Get a Peek at Future Adobe Products

General, Software No Comments »

Dreamweaver beta

Adobe is one of the premiere creators of creative applications, creating everything from Flash to Photoshop to Dreamweaver. The good news? Adobe just released the beta versions of several of their products for testing on their web sites. One of the things I found most interesting was to see the slightly updated user interface. They seem to be sticking with the panel idea (which I really like), but have made it shine a little more.

You can download Dreamweaver CS4 (to create web sites), Fireworks CS4 (to create web graphics) or SoundBooth CS4 (editing sound files) from the Adobe web site here. The downloads will work on a trial basis (2 days), or you can input your CS3 licenses to unlock them for a longer period of time.

Also, John Nack posted an inquiry for anyone that would be intersted in trying the new version of Bridge. Check it out here.

And, last but definately not least, if you haven’t already downloaded it, you should check out the beta version of Lightroom 2. Lightroom is a great tool for managing, editing and outputting large numbers of digital photos. You can download a 30 day trial here. Or, if a friend who owns Lightroom 1 sends you an invitation, you can install a trial that runs through August. If you don’t know anyone that has Lightroom 1, drop a comment in and introduce yourself. We can become fast friends via e-mail and I’ll send you an invite!

Increasing Your Photo Sizes

Other, Reviews, Software 2 Comments »

I recently created a 78″x33″ stand-up banner (the kind you’d see at a trade show). I used one my photos in it and had to blow it up to fit in the 78″ tall requirement. In many cases, this can be a pretty scary proposition. In many cases making images larger than they start at can be a BAD thing. I hadn’t blown up an image that much in the past and had to do some research/experimentation on a few different tools/techniques to make sure it didn’t look like a blurry/pixelated mess on the very expensive banner.

I listed the three best approaches I found and brief instruction on how to do each. I preferred OnOne’s Photoshop plugin, Genuine Fractals, but any of these options will provide usable results when followed correctly.

Where to Start

It’s important to always start with as high quality image as you can. Ideally, you can use a RAW file or JPEG right out of your 6 or 7+ megapixel digital camera. You don’t want to grab a 800 pixel wide, been compressed multiple times image off of Google. The old addage is true here: Garbage in > Garbage out.

Also, when doing this, keep in mind that most folks are going to view a large print or poster from at least 3 or 4 feet away. As a result, they won’t need to be quite as sharp as an 8×10″ print.

The Options I Tried

I did some research and tried three different options. #1 and #2 were done directly in Photoshop. #3 was done with a Photoshop plugin.  Here’s how they work. Note that each one will make the file substantially larger (several hundred MB in some cases, so make sure your hard drive is ready to handle that). Also, in many cases I would apply a bit of sharpening to the photo after enlargement to crisp things up a bit (more on sharpening in a future post).

#1: Increasing 10% at a Time with Bicubic Smoother

Open the image in Photoshop and choose Image>Image Size. Uncheck the Resample Image checkbox and change the resolution to 200 and click OK.

Go to Image>Image Size again and re-check the Resample Image checkbox and change the option to Bicubic Smoother. Choose Percentage from one of the document size drop-downs and change the percentage to 110. Click okay.

The image will now grow by 10%. Repeat the Image>Image Size, percentage, 110 steps until your image is at the desired size.

#2: Increase all at Once with Bicubic Sharper

This tip is directly from Scott Kelby’s best selling book The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book for Digital Photographers. He mentions in the book (and I’ll second it here) that this seems like the most non-traditional of the options. But, it seems to do the trick! The one downside to this option is that it produced the largest file size, which can get tricky when you start to consider Photoshop’s 2 GB file size limit.

Open the image in Photoshop and choose Image>Image Size. Change the settings in the box as shown below and click okay. It’ll process things for a while.

#3: Increase with OnOne’s Genuine Fractals Plugin

This is the only option of the 3 that requires an additional dip into the bank account (past the already pricey Photoshop). Make sure OnOne’s Genuine Fractals plugin for Photoshop is installed (it retails for around $160, unless you need to resize CMYK images and can be found here).

