Photoshop CS6 Content Aware Tools

Every Photoshop release seems to come out with a new feature that makes you jump up and shout, “Wowly heck!” It’s looking like CS6 won’t be the exception.

The content-aware tools have taken their vitamins and grown stronger than ever. Moving objects around in your photos has never been easier. Check out this video for proof:

There’s a few other sneak preview videos available on Photoshop’s Youtube channel. The improved Camera RAW features actually have me a bit more excited than the content-aware magic, but locally adjusting noise in RAW is a little less dramatic than casually moving parts of your scene around in an image.

Nikon D800 Announced

The D800. You want this. And if you don’t, I’ll have yours because I certainly do want it.

Rumours of this 36-megapixel beast has been floating around for a couple years and Nikon has finally officially announced the new camera which comes in a couple of flavours: The D800 and the D800E. The latter is a slightly sharper version of the former. The D800E doesn’t come with the same low-pass filter as the D800 thus making its images sharper (but leaving photographers with the potential for moiré patters in their images).

It’s more than just megapixels though. I’ll leave it to the experts at to give you the rundown of all the features in their preview, but suffice it to say, if this camera is as good in real life as it is on paper, photographers can expect some exceptional image quality to start filling their hard drives soon.

The D800 microsite has a few examples of shots from the camera if you can’t wait to see what some people have been doing with it.

One could expect this features set to be wholly unaffordable for enthusiasts, but not so. In the US, it carries a $3,000 price tag which is pretty great considering what you’re getting. It’s a good thing because I’ll probably need a new computer to manage the massive file sizes we can expect from this camera.

Adding Rendered Objects into Photos

Another fascinating tech demo today shows some new tech used to add rendered 3d models into existing photos:

Rendering Synthetic Objects into Legacy Photographs from Kevin Karsch on Vimeo.

Very cool. If product manufacturers have CAD designs of their products, get them rendered and drop them into whatever background you like. Instant photo shoot!

Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera

Well here’s a clever little idea. It’s a ball with 36 cameras mounted inside it that take a photo when tossed into the air. The result can be stitched into a 360 degree panorama with a unique viewpoint.

It seems like a pretty fun way to capture a moment. I just hope their stitching software improves a little bit and some of those stitching seams go away.

I wonder how sturdy the thing is? I’d love to have a game of basketball with it – you’d get some great photos!

Photoshop Deblurring Sneak Preview

Check out this video on a plugin for Photoshop that removes blur from photos – a potential feature in future versions of Photoshop just might make you gasp in awe as it did for this audience at Adobe Max 2011:

It looks like photographers may soon be able to rescue images from previously unusable states of blurriness. I don’t expect this to be a substitute for good shooting technique, but everybody makes mistakes. If this software can help fix those mistakes, as Rainn Wilson says, people will love this. If nothing else, it should raise the quality of drunken iphone photos on facebook.

Cross your fingers for this to be included in CS6.

How an LCD Screen Works

Time for some hardcore nerd action now. Engineer Bill Hammack shows you just what you’ve always wanted to know: how on earth a Liquid Crystal Display works. Well, it’s probably not what you’ve always wanted to know, but it’s interesting stuff for us nerds who like to know how stuff works.

Besides, don’t you want to know what makes that glowing rectangle you’re staring at for 90% of your day tick?

I’m not sure if there’s anything sadder than sitting at home on a Saturday night and learning about the functionality of LCD displays or not. If there is, it’s probably sitting at home on a Saturday night and blogging about the functionality of LCD displays. But hey, here we are!

CS5 Officially Unveiled

Adobe has put up a page detailing the new features available in Photoshop CS5 here. Highlights for photographers include content-aware fill, the new warping tools, refined selection tools and improved HDR use.

Get details about all the Creative Suite packages and their components from here.

An official release is expected within a month. In the meantime, there are already a number of videos available at the Photoshop CS5 Learning Centre.

PhotoShop CS5 Comes with Magic

Editing your images looks like it might just get a lot easier with PhotoShop CS5.

Adobe will be revealing details about the upcoming Creative Suite programs on April 12, but if you can’t wait until then to start your salivating, check out this video that features the new Content Aware Fill tool.

If it works as advertised, I can’t even tell you how useful this will be. Seriously, it’s magic!

No release date has been set for the final product, but perhaps we’ll be able to get a better idea of when to expect a launch at their April 12th event.

