Affinity Photo in Beta

There's been talk of a "Photoshop killer" for ages, but nobody has managed to pull it off.

I think mostly because Photoshop is so many things to so many different people. If you're a photographer, you use and rely on certain features of the application while many others you just ignore or, more often than not, put up with because of the power of the features you do use. Same goes for graphic designers, web designers, illustrators, etc. And that's part of the "problem" with Photoshop. It's become bloated with features for everybody. Not to mention the subscription model.

Pixelmator was heading on the right direction at one point focusing primarily on photographers. Unfortunately it seems in the last couple of versions the new features have been for illustrators/designers or gimmicky Instagram-like filters. It’s an awesome piece of software, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t seem to be the ultimate photographer app (if there can be such a thing).

Acorn is also a great application. It’s just not focused on photographers either.

Affinity Photo seems to want to be that “Photoshop killer” (and I put that in quotes because just writing it makes me cringe, but you get the point). At least going by the video and what I’ve read so far, it looks promising. What’s encouraging is that Serif, the company behind it, already has a vector art and illustration software out there called Affinity Designer, so hopefully there’s no incentive to cram non-photography features into the new app.

I’m downloading the beta now and will give it a go.

FlixelPix ebooks 50% Black Friday Offer

David Cleland from FlixelPix has 2 ebooks that I purchased a while ago and enjoyed. One is about shooting with shallow depth of field, titled Shooting Shallow and the other one (my favourite) is on Long Exposure Photography.

I've mentioned both ebooks here several times because I really like them. And every time they're on offer I like to promote them. This time, to celebrate Black Friday 2014, he's running a 50% off discount on the Photography ebook bundle that includes both.

The deal expires on Saturday 29th November 2014.

To get the 50% discount just use the code 'blackfriday' at checkout.

You can get the Photography ebook bundle here and below is a short description of each. They're worth the price and with the 50% off it's a no brainer.

Shooting Shallow

‘Shooting Shallow’ is a guide to understanding the concept of depth of field. The ebook is a 38 page guide to understanding the application of a shallow Depth of Field.

The aim of the guide is to equip photographers with the skills to maximize their ability to create bokeh rich images but at the same time ensure your subject is as sharp as possible.

Mastering the ability to control the out of focus areas, and create attractive bokeh, puts you in control of your image, and such techniques offer the opportunity for plenty of creative photography.

The book covers : the theory of depth-of-field, ‘Know your equipment : the camera & lens considerations‘ and also ‘the practical application’ of shooting with a shallow depth of field.

The Long Exposure eBook

Long exposure photography is about capturing space and silence, like visually holding your breath; it is about capturing the beauty and calmness of a scene.

The aim of this e-book is to offer an introduction to the process of capturing long exposure photographs. It documents the simple steps I employ each time I embark on a long exposure photo shoot.

The eBook covers everything from the equipment you will need right through to post- production processing in Adobe’s brilliant Lightroom. This guide has been written with the beginner to the long exposure process in mind; however, the enthusiast and professional alike may find something of relevance also.

This ebook also features six long exposure Lightroom Presets.

Week 27: Before and After, Photos app, and Presentations

Before & After by Esther Honig

What a fascinating experiment. Esther Hoing used Fiverr to get people from more than 25 countries to do some post processing of a photograph of her face. This is how she explains it:

In the U.S. Photoshop has become a symbol of our society's unobtainable standards for beauty. My project, Before & After, examines how these standards vary across cultures on a global level ... 
With a cost ranging from five to thirty dollars, and the hope that each designer will pull from their personal and cultural constructs of beauty to enhance my unaltered image, all I request is that they ‘make me beautiful’ ... 
Photoshop allows us to achieve our unobtainable standards of beauty, but when we compare those standards on a global scale, achieving the ideal remains all the more elusive.

Check out her project on her website. (Via a link someone sent me from Buzzfeed, go figure!)

A Closer Look at the Photos Adjustment Bar

Joseph over at takes an in depth look at the official screenshot of Apple's Photos app from the announcement of the death of Aperture. Interesting. As I said, I have high hopes for the new Photos app.

Presentations: The new MacSparky Field Guide

I'm looking forward to this one and have already preordered. David Sparks produces really great books using iBooks Author that truly take advantage of the medium. You can find out more here and preorder from the App Store.

