Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fixing Photoshop's Feather Command

There is a frustrating little glitch in the feather command in Photoshop CS3 that I want to convince Adobe to fix, and I need your help to do it. It’s going to take more than just me e-mailing Adobe to get it done.

I know, I know, it’s been months since CS3 came out, but my to-do list is pretty long, and I’m finally getting around to addressing this.

The problem lies in how the feather command deals with selections that go to the edge of an image.

In Photoshop CS2 and earlier (for as long as I can remember), if the edges of a image are selected, the feather command EXCLUDES the edges of the image.

But a change snuck in with Photoshop CS3. In CS3, if the edges of an image are selected, the feather command INCLUDES the edges of the image in the feather.

Here’s a simple side-by-side comparison that shows what I’m talking about.
I started by selecting the top half of the image with the rectangular marquee tool (tool feather set to zero).

I then chose the feather command and entered a radius of 20 pixels.

In CS2, this resulted in a mask that made a perfect approximation of a neutral density filter. The only place that was feathered was where the selection intersected the image. The edges of the image were left alone.

Photoshop CS2 20 Pixel Feather

In CS3 this is clearly not the case:

Photoshop CS3 20 Pixel Feather

Here you can see that instead of a nice mask that divides the image into two halves, I instead have a strange square/oval mask that feathers the corners and edges of the image, and would not give me the same effect as previous versions of photoshop did.

CS3 does not let me use the same tool to achieve the same effect as it did in previous versions, an effect that tens of thousands of hours of Photoshop use have ingrained into my brain, and that’s frustrating to me.

Are there workarounds? Yes, there are, but none of them are perfect, nor are they quick.

The new Refine Edges command lets me obtain the “Exclude Edges” effect most of the time, but there are still cases where it includes the edges. It’s also much more time consuming, as I have to enter in settings for five different controls instead of one. It’s not nearly as simple nor effective as the way the Feather command used to work. When you are using this tool a couple of hundred times in a day, it can be a real drag, and it violates one of my rules of photographic tools: A good tool should be so intuitive and automatic that you scarcely know you are using it, so that your expression is not hindered nor slowed. Refine edges does not meet that test to the same degree that the old feather command did.

You can also use the blur tool on a mask, but that does not have the same exact effect, takes several steps, and again, disregards thousands of hours of countless users getting in the habit of using the feather tool to do the job--and now being forced to change for no apparent reason.

What can be done about it?

Simple! We need to tell Adobe to change it back!

Go to

And cut and paste the following text:

Dear Adobe,

In Photoshop CS3 you made a change in the way the feather command deals with a selection when that selection includes the edges of a image. In CS2 and earlier, the feather command would not feather the edges, but in CS3 it does feather the edges, as explained at This is not a beneficial change for photographers using the feather command as part of their dodging and burning techniques. Please make the feather command in CS3 work like it did in CS2 so the thousands of hours of muscle memory put into using this command are not thrown away.

If there is a reason that some users want the edges of an image feathered, please put that option in Refine Edges to “include” or “exclude” edges from the feather.

Thank you for your consideration.


Then, e-mail this story to all of your photographer it on your blog...even put it on milk cartons...whatever will cause as many people as possible to contact Adobe asking for this fix.

This is a positive thing. Adobe wants our feedback, and wants to hear from photographers who use their products to make sure the products work the way we want them to. If we want Photoshop to work for us, we need to let Adobe know what we need.

The Feather tool worked fine for many years, so we just need Adobe to change it back. Thanks for taking the time to write Adobe on this issue, and if you are part of the Photoshop team, thanks for listening to our feedback.

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Photoshop Basics: Using Layer Masks - WCI Pixel Podcast

by Melanie Crutchfield

Adjustment layers are one of the most powerful tools in Photoshop because of their ability to make non-destructive edits to your image. But if you want to unlock their full potential, you need to know about layer masks.

Layer masks allow you to make creative adjustments to lightness, darkness, and color balance to the whole image, a part of the image, or anywhere in between. It's also the easiest way to dodge and burn your photograph.

