Getting (i)Cloudy at The Seattle Times

My barber said, “I have too many clouds,” and I immediately sympathized. iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive…I have files stashed in all of them. What surprised me when I set about to write this week’s column for the Seattle Times, is that I’ve so effortlessly moved so much of my work and personal data to cloud-based services.

iOS 10 and macOS Sierra, released last month, further entwine iCloud’s tendrils into everyday activities. In the column, I talk about how it enables me to control Philips Hue lights in my home from any remote location, unlock a Mac using my Apple Watch just by getting near it, and more.

Read the column here: Forecast: Increasing use of cloud services for just about everything.

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How Lightroom for iOS 2.4 Changes the Mobile Photo Landscape

Birdhouses

Over at TidBITS, I write in more depth about the changes in Lightroom for iOS 2.4, and they’re doozies: Lightroom for iOS 2.4 Changes Mobile Photo Workflow.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, adding native raw file format support to Adobe’s mobile photo editor is a big deal, especially for people who are looking to use just an iPad or iPhone on photo shoots to minimize the gear they carry.

It means you don’t end up with separate edited copies of photos that are synced with Lightroom on the desktop—a raw file editing in Lightroom mobile is synced to your main library with edits intact. And the editing power takes a big leap in quality, pulling detail out of shadows without blocking up sections where JPEGs just don’t hold up.

For example, here’s an underexposed raw photo edited entirely in Lightroom on my iPad:

LRm24 raw before after

There’s a better example in the article that shows extreme pixelation in a JPEG.

I also talk about the new local selection tools, which are great for adjusting selected portions in linear or gradient areas. Here’s another before-and-after, showing the radial tools at work; I was able to bring up the exposure for just the birdhouses without overexposing the background.

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Lightroom m24 local radial

Overall, this is an exciting release, something I’ve been looking forward to for years. It streamlines the mobile photo workflow and does what I envisioned in 2011 when I wrote the first edition of my iPad for Photographers book.

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Lightroom for iOS 2.4 Adds Raw and Gradient Selections

Lightroom for iOS 2.4

Adobe just released a significant update for the iOS version of Lightroom, bringing two features mobile photographers are going to love: raw import and editing, and linear and radial graduated adjustments. The first could change how we work with photos in the field, and the second is a feature I use more and more on the desktop and have in the past resorted to interesting workarounds to implement on the iPad.

I need to dig more into this release, but it looks promising. Photos you import using Apple’s Lightning adapters are brought into the Photos app Camera Roll, and then recognized by Lightroom as raw. (Oh, but now I lament Apple’s choice of sticking with USB 2.0 speed for photo import on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.) This could mean no longer needing to shoot in Raw+JPEG just to get a high-resolution JPEG to work with on the device.

(Remember, until now Lightroom wouldn’t even display raw images when importing them from the Camera Roll, and in most apps, the JPEG preview the camera creates to display on its LCD is what’s used for editing.)

Adobe says the app supports all the same raw formats that Lightroom on the desktop supports; I had no trouble opening and editing a handful of raw .RAF files from my Fuji X-T1.

Lightroom ios 2 4 raw badges

I’ll be writing more about this, looking at how Lightroom syncs the raw files back to the desktop, whether it’s practical to import a lot of images or just selected ones, and what this means for Apple’s upcoming raw image support in iOS 10.

For now, here’s more information from Adobe: Lightroom for Mobile July Releases.

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iPad Pro 9.7-inch and the Curious True Tone Display

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Apple today introduced a 9.7-inch version of the iPad Pro, and I think it’s the next iPad for me. Although I really liked the larger iPad Pro (see my review in the Seattle Times), I found myself drawn more to the traditional size of my trusty iPad Air. It was better for reading and certainly better for carrying around (considering that the iPad is not my main computer; your mileage may vary).

The new iPad has just about everything the larger iPad Pro does: faster A9X processor, four great speakers, Apple Pencil support, a Retina display (at 2048 by 1536 pixels), better cameras, and—surprisingly important to me—a Touch ID sensor; my little iPad Air is the first generation, which does not have Touch ID.

But there are also two details that I’m looking forward to learning more about and experiencing in person. The iPad Pro page reads:

A color standard big enough for Hollywood.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro display uses the same color space as the digital cinema industry. This wider color gamut gives iPad Pro up to 25 percent greater color saturation than previous iPad models. So colors are more vivid, true to life, and engaging.

