Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday News

Written by T. Michael Testi

 -- An update on the new Photoshop Express Beta site. It appears that the Adobe lawyers went a little further than many users were willing to let them go. Especially in section 8 which reads

"8. Use of Your Content. Adobe does not claim ownership of Your Content. However, with respect to Your Content that you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Services, you grant Adobe a worldwide, royalty-free, nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable license to use, distribute, derive revenue or other remuneration from, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content (in whole or in part) and to incorporate such Content into other Materials or works in any format or medium now known or later developed."

Read especially the line that begins with

"…you grant Adobe a worldwide, royalty-free, nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable license to use, distribute, derive revenue…"

As it reads, you upload your photos, and they can make money off of them. Needless to say, Adobe did not mean to imply this and they are reworking the terms. You can read the whole thing over on John Nack's blog.


-- Next week is Photoshop World in Orlando on April 2-4, so I suspect there will be lots of news items coming down the pipe next week. Here are a couple items to keep in mind.

First you can keep up with the goings on at the Photoshopworld blog where Jennifer Bontempi will be covering the show.

Then, if you are at the conference, be sure to catch up with Jeff Revell and his Photowalk that is happing after the pre conference happenings.

That’s it for this week. Remember Don't worry, be snappy!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday News Items

Written by T. Michael Testi


Adobe announced today that their Adobe Photoshop Express Public Beta is now available for anyone who wants to store, sort, and show off their digital photos. Available also is the ability to fix and manipulate them as well.

During the public beta period, Adobe will be soliciting use feedback on product features and functionality. Photoshop Express has taken much of Adobe's image editing technology and made it simple, and accessible to an online audience. Users will be able to store 2 GB of images online for free.

Check out Adobe Photoshop Express Public Beta for free.


  • onOne Software has announced their FocalPoint 1.0 plug-in which gives the ability to selectively focus areas of an image after capture. Up till now, photographers had to handle this in the field by using a large aperture and a narrow depth of field. I will be reviewing FocalPoint 1.0  soon.


  • Collection of vintage logos from a mid-70's edition of the book World of Logotypes can now be seen on flickr.


  • If you have been following Moose Peterson and the Moab Digital Landscape Workshop Series (DLWS) they have been out in Arches National Park in Moab UT. where they finished up yesterday, but you should check out the images on Moose Petersons Blog site. They are stunning to say the least.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Software Review - Adobe Photoshop Plug-in PhotoTune 2 From onOne Software

Written by T. Michael Testi

PhotoTune 2 is a product whose goal is to allow you to do color correction in Photoshop without having to learn complex controls. It is really two separate programs that target different methods of correcting color.

First there is ColorTune that uses a six step process to correct the color in your digital photos. Essentially what ColorTune does is present you with two images, side by side as shown below. You choose which one looks the best and then you select it and you move on to your next choice until you complete all six steps.

By using this six step process, it makes it very easy for anyone to use PhotoTune 2 and come out with better looking images without having to know a whole lot about Camera Raw and curves manipulation. It works kind of like an eye exam in which you are presented the images and you make adjustments (or you can use the default changes and just select the image that looks best) until one of them looks good to you. You select the image and then you move to your next correction. You work through tone, brightness, and color temperature until it looks right to you.

The next module of PhotoTune 2 is SkinTune which focuses on skin tones. The SkinTune portion works in a similar way except that when you open your image, you are asked to select a skin tone and a racial type, Caucasian, Asian, African, etc. Then you select a skin tone, and it auto corrects based on a bunch of calculations. See the second image below.

What is needed to run PhotoTune 2? On Mac you need OSX 10.4.8 or higher with either Power PC or Intel Processor. On Windows you need XP SP2 or later. And then you need Photoshop CS2, CS3, or Photoshop Elements 4 or later. 512 MB ram, 150 MB disk space, and Adobe Flash Player 9 for tutorial movies.

So what is new with version 2 (actually this review is based on version 2.2) of PhotoTune?

• Six Step Approach – takes the color wizard down from 13 steps to just 6 steps. It now takes less time to auto correct your images.

• User Control in the Color Wizard – now lets you set the amount of each change during each step in the 6 step process. You can now adjust the dynamic range, brightness, contrast, saturation, and the shadows and highlights.


