Welcome to the Labs!

Welcome to the onOne Software Labs blog. This is the home for projects that our development team is working on, whether they are features for the next version of the Perfect Photo Suite or photographic apps that we haven’t yet announced.

The goal with onOne Labs is to give you a sense what we have in the pipeline. Some of the things we’ll show here are in the early stages of development, while others will be nearing completion. What we’re hoping is that you’ll give us feedback on features and product direction: what looks good and what needs work. With each post, you can tell us with a simple thumbs up/thumbs down rating — think, “I love this/I could care less” — and you can leave a comment with anything constructive that you’d like to add.

onOne Software is a small company, made up of photography lovers like you, and we’re always looking to improve what we do and how we do it. We’re hoping that, by being transparent and up front about the things that we’re working on, we’ll develop better products, products that you’ll want to use. Please let us know how we’re doing.

Do You Use Layers?

Do you use Layers? Not the product or module Perfect Layers, but the concept of a layered workflow.

If you started your digital photo life with Photoshop, then you would probably say yes. The idea of stacking multiple copies of the same photo and using concepts like layer masks, blending modes and opacity just come as second nature. You probably also use layers as a sort-of-history mechanism so you can roll back changes or make versions within the same photos. Almost any photo you edit probably goes through a layered workflow.

If you started your digital photo life with either Lightroom or iPhoto, the concept of using layers is foreign and maybe even scary. Even if you learned to use layers via Photoshop or Perfect Layers, you use them sparingly. Only when you need to blend two different photos together to change a sky or swap a head, for example.

When we added Perfect Layers to the Perfect Photo Suite several years ago we taught our users, most of whom where Photoshop users, to use it as their “home base.” The place where they would open and save their photos and where they would access the other modules like Perfect Effects and Perfect Resize. This concept of a host and plug-ins was familiar to Photoshop users.

Flash forward a couple years and we have added Perfect Browse. For many users this is their starting point or “home base” instead of Perfect Layers. In Browse they select the photos to edit and then send them to the modules they want to work on. They only open a  photo in Perfect Layers if they need to blend multiple photos together.

We are most interested in understanding how you use the concept of a layered workflow and what tools you use to work on layers. Take a minute and answer this simple four question survey, it will help us understand how to serve you better in the future. Also, feel free to leave a comment below to keep the discussion rolling. We appreciate it.

If you don’t see the survey below, you can complete it here instead.

Noise Noise Noise

The Grinch doesn’t like noise and neither do we.  That’s why we are finally adding noise reduction to our products. In the past we have always left this to other tools. However not all of our customers use other tools like Lightroom or Photoshop. And for many years our customers have asked us to add noise reduction to our tools.

I’m proud to say that our photo engineers have been working hard over the past eight months to develop a really great noise reduction algorithm that maintains the photographic quality of your image (i.e., doesn’t make it look like a painting), maintains the sharp details but kills the noise.

This video gives you an early taste of the results. Keep in mind this is still in prototype stages so the controls are hidden and performance is not up to par yet. Tell us what you think.


Smart Photos

When you edit an image, you are applying your creative skills, judgement and mood as a snapshot in time. The results you create may be satisfying at the moment of creation but can become less satisfying over time. This can be caused by many factors:

  • Lack of time or focus while editing: “I just ran out of time and couldn’t do my best.”
  • Limitations in your technical skill or the software you are using: “I wish I could have done a better job on the retouching, but I’m not very good with the software.”
  • Change in mood or style over time: “Wow, I used to like that HDR look, but now it looks over-saturated to me.”
  • Your client wants something different: “My client says the retouching is too strong, they look like plastic.”
  • You simply overlook an element: “How did I not see that middle finger.”

Now you want to go back and fix your mistake or reinterpret your image. With traditional image editors this often means starting over. This is one of the main reasons we have always recommended a layered workflow using Photoshop or Perfect Layers. Each edit was stored on its own layer, allowing you to edit previous work without having to throw everything away. This still has limitations however. For example any work done above the step you wish to change must be redone.

