Saturday, April 30, 2022

Photo Op: First NYC Japanese Heritage Parade

NYC's first Japanese Heritage Parade has recently been announced.  It will be held on Saturday, June 14th, beginning at 1:00 p.m. and will run along Central Park West from 81st Street down to 68th Street.  I don't know if there will be a staging area in Theodore Roosevelt Park as there is for the Thanksgiving Parade, but I will probably take a walk there anyway around noontime in hopes of getting some photos of the marchers before they set off.

According to the article in Time Out New York, there will "be performances by the cast of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, The Super Live, the Young People's Chorus of New York City, Cobu, Soh Daiko, Japanese Folk Dance of NY, 10tecomai, Tate Haroyu, International Karate Organization Kyokushin-kaikan and Anime NYC."  The Grand Marshal will be actor George Takei of Star Trek fame.

According to the TONY article referenced above, the parade will be taking the place of Japan Day in Central Park that had been scheduled for Monday, May 9th, though that event is still shown as active on Facebook and other sites.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Adobe Announces Ditaworld 2022

I received an email from Adobe yesterday announcing its 2022 Ditaworld to be held May 10th through May 12th.  To be honest, this is the first I've heard of the conference, though it appears to be an annual event.  Since it's apparently geared to "marketing and technical communication professionals" I doubt there's much in it for photographers such as myself (which is probably why I've never before heard of it), but I thought I'd mention it here for those who have an interest in communications.  It's a virtual conference and according to its website if free to attend.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Adobe Announces Max 2022

Adobe has announced its Max 2022 conference to be held in Los Angeles from October 18th through October 20th.  In contrast to the past two years, the event the event this time around will be in-person as well as virtual with registration beginning sometime in July.  As in the past, the conference will feature sessions with live chat, labs, workshops, and guest speakers.

The conference's virtual component will once again be free while fees for in-person attendance will be announced at a future date.  In the meantime, sessions from last year's conference are available for viewing on demand.

Those wishing updates on registration and conference highlights should join the mailing list at the link shown above.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Skylum Neo Update 1.0.5

While somehow continuing to function in war-torn Ukraine, Skylum recently released the latest update to Neo, 1.0.5, making significant improvements to the app's Preset functions.  These include:
  • Access to the Presets tab from the top menu bar
  • Ability to view all a Preset's built-in edits when applying it (once a Preset has been applied users can go to the Edit tab and make adjustments to the applied edits)
  • Ability to save edits as a custom Preset for later use
  • Ability to use Undo and Redo when applying Presets
  • Ability to view Presets by using the T shortcut
  • Ability to use the Revert on Preset button
The update also contains other adjustments including "an improved LUTs workflow in the Mood filter and DCP files in the Develop RAW filter" as well as animations, a custom category, and the ability to remove LUT's from the popover.

I downloaded the update myself yesterday without problem.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Examples of Corel AI and Auto-Paint


After having mentioned in the past several posts the AI and auto-paint features Corel has recently included in its graphic apps,  I thought I might as well provide a few examples.

The two photos shown above were processed using AI presets in Painter Essentials 8, Opaque Acrylic on the upper and Pastel Portrait on the lower.  Both the photos below were processed with Painter 2022's auto-paint feature using a variety of Smart Stroke brushes.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Corel Painter Essentials

As its name would imply, Corel Painter Essentials is a heavily stripped down version of Painter.  Though it can be purchased separately at a fairly modest price, I acquired my own copies at no cost when they came bundled in successive Ultimate versions of Paintshop Pro.  Since I already have the full 2022 version of Painter, the Essentials apps are for the most part redundant.  The only reason I keep them on my hard drive is for their auto-paint feature,  As I've mentioned in previous posts, Corel now includes an auto-paint feature in several of its offerings, not only in Painter Essentials but also in Paintshop Pro as well as in the full version of Painter.  In an interesting move, Corel - in order to increase sales, I assume - has opted to include different AI styles not only from one app to the next but even in different versions of the same app.  For example, the styles offered in Essentials 8 are fewer and different from those that had been included with last year's Essentials 7.  The downside to this for the user, of course, is that once a given version has been superseded by the following year's version it's no longer possible to acquire those AI styles that had been previously available.  If one had not purchased Essentials 7, for instance, when it was offered for sale one cannot now have access to the excellent Pencil Drawing style, examples of which I've shown in an earlier post.

