Monday, December 23, 2013

Adobe Photoshop Photography Program offer soon to expire

 The Adobe Photoshop Photography Program, offering the Creative Cloud versions of Photoshop and Lightroom for $9.99/Month expires in the New Year so if you intend to become a creative cloud user you must act soon. You no longer need to have owned a previous version of Photoshop to take advantage of the offer.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Adobe extends Photoshop Photography Program deal

 Adobe has announced that the $9.99/month Photoshop Photography Program is now available to everyone, they have removed the previous product ownership requirements. Users who commit to a one year subscription (billed monthly) will get the Creative Cloud versions of Photoshop (PS) and Lightroom (LR) including future updates, 20 Gigs of storage and a Behance ProSite membership. Visit Adobe for more information.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Adobe Security Breach

 In case you were not aware Adobe announced today that their computer system had been hacked and some customer user account information including: User Id, encrypted password and credit card information had been accessed. Accounts that have been involved  (30+ Million users) will receive an email on how to re:set their deactivated accounts, which will require a password change.

  Remembering the numerous passwords we all have today can be cumbersome, but you should never ever use the same user id and password for multiple companies / systems / accounts. If you have accounts elsewhere that use the same UID/Password as Adobe's, I'd suggest that you change them up also. Use upper & lower case and throw in some special characters (?,>,$,%,# etc...) if possible. The longer and more random the password the better.

 Some people who have been slamming the Creative Cloud have been saying on line since this was announce that.... "See I told you another reason why you should stay away from CC" and other such rubbish. Ok... most of those same people have also been saying that they upgrade regularly and CC is not for them. I have to ask, how did you do your last upgrade? I suspect it was online with the Adobe store, and your information is likely as vulnerable as the CC members. This is not the 1st time a large corporation has been hacked, Sony went thru this a while ago and it likely won't be the last. I'm sure Adobe's recent subscription only business model decision made them a target, but I also suspect that the CC subscription service likely didn't make them any more vulnerable than before.

 I have two Credit Card accounts one for everyday brick and mortar purchases and a second with a very low limit that I use for all of my on line activity. That way if my account does end up being hacked, and the bank says I'm responsible I'm only on the hook for a small amount. People tend to freak a bit when this stuff happens but it is encrypted and when you go to a restaurant you often hand your card to a perfect stranger who walks off and does who knows what with it while away from the table.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Adobe's Photoshop Photography Program

The Photoshop Photography Program is a new packaged price for the creative cloud versions of Photoshop (PS) and Lightroom (LR) that Adobe announced during Photoshop world (Sept’13). This was their response to the overwhelming backlash from the photography community who thought that the $20/month price point for essentially a Photoshop rental was way too much when compared to the old price when updating the standalone license approx. every 18 months. I agreed with the majority of Photoshop only users and said I’d never subscribe.

  So Adobe will now RENT (yes it is still a rental model Bus. plan) you Photoshop and Lightroom for $10/month under this new program as long as you own a Photoshop CS3 or a newer license and agree to subscribe for a yearly membership before 31-Dec-2013. This reduced price is not an introductory price which will increase after the 1st year, it is a reduced membership plan for who knows how long. Adobe has said that the price will remain as long as you retain your monthly payments. If you decide to unsubscribe, and rejoin sometime later your monthly fee will revert back to the original $20/month plan. 

 I had said I would never subscribe, but I have decided that at $10/month this makes sense for me. In the past I have updated both applications soon after they were launched. I’d always wait until early adopters had identified any major bugs before I updated but soon after the dust had settled I was handing over $200+ for PS and $80 for LR. In fact I had just updated to LR5 when this announcement was made. I asked Adobe for a refund and since I had purchased LR within 30 days, they gave me a full refund which paid for the 1st 8 months of my CC membership. I have always wanted access to some of the PS extended features, but to upgrade from my standard version was alway too expensive, now I have an extended version which is another reason for my subscription decision. 

