At the office

Here are a few photos of objects around my office, taken a few years ago. One of the photos has the exact date and time when it was taken written on it, but not in the typical way, where the camera imprints the text in the corner. I’ll let you see it for yourselves. Enjoy!

See the ColdFusion handbook in this photo? ColdFusion (by itself, without the Java layer recently shoehorned into it by Adobe) was and is the best programming language. It’s so high-level that a few lines of code can do what would otherwise take pages of low-level code in other languages. I find that very elegant.

Four wishes for Lightroom

It’s 2011, a new year, and it’s likely that Adobe will put out a new version of Lightroom this year. With that in mind, it would be wonderful if the Lightroom team could implement the following features in the next minor or major version of LR:

  • Find and Replace within metadata (details here)
  • Faster navigation and rendering when working with large catalogs (details here)
  • Filter catalog for metadata conflicts (details here)
  • More accurate time of capture for movie files captured with an iPhone 4 or a Nokia N95, or other video camera that doesn’t supply sidecar THM files (detailed explanation here and bug report here)

Thanks!

Time of capture metadata bug in iPhone 4 movie clips

Updated 9/12/10: I’m not sure any more if this is an iPhone 4 glitch or an Adobe Lightroom 3.2 bug. A thread has been opened in the Adobe Lightroom Forum, if you’d like to chime in there.

After upgrading the iPhone with iOS 4.1, I recorded a new video clip, imported it and some new photos into Lightroom, and the same wrong date and time appear for it.

According to a comment on my thread in the Apple Support Forums, the correct time of capture is displayed for iPhone 4 video clips elsewhere but Lightroom. And I also noticed that Lightroom displays the very same incorrect date and time of capture for video clips taken with the Nokia N95.

Updated 9/27/10: I’ve been in touch with Adobe, and it turns out this is a “designed” behavior. That is, because movie clips do not have EXIF data (there is no standard for EXIF data when it comes to them), they are assigned a random date and time as they’re imported into Lightroom. HDSLR video files are accompanied by a .THM file which stores the necessary EXIF data, and that’s why they show up properly.

Quoting from Davide M.’s (Adobe) response:

So I then had a look at our bug database and it turns our this is a known issue with mobile phones although somewhat out-with our control. Movie files do not technically have EXIF data or at least the standard has not yet been established. Since the import process can assign a timestamp to a movie file, we ignore this time stamp since it can be inaccurate, as shown by the example of your video file being changed by the simple process of email. Other applications while appearing to work fine, in fact are simply showing you the files creation date. If you were to duplicate the file, you will see that the timestamp in these other applications will change to the time the file duplication took place.

The reason why most DSLRs work is because they create a sidecar file containing that information. Files with no timestamp, such as the ones from the iPhone and the Nokia N95 do not create this and hence default to 1/1/04 when looking at the Loupe information overlay.

In the example you used, the Canon 7D creates a .THM sidecar file with the same name as the video file it generates. This contains all the data associated with the video file.

Still, this is problematic behavior, as it introduces erroneous times of capture in these movie files. So I asked Davide if it would be possible for Lightroom to be updated so that it writes a more accurate time of capture for these movie files. Thankfully, he agreed to log it as a feature request. Time will tell if this will make it into a future LR update. Quoting him below:

That’s certainly something I can log in our feature request list. Because this has been deemed ‘as designed’ by our engineering team (due to the lack of EXIF data in movie files) it is not technically a bug. None the less, I can see that this would be a useful addition to our application. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Thank you, Davide!

After downloading a few movie clips taken with an iPhone 4 (running iOS 4.0.1) onto my computer, I saw right away that their time of capture was incorrect, even though the iPhone’s time had been set up correctly. I took a few screenshots of the movie clips in Lightroom, which you can see below. Click on each to view them large.

This time metadata error happens when using either the main (back-facing) HD video camera, as shown above, or the front-facing VGA camera, as you can see from the screenshot below.

It looks like iPhone 4 records the same time for all video clips recorded with it, set at 1/1/04 1:44:24 AM.

It goes without saying that any digital video camera worth its salt will record the time of capture properly. The question, naturally, is when Apple will fix this glaring bug?