Because Painter Essentials 7 was designed for amateur rather than professional use, all the AI styles come with the same hokey fade-out border around the edges.  While this might be fine for a student looking to post a stylized portrait of his girlfriend on social media, it isn't acceptable for more serious uses.  To work around this problem, one should shoot with sufficient space around the photograph edges and then crop the image on all four sides once the AI style has been applied.  Thankfully, Corel did away with these borders in the current version.

For completeness sake, here are the styles available in both versions.

Version 7:
  • Bold Watercolor
  • Charcoal Drawing
  • Colored Pencil
  • Colorful Dabs
  • Impressionist
  • Smooth Acrylic
  • Van Gogh
  • Watercolor Portrait
  • Colored Pencil
  • Detailed Painting
  • Detailed Watercolor
  • Illustration
  • Impressionist Painting
  • Modern Painting
  • Oil Painting
  • Pastel Drawing
  • Pen and Ink Drawing
  • Pencil Drawing
  • Watercolor Sketch
Version 8:
  • Bold Impressionist Landscape
  • Captured Bristle
  • Charcoal
  • Colored Pencil
  • Opaque Acrylic
  • Palette Knife Landscape
  • Pastel Portrait
  • Pencil Sketch
  • Spongefetti Landscape
  • Watercolor Portrait
Note that some styles that share the same or similar names from one version to the next, e.g., Colored Pencil, nevertheless produce different effects.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Corel Painter

Painter is one of Corel's more expensive flagship offerings and definitely one of the best digital paint apps on the market.  While aimed primarily (as the name would suggest) at digital painters, it also offers several features that are on interest to photographers.  Foremost among these is the AI auto-paint that was first introduced in the 2021 version and that can also be found in Painter Essentials and Paintshop Pro, though it's important to note that Corel has been wise enough to offer different styles from one app to the next and even from one version to the next.  In fact, that offered in Painter, as befitting a premium app, is a bit more complex as it comes in two levels: the user first selects a preset for which an AI style is suggested but which can easily be overridden.  If this sounds unnecessarily complicated, it is actually much less so when actually working with the app.

Previous to the introduction of AI, photographers had to access another form of auto-paint using the app's smart stroke brushes and that feature is still included in the current version.  Corel provides a helpful tutorial describing the process that can be completed with a single click of the mouse.  To provide greater control, the process can be stopped at any point while in progress with another click.  One can also use auto-paint in conjunction with the app's cloning brushes by simply selecting among that category of brushes.

The above auto feature, however, should not be confused with the process of manually cloning a photograph into a digital painting, a process that is much more time consuming but provides far greater control and a superior end product.  There is a fairly long (one-hour) tutorial entitled Expressive Beginner Photo Painting that exhaustively explains the process in full detail.

Finally, the 2021 version of Painter introduced Clone Tinting, which Corel describes as the ability to "create new compositions or make minor color adjustments by dynamically adding color to mix with a clone source."  Personally, I've found this feature to be of limited usefulness in my own work, but that's not to say it won't provide other photographers with new and original forms of expression.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Corel Paintshop Pro

Rounding out my discussion of Photoshop alternatives is Corel Paintshop Pro.  Unlike Gimp and Affinity, Paintshop Pro is an offering from a large tech company that can afford to devote considerable resources to its development.  And the effort clearly shows in the result.  In my opinion, Paintshop Pro is one of the most underrated graphics apps out there.  It's not only a photo editor but also has a graphic design app rolled into it which makes things a bit confusing at times but is definitely worth having.  Perhaps sensing this possible confusion, Corel offers users multiple workspaces, but I've found it most convenient to use the Complete mode to avoid having to search for missing tools.

