I’ve written about Adobe before.
I’ve always been very happy with Adobe in regards to their products, but seriously, their upgrade policies are just a pathetic little example of how a monopolist can manipulate the market without any punishment.
I consider myself a loyal customer, but even with that, as a freelancer it’s a big bite out of your finances if you have to upgrade a package like Creative Suite Premium. So what I do is skip a version all the time. I bought PS2, PS3, PS4, then went to PS6 and from PS6 to CS1, from CS1 to CS3 and from CS3 to CS5 (I still have the 3,5″ floppy disks from PS3, I wonder if they are worth anything already πŸ˜€ ).
But anyway… In previous posts about Adobe I was ranting about the price differences between upgrades. In this neck of the world an upgrade has continuously been more than double the price compared to the US upgrade prices. Marketing and translation, they say at Adobe (after cutting of any and all continuous questions from my part). I say that’s bull shit. With whipped cream and a cherry on top.

And guess what? CS6 is coming next year.
And hidden in a blog post on Adobe’s website they quietly address their new policy regarding upgrades:

With regards to upgrades, we are changing our policy for perpetual license customers. In order to qualify for upgrade pricing when CS6 releases, customers will need to be on the latest version of our software (either CS5 or CS5.5 editions). If our customers are not yet on those versions, we’re offering a 20% discount through December 31, 2011 which will qualify them for upgrade pricing when we release CS6.

So the sneaky little bastards in the money-gathering department at Adobe are basically FORCING you to upgrade every single version, otherwise you have to pay the full price for an upgrade.
With CS5 I’m still ok, but I guess my “skip a version”-technique will stop here, if I want to be eligible for an upgrade price to CS7. I know the “skip a version” is very commonly used, and I know a good number of people who were planning the CS4-CS6 step. But I guess that’s out the window.
Only surprise now will be what the actual upgrade prices will be. I won’t be surprised if we’re paying the jackpot again.
I don’t approve of software piracy, but with these kinds of “policies” the big guys do make it very tempting for the little guys to go down that road.

Shame on you, Adobe!

I’m recycling… Lots of interesting stuff happened yesterday, but I didn’t get the opportunity to shoot. Following the previous post I can only emphasize that it would’ve been better to stay home with the fireplace burning.
Driving home from work there was a car, completely wrecked, standing on the pavement next to a street light parallel to the pavement, instead of in a 90Β° angle with it. When I got home and parked the car on its spot on the garage and walked towards the apartment a police car, two fire trucks and an ambulance were racing by with sirens and all the colors burning. I hate to say “I told you so”, but didn’t I in yesterday’s post? It’s the same every year.
It’s been snowing the whole day and they forecast snowstorms for today and more for the coming days.

In the mean time, here’s one I shot last winter. It’s one of those scenes that you typically wouldn’t think anything of. But I like it. I like its minimalism.

Crushed Coca-Cola can in the snow

D700, ISO200, 1/750 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 50mm

This has been standing in my draft queue for quite some time now. It wasn’t quite done yet, and there were a couple of things I needed to check first, but here we go then (a couple of days mentioned below isn’t quite accurate anymore, that’s a month and a half or so ago by now πŸ˜‰ )

Wow… I’m getting the feeling I’m being watched πŸ˜‰

A couple of days ago I revisited my Digimarc experience and I wrote how I was contacted by Ms Gina Giachetti, representing Digimarc, and asked if I wanted to blog about the new Digimarc.
I wasn’t too keen at first to write about it, since my first experience with Digimarc wasn’t all that spectacular, but Ms Giachetti promised to put me in touch with a product manager to “talk things over”. For some reason that went all south because of a miscommunication, as it now appears: holidays from both sides (I had no idea Digimarc was located in Oregon, otherwise I could’ve stopped by the office in March when I was in Oregon!), busy time schedules, etc. etc.