• 16-bit compatibility – lets you open 16-bit images as well as 8-bit images. You can open your Raw camera images in Photoshop and color correct them using either the ColorTune or SkinTune modules within PhotoTune 2

• Improved Adjustment Algorithms – have been refined for better color results as well as 8-bit and 16-bit adjustments that share the same equations so results will match.

• More Snapshots – allows you to record up to 4 snapshots in the Fine-Tune Panel so that you can compare multiple versions of your digital Photos. There are additional snapshot management features as well.

• Support for Photoshop Selections – will allow you to target a color correction to only a specific area in your digital photo. You make a selection in Photoshop and then enter the PhotoTune 2 plug-in and any corrections will only be made to that selection.

I found that PhotoTune 2 is very easy to install and use. It gave surprisingly good results. The available resources via the help and the video tutorials make this easy to learn as well. I also liked the fact that you could go into Fine-Tune panel to take more control over your image correction

The one thing that I did not like was when I clicked on the Fine-Tune button from the six step approach, I was taken to the Fine-Tune panel but there was no way to go back without totally resetting. I assumed that clicking cancel would take me back and I was taken out of PhotoTune 2 and deposited back in Photoshop. I was not told my changes would be lost, I was just back there. I tried a number of times to see how to get out of the Fine-Tune panel, but found none short of restarting. This is not something that would prohibit me from buying PhotoTune 2, but it is something to be aware of and it can be really annoying.

Other than that I found that PhotoTune 2 works really well and gives quality results. It works with Layers, Actions, and Smart Objects. In my opinion you may still need to do some tweaking to the image, but I like the fact that they give you that control as well. I think that if you work with color correction; especially in mixed lighting situations, then PhotoTune 2 would be a good addition to your tool box.


Book Review: The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets From One Of The World's Top Shooters By Joe McNally

Written by T. Michael Testi


The Moment It Clicks is as hard to define as it is to put down. It isn't a coffee table book, although it certainly has the quality images to be treated as one. It isn't really a how-to do it book, but it is filled with insight and tips that make it must-reading for any photographer on any level.

Joe McNally is an internationally acclaimed photographer. His 30-year career has included assignments in over 50 countries, and his images have graced the covers of Time, Sports Illustrated, and National Geographic. During the 1990s, he was Life Magazine's sole staff photographer.

So what is The Moment It Clicks? It is a book about the 30 years of Joe McNally's photographic career and some of the images he has created. It is about the stories behind the images and the lessons learned from editors and life experiences. It is about the ups and downs of being a photographer from the side of the professional, as well as the side of the family man who has to be away too often. The Moment It Clicks is 272 pages, divided into four chapters.

This is not a book that can really be contained in chapters and chapter names. It is about the story relating to each image, and there are over 100 of them in the book. I will instead try to give the flavor of the book instead. The basic premise is that each story comes with a one-line statement that gets to the point of the image. Then McNally tells the story behind the image. Opposite of the story is the picture that is the centerpiece. Then there is the "how to get this type of shot," where he explains just a little bit about how he did it. Do not get the impression this includes detailed steps; it is a simple overview of the techniques used.

A couple of my favorites (I have to limit this; otherwise there would be 70-80 of my favorites, and it would make this longer than it already is):

"You Gotta Turn on a Dime" is the story about a shoot with musician Fiona Apple. She had just come her successful album, Tidal. She was tired of being photographed as a waif and wanted a more warrior woman image. They did this shoot with her in a suit of armor and it was not going well. She had to get to New Jersey for a show that night, and her manager was getting mad. Finally he said they had to leave now and would have to catch the subway to get there on time. McNally turned to Apple and said, "Get on the subway in the armor?" The shot was made.

"Get a Permit" is about a rooftop shot with a performance artist from New York City who is painted up in a bright gold coloring. Someone called the police, stating there was a jumper in progress. When the police arrived — huffing and puffing after climbing a six-story walkup — they were not happy. Because he had his permit, there was not a lot that they could do, and he got the shot.

"It Only Takes One" shows that if you want something badly enough, you may need to take a chance on yourself. It was 1978, and there was a strike in the newspaper industry that lasted 88 days. It included writers, truck drivers, and photographers. McNally was a copy boy. One day the UPI picture editor came in and asked him if he ever shot baseball. McNally lied and said that he had. It was the playoffs between the New York Yankees and Kansas City. The first night he got chewed out for shooting insignificant film. The next day he got what turned out to be one of the most memorable pictures of the playoffs. Again, he got the shot.