We think there is a better way to do it. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could go back to any step in your editing and simply change the settings, masks or brushing you created? We are working on new Smart Photos, which will give you just that. They save a record of every module you use and what you did in it. This includes all the presets, slider settings and masks you create. All of this information is then stored in the file, which is still a Photoshop-compatible PSD. Then when you decide to re-edit the image you simply open it up, then double-click on the step you want to adjust. The module loads and returns you to just before you hit the apply button. All the settings are the same and all brushing and tweaking you did are still there. This will give you even more flexible editing in Lightroom and more powerful than Smart Filters in Photoshop. In talking to our customers over the years, this is THE number-one requested feature and we are really excited to be able to bring it to our customers… soon!


Faster Browse

The Browse module is less than a year old. We added it initially for our users who don’t use a tool like Lightroom or Aperture to keep track of their images. There are lots of folks who just keep their images in folders on their computer. The idea was to give them something better than a simple open file dialog to find the images they want to work on. People love using it and at the same time, want it to do much more. In Perfect Photo Suite 8.5 we added file management tasks like renaming, moving, copying, deleting etc. We made it so you can zoom-in on images for comparison. And we also made it much faster to get thumbnails of images, especially Raw files.

We continue to work hard to improve Browse based on the feedback we get from you guys. Right now, we are working on making it faster to see a larger, screen-size version of your image and faster to go from image to image. We hear from a lot of photographers that as soon as they download their images they want to start looking at them to sort and cull them. Getting useful previews fast makes that possible. You don’t have to wait several minutes to catalog the images before you can start to work with them. Now you can view screen-sized previews almost instantly and move through a large folder of images with no delay.


Let’s Make Masking Easier

Masking is a fundamental concept and technology in all of our desktop apps. Simply put, a mask is a selection. They allow us to hide part of an image, combine images together, apply effects and filters to certain color or tonal ranges and to paint things in or out. Masks are what let you deal with part of an image, instead of the whole image.

Masks are so important that we have several tools and even an entire module, Perfect Mask, dedicated to creating and adjusting them. For such a powerful concept, they sure can be hard to understand and use.

We are working hard to simplify masking in our products. We plan to make the tools work better, make them easy to use and to put them into every product where you need them.

To that end we have created a new masking tool to replace the keep and drop brushes in Perfect Mask and have moved it to several other modules. We are calling it the Quick Mask Brush. All you do is roughly paint over the area you want to mask and it automatically determines the subject and its boundaries to make a great mask – automatically! Whether you are replacing a background or adding a look to just part of an image this will be your new favorite tool.


More Perfect Brush

The Perfect Brush is one of our most popular and powerful tools. It lets you selectively apply effects just where you want, without having to painstakingly paint every pixel. You can also use it to create complex masks (think selections) easily. It works by detecting the color under the center of the brush and only painting the mask or effect on to similar colors. This lets you paint right over the edge of say the foreground and background subjects and it will automatically detect the edge and stop painting there.  It’s really cool!

As useful as it is, it does have a weakness. If you think about the way the brush works, it needs to make a decision on each pixel and whether or not to paint on it (based on color). If the color of the pixel is close to the color under the brush it gets painted. If the color is farther away, it doesn’t get painted. Today this decision is black or white, either on or off. This creates an abrupt edge. We soften the edge by blurring it a little bit. This means the Perfect Brush works great when your subject is opaque and has a hard edge, but doesn’t work as well with soft, semi-transparent areas.

We are changing the way the Perfect Brush decides if it is going to paint on a given pixel or not. Instead of being a black and white decision it uses shades of gray. If the color of the pixel is really close to the color under the center of the brush it will be painted strongly. If the color is drifting away from the the color under the center of the brush it will be painted in a less-strong or less-opaque way. When the color of the pixel is far away from the color under the center of the brush it won’t get painted at all.

What this allows us to do is create gradients based on color similar to the gradients in the image. That means we can paint along soft edges and through semi-transparent areas like smoke and hair now. We think it is a great improvement to an all-star tool.


