A Day at Adobe

As you can imagine I have lots of friends and business associates in Silicon Valley, but I haven’t been here for some time. So, realizing that the Worldcon of Science Fiction would be in San Jose, California I arranged to arrive a couple of days early to see folks.* This past Wednesday (the day before Worldcon), I walked the single block from my hotel to Adobe’s headquarters, where I had a series of interesting, enjoyable meetings and lunch with four different development teams.

I have been following, teaching, using, writing and consulting about Adobe products since Photoshop 1.0. It’s been fun watching how the software has blossomed and expanded, and how the culture has changed. (As I mentioned to one executive I’ve been in this game probably since she was in diapers – or close to it.) The advantages of longevity as a journalist and artist is that I know more about the evolution of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Typekit and other programs than many of Adobe’s own employees. And, of course, I spin them into stories that they apparently enjoy.

For this visit, I had meetings with product managers and PR reps for Adobe Lightroom, Typekit, Iilusrator, Spark, and XD. Here are a few of the highlights.


Ever since Adobe LIghtroom (LR) was introduced over a decade ago, it quickly became my primary program for photo editing. Generally speaking, I depend on Lightroom for the type of adjustments and preparations that I used to do in my old basement chemical darkroom, such as exposure, lighting, zooming, dodging and burning, color adjustments, cropping, etc. I reserve Photoshop for compositing, adding text and other creative endeavors.

Key to my preference for Lightroom over Photoshop for the tasks that define the structure of my pictures is the fact that in LR I work on RAW files – the original data captured by my camera. In Photoshop, I work on the data after it has been interpreted into an actual visual image. In other words, when you work on RAW, there is no destruction of the pixels of my final images; you can have image quality degradation in Photoshop.

A loose baking metaphor might compare chopping up butter and other ingredients for a cake (Lightroom) versus taking a knife to the finished cake (Photoshop).

In the past year, Adobe has confused many Lightroom users by introducing another flavor of the program, which is now called Lightroom CC (for Creative Cloud) – even though that was once the designation of the traditional desktop application which is now called Classic Lightroom.

Josh Taftel

As Josh Haftel of the Lightroom team explained, the essential difference between the two is that Classic LR is a desktop (or laptop) application that provides a “huge amount of local control” over precise image editing, and LR CC has very similar tools to Classic for editing any of your photos from a huge personal

Josh and Tom Hogarty, Lightroom’s product manager further explained that Classic LR was designed for bits on a desktop. As a generational program, it has grown in sophistication and complexity, which means it can be intimidating to new users. LR CC was redesigned from the ground up for the cloud. “We know so much more now than we did when Lightroom was created,” Josh said.  So Lightroom CC represents “the reality of what would be the best tool needed for the job(s) if we created Lightroom today.”

Tom Hogarty

Tom and Josh told me that Adobe is committed to keeping Classic Lightroom alive, healthy and updated. I believe them (or you could say I need to believe them) for the simple reason that their core audience — established serious and professional photographers like me — would never forgive Adobe if they abandoned it (and us). Tom told me that one artist said that she would have to give up photography if they took away her Classic Lightroom. I don’t know what I would do, but it would definitely throw me for a loop, forcing me to waste time learning and incorporating new tools into my workflow (probably Phase One Capture One software). And that would definitely impact on my creativity until I got used to the new methodology.

True to the promise Adobe made when they moved to the Creative Cloud subscription model, Lightroom is updated with new features and fixes frequently. The next one will be on August 21st.

That latest update includes the following for Classic LR:

  • Recognizing that users don’t always have access to an Internet connection, we will be able select certain cloud images or folders and store them locally. Yes, we could always download our images from the cloud, but they said that this will be easier access with fewer steps. Then, when your internet connection is re-established, all the work you’ve done will sync back to the cloud (unless you disable syncing).
  • The info panel related to any particular image will now indicate in which folders and albums the picture is saved.
  • In a previous update, we were given more control over and easier access to profiles (such as those that emulate certain types of film emulsions). With this update, Adobe introduces new profiles that change the look and feel of the colors, exposure, focus and depth of field; these are categorized into Artistic, B&W, Modern and Vintage styling.

Changes in LR CC in this new update includes:

  • The entire stack of edit tools from Classic is now in LR CC
  • Control within the app over what images and folders have been shared, including the ability to turn sharing on/off or selectively share metadata, editing, and so forth.
  • When looking for images, we’ll be able to filter our view of our libraries by camera, media, location, keyword, etc.
  • New tutorials will guide you step by step to do various edit tasks on your images. For instance, if you want to turn a picture into a sepia image, click on that tutorial, and you’ll be guided through the process of actually moving your picture through the various tools and windows, until you end up with a sepia image
  • My favorite of all that they showed me is a new depth of field selection tool. It takes advantage of the iPhone camera’s depth of field capability, allowing you to mask the background or other aspects of your image based on how close to the camera lens it is. It’s one of the easiest ways I’ve ever seen to select a complex area.