Anyway… I posted the revisited the 28th in the morning, and that same day in the evening there’s a mail from Ms Giachetti waiting in my inbox. Yep, things had gone all south, and that wasn’t how it was supposed to be. So we gave it a second try and last Wednesday she set me up in a telephone conversation with Digimarc’s product manager Ben Bounketh. Very agreeable guy, I must say (I’m also not getting paid to say this, dang! πŸ˜€ ). We had a really interesting conversation in which he told me a bit more about Digimarc in general and more specifically about the watermarking process and product. I’m not going to repeat that all here, so you’ll have to head on to the Digimarc website. And -I already mentioned in my first post about Digimarc that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with their customer service- he set me up with a free Pro account for a year for me to test the new product. Wow! πŸ™‚

Mr Bounketh presented me with a little video on how the new Digimarc Watermarking would be really imperceptible. And no matter how nice he sounded, my first reaction was “Sure, that’s a generic picture, the OLD watermarking would even work on that. You’re not getting off that easily with me!” So… You all probably remember the jellyfish picture I put my test on? That was the OLD method. Ghastly… Autch!

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

So I thought, let’s see how Mr Bounketh’s statement will hold up in this image.

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

And well… Kudos, Mr Bounketh. Kudos to you and Digimarc. Compared to the old version this is a world of difference. Where you could see the obvious difference in the first example, even without the need to view full, in the second example I had to enlarge the areas to show the difference, and even then you can’t see it without looking at the full view.
When looking at a 4000+ pixels image at 100% you can see some slight noise in these even areas, but the quality of the images with watermark has improved so much that you can’t even really make a decent comparison anymore.
I’d still be a bit reluctant uploading images with an even background like this in full resolution to for example a stock agency, but for the “normal” images, with a more diverse and detailed background it will be no problem whatsoever, and for web images it will be perfect.

The watermark itself is pretty solid in terms of durability. I put the watermark in a 4000+ pixels image, downscaled in stages and in one go to 300pixels and only at that point was the watermark not found anymore. Upscaling and cropping the same story.
However… as with all editing with images you ARE supposed to do it in the hi-res version, and when I tested adding the watermark to a lower res version it came out with the same ghastly result. So added in a 4000 pixel image and then scaled down to 800 pixels is perfectly acceptable, but adding the watermark straight to the 800 pixels picture is a big no-no (still). When presenting this issue to Mr Bounketh, he did give a plausible explanation. In short and super-simplified something along the lines of the watermark having to be hidden in less available pixels).

Jellyfish comparison

Left the image in which the watermark was added at 800 pixels, right the image where it was added at 4000 pixels and then downscaled to 800 pixels (click to enlarge).

I can’t say anything on the reporting and scouting/tracking of images, yet. That will take some time, but I’m going to upload a batch of generic images with Digimarc watermark to my website and see if they are picked up and where they end up. Mr Bounketh did explain a little on how the searching and “tracking” works. He also noted that, because of the time and costs involved, at this point only larger sites with a lot of traffic will be scanned/indexed on a regular basis.Β  I’m not really sure if it will be super useful for (starting) artists who don’t have much traffic to their website, since those websites would be scanned/indexed only like once per 3-6 months. But since the price has gone down and the scouting/tracking is included in that price, there’s little to do about it anyway.
I’m happily testing away now, and I’ll probably do a re-re-revisited in a year or so, or if/when I get some data in on the scouting/tracking.

It was launched. Yes it was.

Adobe CS5

Adobe CS5 (all logos, names, texts, and whatever else are copyright of their original copyright holders)

Creative Suite is ready for pre-ordering and the English version is said to be shipped mid May.

And every time, EVERY time Adobe launches a new version of it’s Creative Suite (and some other software, too) it annoys the crap out of me (excuse me my french), because they with their monopoly position in the market right now can do whatever they want with the prices.

Adobe CS5

The price for the English upgrade to CS5 Design Premium from CS3 Design Premium in the US is $799. That's a fair price, I would say.

Adobe CS5

The price, however, for an English upgrade to CS5 Design Premium from CS3 Design Premium in Finland is €1,096.78!!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the software, I can read and write with it and I’ve been using it (and paying for it!) ever since version 3 or so of Photoshop), but there are things that just aren’t right, regardless of the quality of the product.

I contacted them through the Adobe website (I have a customer number, yes, so you can open a case which will be reviewed by their customer service) about it with some of the previous versions, and they say it’s all about translating costs, and differences in prices in marketing and commercials. When I wanted a more explicit explanation, because I thought the whole translation and marketing reply was too vague they just closed the case without further reply. So translation and marketing? I say that’s the biggest load of crap and the lousiest excuse they could’ve come up with (until of course they reopen my case and give me some physical proof of the numbers of marketing here in Finland compared with those in the US).