While Paintshop Pro has pretty much all the essential tools offered in Photoshop and even offers RAW processing, what makes the app most exciting are the effects.  Corel has gone all in on AI on almost all its offerings.  In Paintshop Pro, as in Painter and Painter Essentials, this includes AI auto painting in a variety of different styles.  To boost its sales Corel has been careful to ensure that those styles offered in one app are not duplicated in another, and this ends up giving users a much greater range of possibilities.  The app also relies on AI for de-noising and artifact removal.

The newest 2022 version of Paintshop Pro now offers Content Aware tools that, as noted on its website, can be used for Smart Clone, Magic Fill and Magic Move as well as to clear blemishes and red eye when doing makeovers.  I only rarely use any of these in my own work, but it's nice to know they're there.

One set of effects that have been standard in Paintshop Pro for some time are the scripts.  These are actually native filters, or presets.  Some come included with the app while a host of others can be purchased separately.  I've found them to be of varying usefulness.  Some, like the Selfie script, are of limited practical value while others can save a great deal of time in adjusting tonal values.

Since I still rely on Photoshop CS6 for the bulk of my photo editing, I now make use of Paintshop Pro almost entirely for the effects listed above.  If I were to move on from Adobe at some time in the future, however, I would almost certainly choose this app over GIMP and Affinity Photo as my default editor.  It simply has so much to offer that one really would never need to go outside it.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Still More Midsummer Night Swing Photos

Looking back at these photos, though shot only six years ago, I felt a wave of genuine nostalgia.  The world seemed a simpler place in 2016 before the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine turned life upside down for everyone.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

More Midsummer Night Swing Photos

Here's the second installment of photos I took at Midsummer Night Swing several years ago.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Photos from Lincoln Center Midsummer Night Swing

Six years ago, wanting to practice my street photography, I went for several evenings to Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night Swing festivities.  If one wanted to dance on the large raised platform erected near the bandshell, one had to pay admission, but there was no charge for those who wanted to dance in the plaza outside or only sit on the benches and listen to the music.  I had a good time, got some acceptable photos, and heard a lot of great music.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Affinity Photo


Another photo editing app that's often mentioned as an alternative to Photoshop is Affinity Photo.  I happened upon it when it was on sale at half price, though that offer has since ended and the price has returned to a full $54.99.  Even at that, though, it's still a bargain considering the truly stunning array of features it offers. As listed on its website, these include:

  • RAW editing
  • HDR merge
  • Panorama stitching
  • Focus stacking
  • Batch processing
  • 360 image editing
  • Smart object support
  • Digital painting
If anything, the very plenitude of features is the app's main drawback since mastering it necessarily involves a fairly steep learning curve.  There is a Start Guide available, but I noted when writing this post that neither the User Manual I once downloaded nor the expensive hardcover Affinity Photo Workbook seem to be any longer available.  That's a real problem since it leaves the user no choice but to browse through the site's numerous tutorials (112 at present count), a somewhat haphazard approach.

On a more positive note that purchase price apparently includes lifetime updates.  I've received email notice of several and have had no problem downloading them.

I have to admit I've unfortunately never taken the time to study the program in depth.  I simply lack incentive since I still rely on Photoshop CS6 for most of my photo editing.  There's no question, though, that Affinity Photo represents a viable alternative to Adobe products if I should ever decide to move on.

Saturday, April 16, 2022


When moving on from Adobe to consider Photoshop alternatives, the first name that's almost always mentioned is GIMP.  And for good reason.  As I wrote in an earlier post, GIMP is for all intents and purposes a reverse-engineered shareware version of Photoshop CS6.  It is a totally free GNU software offering that can be downloaded from the web via FTP.

The GIMP interface isn't quite as attractive as Photoshop's and tools and menus are arranged somewhat differently, but these are small matters.  Essentially, everything that is included in CS6, even the native filters, is available here.  And at no cost.  The learning curve is not that steep and the few tools, such as Apply Image, that are missing can easily be worked around.  The one great drawback is that the app does not support third-party plug-ins, meaning that another vehicle, such as the relatively inexpensive Photoshop Elements, must be used to access them if one wishes to have all the options available in CS6.

