Tag: workflow

Aperture vs Lightroom – Decision Time!

So the winner is…

I’ll get to that in a moment. This process of comparing the two apps has been a great learning process. Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses. What is unfortunate is that although both manage photos very well, surprisingly, neither of them has the processing side nailed down as well as technology current allows. In other words, what is arguable the whole point of this exercise – producing the highest-possible quality of photographs – is not done perfectly in either application.

Both apps are missing what I deem to be a key feature: Transformation. I am not much a city person, but when I photograph buildings, I want to correct the inherent perspective distortion. I don’t usually remove all of it as I do want the give the impression of size and distance. This is only possible in Photoshop. Even Photoshop Elements has it, so Lightroom and Aperture should have it as well!!!

Lightroom lacks a truly useful spotting brush; it is still back in the days of a round-only, spot-only dust removal system. I don;t have a problem with dust – my problem is with errant twigs and stems of grasses. Aperture’s Retouch brush is a true brush that allows you to work with long, thin distractions such as twigs, powerlines and hairs – even iPhoto, Apple’s free photo app, has this feature! C’mon Adobe – this is a no-brainer. Just add your Photoshop Healing Brush to Lightroom!! Again, even Elements has this feature – surely Lightroom should, too!

Aperture is slow to use. I can’t count the number of times I get a spinning ball waiting for full res images to load (MBP 15″ 2.4Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo w/ 4GB RAM and nothing else open!). If I have to wait like this I would never be able to wade through all my images. Aperture has a superior GUI, though; e.g. the image filmstrip comes up on the left side – proportionately, I have more left-right screen real estate so putting on the side makes better use of my space.

I also love Aperture’s brushes and their implementation. Anything can be a brush and can be painted in or out. However,  in Lightroom I find it helpful to be able to turn on or off the mask created through using the Adjustment Brush. As well, having multiple changes using one brush is very helpful; e.g. I can increase exposure and contrast and decrease saturation all in one easily editable brush.

Ultimately, my decision is to use Lightroom for four main reasons:

  • Aperture is too slow in reacting to rather simple changes;
  • Lightroom allows Adjustment Brush “multi-tasking”;
  • Lightroom has a graduated filter – I use graduated filters frequently in landscape images;
  • Lightroom is backwards-compatible with all my previously-processed the raw files created using Bridge and ACR. Switching to Aperture would mean having to redo past images.

So, for those who have been following this saga, there you have it. It’s Lightroom – and, may I point out, Lightroom 2. I have downloaded Lightroom 3 Beta and will commit to it when it is a full version, but this comparison was actually between Lightroom 2 and Aperture 3 – rather telling.

In the near future, I will add a Lightroom workflow to give a sense of how I make use of the app.

UPDATE:

The new header was made from within Lightroom 2 using the LR/Mogrify2 plugin from Timothy Armes found at the Photographer’s Toolbox. Great app and it’s donationware, so please donate to Timothy to get full access to it. Wonderful as it is, I still needed Photoshop to create the luxBorealis.com in the font I chose as LR/Mogrify2 only recognizes .ttf fonts and doesn’t, as yet, add stokes to fonts. BTW it would be nice to have drop shadows for fonts and images, too (just in case you’r reading this, Timothy!)

UPDATE 2:

I’ve been taking a bit of heat from the Apple community about not supporting Aperture. Let me assure everyone that I am a staunch Apple supporter and have been for 20 years now, starting with a Mac Classic! I have used Mac and Windows for the same length of time and will always be a Mac.

More on Aperture and Lightroom

Okay – I’m still not satisfied with either.

I just finished an afternoon shoot of 100 shots – all done in raw. I have processed them using 3 different methods: ACR 5.x via Bridge; Lightroom 2.6 and Aperture 3.0. Here’s what I found:

