Adobe Ignores Mac: Releases Photoshop Elements 6.0 For Windows.

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In a previous post about Adobe and Apple, I mentioned that for all the money Adobe makes off the Mac they spend a lot of time ignoring it. Some examples I gave were:

  • Killing Premiere on the Mac.
  • Letting Photoshop Elements fall behind the PC.
  • Flash being dog-slow.

Well, they’ve taken yet another step in that direction. I assumed the next release of Photoshop Elements would be version 5.0 on the Mac, bringing that platform to parity with a version 5.0 on the PC that’s been available for months. But a new version of PE was released today and it’s version 6.0 for the PC. Now the Mac version is two releases behind!

WTF?!

If this isn’t a big “screw you” from Adobe to “non-professional” photographers on the Mac than what is? Adobe says it’s 2008 for the next Mac release, but you have to wonder about that given an entire release has already been skipped…

So what’s new in 6.0? Well, it has twice the ugliness of previous versions, but that’s strictly a matter of opinion. Adobe copied the Smart Album feature from iPhoto/Aperture and pasted it into PE 6.0. And I guess they figure if you’re gonna grab the name, you may as well borrow the icon while you’re at it (Aperture on top):
aperture_smartalbum.jpg

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Keywords still look weak compared to iPhoto’s implementation. Looks like photo-blending could be a good feature, but who knows when it’ll really get to the Mac?

According to Macworld, Adobe told them:

“…the Mac version of Photoshop Elements will be released later than the Windows version simply because they are different development schedules.”

Well, duh! What Adobe doesn’t mention is that the “different development schedules” are one of importance on the PC (to keep it fresh and competitive) and after-thought on the Mac — to the point where an entire version was skipped. (At least, I hope a version was skipped; it would be even worse if Mac users had to wait until 2008 and all they got was version 5.0.)

In my iPhoto 08 review, I felt iPhoto was better than PE for photos unless you required the image manipulation features of PE (i.e., masking, layering, etc.). I have since elaborated on iPhoto’s post-production workflow power in a two-part article starting here.

I wonder if skipping a release is Adobe’s way of saying that PE on the Mac is not only a low priority, but perhaps on its way out. That’d be a shame, but maybe they just don’t want to compete at the low-end on the Mac any more. For now, Mac PE users will just have to wait and see what Adobe is gracious enough to provide next year.

I don’t dislike Adobe, and on the PC really liked the PE and Premiere Elements combination. But it’s hard not to see them as treating the Mac like a second-class citizen.

For me, when I want to move up from iPhoto I have a clear path with Aperture (I won’t risk Lightroom in case Adobe lets it languish behind its PC counterpart). I’m glad that’s the case, Adobe’s hate affair with the Mac still seems to be ongoing.

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A Workflow Process Review for iPhoto 08. Part II: Photo Comparisons.

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In the previous installment we went through a new Event of photos to delete the bad ones, rate the better ones, hide the questionable ones, and leave the rest alone. Then we assigned keywords to them.Now we’ll move to the more “fun” stuff. That is, we’re going to compare the rated photos and pick out the cream of the crop for further enhancing.

Before we compare the photos it will help to isolate them. Since they’re already in the same event and have one star assigned, this will be easy. Open the Event in iPhoto, and in the control bar at the bottom of the window click the Find icon to select Rating:

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Then click the first dot in the find control to select one star:

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Now only photos in the Event with at least one star are displayed, so you’re ready to compare them. The assumption is that some photos are of the same subject, pose, etc., and are similar. You’re looking for the “best” of each batch of similar photos. You might be looking for just one photo, or several, but in either case you’re looking for the best of those selected in the initial review performed in the first article.

The ideal way to compare photos is in full screen mode, and there are a couple of options. Which you use depends primarily on how many photos you have for comparison.

Comparing up to eight photos.

In iPhoto you can show up to eight photos at once in full screen mode. If you’re comparing eight photos or less you can just throw them all on the screen at once and pick the best. I have a 24″ monitor, but feel that eight at a time is pushing it, so I tend to limit this method to six.