Adobe’s very first products were Postscript digital fonts. Despite a few historical blips that I’m glad to say are buried so deeply in the past that many current employees know nothing about them, Adobe continues to support innovation in quality type.

Adobe Typekit is the app that provides Creative Cloud subscribers access to 1,000s of fonts from a variety of partner foundries (owners of the fonts). When you download a font from Typekit, it automatically syncs to all your Adobe apps, with licensing to use those fonts guaranteed by Adobe.

We can search this enormous library of fonts by classification (such as serif, non-serif, handwriting, etc.) and foundry. A recent update added the ability to do a machine-learning-optimized visual search. In other words, if you have a font you like and want something similar to it, just drag and drop it into the Typekit visual search box.

Adobe has also introduced variable fonts. These are a handful of Open Type fonts that expose defining characteristics to user control. Depending on the font, the aspects we can edit varies, but it can include having control over width, weight, height, slant, etc. Unfortunately, we can’t currently save these settings to use again with a single click (or tap). Another innovation are multi-color fonts, which I expect will be growing to represent a much wider variety of creative font options.

Other Stuff

The Adobe briefings included lots of other interesting information and product-related news, such as the addition of a handful of new or improved features in Illustrator, and the continued evolution of the XD design communication and collaboration software. (Plus other briefings shared with me under a confidentiality NDA agreement.) However, Worldcon responsibilities are now calling me, and I have to run to moderate a panel on Successfully Negotiating Book Contracts.

You can be assured that I will continue to cover Adobe and other similar products, as I always have, and will share news and my views on them here on my website, at my lectures and workshops, and in reviews for publications.

Running now, to the convention center. If you’re here at the con, say hi!


* Note: My apologies to my many friends in Silicon Valley whom I didn’t see, because you can fit in only so many visits around this area into 1 ½ days.

My WorldCon Schedule

I don’t often go to conferences that require flying, unless I’m a headliner for the conference. But WorldCon is in San Jose, California, which means I can double-duty the trip by seeing some old associates and friends in Silicon Valley. In particular, I’ll be spending a day at Adobe (which I’ve been covering since Photoshop 1.0); their headquarters is walking distance from the convention center and the hotel where I’ll be staying. So I’ll be flying to California two days before the conference starts.

Of course, I’m also very much looking forward to being at WorldCon, where the whole point (for me) is seeing friends and making new ones. I’m scheduled to participate on two panels, one group reading and will have an autograph session at the SFWA table. If you’ll be at the con, please come by and say hello.

Thursday, August 16th, 2:00 pm: How to Moderate a Panel

“Our panelists are all experienced at moderating in a variety of venues and styles… We will not only discuss what the moderator should be doing, but what the panelists and audience should expect.” Panelists: Janice Gelb (moderator), Wanda Kurtcu, Sam Scheiner and me.

Friday, August 17th, 11:00 am: Successfully Negotiating Book Contracts

“A publisher’s interest and an author’s are not always in perfect alignment. Enter the contract. Each clause in the contract exists for a reason. Which ones protect an author’s interest and which ones benefit the publisher? How do you ask for changes? What are the rights an author should be prepared to give up and which ones should you fight tooth and nail for. Hear from agents and other industry experts on how to survive your book contract negotiation with your skin, and your rights, intact.” I’ll be moderating this panel and sharing the microphone with Cat Rambo, Jennifer Goloboy, Amanda Bridgeman, Joshua Bilmes and Pablo Defendini

Saturday, August 18th, noon: Autographing

I’ll be autographing books at the SFWA table. I understand it will be near the Book Depot, which means you can buy The Winter Boy and Jo Joe there, and then walk over to have me sign them to you or to a loved one. (And, yes, please do stop to say hello other times. And if  you have one of my books with you, I’ll be happy to sign them.)

Saturday, August 18th, 5:00 pm: Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading

“Broad Universe is a nonprofit international organization of women and men dedicated to celebrating and promoting the work of women writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror. In our Rapid-Fire Reading, members will read a few minutes of their works: just enough to whet your appetite. Come see how many genres we can jam into one group reading.” I’ll be reading from a novelette I finished recently: Beyond Our Hidden Stars.