  • In ACR 5.x I zipped through them – mostly because I am thoroughly familiar with the keyboard shortcuts. I did some Exposure correction, some Auto Exposure, some Adjustment Brush, some Graduated Mask very quickly and efficiently;
  • In Lightroom, I was slowed down slightly due to being less familiar with the keyboard shortcuts however I picked them up rather quickly, specifically K for Adjustment Brush and M for Graduated Filter
    • I did find Lightroom a bit frustrating in that I couldn’t simply tab to exposure values like I could in ACR – I had to trackpad over and click in the Exposure box. I found I could use the L and R cursor keys which sped things up somewhat, but I didn’t like the intervals as much
    • I also noticed that the scale for the Graduated Filter changed from whole numbers to decimal numbers – perhaps due to previous masks I created in ACR. It seems odd that the numerical value should change like this.
    • If I want to print jpegs to file, I should be able to save them to a different folder using the same filename – Lightroom won’t let me unless I “Export” the jpegs using a somewhat less sophisticated interface – similar to the ACR interface for saving images. While creating and running a Photoshop action through Bridge may sound intimidating – I can ensure exactly what my output will be like in every regard – but than I can through Export, yet similar to “Print to File” but with the bonus of keeping my naming structure.
    • I still can’t get used to the dark grey interface
    • on my MacBook Pro Intel 2.4GHz laptop, Lightroom still hesitates a few seconds before I can interact with each new raw image – there is no hesitation in ACR 5.x. In fact, ACR, the Adjustment Brush and GRaduated mask pins appear immediately
    • Perhaps it is my incompetence with the Lightroom interface, but I don’t find it intuitive to synchronize adjustments over a series of images without having to create a preset.
    • As with all computer monitors, I have more Left-Right real estate then Top-Bottom so I would like the thumbnails to be along the left like they are in ACR. I like the way they “Hide” along the bottom, but I don’t need the Presets found along the left as often as I need the Thumbnails.
  • In Aperture… WHERE IS THE GRADUATED FILTER?? I’ve just gotten so used to using it. This is pretty much a deal-killer for me using Aperture as a total solution. Also…
    • the Auto Exposure setting does a much better, cleaner job than in Lightroom
    • I don’t like the Hot-Cold cutoffs – even set at 100% I have clipping if any one colour is at 253 pixels. I would prefer to set the Hot and Cold thresholds to Luminance as I have done with the Histogram (why can’t the two settings be tied into one another?)
    • Perhaps it is my incompetence with the Aperture interface, but I don’t find it intuitive to synchronize adjustments over a series of images. With ACR and Lihtroom I set the adjustments for one image, select all and click on “Synchronize” to have one, some or all of the adjustments applied to the other images.
    • Perhaps it is the Browser that could use some work… When I select images,  I don’t see any change to indicate the images that are and are not selected. I iPhoto, a thin yellow line appears around the selected images – in Aperture, nothing. Even Lightroom the borders go light grey to indicate selected image.

So where does this leave me? Well, I’m back to square one – that is, I’m not totally satisfied with either Lightroom or Aperture and I am not yet ready to move from Photoshop-Bridge-ACR to either. If anyone out there has some insights into this I would appreciate hearing from you.

    Getting closer to an Aperture-Lightroom Decision

    I’ve working both sides of the Aperture-Lightroom street as of late and am not totally satisfied with either – yet.

    For example, today I shot some RAW images and thought I would use both to see how they come up. Now, I’m not an entirely stupid person, but I did have some trouble working with IPTC data in both apps. In Aperture, I first had trouble even importing the images from a file that already existed on my hard drive (I uploaded the images through Bridge, first). It kept showing me an empty folder until I closed and re-opened Aperture. Secondly, IPTC data I thought I had added during import didn’t show. Adding it afterwards was no trouble.

    The trouble I had with Lightroom was that data I entered for one image would not copy to other images – syncing metadata just didn’t want to work. I also had trouble de-selecting images after doing a “Select All”. Very frustrating – especially when doing the same in Bridge/ACR is so easy.

    There are a few features that are driving me towards Aperture:

    1. I love the brighter interface of Aperture – I’ve set it to light grey with a white background. I find that if I use a grey or black background in my images, I don’t brighten them enough. Perhaps it’s my grounding in the wet darkroom, but I want to be able to compare the near white in my image to pure white which I get from the background. Lightroom comes across as “Darkroom” – with its dark grey facade, I feel like I am looking down a tunnel or through a cheap pair of binoculars at my image in middle between the Catalogue stuff on the left and the Adjustment panes on the right. So, for now, I am hiding the Catalogue panes in LR.
    2. I love how easy it is to switch between Library, Metadata and Adjustments in Aperture. W-W-W – it is also done with no delay, unlike LR which takes its time to switch modes.
    3. I have found one of the most intuitive ways of adding border and titles to, for my purposes, web images like the one here – a great plugin called BorderFX: http://www.iborderfx.com/. If you are still doing borders and titles with Photoshop – here’s a better way. It was one of the peeves with Aperture that Lightroom seemed to have the edge on (kind of) – but this is even better than LR’s print to file with it’s Identity Plate.
    4. I prefer Aperture’s adjustments and adjustment brushes to LRs in that you can add a brush for anything without leaving where you are.

