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 »

Adobe updates Lightroom ecosystem

Today, Adobe released updates to its Lightroom family of apps for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices. The majority of the updates center around Lightroom CC, but Lightroom Classic also got a little bit of love as well, and many of the options will also trickle to the browser-based version of Lightroom. Here are the main features in the release:

  • The Lightroom CC mobile apps can now create presets. And, with this addition, presets (and profiles) can now be synchronized across all platforms—desktop, mobile, and web. This includes your own custom presets and any third-party presets you’ve added, anywhere in the Lightroom CC app world. (If you’re using Lightroom Classic, Julianne Kost posted a cool tip on how to synchronize presets and profiles between Classic and Lightroom CC mobile devices.)
  • A Manage Preset option has been added to the entire ecosystem, letting you show or hide presets by installed category.
  • The mobile apps also get the Healing Brush tool and chromatic aberration correction. The iOS version of Lightroom CC also has a Long Exposure Technology Preview (for iPhone 7 and up only).
  • You can now copy and paste edit settings inside the Lightroom CC desktop app. And, as you can with Lightroom Classic, you have the option to choose which settings you wish to copy.
  • Lightroom Classic’s HDR and Panorama merge features now include an option to automatically stack the images used and place the finished image at the top of the stack.
  • The Mac versions of Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC also get support for the High Efficiency Image Format (HEIC), currently used by Apple with their latest iPhone and iPad cameras. This is supported on the Mac for now, but as acceptance grows, it should move to other platforms as well. [For more on HEIC, see this page.]
  • Adobe also added a few new web-portfolio sharing options from within Lightroom CC, letting you control image downloads, and whether metadata and location information is viewable.

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Old Reliable: The annual Photoshop Elements update

True to its annual, autumnal form, Adobe today announced Photoshop Elements 2018, the latest version of the company’s image editing and organizational software for photographers, hobbyists, and, in Adobe’s parlance, “memory keepers.” As is the case with most of the yearly Elements updates, the new version doesn’t offer a ton of new features, but mostly adds new components to the Organizer and the Guided Edit modes in the product. (It also benefits from enhancements to the Photoshop engine found at the core of Elements.) Here are a few of the highlights in Elements 2018:

  • The Organizer adds a few new features designed to help folks work through large photo collections, including an Auto-Curate feature that automatically selects your best photos based on composition, faces, and “quality.” Like most machine-based tools, it will be hit or miss, but I found it fairly good in its execution.
  • The selection tools have been improved, making it much easier to create complex masks.
  • An ‘Open Closed Eyes’ feature can automatically copy the open eyes from one portrait and blend them  seamlessly into a second one.
  • New Guided Edit options, including background replacement, double exposure creation, and a number of additional artistic effects.
  • Additional (and improved) options in the project creation module, including more powerful slideshows, expanded print-at-home projects, and more.

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