This sounds very gee-whizzy, and the optimist in me wonders if this could actually be a step toward having color profiles. The realist in me is pretty sure it means the display technology is just improved, and there’s just the one default (as has always been the case with the iPad models).

The other new feature, though, is even more interesting:

See things in the best possible light. Whatever the lighting.

People love using iPad everywhere. That’s why the new 9.7‑inch iPad Pro has a True Tone display. It uses advanced four-channel ambient light sensors to automatically adapt the color and intensity of the display to match the light in your environment. Which means reading is more natural and comfortable — almost like looking at a sheet of paper.

In theory, this sounds great! How often have we turned on the iPad and been blinded by brightness or the stark white of a minimalist app? Making the viewing experience more comfortable in a variety of lighting conditions is quite cool.

For photographers, though, this sounds like a giant hassle. If the color temperature of the screen is changing based on surroundings, that means colors are going to shift. Viewing and editing photos becomes more of a crap-shoot. I hope there’s an option to disable this feature (or maybe there will be an API call that would enable developers of photo-editing software to turn it off while the app is running). [Update: I confirmed with Apple that you can turn off the feature in Settings.]

We’ll see. I’m looking forward to some hands-on time with the device to check these out in person.

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Macworld Reviews Adobe Photoshop Fix

As mobile devices continue become more powerful, we can do more with them, and that applies to photo editing. Over at Macworld, J.R. Bookwalter reviews Adobe Photoshop Fix, which brings many of Photoshop’s image manipulation tools—such as distort and liquify—to iOS devices. He likes it, but wonders why Photoshop Fix and Photoshop Mix (ugh, they really couldn’t differentiate better than that?) are two separate tools:

“Together with Mix, Adobe Photoshop Fix is indeed the serious mobile retouching solution the company pledged to deliver. Now it’s time to either consolidate both into a single app or make it easier to move projects between each—and throw in extension support for Apple Photos while we’re at it.”

Survey Results: The State of the iPad for Photographers 2015

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I started September with a question: How are people using the iPad with their photography? Is it really an invaluable addition to one’s camera bag, or is it an occasionally useful item? Is it even being used at all? Sales of iPads have been steadily dropping over the past couple of years, though I think that has more to do with the fact that people aren’t buying new iPads at the same rate as new iPhones. (Any company would kill for even Apple’s “low” sales numbers of iPads, but that’s a rant for another day.)

In 2011, I saw the potential of the iPad as a photographer’s tool and wrote the first edition of The iPad for Photographers, which detailed how you could review photos you capture using other cameras (at the time, the iPad 2 had only just come out, the first model to include an admittedly terrible camera), apply metadata to them to streamline the tagging process, and of course edit and share them—all without using a desktop or laptop computer. I published, in cooperation with my friends at Peachpit Press, two subsequent editions of the book.

So how are you using the iPad in 2015? I created a survey to find out, and the results are in some ways unexpected and other ways surprising. I encourage you to view the full results, but here’s the short version:

  • Most people who import photos to the iPad do so using the wired Camera Connection Kit (older iPads) or Lightning SD Card or USB adapters. Almost as many sync via iCloud, Lightroom mobile, Google Photos, or some other cloud service. The number of folks transferring photos directly from a camera’s built-in Wi-Fi feature was about half of those others, but considering how long it’s taken companies to implement Wi-Fi into cameras, the number is larger than I expected.
  • People rarely assign ratings or favorites to elevate the good photos from the not-so-good. I suspect this is because the process of importing photos onto the iPad is still time-consuming.
  • Most people don’t bother with any additional metadata. The fact that the apps designed for doing so (such as Photosmith and PhotosInfoPro) have all gone dormant bears this out.
  • More effort seems to be going into editing photos, and of the tools available, Snapseed is the leader, followed by Lightroom mobile and Apple’s built-in Photos app.
  • Surprisingly, the iPad Air 2 was the most-used model—the latest model available at the time the survey was posted. I expected that there would be a broader spread of older models. Of those, a little more than half were Wi-Fi–only models. The 64 GB configuration is the sweet spot in terms of storage.

A quick but important caveat: The survey attracted just 132 responses, which is less than I hoped, but it at least provides a window into the preferences of those who chose to take the survey.

Conclusions

The iPad is strong on editing, but the effort needed to get to that point is greater than it should be. That means using an iPad as a field companion—appealing especially for people who don’t want to tote a laptop along—is possible, but it’s hampered by slow ingest and limited storage. Perhaps the iPad Pro, which will offer USB 3 speeds through its Lightning port, may improve this.