The current stable release version of GIMP for Windows is 2.10.30 and can be downloaded here either directly or via Bit Torrent.  There's really nothing to lose by installing it and trying it.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Nikon Announces Z9 Firmware Update


Already a great camera, the Nikon Z9 seems destined to become even more amazing with the release of a new firmware update as reported by Nikon Rumors.  While the most important updates are to the camera's video capabilities, still photographers will also benefit by the camera's improved AF capabilities and the introduction of a Pre-Release Capture mode, a first for any full-frame mirrorless camera.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Nikon Goes All In on its Z Line


Nikon made its reputation as the professionals' choice in the 1960's with the legendary Nikon F, its flagship camera, and for years it remained the best SLR money could buy.  For that matter, I still own and treasure the F3 I purchased in the 1980's.  So successful was the camera that even years after digital photography was first introduced, Nikon still clung stubbornly the same design format in its generally excellent line of DSLR's.  Doing so, however, cost Nikon dearly as it lost a huge percentage of its  market share when photographers flocked first to Sony's and then to Canon's mirrorless models.  Only belatedly did Nikon realize its mistake and attempt to rectify its error with the introduction of its first Z models several years ago.  They received only mixed reviews, however, and I was decidedly unimpressed when I handled them at New York City's Photo Expo shortly after their initial release, though I did appreciate the free Z line tee-shirt Nikon gave away at the time.

To everyone's shock, including mine, Nikon, through a herculean effort, made up all the ground it had lost and then some when it introduced the amazing mirrorless Z9 earlier this year.  So good was the camera that it could truly be described as revolutionary, and suddenly Nikon's fortunes were on the upswing.  One Z9 reviewer went so far as to call it "the comeback story of the decade."

To better capitalize on its success, Nikon has revealed in its Medium-Term Management Plan that it intends to increase and diversify its production of Z mount lenses to the point that by 2025 there will be no fewer than 50 available.  Such an array can only hasten Nikon users' move to mirrorless.

Unfortunately, in the same report Nikon also indicates that it intends to reach its goal by, among other things, raising the price of its products by as much as 20%.  Considering that the current MSP of the Z9 is $5,496.95 that's not exactly a negligible price jump.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Free LUT's from CineColor


Following up on my last post regarding free LUT's from On 1, I did another search and came across more offerings of free LUT's.  Limiting myself to those that had no strings attached, such as having to first register with a site before downloading, I found a set of nine free categories offered by CineColor in Cube and xmp formats that if nothing else certainly deserve a prize for imaginative titling:
  • Day for Night
  • Chromatic
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Technicolor
  • Golden Hour
  • Soft Enhance
  • Digital to Film
  • Classic Noir
Next I found a set of 13 LUT's offered by Shutterstock in Cube format only that also downloaded without problem.

Those interested might want to do their own research as I'm sure there are other free offers I've missed that are well be worth exploring, but in the meantime I think with all those I've listed in this and my prior post I now have a sufficient selection of LUT's with which to explore their usefulness to my own photography.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Free LUT's from On 1


In a recent post I mentioned a Skylum LUT offering and noted in passing that I rarely use LUT's myself.  Afterwards, I began wondering if I wasn't being unnecessarily narrow minded in leaving untried a resource that might actually benefit my photography.  Accordingly, I did a Google search for free LUT's and found a free offer from On 1 that seemed exactly what I was looking for.  It included nine different categories of LUT's:

  • Color Boost
  • Nature & Wildlife
  • Black & White
  • Cinematic
  • Landscape
  • Lifestyle & Commercial
  • Moody
  • Portrait
  • Lustify,me

Each category came in a zip file that contained a number of looks in three different formats - On 1 Raw, Adobe Lightroom, and finally Cube for all other applications.  There weren't any strings attached when downloading the files and, as advertised, they were completely free.

Monday, April 11, 2022

AI Pencil Drawing Effect

I'll talk more about Corel's Painter Essential AI effects in a future post, but for now I only want to quickly show a sample of of what can be accomplished with them.  Both the photos displayed here were shot this month in New York City's Central Park and then AI processed with the Pencil Drawing effect in Painter Essentials 7.  I found the effect worked best for me if, in order to avoid an overly photo-realistic effect, I stopped the process before it completed on its own; but that's entirely a matter of personal taste.  I've tried over the years any number of filters and presets that promised to mimic pencil drawings, but in my judgment this is by far the best.