Scott Kelby did a very good job of explaining why Adobe made the leap to a subscription business model on his Grid Live pod cast available on the Kelby TV web site. I wont go into the details but it comes down to Adobe being able to roll out new features quickly to users and still meet the tax law requirements they operate under. The tax law states that new content could only be rolled out if customers paid a nominal fee for them. This happened with creative suite 5.5, the new features couldn't wait for a tradition 18 month roll out, so for $45 they made the content available with a half version update. Instead of waiting for application roll outs every 18 months, under this subscription model they can make them available to users sooner and still meet the requirements of the USA tax code. Scott states that regardless what you think about Adobe's business model, protest all you want they will not return to a stand alone license model. To provide content and stay relevant in this world of quickly changing technology they can't go back. 

I'm still skeptical about Adobe keeping the monthly subscription fees at the current $10/month level and I'm still not carzy about renting software. I'm sure like everything else the price will increase, when and by how much only time will tell. But for me at this price point this made sense, it may not be for you and that is your choice. 

Toronto International Film Festival 2013

This year’s TIFF may be my last, never say never but I think I’m about to retiring my milk crate (I stand on one to elevate myself over the heads of the PR people and security personnel on the carpet). If I don’t retire I’ll trade in my milk crate for a ladder and show up much later than the 10-12 hours that are required to secure a decent spot on the carpet rails these days.

When I first looked at the schedule this year I thought it was terrible, but after I put my list of galas together it wasn’t so bad. This year TIFF surprised us with some substantial changes to the venue layouts. The Prince of Whales (POW) theater was one of the worst venues for us fans in the past, so much so that last year Tom Hanks even said that he felt like cattle being lead to the slaughter. TIFF appears to have heard this criticism and put up barricades along both sides of King street and went so far as to completely close down King street while talent was on the carpet, halting even street car traffic at times. I was told that an area for fans was created at the Elgin/Winter Garden theater this year too. Roy Thompson Hall (RTH) was even changed up this year. Bell the largest corporate sponsor added the "Bell Fan Zone" an area across the carpet from the traditional fan rail. This new area was to be used for viewing older movies after the carpet closed at 09:30pm, but it soon became a fan area that proved to be a good location for normal autograph seekers, but even the hounds were using it as the week progressed. 

The festival started Thursday with a 30th anniversary reunion for the “The Big Chill” cast members, with most in attendance minus Jeff Goldblum and William Hurt. Tom Berenger showed , but some how I missed him, DAMN!! I’ve seen some of the cast before, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly and Jobeth Williams were new for me. 

I was able to update some older images of a few stars like Nicole Kidman who I capture back in the old days of point and shoot. Managed a nice full frame head shot i’m really pleased with, not looking at the camera but a really nice 3/4 profile in really good light which is often hard during the early gala at RTH due to the sun’s location. Another update was Kate Winslet who was looking very nice and very pregnant. 

 A lot of new talent for me this year too, including Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Aniston, Collin Hanks, Benedict Cumerbatch, and the Hemsworth brothers Liam and Chris. A couple of other stand outs for me were Brendan Glesson who I’ve alway like in anything he has done and Taylor Kitsch for his portrayal of the Pulitzer prize winning South African photographer Kevin Carter in “The Bang Bang Club”.

Three new Oscar winners were added this year including Julia Roberts and the director/producer team of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. Six other winners were also updated this year Colin Firth, Chris Cooper, Nichole Kidman, Kate Winslet, Tim Robbins and Director Paul Haggis. 

Not a bad year overall, but the waiting game is getting to be too much for the quality of the images I’m getting. I may look at getting a decent ladder and then pick my battles a little better by limiting the number and locations that I attend. New talent only and then only the people that interest me. I found myself giving up early on locations this year because I wasn’t interested in the talent, as was the case of Daniel Radcliffe. I could care less to see Harry so I gave up my front row spot to a young woman who was clearly a Potter fan. It worked out as I got to see Matthew McConaughey who was at POW later that night, someone who was more interesting to me and I didn’t plan on seeing when I put my schedule together. The fan friendlier venue change at POW had a lot of us rethinking our locations this year. Next year, maybe???

