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Snapseed 2.0 (for iOS) Woes

April 27, 2015  |  Apps

So, after a long time, wherein I, along with most of the rest of the world (or at least those who care about these things), assumed that Snapseed was dead, Google surprised us with an updated version of Snapseed.

If you’re not familiar with Snapseed, then here’s a quick rundown…
In the summer of 2011, Nik Software, the creators of a few of my favorite Lightroom and Photoshop plugins (Silver Efex, Color Efex and Analog Efex), released Snapseed for the iPad, followed shortly by a version for the iPhone. Apple named it the iPad App of the Year in 2011 and an awesome desktop version was released as well (you could even configure it work as an external editor for Lightroom). In 2012, Nik was bought out by Google, who released a version for Android (good) but killed off the desktop version (bad). (Incidentally, they did lower the price of the Nik software suite (sans Snapseed, of course), so that was a nice outcome of Google’s takeover). The discontinued desktop version’s features were slowly integrated into the photo editing tools of Google+, while the mobile versions were left to seemingly-rot, only occasionally receiving minor updates to fix compatibility issues.

I continued to use Snapseed, wondering how long it would be until it no longer worked with newer generations of iOS devices (in fact, it initially ran super-buggy under iOS 8, but, thnakfully, Google released an update to address these issues). In the meantime, I experimented with other mobile editing apps, including the recently-released and much-praised Enlight, bracing for the day that an update to iOS finally broke Snapseed.

So, imagine my delight when, a couple of weeks ago, iOS’ app store informed me that an update for Snapseed was available. Perusing the release notes as it downloaded, I was pleased to learn that it was a complete overhaul/modernization of the app.

After it installed, I launched it and dug right in. The new transform tools are great for leveling horizons and uprighting buildings, while the stacks concept is an awesome way to go back and tweak previously-made edits.

A few days after it was released, I left for a trip to Key West and the Bahamas. As is my habit, I took a lot of photos with my iPhone for posting to Instagram or to send as postcards to family and friends via the excellent app Postagram.

After arriving back in Addison, I downloaded the several thousand photos I shot with my cameras to Lightroom, then, as my usual practice, plugged my iPhone into my Mac to download its photos to Lightroom.

As they downloaded, I noticed something strange…the photos I’d edited with Snapseed 2.0 didn’t actually have any edits applied.

WTF?

A bit of Googling led me to learn that the new version of Snapseed uses Apple’s .aae sidecar files to store edits to photos, rather than actually “burning in” the edits as in previous versions. And, much to my chagrin, there’s not a way to force a “burned in” version to be saved.

So, whose fault is this?

1. Snapseed claims that they’re being “good iOS citizens” by following Apple’s guidelines for using .aae files to store edits. However, I don’t see why they can’t also include an option for creating new .jpg files with the edits permanently recorded to the file.
2. Apple’s guidelines are to use .aae files, but I can’t find anywhere that says “do it our way and don’t create new .jpgs with edits embedded”. On top of that, even using their own new Photos.app, the .aae edits don’t carry over with imported photos (they only seem to show if you use iCloud photo storage), so their implementation of sidecar file-enabled editing seems half-assed in my opinion.
3. Adobe could always elect to download and interpret .aae files in Lightroom, though why should they?

Work-arounds

1. Use iCloud photo sync and Photos.app. (Nope…sticking to Lightroom).
2. Use an iOS app that recognizes .aae photos and allows transfer, such as emailing or iMessaging them to myself. (Nope…I just want to plug in and download to Lightroom).
3. When ready to commit changes to an image for download to Lightroom, choose “Share” in Snapseed, then select “Copy”. Tap Open, paste from Clipboard and save. This creates a “burned in” copy of the image that can then be downloaded. (Ugh…I shouldn’t have to go through hoops).

So, What Can Be Done?

Complain to Google. Post angry messages on their Snapseed product forum. Use Enlight or and other sane iOS photo editing app. Switch to Android (which doesn’t, of course, use .aae files), though if you switch platforms for one app, then that’s kind of weird.