Since all the AI filters in Painter Essentials place a rather hokey fadeout border around the edges of the image, it's best to apply the filter before cropping.  If one crops first, there is insufficient space remaining in which to rid the image of the border.

Unfortunately, if one does not already own a copy of Painter Essentials 7, which came bundled with an earlier version of Paintshop Pro Ultimate, there's currently no way to get the effect since it was not included in the this year's Painter Essentials 8 which instead includes ten entirely different effects, none of them in my opinion on a par with those contained in Essentials 7.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Taking Sundays Off


Now that I've gotten this resurrected blog up and running once again, I may as well give notice that I'll be taking Sundays off from now on to attend to other activities.  I'll still try to post every weekday and on Saturdays as well.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Petapixel Seeking News Team

In a recent post I mentioned that according to an article on the photography blog Petapixel, the site is actively seeking freelance Photo Writers.  Less than a week later, another article has appeared announcing a search for an entire news team, or at least "a News Editor and multiple News Writers."  The News Editor is a full time contract position.  In contrast to the earlier search for freelance Photo Writers, the position of News Editor comes with a long list of responsibilities and job experience requirements, all of which are listed in the article.  The  requirements for the remote News Writers positions, on the other hand are much the same as those previously listed for freelance Photo Writers.  Once again, an online application form is included in the article,  Interestingly, in neither this nor the earlier article is any mention made of possible compensation.  In spite of that, this could be an excellent opportunity for photographers with writing skills and/or editorial experience.

Hopefully, changes and additions to the news team will allow PetaPixel to better serve its primary mission of providing its readers with relevant photography news.  That unfortunately does not always appear to be the case at present.  For example, a recent post headlined the news that "Californians Can Now Use Library Cards to Visit State Parks for Free."  It's not that I have anything against literacy - I'm an avid reader myself - but I fail to see what if anything this has to do with photography unless it's simply the assumption that park visitors tend to take photographs.  Personally, I would much prefer if the site limited itself to informing its readers of new equipment and software releases and provided informed reviews of same.  I'd also enjoy seeing expert tutorials (not the lame self-help pieces that are all to common there now), news of major photography campaigns, and interviews with top photographers in which they discuss their techniques and the equipment they use.  As it is, there's far too much on site now that's simply fluff.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Problem with Adobe Serial Numbers

In late October 2021 I purchased directly from Adobe the Premiere Elements and Photoshop Elements bundle I've described in previous posts.  After payment, I received a confirmation from Adobe with download links and serial numbers. 

Both apps downloaded without problem.  When I attempted to open the apps, however, and was prompted for the serial numbers that would enable me to use them I received the same error message on both stating that the serial numbers had been "revoked."  I then embarked on a weeklong-plus round of calls and email messages back and forth with Adobe Customer Support, none of which succeeded in resolving my problem.  Finally, I allowed an Adobe tech support employee to do a screen share on my computer.  After only a moment she told me that there was no problem at all with my software, that the problem was instead that the serial numbers with which I had been furnished by Adobe were invalid, i.e., were not contained in the company's database.  She then proceeded to attempt to connect me with the Activations Department which never bothered to puck up the phone.

At that point I'd had enough.  I did an online search and was actually able to find an email address for Adobe's CEO, Shantanu Narayen, and forwarded to him a business-like letter of complaint I had formerly sent to Customer Service in which I had politely expressed my frustration with the situation.  The next day I received back an email from one Jitender Bisht, who identified himself as manager of the Executive Escalations Department, acknowledging my email to Mr. Narayen and apologizing for the inconvenience I'd experienced.  That was all it took.  Within hours I received an email from the Activations Department assigning me new serial numbers that worked without problem.

