Adobe CC Price Increases

Did Adobe just increase the price for their Lightroom Classic and Photoshop package from $9.99 to $19.99? Are they testing it? Just what is going on?

Well, the answer to that is that no one seems to know. At least at this point.

DPReview says that Adobe is testing to replace the $10/month Photography plan with a 1TB $20/month option. While PetaPixal flatly claims that the $10 plan is no longer available. In the world of Fstoppers, the whole thing apparently didn’t happen as there was nothing mentioned about it. On the other hand I reached out to Adobe’s customer support via chat and they told me that there is no test, is no increase, and that there are some “technical issues from our side.”

One has to wonder how a technical issue could result in a page offering something that was never before available while at the same time removing some that has always been available could occur, but hey, I suppose it could happen.

Personally I tend to agree with Adobe’s official statement; it was a test. I also feel that there was sufficient blowback that they thought the better of it. CSR reps don’t just spew out a line relating to something as huge as this without it being passed down.

Generally, that is.

Here’s the deal. Adobe is a huge corporation who at the end of the day owes their allegiance to their shareholders. Love it or hate it, that is the reality. Their existence is solely predicated on the basis of making money for shareholders. Period. End. Of. Story. I don’t have a problem with that. That’s how capitalism works. If not for that concept, there would be no Lightroom and Photoshop. We’d all be stuck with Giimp or some other nonsensical freeware. But all of that being said, Adobe needs to walk a fine line. They have undoubtedly increased profits since the advent of the subscription model; a model that I personally love. But if they bump it to $20 a month they will lose a lot of people. Their pitch seems to be that with the $20 you’ll get 1TB of cloud storage instead of the 20GB that currently comes with the $10 plan.

So what. Personally, I couldn’t care less about a single KB of cloud storage that Adobe might offer. The way I look at it, Adobe is a company that makes its bread and butter mostly as a developer of applications for creatives, not selling storage space in the cloud. As a photographer, the only thing from Adobe that I care about is Lightroom and Photoshop. If they start charging $20 per month for me to use Lightroom and Photoshop I’ll probably need to reassess my relationship with Adobe. No, I might not bail right away, but I’ll definitely start laying the groundwork for as easy and painless of an exit as possible.

Trust me, Adobe. You don’t want that. No, Adobe doesn’t care about what I will do, but I think that I represent a huge segment of their user base; enthusiast/professional users. After all, for photographers, Lightroom and Photoshop are the industry standard and contrary what many like to pretend, these are absolutely the best overall tools available for many reasons. Yes, there are other options out their, but they pale in comparison. The workflow possible with Lightroom and Photoshop is difficult to replicate in any other ecosystem.

But that’s changing. As I write this there have been a number of other vendors who are starting to become competitive. I am confident that within 5 years there will be fully competitive alternatives available.

What else am I confident of? Within 5 years you’ll be hard pressed to find any meaningful alternative that isn’t a subscription model.

So, there’s that.

The Best Way To Upload Images To Facebook Part III

Way back in April of last year I wrote this post on the best way to upload images to Facebook. For a long time the method worked great. Then Facebook, being the moving target they are, changed it so that the method resulted in horribly fubared images. Trying to go back to uploading images the old way which was basically resizing them to, say, 2048px on the long side if in landscape or, if in portrait, 960px and then saving as JPEG with the sRGB color profile embedded also resulted in just horrible compression artifacts from Facebook.

This was in December of 2018 when it all went to the crapper. At that time, after much experimenting I found out that the best way to upload images to Facebook was this method, which was basically just uploading a full size and full resolution image; making sure to not optimize it in any way. It seemed that by doing so minimized the damage done by Facebook’s compression algorithm; by optimizing the image before uploading it, it essentially got hit twice, once by you, once by Facebook.

I think.

But, either way, it resulted in the best image quality, nearly equal to that of the first method.

Well, it now seems that Facebook has tweaked their algorithm once again. Now it seems that the best way to upload images to Facebook is, again, resizing them to either 2048px on the long side or 960 on the top/bottom if in portrait mode.

Oy, Facebook.

Originally, uploading them in PNG, i think resulted in them not being compressed at all because the algorithm seemed to only concern itself with JPEGs, but I don’t know if that’s the case.

So, at the end of the day, for best quality, it’s probably best to use the method I wrote about originally. That method is capped by saving them in PNG while preserving details. The reason I think this will work the best is because PNG is a lossless format when saving. Yes, they are converted to JPEG by Facebook, but they are only hit the one time rather than the twice it would be if you save them to JPEG before uploading them.

DP Review Discussion Forums Suck

Yes, DP Review discussion forums suck. It’s not really surprising in and of itself because most online forums suck; it’s just the nature of the internet I suppose. The reason most online forums suck is because of crappy moderation.