    However, there are some aspects of Lightroom I like better:

    1. I like the hide-away panels in LR. I prefer editing in full screen mode with a clean desktop – as few distractions as possible. Aperture also gives me that, but having the hide-away filmstrip at the bottom of LR is helpful.
    2. I find creating Presets to be more intuitive in LR.
    3. Also the Print “mode” is wonderful to work with.

    One downer about Aperture is the very slow response time (on my Intel MacBook Duo Core 2.4GHz, 4GB ram) when using a number of operations – especially sharpening with the loupe open. OMG it’s slooooooooow!

    So, where am I going with this – I don’t know quite yet. Overall, Bridge + ACR is still more intuitive to me than either. I print enlargements using an online service and books using full resolution jpegs I import into iPhoto. My cataloguing systems does need an overhaul. I am still suing folders with YYYYMMDD-DescriptiveTitle despite all of my images being keyworded and described. So I am wasting the keywords if I can’t actually search a database for images with specific keywords – so one or t’other would be ideal for that.

    I think I need a few more weeks of playing.

    Lightroom 3 and Aperture 3 – Is it time to switch? – Updated

    What a dilemma…

    First of all, let me explain. For years I have used Photoshop to process my digital photos. Quite simply, it has been the best, albeit not always the most intuitive, method of processing. My roots, however, are as a darkroom practitioner developing black and white RC and fibre-based papers to archival standards as well as colour prints from slides using traditional and Cibachrome processes. In other words, I have a bit of a history but have found that the work I did in the darkroom all those years ago has allowed me to better understand and take advantage of things like colour temperature, colour balance, burning, dodging and , more importantly, layers and masking.

    When Photoshop evolved into CS with Bridge and Camera Raw the ensuing improvements in productivity, efficiency and quality for digital photographers was astounding, especially with the most recent 5.x Camera Raw. So now, all my raw images are processed and quite neatly organized in folders by year and by shooting date – YYYYMMDD-DescriptiveTitle – and visually as jpegs in iPhoto. I can find just about any photo in my collection of thousands within a few key strokes and the popping in of a DVD.

    TMI – right?!? Perhaps, but it’s important to aware of my journey to this point of considering whether or not to adopt Lightroom or Aperture as my primary agent for processing photos. No doubt, many readers have faced the same dilemma or may be facing it now. Or perhaps you’re trying to decide whether or not to upgrade from iPhoto or Photoshop Elements. I realize that “my system” of Bridge-ACR-Photoshop (although much less of Photoshop with recent improvement in ACR) works well for me right now, but I’m curious to know if there are any additional efficiencies and/or image quality improvements available through the use of Lightroom or Aperture. So for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been both apps through their paces. This coincides with my teaching of a Digital Darkroom course that encapsulates best workflow practices that can be applied to any app for digital editing.

    It didn’t take me long to realise the most significant of shortcomings of both Lightroom 3 and Aperture 3. It is, perhaps, the most compelling reason for me not switching previously. I don’t mean to be negative right off the bat, but I don’t want to bore you with the same descriptions everyone else writes of how wonderful the editing features are (and they really are!) only to leave the problems to the end. So here goes…

    The deal killer for me is quite simply the complete lack of perspective and lens correction tools – neither Lightroom 3 nor Aperture 3 have them. Now, I don’t shoot a lot of buildings that require “Free Transform”, “Perspective”, “Skew” and the lot, but I’ll be damned if I spend the money on a high level “Pro” app that doesn’t have it when it’s built into the $99 Photoshop Elements!! This goes for Lens Corrections as well. We all have wideangle zooms that would benefit from a little barrel distortion correction to straighten out curved horizons or sidewalk curbs that are near the top or bottom edge. These problems come with even mid- and high-end zooms – so why does the professional photographic community need to rely on a consumer app like Photoshop Elements to correct for something that fundamentally should be correctable from within Lightroom or Aperture.