When it comes to marketing and commercials… There’s not so much of that here in Finland from Adobe. There are no huge tv-campaigns, or the likes. Most of the commercials and ads are done in specific magazines and on websites, and that really doesn’t bring in the costs. On the translations excuse… I get it that the version in Finnish language would be a tad bit more expensive, but if I order the English version here in Finland the price difference shouldn’t be as massive as it is.

Right now? At the current exchange rate $799 equals €586.23. So the upgrade for the same product here in Finland is OVER TWICE the price than that in the US. Even with 22% VAT that’s too big a difference.

And you know what the worst thing is?
I’m a graphic designer / photographer and I need the software, because it’s industry standard.
So you know what I’m gonna do about it (to speak in Jim Carey’s words in Liar Liar):

so what I am going to do is piss and moan like an impotent jerk, and then bend over and take it up the tailpipe!

I stand corrected. At least partly.

I attended an Adobe seminar a couple of weeks ago and I during the break had the privilege to speak with Adobe guru Julieanne Kost. Where she confirmed the complaint about images not being linked to different catalogs, and the smart catalog things I wrote about, and the identity plate, and some other things, she showed me the simplest way of making the presets accessible throughout all catalogs (should’ve been able to figure that out myself, though).

There’s a setting in the preferences, of which the box is by default checked. This tells Lightroom to save all presets you make with the current catalog.

Lightroom presets

Lightroom presets

If you uncheck this box, all the presets you make after that (restart Lightroom, just to be sure!) are stored in the global presets folder and accessible by all catalogs.

Saves you some ranting πŸ˜€

Along the same lines as in part V (maybe a tad bit less annoying, but still quite up there) is the disappearing of exporting presets.
I use the export function out of Lightroom extensively and I made some custom user presets for exporting files, with or without post-processing actions in Photoshop.

Lightroom screenshot

Lightroom screenshot

And the same thing happens here as it does with the metadata presets.
As soon as you change catalogs the user presets are gone. “Luckily” the last used information is kept in the fields, so you can salvage at least one of your presets, but all the other ones you will have to redo.

Lightroom screenshot

Lightroom screenshot

The ones that are “hard wired” in the system will stay. The post-processing actions for example, they are still there. But those are actual physical files on the hard drive. Apparently these user customized export presets aren’t. They seem to be temporary files attached to the currently opened catalog.

Some time ago I wrote a couple of pieces on things that bug me in Lightroom.
I wasn’t done yet…

Lightroom allows you to change the identity plate.
By default this is set to the Lightroom logo and the text Lightroom.
When you have some images to show to your clients and it shows your own logo there, it of course looks a lot more fancy. So my logo’s up there, instead of the Lightroom logo.

Lightroom screenshot

Lightroom screenshot

Now the annoying thing, though.
Suppose you have photographs of the same client in different catalogs. That would mean you’d have to switch catalogs in order to show your client the other photographs.
What happens? Lightroom closes, restarts, and then shows up with an ugly Cursiva font where your logo previously was. It doesn’t even show the somewhat stylish Lightroom logo, just the text Lightroom in that Cursiva font. Ugh!

Lightroom screenshot

Lightroom screenshot

So what’s up with that?
If you haven’t touched the settings in LR in regards to the identity plate, then LR will default to the standard LR logo when you change catalogs. But if you set your identity plate in one and switch to another catalog the software defaults to an ugly text?

Common guys at Adobe? What were you thinking?

Last summer, when I finished the education at Rocky Mountain School of Photography, I decided to sign up with Digimarc. We had endless discussions about how the web is the perfect place to grab images without paying for them and several of our teachers had been in the situation where they -by accident or not- found out that a company had used their images without permission. So we talked about how to prevent those kind of things from happening and which ways were the best ways to go.

Digimarc was one of the ways. Digimarc has created a plug-in for (among others) Photoshop where you can incorporate an invisible digital watermark uniquely registered to you.
I signed up for it.
And with that, I also signed up for the tracking report, which supposedly tracks down your images with that unique digital watermark on the internet. It cost me a whopping $499, but hey! If it would get me to chase people who use my images without permission, I might be able to claim that money back from them, right?

So I started using the plug-in and Digimarc them with my own unique invisible digital watermark.
The first thing I noticed was that this Digimarc is everything but flawless.

