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Quick News Update: Photos for Mac Updated in 10.10.4

Quick News Update: Photos for Mac Updated in 10.10.4

Apple rolled out an update for Yosemite yesterday, and part of that update featured a minor update to Photos for Mac. This was primarily a bug fix release, but one of the improvements listed is more reliable syncing. I’ve talked about in the past briefly about the issues that I’ve been having with syncing on Photos, namely that it stops intermittently and you have to re-start the application or the iOS photos app.

Opinion: Sony Knocks it Out of the Park with the A7RII

Opinion: Sony Knocks it Out of the Park with the A7RII

I'm a big fan of Sony Products, and anyone who follows this blog knows that I've a soft spot for their cameras. I currently have an A6000 and I've previously shot with a Nex 7. I've also been eagerly following the developments of the A7 line with great interest. I've said it before, but Sony are one of the few companies really innovating in the imaging space. Not only are their sensors used by pretty much every other major company now, but they're constantly pushing the envelope in the camera market. From the RX1 which brought a superb full frame sensor to the compact camera form factor, to the A7 Line which made full frame really affordable and small. The A7 line certainly isn't perfect, but with the recently announced A7 R Mark II Sony are getting pretty close to it.

Photos for Mac to Get Extensions in El Capitan (OS X 10.11)

Photos for Mac to Get Extensions in El Capitan (OS X 10.11)

As I’m sure any iPhone, iPad or Mac owner out there knows, Apple held its annual WWDC conference yesterday. Among the many things it showed off was the next version of OS X, called El Capitan, which will focus on performance and user interface improvements. While some highlights were revealed at the show, the presentation didn’t show all the features, and one of those that didn’t make the keynote was an update to Photos for the Mac.

Some Updates

Some Updates

Spring is normally a quiet time for me with design work, but this year, I've been swamped, so my photography blog has taken a bit of a back seat. I want to do both, but unfortunately I just haven't been keeping up. I'm in the process of re-designing my long idle design portfolio and website too, so when I keep mentioning the design work I'm doing, I'll finally be able to refer you to what I'm talking about. I'm actually working on some interesting projects, but I can't talk about them now. 

Anyway, I haven't been totally abandoning the photography side of things. I've been doing some bits and pieces that you may find of interest. 

Photoshop Turns 25

Photoshop Turns 25

Yesterday on February 19th, Adobe Photoshop celebrated its 25th birthday. It’s hard to believe that 25 years ago the first version of the venerable photo manipulation software was launched. 

While it probably doesn't get the attention that other important innovations of the late 20th century get, such as the personal computer, Photoshop is still one of the most influential inventions of the time. When you think about how much of the visual world we live in today has been influenced by computer graphics in one way or another, from advertising to movies, and much of that can be traced back to Photoshop. 

Apple's Retina iMac and Photography

Apple's Retina iMac and Photography

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece about what the then rumoured 5K iMac would mean that for photographers, and how you would now be pixel peeping on such a display even just looking at images. It was sort of a tongue in cheek piece, but now that the Retina iMac is real, I thought it would be important to have another look at the implications of a 5k display for photographers. If you're considering one of these new iMacs (I know I am !) then there are a few things you may want to ponder first!

Introducing Texture Box One

400 Grunge Textures for Photoshop

I'm very excited to announce a new product this morning. I've been planning and working on this for a long time, and so I'm delighted that it's finally ready for release. It's called "Texture Box One" and, to put it simply it's a huge pack of textures for dirtying up and ageing your images in Photoshop.

For the longest time I've been fascinated by textures. As a long time designer (in my other career) I have always used textures as design elements, as a way of makings something look more natural, and adding a layer of life to an image. Over the years I've collected numerous textures and used them extensively in design and animation as well as various photographic projects. But using the textures that I've found online and in stock libraries didn't cut it so I started creating my own library. I shot hundreds of images of grungy materials, such as concrete and stone, dirt and metal, and then I used my own process in photoshop to extract the necessary patterns into specific texture maps that can be easily added to a composition as layers in Photoshop, or any image editing software.