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Canon Rebel SL1.. Good things do come in small packages

  I have always carried a small point and shoot camera in the bag I shuttle to and from work, but never really liked the results it produced. It may be just me but I like a view finder and hate using an LCD to compose images. So when Canon release the new Rebel SL1 I thought this might be the solution I've been looking for. It is small, very light weight and accepts all of my current lenses, although it looks a little strange mounted on my 70-200mm.

 My 1st real outing with it was the Serena Rider concert at this year's Luminato Festival and I was impressed with the results. There was only the stage light, flash wasn't an option so the ISO had to be cranked up to 3200 at times and I was surprised how well the images looked. Noise was impressively low considering the ISO and holding the camera was a dream. It is big enough that you could hold it (unlike most point and shoots) but light enough that you hardly knew it was there.

I was a little skeptical of the Rebel's button layout and had never used an LCD touch screen to control a camera, but I was soon sold on this feature. I really liked being able to switch settings with the LCD, without my glasses I could easily make changes and being dark the LCD helped there too. I hope this feature is added to the 7D II which is supposed to be released soon, in fact I hope the 7D II also handles noise as well as this little SLR.

 The only draw back I found and I knew this going in was the RAW frame rate, I was bumping into the buffer more than I'd like but I didn't buy this camera for wild life per se so I can live with it. Overall a good little camera.

More Free Photo Mechanic Structured Keyword Lists

I've added a few more FREE structured keyword lists to my collection that you can download and edit as you wish. Added are individual files for Dogs, Cats and Cities and Towns in both Canada and the USA.

Again the contents of these files are for your personal needs as you may require. The contents may not be redistributed, re:shared or re:packaged completely or in part in any form, commercially or otherwise.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud)

 So back last year Adobe launched their new version of Photoshop CS6 (PS CS6) and intended to only offer users who were current (CS5) a reduced upgrade price, well the backlash from the PS user community was huge and Adobe had a change of heart and extended their upgrade pricing to CS3 and newer versions until December 2012. Their new business model has been met with even more disdain and it doesn't appear that Adobe is going to blink this time.

 When PS CS6 was launched Adobe also introduced their Creative Cloud (CC) subscription service which contained their entire creative suite of products including PS. Users could buy their products as a standalone license or subscribe to their CC and pay a monthly fee to use their entire suite of products. Adobe has said that the response was very positive for their subscription service and they currently have a user base of 500K subs. Users who were paying thousands of dollars to keep current with the suite of development tools thought that this new service was great deal, and it likely is if you use 3 or 4 products, but what if you're just a photographer? Well even some of Adobe's people are now saying the deal isn't a deal even with the new CC launch just announced.

 Adobe is now saying that they will no longer support a stand alone version of their suite products, this includes PS. If you want to stay current you will have to pay them a monthly fee to use their latest and greatest products. When Adobe announced this new business model it was confusing to say the least and even now there is a lot of misinformation floating around the photography community. So if you are like me who uses PS and Lightroom (LR) what does all this mean:

- PS CS6 is the last standalone licensed version you can own. Going forward you must pay a monthly subscription fee of :
          - $10/month 1st year for owners of PS CS3 or newer, $20/month after 1st year.
          - $20/month if you do not own PS CS3 (or newer).
          - $30/month if you want to subscribe for a single month or months less than an entire year.
- The PS CC  will be downloaded just like your existing version, however once you stop your subscription the software will no longer function on your machine.
- You do not have to be connected to Adobe via the internet to use  PS CC. The software needs to be able to contact Adobe at least once every 30days for a single month subscription or once every 99 days for a yearly commitment.
- You can still purchase the latest version of PS CS6 from adobe, although they have gone out of their way to hide the link here it seems you may have to pay full price $600.
- Adobe has said that they will continue to support and fix bugs with PS CS6 to at least one more OS release for both platforms (Windows and Apple). They will also provide updates to camera raw to support new camera models, however new features will not be included.
- Lightroom 5 (LR5) will continue to be available as a standalone product outside the cloud, at least for now, who really knows what Adobe has planned?
- Photoshop Elements is another way to go if you do not to subscribe to the cloud products or can't afford PS CS6.