    What I love about both apps are the following:

    • having a visual Library or Catalogue of images right at my disposal without having to switch to iPhoto (which I currently use for my visual library since it is free and, actually, quite powerful)
    • seamless and efficient development of images using easy to create and save presets – something ACR is lacking
    • the previews that are provided when I hover over certain selections (e.g Presets)
    • full screen edit modes with few or no distractions
    • great spot removal

    What is surprising is that 95% of the editing I now do is within Camera Raw 5.x (not the one that comes with Photoshop Elements as it lacks some key controls like Adjustment Brushes, Gradients and Snapshots). I really only go into Photoshop now for  initial lens distortion corrections and perspective and some healing brush work that can’t be done in ACR. I also use it, from time to time, to create more striking on-screen and web photos with hairlines, titles and white, matt-like borders around images. But this is a more “graphics” use (as opposed to photo processing) something that PS was designed for.

    Could I live without Photoshop CS4? If Lightroom or Aperture included the deal killers I’ve identified – quite possibly. However, I still might miss the Actions within Photoshop that allow me to quickly create the hairline, title and matt borders around photos for on-screen presentations as well as quick jpeg sharpening and a few other things. I can also do some pretty neat things with art filters. But for straight photography, Lightroom and Aperture are almost there. Of course, I could always make the switch to Lightroom or Aperture and keep a copy of Photoshop Elements on hand for the transformations I still use. But what to do about the actions… hmmmmm.

    UPDATE

    Okay – so I’ve figured out how to output jpegs with a hairline, title and white border – at least in Lightroom. Aperture doesn’t have quite this capability. (Surprisingly, Aperture doesn’t have quite the finesse – unusual for an Apple app – it will put a caption or title underneath, centred but only in black type).

    Cooper's Hawk

    Why I like Photoshop Elements 8.0 (PSE 8)

    Photoshop Elements 8On Saturday morning, I start teaching a 4-session digital editing course for users of Photoshop  Elements 8. I first used PSE as version 6 two years ago and used it quite intensively for about 12 months. After that, I was able to upgrade to Photoshop CS4 and left PSE behind. Returning to PSE 8 in preparation for the course has reminded me of just how incredibly useful PSE is.

    The beauty of PSE is that its simplicity belies its incredible power. It has an interface far more welcoming and less intimidating than Photoshop yet, for photographers, it can perform, perhaps 80-90% of what Photoshop does. I would even be inclined to use PSE instead of Lighroom. To me, Lightroom is a glorified Adobe Camera Raw developer with a Library Catalogue attached. But what about two key essentials:

    • Transformations to straighten building angles (particularly when shot with a wideangle) and
    • Lens Corrections to remove the slight curve introduced with wideangle zooms

    – both of which are found in PSE but not Lightroom.

    But, be that as it may, while PSE has its limitations, I feel that it has more to offer than the average enthusiast can exhaust – especially if you are shooting JPEGs. I am amazed with “EDIT Quick”. A few quick clicks and boom – you’ve got a great looking pic. The “EDIT Guided” mode is a great way of learning what tools will do you. Overall, the “Help” that’s available behind each light bulb is, well, very helpful. Diligent learners will pick up all the nuances of the PSE simply with the various help options.

    “EDIT Full” mode is where you can really optimize photos. I like adding adjustment layers and saving as Photoshop files to prevent any pixel destruction. Masks and brushes are available for even greater fine tuning. The nice thing is that converting to black-and-white and even adding a tone to the shot can all be done in PSE. By creating the B&W on a duplicate layer, you can also use the eraser tool to “paint out” some of the B&W to reveal colour beneath. Fun stuff and very compelling.

    Two other great aspects of PSE are Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw that are integral parts. Provided you make some heads-up file management decisions (i.e. give your folders proper titles like YYYYMMD-DescriptiveTitle and your images proper filenames like YYYYMMDD-##-DescriptiveFilename), Bridge acts like a library that makes visually locating images very quick. Adding copyright, keyword and location metadata is easy through your own templates and/or by using the IPTC Core panel. From Bridge you can also access Photomerge and Picture Package tools. And through PSE, you can create greeting cards, photo books, prints, collages, even a web gallery i html or Flash.