In the photo at the top of the article you see where I had five photos to compare. To do this simply enter full screen mode (Cmd-Opt-F), click one of them in the photo strip, and then shift- or command-click the others. (You could also just select all five in the Event viewer before entering full screen mode.) Notice in the strip the photos are displayed with a lighter background. Notice also the yellow border photo in the strip corresponds to the white border photo on the screen. In this way you always know which photo is the “active” one.

compare_few_ii_1.jpgWhen you decide to eliminate a photo from contention, click it so that it has the white border, then click the X in the corner. It closes, and the remaining photos re-size to give you a better view (right). Just repeat the process until you have a “winner”, then give it two stars (Cmd-2). Actually, how many stars you use is up to you, I just go to two at this point.

Even as you “eliminate” a photo you may believe it’s still better than some of the one-star photos, so give it two stars before you close it (your “winner” would get three). It’s all up to you. In my case, with only five photos I can pick a winner without any alternates.

Comparing many photos.

What if you have more than a few photos to compare? What if you have, say, 40? Well, you could do five batches of eight and then compare the five “winners” in a final round, but how do you know a “winner” in one round wouldn’t have lost in another? You’d need to perform several rounds of comparisons, keeping close track along the way. I believe if you have a lot of photos to compare you’re better doing them side by side, picking the best of a direct comparison and moving forward from there.

compare_many_1.jpgTo do this, enter full screen mode and click on the first two photos to compare (left). Again, the strip’s light background shows which photos are displayed, and the yellow/white borders show which is “active”. The white border isn’t just to remove a photo from contention, it also allows you to swap the photo for another one. Let’s say I prefer the photo on the right, I select the one on the left and hit the arrow key. The next photo in line now displays for comparison. If I still like the right one best, I hit the arrow key again. At some point I may like the photo on the left best, so I select the one on the right and hit the arrow key. In this manner I’m always comparing a new photo with the “best” one of the bunch so far. Continue until all the photos have been viewed.

As with comparing a few photos, don’t feel you only need one “winner”. If you think a photo you’re passing on is still special, give it more stars before hitting the arrow key. Remember the photo in the white border is active, so hitting Cmd-2 would assign it two stars. Save three for your winner. You may even choose to give all “close” pictures two stars, and then perform a close up comparison of them to assign your “winner.”

Close up (zoomed) comparison.

Another thing to consider when comparing photos is that If you’ve narrowed it down to several potential candidates, you may want to compare the photos zoomed for detail. iPhoto lacks Aperture’s feature to “synch” zoomed photos, but can still do easy zoomed comparisons.

zoom_1_1.jpgLet’s say I had the four “finalists” depicted at right. To compare them with more detail I zoom in using a quick shortcut. Position the pointer over where you want the zoom to occur, and hit 1. You’ll get 100% zoom focused at the pointer. Select the next photo (i.e., make it active) and do the same. You can quickly zoom all four photos a lot faster than I can type this sentence.

zoom_2_1.jpgThe zoom gives you great detail (left). To scroll around a photo, move the navigation box at the middle bottom of the screen, or hold down the space bar (pointer will change to a hand) and drag, or roll the scroll ball of your mouse. I have a Mighty Mouse and its 360 degree scroll ball works perfectly for this. A quick click and roll on each photo is all it takes to compare similar sections. Finally, if 100% is not enough, you can hit 2 for a 200% zoom. With such detailed views side by side, you can easily pick a “winner”.

You now have at least one photo (maybe more) of each subject, pose, etc. identified as “best”, and assigned multiple stars. Now you can utilize iPhoto’s editing techniques to enhance the photos based on your planned usage.

A Workflow Process Review for iPhoto 08. Part I: Review and Keyword.