The Pack contains nearly 800mb of files consisting of 400 high resolution grunge textures designed to add dirt, grit scratches and dust to add to an image to create a distressed or artistically aged look. These textures can be used in Photoshop as a way to treat a photograph, or as part of a design project, to weather and age a design.

The textures have been hand crafted from photographs of textures (which are also included) and are in four main sets

Dirt Maps

The dirt maps contain black dirt marks on a white background. These are extracted from various photographic images and represent a variety of organic and natural patterns of dirt and grit for use as textures.

Scratch Maps

The scratch maps aren't really scratches, but are called that after the effect of dirt damaging a negative.

Dust Maps

Dust maps contain fine "dust like" patterns of noise and grit to add additional layers of texture to your images.

Photographic Textures

This set contains 100 of the original colour photographic textures that were used to create the dirt, scratch and dust maps.

Examples of the Textures in Use

Here are some examples of using the textures in photographic projects. Each of the images has been composited with multiple layers of textures from the pack.

If you're wondering what these images looked like before, here are the originals:

Texture Box One is available now on the Download store. The normal price will be €60 but for the next week there's a special Launch price of just €50. For more details, and to download a sample pack with a selection of full resolution images from Texture Box One, see the full product page on the store.

iOS8 for Photographers

A first look at some of the new camera and photos features in iOS 8

With iOS 8 hitting the upgrade servers today, I thought that I would take a moment to give a quick overview of some of the new photography related features in this new version Apple's mobile operating system. I've been using the beta version of iOS8 for a few months now, and in that time I've grown used to the new settings and controls, and there are even one or two things that have become invaluable. What's new in iOS 8 can be broken down into three main areas. The Camera, The Photos App, and behind the scenes.

The Camera

There are a few big improvements to the main camera app in iOS 8 that bear mentioning. The first is exposure compensation. Finally you can adjust the exposure of the shot if the scene is too bright or dark, without having to resort to some sort of auto exposure locking jujitsu to get the exposure right.

 

To use the controls you simply tap on the focus square and a little sun icon will appear. Now you drag up or down to increase or decrease the exposure. It's a little tricky at first, but you get used to it. This little addition actually makes a huge difference in your iPhone photography. It makes it so much easier to get correctly exposed shots.

Behind the scenes, the camera API apparently has opened up manual control of the camera settings to third party apps, including exposure and white balance, so hopefully before long we'll start to see some innovative third party apps taking full advantage of this.

The other big addition to the camera in iOS 8 is a timelapse function. In typical Apple fashion it's quite minimalist in its implementation. You don't really have any control over the interval, at least that I was able to find. To use the feature you simply slide the camera controls to the right till you reveal the timelapse option, and then press the record button to start. When you're finished it will process the results into a video file. It's pretty straight forward. Here's an example of a timelapse that I made out the window of my hotel in Brussels during the summer.

The Photos App

The Photos app on iOS sees the bigger round of improvements. There are all new controls for processing your image, including some clever semi-automatic options called "Smart Adjustments".

When you choose to edit an image, the surrounding screen switches from white to black and you get the editing controls. At the top of the screen is a magic wand that applies automatic corrections. At the bottom of the screen, from left to right, the controls are: cancel, crop, filters, editing controls, and done. Cancel and Done are pretty obvious.

The crop tool gives you controls for cropping and straightening your image as well as rotating. Clicking on the button on the bottom left gives you a list of common aspect ratios. Unfortunately, there's no option for a custom aspect ratio.

The filters tab gives you a set of Instagram style filters. I've been using the beta for so long now, I can't remember what the previous ones were, so I'm not going to concentrate on this section too much.