 Users are upset to say the least, myself included. Will I subscribe to CC, NO!!  I'm thinking about not even updating to LR5 because I do not know where that product will end up in 6 or 12 months. Adobe told everyone to update their older versions of CS to CS6 before December, or they will be left behind, and people did thinking that they'd have to pay full price for CS7 otherwise. Well in just 5 short months the bait and switch, there is no CS7, nicely done Adobe.

 The monthly fee of $20 may not sound like much to someone who is making a living off of their photography, but there are a lot of hobbyist like myself who do not make a dime off of their work and never intended to. They enjoy photography as a way to express themselves and get out and enjoy nature etc. I think Adobe will soon realize that like myself there are a lot of users who will live with the current CS6 product and hope that someone else comes along with a competitive product. 


Monday, April 15, 2013

Lightroom 5 Beta Features

Lightroom 5 beta version has been released, here are some of the main features that have been added:

- Clone and Heal tool now available right inside Lightroom, one of the most sought after feature users have wanted.
- Spot removal tool now provides a B&W view which enhances your ability to see the spots in a sky for instance.
- Slideshow allows you to mix stills and video clips.
- Auto perspective correction tool available as part of the lens correction adjustment area.
- Ability to create smart previews on import, which allows you to edit images stored on disconnected drives.
- Overhaul of the vignetting tool, now becomes a radial tool which can be applied based on an area or areas selected by the user, not on the center of the image as was the case with earlier versions of Lightroom.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Photo Mechanic Keywords

In the last post I mentioned how useful Photo Mechanic (PM) is for adding keyword information to your images. Keywords are important for anyone who posts their images online either to a personal web site, photo sharing, stock or wire service. They assist search engines be it a local site search or an entire web search via Google when people are trying to locate images of a particular object or person etc.

 I'm not going into details here about adding and applying keywords to your master list or to your images using PM, the user manual explains how to use the keyword dialog just fine. I will however try to explain one feature PM provides that is beyond the basic functionality of a simple linear keyword list. PM allows you to use a nested vocabulary or a hierarchy lists of keywords which builds out keywords based on parent / child relationships as well as synonyms.  For instance a "Cow"  is a "Farm Animal" and could be referred to as a "Bovine". So the keyword phrase "Farm Animal" is the parent keyword of "Cow" the child, and "Bovine" is a synonym keyword for "Cow". The more descriptive and inclusive your keywords are the better the chance a search engine will locate one of your images over another.

 PM comes with a basic vocabulary of keywords, it's intended to illustrate how the hierarchy menu of the "Structured Keywords Panel" works. You can also look at the supplied keyword text file behind it to see how to build your own. The Keyword Panel comes with a list of Regions from around the world and another for Animals, which I soon discovered was very incomplete. I decided to look at their text files to see how I could build my own, ones which would relate directly to the subjects that I normally photograph. I'll try to explain how the text files behind the "Structured Keywords Panel" dialog box work and how you can build your own custom structured keyword menu.

 Start by opening the main Structured Keywords Panel which is accessed on the menu bar through "Image / Structured Keywords Panel". I highly recommend that you first make a copy of the vocabulary file that ships with PM this way you can revert back to the factory list that shipped with PM. This is done by hitting the "Save' button located in the lower right area of the panel, a typical save dialog box will ask you where to save this file. The "Merge", "Load" and "Save" buttons are very important going forward when modifying the vocabulary files create outside of PM with a standard text editor and I'll explain their use later in more detail. 

 With any text editor that allows you to save files in the UTF-8 format (ex: Windows NotePad) you can now open the file you just saved.  You will notice that the menus are displayed based on the order of top to bottom and the amount of indentation for of each column of text. The columns must be indented by using the TAB key only, if there are spaces used to offset your columns you will find that the menus you're trying to build won't line up properly. Each indented column represents the child of the previous column of data or its parent to its left. The keyword menus are ordered left to right the same way the columns of text appear in the text files, left most data appearing in the 1st or left most menu column, followed by the next column etc.. The flyout or expanding menu to the right is determined by the order in which the text appears in the file top to bottom. Note, PM will automatically sort your data alphabetically within the parent/child relationships after you import it so do not worry about the order in which you entered in your text. Synonym words that appear in bold in the menu are encased in curly brackets {} and should appear in the same column of data that they represent for a group of keywords, or indented one level to the right if they are representing a single object. 

