Musings on Photography

More Adobe Nightmares

Posted in Adobe InDesign, photoshop by Paul Butzi on May 29, 2010


Ok. So I’ve upgraded my main photo computer to Snow Leopard. Everything seemed pretty much a-ok until I went to run InDesign CS3. InDesign complained “Some files required for color management are missing. Please re-install the application to ensure proper functioning. Ok, not a problem, I thought. I broke out the InDesign CS3 DVD, and I popped it in the computer, and started the install. It went along for a while, slowly reinstalling InDesign. And then it ejected the InDesign CS3 disk, and asked me to pop in the Photoshop CS4 DVD.

Which I did. It proceeded with the install for a while, then it ejected the Photoshop DVD and asked me to put in the Indesign CS3 disk. I did that, and it proceeded, slowly, to install. And then it ejected the InDesign CS3 disk and asked me to put in the Photoshop CS4 disk. I did that, and it proceeded to slowly install, and then it ejected the Photoshop CS4 disk and asked for the InDesign CS3 disk. I gave it that, and it proceeded, slowly, to install. And then it ejected the InDesign CS3 disk and asked for the Photoshop CS4 disk. So I took out the InDesign disk, and put in the Photoshop disk. And it proceeded with the install for a while, then it ejected the Photoshop DVD and asked me to put in the Indesign CS3 disk. I did that, and it proceeded, slowly, to install. And then it ejected the InDesign CS3 disk and asked for the Photoshop CS4 disk. I put in the Photoshop disk. It proceeded with the install for a while, then it ejected the Photoshop DVD and asked me to put in the Indesign CS3 disk. I did that, and it proceeded, slowly, to install. And then it ejected the InDesign CS3 disk and me to put in the Photoshop CS4 disk. I obliged. It proceeded with the install for a while, then it ejected the Photoshop DVD and asked me to put in the Indesign CS3 disk. I did that, and it proceeded, slowly, to install. And then it ejected the InDesign CS3 disk and asked for the Photoshop CS4 disk. Again, I made the swap. It proceeded with the install for a while, then it ejected the Photoshop DVD and asked me to put in the Indesign CS3 disk. I did that, and it proceeded, slowly, to install. And then it ejected the InDesign CS3 disk and asked for the Photoshop CS4 disk. In a superhuman display of patience, I swapped disks. It proceeded with the install for a while, then it ejected the Photoshop DVD and asked me to put in the Indesign CS3 disk. I did that, and it proceeded, slowly, to install. And then it ejected the InDesign CS3 disk and asked for the Photoshop CS4 disk. And then I swapped the disks. It proceeded with the install for a while, then it ejected the Photoshop DVD and asked me to put in the Indesign CS3 disk. And then it finally finished the installation.

I had to insert one or the other DVD a total of 17 times. Mind you, there were only TWO disks.

This is not just stupid. It’s irritatingly stupid, but that’s not all. It’s appallingly stupid. It’s staggeringly stupid. It’s stunningly stupid, and after a career in software development, I have to say that it takes quite a lot to stun me anymore. It is, perhaps, the most stupid software install behavior I’ve seen in the past ten years. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid, Stupid.

As you can imagine, during this process, I was increasingly motivated to say rude things about Adobe, Adobe employees, Adobe Software, the genealogy of Adobe employees, and what, in a just world, would happen to the folks responsible. I described how long it would take to mop up the undifferentiated amino acide goo that resulted. I invented new bad words, and then used the new words along with my quite sufficient store of old bad words to say things that would, if words could affect material things, have scorched the paint off the walls and set off the smoke alarm. I invented 12 entirely new languages completely devoted to ways to say nasty, brutish, and vulgar things about Adobe, and then I used each of those new languages until I got tired of them.