New Nikon Gear

It’s early days, but that leaked Nikon roadmap has been fairly accurate so far. Hoax or not, they managed to predict the D300s and the D3000 which were both officially announced today. Check for the info on the D300s and the D3000. I’m not exactly in the rumour game, so I can’t say if this was well-known information or not, but the accuracy of it does strike me as interesting.

Where the roadmap missed the mark was with the lenses that would be announced today. The ever-so-tasty AF-S 70-200mm F/2.8G ED VR II telezoom and the AF-S DX 18-200mm VR II superzoom got time in the spotlight too. The 70-200mm is immediately on my wish list. Too bad I don’t have any wealthy benefactors willing to flip the £1999 bill for that one.

The D300s, of course, continues the photo/video convergence trend with it’s HD movie capabilities, stereo audio input jack and ability to auto-focus while recording. When it comes time to upgrade my camera, my next one will likely have video and I will probably tinker with it. I doubt, however, that it will become my number one source of entertainment or income, so here’s hoping that Nikon and the other manufacturers keep pushing out great cameras for those of us that are satisfied with stopping a brief moment in time. Based on what that (accurate-to-date) roadmap says, there’s not much to fear on that front.

Dark Flash Photography

New Scientist has this article that discusses a new invention by computer-science student Dilip Krishnan and assistant professor Rob Fergus. Their invention is something they call dark flash photography.

Dark flash photography involves a flash that will produce a burst of light outside the visible spectrum and a camera that will be able to both read that information then be able to accurately interpret the visible colour in a scene. The result will be the ability to use a camera flash that will be invisible to the human eye. This invisible flash won’t dazzle, disturb or be intrusive to photographic subject.

The flash in their system has been modified to produce light in a wider spectrum than a normal flash. It emits both infrared and UV light, but at the same time, visible light is filtered out. Normal cameras have filters that prevent infrared and UV light from hitting the sensor, but the pair have modified a camera to be able to pick up both of these forms of light. The resultant image will have strange, unnatural colour, but Krishnan and Fergus have a way around this problem.

Their modified camera will take two exposures in quick succession to get one shot. The first exposure will record the luminosity generated by the invisible IR/UV flash. The second exposure will be used to record colour information using only ambient light. This second image, taken immediately after the first, will lack the detail of the first and will inevitably be unusably dark. But between the two images, all the necessary information. The first has the luminosity information, the second has the colour information.

Using software, the two exposures are combined and the result is a normal-looking photograph produced using the invisible flash.

The New Scientist story says there are still some bugs left eliminate. Certain objects and materials (freckles, for example) absorb the IR/UV light burst. Based on this article at on taking infrared photos of basketball players, I suspect there may also be some issues with certain materials reflecting IR/UV light more than they should as well.

I would guess, also, that there would be limitations to what you can photograph based simply on the fact that you are taking two exposures. Fast-moving subjects will be problematic because they will have changed position from one exposure to the next.

There is, however, a variety of applications for this invention. What immediately jumped to my mind was to be able to take flash-lit photos in venues where it is not permitted (usually because it is distracting to other visitors). Perhaps wedding photographers will soon have the option to flash light a ceremony and not disturb the bride and groom with flash pops during their big moment.

Photo of the Day – La Perdrera

I’m currently going through images from my trip to Barcelona last year and just processed this one from La Pedrera, one of Antoni Gaudi’s brilliant Art Nouveau apartment buildings. Also known as Casa Mila, this UNESCO world heritage site is full of Gaudi’s signature organic shapes and whimsical design.

This photo shows the view up to the sky from one of the many oddly-shaped courtyards below. It’s composed of five shots combined to make an HDR image. As tripods aren’t allowed inside La Pedrera, I had to shoot handheld which is never ideal for combining images in this way. But, thanks to Photoshop CS4’s improved ability to align layers, it all worked out.

I rarely get the results I want from Photoshop’s automatic HDR tool. Instead, I tend to throw all the different exposures into separate layers and go to town with masking. It gives better control over the final image and I can generally prevent the nasty halo effects that come with some automated HDR procedures.

Click the image for a larger version on flickr:

La Pedrera

Picture of the Day – Mini Hippo

I’ve had itchy feet lately and, a couple nights ago, while contemplating the fact that I couldn’t responsibly head to the airport and get on a plane to, say, Tanzania to shoot some wildlife, I decided to go with the only option I had in the house: a toy hippo. Sure, it’s not as exciting as watching a real hippo, not by any stretch, but when you have no real hippos available to you in the evening, few other options remain.