    Adobe Camera Raw is perhaps the most disappointing part of PSE. In Photoshop, I use ACR exclusively for exposure and tone corrections and a lot of fine tuning and it forms the basis of Lightroom. But in PSE, ACR is a bit handcuffed for my liking. It takes us back to CS2 in its lack of tools like Adjustment Brush and Gradient Tool. As well, there are no Tone Curve, HSL or Split Toning tools – all of which can be done through PSE, but I prefer to do this non-destructively in ACR so I’m not accumulating the significantly larger PSD files.

    So, PSE is not perfect, but for $99 (1/7 the price of Photoshop and 1/3 the price of Lightroom) it’s amazing how much can be accomplished. All the Resizing, Cropping and Sharpening tools are there plus Art, Texture and Blur Filters, and the all-important selection tools. If you are shooting less than, say, 2000 JPGs per year, PSE is the way to go. If you are delving into RAW then PSE is still the way to go as ACR will get you started and PSE will allow you to finish photos – much like it was with Photoshop just a few years ago. The bonus is that Photoshop Elements is available as a 30-day free trial, so what have you got to lose?

    Apple iPad – for photographers?

    Apple iPadI’ve been away for a week up in “God’s country” – the Haliburton Highlands of Ontario – so I missed the hoopla surrounding the release of the Apple iPad. Some would call it a boring over-dramatization, even gaudy melodrama. I, for one, usually enjoy Steve Jobs delivery of new, revolutionary products. This time, he is showing his age with unnecessary repetition and  occasional silted delivery. However, this blog isn’t about Steve Jobs or the launch, it’s about the iPad itself.

    The iPad truly is Apple’s

    most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.

    During the launch, I would have thought they would use the Beatle’s Revolution, but I guess things aren’t yet patched up between Apple and Apple Records. That being said, I am greatly excited by the potential of the iPad.

    Fifteeen years ago when I was teaching high school Geography, I conceived of a “notebook” somewhat akin to the iPad. Except mine had a stylus and was more productivity oriented than the iPad’s entertainment orientation. I like the iPad and it could certainly find a place in my life for these reasons (without having actually played with one). At the same time, I feel that I will pass on this first iteration, because, for me, it’s not quite there. For photographers as well, I feel it’s not quite there yet. Here we go:

    • the screen is gorgeous – the best on the market. Although I am not a fan of glossy screen for doing photo work, this one appears to be a keeper. And the 1024×768 size is decent, however
      • I want real estate. I would much prefer to cart around an extra pound of weight if it meant having a 15″ screen. When I move from my MacBook to something else, I don’t want to scrimp. You see, I’m looking at iPad as a way to shed weight and bulk and things. I want it to do what my MacBook does (well, almost) without having to carry my MacBook.
    • the interconnectivity is excellent – WiFi on all, 3GS if you want it (although no phone capability – so I still need to carry a phone although Skype might have something to say about that – very soon). Cameras can also be connected via the Camera Connection Kit (thanks, Dennis for pointing that out!). This makes the iPad a good replacement for the Epson Picture Viewer – but not an ideal due to the small hard drive of the iPad – 64GB maximum.
      • Productivity for me is the key. As I mention above, the iPad must be able to stand on its own so I don’t need my laptop with me as well. I live by my email, calendar and address book, so I’m pleased to see them implemented so well on the iPad. As well, iWork is an incredibly easy, intuitive and friendly set of apps that I use everyday. Keynote, alone is worth ditching PowerPoint which looks positively archaic next to Keynote. Pages kicks Word’s butt. Numbers is still maturing but still far more useful to me than clunky old Excel. I know Office is the industry standard on “every” computer (and, when needed I can export as Word, PowerPoint and Excel), but I don’t get rave reviews of PowerPoints like I do of Keynotes, and for me, as a photographer, it’s the presentation that counts. For me as a user, it is also the interface that counts and iWork has Office beat to death. However,
        • I need to come back to screen size. Sorry to harp on it, but, other than the lack of a USB, it’s the deal-killer for me. No doubt, Microsoft will come out with an Office version for iPad and there will be a whole slew of further offerings, but they will need to be workable on the 10″ screen. Maybe I need to get an iPad in my hands to see how well I can work on a small screen, but from first look, I’m skeptical.
      • the battery power is phenomenal. At 10 hours – even they overestimate by 20% – the iPad can work through a full day of use – nicely done, Apple!
      • the Apps have huge potential. I can easily see Adobe putting out a Photoshop for iPad. Being able to edit and manipulate photos on a touch screen would mean a Wacom Tablet at $200 is no longer needed. But again, the small screen size is getting in the way of real productivity