For comparison purposes, here is a screenshot of a Canon 7D movie clip, also shown in Lightroom. The time of capture was recorded properly, as was to be expected.

Where’s the SmugMug Publish Service for Lightroom?

I love the Flickr Publish Service in Lightroom 3, and would love to see SmugMug make their own.

The only thing missing for the Flickr service is for it to know which photos I’ve exported and uploaded to Flickr before the service became available, in previous versions of Lightroom. I for example have either tagged the photos uploaded to Flickr with, obviously enough, “Flickr”, or have added them to a Flickr collection in Lightroom, so I could easily find them.

Here’s where SmugMug has the chance to shine! I’d love to be able to publish my photos to SmugMug directly from Lightroom, using the Publish Services functionality, so I could always sync up any photos that I’ve re-developed or where I’ve updated the metadata. But for this service to really stand out, it needs to know which photos I’ve already uploaded.

You can see where this is going, right? I’ve already tagged all my SmugMug photos, and have already placed them in collection sets and collections that match my SmugMug categories breakdown exactly. With a little bit of computing power and some smart algorithms, the folks at SmugMug could put together a killer Publish Service for Lightroom that incorporates all the Flickr functionality and bests it by matching my already-uploaded photos.

What about the cost? The Flickr Publish Service is free to use for all Flickr users, but you cannot re-publish uploaded photos if you’ve changed them in Lightroom. (You can, but if you’re not a Pro, it’ll wipe out any comments and faves on the photo, so it’s not advisable.)

SmugMug could use a similar approach. Their Publish Service could be free for basic SmugMug users, with limited functionality, and it could offer full functionality to Power and Pro users. (I myself have the Pro membership.) I’d even be willing to pay a one-time fee to download and install the service, because I think the functionality would be amazing.

Metadata: DNG vs RAW

Generally speaking, I prefer the Adobe DNG format over the proprietary RAW format given to me by a camera, because I like the fact that it’s more or less future-proof. With a DNG file, the meta-data resides inside the file — like with a JPG — but the format is lossless, same as a RAW file — and unlike a JPG.

In spite of the fact that it’s a “publicly available archive format”, I would like to see more camera manufacturers adopt it, so I can feel more comfortable using it. I realize companies like Hasselblad and Leica have already adopted it, and you can take photos directly in DNG format on some of their cameras, but until the big camera manufacturers like Canon and Nikon adopt it, it won’t have the mass acceptance it needs to ensure its long-term survivability.

Still, I have begun to convert the RAW files in my photo library to DNG. By my count, I have converted about 30% of my 77,000 photographs to DNG format, and I am converting more of them every day. Let’s hope Adobe sticks to its word in the future and I’m not left holding the bag, having locked my photos into a format that might become obsolete.

Long-term benefits and potential caveats aside, I should point out a more current disadvantage between DNG and RAW. It has to do with metadata.

Yes, it’s true that with a RAW file, you’re stuck working with your metadata in sidecar XMP file, and that file may get corrupted, or you may lose it, thus losing your metadata and the processing directives for Camera Raw or Lightroom or whatever you’re using to process your photos. With a DNG, everything resides inside the file. There’s no XMP file, which is a good thing, most of the time.

But when you’re backing up your library, and let’s say for the sake of the argument that you’ve got to back up 20,000 photos, which is what I’m doing right now, and you’ve made minute changes to the metadata of all those files — only changed one EXIF or IPTC field — the backup software won’t care. You’ll have to back up 20,000 DNG files, each (in my case) between 12-24 MB. That’s going to take a LOT longer than backing up 20,000 XMP sidecar files, each of which is only 15-25 KB, because those are the only files that will have been changed if I update the EXIF or IPTC data for a whole bunch of RAW files.

That’s one area where RAW trumps DNG. I’m willing to overlook it if DNG will indeed prove to be a future-proof format, but that remains to be seen.

Stop the headache – generate 1:1 previews before editing

One of my gripes with Lightroom ever since I started using it was the image blurring that took place as it generated image previews or re-rendered images while in Develop mode. (I started using LR in February 2007.)