One little tub of water and a few speedlights later and you get this, a portrait of a miniature hippo. Click for a larger version:

Miniature Hippo

A little bit of fun, and really, I wouldn’t be have been able to fit a full-size hippopotamus into the kitchen.

Lighting info: One speedlight on the background with a blue gel. One just left of camera with blue gel. One camera right with a grid to light the hippo.




My Flickr Is Alive (Again)

I’ve decided to give Flickr another try. It was about two years ago that I was at my most active there and while it was a bit of fun, I got a little bit bored of it.

This time, however, I am treating it as a bit of an experiment. With the community’s ever growing visibility, more and more success stories, (just see last month’s American Photo story about flickr superstars if you don’t believe me), it makes sense to see what kind of opportunities an active participation can yield.

I certainly don’t expect any over night fame, or really, any fame at all for that matter. I’m mostly just curious about whether regular flickr usage can do a few simple, positive things like drive traffic to my site or result in a stock sale or two. Perhaps a commission here and there? Who knows. I personally know people who have done just those things.

Besides, if nothing else, I’m bound to e-meet (and real-life meet) a few people and make some contacts or even friends. So, without further ado, my first new addition to my Flickr stream is right here:

Sunset Over Edinburgh

And please visit my photostream.

Lastly, is you are interested in licensing this image or purchasing a print, contact me here.




Quicklinks for Thursday, January 22, 2009

A plethora of photography links for you on this fine day:

  • has a 40 minute retouching tutorial that takes you from start to finish on the retouching of a fashion shot.
  • If you didn’t learn enough from that, Photoshop Support has a few more videos for you to check out on skin retouching.
  • For those of you now using Photoshop CS4, Yuri Arcurs has some tips on how to optimize your settings to get the best performance out of the software. However, some of these tips may end up being unnecessary in the near future as is reporting that Adobe is planning an update to CS4 soon.
  • Five FWD have a fun video in which they compare film and digital prints, big ones. 17 meter ones to be precise. They take a look at how a a 12 megapixel Nikon D700 stacks up against the same shot using 35mm film using massive enlargements. I have to get myself one of those printers (and gallons of ink) and then I can decorate my apartment building with my shots!
  • Simon Hoegsberg has printed the world’s longest photograph.

A few from Digital Photography School:

  • This article gives advice on what you might need to do to start freelancing for your local newspaper.
  • Fashion photographer Adriana Curcio gives seven important tips for aspiring photogs.
  • Lastly, more tips. This time it’s Chase Jarvis dishing out some tips. The most interesting part of it for me is his commentary on the creative gap, an idea I’m going to have to mull over a bit. I had never heard this expression of it before and I like the idea. It’s something that I (and probably most people) already do, but it’s nice to have it spelled out so that you can consciously make the effort to bridge that creative gap.

RED Digital Stills and Motion Camera

RED, makers of the digital video camera RED ONE, have announced their new camera system: the RED DSMC (digital stills and motion camera).

As the title of the system suggests, we’re not just looking at another video camera here, the specs on the higher end sensors promise to rival those of current DSLRs. As with the Nikon D90 and the Canon 5D Mark II, digital stills and digital video are converging, but this particular thrust comes from the video side.

The infinitely-configurable system from RED is so different, it’s almost confusing. The RED Scarlet and RED Epic sensors (with funny names like Mysterium Monstro) can be combined and interchanged with different lens mounts (including Canon and Nikon mounts), batteries, recording modules, lenses (of course) and so on. The idea is that the camera can be configured and tailored to your needs in a myriad of ways. Further, as technology advances and new components become available, they will integrate into this system and you won’t have to upgrade the entire camera.

All of this, of course, comes at a price. A lot of it is pretty costly stuff, but perhaps the less expensive options will allow budding filmmakers to buy into the system and upgrade into the more high-end options as their needs may advance. The lighter weight versions, however,  do seem fairly affordable  for the ability to get good quality HD video.

On the photography side of things, I’m not sure the specs / cost will win over too many DSLR shooters. The higher-megapixel options are a lot more pricey than their DSLR counterparts. What we have here is the reverse of a camera like the 5D Mark II. RED’s system will allow filmmakers to branch out into still photography where the Mark II will give photographers the option to try their hand at making some moving pictures.