What I think Apple stopping development of Aperture means

A few hours ago Apple announced that it would stop development of Aperture (and iPhoto) in favour of the new Photos app they introduced at WWDC earlier this month.

This is what Apple said:

With the introduction of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library, enabling you to safely store all of your photos in iCloud and access them from anywhere, there will be no new development of Aperture,” said Apple in a statement provided to The Loop. “When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS X.

Apple also said there will be at least one final update to Aperture to make it fully compatible with Mac OS X Yosemite, so at the very least we have a little over a year before we have to find an alternative.

As you might expect, I’m a bit torn about this news. Not too long ago, I was hopeful when I wrote my thoughts and wish list for the next version of Aperture. Then, after the WWDC Keynote, I wasn’t so sure and I wrote:

After seeing what they showed developers outside of the keynote, I don't think Aperture is dead. OK, maybe the Aperture we know and love is, but what comes after could be even better. I have no idea what it is, maybe a pro version of the Photos app, maybe it is Aperture 4, maybe something else. As long as it maintains backwards compatibility and doesn't loose any of the asset management power Aperture has, I think it could be good.

Clearly the upcoming Photos app is not Aperture 4.

But I do believe it will be pretty slick. If it does maintain backwards compatibility, then it just might be the evolution of a photography application. Scratch that, it might be the evolution of a photography ecosystem where a single applcation is no longer the right approach.

According to The Verge, Photos will be backwards compatible:

The company also confirmed that when users transition to the new Photos for OS X app, all their albums, folders, keywords and captions will be preserved. Apple also noted that any edits applied to photos will be retained non-destructively, so hopefully the transition won't be too difficult.

The truth is that I have no idea what’s coming. I can only speculate. But think of the history of Aperture and why it exists in the first place. When Apple introduced it, there was nothing like it. We used to manage our photographs in folders on hard drives and maybe used Adobe Bridge to bring some sense to them other than the one dimensional hierarchy the Finder allowed. There were no albums and metadata was limited. And any adjustment we wanted to make needed a destructive trip to Photoshop or similar.

Apple realised this was a problem that needed a solution and they built one. Then Adobe quickly jumped on the train with Lightroom. Today, if you have a sizeable library, you’d be insane to manage you photographs the “old way”.

Fast forward almost 10 years. Today we have multiple devices and we’re used to them being in sync, the cloud is a thing, we take a lot of photos with our iPhones.

Frankly, it’s a mess again.

It makes sense that Apple knows this and is coming up with a solution. In doing so, some things necessarily have to be left behind.

After all, this is the company that decided floppy disks and DVD drives were obsolete before any of us wanted them to be. The one that decided Ethernet and Firewire ports were no longer needed. The one that introduced a brand new product (iPhone) knowing it would canibalise a very profitable product (iPod). The one that decided video editing needed a complete reinvention. Every time, they didn’t look back.

My guess (hope) is that this is what’s happening with digital photography.

To be honest, managing the photos I take with my iPhone has been a headache. Getting them into Aperture is a pain. Photo stream works, but it messes with keywords and I have to manually reorganise them. If I don’t do it often enough I miss some photos and who knows which ones I missed. My Aperture library is so big that it doesn’t fit in my MacBook Pro, so I’ve had to split it in two and merge then regularly. My main library is still in a separate hard drive. It’s not fun and every time I'm dealing with this I think there has to be a better way.

Maybe the new Photos approach is the solution.

So what am I planning to do?

For now, I’ll stick with Aperture until I see what the new Photos is all about. I may eventually end up moving to Lightroom if I’m wrong, but I’m not going to rush into it or make any rash decisions.

UPDATE: Joseph Linaschke at wrote a great article with similar thoughts. He did a much better job at it than I did. Go check it out.

Snapback Slim Wallet 2.0

Snapback Slim Wallet 2.0 next to iPhone

Last year I wrote a review of the Snapback Slim Wallet. It’s a minimalist wallet made from an elastic band with a strap attached to its side that wraps around it. I ended my review by mentioning it had become my daily wallet and I even went as far as saying I loved it.

Ten or so months later, the Snapback Slim is still my daily wallet and I still feel the same way about it.

But Nick, the designer, decided he could do better. He’s running another Kickstarter campaign for a new and improved version.

Enter the Snapback Slim Wallet 2.0.