The point of all this is that even major tech companies such as Adobe - which, incidentally, is apparently now located in India, or at least all its major executives appear to be Indian nationals - can err in their sales of software and their service to customers.  In such situations, if their customer service departments cannot quickly resolve the problem, it may be best to attempt to contact an executive in a position of greater authority.  That approach certainly worked in this case.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Adobe Photoshop Elements


When I purchased Adobe Premiere Elements, discussed in an earlier post, Photoshop Elements came bundled with it.  True, I could have purchased Premiere Elements separately, but I decided it would be best to take the entire bundle at a sale price of $89.99 for a simple reason:  Adobe officially ended support for CS6 a number of years ago, which means that if the app should ever become inoperable due to changes in the Windows operating system, Adobe will do nothing to fix the problem. Fair enough since CS6 is hardly a new app (Adobe actually stopped selling it in June, 2014) but users would then have to either subscribe to Photoshop CC or else switch to an entirely different photo editing app.  I would opt for the second alternative myself.  I already own and use several other apps, including GIMP (which is essentially a reverse engineered shareware version of CS6 even if the interface isn't nearly as sexy), Affinity, Corel Paintshop Pro, and the new Luminar Neo.  The great problem with these, however, is that they generally do not support the third-party Photoshop plug-ins I use extensively in my editing.  Photoshop Elements, on the other hand, does support every one of the many plug-ins I have on my computer.  That feature alone makes it worth its purchase price.

Looking beyond that, I was surprised to find that Elements is, considering its low price, a fairly sophisticated editing app when used in Expert mode.  There are enough Photoshop tools here that, if it weren't for the clunky Curves tool, I could probably use it in a pinch to do (very) basic editing on many of my photos.  And there are some interesting features that have been added to the 2022 version, such as the ability to easily extend backgrounds that's intended to be used in conjunction with the content-aware fill tool and the ability to warp shapes when pasting one photo inside another.  In contrast, the one-click effects that are intended to "instantly turn photos into art" are too cartoonish to be usable by anyone but schoolchildren.  The same can also be said of the feature that allows animation effects, such as falling snowflakes, to be added to still photos.

As long as CS6 continues to work properly, I have no intention of using Elements.  I'll only keep it on my computer against the day CS6 no longer works properly and I'm in need of another vehicle with which to apply third-party plugins to my photos.

I might as well note in passing that when one clicks on the desktop icons for either Photoshop Elements or Premiere Elements, instead of being taken directly to the apps one is instead directed to a welcome screen where one can choose between the two apps and the Organizer.  While the Organizer allows one to rate and tag photos and videos it does not open them in the appropriate app when double clicking on them.  At present, I have no more real use for this feature than for the catalog function in Lightroom and will continue using the old version of Bridge that came bundled with Photoshop CS6.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Adobe Premiere Elements

Although my principal interest has always been in still photography I'd always wanted to experiment with video; and so late last year, just before the holidays, I purchased a GoPro Hero9 from B&H Photo.  At about the same time, Adobe put on sale for $89.99 its Premiere Elements / Photoshop Elements bundle, down from $149.99.  Knowing I would never become deeply enough involved in video to need the full version of Premiere, which in any event is only available through a Cloud subscription plan, I went ahead and purchased the bundle.

Since I've never used the full version of Premiere I can't say how Premiere Elements compares to it, but it's obviously a stripped down app aimed at casual users looking to add a bit of style to their You Tube videos.  For all that, though, it still possesses some fairly sophisticated features.  Using Adobe's Sensei AI technology (how I abhor such cultural appropriations) the editing process can be almost fully automated in Quick mode with the user needing to do little more than select the area of the frame(s) to which to apply effects and fixes. With social media in mind, the app also allows the user to change the aspect ratio to make the video more suitable for viewing on a smartphone and provides the ability to compress videos to make them easier to share.  There are any number of effects - such as animated overlays and mattes, double exposures, freeze frames, and bounce backs - that are fun but of limited usefulness.  There are also themes for those seeking to give their videos a more cinematic appearance, but these are necessarily of the most basic sort.  Of more serious value, it's possible to adjust highlights and shadows and to reduce noise.