Though it will likely be a long while (if ever!) before I get to play with one of these (especially since it doesn’t an official release date yet) it’s still fun to watch the technology blossom and to imagine where things may go next.

Photoshop CS4 Preview Roundup

If you’re a nerd like me, new Photoshop releases always make for a fun trip around the web to check out the previews that detail new features and gadgets in the software.

Baltics Photos Trickling In

Between addressing mysteriously non-functional contact forms on this site and pulling my hair out because of a massive amount of corrupt image files, I’ve managed to upload a group of galleries of photos from Vilnius Lithuania. There is plenty more where that came from and sometime tomorrow (depending on where in the world you are), there should be a complete set of my photos from that beautiful city.

For those of you who are curious, those corrupt files of mine are, in fact, my Baltics photos. All the RAW files that I had sorted seem now to have corrupt headers and Photoshop won’t open them at all. All these RAW files are saved elsewhere, but they are unsorted and unprocessed, so this glitch is more than a little bit irritating. What’s strange about it though: All the files still open in Lightroom. I guess I’ll be learning that app pretty quickly! So, the data is all there – it’s just some messed up header or something that’s preventing the files from opening.

The files seem to have gotten corrupted when I (and apparently, this was a foolish mistake) renamed my folder from “Baltics” to “Baltics sorted.” After that, every RAW file in there got sick.

I don’t know if this is related to the problems people are experiencing with OS 10.5.3 and Photoshop CS3, but it seems like it might be the case (even though I wasn’t saving remotely). Either way, for all you users out there who have this combination of OS and software: back up now! Now!

To top it all off, since the forms on my site aren’t working, (cross your fingers for a good reply from my host!), even if someone goes to my contact page and mails me a miracle fix, I won’t get the message! Best to leave it in the comments. Any happy thoughts are welcome too.

Update: Why didn’t anyone tell me to update my Camera RAW plugin? That fixed it all up. No corrupt files, just a messed up plugin. Too bad I panicked when I saw my files wouldn’t open and immediately assumed they were corrupted. Rookie mistake.

Oh well. All’s well that end’s well!

Don’t Let Schmap Flatter You

I was recently contacted by travel e-guide publisher Schmap because they wanted to use one of my photos on my flickr stream for their guide to the city of Calgary. I quickly declined their offer of no pay whatsoever, especially after reading that they were asking for a world-wide, royalty-free perpetual license. That’s mighty generous of you, but no.

It’s always flattering to have someone appreciate my work enough to use it for a publication, but it’s hardly fair for this commercial publication to be making money from my photos.

A quick google search of Schmap later and result number six lead me to this piece from EPUK that nicely sums up my feelings on the issue.

If the first Dotcom bubble was all about selling imaginary businesses to stupid venture capitalists, Dotcom 2.0 seems mostly to comprise ingenious new methods of grabbing free photos from gullible amateurs on the wide-eyed web and re-purposing them to make a corporate mint.

The comments of the article are also worth reading as they contain a rebuttal from the editor of Shmap. In a series of points, he argues that the inclusion of a given photographer’s photo in a Shmap guide is a marketing opportunity. I’m not sure how telling people that I give away my work is a means of monetizing my images, but there you go…

And by the way, I have not linked to the Shmap web site not only because I disagree with their practices, but also because, when I visited their page to see if any of their guides might be useful, Shmap crashed my browser!

Flickr Photos Used by Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile seems to have just made a potentially big ‘oopsie.’

In a current outdoor advertising campaign, the giant media corporation grabbed a photo off flickr (from user chewywong) and slapped it onto a billboard. That’s not where the issue lies. The photo was licensed under the creative commons and all that was required for use of the photo was the printing of a link back to the source material and Virgin complied with this license.

The problem lies in that the image featured an unreleased minor. Using this photo without a model release opens up Virgin to a potential claim by the model. Currently, the model and her family are investigating their legal options in a claim against Virgin. They’re not pleased about the use and probably won’t have a big problem finding a lawyer to pick up the case for them.

The usage was originally discovered by a flickr user (sesh00) who hoped to inform a fellow user about the use of the photo. He saw the billboard in Australia and took a photo which he posted here (see that link for much of the commentary from the model and her family). He has also posted this thread that discusses the situation.

Instead of paying a photographer and model to produce a shoot, Virgin looks like it may be paying even more both in terms of cash and in public opinion.

