Time Machine trip back to 1989

Had a bit of fun with the new Mac Pro configuration on Apple.com, just selected the most expensive option at each turn for a final price of £55,762 (excluding Apple Care!).

Not seen prices like this for 30 years – when SGI – Silicon Graphics Workstations walked the earth. Affordable then – when you could charge a hungry advertising market £1,000 per hour to retouch images for premium campaigns, harder to justify these days, dont think I will be proceeding with this purchase!

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Photoshop 21

Photoshop 21

Not too busy here at the moment so updated to the latest version of Photoshop on the day of its release.

I was too busy using Barco Creator in the early 1990s to use Version 1 or 2 of Photoshop but to be fair Photoshop has come a long way since the v3 I started to use (18 versions ago).

The new tools are ok but nothing overly interesting from an ethical photographic workflow perspective, though nicer to dust bust now that the responsiveness of the healing brush has improved (it became pretty bad in the last version).

I did need to reinstall NeatImage the noise reduction filter, this did not seem to transfer across automatically in the same way all the other plugins did, not the end of the world.

Bridge still pixelates images when going through a folder full screen fast (despite prebuilt 1:1 previews being generated). Looks like we are stuck with this problem long term, thankfully I still have Photo Mechanic 6 if I need to go through thousands of images quickly.

Perhaps time for Adobe to search for some new coding tools and really attack the latency and inefficiency of its current coding platform?

Update: a bit of an apology to Adobe engineers: I have since discovered my anti virus was actively scanning for ransomware all the time, turning this feature off (but still allowing scheduled scans) has brought Bridge back to being usable. Photo mechanic managed to be usable even with active protection so should be even faster still…

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Bumper book delivery

Busy day on Friday, received a couple of books from the publishers. Very pleased with the print quality of both books, the first is “Seven Worlds One Planet” for BBC books. This is to accompany the new flagship Nature series featuring David Attenborough.

As always a great responsibility to grade the images from a variety of sources and keep the results true to nature so that the images reflect the natural world that we are all part of.

The second book is the one to accompany the latest winners of Wildlife Photographer of the year, another challenge to grade the images so that they sit on the paper well and tell their story to the maximum effect.

Im very fortunate to work with some of the best film makers and photographers the world has to offer, a real privilege to let their work shine through.


Stephen Johnson

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A quiet revolution in photography workshops

Left to right: Cindy Miller-Hopkins, Stephen Johnson, Sue Flood. Photo © Chris Graham

It took a lot of preparation for the recent advanced photography workshops at Chester Zoo but we are delighted with the feedback from them.

More workshops are planned for next year as we expand the effort to bring professional grade teaching to all.

I think we surprised the attendees with the depth and detail of the decades of professional knowledge we shared with them.

We were all delighted to enable and advance people’s vision and workflow and guide them to a truly photographic and ethical approach to their work, onwards and upwards!

Hi Sue, Cindy & Stephen

I just wanted to say thank you so much for all your help throughout the course. I can’t tell you how much i learned… including techniques and tips i can use throughout my photography not just wildlife. It seriously has been the best photo course i have been on

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“Wacom One” graphics tablet

Wacom One tablet attached to my Macbook Pro laptop via USB. Im using it to brush back highlight detail with the adjustment brush in Lightroom. Image on screen © Sue Flood. www.sueflood.com, used with permission.

Had a fun time running some Professional Imaging Workflow workshops at Chester Zoo recently. Part of the course involved me doing some live image grading as I described my techniques for processing images in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

I normally use a larger A4 size tablet back in the office but this portable Wacom tablet is very good and I had no problem brushing on the images and controlling the interface on a huge monitor at the front of the class.

I find physical buttons/sliders on Wacom tablets to be a bit of a pain and dont use them so this paired back “minimal” tablet is ideal, it is pressure sensitive and it has a  26cm x 17cm  usable surface area. Highly recommended. I paid £66 for mine but its currently on offer at Amazon (affiliate link below)

The reason I use a pen and tablet like this is that it allows me to better control my brush in much the same way that a pen is easier to write a signature than it is to write it with a mouse or tracker pad, there is a learning curve to use it – but the results are worthwhile in terms of control and productivity.