The dog howled, then cowered in fear, then hid in the bathroom and repeatedly flushed the toilet to blot out the sound of my swearing. Outside, trees shattered, the ground opened in yawning chasms, and violent earthquakes threatened to provoke Mount Rainier into violent eruptions, all because of the rude vulgarity of my language. The skies overhead turned from robin’s egg blue, to a dark and somber grey, and then to a greasy dark green, and repeated long flashes of lightning shattered the unearthly dismal darkness. Over the shrieking maelstrom of wind, the poor innocent residents of Carnation could hear the churning of the world’s oceans. And all this because of the extremity of the language I used.

And then. And then I put the InDesign CS3 disk in its case, and the PhotoShop CS4 disk in its case, and I made sure that Photoshop still started up. It did. So I made sure Bridge started up, and it did.

And then I started InDesign CS3, and it told me that “Some files required for color management are missing. Please re-install the application to ensure proper functioning.”

It might take me a day or two to cool off enough to call that pathetic excuse for customer support offered by Adobe. Until then, I spend time searching for alternatives to every piece of Adobe software I use. I am sick to death of this. Their software, for all that is the market dominating stuff and is the ‘gold standard’, has pissed me off, and this time it may have pissed me off so much I am actually motivated to hunt down some alternative.

I hope the folks working at Adobe and owning Adobe stock get exactly what they deserve. And I hope they get it good and hard, and I hope they get it for the next fifty years, nonstop.

Images in PDF documents

Posted in Adobe InDesign, book design, web issues by Paul Butzi on August 31, 2009


Colin plaintively asks

As an example of what I mean, the section on images tells you what formats InDesign will accept. It tells you how to move them, put them in frames, link them, wrap text around them and all sorts of other things. It even illustrates the import options for various file types. But what it doesn’t do is suggest which ones to use. Or whether it is best to standardise file specifications (colour space, bit depth etc) outside of InDesign or not. Or whether it is best to place images that are sized perfectly, or oversized. Or output sharpened. Or what the consequences might be of using compressed or uncompressed files. Nor does it give any clues as to where you might find out the answers to these questions.

I have no deep insight here, except for this one observation: if I want something to look good on a screen, I size it to the exact size it will be on screen, then sharpen it at that size so that it looks good on screen. If you import oversized images into InDesign, then if you’ve done any sharpening on them, it was done on this oversized version, and if you then let InDesign resample them, you will end up with something not quite as good as if you had made the image exactly the right size and sharpened it.

Now, this is a rotten deal. For one thing, it pretty much means that you can’t put oversize images into the files so that viewers can zoom in to see more detail. It means that when 300 dpi screens are commonplace (next August, say) you’ll need to redo your PDF portfolios and books. And it means that if you embed 100dpi sharpened images in the online version, you can’t use the same image files for your Blurb print version.

Rotten all around. I’d observe one little out, which is that approximately zero people will view your PDF file at whatever the heck their PDF viewer calls ‘life size’ – basically pixel per pixel. So that viewer is going to resample whatever you put in your PDF file anyway. This is rotten, because no matter what, your images are not sharpened at whatever resolution the PDF viewer is displaying them at. Rotten, rotten. On the other hand, if you know that the viewer is going to display your images without sharpening, perhaps the right thing to do is embed oversized sharpened versions, so that when people zoom in all the way, they get some positive impression of your work.

Until we resolve this little conundrum with better control over how images are displayed in PDFs, I see no way out of this box. Yes, it’s rotten. Rotten is the word of the day.

Without Spreads

Posted in Adobe InDesign, book design, PDF by Paul Butzi on August 28, 2009


Because so many folks said ‘ditch the spreads’, here’s the same portfolio with spreads turned off. Note that many PDF readers allow you to pair pages.

Side note: I did not spend any time arranging images into pairs to exploit the spread, I just plunked them in the portfolio in chronological order. Interestingly, some people though the arrangement was bad, and some liked it.

I know some people don’t like the page numbers. Page numbers are important because I don’t title images (or caption them) and without some reference number there’s no way to specify a particular image. There are other reasons for page numbers, too – basically all the reasons books have numbered pages.

Comments, as before, welcome.

Online Portfolio Progress

Posted in Adobe InDesign, book design, Ghost Light, PDF by Paul Butzi on August 27, 2009


So I have a sort of draft version of an online portfolio/very small book.

