Sunday, September 29, 2013

Popular Image formats

opular image formats, change with time. At the moment jpeg and raw are the dominant players in storage of photographs from digital cameras. Actually RAW is not a format per se it just means the camera manufacturers format for the complete exposure information has been stored directly from the camera sensor, it is general uncompressed (and therefore large), not enhanced in any way (it will usually look flat on first view) but will have a higher dynamic range and often a higher bit depth than the equivalent Jpeg image. RAW file are often described as digital negatives, which is not truly correct in detail but is a good analogy because, like a film negative a raw file typical require some development or processing before it can be shared on the web (usually after being exported as a jpeg file) or Printed.

Adobe’s DNG (Digital NeGative) is heavily promoted by Adobe as the “standard” RAW format, yet few camera manufactures, especially the bigger ones have not yet embraced it. I have a pentax which does offer DNG as an alternative RAW format, Leica and Hasselblad are the only others I know of that can save to DNG in the camera. DNG does have one significant advantage, in my view, the files can  be 15 to 30% smaller than the equivalent RAW file when it is compressed. So many photographers convert to this format as they upload there photos. Another advantage, which is a two edged sword, is that the metadata and details of how an image is processed can be save in the DNG file, where as no camera metadata and processing details normally have to be stored in a separate file (eg an .xmp side car file) for propriety RAW format. The hidden danger here is you can unintentionally overwrite your original image with new edit and potentially degrade your image in an unrecoverable way.This also makes the DNG file less like a negative and more like a digital print.

JPEG  (.jpg, or .jif) is by far the most popular format for the capture of images on cameras and smart phones and their display on the web. It uses lossy compression, which means some detail is discarded to enable smaller file sizes. The degree of compression is generally selectable and is a trade-off between size and image quality. There are several variation but the common format adopted by camera manufacturers embedded metadata about the camera setting in the file header. It also contains delails of the colour space to be used. Virtually all photographic software and browsers are be able to read and render jpeg files.

PNG was designed as a lossless successor to the gif format, largely because of l;licencing fears over the gif format, and it is probably still the most wisely used lossless format for web display being supported by all browsers. Unlike gif it does not support animation, but it does support extended pelleted colour scheme (eg 324bit RGB & 32bit RGBa). It does not store metedata about the image, which may explain why it have been ignored by camera manufactures Its popularity is mainly in computer graphics and illustration, but can be used for saving photographs to be displayed on the web.

The TIFF format is one of the first image formats, it can use lossless as well as lossy compression and does have higher bit depth for its colour rendition (ie 16bit rather than 8bit). It was for a while the format of choice for very large images and a few camera manufactures did have it available as an optional format. It can be processed by most (but not all) photo management software and is still popular in the graphics, digital illustration areas, as well as the output format of choice from some HDR programs. Most web browser will do a reasonable job rendering tiff files, The underlying tiff standard has nit had a major updated since the early 90’s, but it is another format under the control of adobe.

GIF was once a very popular format to display of images on the net, because of its generally smaller size. It is still popular for some aspects of web page design because it can incorporate transparent zones within the image. a variant of the format also allows animated graphics to be created, and these have become very popular (overly so). If you load 3 to 5 similar images into google+ it will create an autoawesome, which is an animated gif stop motion style animation from those photos. I’m not aware of any cameras that capture photos as gif (some wencams and scanner can). There has been a lot discussed recently on how to pronounce the name of this format I still favour Gif (the sound G sound as in giraffe) but apparently one of the developers of the form prefers Jiff (pronouced with a soft J as in Jill)

Webp is a new format, specifically developed for web display,that is being developed by google but as opensource. It offers significantly small files and faster download. It is available in both lossless and lossy formats to give greater compression removing some detail. It does provide for storage of metadata. It is not yet widely supported but the chrome browser and applications like everpic can display it now. And while on pronunciation this is often called "weppy"

The variation of RAW, DNG, GIF & TIFF are all propriety formats potentially under the control of specific companies, and some worry that if and when these companies fail or probably worse they suddenly enforce strict licensing on patents, then these formats "could" potentially become difficult to use and exchange. I suspect the large number of existing images in these formats will ensure ongoing support.