I’m not too surprised that the Cloud has turned into a preferred method of moving photos onto the iPad, although of course the usefulness depends entirely on your current Internet connection—likely fine when you’re at home on the couch, but not so great in remote locations.

And, lastly, no one is using the iPad to apply metadata. This is the top request I hear from professional photographers, but I don’t think most regular people are doing it. Perhaps services like Google Photos, which comes up with its own metadata based on automated visual searches of photos, is the future here. I still believe that metadata is a powerful thing for photos, regardless of your photo skill level or interest; in my book Take Control of Your Digital Photos on a Mac, Second Edition, I present a painless way to do it on the Mac.

The big question as I write this is how, or if, the iPad Pro will affect the field. Apple still hasn’t implemented any type of raw format support into iOS, which reduces the Pro’s appeal for many photographers in terms of editing, although perhaps the iPad Pro will be fast and powerful enough to run an app such as PiRAWhna smoothly. We’ll have to see.

The survey results appear below. Thank you to everyone who took the time to take the survey and share their comments!

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The Hidden Editing Power of Photos for OS X

Photos hidden 06 levels finetune

Photos for OS X is a consumer application, replacing iPhoto, but you’ll be surprised at how capable it is as a photo editor. In my latest article for Macworld, I look at several unexpected ways the editing features are more powerful than it appears, from keyboard shortcuts to the sophisticated Levels tool.

Read it here: The Hidden Editing Power of Photos for OS X

(Fair warning: the Macworld page includes an annoying auto-playing video. In fact, as I write this, all the comments in the article are about the video. Macworld’s editors can’t do anything about it, unfortunately: it’s a business decision made higher up. I know first-hand that the editors have tried for years to get rid of the autoplay videos.)

Speaking of Photos for OS X, my new book is now available!

photos_osx_150px

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Review: Capture One Pro

Captureone raw adjust after

When I wrote the Macworld review of Adobe Lightroom CC 2015, several people in the comments brought up Capture One Pro, another photo manager and editor with a loyal following. Macworld hadn’t ever reviewed it, so I pitched it to my great editors and they said yes.

Read it here: Capture One Pro 8.3 review: Aperture replacement light on library features, strong on editing tools

I last looked at Capture One Pro years ago and wasn’t impressed, but of course software changes over time. With the demise of Apple’s Aperture, people are looking for alternatives. And the truth of the matter is that some people just don’t like Lightroom, or they object to Adobe’s subscription pricing model.

Capture One Pro’s main selling point is that it’s a better raw converter than other software, and my experience with the latest version reflected that. The software also has lots of great editing features. The photo above shows the “after” version of an image I posted the other day (and which was picked up by Flickr’s Explore feature); you can see the “before” version in the Macworld review.

That said, I found the organization features to be frustrating in many areas, so I’m not going to give up Lightroom as my current tool of choice. (Well, it’s not like I get to use just one; I have photos in many applications for a variety of projects, like my Photos for OS X book.)

You can download Capture One Pro for free and use it for 30 days. If you’re at all interested, give it a spin and see if it works for your photos. The price to buy is steeper than others: $299. But if it clicks for you, it may just be worth it.

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Take Lightroom on Your Next Photo Shoot

Skyward, Redwoods

Knowing that I was away on a photo workshop in Northern California, an editor I’ve worked with for years contacted me with an interesting assignment: to write about how I use Adobe Lightroom in the field.

I’ve spent a lot of time (and three editions of my book The iPad for Photographers) thinking about how best to incorporate mobile technology into photography, and the field keeps moving forward. As a Lightroom CC user, I really like Lightroom mobile and how it syncs photos and adjustments from my iPad to my Mac and vice-versa.

The result is a new article, with a generous helping of photos from the Redwoods, posted today at Adobe Inspire: Take Lightroom on Your Next Shoot.

I outline a workflow for shooting, importing, and reviewing photos within Lightroom and the Creative Cloud ecosystem. One thing that surprised me: I found myself shooting more bracketed photos and side-by-side collections knowing that I could process those easily using the new Photo Merge HDR and Panorama tools in Lightroom CC.

One note, for those of you who have followed this field with me: I bypassed mentions of importing photos to the iPad while out shooting, which leads to special considerations for syncing and loading raw files later. (You can read more about that in my book.) What’s in the article is a streamlined, more sane approach to syncing and reviewing photos that won’t scare away novices.

Check out the article, and feel free to leave feedback here. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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