This is the result of considerable messing about with various alternatives. In the end, I always seem to come back to something along these lines. Compared to what I’ve got for an actual printed book, this has abbreviated front matter. Pages are symmetric; that is, there’s no gutter. The PDF is generated as spreads. I remain uncertain about that particular decision.

You can take a look, here. Comments and suggestions, or even questions – all welcome and positively encouraged. If you’d like a copy of the template from which this was generated, drop me an email; I’m nearly to the stage where I’m ready to share with a small number of people.

Next up – similar PDF portfolios for the other work in this project, along with portfolios for the work I’ve currently got on my static website.

Left Hand/Right Hand, and Print/Online

Posted in Adobe InDesign, book design, PDF, Print On Demand by Paul Butzi on August 24, 2009


As always, learning by doing certainly beats sitting and theorizing.

I have figured out my problems with margins, gutter, spreads, and left hand and right hand pages. The answer, it turns out, lies in InDesign’s somewhat nonintuitive way of handling left hand and right hand pages.

Let me expound. Suppose you have an empty document, and then create a whole bunch of pages in it all at once. The first page created will be a ‘right hand’ page, and InDesign indicates this by displaying the icon for that page in the ‘pages’ pane set over to the right. The second page will be a left hand page, and the third will be a right hand page, fourth a left hand page, and fifth a right hand page, and so on. All this makes perfect sense.

Now, let’s suppose you insert a page into the document, BETWEEN two pages that currently form a spread. This new page forces all of the subsequent pages to change partners. However, the ‘left page’ or ‘right page’ property of a page is FIXED AT THE TIME THE PAGE IS CREATED, so now you have a bunch of left hand pages which fall on the right hand side of spreads, and also a bunch of right hand pages that fall on the left side of spreads. And, as you expect, this produces chaos.

The moral of the story that you never want to do anything that will make a left hand page move to the right hand side of a spread, or right hand page move to the left hand side. This means you should NEVER drag pages around, only spreads. If you need to move content from one side of a spread to the other, move the content, not the page.

Figuring this out was another few hours of my life down a rat hole. Of course, once I’d figured it out, it was EASY and FAST to look in my books on InDesign and confirm it.

In other news, having puzzled this out, I am engaged in building version 2 of my template, being careful of left hand and right hand, and building the master pages as spreads. This has both complicated the template and made it simpler, as you would expect.

And as I’m approaching the finish line, the issues I’ve been punting down the road (“I’ll hand that when I know more about it…”) are now confronting me.

Most of these are print versus online issues:

  • In the print world, you have a ‘gutter’ on the spine side of a page, to compensate for the fact that because the book is bound, you can’t lay the spread flat, and so you need to lay out the page with a bit more space on the inside of the page than the outside, so that it looks balanced. Online, you do not need to do this. Do I build one template, and include a gutter, and just let it look slightly weird online? Or do I try to figure out a way to have one template, but I adjust it according to whether the target is print or online?
  • The copyright page for a print document (portfolio or book) should really have the ISBN, the Library of Congress Catalog card number, and specify where the book was printed. All that info is either irrelevant or silly for an online publication, I THINK. Or maybe not.

  • Typically, a printed book will have a bastard title page, either a blank page or a frontispiece, a full title page, the copyright page, and then a half title page. Having three title pages seems excessive for a print document, where the reasons for the multiple title pages have vanished. So it seems you end up with different front matter for printed books and the online versions of books, or at least portfolios and books which are targeted exclusively for online viewing.

I’ve got no clarity on those issues. If you have insights, please share!


Posted in Adobe InDesign, book design, PDF, software by Paul Butzi on August 21, 2009


Today I finally got my template thing in a state where I could give it a test drive.

I started from the template, with the goal of creating a portfolio from 22 images I’d made in one particular theatre. As a bit of a test, I timed the process. From the time I opened the template to the time I had generated a PDF and saved the InDesign file for the portfolio, it took me about 10 minutes.

