Another wedding photobooth

I did another photobooth at a wedding last week and it worked out really well.  (Pics are here on flickr)   The biggest improvement this time:  A laptop for instant review. People really seemed to react to being able to see their antics on the screen and I think this is a "must have" for future setups.   I did this by having Lightroom 4 in tethered mode, in the loupe module with no toolbars visible.   Valuable sides effects being the ability to check focus if needed, and no work required at the end of the day to download cards.

If I had it to do again I would have an external monitor visible for public reviews but not have the keyboard accessible.  There were a few people who always wanted to go back and review previous shots or delete bad ones and that's a level of fussing I don't want to allow.

Also, next time I'd like to bring some props. :-)  Some hats, a feather boa, or something like that.  In this case though, people had no trouble having fun.  (And the reception was dry too!)

Lightroom 4 public beta is here!

Adobe just turned the public beta of Lightroom 4 loose!  You can can all the info here: I'm going to make this entry short because I want to go watch the 8 YouTube videos they havejust posted, which you can see here: But I'll take a minute to comment on the marque features they're touting:

  • New develop process for 2012.  Haven't seen it yet but the new process for 2010 was so phenomenal that it was like getting a whole new camera.
  • Blurb integration.  I make Blurb books!  This could be great!
  • Geotagging.  Thank god, finally.  Haven't seen the details yet but hopefully it's cool.
  • Video features.  Meh.  I have very little interest in this.

I just wanted to post this quick note so perhaps you could say you saw it here first.  I know what I'm going to be doing for the rest of tonight!  (watching videos, downloading, and processing)

Adobe ACE exam: why do it?

I was reading John Nack's blog the other day and discovered the Adobe ACE program (Adobe Certified Expert) which is where you go to a testing center and take a multiple choice exam about a specific Adobe product.  If you pass you get to call yourself an "Adobe ACE" in that product, including using the Adobe name (and logo?) to promote yourself.  This theoretically shows people you know what you're talking about and gives you a little more credibility in dinner party arguments over software.  :-)   I immediately thought about taking the Lightroom exam, figuring I could probably pass it without too much trouble. I can see a certification like this being important for a lot of people trying to get entry level jobs in the content creation world.   Let's say you're graduating from school and you use Photoshop all the time and you want to get a job in the graphic arts industry.   For $150 you could take this test, put the Adobe name on your resume, and hope that makes you stand out above the crowd a little bit.   I don't know much about the graphic arts industry but that sounds plausible.   I assume that anyone with more experience would already have a portfolio or a reputation and this wouldn't be very useful though.

But I'm not looking for a job as a graphic designer.  The main reason I would want to do it would be to lend myself credibility for consulting/contract jobs as well as teaching/lecturing/training opportunities.   So I started looking into it, with the eye towards taking the test in the next week or two.

First off, the exam costs $150 and there's no refund if you don't pass, so there's some incentive to not just go into it cold.   You get to say you're an official "Adobe Certified Expert".  But then it's up to you.

What's really missing is some form of registry for Adobe ACEs.   I got really excited when I saw a link to the "Adobe Certified Expert Community".  I thought this would be the place to see the community of ACEs, find one in your area, look at profiles, figure out who to hire.  But no, that's not what it is.  It seems like Adobe would want to push this huge collection of people who are passionate about their products.  Having something like that would be good for both Adobe and the people who are free evangelists for their products.

So if Adobe is leaving the marketing to the ACEs themselves, let's see how that's working out.   If you google "Adobe Lightroom ACE" the first four hits are Adobe's own links to the test.   The next link is a blog entry from 2008 from a guy saying he passed.  The next links are for test prep materials.   What's missing is people advertising their services and mentioning their ACE certification.  A search for "Adobe Lightroom ACE near San Jose" turns up nobody advertising their services as an Adobe ACE.

So, where's the evidence that anyone has actually ever taken this exam?   Why isn't Adobe pushing this?  Has anyone ever tried to use this certification to get a job?

And most importantly,  should I pay $150 for this?

New Camera RAW algorithms for 2010 (in Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5)

One of the new features of the upcoming Lightroom 3 and the just-released Photoshop CS5 is the new Camera RAW 6.0 module I've recently started playing with it and the results are Amazing.

Some background:

RAW processing software is the software that does development from RAW files to something you can edit and share. (TIFFs or JPGs) The algorithms that go into RAW conversion software are complex and somewhat secret, since the quality of RAW conversion is a selling point for different software manufacturers. Camera makers like Canon and Nikon make software to process their own RAW files and software makers like Apple and Adobe make software that reads the RAW files of multiple manufacturers' cameras.