To become better at something, two things can be done. First and foremost is to go out and do it, make mistakes, learn from your mistakes, make newer better mistakes, and repeat over again. The second thing is to find the people you respect and who have been successful. See what they have done, see how they have done it, and learn from their successes as well as from their mistakes.

The Moment It Clicks is a book that will give you insight into the life and career of a successful photographer. It is from someone who opens up and lets us see the full spectrum of light. It has some technically bad pictures (see the one with Tyrone Biggs, Donald Trump, Don King, and Mike Tyson), but it also has many more masterful ones, such as the one of Ozzie Smith from five different angles at once.

There is a section late in the book that describes the equipment the author uses. There is no doubt he is a professional with professional equipment. One could argue these shots are great because of the equipment, or the access to people, or settings he gets to go to that make these images so good. For some shots, this is the case, but I think most of them come from being creative and figuring out new ways to look at something ordinary. This is what I think makes The Moment It Clicks so special: it's that ability to get into someone else's mind and learn how to think differently.

I am all for going out and making mistakes and learning ones craft, but there are times when you have to look to others to see what they have done. This way, you can find what you like and dislike, and can incorporate new ideas into your own work. The Moment It Clicks focuses more on the how and the why instead of the how-to, and that is why I highly recommend this book.



Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Software Review: Adobe Photoshop Plug-in Viveza From Nik Software

Written by T. Michael Testi

Viveza 1.0 is the newest product in Nik's growing collection of digital photographic filters and effects for Adobe Photoshop. It is a plug-in that uses U Point Technology to allow you to manage color and light in an image without having to spend a lot of time working with masks or selections. It is technology that Nikon users have had available to them in Capture NX; it was integrated into Nik's Color Efex 3.0, and now is a major part of Viveza 1.0.

System requirements for Viveza 1.0 are Windows 2000 or better, Mac OS 10.4.9, 10.5.2 or better, 256 MB RAM (512 MB Recommended), and Photoshop 7 through CS3, Photoshop Elements 2.0 through 6.0 on Windows, CS2-CS3 and Photoshop Elements 4 or greater on Mac, or any image editing software program that accepts Adobe Photoshop Plug-ins.

So what is U Point Technology? A patented innovation in photo image processing and editing, it uses color control points to isolate an entire image or an image area for enhancement very quickly. Instead of having to make a selection, mask it off, and then apply filters, levels, curve adjustments, or use color balance tools, you just drop a control point and it considers the relationship between color and light and makes the appropriate adjustments.

If you look at the image below, the main color point is located at the tip of the arrow. The length of the horizontal bar that stretches out from that point sets the radius of the affected area. You can see it in the image on the right - the radius goes from the gray point to about the top of the building (about where the C shows on the vertical bar). That designates the affected region. The white area is the selected objects; most affected, the black objects are the not selected objects; not affected on, and gray objects are partially affected.

The rest of the lettered dots control what changes will happen within that circle. They are, based on the first letter, brightness, contrast, saturation, hue, red, green, blue, and warmth. What is nice about the way that this works is areas can overlap, and you can counteract effects with multiple control points. In the image above on the right, even though the highlighting goes to the peak of the building, the dot on the right side of the image; the one on the sign, cancels out any affect that the active one may be showing.

For this review, I chose an image that was taken late in the day and in very mixed light. You have lots of washed out areas and lots of shadows. To make my points I did some over correcting to make sure that you could see the differences in a small 72 dpi web shot.

The image below shows the screen when you open the Viveza window. The left side contains the image where you place your color points. In this case I used 9 all together. Some of the color points where used to focus on certain qualities that needed to be enhanced, such as the trees, and others were used to negate the changes, such as the one on the sign that is in the middle of the trees. In this case I had to enhance the greens and the brightness to bring out the trees, but in doing so really distorted the sign, so I had to have one to correct that; I used the one on that sign to make it pop out more as well.

On the right side of the screen you see the list of control points and you can make changes there. This is where I created the masking image above from. At the bottom is called the Loupe, and it is where you can see the difference between the original and the color point version. In this case I used that dot to bring out the red in the bricks that were lost to evening shadows.