Using layer masks is simple and easy. Watch our Pixel Podcast, then give it a try!

Watch the 600x800 quicktime or the YouTube version.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Are you Geotagging?

Geotagging is simply adding the exact latitude and longitude of a photograph’s location to its metadata so that the location can be used by database software. Its uses can be seen most prominently when using Google Earth or Picasa2, where you can see photos from the location you are browsing.

ATP has announced Photo Finder (~$150US), a cool new tool that lets you geotag your photos without a computer, which makes the process much easier. The Photo Finder is a small GPS receiver with a build in card reader. You carry the receiver with you when you photograph, and it logs your location every 5 seconds. When you are done, you plug in your flash card, and Photo Finder syncs up your photos with their location by using the time stamp on the photos, and then automatically adds the location to the metadata. It couldn’t be more simple.

As programers provide us new ways to search, organize, and share our photographs, I expect to see geotagging become commonplace, and a valuable tool for many photographers.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

30 inch color accurate LCD

As if I didn't have enough things on my digital want list, NEC has just announced a 30 inch, 4 megapixel color accurate LCD that displays 97.8% of AdobeRGB. Street price will be about $2,200.

Check out all the geeky details on the press release.

Will it make you a better photographer? No. But would it look really good on your desk? YES!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Continuing rockfall activity at Middle Brother

From the Yosemite Daily Report:

Due to continuing rockfalls from Middle Brother, Northside Drive between Camp 4 and El Capitan crossover in Yosemite Valley remains closed. Please be aware that this closure includes both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The area was closed following a rockfall on December 18, 2007 that sent one large boulder and several smaller rock fragments onto the road. Since that time, there have been at least four additional rockfalls from Middle Brother, with the most recent event occurring at 10:16 am on January 8. This most recent rockfall sent additional rock debris onto the road. The rockfalls are originating from an area that was last active in March 2000. Winter storm activity has complicated hazard assessment, but the park is closely monitoring rockfall activity.

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minor collapse in the pedestrian tunnel at Hetch Hetchy

From the Yosemite Daily Report:

Due to a minor collapse in the pedestrian tunnel at Hetch Hetchy, the trail to Wapama and Tueealala Falls is inaccessible at this time. NPS and City of San Francisco staff will be evaluating the situation on Monday.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

The Last Ocean

I’ve always held a fascination for Antarctica, so I’m really enthused about my friend John Weller’s current multi-year project to document and save the Ross Sea. The Ross Sea is the last sea that has not been overfished, and preserves the complex web of life that has existed there since ancient times.

John’s work from his last trip was breathtaking, and I can’t wait to see what this trip brings. John is currently on a boat cruising through the Ross Sea, and you can follow his journey at the blog The Last Ocean.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A cheap, accurate LCD?

Happy New Year! I hope 2008 is a great year for your photography!

The offerings of color-accurate displays in the last few years have been changing a lot. We went from really good and cheap CRTs, to really good and EXPENSIVE LCDs. What the market has been lacking is a cheap, good LCD. Well, ViewSonic may have the answer in their new VP950b and VP2250wb.

According to the press release:

The VP950b offers 98% NTSC color and the VP2250wb offers 106% NTSC color capability. By comparison, the average LCD only offers 72% color. Thus, the color rendering of the VP950b and VP2250wb is far superior to the average LCD.

Now, this may not mean much, as the NTSC color space is not the best measure of a display for fine print making...but the fact that they reference it at all is a good sign. Most displays that are in the realm of 100% NTSC tend to do a good job in displaying larger colorspaces like AdobeRGB. But since they don’t specify AdobeRGB, it’s hard to directly compare it to other displays without buying one and looking at it with our eyeballs. Given that the 19-inch sells for $350 and the 22-inch for $450, it presents a significant savings over a 23" Apple Cinema Display or 19" NEC small consideration for the recreational photographer on a budget. I’ll be adding these to my never-ending wish list of products I’d like to test, and share more when and if I have a report.

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