While our Engineering Team works to iron out some bugs related to iOS 7.1, the Creative Team recently started production on some training videos to compliment our existing (some might even call verbose) online documentation.

The first topic we’re covering is importing your photos into Photosmith from your iPad’s Camera Roll:

Photosmith 3.1 – Import from Photosmith App on Vimeo.

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A few minutes ago, Apple released an update to iOS. This update, iOS version 7.1, will cause Photosmith to crash to your iPad’s home screen after importing images from Photos.app / Camera Roll and when converting link/copy. This app crash isn’t as catastrophic as it appears – It’s a display-only bug, and your photos and metadata are perfectly safe. No data loss will result from this crash. Restarting Photosmith after the crash will show all your previously imported photos in Photosmith’s catalog (including the photos imported and converted just prior to the crash). You may continue working as your normally would in Photosmith.

More importantly, Photosmith will continue functioning as it did prior to updating to iOS 7.1. Importing photos via Eye-Fi, FTP, iTunes, or when syncing with Lightroom, isn’t impacted by this issue. This is an issue specific with how we’re handing the import dialog window after the import is completed. Instead of closing the import window and displaying the normal Photosmith interface, the entire Photosmith app shuts down.

Every major and minor release of iOS from Apple contains its share of quirks, which are usually addressed through a process of non-public beta testing between developers and Apple. Once Apple feels this internal testing has run its natural course, they traditionally issue a final “Gold Master” version of the iOS update, which is then sent back to developers for testing a few days ahead of its public release. This is when our final testing usually occurs, and is the time when we usually make any necessary adjustments to Photosmith. The root cause of our app crash is an iOS bug introduced in iOS 7.1 – we didn’t anticipate this issue living through to the final public release.

This isn’t our first rodeo: We’ve observed iOS issues in beta versions which caused all sorts of havoc with Photosmith, but these were always fixed by the good folks at Apple by the time the “Gold Master” version was released. We’re not keen on wasting hours, days, or even weeks of development time working around an iOS issue in our app, only to have it ultimately not be an issue in the final shipped version of iOS.

The difference this time around, however, is that Apple didn’t provide a “Gold Master” of iOS 7.1 to developers prior to the official public release. Today was our first opportunity to see the final release… after it was already public.

We are already working on a fix for the import and convert window crashes, but for now, you may safely import from Camera Roll and convert links/copies, and expect Photosmith to crash at the conclusion of the import or convert. Then relaunch Photosmith and get to work adding tags, star and color ratings, pick, reject flags, then sync it all to Lightroom, if that’s your workflow. If you experience any other issues with iOS 7.1, please let our Support Team know: support.photosmithapp.com

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With the release of Photosmith version 3.1, we introduced native camera raw processing, right in the Photosmith for iPad app. Unlike most other iOS photography apps, we no longer rely on the JPG preview which many cameras embed within a camera raw file, nor do we utilize Apple’s iOS for camera raw support. By decoding camera raw files ourselves, we’re able to display photos from a far larger number of camera models and camera raw formats.

We just updated our list of supported cameras – and we’re really excited. The big list currently stands at well over 400 camera models, including several for which iOS support has been limited or non-existent, like FujiFilm RAF files and Leica’s version of DNG.

The list is over at photosmithapp.com/cameras If your camera model isn’t listed, please let us know; this list is a living document which will be updated on a regular basis to reflect new cameras that Photosmith can decode, for both newly released models and older niche camera raw formats.

If you experience any issues with our camera raw processing engine, please give our Support Team a shout at support.photosmithapp.com – We’re currently tracking a few issues relating to importing RAW+JPG and other odds-and-ends. Of course, Photosmith is under active development, and a quick list of issues we’re tracking is at http://www.photosmithapp.com/index.php/known-issues/

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We’ve received a number of emails asking where we are and a few complaints that the current update is taking a long time, so I wanted to give everyone an update on where we are. Development continues, and we’re getting closer to the final revision. So why is it taking so long? Because we’re focusing on making it right – no exceptions. We understand that people’s photography workflow actually defines how they work. For us to ship Photosmith out at this point with known bugs or even without pieces of functionality that complete the workflow is simply unacceptable. And so we’re making the time to make it right.

So what exactly is taking so much time? For those interested in the details, I’ll hit on a few points that have been unexpected time sinks.

Image Orientation

Rotate an image clockwise or counterclockwise. Easy stuff, right? Right? One would think. And, as always, the devil is in the details. And we’re not the first developers to hit the orientation trap. See this page for an interesting read on how most services can’t handle various embedded image orientations.