But this is a photography blog, what gives with this disrespect for online forums? Well, as you probably know, DP Review is digital photography gear news and review site. It generally has pretty good information. Their online forums, like all online forums, are mostly crap, but there can be some very useful information to be had in some of them. The most useful for me were the forums on lighting, retouching, and portraiture. Each one of those forums has a small number of regular participants that are truly experts in their given field, and they demonstrated it often by example.

But somewhere along the line DP Review apparently took it upon themselves to crack down on uncivil behavior; perhaps they passed word down to their mods, who knows. Combined with huge page long rules for each forum along with mods who may or may not have reasonable notions of what “civil” is and it’s pretty much guaranteed that DP Review’s discussion forums are going to fall into a deep suck hole.

Anyway, the DP Review discussion forums have now largely lost their appeal and usefulness.

In my opinion here’s how DP Review (and all online forums) can become tolerable, and more importantly more useful . It’s very simple, really. Outside of stalking, doxxing, personal threats, and off topic responses, anything should pretty much go.

In other words, treat people like adults and don’t try to police civility. Just let people easily block those they don’t want to interact with. That way, the system will take care of itself.

Really, it would.

A Behind The Scenes Glamor Session In A Small Home Studio

This is a look at a behind the scenes glamor session in a small home studio.

I’ve been wanting to do some kind of full on glamor stuff for a while, now, but I haven’t really had the means to do it. When I say means I’m talking about the talent needed beyond any skills I may have as a photographer. If you’re having trouble wrapping your head around what I’m talking about, I’m talking about a good hair stylist and a good makeup artist. For the kinds of shots I had in mind I felt that I could get away without a wardrobe person, but as far as hair and makeup, no way. Not if I wanted to do it right. Not to mention a good model or models.

I have a friend, Kasey, from a martial arts gym that I frequent who I knew does hair and makeup professionally, and I’ve been talking with her over the past few months about what I was wanting to do. She was on board, but it just seemed that I could never get a model lined up. I have a couple of really good model friends, but it was just hard to get them nailed down.

One day at the martial arts gym I met Angie who was a new student. Right away I thought she would make a great subject for my 100 Strangers Project, so I hit her up about it. She was really open to the idea, but she went on to say that she was a model that was represented by an agency.

Go figure.

We got to talking and I showed her some of my work and she flat out said that she would like to do something with me. I then told her about my idea and Kasey the HMUA who was also a member of the gym, and it all just started falling into place.

Side note: Don’t be afraid to approach people you want to photograph.

Anyway, we created a shared Pintrist board for ideas and went from there.

Over the next few days I worked it out with Kasey the HMUA and she said she had a friend who was a great hair stylist who she thought would like to get in on it as well.

Hell, yeah. So, we set up a date with Angie the model, Kasey the MUA, and Paul the hair stylist.

I had already set the notion that I really wanted to do a full on head and shoulders glam type of thing as a priority and then do something else as a secondary thing; a couple different looks, one standard glam and one using a masquerade type of mask. Angie was really on board with that and had shown me a bunch of ideas on the Pintrist board.

On a Sunday morning Angie stopped by the house with a suitcase full of clothes and a couple of cool looking masks. After a cup of coffee, Paul and Kasey showed up and they started working on Angie in my kitchen (yeah, home studio guy here).

Hairstylist Paul Chance and Angie Tani

After Paul got done doing his thing Kasey went to work.

Makeup artist, Kasey Kasai

After we got everything down it to the studio. I don’t have a large studio, but I’ve managed to make it work.

My plan from the beginning was to use a pretty simple light setup; an on axis 38 inch deep parabolic fairly close and at about a 45 degree downward angle with a reflector about chest high to bounce a little fill.

Equipment:

  • 1 Flashpoint XPLOR 600PRO
  • 38″ Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic Softbox
  • 1 Lastolite 30″ reflector

I used gray seemless paper as a backdrop and flagged either side with a couple of black V-flats to contain the light as much as possible. It resulted in a kind of nook. It worked pretty well.

Here are some of the resulting shots:

Angie Head and Shoulders. ISO 100, 85mm, f11, 1/200
Glamor shot of Angie with the mask
Angie With Mask ISO 100, 85mm, f11, 1/200

Kasey got in on the mask action, too. On this shot no bottom reflector, just the softbox nearly on axis.

Kasey with the mask
Kasey With Mask ISO 100, 50mm, f11, 1/200

And finally this other one of Angie. Like the above shot, this too without a bottom reflector and just the softbox nearly on axis.

Angie Cool ISO 100, 50mm, f11, 1/200

All in all I’m pretty happy with these shots. I got a lot of good ones and Angie got a couple of ones that she handed off to her agency for their website.

At the end of the day it was a great experience. We all had a lot of fun and I learned a ton. Angie and I have already started working on some ideas for the summer; editorial style fashion experiments, and a little project I’ve been wanting to do for some time.

And, of course, the obligatory goofing around selfie!

