The Rise of Computational Photography

Computational photography is coming up more and more as a topic these days, driven largely by developments in the smartphone world. Apple and Google, specifically, have worked diligently over the past few years to overcome the inherent limitations in the cameras of their pocket-size phones—small sensors and tiny lenses—to produce better images than would be available solely from the phones’ optics alone. By using custom chips, advanced software, dual lenses (in the case of newer iPhones and some Android phones) and more, these phones can create photographs that once required high-end cameras or painstaking compositing to produce. (For more, see Jeff Carlson’s piece on DPReview.com about the computational aspects of the iPhone XS.)

The result is that our phones now use this technology to provide impressive images, ones combined in the phone from multiple “shots.” They include things like automatic high-dynamic range (HDR) photos, seamless panoramas, and portraits with shallow depth of field. Sure, you can find many online commenters who rail against the bad portrait shots and wonky panos as proof that this iPhone or that Pixel is not as good as a basic SLR or mirrorless camera, but that misses the point (something we talk about extensively in Taking Better Pictures Doesn’t Mean a New Camera). Read more »

Photoshop on the iPad Coming in 2019

This week marks the Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles, Adobe’s annual centerpiece for product announcements. While there is little major news in the Lightroom Classic/Lightroom CC space (beyond some small updates, which you can read about over on the Lightroom Killer Tips blog), Adobe demoed Photoshop CC for iPad, a brand-new version of the company’s flagship image editor, which “shares the same code base as its desktop counterpart, so there’s no compromise on power and performance or editing results.”

Redesigned for a modern touch experience, Photoshop CC on iPad will deliver the power and precision of its desktop counterpart. Photoshop CC on iPad will let users open and edit native PSD files using Photoshop’s industry-standard image-editing tools and will feature the familiar Photoshop layers panel. With Photoshop CC across devices, coming first to iPad in 2019, you will be able to start your work on an iPad and seamlessly roundtrip all of your edits with Photoshop CC on the desktop via Creative Cloud.

Unlike previous attempts at porting Photoshop to tablets, Adobe appears to be doubling down on the future, which it believes is centered around cloud- and tablet-based editing. The new app (and corresponding desktop versions of Photoshop CC) will use a new format, called Cloud PSD, to sync edits between the cloud and mobile and desktop devices. This new format appears to be similar in intent to the way that Lightroom CC syncs images and edits across devices, albeit in a more Dropbox-style environment.

Adobe gave the Verge an exclusive on the new app, and they have both a good overview of Photoshop CC for iPad and the new Cloud PSD format, as well as a hands-on preview of the app that is well worth watching:

“I’ve been using Photoshop for the iPad for the past week, and it feels distinctly like Photoshop with a few design choices optimized for a touchscreen. It doesn’t have every tool available in desktop Photoshop; in fact, it’s missing the entire upper task bar with the drop-down menu. Instead, you’ll find tools like adjustment layers in the collapsible right-side toolbar.”

[Update: Adobe has made the MAX keynote available online; the Photoshop iPad section starts at approximately 1 hour and 1 minute into the presentation, and lasts about ten minutes.]

Jeff Carlson: iPhone XS a “leap forward in computational photography”

Over at DPReview this morning, our old friend Jeff Carlson has a very interesting review of the camera in Apple’s new iPhone XS and XS Max. It’s not a traditional, all-you-need-to-know review, however.  Instead, Jeff focuses on the “computational power” found in the phone’s hardware, and how it drives the improved HDR and Portrait modes:

“Aside from folks who still shoot film, almost nobody uses the term ‘digital photography’ anymore – it’s simply ‘photography,’ just as we don’t keep our food in an ‘electric refrigerator.’ Given the changes in the camera system in Apple’s latest iPhone models, we’re headed down a path where the term ‘computational photography’ will also just be referred to as ‘photography,’ at least by the majority of photographers.”

This concept of computational photography will be one of the driving forces in the camera world over the next few years. As we move (slowly) away from big SLRs to mirrorless cameras and vastly improved smartphones, companies like Apple, Google and Samsung could very well be the leaders in this space, leaving traditional camera makers like Canon, Nikon and others to play catch-up.

Taking “Better Pictures” Doesn’t Mean a New Camera

I had an interesting conversation with someone the other day, one that I felt was worth recounting here. I was at a bookstore, perusing photography books for possible review here on the website. It was clearly a very slow day at the bookstore; while I was at the register, the checkout dude murmured something like, “these look interesting…I’d really like to take better pictures.”

We had a short conversation about whether these books might help, and he then asked me if I was a photographer. I told him yes, but that I was really more of an editorial guy who published a website about photography.

Without missing a beat, he said, “I really need a better camera. Which one should I buy?”

To which I replied, “Which phone do you have?”

Read more »

Lumu Light Meter

If you’re an old-school, ex-film photographer like me, you probably still have a fondness for light meters. These days, with everything being automated, most people don’t carry one around in their camera bag. Luckily, there’s an app for that! The Lumu Light Meter app—from Lumulabs—is well-designed, easy to use and extraordinarily useful. Lumulabs has thought of options that I could have never dreamed up, which help to make it the best incident meter of its kind.

Read more »

The Best Printing Apps for Your Phone

In the last decade, printing your images out on real paper seems to have fallen out of fashion. As digital has conquered the world of film, many photographers–professional or personal–no longer print out their photos. Whenever I tell people about printing out my images, they act confused; “Why would you print them out?” Yet every time I give physical photos as gifts, my friends and family absolutely love them.

Many people don’t have photo printers at home, as they can be pricey to buy and stock regularly. That’s why I’ve fallen in love with the world of printing apps; why pay bucket loads for special paper and expensive ink when someone else can send you gorgeous prints with no hassle?

There are a lot of printing apps popping up, so I’ve compiled my favorites to help you choose the best option for you. Read more »