouble loading it on my iPhone. If that affects you as well, check out this quick screen recording:

The facial fidelity isn’t on par with the crazy little 3D prints of my head I got made 15 (!) years ago—but for for footage coming from an automated flying robot, I’ll take it. 🤘😛