I've never used Nikon's RAW software but Canon's software (free with any camera that shoots RAW) makes excellent images but is horrible to use. Most photographers use a tool from a third party that does organization and sorting, as well as the basic image processing. Adobe's Lightroom and Apple's Aperture are the two most popular choices.

Potential downside: When you convert your whole photographic life to one of these tools you pretty much have to buy into their RAW processing algorithms. Part of the appeal of tool is the smooth workflow that comes from "development" features being built in to the tool you use for sorting, ranking, and organizing. Both tools allow for external processing engines but it's a really clunky, inelegant solution, so very few people do it.

What this really means is that the chosen tool and processing chain (Adobe vs. Apple vs. Capture One, etc.) really affects the look of your images, as much as the choice of camera, choice of monitor, and choice of paper for printing. By using Lightroom I'm really locking myself in to Adobe's view of my RAW files, which means I hope they do a good job for me. My whole imaging workflow depends on it!

Adobe Camera RAW 6.0:

With the release of Lightroom 3 (now in extended Beta) and Photoshop CS5 (released a couple weeks ago), Adobe has made a huge jump in the quality of RAW conversion, especially for shots taken at high ISO in lower light. The difference is so striking that I've been going back to older photos I took a few years ago and looking at them with Lightroom 3 and marveling at how much better they look. (One of the advantages to shooting RAW is you can easily go back and "redevelop" photos with newer technology.)

I don't think I'm exaggerating here when I say there's at least a 1.5 stop improvement with my high-ISO darker files. In other words, I can now develop a low-light shot taken at ISO 6400 and it will look BETTER than a shot taken at ISO 2000 used to look. I can't understate how huge this is for people that take photos in low-light, like at parties or concerts. It's not outrageous for people to spend a lot of money on newer cameras and faster glass to get better low-light photos - it was one of the reasons I upgraded to the 5-D mkII. Upgrading to newer processing algorithms is like getting a newr, better camera for way less money. Plus, it works retroactively on my older shots! How cool is that?

Adobe points out that their older algorithms are based on their RAW work in 2003 and a lot has changed in 2010. One of the byproducts of the new algorithms is they take more time as they apply mathematical techniques that were either not developed 7 years ago or were deemed too slow. That's fine by me - computers are always getting faster. When you find an image you like you're willing to wait a couple seconds for it to come out.

I remember back when I first got into photography with my Digital Rebel. It had an option to shoot RAW files but the workflow was so slow that I didn't usually do it. It was too painful to deal with sorting all these files (before thumbnails on RAW files worked in MacOS) and do these one-by-one conversions in Canon's Digital Photo Professional, especially on the 800 MHz G4 laptop I had at the time. The process was so inconvenient that I just stopped doing it and shot most of my stuff in JPG. There are a few shots I really like from that time period but all I have now is an edited jpg that I made for an online gallery. No original to reprocess!

So anyway,

So anyway, that's the skinny for now. If you're shooting a camera that can make RAW files but you've been disappointed by how well the low-light, high ISO shots turn out, give them another try with the new version of Lightroom and Photoshop - both of which have a free 30 day trial. You might be blown away by the different is quality visible in your existing shots.

Lightroom "plug-ins" are not really plug-ins

Sorry for the quick entry without all the hyperlinks I normally put in, but I'm about to have breakfast in Hawaii and I just wanted to get this off my chest. First off, let me say that I'm a huge Lightroom fan. I use it for almost everything.   I'm thrilled that Adobe has made it easier to use Lightroom with third-party software through their "plug in" architecture.  I use Photomatix myself and I like the ease of integration.

But these so-called "plug ins" are not really plug ins - they're more like "export presets".  You select an image (or images) in Lightroom, select "Edit In Photomatix", and then Lightroom renders TIFFs of your images and sends them to Photomatix, and then imports the resulting TIFF that Photomatix creates.  I presume the newly announced Nik Silver Efex "plug in" does the same thing.

But what if you want to change something about the source image?   What if you want to change the crop, or do some dust removal, etc?  Then you've got to start from scratch with the plug in with your new source images.

I'd really like to have a true mechanism for adding new functionality to the develop module in Lightroom.  I wonder how the layer/plugin architecture of Photoshop could be re-used to pull something like this off.

Smart Objects in Adobe CS4

I'm working on another book project that involves editing a lot of photos in Lightroom and importing them into InDesign.   There are lots of cycles of importing into InDesign, looking at the images, deciding on an edit, making the edit in Lightroom (brightness, contrast, etc.), reimporting into InDesign, etc.   It would be really cool if you could export a photo from Lightroom  as a Smart Object into InDesign. You can export as a smart object into Photoshop.  Why not InDesign?

After playing around more, it looks like the Smart Object communication between Lightroom, Bridge, and Photoshop doesn't exactly work the way I was expecting.  I've got some learning to do here but I think this could be really cool.