Update: Apparently this is by design and can't be avoided due to the changes between the processing versions. Wow, Lightroom 4 is really off to a less than stellar start if you ask me.
Doesn't anybody at Adobe work with custom tone curves? That's hard to believe. I have just found a second issue with them.
Adobe released Lightroom 4 and they pretty much messed up the migration of tone curves when converting the catalog from Lightroom 3 to Lightroom 4. You can read all about it here, the story is still ongoing as of writing this.
I use custom tone curves a lot, so I filed the original bug report right after finding out about this issue.
This is why I'm now part of a group of people alpha testing a fix that should recover the lost tone curves after an upgrade and that will hopefully make it into the full version of Lightroom and into an update for those who already upgraded.
As far as I can tell, Adobe hasn't issued a warning about this to their existing user base and we can only hope that power users with tens of thousands of pictures (and potentially with as many tone curve adjustments) won't get too many nasty surprises due to the bug.
Here comes issue #2:
During testing of the alpha script, I noticed something else, that I find quite disconcerting: I know changing to the new process will change the appearance of pictures, which is why Adobe suggests an A/B preview, but when I had the tone curve open when switching a picture from process version 2010 to 2012, I noticed this:
The curve does keep its overall shape, but the quite elegant few points of the curve get replaced by a ton of individual points.
WHAT .. ON .. EARTH .. IS .. THIS?!
Doing a quick change to the mid tones, or to how the shadows are rendered is a simple fix with the original curve. The replacement curve is 100% useless for that.
The only way to make the curve usable again is to start over and re-create it from scratch.
If this is by design, then it means that those of us who use custom tone curves extensively (I'm one of them) won't be able to benefit from the 2012 process for any of their existing images unless they are ready to start from scratch on them. In that case I'd really like a word with the person who made that decision.
With Creative Suite 5.5 Adobe is introducing a new subscription pricing model. For many professionals this is a welcome way to spread out the cost for the software over a year instead of having to do the big upfront payment for the software.
Customers can still buy individual products or product suites, but you will now also be able opt for a monthly plan. I will mainly look at what this means for photographers and Photoshop. But just as an example, instead of buying the Design Premium Suite for a retail price of $1899, if you commit for a yearly plan, you'll apparently get it for a "rental fee" of $95 per month or $1140 per year. Mind you, this is nota payment plan, so you won't own the software at the end of the year. Adobe is offering upgrade pricing for those who paid for a year though.
As mentioned, you can still buy the products, but as I understand it, as opposed to being able to upgrade from older versions (I believe you could skip up to two versions), with the new pricing model you can't skip versions anymore to get upgrade pricing.
And this seems to be the biggest rub for a lot of people. Enough of a rub that Adobe went ahead and closed (and apparently even removed) the comments on the blog entry where they announced the change.
International pricing of Adobe products has always been one of my pet peeves. In Germany and other European countries, prices for Adobe products are dramatically higher than the US prices, in some cases we Europeans get to pay more than a 100% premium for the same software.
Back in 2007 when I interviewed Adobe product manager John Nack I brought it up, but mainly got an evasive answer.
This might also explain why a lot of people on this side of the pond appear to use pirated versions of Adobe's products.
Over the years a lot of photographers have become Photoshop users. Photoshop isn't the most intuitive product - I usually compare it to a huge toolbox full of tools but without a good instruction manual - but it is very powerful and many photographers have taken the effort to learn its intricacies, to adjust their workflow and to master it to a certain degree.
As I said, I'll mainly look at photographers in this article, but this might also be true for small agencies.
While Lightroom has pretty much taken over when it comes to 98% of my pictures, many photographers have spent years and year refining their Photoshop workflows, they have learned tricks and spent time learning from tutorials. The investment not only on the financial side is huge.
But for monetary reasons many individuals and agencies have also had to adopt a model where they would skip a version or two before they upgrade to a higher version. This possibility is now pretty much gone, so my guess is that the sentiment of many Photoshop users is that they are now expected to pay double or triple the amount they used to pay in the past.
Aside from that ecosystem, let's have a quick look at what makes Photoshop so great.
The thing that intimidates new users most is also one of Photoshop's greatest strengths. It is a collection of hundreds of powerful image manipulation and design tools and if you know how to use them, there is almost no limit to what you can do with it.