In conclusion, Premiere Elements, especially when used in Quick and Guided modes, can be a viable choice for those with no knowledge of video editing who do not have the time or inclination to learn any and who want the least expensive product available.  The expert mode does provide a good deal more control but even here is limited.  As a basic video editor, Elements falls far short in my opinion of Corel Video Studio, the app on which I intend to do my own video editing, and which even in its Ultimate version is, relatively speaking, not that much more expensive, at least for those with a serious interest in video editing.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Petapixel Seeking Freelance Writers

According to a recent post on PetaPixel, the well known photography blog is actively seeking "freelance writers who are both passionate and knowledgeable about photography."  Since the preferred skills listed (high school degree, experience writing, experience with MS Word, good communication skills) are all pretty basic, I have a feeling the site will be inundated with applications - a handy online form for that purpose is included in the post itself - from any number of photographers who consider themselves expert and are in need of extra cash.  I have no idea how many positions are actually open, but for those who are interested it can't hurt to apply.  At the very least, such a position would afford a great opportunity to hone one's writing skills.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Adobe Bridge


I had not originally intended to devote an entire post to Adobe Bridge.  It was only when writing about Adobe Lighroom, in which I made mention of Bridge, that I Googled it (if only to provide a link to Adobe's product page) and found the newest version is apparently "free."  You'll note I put quotation marks around the word "free" because downloading the app is also just as apparently not a no-strings-attached deal.

In discussing Bridge, one reviewer quoted an Adobe "What's New" page - to which I was unable to find the link myself - as follows:

Bridge now provides a new sign-in and sign-out model that aims to deliver a secure, modern, and seamless application licensing experience.   When you launch Bridge, a sign-in window prompts you to log in with your Adobe ID and password.  If you already signed in using your Adobe ID from a Creative Cloud application, the sign-in window does not appear and the same login credentials are used.

This seems unnecessarily cumbersome to me, but the reason I won't be downloading Bridge myself is that there are a number of limitations in functionality if one does not also have Photoshop CC installed along with it.  And for that, of course, one must have an Adobe Cloud subscription plan.  While it is possible without Photoshop to see one's images and then to rate, label, and rename them - much as in a Lightroom catalog - they cannot be edited.  Additionally, it is not possible when using Bridge alone to view RAW images.

I already have a fully functional older version of Bridge that came bundled with Photoshop CS 6  and intend to keep using that in place of the newer version.  For one thing, I really have no use for the new Bridge's catalog features that in any event are already present in my copy of Lightroom 5.0 and for that matter in Photoshop Elements' Organizer.  Beyond that, when viewing an image in the older version of Bridge I have the ability to double click on any given image and have it immediately open in Photoshop CS6.  I doubt this would be possible in the newer Bridge unless I first installed Photoshop CC.

In conclusion, those who do not have an Adobe CC subscription plan or the Elements software but who nonetheless are seeking an app that will enable them to catalog their images may find it useful to download Bridge in spite of its limited functionality and unwieldy sign-in requirements.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Adobe Lightroom


I'm only devoting a post to Adobe Lightroom for completeness sake since I still have a copy of version 5.0 on my hard drive.  I have to say at the outset, though, that this is an app I very rarely access; anything comments I might make about it will therefore necessarily be extremely limited in scope.

I purchased Adobe Lightroom almost immediately upon the release of version 1.0 in 2007 when it was offered for an introductory price of only $99, and I upgraded to subsequent editions through 5.0 which is the version I still have on my computer.  The app is, of course, now bundled with Photoshop in Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription packages where it is, somewhat confusingly, offered in two different versions, Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC.  Since I've never used either of these I'm not the best person to ask concerning the differences between the two, but from what I understand Classic is closest to the old standalone versions while CC is more simplified and allows users to more easily move back and forth between Lightroom and Photoshop over a variety of devices.

The truth is that I never felt very comfortable working in Lightroom in the first place.  It always seemed unnecessarily cumbersome to me, a drawback that Adobe itself seems to have acknowledged in developing the CC version as an alternative to the Classic.  For one thing, I never had any real use for the Catalog feature or the use of keywords.  I don't believe photographers, even those with a huge number of images in their files, have any real need for these if they are organized in their work habits.  I myself have always been able to keep track of my images fairly easily using Adobe Bridge that's now apparently a free download from Adobe. (More on that in my next post.)