In the process, I managed to find two different problems with the template itself – one with the way I was handling vertical images, and one problem I haven’t quite figured out with margins, the gutter, and left and right hand versions of master pages. I will have to go back and fiddle with that some.

The margin problem is forcing my hand, and I guess I will have to make some decisions about whether portfolios intended solely for web viewing should have spreads, or just single pages. I am leaning very slightly toward spreads, but it’s awfully close. Part of my reason for this slight leaning is that in terms of presenting images, it’s useful to have spreads. You can put text on one side and an image on the other, or two related images side by side. Thoughts on this?

The bottom line, here is that although I might not be able to get as much book/portfolio or print/online fusion as I had hoped, the process of having a template all set and ready for you to drop images into it to set up a publication can really, really cut the time it takes to go from a set of images in a directory all the way to the final PDF.

More on books, portfolios, and the web

Posted in Adobe InDesign, book design, books, Solo Photo Book Month by Paul Butzi on August 20, 2009


Today I got a little bit further along on my quest to have a template that will help me generate paper books and online PDF portfolios/books.

This afternoon, I used to template to crank out a 24 image portfolio. That’s about as big as I’d want to go without giving more thought to structure than it currently has – right now it’s just a test job, with 24 photos from this years SoFoBoMo effort thrown in to see how it worked.

The differences between print and online versions, and between portfolios and books are slowly starting to become more clear as I go through the process of making things and am forced to actually confront actual problems and make concrete choices.

For instance, it seems to me that a portfolio is a much simpler structure – you don’t need quite as much front matter to a portfolio as you do for a book. Some of that structure – bastard title page, frontispiece, and half title page – might make sense only for books, and not so much for a portfolio. I can see a preface or forward for both books and portfolios, I guess.

The paper version/online version differences are growing more clear, too. If you’re generating a PDF for online viewing, you have different resolution needs, and you probably optimize the PDF differently. Those are hidden technical PDFy things. Beyond those, the on the ground experience of viewing a PDF online means that you’ll probably treat things like blank pages and spreads differently in online and print versions. Beyond that there are a host of issues which are basically traditions in the print world which might make no sense in the online world – the practice of having bastard title pages at the front (which was used to make it easy to identify unbound books) is a good example. Another example would be the idea of combining the frontispiece and title page to fill both functions (display an image, provide title, subtitle, author, publisher info) with just one page that also serves as a sort of cover for the portfolio as well. So an online version might have the cover, frontispiece, and title page collapsed into the first page, the second page would be the copyright page (or maybe move that to the end), followed by a preface/foreward/dedication/acknowledgements and then the body and back matter

I’ve also been going through my books on book design again. When I first went through all that study for SoFoboM 2008, I got headaches trying to learn book design. This time around it seems to all be making sense. The challenge is in taking hundreds of years of tradition and figuring out which bits are useful in an online context, and which are not. It isn’t always clear up front what parts the baby and what parts are the bathwater. As a general thing, I’m finding that if I’m not sure, better to leave it in until I figure out why publishers have been putting it in books for hundreds of years. My working presumption is that the people making books in the past were smart clever folk and not clueless idiots.

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SoFoBoMoGo – Butzi Edition

Posted in Adobe InDesign, Canon EF 24-105 f/4L IS, Solo Photo Book Month by Paul Butzi on March 19, 2008


Colin Jago has an excellent post outlining his SoFoBoMo plans, including a photo of the camera gear he plans to use. (Warning to Leica Purists – prepare yourself before viewing the weird miscegenation Colin has assembled). He also outlines his basic book design decisions. All in all, excellent reading to get yourself charged up to go – read it all here.

I so enjoyed reading Colin’s post that I’ll follow his example. Other folks who feel moved to make similar posts on their own blogs might want to either leave a comment on my blog with a link, or perhaps leave a comment on Colin’s blog with a link (or both) so that it becomes a little easier to find each other’s planning posts.