Finally this is not a comprehensive list of image format, see this wikipedia comparison page to find other formats, but the formats discussed here are probably the most common ones you will come across.

Show which formats do I use?

Thanks again to Jessica Hische for her great drop caps.

Friday, September 27, 2013

PhotoFriday :: Natural Mirror

For PhotoFriday‘s topic Mirror

More experiments with RAW on Google+

Despite the fact that I couldn't yet see any compelling reason to go over to uploading RAW images into google+, I still wanted to have a play and see what it can offer. So I went an took a couple of pictures of the gingko in my cretaceous garden. I had been a bit worried because it has not spouted any leaves and it its well into spring. Luckily they appeared two days ago and are developing well. The first set where taken with my pentax, which lets me save files in either the pentax propriety raw format .pef or adobe's .dng format, I've also uploaded the .jpg  version captured at the same time. I was actually a bit disappointed because whilst I thought the background was out of focus it was a bit strong (more on that later)
The selection of RAW photos as loaded into google+
I then took another two photos with my canon this time with the aperture wide open to dramatize the depth of field blur.

picasa converts the files to jpeg
Normally I upload to google+ via picasa but trying to upload raw files from it triggers a jpeg version to be generated in the process, not what I wanted so I decided to do this via my google drive. You can also upload via your browser, but that is a bit more work. Whereas yesterday auto enhance seemed to be toggled off, today it was toggled on, so this turned out to be a fairly low effort way to get half decent renditions of my photos. The downside is the background sync from my google drive took several minutes, so its a case of copy to the google drive locally and go and get a cup of coffee.

The google+ photo selective adjust edit option
Whilst once I was very interested in the "auto fix" features of photo processing software I've come to prefer to tweak the sliders myself. This of course take time. The google+ plus path is classic google (I'm feeling lucky) where its all done for you behind the scenes. I must admit it isn't bad but I still prefer to do my own adjustments so I had a look how I might be able to fix the background dominance. I used the .pef file and I chose the selective adjust option which allows you to select a part of the image and this will find similar pasrt of the image to be selectively processed, You can adjust the size of a circular area to work with and the effect feathers off outside that (its shown in red above). You can also have more than one selective area. It does not offer blurring as an adjustment but I was able to decrease contrast and reduce saturation to take the background dominance away. Achieving something closer to what I remember in the view finder as I was photographing.

RAW file rendering after selective adjustment edit

I'm impressed there is a lot of power here, if you are already have good software for processing RAW files I'm sure you'll be able to do better.  However if you are new to RAW, have it on you camera but have been afraid to try it, give google+ photo and google drive a go, they are free after all, you just need a google account and be using a chrome browser. Oh that's right, also make sure you have a good data plan first because uploading the large RAW files will be a bandwidth hog.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

More Strange Lightroom Happenings

Lightroom on my studio laptop computer is misbehaving again. This time as I restarted lightroom, it wanted to update the catalogue it has already created in LR 4.4, which took a while then it took me through its introductory guide to the screen layout and program feature. As if I was doing a fresh install, which I wasn’t.Then all the folders in the catalogue showed the grey question mark indicating the files were missing, yet they where all there! Using Find missing files required more time but the catalogue seems fine now. Can’t help feeling that some sort of hidden update  has caused this and creative cloud is still my candidate for this mischief, but the plot thickened the next time I started lightroom when I got a warning about my beta test was about to expire, but I was not able to load the LR5.2 beta because the computer is still running Vista! My patience with adobe is being tested.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Some Subtle Changes in Google+ Photo