Note: Nick was kind enough to send me an early prototype of the new wallet to check out, but unfortunately it’s stuck in postal hell. I should’ve received it weeks ago and the tracking info says it arrived in Australia early last week but I still don’t have it. I wanted to wait until I could see it and touch it before writing about it, but I don’t want to postpone it any longer.

The Snapback Slim Wallet 2.0 improves on the original by using better materials, improved stitching, and it now comes in all black. Additionally, the strap now has a new slash logo that looks pretty slick.

As I said in my review of the original, it’s small, comfortable, and fits plenty of cards (I currently carry 6) and some cash.

If you’re interested in getting rid of your ugly, bulky wallet you’ll like this one.

You can back the Snapback Slim Wallet 2.0 for only US$20.

Week 26: Aperture Workflow eBook, Timelapse photography, and Essentialism

Effective Aperture Workflow Book Updated

If you use Apple's Aperture you need to get this book. It's written by Scott Davenport, an active member of the Aperture community and a great landscape photographer.


I purchased Effective Aperture Workflow many months ago and enjoyed it immensely, but more importantly, I learned a lot from it. Scott goes through his workflow in a lot of detail and believe me, it's a good workflow. I've adapted many things from the book into my own.

The book is available in the iBookstore and includes a bunch of video where Scott shows you as he explains. It's only $6.99.

Last week Scott updated it with new content and I'm going through it again.

The Art Of The Timelapse by Michael Shainblum

Not much to add to this other than... wow. See more from Michael Shainblum at his website and Vimeo channel.

Greg McKeown on Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

I often fall for this. Sometimes I try to do way too many things and end up finishing none. Or the ones I finish are half-assed because I had to split my time and attention on too many non-essential things. The worst is, as Greg McKeown explains in the video below, when you do something that's successful and that opens a lot of new doors and you try to go through all of them. Success can bring failure indeed.

The video is about Greg's latest book titled Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (Amazon | iBookstore | unfortunately I couldn't find in Audible). I just purchased it and it's next on my reading list.

Perfect Photo Suite 8.5 Summer Sale Bundle

It's a bit weird calling it a Summer Sale while I'm freezing down under, but either way, the guys at onOne Software have put together a great deal on Perfect Photo Suite 8.8.

Here's what's included in the bundle:

  • Perfect Photo Suite 8.5: Their amazing photo editor with 8 apps in one. ($129.95)
  • Creative Live Workshop Collection: Over 5 hours of online training workshops on Photoshop and Lightroom. ($116)
  • Endless Summer Preset Pack: 32 summer-stylized presets, including 8 for Perfect Effects, 8 for Lightroom, 8 for Adobe Camera Raw, and 8 for Apple Aperture. ($40)
  • Light & Process eBook by Nicole S. Young: A 205-page ebook with 10 step-by-step photography and post-processing tutorials on Suite 8. ($10)

All this for only $99.95 until June 26.

It's a great offer. I've used the Perfect Photo Suite extensively for years and I love it. You can download a trial and check it out before purchasing. It's worth it and a great companion to Aperture.

A lesson about photography I learned from my daughter's birth (WARNING: gory image)

NOTE: I wrote this in late 2009 after the birth of one of my daughters. It was originally published in another site I no longer update and I'm in the process of decommissioning, but I don't want to loose it, so I'm moving it here. It's a good reminder to myself and hopefully food for thought for you.

It all started a couple of months ago at the doctor's office when I asked him if I could not only be there in the operating room during the surgery, but bring in my camera and take photographs of the process. He graciously said yes and suggested that my eldest be there also (she's 19, btw) to witness the birth.

From that moment on, my brain, as is likely the case with many photographers, kept going over possible scenarios and photographic opportunities. Which cameras and lenses to use? Would I need speed lights? What if I take 2 cameras? Digital? Film? and so on.

I'm pretty sure the doctor was thinking about a little point-and-shoot when he said cameras were OK and not on the bunch of gear I dragged in!

I ended up using a DSLR with a zoom lens and a speedlight with a modifyer attached which looked pretty serious in the operating room. I also gave my point-and-shoot to my daughter as a backup, so we were pretty well covered.

I won't go into the details, but I ended up putting the camera in burst mode, pre-focused, and just shot away without even looking into the viewfinder.

