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 /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

Posted in: Current Progress | 16 Comments

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).

Posted in: Development, Marketing, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

IMG_1938The snow continues to fall in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, but despite outward appearances, we’re not in hibernation – The past few months have been extremely productive for Photosmith. Winter (especially this season!) is a great time to stay indoors and continue work on refining what has become the daily go-to mobile photography workflow and organization solution for many thousands of amateur and professional photographers. Not a day goes by that we don’t receive very encouraging emails, Tweets and Facebook messages from enthusiastic users –  We love discussing photography and workflow, and feel fortunate every day to have such a wonderful user community behind us.

Our most recent development efforts are focused on making the next version of our iPad app and Lightroom plugin really special – refining existing functionality and carefully adding new features that will continue to set us apart from other mobile organization solutions, both today and in the future.  Of course, pouring on this extra work behind the scenes put us a little behind with blog posts, we plan to make up for lost time.

Over the next few weeks, we will become much more chatty here on our blog, and over on Twitter (@photosmithapp) and Facebook (facebook.com/photosmith) as we discuss the long list of new and refined features in Photosmith for iPad and the Photosmith plugin for Lightroom, and the myriad of bugs addressed in version 3.1. We’ll also begin posting weekly Photosmith and Lightroom tips and tricks. We’re just as passionate about photography as you are!  We will also address recent industry rumors, and talk about why we’re just as excited as everyone else is to have some major players validate the iPad as a photography workflow tool for the professional and advanced amateur.

Current Status

Final testing of Photosmith 3.1 wrapped up late last week, and we’re really excited to share the results of our many late nights and long weekends with everyone. For those keeping score at home, this puts us on track for release this week!

New and improved in Photosmith 3.1:

In-app Camera Raw Rendering

Camera Raw Import Settings

As we previously mentioned, photographers will be able to render over 25 different camera raw formats from hundreds of different cameras, right on your iPad in Photosmith! This is a big deal for folks with cameras that use raw formats which can’t be viewed directly on iPad using Apple’s Photos.app (Hello, DNG? And many FujiFilm RAF files, for example), and for raw formats that don’t contain a full-resolution JPG preview, like Sony ARW.  Leica users will be thrilled to finally have the ability to see full-resolution DNG files right on their iPad!

We’re still conducting comprehensive speed and compatibility testing against other iOS camera raw processing, but it appears Photosmith is best in class for speed: With an iPad Mini Retina (A7 processor), massive 38 megapixel Nikon D800 NEF files render in under 15 seconds!  Canon 5D Mark III CR2′s render in under 10 seconds. On the iPad Air, camera raw rendering is is even faster.

For many photographers, camera raw rendering right on iPad will be a real game-changer, as this will be the first time they can view full-resolution raw photos on iPad, without first converting to JPG in camera or computer.  And to render raw files in batch, automatically creating sized thumbnails for rapid Grid View and full-screen viewing… this is a huge step for not just Photosmith, but mobile digital photography.

Of course, Photosmith is smart enough to know if a camera raw file contains a full-resolution JPG preview, and will optionally use that if you prefer to speed things along. This means D800, 5D Mark III and other camera raw formats that contain full-res previews will import into Photosmith’s catalog in under 2 seconds each – import speeds that rival even Lightroom!

This is just the start of our adventures in image processing – We’re incredibly excited about what our camera raw rendering engine will mean for the future of Photosmith.

Smarter Lightroom Sync

New in Photosmith 3.1 is a dashboard-like Lightroom sync overview, right in the iPad app. At glance, see the sync status of all your User Collections in one place – and optionally choose one (or more) User Collections to sync by tapping a single button. Yup, more than one User Collection can be synced at once, and all right from your iPad, including metadata conflict resolution.  For photographers managing many User Collections and wishing to manage Lightroom syncs while not sitting in front of their Lightroom computer, this will be a real timesaver.

We are also performing a quick audit of metadata changes in both Photosmith and Lightroom, and you can choose, prior to starting the sync, if you want to use Photosmith’s or Lightroom’s metadata in the event of a metadata conflict. This will be a big win for folks that prefer to start a long before going to bed, so that Photosmith is ready to use during the morning commute on the train.

Better Stability

We logged over 300 “items of improvement” over the past three months – and confirmed that those issues have been fixed.  Have we mentioned lately that Photosmith is a nights and weekend project undertaken by a very small team of guys spread over three timezones?

With stability comes a couple of hurdles, which we will talk about later today on our blog.  The update for Photosmith’s Lightroom plugin will need to be updated in a certain way, and Publish Services will need to be re-saved.  This is a one-time thing, and will take less than 20 seconds, but it’s important that this update happens so that you will see our increased sync stability and new features (and bug fixes).

Thank you!

Finally, a heart-felt thank you to our incredibly supportive user community! We view your purchase as not only an investment in the future of the Photosmith app, but in independant app development. Over the coming months, we’ll talk about lessons we’ve learned over the past three years of iOS app development, as well as stories from our users: How and where they use Photosmith, unique workflow solutions, and tips and tricks. Again, it’s the user interaction and engagement which helps to validate our strong belief that iPad is a wonderful organizational tool in the arsenal of the mobile digital photographer.

We also want to thank Claudio Emmrich for helping us to identify some sync-related issues that have been plaguing us the past few versions.

2014 is already shaping up to be a great year for Photosmith… and we’re just getting started! :)

Posted in: Current Progress, Design, Development, Marketing | 1 Comment