Layers, masks and layer modes let you do everything from complicated composites to things as simple as slapping a layer of text to an image. The mix of vectors and pixel graphics and the resulting flexibility is unsurpassed and I love being able to use smart objects to treat pixel graphics almost like vectors.
Profiles allow for a color-managed workflow in pretty much any color space you like and over the years many specialized tools have found their ways into Photoshop, from handling animations to stitching big panoramas to 3D and perspective work.
The plugin model is another part of that ecosystem, with a ton of add-ons available to do virtually anything you can imagine.
But its strengths can also be seen as weaknesses. Photoshop tries to be everything for everyone and its user base is so diverse that it is hard to find a common thread. Illustrators use it, it has its applications in the pre-press processes, it has even medical uses and of course there are the photographers.
Because Photoshop wants to be for everyone, it feels like a big piece of patchwork rather than an integrated application.
There are still a few areas where I tend to resort to Photoshop. These include simple illustrations that use layers and masks, adding text to images, more complex cloning operations, adding transparency and stitching images.
That's pretty much it. I do everything else in Lightroom.
I can only answer that question for myself, and it's pretty much a resounding no at this time. The few uses that Photoshop still has for me are easily covered in the CS4 version that I still own and there are a lot of great alternatives out there that cover a lot of Photoshop's bases.
One of the strongest alternatives on the Mac platform at this point is Pixelmator. In its new 2.0 version it supports layers, layer masks, over 100 file formats, plenty of filters, and even some of Photoshop's "killer features" such as content-aware fill. For €23.99 it's a bargain. Is it a full Photoshop replacement? No, but it covers 95% of what I need as a professional. The one item it doesn't have and that's high on my wish list is 16 bit support, but for most of the things I use it, I can live with that. If that's a must for you, I suggest you have a look at PhotoLine. It's not as pretty, runs on Mac and Windows, and it supports 16 bits and more, for a mere €59.
As a Mac user I can cover most of the remaining 5% with the tools that Mac OS X already has on board and I'd be surprised if Windows didn't have similar things on offer. I use the ColorSync Utility to do color space conversions, which includes converting pictures to CMYK, so they are ready for a printing house. Preview, one of the Mac's most underestimated apps, lets me use any ICC profile to soft proof images. And Image Capture (the second most underestimated OS X app) serves as a great front-end to any scanner.
When I got my MacBook Air with its 128 GB SSD, I went through a long software list to decide what I needed on the road and what I could go without. Lightroom made it onto that list, Final Cut Pro X did, Scrivener too, and even Apple's 4 GB heavyweight XCode development environment.
The one thing that I left off the system was Photoshop.
That was half a year ago. So far I haven't really missed it.
Haven't been up on my soapbox in a while…
I have taught photography to over a thousand of students, among them many really good photographers who often weren't aware why they were great, but I have also been surprised at times as some of the more professional appearing ones weren't even able to do basic things like setting up custom white balance for a specific light situation.
There is a part of me that loves to see all the nifty photo gadgets that brilliant people come up with, but I've also been watching the developmentof the camera landscape with a concerned eye.
There are a lot of automated sub-systems in our cameras. Focus, exposure and white balance are the important ones among quite a few.
But the smarter these systems seem to get, the more decisions they take away from the photographer, the more the photographers lose the ability to make the right decisions.
I've seen this over and over again this year during the workshops.
It's not the photographers' fault of course. The philosophy of the camera manufacturers is quite understandable: take as many of the complicated photography stuff as possible and make the decision (and set the setting) for the photographer. This way many of the less technically inclined people out there can pick up a camera and quickly get results, which will make them happy, and as a result they will buy more cameras.
The big issue with this approach is that even though the automatic systems get it right most of the time, the camera will never be able to know the photographer's intention. How can the camera know that I'm not at all interested in exposing for the face, but instead I want to show a silhouette? How should the camera know that I actually want this shot to be bluish cool and unfriendly instead of giving it a caribbean sunset white balance? And how should the camera be able to anticipate that I deliberately want to blow out the sky in this picture?