      The other potential deal-breakers for photographers and others – besides the lack of a USB – are:

      • the size of the hard drive. At only 64GB (the largest HD and most expensive iPad) is potentially 1/4 of what it needs to be. Heck, I have 12GB of music alone. And, I don’t want to just show photos – I want to upload the RAW images from my camera and at least start the file management process and perhaps some initial editing. Not impossible with only 64GB, but definitely limiting. You see, my laptop is my office – it has all the files I need to be productive anywhere. I don’t have time for the level of entertainment offered by the iPad – great if you are stuck on a commuter train for an hour everyday. But at only 64GB, I would be spending too much time swapping files rather than working on them. Let’s see, what files do I need today to be productive on the road…oops I forgot that file on my laptop…
      • the lack of multi-tasking. Why has Apple taken a step back from its leadership in multi-tasking. I am shocked by this, actually. I don’t want to close an app (like a photo, Keynote or Pages doc) just to search for another song or check my calendar or my emails

      The bottom line question for me is, can I get away from carrying around my laptop by using an iPad? Almost. The killers are:

      • screen size – it’s too small to be truly productive;
      • small hard drive – too small for RAW and manipulation;
      • lack of multi-tasking – who doesn’t multi-task these days!; and
      • lack of USB to upload photos.

      If I have some downtime after a shoot on the road, I want to go beyond just looking at my photos. And if I can’t be truly productive then I need to carry my laptop. If I need to carry my laptop then I don’t need an iPad. I would gladly pay $1000 for an iPad that had even a 14″ screen, 250GB hard drive and USB connectivity – something that would be more productive than entertaining. There’s my wish-list, Steve!

      iPhoto – How useful is it?

      I use Apple’s iPhoto everyday. I don’t know where I’d be without it. It’s the easiest visual library I have seen and used and, in typical Mac fashion, it is intuitive. Is it perfect? – no, not for all my photography, but it is FREE and fills the library/catalogue niche quite well. I have used Picasa and am teaching non-Mac users about it, but it is a far cry from the elegance and simplicity of iPhoto.

      For those you who are Windows users – iPhoto is part of Apple’s iLife suite of applications which come free with every Mac:

      • iPhoto for digital photography
      • iWeb for creating web sites
      • iMovie for digital video
      • Garage Band for digital music making

      iTunes and iDVD (for creating DVDs) are also free apps that come with every Mac, but they are not part of the iLife suite. Not to confuse you, but there is also iWork – Pages, Numbers and Keynote – which are for intuitive and elegant word processing/page layout, spreadsheets and presentations, similar to Office, but only $79 (USD)

      So, how do I use iPhoto and why is it not perfect for me? iPhoto is the ideal app for keeping track of digital photos. It may seem excessive, but I have different iPhoto Libraries based on where I’ve lived and visited – Canada, UK, Europe, Tanzania, South Africa, USA – plus some odds and ends Libraries for clip art and classroom photos. This is how I stay organized – it may not be your routine.

      20090811-05-ALM-TheMassasaugaPP

      From any iPhoto Library, I can:

      • create “Events” – sets of photos from a particular day/trip/occasion;
      • create Albums of images from different events;
      • find photos using keywords I have assigned. It doesn’t get much easier!
      • create slideshows synched to music;
      • easily and seamlessly email photos;
      • create photo pages in iWeb
      • create online galleries for my MobileMe account
      • post photos to Flickr or PicasaWeb
      • print photos to my printer;
      • create stunning slide shows, and
      • create very professional photo books.

      That’s all from within iPhoto. If I am sending files to WordPress or Panoramio it’s as easy as File > Export. If I want to send images to JAlbum, I just run iPhoto to JAlbum Exporter. I’m sure there is a Facebook export option, too, but I don’t use Facebook. When I want enlargements bigger than my printer can make, I simply export the photo(s) and upload them to FotoSource and pick them up at my local photo shop.