It looks like Adobe listened, and the image preview rendering that takes place as I develop photos isn’t noticeable anymore — that, or my faster laptop has something to do with it, too. However, the very noticeable lag in generating either standard or 1:1 previews still occurs as I browse through images in my catalog, and that can’t be helped even by my zippy MacBook Pro. As you move through images, Lightroom will blur them until it generates a standard preview, then blur them some more you zoom in, until it generates the 1:1 preview.

Fortunately, there’s a solution for it. I’m not sure if this existed from the start, or if it was introduced in later versions of the software, but you can choose to generate 1:1 previews for a set of photos before you begin working with them. (I found this out thanks to this article from Steve Paxton at O’Reilly.) Just select the images you plan to work with on a given day, and go to Library >> Previews >> Render 1:1 Previews.

lightroom-generate-previews

If you choose that option, Lightroom will also render Standard-Sized Previews in addition to the full ones, allowing you to work with the photos right away, in standard or loupe view, with no lag or blurring (well, your computer’s specs might also have something to do with it). Still, if you’re sorting through a large set of images (hundreds or thousands), this pays off handsomely, in ways that you cannot even appreciate until you start popping aspirins to deal with the tension headache caused by all that screen blurring you could have avoided if you planned ahead.

If you’ve been a long-time subscriber to my site, then you may know about an article of mine written in January ’08, entitled “The next stage for Lightroom“. In it, I described the need for Lightroom to:

  1. Allow the storage of photos from its catalog on multiple volumes
  2. Allow people to work with photos from the catalog even when external volumes were disconnected
  3. Allow for the storage of the previews database (which can be very sizable) on an external volume, or for its splitting into two parts

Guess what? Most readers just couldn’t get what I was saying. But Adobe listened. Points one and two have already been implemented in later versions. Now I can store my photos on multiple volumes, and I can work with their meta-data even when I can’t access the image files because I’ve disconnected the external drives. As for the the storage of the previews, that’s now easily solved, too.

Because I’m now storing my Lightroom catalog on my laptop, where hard drive space is an issue, this means I have to limit the size of the previews database. I do this by giving it very little play. I tell LR to generate medium-quality 1024 px standard previews, and to delete 1:1 previews after a day. The previews database is no joking matter. Just a short while back, LR was set to discard 1:1 previews after a month, and my previews database had ballooned to over 60 GB!

lightroom-previews-settings

So, even though I allow myself the luxury of generating 1:1 previews for hundreds of photos, as you’ve seen above, the size of my previews folder stays manageable, and the free space on my hard drive stays where it needs to stay, because Lightroom cleans up after itself. Instead of worrying about free space, I allow my MacBook Pro to flex its processing muscle for 15-30 minutes before I dig into a large set of photos from a particular location, and then I can work undisturbed and headache-free for that day.

Get the tiltshift look right from Adobe Lightroom

If you use Adobe Lightroom and want to apply a tiltshift effect to your photos, you can spend hundreds of dollars on expensive Photoshop plugins, or you can do it for free, with an Adobe AIR app called TiltShift.

If you’ve used TiltShift before, you know you can open any photo in it and apply tiltshift effects to it, but did you know you can do this right from Lightroom? Here’s how.

In Lightroom, open up the Export window and add a new Export Preset. See the screenshot below. I called mine TiltShift, so I can easily remember it. Adjust any of the settings, like color space, sizing, sharpening, etc. They don’t really matter, although it’s better to keep the image smaller so TiltShift can work faster with it.

The really important option is in the post-processing section — the very last one in the Export window. There, you’ve got to make sure you tell Lightroom to “Open [your photo] in Other Application…”, then click on the Choose button and browse to find the TiltShift app. This is pretty much it.

lightroom-tiltshift-setup

Lightroom will automatically pass your image to TiltShift, which will open it and allow you add tiltshift effects to it, to your liking. For example, I initially processed this image of a medieval water pump found on the streets of Medias, Romania, in Lightroom.

The old water fountain

Then I exported it into TiltShift using the export preset set up as described above, and adjusted the settings there to get the effect I wanted. This is how the controls and the image looked inside TiltShift.

tiltshift-screenshot

Once I did that, I saved the photo and uploaded it here. This is how the final image looks.

water-fountain-tiltshift

It couldn’t be easier, and again, let me remind you TiltShift is a free app.