The philosophy of me as the photography trainer is substantially different from that of the manufacturer: if you want to tell a story (and let's face it, a good story is usually what makes a good photograph), you need to make the tools that help you tell that story do the right things. The tool in this case is your camera. And making it do the right thing means to know how to make it expose, focus and white balance in exactly the way you want.
And that's a skill set that more and more photographers have either lost, or they never had the incentive to learn.
Relying on the automatisms of the camera and getting it right 80% of the time might be good enough for many photographers.
I want those remaining 20% to be under my control too.
Picture by chotda on flickr
Man is it SOAPBOX time again today. Hold tight. Lean back. Get the popcorn out.
This story was handed to me by a friend. Let's call him Thomas. Thomas lives in Germany.
Thomas recently got a recommendation by another friend of mine (let's call him Michael) to check out the work of a Science Fiction author (let's call her Sue). "If you're a fan of Heinlein, Gaiman and Gibson, you've GOT to read her books, she's excellent! A real discovery!"
Being the modern guy he is, Thomas got online to buy one of her books. The original English version, not the German translation. Not as a hardcopy, but as an eBook.
With the iPad on the horizon (first deliveries in Germany will start in about a week) he also wanted to future-proof his investment. Buy it now, start reading on the iPhone, continue reading on the iPad as soon as it arrives. Sounded like a plan.
Apples iBooks app and iBookstore aren't an option here in Germany yet, so he looked into Kindle. Turned out the book in question wasn't available in the German Kindle bookstore. Bummer.
Next stop Stanza. Yes, it's not available as a native iPad app just yet, but with the Kindle app having made it to the iPad, there is a chance that Stanza will be allowed in too. So Thomas installed Stanza on his iPhone, fired up the built-in book search and lo and behold, there was the book in question, available on the BooksOnBoard store right from within Stanza. For $12.72. He hit the "Buy" button, was transferred to the BooksOnBoard web store in Safari, he registered an account with BooksOnboard, diligently filled in all his information, got to the book page, put it in the shopping cart, clicked the check out button in anticipation, and ...
"This title is not allowed for sale within your country. Item failed to add to cart! Please close this window and try again."
OUCH. BIG OUCH.
After some more research Thomas had to learn that it seemed impossible to legally buy the book in question as an English version in Germany in any eBook format.
Thomas was ready to spend $12.72 of his hard earned money for this eBook. He happily wanted to throw money at an online store (e.g. the entire chain: the shop owner, the publisher, the author, and even the government if you take taxes into account). But for some very stupid reason he wasn't allowed to. What's wrong with this picture? Everything!
And this is where Thomas had it. He wanted the book. "If they don't want my money, I'm savvy enough to get a hold of this eBook in another way."
20 minutes later he not only had a copy of this one eBook on his hard drive, but about 500 others too. Five friggin hundred. Why? Because he couldn't find the book on its own on BitTorrent, but instead had to download it as part of a ridiculously large Science Fiction book collection.
Just to make it clear: this download was not a paid download. At this point let me add a quick word about BitTorrent: No, not everything on there is illegal. By far not. BitTorrent is first of all a great technology. The telephone is a great technology too, and I don't even want to start thinking about the amount and kind of illegal activities that the telephone is being used for at this very moment...
Back to the story:
Let's do the math. Thomas was ready to pay $12.72 to BooksOnBoard, and I'm sure they would have loved to take the money and give him the book. Instead he now had 500 not-quite-so-legal eBooks sitting on his hard disk. Assuming the same price, those books summed up to over $6000 in lost sales potential.
Book industry? Government? Authors? Collecting Societies? I don't really care who's fault this is, but are you reading this? Instead of losing a sale of $12.72 you have just lost the potential to make $6000. If Thomas wasn't such an honest soul, that lost potential could have easily multiplied many times. "Look what I just downloaded, let me send you a copy..."
Imagine the amount of people searching for (not necessarily legal) ways to get a hold of digital goods, that they cannot get otherwise for ridiculously stupid reasons.
PS: Honest soul that he is, Thomas of course deleted the 499 eBooks that he had to download to get to this one book. And he hasn't shared the downloaded copy with anyone. Not even with me. He's now trying to find out if there is a way to send Sue a donation, because he loved her book so much that he wants to give her something in return. Which will probably be way more than what she would have earned if he had bought it the "normal" way.
What is your take on this?