It’s very sensitive when it comes to certain color combinations in regards to visibility. When used with certain kinds of images, there’s a whole issue about how it changes the pixels. Not that you actually get to see your unique digital watermark, but see below what I mean (you might have to click on the image to check the bigger view in order to see the difference clearly):

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

So as long as there’s a busy background with many different structures and colors you don’t really see it (you will if you know where to look, but anyway…). However, if you have an even background the “invisible” digital watermark completely screws up the image.

And then there’s the tracking report function. That’s the thing I paid $499 for.
I have a vague memory of one of our teachers telling he tried it, but it didn’t really work for him.
I figured it couldn’t be that bad, but I guess I should’ve listened.

After two months of being subscribed to the service there was no mention in the tracking report of finding any of my images anywhere. Not even on my own website.
I wrote a mail to helpdesk and asked what the usual time was before images were tracked. They told be to have a bit more patience, that it could take anywhere from 2-6 months.
Fair enough, I thought. The internet is a big place, many websites to crawl through.
So I let time pass. I let six months pass. And according to the report the service still hadn’t found any images. I let seven months pass and still no images were found. I let one more month pass just for good faith, but when the tracking report still came back with zero found images I decided it was time again to ask for some explanation.

“This does seem out of the ordinary that our search engine has not been able to locate any of your images if they are not posted within password-protected sites, web pages behind firewalls, Flash-based galleries or database-driven websites that are not open for spiders to crawl.”

My own website only has a flash opening page, but the portfolio is pure HTML / CSS only. Coded it myself, so I know.
Then they wanted me to send some straight links to my images, so their vendor could do a direct search. So I sent them a stack of links directly to my images, on my own website, on this blog, on Imageshack and on another website still.
And again I let time pass. I let one week pass. Two weeks, three weeks… And when after four weeks the tracking report still hadn’t reported any of my images, at all, not even from the straight links that I sent them, I found it well enough. I found I had been sufficiently patient.

So I wrote a mail to helpdesk again in which I kindly told them I paid $499 for a service which was supposed to track images on the internet where I couldn’t find them and that it couldn’t be the idea of the service that the customer supplied links to where to find the images. That I found my patience had been enough after over nine months of nothing and that I thought a reimbursement of the invested $499 was in place.

And even though the tracking service didn’t function properly (or actually, not at all), the customer service does deserve a compliment, because they made no issue whatsoever out of my reimbursement request and the lady told me she’d arrange things with their finance department.
(Now I just hope that it won’t turn out to be a second Rodale where I have to chase after my money for a year).

But anyway… Conclusions of the story:
1) Digital watermarking sucks, it destroys your images
2) Digimarc’s tracking service needs a lot of work before it actually functions
3) Don’t always second guess your teachers, sometimes they actually CAN be right (sorry David πŸ˜‰ )
4) Best way to protect your images? Big fat visibly transparent watermark right in the center of the image.

Lightroom is for archiving photographs. Lightroom is for editing photographs, very much like Photoshop.

There’s one other trivial thing – I think – missing in Lightroom: Support for scanning images.
Photoshop has this nifty little TWAIN support, where you can scan images straight into Photoshop.

Photoshop screenshot

Photoshop screenshot

Suppose… I was a photographer already in the previous century, when there was still that weird thing with that kind of plasticcy material with its light-sensitive layer… dang… what’s it called again… Oh yeah! FILM! You got these funny strips called slides or negatives. And you’ve got a basement full of boxes of these, that need to be digitalized.
Or maybe you’re just one of those true artists who love photographing with old cameras and positive or negative film and do all kinds of old fashioned Ansel-Adamsy stuff with it and want to digitalize it afterwards for the world to see? Or maybe you don’t even have slides or negatives anymore, but boxes full of prints that need to be digitalized…?

Being a photographer using Lightroom, wouldn’t it be just the bestest thing to be able to get the same little screen from the File menu and scan from Lightroom, after which it’s added to the open catalog straight away?
I mean… Instead of opening Photoshop (or whatever other third party software that runs the scanner), scan it, save it somewhere on your hard disk, open Lightroom, search for the location where you saved the scan, and import it into the catalog in Lightroom?
That would save a good amount of time. I’m not a software programmer, but I believe that’s only a matter of copy-pasting some coding from for example Photoshop. And voilΓ , problem fixed, and another handful of photographers satisfied.