In the meantime, I still like the results and ease-of-use of Snapseed. That said, I can’t see myself going through the process outlined in work-around 3 for every image I edit in it, so I’m just going to have to live with the fact that maybe not all of my Snapseed edits will make it into my Lightroom catalog.


How To Download The Canon EOS Utility If You Lose Your Installation CD [Mac]

October 24, 2012  |  Apps Video

If you’re like me, you have a dog that occasionally likes to eat things.  In this case, Winston at my EOS Utility install disc before I got a chance to install it on my iMac.  This wasn’t initially a problem for me, as I use Lightroom and don’t shoot tethered.  But then I discovered the CineStyle Picture Style by Techicolor and wanted to experiment with it while shooting video.  Unfortunately, to load picture styles onto a Canon camera, you need the EOS Utility (this hasn’t been an issue before, since I shoot RAW when shooting stills).  Luckily, I found the following instructions for installing without the disc.

How To Download The Canon EOS Utility If You Lose Your Installation CD [Mac].


Wherein Lefty Does A Good Deed

April 24, 2012  |  Apps Elsewhere Other

I regularly peruse the photography subreddit on Reddit.Com and earlier tonight, while taking a break from day job-related stuff that overflowed into my non day-job timeframe, I came across a post from a fellow Redditor asking for help reconstructing a RAW file.  Specifically, he asked posted the following:


Being in a generous mood, I decided to help him.  Of course, as he stated, Photoshop was going to be difficult, so I wasn’t about to give that a shot.  (I’m not that altrustic!)

So I gave it a shot in Lightroom 4.  No dice.  Then I remember that I’d played around a bit with an app called Raw Photo Processor.  So I loaded it up, imported the file and…

 

…Success!

I converted the file to a jpg, uploaded to imgur and posted the link.

Sadly, my fellow Redditor didn’t recognize the subject of the photo, so who knows what or where it came from…it’s just some random kid:

And while it didn’t really help this guy, it was fun doing some detective work, if only for a few minutes.

 

Update! It might be the father’s ex-girlfriend’s kid!


My 500px Randomizer

January 27, 2012  |  Apps Code

I’ve mentioned this before, but I thought I’d revisit it since I’ve recently rolled out a few changes.

In the last year or so, 500px has exploded to become the “serious” alternative to Flickr—a place where you show off your best work while not being crowded out by the kinds of people on Flickr that upload every lame snapshot of their kids or dump their entire CF or SD card into their stream everytime they come back from an outing.

Unfortunately, one of the big problems with 500px is that there’s no “good” way to randomly view images, save for a link at the bottom of their homepage inviting you to “StumbleThru 500px”, which simply uses user-submitted links on third-party service StumbleUpon.

I found this to be inadequate, as it only relied on photos that users had bothered to “Stumble”.  This meant that the number of images were somewhat limited as well as confined to mostly the more popular images—ones that the hive mind of the 500px viewership community had decided were “the best” and worthy of linking to.  After a few clicks on the Stumble button, I found that I was getting the same few images over and over again—some of them were even months old.

What I wanted to do was see truly random images from 500px, so I set out to make a tool to do the randomizing for me.

My first iteration was simple.  Since, at the time, 500px didn’t have a publicly-exposed API, I had to be “kludgey”.  A bit of poking around revealed that 500px simply numbers photos sequentially as they are uploaded—in fact, you can easily go see the first photo uploaded publicly thanks to the ridiculously-easy-to-reverse-engineer URL convention of http://500px.com/photo/<number of photo>.  This made it extremely easy to create a php application that would simply generate a random number between 1 and whatever the largest number used is.  The php code is easy:

$iPic =  mt_rand(  1 , $iMax );
return “http://500px.com/photo/”.$iPic;

Where $iMax is whatever the largest number used is. Since I didn’t want to have to bother writing an overly-long script to figure out what the latest number used was, I’d simply manually update $iMax every couple of days with the photo ID of the first image on 500px’s Fresh page.