Don’t buy this if you are happy to use your mouse or tracker pad or if you don’t have access to a screen calibrator – sort that first

Affiliate link:

Get your own Wacom One, click here

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Client Story: BBC books, Earth from Space

If you enjoyed the BBC series “Earth from Space” then you will love the book that accompanies the series. I was commissioned by the editor Bethany Wright to work on the images for the book.  Working closely with the Picture Editor Laura Barwick I set to translating the images from multiple sources into as coherent and high fidelity rendition as possible.

Again it was a matter of going through a little pain to translate the images as best as possible and using the maximum bandwidth allowed to control color, contrast and sharpness using the most up to date software. It was important to retain subtly in the satellite images as this gave the images a richness that was inherent in the broadcast. Im pleased to see that this has resulted in a very handsome book that has already been drawing praise from online reviewers.

Joining the usual raw video still frames, raw stills and miscellaneous jpegs in the source material were some enormous files direct from satellites. This is the first time I have worked directly on satellite imagery and it was very interesting to do so. Much like raw video shot with Log Gamma the original files were very low in contrast and were enormous (in the hundreds of megapixels range), once layered in Photoshop it was not uncommon for the files to be in the Gigabytes range. Thankfully the monster PC handled the job smoothly and enabled me to extract the underlying image from the source. A very rewarding task.

Available at all good book shops now or Amazon.

Do you or your organisation have a flagship book project underway? perhaps with images from a variety of sources? the likelihood is that the book will vary in quality as most printers will simply use the images as supplied and will not correct for cast, exposure and sharpness issues. If you want the highest possible quality and consistency then you need the images graded in a fully colour managed environment by someone who is experienced and prepared to go through a little bit of pain to make things work, call me and lets discuss.

Stephen Johnson

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Specialist image grading for best quality CMYK repro

Always nice to receive finished books after working on projects for clients, recently I have received two.

The first book is “Our Planet” from the Netflix series of the same name. This is a superb and questioning work of Producers Alistair Fothergill and Keith Scholey. I normally work in association with Alistair and Keith via other clients such as the BBC and Disney nature but this is the first (and very impressive) outing for Netflix.

All aspects of this production are of the highest order and I took seriously my responsibility to grade and prepare the video and still images for the book and PR so that they represent the project as best as possible. The book is available from all good book sellers (or Amazon).


The second book is  “Seeking Leviathan” by Christopher Swann (better known as Swanny).
Swanny is a superb photographer and knows his subject matter well, this book is a fabulous collection of his life’s photographic work in the worlds oceans photographing the creatures he loves (whales, dolphins and other cetaceans).

He is a very modest man but this book is a Master work of how to put passion about a subject on to the page. It is detailed, humorous, honest and superbly set out – highly recommended.

Swanny approached me to help translate his underwater images to the printed page. Underwater images can die a very horrible death when printed in CMYK inks and I have developed several techniques to maximize the quality of the repro to better represent the original images.

These techniques were developed in my work for photographers Sue Flood and Doug Allan as well as the BBC and Disney nature and allow underwater scenes to be seen in natural form rather than the posterised and muddy magenta/cyan blues that normally occur.

The book was designed by Dorothy Jackson and she has also done a fabulous job with the layout (http://www.dorothyjackson.org/)

The book is available direct from Swanny here:



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Creative Cloud automatic updates

Just noticed that the most recent version of Creative Cloud offers the option to allow automatic updates. You will receive a similar notice when logging into Creative Cloud. By default this is ticked. As you may know its professional best practice to work with a known good/stable version of your main software and new versions are best approached with care, let others find out if there are problems first, especially if you have important client work on the go – don’t be the guinea pig.

If you have enabled auto updates consider going to the preferences and unticking the last box. Enable “show older apps”. In addition make sure “Show older Apps” is ticked if you are keeping backward compatibility for some plugins or a known good version of the program


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