 One thing that needs to be covered is how to added keyword files into PM and how to save or backup the ones that you use and may wish to share with others. This is where the "Merge", "Load" and "Save" buttons are used:

 Save - Always do this first before making any changes to your structured keyword list menu. This is your backup and the only way to return to the previous version before you initiated a change. You can also use this if you wish to share your keyword list(s) with another PM user.

 Load - Overwrites the current structured keyword list or lists that appear in your Structured Keyword Panel menu with the contents of the keyword text file you are importing. Only the contents of the text file you are adding will appear after load has completed.

 Merge - Will append your current structured keyword menu with the contents of the new text file you wish to add. If you want to use the lists that I've created you can select only the ones that interest you and use the merge button to add them into your structured keyword menu one at a time.

Using the FREE files that I have supplied is pretty simple. Go to my  Photo Mechanic Keyword Vocabulary page and download the zipped files that interest you. I suggest that you 1st make a backup copy of your current structured keyword list using the "Save" button before you  "Merge" the contents of my file(s) with yours.

I have created keyword list of the following Flora and Fauna with their Common and Scientific names:

North American Birds, Canadian Insects, North American Dragonflies and Damselflies, Canadian Butterflies, North American Mammals, North American Reptiles, North American Amphibians, Ontario Wild Flowers.

Also available is a list of Canada and US nature areas, which includes:
National, Provincial and State Parks, Nature Preserves and Conservation areas, Wildlife Management Areas and Bird Sanctuaries, National and State Forest, Arboretums and Botanical Gardens

Another more localized list of my area: The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Golden Horseshoe parks is also available, it includes parks from: The City of Toronto (amalgamated), Niagara Falls, Grimsby, St. Catharines, Hamilton,  Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, Pickering, Ajax, Oshawa, Milton & Halton Region

Friday, April 5, 2013

Photo Mechanic

Recently I've added Camera bits' Photo Mechanic into my digital photography workflow. It has become my first step, getting the images off my memory cards and into the computer.  People try to compare Photo Mechanic to Adobe's LightRoom or Apple's Aperture they are separate tools and excel at doing different tasks. Photo Mechanic (PM) has not replaced the use of LightRoom (LR) in my overall workflow, it just proceeds it in my order and replaces some of the task I was using LR to preform. 

  PM is a image browsing tool that is used by most photojournalists who are normally under the gun to get their images to their editors quickly and with accurate IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) metadata. Their images must be captioned/tagged with Location, Date, Event information, Photographer's name, Subject's name etc...  along with any keywords that will be used by their wire service data base.  Selecting a few of their best images and properly documenting them must happen as quick as possible, for sports photographers often at half time or between periods of a hockey game for instance. PM is one of the fastest image browsers on the market, and allows reviewing full size or even 100% zoomed RAW images instantly as they appear on your hard drive (or you can point PM directly to your memory card).

 The PM application does not provide any photo editing ability and even with all of its metadata capabilities it does not provide any cataloging features either. It does however provide a lightning fast way for you to import, browse, sort, document, star rate and keyword your RAW or JPeg images. You might ask, but Lightroom (LR) will do all of that and allow me to edit images and it creates a database catalog of my files, why would I use PM?  Again simply for its speed, the main advantage PM has over LR is that you can start scanning through your images as they are being imported and unlike LR you do not have to wait for each image to be rendered before it can be displayed full screen. Flipping through your images is as fast as you can hit the next key (right/left arrow key), try that with LR. Sure LR might be able to keep up if you selected full size rendering on import, but you could wait hours for the import process to complete. PM will allow you to import ("Ingest" in PM terminology) from multiple memory cards at once (naturally you must have multiple card readers), create unique directories, make a backup copy to a 2nd drive, rename files and apply IPTC metadata all at once. If the files on your memory card are split up into multiple directories PM will combine them into a single directory on your hard drive, or you can request that the directory structure be retained when copying your files over to the hard drive.