Open the image in Photoshop. Click onOne>Genuine Fractals>Scale Current Image…. The image will open in a new window, with new options. Set the desired resolution (around 200) and size and click okay. One benefit to Genuine Fractals is that it provides advanced previewing and sharpening options while in its resizing dialog box.

The Results

As I mentioned before, the results were all fairly decent, although they varied a bit. Of all, I preferred Genuine Fractals – it provided slightly sharper lines and less noise. I also listed the final file size for each.

Original File: 53 MB

#1: 10% at a Time: 934 MB

#2: Bicubic Sharper: 1530 MB

#3: Genuine Fractals: 928 MB

Lightroom ACE

General, Software 1 Comment »

I’m scheduled to take the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom ACE exam in just a few days. I’ve taken and passed the ACE exam for Adobe InDesign (Adobe’s page layout program), but I’m still nervous about this one.

If you aren’t sure what Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is, you can check it out here. It is a program that allows you to more easily manage, print, share and do basic editing on massive amounts of photos.

If you aren’t sure what an ACE is… well, that is what this post is all about.

What Is It?

To start, ACE stands for Adobe Certifed Expert – you can become an ACE in various Adobe products (Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Lightroom, etc.) by taking an exam.

Some additional exam details:

  • Most cost $150
  • Taken in a testing center on a computer – all are multiple choice.
  • 40-100 questions/test, depending on the program.

For more information on the ACE, visit Adobe’s ACE page here.

Why Take It?

The reasons I’ve chosen to take the exam are:

  • Professional recognition: After passing the exam, you receive a logo you can display and certificates, etc. Some argue that it doesn’t always mean much. While various companies/clients would view it differently, I’m of the opinion that the more little things I can do, the more employable (either by a company or a client) that I am.
  • Product expertise: While I typically only take exams on products I already know pretty well, preparation for the exam often teaches me small, yet useful things I didn’t previously know.

To be fair, some have been a little critical of the exams, feeling that they could be better written. Adobe has responded well to the feedback, posting new exams, but some still feel they aren’t worth it. Generally, I guess it’s up to each person as to their value.

What’s the Best Way to Prepare?

I suppose this varies by person. If I pass on Thursday, though, I’ll share a few of my practices in my Friday post (if I don’t pass, I wouldn’t suppose that the study practices I used would be very useful).

Dipslaying a Pano Wallpaper Across 2 Monitors

Reviews, Software 1 Comment »

A 2-monitor setup among photographers is becoming more and more common, especially with the dropping price of supporting hardware and the influx of LCD monitors. I have a 2 monitor setup at work and at home and they are an important part of my setup and workflow.

Being a photographer, I often like to use my own work as wallpaper. One thing I’ve had problems with, though, is when I set a wallpaper with dual monitors it repeats the same wallpaper on both screens. It would be nice if I could set separate wallpaper for each or even better, span a long pano-type image across both monitors.

I’d been struggling with this problem for a while – at least until I found a great, free tool, Display Fusion. The one downside is that it is for PC users only (it works on XP and Vista) – if you are on a Mac, feel free to post other solutions in the comments section of the post.

Display Fusion, which can be downloaded here, solves wallpaper problems with dual monitors and more. After installing, you can pull up the properties of Display Fusion to configure its two primary purposes – wallpaper display and shortcut keys.

Before I decided to keep and recommend the program, though, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a computer resource hog. I have enough background processes as it is and needed this to be small. After running, I pulled up the Task Manager and reviewed its usage under various circumstances. On Windows Vista, it idles at around 800 KB of memory and spikes up to around 1.5 or 2 MB of memory. That’s lower than most other processes, even light ones, so running Display Fusion won’t tax your system!

Based on its robust, yet simple features, small impact on system resources and great price, I highly recommend Display Fusion.

Wallpaper Display

The tool provides several options for displaying different images on each monitor or to span one image across monitors. It adds a few nice features like stretch/ centering, shifting the background up/down and left/right to get it right where you want it and to access photos directly from Flickr.  The Flickr feature lets you search Flickr groups/people/text fields and easily display rotating images from the search results.

The interface is very straightforward – I tried several images with it and it worked flawlessly. Keep in mind that if you want to span a picture across both monitors you’ll need to find/adjust one to be more panoramic than usual. It will adjust it for you if needed, but if it isn’t meant to be very wide, it could end up distorting it.