In my app, I embedded an iFrame to hold the photo’s page while the app acted as a wrapper around it, keeping the “Randomize” button and “Permalink” link visible at all times.  And this worked great, but I wasn’t happy.  I quickly found that while 500px has tons of great work on it, there’s a lot of cruft.  Especially amongst the older photos submitted before the community really “took off”.  What I really wanted was to be able to randomly browse photos that were of a bit higher quality and were on the newer side (and this, I suppose, is where my application lost it’s complete randomness).  Unfortunately, this wasn’t really possible at the time, so I let the project sit on the backburner for a while.

Then 500px opened up its API.  And I leveraged it.  I quickly figured out how to use JSON queries to return arrays of recent photos in the Fresh, Editors’ Choice, Upcoming and Favorites categories.  Not really caring about Fresh since that’s the initial “dumping ground” for everything uploaded, I concentrated on the other categories.  I quickly produced some code that queried the API and returned a random photo from the user’s choice of categories, replacing my previous code that haphazardly propelled you around 500px and instead allowed you to randomly view more-curated photos.

A bit of Javascript trickery also allowed me to make a feature to view the photographer’s 500px homepage using a window blind effect so that a user can quickly check out other photos by that photographer as well as follow them without leaving my app.

So, there you have it, the story behind my 500px Randomizer.  Feel free to use it all you want;  just keep in mind that it’s still a work in progress and if you find any bugs, feel free to send me an email at lefty@leftyrodriguez.com to let me know.


Processing “The Last Supper”

January 17, 2012  |  Apps Technique Workflow
Pedro Alves asked in a comment on today’s photo if I could explain the processing.  So I thought I’d give it a quick try.
The original raw photo was shot at f/10 at ISO 100 and a shutter speed of 1/100 of a second, using a polarizing filter to darken up the sky a bit.  After importing to Lightroom, I pre-sharpened and adjusted the white balance, giving me this:
Not very exciting, eh?  I decided to tone map it to bring out the shadow and highlights detail in a sort-of “faux” HDR process.  Since I hadn’t shot multiple bracketed exposures, which would be necessary to do true HDR, I faked it, relying on the pure dynamic range that shooting RAW affords a photographer.
In Lightroom, I created four virtual copies of the photo, giving me five copies altogether, including the original.  I left the original’s exposure value at 0, then set the others at values of +1, +2, -1 and -2 respectively, imitating the bracketed exposures I’d get with a “real” HDR shot.  I then exported these to Photomatix to do the tone mapping, which resulted in this image:
This gave me great detail in the shadows, but killed the sky.  I didn’t really care, though, because I still had work to do.  I imported the original photo with the dark sky I liked and the tone-mapped photo I’d created in Photomatix into Photoshop for further work.
First step was to copy the tone-mapped version into a new layer over the original.  I then created a layer mask which allowed me to use a black paintbrush to “punch through” the tone-mapped layer to the original photo below.  I used a brush with an opacity set to roughly 50% to slowly bring the original sky into the tone-mapped layer.  Once I was satisfied, I applied the layer mask, resulting in a photo that had tone-mapped statues and mountains, but original dark sky.  I then used Topaz Adjust to bring out a bit of detail in the mountains and statues, because I feel like the tone-mapping process leaves the photos looking a bit flat detail-wise.
My next step was to convert to black and white.  For this, I used Nik Software’s excellent Silver Efex Pro 2.  I started with the built-in “high structure” preset, then added a bit of extra structure and a little bit more contrast, while dropping the exposure down a notch or two.  Then, I used Silver Efex’s control points feature to darken up the sky just a bit more while leaving the mountains and statues unaffected. Once this was done, I saved back to Lightroom, did some final noise reduction and a bit of sharpening and posted it to the site.
Here’s a before/after:

before
after


Randomly Viewing 500px

September 21, 2011  |  Apps Site-related

Certainly, if you’re into photography, you’ve heard of 500px, the upstart photo-sharing site from Toronto that’s starting to “put the hurt on” Flickr.  One of the great advantages of 500px is that the quality of the photography seems to be a lot higher than that on Flickr, mainly because it’s not a dumping ground for family snapshots, crap art projects and Instragram-esque drivel.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, there’s one feature that I’ve found lacking on 500px—the ability to randomly traipse through the photos on the site, discovering new favorites and making new connections with fellow photographers.  Sure, they recently added a button on the bottom of the screen that welcomes the user to “StumbleThru 500px”, but all that does is let you use StumbleUpon to view photos on 500px that StumbleUpon’s users have favorited.  What I wanted was a way to randomly move about 500px in an uncontrolled manner.