I could easily be the last picasa web album format user, but I was surprise by this message from google that I was new to google+!  I’m not I have been on google+ a long time but maybe haven’t used it so much latelyNot sure why I got this?
The learn more link took me to the on-line support/help area for picasa web album and google+, This message is wrong!and another curious little highlighted info box that suggested I need to upgrade to version 3.9.16
Then I checked my version of picasa which was only 3.9.0, but my checks to see if this was update, showed that picasa at least believes it is up to date.. Clicking on the learn more on the this Opps a 404 error messagesecond yellow highlighted box took me back to December 2011 post that picasa version 3.9 was available for download. Was this just another example where Australia users are being  “geo fenced” out of up to date versions? No! I went to the equivalent USA site and same little interesting circular inconsistency occurs. So I tried to follow the newest features link here and got something which is pretty unusual for google these days a 404 error message!
Apparently the same new featuresMy suspicions that there is quiet a bit of enhancement going on, lead me to reload in as google+ photos, rather than picasa web, and have a look at the What’s new item, which looks the same as the updates I discussed back in may. the layout might also be slightly different.
Eventually I got to the change its a new edit Item. This takes you into and auto enhance mode with a series snap seed style presets. Which is not surprising as google bought Nik Software who developed snap seed. There are also a set of the “flashy” filters similar to those popular in smartphone apps. Interestingly clicking on the customize button gives you the option to turn auto enhance on? Rather than off, so I soon discovered it is a toggle, that starts as auto enhance off. It would appear that at the moment these edit features are only available in a chrome browser. So its in browser rather that in the cloud editing but the photos are stored in the cloud
The new Edit feature, but only in chrome browser
The new snape seed like presetsnot to forget those "popular" filters a strange warning when you edit a file
I’m not sure what this last  highlighted message means, i just get it after editing a photos so I assume it is just as a warning that you may have some extra fiddling to do if you edit an already published images. More orphaned links to clog the bandwidth of cyber space!
The last new feature I sniffed out, actually +tray radcliffe did and blog posted about it, is the handling of RAW photos on Google+. I’ve loaded a couple and they display fine, Ok they look bland to start and definitely need a bit of snap seed love and attention, but with way fewer clicks and time required than say tweaking in lightroom.
So what do I make of all this? I suspect google+ photos is being redeveloped towards a one stop on-line place to upload, work on and store all your photos, particularly those from camera phones. These new edit features and RAW support will help differentiate google+ from other social net services. My worry is still that picasa as a stand alone computer program is probably not being developed or supported any more.

Was Creative Cloud to Blame?

Lightroom on my studio computer has suddenly developed a horrible server busy errors and any time I tried to run lightroom on that computer I just an endless series of switch to or retry messages. I had to use Task Manger to end task to escape the cycle. I hadn't loaded any new software but I suspected I must have some sort of malware problems but I try as I might I could not find any evidence of anything like that. I was contemplating reinstalling lightroom and decided to setup the lastest beta version of LRB5.2, alas this beta version won't run on windows Vista! Then yesterday I actually logged into Creative Cloud for the first time in a month or so and suddenly lightroom was working again?
Does this mean that the creative cloud has taken over ownership of my lightroom even though it is a purchased standalone copy and not one downloaded under the creative cloud subscription? Not sure how I'll test this, perhaps I'll just have not to use the creative cloud app for a month and see if the problem returns?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Benefits of Drop Box (& HDR)

I was out reseaching Sir John Monash, for my current art project, and took a HDR set with my android phone, because I have Drop Box set to upload new photos whenever it connects to a WiFi network.On the way home I travelled by train and thus passed through a station with the Metro Wifi, and by the time I got home the image set had been up loaded to my computers (which also run the Drop Box app. No extra effort required,

The statues is weathered brass and set against a grey yet bright sky, not the situation that would normally give a decent photo. I was expecting a silhouette against a blown out sky and yet the HDR Camera+ app actually made a reasonable job of preserving some (perhaps not enough) detail. Having a HDR capacity always in your pocket can be handy, when you are looking for art reference material even if it doesn’t create a perfect photo.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Digital Show Melbourne

This is just a Heads up for the photographic folk of Melbourne, this year’s The Digital Show, will be on in Jeff’s Shed over this coming weekend (13th to 15th September 2013). This years theme is “Unleash Your Creativity,” with some decent guest speakers, as well as a lot of the lastest consumer products on display.