Shortcut Keys

Display Fusion is worth downloading/installing based on its wallpaper features alone, so its added support for Shortcut Keys is a real treat.

The settings display about a dozen common actions you would want to perform with program windows between the two monitors, such as moving a window from one to the other, spanning a window across both, etc. You can assign a keyboard shortcut to the various actions. They worked very smoothly with very little, if any lag, between using the shortcut and seeing the windows move as requested. I don’t move things around a lot but this is definately a timesaver.


Using ExifTool to GeoTag Your Photos

GeoTagging, Landscape, Software 3 Comments »

Screenshot is of ExifTool GUI – an ExifTool companion program

[Update after original posting: I recently found a new tool that uses EXIFTOOL in the background but trumps this one! Check it out here.] Not sure what GeoTagging is? Not sure why I chose to run you through the steps of ExifTool? Check out my other, more general post/review, right here.

With that said, let’s jump into ExifTool. Now, to start off, this is meant to be primarily a command prompt tool, which means right out of the box it doesn’t have a pretty interface. Please don’t let that scare you, though! If you use the steps in this post you will be able to use this free tool to geotag your photos!

There arethree basic ways you can use ExifTool to tag your photos.

  1. The GUI Way (I just found this and it does provide some pretty buttons! – definately try this way first). It is by far the easiest and fastest. If you only need the lat/long/altitude information, this is gold.
  2. The kinda easy way: Just in case the GUI way doesn’t work.
  3. The harder way, which lets you attach lots more GPS info to your photo. This uses the program directly from command prompt. If you need your photos tagged with more GPS information, you should probably read about the harder way.

[*Geek Note - GUI stands for Graphical User Interface - the pretty parts of programs that let you click buttons, view nice text boxes, etc.]

The GUI Way (what you are probably used to) TRY THIS WAY FIRST

  1. Download the ExifTool .zip from this site and unzip the .exe file to your desktop or other location on your computer. Rename it to exiftool.exe. It was previously named ExifTool(-k).exe.
  2. Download the ExifTool GUI from this site and unzip the .exe file to the same location that you just placed the ExifTool.exe at.
  3. As long as they are in the same directory, you can double-click on the ExifToolGUI icon to run the program. It is fairly easy to use.
    1. Locate the folder that contains the images you want to apply the GPS data to.
    2. Select the image(s) you want to affect.
    3. Make sure the EXIF button on the right side is selected.
    4. Click one of the ^ buttons next to the word Edit. Click the GPS tab and fill in your data. It has a check box for North and East. If it is South or West, simply leave the appropriate box unchecked (for example, if your coordinate is North, leave the South box unchecked). Click the Save button.

A Few Things to Note:

  • You can make a few basic configurations in the Options menu at the top.
  • Just a reminder that the site states that this is not a commercial product and that you should use at your own risk… other disclaimers that remove liability from anyone else if your photos blow up. It worked for me – try it on some copies of your photos initially. Once they work, you can probably feel fairly comfortable using it.
  • The GPS fields are pretty limited using this option.

The kinda easy way

I like this way because it also lets me quickly select specific images and tag them. In many cases I might just want, say the first 10 images, when I knew they were at a particular location. I can then drag and drop just those without have to put them in their own folder or running the script on them one at a time (which is what is required in the harder way).

  1. Download the ExifTool .zip from this site and unzip the .exe file to your desktop or other location on your computer.
  2. Rename the executable as described below.
    • You’ll rename the executable to contain the GPS information you want to apply to a particular set of photos. Then, when you want to tag a different set of photos, you can rename it again.
    • It should be named in this general manner: exiftool (-GPSLongitudeRef=[W/E] -GPSLongitude=[longitude coordinate]…).exe  [my note - you may not have to actually type the .exe part. If you didn't see it there when you started renaming, you can probably leave it out]. You should fill in the W/E and longitude coordinates with the specific information that you manually read from the GPS waypoints you recorded during your photo shoot.
    • A specific example is as follows: The only spaces are those between exiftool and the first ( and the space just prior to the new set of information, like between the W and -GPSLongitude. It labels my photos with the coordinates, altitude and timestamp that the coordinates were recorded at.
      • exiftool (-GPSLongitudeRef=W -GPSLongitude=104,54.3101 -GPSLatitudeRef=N -GPSLatitude=39,33.5368 -GPSAltitude=1796m).exe
    • For full documentation on the available GPS tags, you can check out this page.
  3. Drag/drop the file(s) or directory that contains the files you want to tag with a particular set of information. (See, I told you it would be pretty easy).