The third button gives you access to the new adjustment controls. There are three main groups of controls: Light, Colour and B&W (Black and White). Called "Smart Adjustments", tapping on one of these controls gives you the intelligent, semiautomatic slider for that option. For example, tapping "Light" will give you a light slider. Drag it one way to increase exposure and the other to decrease. It's not just adjusting exposure however, it's also adjusting highlights, shadows, brightness contrast and black point, all in a clever way, that leaves you with just one control to deal with. If you want to, you can tap on the arrow beside a smart adjustment, for example "Light", to give you the full set of options which you can tweak manually. The same applies to colour and black and white. When you are using a particular control you can swipe up and down on the slider to move to the next or previous slider without having to go back out to the main controls and back in again.

Once you've finished processing your image, you can click done to save your edits. Edits are non-destructive, and you can go back in at any time and continue editing. You can also see your original, unedited image at any time by tapping on the image itself, and you can go back to the unedited image by tapping on the revert control that appears when you go to re-edit an image that you've made adjustments to.

Overall, the new editing functions are a welcome addition, and Apple appears to have integrated most of what was in the original iPhoto for iOS app. To be honest, I don't edit my photos that much on my iPhone anyway, and when I do I'm usually using my favourite app, VSCO Cam, but there have been times when the new controls have come in handy, and I've edited in the photos app rather than going to a third party option.

Behind the scenes

There are a couple of more important additions to the Photos app, and the underlying architecture that won't really become apparent until third party apps are shipping with iOS 8 support. The new APIs in iOS 8 allow for a few important changes to the way third party apps integrate with your camera roll.

The first is extensions, which was discussed during the WWDC keynote. Extensions will give you two new options in iOS 8. The first will allow you to send an image directly to a third party app, and the second will allow a third party app to insert controls and functionality into the photos app. During the beta period there were no apps available with this functionality, so I could test this out. I'll revisit this once there are third party apps out there supporting extensions

Another behind the scenes change, which got less fanfare, but is still a pretty big deal is the fact that third party apps can now access the camera roll directly, with your permission. In the past apps would have to import images from the camera roll and then export them back. In iOS 8 they can now write directly to the camera roll, so hopefully that means we wont end up with lots of little separate libraries in each of the different apps that we use.

iCloud Photos

The other headline feature of iOS 8 when it comes to photos is the iCloud features. With iOS 8 Apple gives you the option to store all your photos in the cloud, and access them across all your devices. Currently, as I'm writing this, this feature is in beta, and I only have iOS 8 on one device, so I haven't been able to test it. There doesn't seem to be any way to access the iCloud photo library via the mac yet, even in Yosemite. This may change closer to the release of Yosemite, but for now I haven't been able to test this properly.

Apple does give you the option to still use photo stream in conjunction with the new iCloud option, allowing you to still sync to Aperture and iPhoto for the time being. To enable this you need to go to Settings -> iCloud -> Photos and turn on "My Photo Stream"

 
 

Conclusion

There's some nice new features for Photographers in iOS 8 but the best is probably still yet to come. The real benefit of the changes Apple has made to the underlying architecture won't become fully apparent until third party apps start taking advantage, and when they do, I suspect that iOS 8 will see quite a renaissance when it comes to smartphone photography apps.


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I am a fine art Photographer and do not shoot commercial projects. I do my best to keep this site regularly updated with lots of tips, reviews, news and photography advice, all for free. If you like what you read here and want more, then sign up for our newsletter to get regular site updates and occasional special offers. You can also follow my photographic exploits on Facebook and Twitter

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Nikon Releases the D750, Some thoughts

Nikon's Latest Full Frame DSLR adds Wifi and Tiltable Screen

After many rumours predicting its existence, Nikon has officially released the D750. The camera, as expected sits between the D610 and the D810 in Nikon's lineup, but is aimed more towards the higher end than the lower end. As DpReview points out, this is Nikon's third full frame camera release this year. The camera features many of the features of the D810, but in a smaller (d610 sized) and Lighter body. It retains the D810's autofocus and video options but adds built in wifi and a tilt-able screen.