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Those of you who read my review of the latest iPhoto know that I’m very pleased with this product. In my opinion It’s not only the best of the “free” photo organizers/editors on the Mac or PC — especially given its integration with other Apple applications — but it’s also a great program in its own right. While most of the attention to the update was given to Events, in my opinion the better enhancements were in keywords, and borrowing from Aperture for its revised editing tools.

My review centered primarily on typical photo enhancements I perform, but I’ve adapted a workflow to best utilize the product’s capabilities, and have other tips and suggestions I’d like to point out in more depth than in the review. I hope some of these will be useful.

Compare and Select.

The first thing you want to do after importing a new set of pictures is identify the keepers, the losers, and the in-betweens. This is typically the biggest pain in the neck portion of photo management, to the point that some people just pick a few they like and leave all the rest as is. But iPhoto makes this process quick and easy.

The best way to do this is in Full Screen mode, where you get the best view of each photo with the fewest distractions. Once you import a batch of photos into an Event, simply open the Event and enter full screen mode (Cmd-Opt-F).

How you setup your full screen defaults is up to you. I choose to auto-hide the toolbar and to always show thumbnails (these are controlled from the View menu). I run the thumbnails down the left-hand side of the screen in a single column. The picture at the top of this article shows what my screen looks like.

Once in full screen, review each picture and make one of four decisions:

  • It’s crap. The picture is a loser and can be deleted. Hit “delete”; its moved to the trash and goes to the next picture.
  • It’s great. The picture is better than average. Hit Cmd-1 to rate it at one star, then hit the right arrow key to move to the next picture. Do not attempt to determine how many stars it should get at this time. That will just slow you down. It’s good enough for now to rate it at one, we’ll revisit the rated photos later.
  • It’s OK, but either too similar to others or borderline crap. In either case I’d hide it. This keeps from having to look at it every time, but doesn’t delete it because it’s good enough to keep around. Hit Cmd-L; it gets hidden and goes to the next picture.
  • The fourth option is choosing none of the above. Chances are most pictures fall into this category. They’re not bad enough to delete, not really good enough to rate, and unique enough not to hide. Just hit the right arrow key to go to the next photo.

Once you’ve done this process a couple of times you’ll find you can take an initial pass through newly imported photos very quickly. I used to dread this initial process, but with iPhoto can breeze though hundreds of photos. You get the largest possible view of each photo, make a quick decision, hit a couple of keys, and you’re at the next photo. You never leave the screen or do anything that breaks your concentration.

Once you’re done, hit escape to exit full screen mode. Click the trash icon under “Recent” in the iPhoto sidebar and verify you want to delete these photos. Assuming you do, right-click the trash and select Empty Trash.

Assign Keywords.

The next step is to keyword the photos. This is a great tool for organization and makes it easier to find photos later. You want to do this now while the photo are still fresh in your mind, both from the shoot itself and from just having done a review of them all. How detailed you want to get with your keywords is up to you. Right now mine are relatively broad in scope but have served me well.

You can apply keywords a few ways, but in this article we’re talking about having numerous photos from a fresh import. Therefore, instead of rating them one at a time I’d group-select a batch and assign them that way.

Open the Event in the iPhoto window, and also display the Keywords window (Cmd-K). If you hid any photos in the process above, make sure you click “Show xx hidden photos” in the upper-right corner of the event display so that hidden photos will also have keywords applied.

keywords_1.jpgTo start, in many cases every photo in an event may have a broad keyword that applies, so just select them all and click the appropriate keyword button. For the screenshot presented here, I hit Cmd-A and then clicked Foliage. After assigning keywords broadly, you then shift- or command-click specific photos and click the appropriate button to apply their keyword.

If there are keywords you use a lot, drag them to the Quick Bar at the top of the Keywords window, then assign them via their shortcut letter. For common keywords this saves a lot of mousing around and is very useful. You can assign the shortcut letter yourself (or change it) by clicking Edit Keywords in the window. If you need new keywords for this Event, add them via Edit Keywords as well.