So I created a way.

Introducing Lefty’s 500px Randomizer.  Using it is simple: follow that link or go to www.LeftyRodriguez.com/500px, click “Randomize” and a new random photo page from 500px will load in an iframe below.  Click “Permalink” to open that pic in a new tab so you can bookmark it.  Easy, eh?

I can’t promise that the Randomizer is bug-free and there are a few features I’d like to implement still, but it’s yours to use.  Have fun!


Tools of the Trade – FlickStackr

August 17, 2011  |  Apps Technique Workflow

As part of my photoblogging/sharing process, I generally have photos scheduled to be published at 05:30 on my photoblog, where they sit and get viewed and commented upon all day. Then, in the evening, after 19:00 CDT (or 18:00 CST), I upload them to Flickr, giving my site roughly 13-14 hours of exclusivity. The reason for trying to upload to Flickr as close as possible to these times is because that’s when Flickr’s “day” starts (it’s on GMT), which means that uploading at these times is the best way to maximize daily photo views, which are part of the mysterious algorithm Flickr uses to calculate things like “Interestingness” (not that I particularly worry about these things). Also, most people in North America seem to do their Flickr viewing in the evenings, so this time hits a nice spot when my photo will be landing in their “Contacts” photostream.

But how to do the upload? Some people use Flickr’s native upload functionality, but I find this kind of limited. Another option–and one that I occasionally use when uploading from my Mac or my PC–is Flickr Uploadr. Flickr Uploadr has a lot of nice features including the ability to tag photos and put them in sets, but is missing one of the most important–the ability to add a photo to groups from the application, meaning that after you upload, you still have to go into Flickr and add to groups from their interface. Which is okay, but not a favorite task because, for some reason, I constantly get this error when trying to add a photo to groups on the site itself:

(Flickr! Fix your code!)

Another issue with trying to stick to these times is that I’m usually walking our dog, Winston, between 19:00 and 20:00 during these times. Luckily, I have an iPhone with me and can upload on the go. I used to use the Flickr app, but, like the Flickr Uploadr, you can’t add photos to groups. So, after a bit of research, I discovered FlickStackr.

FlickStackr is everything Flickr’s app should be:

  • Profile view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and

  • Actions/Activity view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the most relevant to this blog post is “Upload” and here are screencaps showing how you can set titles, tags, groups, geolocation and more when uploading:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
As you can see, it’s the perfect iOS companion for Flickr users.  And it’s a universal app, so it will work on your iPad at native resolution!


This Could Change War Reporting

April 8, 2011  |  Apps Cameras Elsewhere

This Time write-up on the Condition ONE photojounalism ecosystem is extremely interesting.  Basically, it’s an iPad app combined with a custom ultra-wide-angle camera that allows a journalist to film action then pan around it for story-telling purposes.  Of course, that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense, so just follow the link and there’s a nifty video that shows the system being used.

Condition ONE App: A New Way to Photograph War? – LightBox.


Dynamic Light for the iPhone

March 17, 2011  |  Apps iPhone Photos

As an active “iPhoneographer“, I love to try new photography and camera-related apps from the App Store.  I recently discovered a new one called Dynamic Light (99¢) that promises, in the words of the developer to “give you the best and most vibrant HDR-like look on any mobile platform”.  So I downloaded it and gave it a shot (no pun intended).

I started with a shot of my office building:

The Dynamic Light interface allows you to move a dial to adjust the amount of “HDR-ness” being applied to the image:

As you can see, you can apply this effect anywhere from 0% to 100% intensity to the image.  For drama, I applied it at 100%:

It turned out surprisingly well, giving the photo a great dramatic insensity, especially on an overcast day like today’s, which rendered the original photo flat.