Adobe Camera RAW 4.1 Released

Adobe has released version 4.1 of the Camera RAW plugin for Photoshop CS3. Mac users can download the plugin here and Windows users get it here.

This release adds support for a number of cameras, but it also has some helpful new features. has a handy article detailing what’s new in Camera RAW 4.1.

EPUK on Flickr, Censorship and Stolen Photos

Editorial Photographers UK have written their take on the flickr fiasco that I have covered here, here and here. Their story not only talks about Rebekka Guðleifsdóttira’s stolen photos and flickr’s initial mistaken censorship of her problem, but also details the situation of the catalysts of this incident, the Only Dreemin poster company:

Essentially their defence is: ‘We’re not crooks, just really, really dumb.’ Briefly, their story is that a company called Wild Aspects and Panoramas Ltd offered them the images; they made some basic research on the deal, signed, and went ahead with their business. When contacted by Rebekka’s lawyers they immediately destroyed the images, and on legal advice avoided any further contact with Rebekka.

But, as EPUK points out, a good portion of their collection of posters are made up of Lichtenstein works and film stills for which they likely did not have permission to reprint. Perhaps the lawyers of the holders of those copyrights are a little bit more high-powered than the one Rebekka was able to hire and Only Dreemin may soon be quickly cooking in the hot water they boiled for themselves.

Flickr Apologizes for Censorship

One of the co-founders of flickr has apologized for the censorship situation that occurred yesterday.

Admitting that it was a mistake to delete the photo posted by Rebekka Guðleifsdóttira, co-founder Stewart Butterfield said that he and his staff were sorry for the error. Rebekka originally posted a photo detailing which of her works she claims had been illegally used by a London-based poster company.

Butterfield explained the rationale behind the deletion:

It’s important to be clear why the photo was deleted: it had nothing to do with a desire to silence Rebekka from calling attention to the outfit which had reportedly sold copies of her photos without knowledge or permission and without compensating her (in fact, even before her photo was deleted, we were investigating ways in which we could help Rebekka in this situation and prevent it from happening to others).


The photo was deleted — again, mistakenly — because of the direction the comments had gone, which included posting the personal information of the infringing company’s owner and suggestions for how best to exact revenge. It is an emotional issue and most people were there to support Rebekka in a positive way, but some of the angry mob behavior crossed the line.

Butterfield also mentioned that “several policies which will be changing as a direct result of this incident and the goal is that nothing like this ever happens again.”

The backlash against flickr has been substantial – Butterfield’s apology should go a good way towards smoothing over relations with an angry community. Now I just hope that the original problem that lead to this issue can be resolved. The copyright infringement of Rebekka’s work is still up in the air. Hopefully the support that has been given to her already will now be bolstered by flickr and a resolution can be worked out sooner than later.

Flickr Censorship? Stolen Photos Followup

Yesterday, I wrote about Rebekka Guðleifsdóttira and her claim that a poster company had stolen her photos. The case has taken an interesting and, in my view, unfortunate turn.

The flickr post where Rebekka had originally made her case and posted images of the stolen photos has been removed by flickr (owned by Yahoo) for the following reason:

Flickr is not a venue for to you harass, abuse, impersonate, or intimidate others. If we receive a valid complaint about your conduct, we will send you a warning or terminate your account.

Rebekka, on her blog, tells her side of the censorship story:

i don’t believe i was harrassing anyone. I was doing the only thing left for me to do when i had tried to seek legal assistance, after being victim to having my copyrighted work stolen and resold for profit by a dishonest company. I was told by my lawyer that i should just accept the fact and move on. Im not a big fan of giving up. I simply told the truth.

the fact that people sent harrassing letters to only-dreemin was a direct result of my post, but I myself wasnt harassing anyone. I was simply making it public that someone did wrong by me, and i think that’s a pretty far cry from harrassing some innocent party directly.

Seems unfair that flickr has decided on this course of action. That poster company must have a good lawyer on its side…

Thomas Hawk has lengthy editorial post about this subject for those irritated with flickr/yahoo’s decision.

Stolen Photographs

A couple of sites have taken up the case of photographer and flickr user Rebekka Guðleifsdóttira who claims to have had photos stolen from her by a London-based print selling company called Only Dreemin.

Read more about Rebekka’s plight here and here. Hopefully Rebekka can come out on top in the legal battle that is bound to ensue from this and that she gets what’s due to her for her photographs.