When I was there and it was all happening in front of me, I just had to see it with my own eyes. I wanted to be present. The camera felt like a barrier between me and what was happening. I had never felt this before. I don't know how to describe it, but it was an amazing feeling. 

Anyway, a few days later at home I downloaded all the photographs and realised that I'd ended up with over 600 shots, one of them below. I put together a time-lapse video of the birth that I've shared with family and friends. I won't put it here as it is a bit gory (even more than the photograph below).


So, why am I telling you all this?

The more I look at those photographs the more I realise they will probably be amongst the most important images I ever make. Not because they have any commercial value (they don't). Not because they're technically perfect (far from it). Not because they're works of art. But because they are a record of one of the most important moments of my life.

These are the photographs that I'll cherish when I'm old.

You see, as photographers we tend to obsess over gear and f-stops and shutter speeds. We're always after the latest lighting gizmo or that illusive tutorial that'll show us how to make great images. We spend hours in post trying to pefect our photographs. And we tend to shoot everything except what's truly important to us.

Why is it that we never seem to have time to photograph our loved ones, yet somehow find the time to go out for hours to do street photography or travel far away for a landscape or organise a shoot with a model?

Deep inside I've always known that a photograph of my daughter is more important than a print in a gallery or a book. But why then do I spend so much time working on the latter and neglect the former?

When I'm old, I know the only photographs I'll regret not taking will be the ones I didn't take of my family and friends.

And I don't plan on having any regrets.

Week 24: Apps

The last few months have been pretty hectic and I haven't published as much as I should or want to. In fact, the last weekly roundup was back in April for week 15. But I'm getting back on track, so here's a list of the cool stuff I came across this week.


SKWRT is an iPhone app that lets you remove distortions and straighten your photographs. It came out a few weeks ago and it's amazing. It does an amazing job and the interface is beautiful and intuitive. And it really does make a difference to the photographs.

Here's how the developers explain it:

Being photographers and Instagram-addicts ourselves, we dreamt of an application that could fix the one thing that still made our photos look like snapshots - distorted lines due to the wide-angle lens in most of today’s mobile phones. So we went and straightened things out. You’re welcome.

And thank you indeed. I love this app. Check out the video:

You can get SKWRT in the App Store for US$1.99.

Photography at WWDC

I watched Apple's keynote at WWDC with interest. I'm excited in general as an Apple fan about what they presented and I'm sure we'll see amazing stuff from developers taking advantage of the new possibilities.

But what struck me the most was the section on photograpy. It's clear that Apple is serious about photography. What isn't clear is if they're only serious about photography as it applies to the general public or if they're serious about serious photographers. I know, too many "serious".

But seriously, what's happening with Aperture?

Back in March I wrote an article where I shared my wishlist for the next version of Aperture. To my surprise, it turned out to be an extremely popular post. It still gets a fair bit of visits from people searching for Aperture 4.

Anyway, I digress. My point is that at the time I truly believed an update to Aperture was imminent. Then I watched the keynote. I felt it was clear Apple was moving in a different direction with their new Photos app they're building. More towards appealing to the general user than to photographers. I couldn't help but feel it was the end of Aperture.

Then I read this article by Scott Davenport, a fellow Aperture user (who by the way wrote an awesome book about his Aperture Workflow). He took the time to go through the other presentations and it looks like Apple is indeed pretty serious about photography. If you're interested in this go read Scott's article.

After seeing what they showed developers outside of the keynote, I don't think Aperture is dead. OK, maybe the Aperture we know and love is, but what comes after could be even better. I have no idea what it is, maybe a pro version of the Photos app, maybe it is Aperture 4, maybe something else. As long as it maintains backwards compatibility and doesn't loose any of the asset management power Aperture has, I think it could be good.

MacSparky's OmniFocus Perspectives

If you use OmniFocus, go check out David's article on how he uses Perspectives. There's a lot to learn there.

Instapaper's new channel on IFTTT


I used and loved Instapaper for years. It's one of the first apps I bought for my iPhone 3G. But sometime ago I switched to Pocket because I couldn't use Instapaper as a trigger in IFTTT, which was possible with Pocket.

I have an IFTTT recipe that sends me an email every time I favourite an article. I just did it with Instapaper as the trigger and I'm moving back.

You can read more detail on the Instapaper blog. I'm so happy about this one.