Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Photoshop Takes A Backseat
As Apple Aperture and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom have advanced and evolved, these packages offer capabilities that give professionals the ability to streamline workflow with local editing power
FIGURE 1: Image-processing
recipe In Lightroom
In the fall of 2005, Apple shook the imaging world with the surprise launch of Aperture 1.0 at PhotoPlus East. It offered a completely new approach to the digital photography workflow, combining image-management tools with essential RAW image-processing tools. Most importantly, the processing tools were completely nondestructive and supported several RAW file types. With the new nondestructive workflow, Aperture also boldly broke from the standard File Open, Save As, Close file-handling model to which we had grown accustomed. Users could now view a contact sheet from an entire shoot and process the images without having to save individual changes and managing multiple copies.
Perhaps no one was as surprised by the Apple announcement as Adobe, which had been simultaneously working on a similar, yet unannounced application for several years. Then at Macworld in January 2006, Adobe took the wraps off a free public beta version of its new Lightroom application aimed to go head-to-head with Aperture. Like Apple, it combined the best of image management with nondestructive RAW file processing. Unlike Apple, it would eventually share the same image-processing engine with Photoshop’s Camera Raw plug-in and support both Macintosh and Windows operating systems.
|FIGURE 2: Aperture’s global corrections||FIGURE 3: Lightroom’s |
Spot Removal feature
The key breakthrough with both of these products was the nondestructive RAW processing functionality. Rather than changing the actual pixel values and overwriting the original files or saving multiple copies of the same images (like one would do in Photoshop), nondestructive editors save an instruction set or processing recipe like a filter through which the images are viewed.
Thus, the original image is never changed and you always can revert to the original image if needed. Instead of saving and managing multiple copies of the same large file, these applications would save the original RAW file together with multiple copies of instructions. Other applications have supported nondestructive image editing in the past, such as Live Picture in the late 1990s and proprietary RAW file editors from the camera companies like Nikon Capture. However, Aperture and Lightroom were the first to support RAW formats from multiple camera vendors in one application. They also were the first to do it in a way where the image-processing instructions were automatically saved separately from the images in an external database without ever changing the RAW file itself.
The Evolution Of Nondestructive Feature Sets
In the first releases of Aperture and Lightroom, both Apple and Adobe focused on global image corrections, or changes that were equally applied across the whole image.
Not that any of this is trivial from a programming standpoint, but it’s far easier to understand how one could, for example, increase exposure by one stop or apply the same tone curve equally across an entire image than how to isolate a specific area of an image to make local changes in a nondestructive way. Both products handled local editing needs by “round tripping,” or handing off a copy of the image to Photoshop or other image-editing applications and returning a modified TIFF image copy of the original RAW file back.
Photographers grew accustomed to the new workflow and soon requested additional nondestructive local editing features, which they could access from within the application without having to leave for Photoshop. This could easily turn into a Pandora’s box, especially for Adobe, which could easily end up competing against its own Photoshop application.
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