      Some background… like many of you, I lead a dual photo life of fine art and travel photography mixed with family photography.

      I do all my fine art & travel photography using a dSLR (Olympus E-30) and always, always, always shoot in RAW format (read why here). I process my RAW images through  Adobe Camera Raw 5.x. With ACR it’s like being back in the darkroom except I can process photos sitting in my Poang in the family room. I happen to use Photoshop CS4 and Bridge, but ACR and Bridge come with Photoshop Elements which is much more affordable. ACR also comes with Lightroom. (Aside: If I didn’t get Photoshop with my job, I would probably buy Lightroom or Apples’s Aperture, but still use iPhoto).

      My family shots are made with a point-and-shoot. These I upload directly to iPhoto where I make any tweaks and cropping that might be needed. I’ve decided to completely by-pass the software that came with the camera. To learn the ins and outs of yet another application is not time well spent. Besides, iPhoto will work with any camera attached, whether it is mine or a friend’s.

      So if I don’t process RAW photos using iPhoto – why bother with it? Simple – iPhoto is my digital library where my family shots and my fine art photographs are together in one place and easy to find. I convert the best of my RAW images to full resolution, high quality  jpegs which I upload to iPhoto. Now I can easily find them for all the uses listed above. RAW files are large and having everyone of the variations of each photograph takes up a huge amount of disk space. So I keep the processed RAW images stored on an external hard drives and on DVDs and, from time to time I go to them and re-process them as needed. But for the majority of my uses, having a high quality jpeg on my laptop is all I need. All my images are at my fingertips, easy to locate and easy to use – which is the whole point of going digital in the first place – it’s supposed to make life easier and iPhoto does just that. Thanks Apple!

      Are their limitations to iPhoto? Of course there are – you can’t expect everything for free! I find ACR better for raw images and iPhoto doesn’t keep track of where the original files are (i.e. on which DVD like some digital asset management (DAM) applications do). But all my images have unique and useful filenames (YYYYMMDD-##-TitleLocation), they are kept in folders with unique and useful nemas (YYYYMMDD-Location) and all my DVDs are labelled. But even with a DAM app, I would need to do all this. So, again, iPhoto fills the niche .

      iWeb Update

      I have been doing some researching on iWeb and how well iWeb pages can be seen by search engines. Basically they are invisible without some added work like adding a sitemap and adding your site to Google Webmaster Tools. This research has led to further work on my site turning images into text as much as possible. Specifically:

      • every time text is given a shadow, iWeb turns it into an image which makes the text invisible to search engines – turn off shadows;
      • to check which elements on your page are text or images, go to iWeb > Preferences and check the box for “Show text imaging indicator” – this is essential for doing a thorough job;
      • whenever an image is added inline to text, the whole thing is turned into an image. – remove images from inline;
      • lastly, when a text box is hyperlinked, it turns into an image – hyperlink the actual text by selecting it.

      More and more search engines are basing their rankings on actual page content rather than meta tags in the header. This means an app like iWeb SEO Tools is becoming less and less helpful. What really matters is what’s on the page. So, make sure you have a s much text as possible by turning off shadows except where they are really needed – especially for things like navigation bars and links since they often carry important keywords.

      Register your site with Google WEbmaster Tools and  a basic sitemap by following the instructions at iWebfaq.org.

      iWeb for creating great websites

      I have been working hard over the last month updating my website: luxBorealis.com. Have a look if you haven’t done so lately. Many people have asked how I created such an interactive website with lots of photos. They wonder how I could ever have time to do all that.