When I first heard the rumours about the D750 I was excited as it seemed like it could finally be a possible replacement for my much loved D700. So now that it's been released do I think it can fill the legendary D700's preverbal shoes? I think for the most part, yes. In typical fashion though, there seems to be a few odd omissions, that may or may not put you off. These are all small things, but for some people they could be an issue. There's lots to like though.

First of all, it adds the option to set the centre button of the control dial to zoom to 1:1 on playback, which for me is a huge timesaver that I've grown so used to. I'm still at a loss as to why Nikon uses such an arbitrary function to differentiate its "pro" cameras from its "consumer" models. The D610 for example doesn't have this, yet clearly it's just a software function.

One odd omission on the D750 seems to be the lack of an AF-ON button, which was present on the D700, and is also on the D810. For me this isn't a deal breaker, but for photographers who use the rear button focusing method, this could be a big issue. The AF-L button can be re-assigned for focus on, but it's odd that they choose to leave this feature off what they're calling a "pro" body. I thought that maybe it was a space issue, but then it's on the much smaller Nikon Df. Personally, I don't think I've ever pressed that button once on my D700.

The camera get's the D810's video specifications, which are all good on paper, but until it gets into the hands of experienced film makers, it will be hard to tell how good it is. It all comes down to the level of aliasing and moire that are inherent on the new (maybe) sensor. As usual though, Nikon's video options, while improved over previous generations, are still crippled by a low bit rate. At least you can record uncompressed 4:2:2 out of the HDMI, but many people would prefer a higher quality in-camera codec and bit rate. Compared to Sony's recently released A7S for video, well, there's just no comparison. Bet then the is more than just a video camera.

Body wise, I'm not a huge fan of the D7000 style control layout that the D600 series and now the D750 is using. According to DPReview the body is made of a magnesium alloy and is much stronger feeling and lighter than the D610 so that's a good step. To me, the D700's control layout was the pinnacle of ergonomic design, and it's a real shame that Nikon has moved away from that. Even the high end D810 doesn't have as nice a control layout as the D700/D300. Of course, I'm splitting hairs here and at the end of the day, you'll get used to a new control layout quickly enough.

The flip up screen is a real boon, especially if you are using the camera for video, and even if you just want to take low down shots without having to contort yourself into odd angles to see the viewfinder. The wifi is another nice feature to have, especially if you want to post an image to a social network or sharing site while you're on the road, or even send a quick proof to a client when all you have is your iPhone (or Android, although apparently if you're a windows phone user you're out of Luck.) The Dual SD card slots is another handy feature to have.

So would I upgrade? I'm tempted, I have to say. While I love mirrorless, I do like the look that full frame gives you. (And yes, there is a difference despite what some would try to have you believe). I also love a good optical view finder. I'm torn however, between sticking with a DSLR as my main camera or going all in and switching to the Sony A7 series. I was closer to a decision until my Nex-7 died recently, which makes me question Sony's longevity.

Overall the D750 is a good solid release, but part of me can't help but feel that Nikon has been playing lego with its camera parts lately. It's like it lays all its components out on a table and then picks ones from each line to make a new model. I know that's cynical comment to make, and certainly, they aren't the only ones that can be accused of that. At least they're coming out with new models unlike some other manufacturers. At the end of the day, as with all cameras, you can't judge it by just the specs. You need to get a feel for it, see it and use it in real life. The D750 certainly has the specs, so the rest will have to wait until the camera is out in the real world.


Help Support This Site

I am a fine art Photographer and do not shoot commercial projects. I do my best to keep this site regularly updated with lots of tips, reviews, news and photography advice, all for free. If you like what you read here and want more, then sign up for our newsletter to get regular site updates and occasional special offers. You can also follow my photographic exploits on Facebook and Twitter

If you're a Lightroom user check out my original Lightroom Presets


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