[TiltShift home page] [Download TiltShift]

Create tiltshift photographs on Mac, Windows and Linux, for free

Takayuki Fukatsu has created a free Adobe AIR app called TiltShift, which runs on any OS that supports AIR (namely Mac, Windows and Linux). It will allow you to easily apply tilt-shift effects to any photograph. Best of all, the price is right: it’s free. Even if this app cost $10 or $20, I’d still rather buy it than some Photoshop plugins that cost hundreds of dollars and do pretty much the same thing.

In less than a couple of minutes, I was able to open a photograph of my wife and niece, walking on the streets of Medias, Romania, and add tilt-shift effects to it. Here’s what it looks like now.

Ligia and Laura

Sure, the tiltshift effect isn’t what you’d get with a LensBaby or with a real tilt-shift lens like the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L (or any of the other professional tilt-shift lenses made by camera manufacturers), but still, it’s better than no effect at all, and it’s free. TiltShift’s controls are really slider-based and really easy to use. You’ll be making tiltshift photos in no time flat. Give it a go and see how you like it.

tiltshift-controls

I mentioned TiltShift initially in one of my Condensed Knowledge posts, back in May.

[Download TiltShift]

Using the economy as an excuse to shortchange employees

I’ve seen companies do some pretty disgusting things in my time, and the move some of them are pulling lately definitely ranks right up there with some of the biggest stinkers.

In effect, they’re using the current weak economy/recession as an excuse to lay off employees and burden the existing ones with the extra work, while keeping them mum under the fear of losing their jobs. If this isn’t corporate exploitation of its workforce, I don’t know what is.

I’m going to give you three examples, each juicier than the other, but I’m sure you can come up with more if you’re in the US and you’re employed in a full time job.

The niche business with an owner

I talked with an employee from a certain company lately, one which specializes in a niche market that has not been affected by the economic slowdown, nor does it look like it will be affected any time soon. I can’t disclose any identifying details, because the employee confided in me. What he told me was this: the president (and owner) of the company fired some employees while cutting year-end bonuses for the rest of the employees, using the recession as an excuse. The employees, the ones doing the hard work, have been handling a record amount of business for the past year, but the president cited a slump in incoming business. I was told the same president has been spending lavishly to expand his own mansion and buy extra cars and toys, during the same year when the supposed slump in business took place.

Adobe’s record profits

This example is more concrete than the previous one. In December, Adobe reported record revenues for the 4th quarter of 2008, and the sixth consecutive year of double-digit growth, yet they still laid off employees in November just the same. I’m not surprised though. I talked with a friend who is a long-time software developer, and he told me Adobe has another ugly habit: historically speaking, they have relied mostly on contractors, because it’s cheaper, and they’re easier to shed without bad press.

JPG Mag starts a bidding frenzy

Let’s look at JPG Mag. It’s the darling of many amateur photographers, because it gave them the chance to publish their work when other magazines might turn them down. I never really liked it, and I’ll tell you why: I thought they were cheap.

Here was an easy way to get print-worthy photographs without paying a dime. Turns out you could get amateur shutterbugs happy and willing to give away their work simply by dangling the illusory promise of publishing their pics in your magazine. The incentive was fame, which is as fleeting as a fart and just as troublesome, if you’ll excuse my expression. Where’s the moolah? Last I checked, bills were still payable in money, not fame.

When they announced they were going under, I thought it fitting. Good riddance to bad rubbish. First they don’t pay the photographers, then they fire the founders, now they’re going under — okay by me. Unfortunately, the buzz generated by their announcement stirred the vanities of those with bigger wallets, and a bidding war began.

But wait, there’s a nugget of bitter truth to be found among all this fake glimmer and shine. Turns out they fired all their employees, and now the CEO trumpets the company’s earning potential in messages to the bidders. PDN Pulse called them out on this, and rightfully so. Sure, now the company has earning potential since everyone’s gone. Hire a skeleton staff, make them do double or triple the work, pay no money to the photographers, and you’ve got a hand-dandy business model fit for the 21st century.