The crew!
The crew after a good day’s work.

Girl In a Skirt Project Hits a Block

Girl In a Skirt Fights the wind.
ISO 200 10mm f10 1/500 sec

Continuing the Girl In a Skirt project, I’m coming across a huge challenge and it has nothing to do with anything camera related, lens related or anything technical. The hardest part is finding skirts. We bought this skirt in Moab and haven’t been able to find another anywhere. Short, mid-thigh flowing skirts are almost impossible to find anywhere. We’v traipsed allover the city trying to find something kind of like what’s in this photo, but different.

None. Nada. Zilch. Next stop, probably some second hand stores.

Girl In a Skirt

Girl In a Skirt looking at red rocks. ISO 200 10mm f9.0 1/640 sec

I’m starting a new project called Girl In a Skirt. I’m not quite sure where it’s going to lead other than it will feature, well, a girl in a skirt. But I am thinking maybe the same girl in various different skirts and locations and shot with different styles. I don’t know. But I like the idea of a unified project to give some direction in which to go. In reality it’s probably going to evolve as I go. The only thing I do know is that it will be a girl in a skirt.

This particular one was shot with my  Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM which I’m really growing to like.

Retouching Photos Frequency Separation And Taste

One of the things that I enjoy most about photography is the never ending learning curve. Sure, the curve may flatten out a bit, but it’s always there. One of the steepest curves for me is retouching photos. On the one hand all of the tools we have access to open up so many possibilities, yet on the other hand they contain so many pitfalls. For the most part, I prefer a light retouching hand; to not “over bake” a photo. But one person’s masterpiece could very possibly be another’s over baked mess.

I was talking to someone today about retouching and he claimed that he doesn’t do any retouching, preferring instead to “get it right” in the shot. That’s all fine, but if you’re shooting in raw format, some processing is going to be in order no matter what unless you want a flat, bland photo. When I mentioned that his response was that he didn’t believe that the adjustments you make to a raw image–adjusting color balance, contrast, etc–should be considered retouching. He has a point. I’ve always considered any post production work to be some form of retouching, but maybe that’s not quite correct. After all, if you set your camera to JPEG mode, you’re simply letting the camera do the post production work for you at a very basic level.

But even then, many photos can benefit from retouching if not require it. I’m talking techniques to lighten skin blemishes, balance skin tones and other things.

For example this pic is straight out of the camera, untouched accept to convert it to a JPEG:

Kid Before
Kid Before: ISO 200, 50mm, f8, 1/200 sec

This was a flash experiment using an off camera flash gun camera left. It looks fine, but like all raw files flat. Plus when I was taking the pic he was complaining about his pimples. I mean what 14 year old isn’t going to complain about their pimples, right? Also from my perspective, along with the generally flat nature of the photo, I wasn’t crazy about the background which is simply a wall painted off white. Just about everything with this pic is “right,” but it can still be better.

After messing around with the color balance in Lightroom I exported it over into Photoshop where I did some frequency separation to smooth out the skin and reduce some of the shadows under the eyes (hey, he was just home from a grueling day of school). I also did some goofy stuff with some filters to bring out the texture in the wall and warm it up–a lot–because I like the way it looks.

It turned in to this:

alekafter
Kid After: ISO 200, 50mm, f8, 1/200 sec

In hindsight, I think I could do more to reduce the shadows under the eyes, but I was concerned about it looking over baked. But even then, I think it looks much better and the blemishes I took out were the temporary ones. I didn’t do anything to change any features or his natural appearance. I am going to go back and work on those eye shadows for sure. The top, unretouched photo, aside from the flat nature of being a raw file, represents the subject as they were at that exact moment, but the retouched one represents them more accurately generally. Except the wall. The wall would never look like that, but so what? I like it better.

My goal, whether I’m always successful or not, is to produce a result that is natural looking, not over done. I’ve seen some retouching jobs that look so over baked that the subject doesn’t even look real. They look plastic. Definitely try to avoid that.

The whole frequency separation thing is pretty new to me and I’m still learning. There are a ton of resources all over the internet if you’re interested. One of the better ones is this one.

Women and Self Defense

The old adage goes, “A well armed society is a polite society” which is true.

Also, a society full of women who are able and willing to fight back against attackers makes for a better society. This kind of training and drilling is some of the best.

Stone Age Zombie Apocalypse

Huh, I guess we’re not the only ones to beat a plot device over the head until its dead, dead, dead.

One theory posits that stone age people were in to the whole walking dead thing, too:

Archaeologists working in Europe and the Middle East have recently unearthed evidence of a mysterious Stone Age “skull-smashing” culture, according to New Scientist. Human skulls buried underneath an ancient settlement in Syria were found detached from their bodies with their faces smashed in. Eerily, it appears that the skulls were exhumed and detached from their bodies several years after originally being buried. It was then that they were smashed in and reburied separate from their bodies.