You should still be able to get complimentary tickets by pre-registration using this link.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Kodak, back from the dead …maybe

Eastman Kodak that company that is credited with bringing photography to the masses, and really quietly started the digital era has been a spectacular example of being left behind in the digital photography revolution because their core business was remained in film. They announced an end to their Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the USA last week when they announced they will be able to make massive wrife off on tax losses and also transfer the ownership of company stock to the pension fund for its UK employees, whilst putting a few million in the directors pocket. I worry this is just smoke and mirrors and doesn't help kodak recover its name or position as a leader in popular photography.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Keywording your photos

Keywording (or tagging) your photos, sounds simple enough, but if you haven’t already started the task could have already got away from you.For someone taking and preparing a lot of stock photographs, some form keywording is probably essential but the time required and benefits trade-off for the rest of us will not be so clear. I take a wide variety of photos anyway, many are just for personal use, for painting reference, for use in collage or panoramic and a lot are family etc. My most important task is to to make these separations in my collection, I could do that physically by storing them in separate folders or even different hard disks. However, using key words and simple filters with do the same job from a unified collection (see my strategy 1 below). Designing a perfect classification or keywording system is a really broad topic but a good start (I’ve been using this approach for a while, but I have to admit not everything is keyworded yet) is to use a hierarchy based on the classic Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.  You probably won’t uses these categories as keywordsExample of a hierachical keyword approach themselves but they should help guide you as the most likely way to “find” an individual photo in the future. The Who? is pretty straight forward, and there are a number of ways to tackle this but a person’s name is usually fine, but this can be a lot or work for big groups/events, Lightroom affectionardos might like Gerard Murph’s method of custom keyword sets. The What? is very obvious you should describe what is the subject of yoour photo. This is likely to be the biggest part of your keyword list and think of this as a hierarchy and including each term for each level of the hierachy (see my strategy2). I remember hearing Varina Patel discussing this on a podcast and giving good advice on keywording by theme particular if you intend to submit photos to stock agencies. Several of the keywords like the When? and Where? will be best to be automatically read from the Cameras EXIF files, or batch such as GPS coordinates in a merge of .gpx files. There is also a lot of How? details also available in the EXIF data, but a few special keywords to relate to technique won’t go astray. It is the Why? that most people probably overlook, but the reason you took the photo in the first place is likely to be the quickest way to find an image!

There is a massive trade of here, adding keywords will undoubtedly make photos easier to find, but how much easier and how munch time is saved is pretty much an unknown at the time you are supposed to be doing the keywording. Against that is the amount of work you have to put in tagging and classifying your photos.In particular everyone will tell you you need to do all this extra work up front. Otherwise it becomes too large a task to tackle. So how do you get started, here are some good strategies I have found

  1. Have a few (less than 12) broad categories (eg. Portrait, Landscape, Family, Event) so one of which at least is used for every photo, and applied as or soon after you upload your photo. These should be based on the themes and types of Photograph you like to take. If one category gets particularly top heavy consider splitting it into some sub-categories and always add those as a second keyword.
  2. Aim to use at least 3 keywords for every photo that correspond to different levels in your classification Hierarchy (Its simple maths the more levels of categories you use the easier it is to find a specific photo). Yet be constrained 7 or more keywords may not give you much advantage in the end.
  3. When creating new keywords, avoid plurals, compound hyphenated terms (it is better just to use the two words as individual tags) and ambiguous terms. Watch out for misspelling.
  4. Use albums (or Collections in Lightroom) to subset important groups when attempting to batch recode keywords into exiting photo collections. The big advantage is you can “see” the collection together. Taking time to make special collections and batch keywording them at the same time is the quickest way to keyword unorganised photo archives and avoiding this being a chore.
  5. Tagging your photos with your keywords, as well as embedding them in your EXIF metedata when you post them on social media for public view if a great way to get extra traction  Unfortunately once again there is no uniform of standard way to do this, but it is worth investigating your favourite publishing places and services (eg in lightroom publishing services you can add metadata and customised presets).

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

End Of Summer

End Of Summer, originally uploaded by imageo.

Summer ends in February here in Australian and that month despite being short can be very hot, with everyone waiting for a cool change.

For PhotoFriday‘s topic End of Summer