We’ll stop here for now. At this point you’ve combed through a new imported Event of photos, weeded out the bad ones, rated the ones you’ll process further, hidden the ones you may not need, and assigned your keywords. It really doesn’t matter whether the new Event has 25 photos or 300, the process is the same.

In the next article we’ll re-visit the photos you rated ,and look into ways that make it easy to compare similar photos to help determine which is “best” (i.e., find the cream of the crop).

PC to Mac Migration, Part 3: iPhoto 08 Review.


Unlike my media files, for photos imported from the PC the only metadata I was interested in were keywords. Since they’re in the file I didn’t have to worry about missing any data when imported.

On thing I will focus on in this review is organization. On the PC I used Adobe Photoshop Elements, where I keyworded more than half my photos, and further kept them manageable by using stacks. But stacks were designed for basically the same image, and named after the top one. My 2,000+ photos were “arranged” in something like 415 stacks. It’s a lot easier to scroll through 475 items than 2000, but it was still weak.

Thus I was intrigued by iPhoto’s Events feature. Not a stack, an Event is all photos grouped together (initially) by time. IPhoto can do this automatically at import, and I let it do so. Events can be named anything, and you choose the thumbnail to represent it (as you do a stack).

Another area I will focus on is photo enhancement. Typically, for any photo I choose to edit I do the following:

  • Remove Red Eye
  • Crop
  • Adjust levels
  • Adjust Highlights and Shadows
  • Add sharpness

Occasionally I may adjust color saturation or try noise reduction, but the above five steps are what I usually perform.

My comments and opinions of iPhoto, therefore, are based primarily on its organizational ability and how it can handle the above enhancement tasks.

Importing into iPhoto, I chose to have it create events with photos shot within eight hours of each other. I pointed iPhoto at a backup directory of the photos on an external drive, and when the process completed I had 204 Events. Lots of organization to do!

How I organized my photos had little to do with the concept of a day. Some of them were clearly events in the sense that Apple envisioned, but many of them are really “category buckets”. For example, I created an event simply called Miscellaneous and it has over 50 pictures in it. I made no attempt to name the Events at first, preferring to just drag one event on the other to merge them as I found groups I wanted together. Sometimes I had to open an event and split it, then split it again, because some photos in the middle didn’t belong. The process is pretty easy, it’s just deciding how you want stuff organized. I probably spent an hour at this and when the smoke cleared I had 55 Events. I also had a clear idea of what each represented, so naming them was easy.

I really like Events. Much better than simple stacking, they have a broader usage and are easy to manipulate. Further, you can drag your mouse over the thumbnail to “skim” through the images; a quick way to find what you’re looking for.

All my keywords were imported as expected, and I decided to assign more since I’d fallen behind. In iPhoto this is really easy. Open the Keywords panel and drag your most common into the Quick Group. Now they have a single keystroke to assign them. Others are assigned by clicking their button. You can also select a picture and start typing keywords; it will auto-complete them. In PE you select the photos and drag a keyword. After iPhoto this seems downright clumsy. I much prefer hitting a single key or a button. See the top picture above for a shot of the interface with the Keywords box open and one picture in the act of being updated by typing.

I also started to assign ratings. Like PE you can do this with the keyboard. I’d never used ratings before, but the thought of using Smart Albums like I use Smart Playlists in iTunes was appealing. They’re still a work in progress, but I have six already, and am really going to like these. I also created two regular albums for syncing to my iDevices.

From an organizational standpoint, I like iPhoto much better than PE. Events is better than stacking (though it could be used as stacks if you prefer), keyword assignment is quicker, the interface is much cleaner, and smart albums are a nice plus.

Now to edit some photos. I love iPhoto’s interface for this. I’m set to always edit in full screen, have the filmstrip down the left-hand side, and the toolbar at the bottom. See the second picture above, which shows the toolbar and filmstrip (though they’re normally hidden). This is the kind of interface we buy 24″ screens for! When in full screen mode, common editing tools are given single key commands. So I pull up a photo and do the following:

  • Hit ‘r’ to bring up the red-eye tool.
  • Hit ‘c’ to being up the crop tool.
  • Hit ‘a’ to bring up the adjust heads up display (HUD).