As far as editing is concerned, my goal when processing RAW images is simply to achieve a correct image, that is, one whose histogram is fully balanced with no shadow detail lost and no highlights clipped.  Though I might (very) occasionally apply a preset, I prefer to do the bulk of my editing in Photoshop or a similar program rather than a RAW processor.  Not that Lightroom doesn't have some very robust editing features.  But again, if one wishes to use the Develop module one has to first access the image via the libraries and catalogs.

Of course, most of the above simply reflects my personal preferences, and I'm sure the program has improved dramatically since the release of the 5.0 version I have on my computer.  After all, there are many outstanding photographers who have made Lightroom an essential component of their workflow and have achieved excellent results with it.  One has only to browse the many You Tube tutorials to see how versatile an app it actually is.  I certainly would not want to dissuade anyone from using it.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Adobe Photoshop

In discussing photo apps there's no better place to begin than with the granddaddy of them all and still the industry leader, Adobe Photoshop.  I began using it myself in the early 1990's when it was still only at version 3.0 and have had it on my computer ever since.  Back then, the biggest problem in using the app (or program, as it was then called) was that relatively few personal computers had sufficient RAM to edit even moderately sized images.  When applying a filter, always assuming I did not receive the dreaded "Insufficient RAM" error message, I had enough time to go out for a cup of coffee white waiting for the altered image to render onscreen.

I've never believed in subscriptions and so still use CS6 which I've always found completely adequate for my needs.  In my experience, once an app goes beyond a certain point, usually somewhere around version 5.0, it has all the essentials down pat and is from that point on only adding bells and whistles.  From what I've seen that certainly seems to be the case here.  Not long ago I watched an informative You Tube video that compared CS6 to the newest version of CC,  and I found there weren't any new features I really needed in my work with the possible exception of improvements in the Select tool.  In fact, at the very end of the video the reviewer Unmesh Dinda compared the Curves tool, which I've always considered the single most important tool in Photoshop from its earliest days, and demonstrated that the tool actually has much more latitude of movement in CS6. Other desirable CC features, such as sky replacement, are already available in other apps.  Luminar AI, for instance, does an amazing job at sky replacements with only a single click.

None of this is meant to disparage Photoshop CC.  And actually, since CS6 has not been available for purchase for some time, it's really the only game in town for those wanting to go with Adobe, which is something I'd strongly recommend for most photographers.  There's good reason the software has been #1 for so many years.  For one thing, Adobe is so large and established a firm that few others can match its resources when it comes to R&D.  As a result, the app is extremely comprehensive and has within it every conceivable editing tool that could possibly be needed from start to finish.  Meaning there's never any need to go outside it when editing a photo.  Although I use several other editing apps in my work that I'll be discussing in future posts, if I could have only one on my computer it would almost certainly be Photoshop.

There is one great drawback to using CS6 I should mention:  When running it on a computer equipped with a 4K monitor, the menus and panels appear incredibly small, so much so that one must strain one's eyes to read them.  Adobe could fix this problem easily, of course, but then there would be one less incentive for photographers to switch to Photoshop CC, wouldn't there?

Friday, April 1, 2022

Backing Up Digital Photos


Yesterday was World Backup Day (yes, there really is such a thing), so I thought this might be an appropriate moment to post on backup options. Correctly backing up one's library of images should be an essential concern for every photographer, but one that is all too often not addressed properly.

My own solution has been to back up data on my computer's hard drive as well as on two external hard drives, one of which I keep "cold" (i.e., not connected to my computer system) and in a safe place.  That's worked well enough for me, but if I were still running a photography business I would also obtain storage space on the cloud for additional security.

Speaking of the cloud, I recently viewed a video in which the moderator favorably mentioned Dropbox as a possible off-site storage site.  I've nothing against Dropbox, a well established and reliable resource, but several months ago, I'm not quite sure when or where, I heard mention of a much less expensive option named Degoo Cloud.  Whereas Dropbox charges $12.50/mo for storage of up to 5TB of data and $20/mo for unlimited storage, Degoo charges only $9.99/mo for storage of up to 10TB of data, which for me at least would make it a much more cost effective alternative.  Note, though, that I am not currently using Degoo's services and so cannot offer any advice on its reliability or business practices.  I'm not affiliated with the company in any way and am mentioning it here for information purposes only.