In the final image I show a side by side of the changes that I made. I set it up as a Smart Object so anytime I can go back and re-edit it; another feature that I like about this product. Again, let me point out that I over compensated on some of the items to show the amount of control that Viveza 1.0 gives to you in your images. I would tone some of these down if I were going to create a larger image, or do a print from this.

OK, the sky was totally blown; washed out completely and nothing can fix that, not even Viveza. As I said before, I dropped one on the trees to bring them out. The building below the trees was washed out and needed some contrast and lowering of brightness to bring out the detail of the lights. The sign in the trees did not need the same effect as the trees and I wanted to make the yellow stand out more.

I dropped a control on the marriage sign to make it brighter and not be so cool; this is a bit overdone as it looks like a sign with a light inside it. There is a control under the sign to bring out the wood detail there. There is one on the red balcony between the two signs to bring out the color. There is one on the "About Time" sign where I over compensated to make it almost look like it had a light shining directly on it. There is one on the "Sonya" sign that is way dark under the balcony that you could almost miss. It too now looks like there is a light on it. And then finally the one on the lower brick work to bring out the red.

In my opinion Viveza 1.0 has to be one of the best version 1 products in a long time. I guess a lot has to do with the fact that a lot of this technology has been around in Capture NX. Being a Canon user, I have heard about Capture NX, but have not used it. I knew that this product was coming down the line, was highly anticipating a good product, but was even more surprised at how great it really is. In fact, even though it is only March, I think that it is in the running for plug-in of the year!

If you want a fast easy way to correct up your images with out having to learn and use selections, masking, curves, and the rest of the Photoshop techniques, you should really check out Viveza 1.0. It will be a little pricey for some at $249.95, but in my opinion it will pay for it self over and over again in the amount of time that you will save; especially in touch up work. If you want you can try out a 15-day demo as well. If you do a lot of image color correction, then Viveza 1.0 is very highly recommended.




Thursday, March 06, 2008

Software Review - Adobe Photoshop Plug-in SiteGrinder 2 Pro From MediaLab

Written by T. Michael Testi

One of the inherent problems with website design is that it usually takes two types of people to create an effective site. First you have the designer who puts together all of the images, text layout, and the buttons etc. This makes for a pleasing site to visit. Then you have the programmer who takes all of those items and puts the code around them to make the pages change when the buttons are clicked and does all of those programming things to make the site come to life.

This is all fine and good for large shops that can afford to hire multiple people to accomplish these goals. But there are a lot of groups, companies, and single entities that still have problems with getting projects off the ground. First you have the designer who can put together a layout in Photoshop, but has little to no coding experience. Then there is the web designer who is good with coding, but has limited Photoshop experience; certainly not enough to do all the slicing and dicing to create a layout with any cohesiveness.

This is where SiteGrinder 2 Pro comes in. SiteGrinder 2 Pro is an automation plug-in for Adobe Photoshop that allows users with some Photoshop skills to create multiple page websites without knowledge to the underlying web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Yet it is fully CSS Capable, Flash Compatible and it only takes basic Photoshop skills. Sure the more capable you are in Photoshop, the more stunning the results can be, but the basic skills needed can be fairly easily learned.

One of the fundamental Photoshop techniques needed is the use of Layer Comps. Layer Comps were first introduced in Photoshop CS and they let you save your current view of layer visibility and editing states as a snapshot. You can have as many as you like, the layer comp never trashes your layers, and it is saved with your file.

The workflow for SiteGrinder 2 Pro is design your page/page elements in Photoshop with each one having its own layer. Then you activate SiteGrinder from the Automations menu. Check for errors, click its build button, then test the page using it's publish function. From here you can refine or upload to the live site. Now granted this is the simplistic workflow, but it highlights the basics even for more complex multi-page sites as well.

Now how does SiteGrinder 2 Pro work? Well each one of those layers that you create needs be assigned a name with what is called a "hint." A hint is really a directive that tells SiteGrinder what to do with that element. For example if you make a rectangle and put the word "Page 2" on it, you can name the layer "Page 2-button," SiteGrinder will create a button out of it. There are a whole host of hints that can be used to create text, buttons, rollovers, popup's, links, and other things to enhance your page and site.