You can see the Adjust HUD in the picture. It contains histogram/levels, shadows/highlights, eyedropper, and sharpness controls (among others). In addition, you can hit 1 or 2 for 100 or 200 percent zoom at the cursor. Very convenient. Doing my typical editing is just so much quicker in iPhoto. Here’s a summary of the tools:

  • The red eye tool in auto-mode is pretty week, but in manual mode it works as well as PE.
  • The crop tool is great; as you drag it draws a grid to help you follow the “rule of thirds” if you want to.
  • Adjusting levels is similar to PE. I either drag the sliders using the displayed histogram as a guide, or I click the eyedropper and pick a neutral or white spot in the photo.
  • Shadows and highlights is also similar to PE. Drag the sliders to adjust. In iPhoto there is also an exposure slider, and I’m finding it works great in conjunction with contrast for an initial adjustment, then I use shadows/highlights to fine tune portions of the photo blown out or too black.
  • Finally, I add sharpness via the Sharpness slider.

PE requires separate trips to menus and controls for the above, where iPhoto needs an ‘r’, a ‘c’, and an ‘a’ to get to everything I want. It really is so much easier. And lets not even discuss that the PE editor is a separate application, so going into edit mode is a wait!

Regarding the tools themselves, It’s a wash on the red-eye tool, a win for iPhoto on the crop tool, a wash for levels, highlights, and shadows, and a win for PE on sharpening. This last is my biggest gripe. PE’s Unsharp Mask is a wonderful tool, and the slider in iPhoto is much inferior. It seems to do almost nothing in the first 15% of its range, and by the time you get to 50% most photos are horrid.

As for the remaining controls, Saturation works well, but cannot be limited to a specific color, so PE can blow it away if you just want to increase, say, the reds. The noise reduction slider is OK, but neither iPhoto or PE have much to brag about here.

What’s significant, and what I noted in a previous article, is that until this version iPhoto did not have Shadows, Highlights, a midtone (“gamma”) slider for levels, or the eyedropper tool. These are tools I used routinely in PE, and why I initially thought iPhoto could not work for me. They also added the Exposure slider and Noise Reduction in this release. It really was a significant improvement to iPhoto’s editing abilities, though it gets skirted over in reviews in favor of Events, Web Gallery, etc. While those things are cool (I’ve already posted a Web Gallery), I wouldn’t be using iPhoto if not for those editing improvements.

Another thing to note about iPhoto is its revamped non-destructive editing. No more getting the picture adjusted and then having to go through the Save As process in PE. I just concentrate on my edits and move on. The original is never touched and the changes are made in a new file. The changes are tracked so future changes can go back to the original and take it from there. Nice. All this happens without me having to worry about it or come up with some new name for the file.

I am amazed how the full screen interface, simplicity of pulling up the controls I need, and the fact that I never worry about saving or destroying the original file has made the process of editing so much faster. I pulled in two hundred pictures of my daughter’s recital and zoomed though them (tossing rejects, adding a star to nice ones, and editing as needed). It really is much faster than PE even though I’ve used that product for years and am proficient in the adjustments I perform. To top it all off, once I correct one picture I can simply cut those adjustments and paste them onto like photos! That’s fast!

I don’t know if I’d categorize myself as a “serious hobbyist” in photography, but I do way more than the average person does with their photos, and I can state unequivocally that iPhoto is powerful enough to suit those needs. Some day I may look into Aperture or Lightroom, but I have a great tool right now, and can say I would not like the prospect of going back to PE.

Finally, if you need a photo tool for image manipulation as well as editing, then iPhoto is not for you. No masking, no layers, etc. That’s not its thing. But if you want a tool to help you organize thousands of photos, make it easy to keyword, rate, reject, share, and perform powerful adjustments, then you’ll be very happy with what comes on your new Mac.