  Speed was the main aspect of PM that sold me on using it, the other was its metadata features. Being able to leverage the existing EXIF data created by your camera along with an easy to use interface to update the IPTC information was a bonus. PM creates variable names that reference in whole or in part the contents of each EXIF data field created by your camera. You can use these variables to auto populate any other IPTC data field or to create the file destination directory name used during the ingest (import) process. Also using the IPTC Stationery Pad (dialog box) you can quickly set default copyright, usage permissions, photographer's name and web site information. Other fields like caption, location, client information and keyword fields can also be set in the Stationery Pad before you ingest your images into your computer.

 Key wording is important for photographers who sell their images on stock or wire service sites and is mandatory for photojournalists. The average hobby photographer may not want to spend the time adding keywords to their photos but if you post your images on line, keywords may help generate traffic to your site since they are often used by search engines. PM comes with a stripped down version of a commercial keyword catalog available from Controlled Vocabulary which can be upgraded to a full version for a fee. You can add your own keywords to a master list via the interface using the IPTC stationery pad or by creating tab formatted hierarchical text files which can be imported into PM directly.

 I have built some keyword catalog files for myself that you may find useful for your images. In my next post I'll explain where to find these FREE files, how to move them into Photo Mechanic and briefly explain how you can build your own using a simple text editor such as notepad. The keywords you build into these files not only save you time but they provide a consistent entry of correctly spelled words and allow you to include synonyms like scientific names that represent a species of flora or fauna.

   Photo Mechanic may not be for everyone but being able to quickly delete the garbage images and flag, tag and keyword the keepers before importing them into LightRoom for me was well worth the $150 price tag. Download the trial version and see how you can flip through your RAW files at lightning speed, you will be blown away I'm sure.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Wacom Tablet and Photoshop Brush size

Quick Tip: Do you use a Wacom tablet with Photoshop to edit your images? Have you setup one of the touch ring functions to allow you to adjust brush or tool size? Does the brush display only as a cross-hair instead of the circle that you expect?  If so make sure the CAPS LOCK is not set on the keyboard, turn it off and the brush interface should return to normal.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Trash the Dress Alternative.

 One of the hot trends these days with wedding photography is something called "Trash the Dress" where the bride dressed in her wedding frock is photographed as she basically destroys the gown. After spending a small fortune and hours/days searching out the gown of her dreams, the bride decides instead of storing it in a box up in the attic she will "Trash" it. She will wear the dress down to the beach and roll in the surf and sand as she is photographed. Is there a better option... of course there is.

  The Brides Project is a social enterprise who take in used wedding gowns donated by brides and resell them to new brides at a fraction of the cost, but the best part is that the profits are donated to cancer charities. A volunteer group who provide a memorable day to new brides and fund cancer charities in the process.. as they say "Fighting Cancer one Dress at a time". Win Win without the TRASH.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Canon 7D MkII coming?

Rumor has it Canon is about to update their pronsumer APS-C sized DSLR,  EOS 7D released way back in 2009. They updated the firmware last year to breath new life into this older model DSLR and it was remarkable what this firmware update provided. Increasing the buffer from 15 to 25 Raw images before things start to slow down. Allowing users to set a maximum ISO so they can comfortably use the auto ISO feature and for the video user they corrected the audio level nightmare that many complained about.
 The new 7D MKII  as it's been referred too is rumored to have the following specs:

  • 20 - 24mp APS-C Sensor
  • Dual DIGIC V
  • 61 AF Points
  • 10fps
  • Dual Memory Card Slots (Unknown configuration)
  • 3.2″ LCD
  • Build quality like 5D3
  • GPS & Wifi
  • ISO Performance to get close to the 5D3
I hope the reference to better ISO performance is true, my only real complaint with the current 7D. Rumored release dates on late spring to late summer have been swirling around, and again the whole thing is rumor so we will have to wait and see.