A Few Things to Note:

  • This will erase any pre-existing GPS related information on the photo (all other metadata is left the same).
  • You have to avoid using several characters in this as they are not allowed in Windows file names. They are
    /\?*:|”<>. That is why we had to avoid a timestamp in this method (which would have involved both a : and a /).
  • This process copies the originals of your photos and puts an _original at the end, giving you a set of duplicate file names. You can avoid this by adding -overwrite_original just prior to the last parentheses. Note that this is at your own risk as it can sometimes cause file corruption.

Now, the Harder Way

If you’ve lasted this long, you’re ready for the hard stuff. It is in command line, which isn’t too bad, if you’ve seen it before. If you haven’t, well, proceed at your own risk.

  1. Download the ExifTool .zip from this site and unzip the .exe file to your desktop or other location on your computer. Rename it to exiftool.exe. It was previously named ExifTool(-k).exe.
  2. To pull up command prompt, click the Start button at the bottom left of your screen and choose run. Type command and you will see a black box pop up.
  3. You’ll need to run the program through this and pass it some parameters. You’ll need to modify it a bit for your own situation. You’ll need to use different lat/long/alt coordinates. You’ll also need to point to a different folder where your pictures are stored. You should point to a different directory for the exiftool.exe (you should point that first part to wherever you saved it at). As this isn’t a full tutorial on command line use, I pasted all the information I typed into it in step 4. Don’t forget, replace the applicable information with yours.
  4. C:\Users\Brian\Desktop\exiftool -GPSLongitude=104,54.3101 -GPSLon
    gitudeRef=W -GPSLatitude=39,33.5368 -GPSLatitudeRef=N -GPSAltitude=”1963.00 m” -
    GPSDateStamp=2008:01:10 -GPSTimeStamp=”3:50:01 PM” “B:\My Pictures\Reyman\2008\2
    008_01_GPSTest”

A Few Things to Note:

Geotagging Your Photos

GeoTagging, Landscape, Reviews, Software 10 Comments »

If you aren’t already familiar with GeoTagging – it combines two simple things; a picture and a location (in this case, a very specific set of coordinates based on latitude and longitude). It allows you to always know where your photos were taken (which is very handy for landscape, wildlife and travel photographers) as well as display photo locations on a map. Google Maps and Flickr both have great tools that allow you to click on the map locations and view the related pictures. (The picture at the top of the screen doesn’t really have anything to do with GeoTagging – I was just looking around on my hard drive for earth-like images and that one seemed fun).

Recently, I decided to jump on the GeoTagging bandwaggon. I do some landscape/travel photography and thought it would be neat to share them via a map view. I already have the first piece of the puzzle, the pictures. I recently purchased the other, a handheld GPS system. It’s the size of a cell phone (well, maybe a cell phone from 5 years ago when they were a bit larger). Among other things, it allows you to press a few buttons and record your current location. I did some research and chose the Garmin eTrex Legend.

The final step of the GeoTagging process is attaching the location to the photo. After several hours of research, it turns out this is by far the hardest part of the whole thing. I found several usable methods; some that work in my specific setup, and some that may not work for me but that may work for others.

My Requirements

I needed a solution that would attach my Garmin GPS data (which can be exported to a .gpx file, a common GPS file format) to photos stored as .dng (digital negatives – an Adobe format that is equivalent to RAW). I was looking for something as inexpensive as possible – idetally free. I was also looking for something that would work easily into my workflow – I didn’t wanted to have to add too many steps that aren’t in my download/sort flow already. I work on a PC, Windows Vista. [Note after original posting - my requirements (and as a result, what I searched for and found) also include being fairly entry level, especially with cost. My brother, a GPS expert, reminded me that there are many solutions in the $100+ range that will geotag photos very well. I tried to find something that will let me spend my money on photo gear and keep this part of things as a hobby. Just something to keep in mind as you read.]