I know what many of the web developers are thinking; this will create some bloated code that would never work in the real world. It might work on some small rinky-dink site that gets no real traffic, but try to put a load on it and it would die the death of a thousand paper cuts. Well, no, I don’t think that it would. The code that it creates is really lean, clean, and functional code. Sure in the hands of a pro, it could be refined, but as it is you will find it really quick to load. To see check out some of the sites listed at the bottom to see how quickly they load.

The CSS is pretty efficient in its own way. If you add styling to a single page, it puts the CSS in the HEAD section. If you have multiple pages it creates a separate CSS file. The pro version supports the generation of image galleries. You can do this in the basic version, but there is a lot more work that needs to be done. In the pro version it is much more automatic and will create thumbnail images as well.

The Pro version also supports Flash animated Slideshows. Slideshows are similar to galleries in that they are generated from folders of images. They automatically scale to the size of the slideshow layer and the backgrounds match page backgrounds. They include a variety of timing, effects and transitions settings, and mp3 background music is supported as well.

The Pro version is able to use external multimedia elements on a page. Supported media types include Flash, animated GIF files, digital video and audio, as well as external images. Media local to your hard drive is copied to your build folder and media from the internet is linked as is via URL's and appear on your pages from their original locations.

The Pro Version has support for incorporating external HTML files into your pages either when SiteGrinder 2 Pro builds them or dynamically when a visitor to your page loads them. By doing this you can incorporate web content on pages not created in Photoshop. This can include long text or PHP controls such as calendars, blogs etc.

The basic version runs $129 USD and the Pro version is $249 USD. The version of SiteGrinder 2 that I reviewed was the Pro version. So what are the differences? You can visit MediaLab's online for a complete list, but suffice it to say that the Pro version contains those items that will give your site that professional look with things like the heavy duty multimedia, the automated image galleries, the HTML Forms and dynamic binding of external HTML via PHP.

If you want to see what kind of sites have been developed using SiteGrinder 2, MediaLab has a whole list of example sites and let me tell you, these are not simple one page sites. In fact they are quite impressive. They also have quite a few video tutorials that will walk you through how this whole system works. And if that doesn’t convince you, they have a demo version that you can get just by giving them an email address.

So what do I think about SiteGrinder 2 Pro? The terms remarkable, revolutionary, and the best thing since sliced bread come to mind. I have been a software developer and web developer for many years. I have also worked with Photoshop for many years as well. To have a product that takes the best of both worlds is a dream come true. And for it to create valid XHTML 1.1 and CSS is truly amazing. The fact that this can be done by a designer is remarkable.

Will this put web developers out of business? Of course not! There are still a lot of things that SiteGrinder won't do, nor should it. What it does do is allow the designer to put together a website based on design and functionality. Once that is done, it can be put into Dreamweaver, Golive, or just handed over to the web developer to plug in any other heavy lifting that needs to be done. It also will be a boon to anyone who needs to put together a site and does not need any additional work done.

If you need to put together a website and only have Photoshop skills, If you are a Photoshop user and want to learn more about web development, or if you are a web developer who wants to explore design and have some fundamental skills with Photoshop, then SiteGrinder 2 is very highly recommended.



Hollywood's 'perfect woman': A cross between Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron and Carmen Electra

Posted by T. Michael Testi


Source: Daily Mail
Written by Emily Sheridan

Introducing Carlizina Jolectron, the latest Hollywood beauty.

On closer inspection, the stunning actress appears rather familiar.

In fact, Carlizina isn't even a real woman - she's a digital combination of Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron and Carmen Electra.


Read it all…


Photo industry braces for another revolution

Posted by T. Michael Testi

Source: CNET
Written by Stephen Shankland

Think of it as digital photography 2.0.

In the last decade, photography has been transformed by one revolution, the near-total replacement of analog film cameras by digital image sensors. Now researchers and companies are starting to stretch their wings by taking advantage of what a computer can do with sensor data either within the camera or on a full-fledged PC.

Some elements of this new era, which researchers often call computational photography, are refinements of existing technology. For example, some cameras can wait to take the photo only when subjects are smiling and not blinking, in effect placing the shutter release button in the hands of the subjects rather than the photographer.

But more dramatic changes could shift the definition of a camera more dramatically. One major area of research, for example, uses computational processing to create a 3D representation of a scene rather than just the two dimensions of traditional photography.

Read it all...