You can also choose other effects to overlay on the photo:

These are pretty decent and I was pretty happy with the B&W conversion applied to my photo:

All in all, this app does have promise, but I did find two niggling issues: the first time I took a photo using the in-app camera function, it worked great.  However, every time after that, until I rebooted, it would take the photo, but then the interface just showed a black screen where the photo should’ve been.  I was able to negate this by taking the photo with the iPhone’s own Camera app then importing it into Dynamic Light, but I shouldn’t have to do this.  Hopefully this bug will be addressed by the developers soon.  Secondly, one time when I did try to save a photo, it acted like it was processing then saving the photo, but the photo was nowhere to be found in my Camera Roll.  I only had this happen once out of the ten or so photos I tried, so I’m willing to put the blame on iOS for this one.

All in all, I think this app has some great features and functionality, but a little more polish would make a huge difference.


My Favorite iPhone Photo Apps

March 8, 2011  |  Apps Elsewhere Other

As you may know, I’m an avid iPhone user and burgeoning Apple fanboy (I finally made the leap last October and bought a Mac…best computer I’ve ever owned.  When they say “it just works”, they mean it).  One of the best parts about owning an iPhone are the thousands and thousands of apps available, including photo-related apps.  Today, I want to touch on just a few of these and let you know why I love them so much.

Camera+
(On sale for a limited time for 99¢)

This is a great replacement for the standard iPhone camera.  First off, pressing the shutter release button lets you snap pictures instantly–no waiting for the stupid “iris” animation like on the bog standard camera app.  Secondly, photos shot in this app are saved to a lightbox within the app that lets you do editing before saving to your iPhone’s camera roll.  Editing options include “Scenes”, allowing you to adjust white and color balance and exposure at the touch of a button (choices include such things as Flash, Backlit, Cloudy and Auto, amongst others).  There’s also an “FX” zone that lets you apply color effects (“Vibrant”, “So Emo”, “Purple Haze”, etc.) and retro effects (“Lomographic”, “70s”, “Ansel”, etc.), special effects (“HDR”, “Faded”, “Polarize”, etc.).  You can also buy other sets of effects through in-app purchases.

The app also allows you to crop, flip and rotate your photos before saving.  In addition, you can share your photos to Flickr, Facebook and Twitter from within the app.

 

Photogene
($1.99 )

Photogene is the Swiss Army Knife of photo apps.  Any image in your camera roll can be cropped, resized, color-adjusted, sharpened, levels-adjusted and so forth.  It’s like having a nice subset of Photoshop in your pocket (in fact, it’s much better than Adobe’s Photoshop app.  The only thing I don’t like about Photogene is the B&W filter, which is entirely too-contrasty.

 

Pro HDR
($1.99)

Sure, the iPhone camera has built-in HDR functionality and it does an okay job of taking two photos in succession at different exposures and blending them together into one final image, but Pro HDR is so much better.  It does a great job of pulling out shadows and properly exposing highlights.  The only downside is that the timing between the two photos is a tad slower than the native camera, no doubt because Apple’s using some sort of secret internal API, so you need to have a steady hand and a static scene.

 

Best Camera
($2.99)

Well-known commercial photographer Chase Jarvis is the creator of Best Camera.  The name of the app isn’t a boast, but rather ties into Chase’s philosophy that “the best camera is the one you have with you”.  Meaning that having any camera, in this case an iPhone’s camera, with you at any time is better than having no camera at all.  Chase even released a book expounding this philosophy with a collection of his best iPhone photos.  This app allows you to shoot photos, add effects and upload to Flickr, Facebook or TheBestCamera.Com–a photo sharing site just for users of this app.  The effects are pretty neat, including a retro-feeling contrasty black and white one and a couple of great color effects.  For some reason, I find myself coming back to these effects time and time again, because I just love the results.

Flickr
(Free)

There’s not much to say about this app except that it’s an excellent way for you to upload your iPhone photos to your Flickr photostream.  It supports tagging, geo-tagging, adding to sets, etc.  You can also comment on photos and explore other users’ photostreams.  My only gripe:  No way to add photos to groups!  Perhaps Flickr will fix that soon.

 

So, there you have it, my favorite iPhone photography apps.  If you’re interested in becoming a better “iPhoneographer”, then check out iPhoneography.




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