To sum things up

So you see, it’s okay to use the economy as an excuse when it befits your bottom line. Apparently, it’s okay to lay off people, it doesn’t matter that they’ve got bills to pay, that they’ve put a lot of hard work and time into your company. You shouldn’t do what you can to protect them in a weak economy when it’s harder to get jobs.

None of that matters, right? Ethics are so passé. You just use whatever excuse you can to make sure your precious bottom line gets bigger and bigger. It’s all about GREED. You can never have enough money, and people are only a means to it, right?

Well, I think that’s wrong. I don’t care if you’re afraid that the recession will affect your company. I don’t care if you really want that shiny new toy and a couple of employees and their mortgages stand in your way of getting it. I don’t care if your stockholders will bitch. If greed and money are your only motivators when you run a business, and you’d gladly step over people to balance the spreadsheets — don’t give me any of that I’m so sorry and I feel your pain crap — then you’re a spineless, slimy, pus-covered slug, and you deserve to be squashed under a steel-toe boot.

Condensed Knowledge – November 24, 2008

Shared from among my feed subscriptions:

Flash Player 10 breaks teh internets

Shortly after upgrading to Adobe’s new Flash Player, version 10, I noticed I could no longer upload photos to my blogs. And I also noticed that FriendFeed’s image uploader didn’t work the same way. I didn’t relate that to the Flash Player upgrade at first, and tried to rule out problems on my own machine. Then I did a bit of research and discovered that others were in the same boat.

Quoting from this thread on the WP forums:

“The new Flash version 10 is incompatible. The latest version 9 of Flash is what you want. There will be a workaround (ugly hack) for this in WordPress 2.7. But since the problem is actually with Flash 10 itself, stick with Flash 9 for the time being. Hopefully, WordPress 2.8 will get rid of the Flash altogether, since Adobe has made it clear that they consider this problem to be a security fix.”

On FriendFeed (FF), people complained about image uploader issues as well. In that same FF thread, I found out that Adobe archives their old versions of the Flash Player, something which is not readily apparent on their site, nor easy to find. I also found that I need to uninstall Flash Player before downgrading — should I decide to do it — using Adobe’s Flash uninstaller.

Now, we’re faced with an issue: stay with Flash 10 and a non-working image uploader on WP sites, or downgrade to Flash 9? I’ll let each of you decide what to do about that. Since there appears to be a security issue in Flash 9, it’s not something you should take lightly, but at least you’ll have options.

You may think I’m joking in my post title when I say that the new Flash Player broke the internet. Not necessarily. When you consider that there are about 3.8 million blogs at WordPress.com, and at least a few hundred thousand self-hosted WP installs from WordPress.org, that makes over 4 million websites whose WP Image Uploader broke when Flash 10 was released. I’m not sure how many FriendFeed (FF) users there are, but there should be 100,000 or more by now.

The FF developers came up with an alternate image uploader fairly quickly when they discovered the problem with Flash Player 10. WP is going to release a workaround in WP 2.7, then possibly do away with Flash for the Image Uploader in WP 2.8. WP also has an alternate way to upload photos, through the old, form-based browser uploader, where you can only do one photo at a time. That’s what I’ve been using while I wait for the new version of WP to come out.

Still, when you consider that over 4 million internet users were negatively impacted by this new version of the Flash Player, that’s not a number to take lightly. I do wish Adobe had worked with WordPress ahead of time to make the transition smoother or to offer them some sort of workaround. I found out about this the hard way, and my guess is you did, too. That’s not the ideal way to do business when you’ve got Silverlight nipping at your heels.

How to transfer photos between Lightroom catalogs

This screencast will show you how to transfer photos between different Lightroom catalogs, and it will go beyond that by also demonstrating how the whole process could be made a LOT easier if Adobe wanted to.

In the screencast, I refer to an article I wrote a while back, entitled “The next stage for Lightroom“, where I put forth a proposal for improving the way Lightroom stores photos, with an eye on catalog portability (laptops, for example). If you have the time, please read through that article after you see the video.

The video is about 10 1/2 minutes long, file size is 78MB, and it’s 720p HD, MOV. You can view it online by clicking on the screenshot below, or download it.