What Didn’t Work

I’ll start with a brief look at what I tried, but didn’t work. While these didn’t work for me, they might work for you and your needs. Also, while I spent a good amount of time on the web, this list isn’t necessarily comprehensive and only includes programs for PCs – I wasn’t able to test anything for Macs. If you use a Mac, though, technology guru Terry White wrote a good review on GPS data conversion on the Mac (including a different GPS receiver than I chose). You can find it on Terry’s blog, here.

  • PhotoMapper: This looked promising. Very easy to use initially. It did, however, end up crashing on Vista (meant just for XP and below, I suppose, although the web site wasn’t super clear). Also, it only wrote the information to .jpg files.
  • PhotoMe: This looked very promising at first. It is primarily used as an EXIF/IPTC metadata editor. Its interface is simple and fairly intuitive. Unfortunately, it doesn’t batch process photos and can’t add new data, it can only edit. Because my GPS data wasn’t there to begin with , it wouldn’t add it.
  • AiS Exif: Installed and couldn’t even get it to run. Not sure if I needed to install the .net framework. I didn’t want to invest that much effort to even get the thing off the ground. Also, a full license was $50, which detracted even more from troubleshooting.
  • Downloader Pro: I didn’t try this one, but others have and give it high reviews. It is an alternate way to download files and attaches the GPS data as it does so. I chose not to use it because it costs $30 and it adds an extra, time consuming step (I wouldn’t normally mind paying, but if it adds another step too – that pushes the decision into the no category, even thought it is a pretty strong product.). Normally, I convert my files to .dng on import. This would require importing (and tagging) as raw and then a conversion to .dng.

What Did Work (and one that didn’t, but mostly did)

When it came down to it, price turned out to be a big factor. I couldn’t find anything that fit seamlessly into my workflow – everything ended up replacing Lightroom’s import feature, which I wanted to avoid. Several options mentioned above work with the workflow workaround, but I don’t want to pay for a feature that interrupts things that much. If I’m going to slow down my process, it had better be free. Also, I’m hoping that Adobe will eventually make this part of Lightroom.

So, without further ado, my top choice is ExifTool.

[Update after original posting: I recently found a new tool that uses ExifTool in the background that makes it even easier to use. It is definately my top choice! Check it out here.]

RoboGeo: Okay, I know what you are thinking (or should be if you’ve been paying attention) – “I thought you just mentioned ExifTool!”. I did – it was my final choice – RoboGeo was so close, though, that I wanted to mention it in this section. It works on Vista, it imports photos and .gpx files and can even automatically synch with my Garmin GPS receiver. And it does all of that will about 3 clicks. Here’s the few catches, though. First, it’s about $50 – and as you can tell from the rest of this post, I don’t particularly want to pay for this piece of software. Second, it has a fairly strange implementation.

One would normally assume that it would synch the photo that had the closest timestamp to a timestamped location from the GPS information. It turns out, though, that it needs at least two readings, one timestamped before the photo and one after. If you shoot the picture before the first or after the second, you are hosed – it doesn’t end up working automatically. You can set your GPS to constantly record points, say every 5 minutes to help a bit. But, any photos taken between GPS recording 2 and 3 won’t be automatically tagged, any between 4 and 5, etc. If it sounds crazy, it’s not just you, it is.

So, back to ExifTool, my tool of choice.

The number one reason I chose it, you guessed it, is the price. It is a whopping $0! Also, it works on Vista, can batch process files, and once I figured it out was fairly easy to use.

The downside is that it did take a few minutes to pick up – it works primarily from the command line (I listed the steps in this post, here, though, to help things along) and it doesn’t automatically tag the photos – meaning that it won’t automatically compare time stamps and insert the data. I have to choose the photos and then apply the location with the tool. For now, this will work, but if I was shooting landscapes professionally or if I just ever get tired of doing it this slightly slower way, I might continue looking for alternatives.