      It’s easy… I use iWeb. “What’s iWeb?” is the next question. And I tell them about this great app that comes free with every Apple Macintosh computer as part of their iLife suite. then sounding somewhat chagrined, they say “Oh, your a Mac user.” “Is there anything like that for Windows?” Not that I know of…

      Listen, iWeb isn’t perfect. It is easy to make webpages and do all kinds of cool things, but it’s not great on maintenance and it’s lousy for blogs (at least, I found it clunky although I know others who swear by it, but then they work directly through MobileMe; I don’t). “What’s all this MobileMe stuff?” you ask. Let me back up…

      The things I love about iWeb are:

      • I can make a very cool webpage in minutes – colours, boxes, fonts – it’s free-form design without the constrictions of typical web authoring software. It’s as easy as word processing – well Mac word processing which is so much more fun and creative than Office word processing. You see, Macs have fun and creativity built into every application they create. You can always tell a Windows/Office document from a Mac doc (whether it’s word processing, a presentation or a webpage). Mac creations are, well, creative, because Mac has made adding graphics and shadows and colours so easy. So it shows up in the work Mac people do.
      • I can add photos directly from iPhoto (another Mac app that comes free with every Mac – very powerful photo library software with very good editing capabilities – more on iPhoto another time because it’s not the be all and end all, but then again, it’s free!!). When I add photos, they are already formatted for viewing as thumbnails, or in a slideshow – all with the click of a mouse. Actually, come to think of it, I can drag and drop images from almost anywhere onto a photo page and have iWeb give them structure. It really is a great app for photo galleries!
      • I can add Google maps and Google Adsense links with only a few clicks.
      • I can easily create my own page design. iWeb comes with dozens of great templates, but I’m a bit of a maverick when it comes to design. I like to tweak things which I can do with iWeb. At times, the pages try to revert (e.g. whenever I create a new textbook it defaults to the template’s text) but a few copy and pastes or style copy and pastes and I’m back to where I want to be. iWeb is actually far more flexible than most people realize – just take a look at my pages. Sure there are constraints, but remember – it’s a free app!!
      • I have complete access to my font library – any size, colour or font I want. If I want shadows, I just click the checkbox for shadows then adjust them however I want. Fonts that don’t display properly on other computers are, for the most part, converted to graphics.
      • It’s free. I have I told you yet? It’s free with every Mac. Sure Macs cost more to begin with so yo would expect some freebies, but the again, when you buy a Mac you don’t usually need to upgrade anything else because it comes with enough ram and a large enough hard drive and a decent video card and all the connectivity your need including wireless right out of the box. You see, Macs are cutting edge – they lead the industry in most aspects.

      Things I don’t like about iWeb. Hey it’s not perfect, but it is free!

      • As I mentioned above, iWeb is slow for maintenance and updating web pages. Because of the file structure, every time I create a change, I need to up more files then necessary and that takes time. If I make one small graphical change on a number of pages on a site (like I’e been doing recently) I really need to upload the whole shebang to avoid missing content.
      • iWeb is the pits with search engine optimization (SEO). You cannot put in custom titles or metadata such as descriptions or keywords. I do this through Rage iWebSEO. It’s a great little app and it’s free. Why Apple doesn’t build this into iWeb is a mystery.
      • iWeb is too tied to the MobileMe service – at least iWeb ’08 is which is what I’m using. Apparently, iWeb ’09 has an FTP client that allows more web freedom. That being said, I’m a MobileMe subscriber and love the ease of use, but uploading can be a bit slow sometimes. Also, some services with iWeb such as counters and comments are also only available if you upload directly to MobileMe – which is something I don’t do because I want to optimize my pages using iWEbSEO. So, I need to publish to a folder first, the run iWebSEO, the upload. Not the smoothest, but definitely worth it in the end.
      • iWeb pages seem a bit bloated. They are big bits of code and it uses png file format for graphics (larger than jpgs), but I don’t have a workaround yet. Thank goodness most people are on broadband now.
      • iWeb pages do not always zoom well. I can’t do much about this, either.

      So I’m using iWeb and can’t really see an alternative in my future. I’ve tried Rapidweaver but it’s not wysiwyg enough for a visual guy like me. I’ve tried Shutterbug, but it seems too clunky for me. For years I made all my websites with Adobe GoLive. It has since been replaced with Dreamweaver which I really should learn but it seems overly complicated for what I want to to. I invested many, many hours into learning html and web authoring only to have that knowledge become obsolete. Rather than reinvesting that time, I’ve decided to use iWeb and get great-looking pages right out of the box.

      Is this an advert for Macs? Well, yes and no. I’m not paid to say this. But I believe the more people know about a product, the better they can come to their own conclusions. This is what works for me; if it doesn’t work for you, well, that’s okay too.