Browsing vs Importing

If you are like many photographers, you probably use Adobe® Lightroom® to manage your photos. Most of the time we love Lightroom, but it can be slow when it comes to downloading and importing photos. We have all been there. You just come back from a shoot, you are excited to see what you got. You start to import your photos into Lightroom and it can take several minutes before you can start to view and organize them. Its like watching a pizza cook in the oven. That’s because Lightroom is a database, not a browser. It needs to catalog every photo.

Sometimes you just want to see your photos and get to work right away. That’s one of the reasons we have been working on the new super-fast browsing capabilities for the Perfect Photo Suite. It will let you see your photos almost instantly, then start to zoom, compare, sort and organize them.

The Perfect Photo Suite has always been the perfect companion to Lightroom when it comes to retouching, masking and effects. Soon it will be the perfect front-end as well, allowing you get started faster, then helping you import your photos into Lightroom.



Perfect Eraser Improvements

The Perfect Eraser is one of the most popular new tools in Perfect Photo Suite 8. It has become a critical tool in many of our workflows. If you are not familiar with the Perfect Eraser, it is a content-aware fill brush that is perfect for removing distractions like unwanted people, power lines, road signs, etc. It works by filling in the object you want to remove with realistic, neighboring image detail. You can find it in Layers and Enhance. If you haven’t tried it, you should.

As great as the Perfect Eraser works, it does occasionally have issues with backgrounds with little detail. Skies, water and snow can be troublesome because they are gradients with low texture. The Perfect Eraser works by “patching” over areas with other similar “patches.” However in a gradient the patches must align perfectly and blend smoothly to maintain a consistent gradient.

Our image scientists have been working hard on this issue since the release of Perfect Photo Suite 8 and we are excited to show you the progress they have made. Soon the Perfect Eraser will easily handle these difficult gradient backgrounds with none of the tile-edge artifacts or modeling that you may occasionally see today.


Mobile devices and workflow

As mobile devices become more prevalent—and their capabilities grow—we know that many photographers will incorporate these devices into their creative workflow. Something that goes beyond the obvious “capture a photo, add a filter, post online” habits we have all been doing for the last few years with our smartphones and tablets.

During this transitional time, we have been spending quite a bit of time thinking about how to best integrate mobile platforms with our existing desktop photography tools.

Our position has always been consistent. The Perfect Photo Suite will allow you to work where you want and when you want, and we want to build serious workflow solutions for all photographers across all devices. We believe combining these two worlds in this quickly changing environment is the key for all who love photography.

How we accomplish that in the future is as much up to you as it is to us. We never want to develop products in a vacuum, so we would love to hear from you about how you currently use mobile devices in your workflow, and what you’d like to see down the road. Specifically:

  • How are you using mobile in your workflow?
  • How can we extend the power of the Perfect Photo Suite into mobile?
  • What has been your experience with mobile devices thus far?

You can either leave your comments here on the blog, or send us an email.

Patrick Smith
Mobile Product Manager


Lightning Fast Thumbnails in Browse

We have been pleasantly surprised by the response to the new Browse module from Perfect Photo Suite 8. We were not trying to replace a workflow tool like Lightroom or Aperture; instead, we wanted to offer a quick way for photographers — especially those using the Suite as a standalone app — to find the files they want to edit. (We think of it as a really nice Open dialog.)

However, photographers are telling us they want it to be a more-complete file management tool. They want to be able to import their images, make comparisons, rate them, and more. In response, we are working hard on those areas.

One of the top areas we are working on is preview speed. After a shoot, you really want to see your images quickly, so you can make decisions on what to keep and work on. Our engineering group has spent the last few months doing everything they can to improve the speed of viewing images in Browse.

The video above compares the current Browse module (on the left) with a prototype that has the new browsing code in it (on the right). Both are set to browse a large folder loaded with raw files, with 98 thumbnails shown in view. The current version of the Browse module takes about 30 seconds to load all 98 thumbnails. The prototype extracts low-quality thumbnails almost instantly, so you can see what you have and where you are at. Then in the background it generates large, high-quality thumbnails about twice as fast as the current version. This mean you can get to work on your images faster.