Yes, the image orientation (rotation) is contained in the image’s EXIF, set by the camera when the picture was taken. But keep in mind that there’s typically a thumbnail image, usually a full-resolution jpg, sometimes a medium-sized jpg, and the raw data, each with their own orientation. Each needs to be calculated separately so the GPU can rotate based on the image that’s being displayed.

Now add in the user’s custom rotation for when they want to modify the orientation – we now have 3 (thumbnail, screensize, full res), plus a user orientation modifier.

But for more fun, it turns out that Apple doesn’t quite follow the norm with EXIF orientation. It took some time to realize that Apple’s implementation, albeit unconventional, was valid. Given that this is  an iPad app, we can’t just ignore iOS-generated images.

And to make things more fun, Lightroom exports images without an orientation. But only if the plugin doesn’t use the previews database…

All of a sudden, there’s about two dozen different combinations of orientations that have to be handled in different ways. We claim to be a photo management app, so we have no choice other than to make it right. And that burned up several weeks of two developers’ time.

But… it’s finally all working. The torture set linked above now completely works in Photosmith:

RAW+JPG Support

The current version of Photosmith supports RAW+JPG, and because of some technical details, we can’t easily support all formats (DNG, for example), so RAW+JPG remains the only viable way to support those formats. This version of Photosmith is being completely revamped so that all images are handled within the app, rather than pointing back to Photos app. And while RAW+JPG was one of the items on our list, it took about two weeks of work to bring the app back up to support it everywhere (import, image extraction, display, export, sync) and thoroughly test the changes.

It now works as before – if we can’t extract everything we need from the raw file and there’s an associated jpg, then we get what we can from the jpg. It’s just now, the files sit in our own repository.

Nothing complex about this one – just a lot of small rework items spread throughout the app to get things working right.

Transferring Photos from Link to Copy

If you’ve been following our blog posts, you’ll know that the upcoming app will be able to either Copy the pictures directly into the app, for full control under Photosmith, or Link them back to Photos.app. In fact, here’s a screenshot of the import process:

However, during testing, we found a hole in the workflow: what happens if you link a picture from Photos.app, apply a bunch of metadata updates, and then decide you want to move it into Photosmith and clear out your Photos.app? Without some kind of transfer method, you’d essentially have to remove the linked references (and thus your metadata), and then run the import process again to Copy the images in. That would just plain suck for workflow management – badly enough that we created a new dialog to allow users to do exactly this – transfer linked images from Photos.app into Photosmith without losing their existing data. Design, coding, testing, and refining all combined to take several weeks for that one too.

Remaining Items

All new development items have been completed at this point – we’re working on bugs and cleaning up some things throughout the app: Collection image counts that don’t update from a background import. You can’t change a selected album in the import dialog after making a selection / deselection. Facebook re-upload isn’t working right. Delete dialog sometimes hangs when it’s done. And about a dozen others of those kinds of items.

We’ve been doing a lot of in-house testing as we go, so we’re pretty confident that it’s getting close.

OK, dammit – when will you ship?

When it’s ready. And not a moment sooner.

Believe us when we say that we want it out to you guys as quickly as possible – we’ve spent the past 7 months’ worth of nights and weekends designing/coding/testing, and are eager to see it complete as well. But we’re committed to making it right, from beginning to end. (And we really appreciate of all those who understand this!)

Details matter. It’s worth waiting to get it right – Steve Jobs

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Photosmith version 3.1 is now available in the iOS App Store for iPad.  The companion plugin for Lightroom is also available, but updating requires a little extra effort this time around.  We made a quick one minute video showing how to properly update the Photosmith plugin for Lightroom:

Please note that the new Photosmith plugin requires Lightroom 4 or newer.

As we previously mentioned, the big updates this time around are native camera raw rendering and a vastly improved Lightroom sync dashboard.  There’s also more bug fixes than we care to bore you with… but probably will in a future blog post. :)

Also, as promised, we just released our comprehensive User Guide – over 200 pages of everything you ever wanted to know about Photosmith (but were afraid to ask).  This PDF is perfect for downloading and keeping handy for offline reference, perhaps stored in your iBooks app on your iPad.  However, be aware that like our Knowledge Base documents (from which the User Guide is based), it’s a work in progress.

Photosmith version 3.1 app for iPad and Lightroom plugin are free updates for existing users.  New users can scoop up the app for $19.99 USD (or equivalent local currency).

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