So here’s my plan. This is the camera gear I’m planning on using:
That’s my trusty Canon EOS-5D, with the 24-105 f/4 L IS mounted. I’d prefer something a bit smaller but in the end this is what I use day to day, and since it’s the most flexible setup I have at hand it’s what I’ll use. In the lower left is a Garmin Etrex Legend HCX, which will ride in my pocket on the outings so that I can geotag the exposures – that isn’t really part of the project but I want to be able to sort out locations of the photos after the fact, and it’s very little additional effort. I considered using the little Canon PowerShot G9 but it’s just a smidgen slow for taking photos of the dog, who often races about at speed, so the 5d edged out the G9 on that basis. If not for the dog issue, the G9 might have won.

You’ll note that there’s no tripod pictured. My plan is to do the entire project without a tripod. I’ve been using the tripod less and less, but this part of my plan still feels a bit weird.

Not pictured is Kodak, the golden retriever who will accompany me on the project outings and may serve as the subject some of the time. The general plan is to take daily walks with the dog, and simply photograph while taking the walks. Think of it as combining dog walk therapy and photo therapy, and making a book of the result.

The book layout will be done in Adobe InDesign. Over the past few months I’ve gotten sufficiently familiar with it that it isn’t head-bangingly frustrating, and I have put together a test book and generated a PDF, so I’m confident that will all work out with only the usual botheration. One thing I’m pleased with is that I’ve figured out how to generate PDFs that show a two page spread (left and right hand facing pages) as one unit in PDF viewers, so that I can have text on the left page and the photo on the right page, and paging through the PDF is very akin to paging through a physical book (Colin mentions this problem in his post).

My plan is to start on April 1st. I have to hang a show on the 30th of March, so that show will be safely out of the way and not a distraction; the show comes down on May 3rd, which would be after the last day of my SoFoBoMo month. That works out nicely. If the weather is truly hostile at the start I may decide to delay a few days. I’d really like to get started, though. Has anyone else observed that it would actually be possible for a single photographer to do SoFoBoMo twice this year and not have the projects overlap? I mean, you’d have to be crazy, but…

Book Design

Posted in Adobe InDesign, book design by Paul Butzi on January 6, 2008


Gordon McGregor has an interesting post on book design. Gordon, who’s braver than I am, generously shares his previous PDF format book-like efforts, three of them. He’s also got a book recommendation – I have requests for the book he recommends (and the sister volume on type) at the library, so I should have them in hand shortly. Go give Gordon’s blog a visit to see the book titles and his views on them.

In the meantime, I’ve struggled quite a bit with trying to put together a sort of first blush mockup of a book in Adobe InDesign. My struggles have NOT been with InDesign, which takes a bit of learning but is not horrible. Instead, I’ve spent a lot of time struggling with basic concepts of book design – questions like “What is the proper order of all that stuff at the front of the book?” and “What info is really supposed to go on the copyright page?” and so on.

It didn’t take me long to sit down and order up a pile of books from the library. So far I have examined four:

  • Bookworks – Making Books by Hand – Gwenyth Swain.
  • New Book Design – Roger Fawcett-Tang
  • The Little Book of Layouts – David E. Carter
  • Book Design and Production – Pete Masterson

The first book, Bookwords – Making Books By Hand, I requested because I have vague ideas of making extra-special one-off books by printing the pages on my z3100 and then building the pages into a book by hand. Great idea, but this is not the book to get me up to speed for that project. New Book Design I requested hoping it would give me fundamental concepts in book design. Instead, it’s a collection of photos of cover and page spreads for a bunch of modern books. That’s probably great if you’re already up to speed on book design, but it’s not what I wanted. The Little Book of Layouts is not really books at all – it’s all about brochures. Since what I want is help on book specifics, that’s not much help to me. All three of those will go back to the library.

The last book, Book Design and Production, is subtitled A Guide for Authors and Publishers. It’s exactly the sort of book I was looking for. I’ve been learning about ‘front matter’, ‘body’, and ‘back matter’. As I suspected, it turns out there’s a conventional order for everything, and the book has solid information on all of this. In addition, the book is largely oriented toward people who, like me, want to engage in the masochistic process of doing their own book layout using their own computer and some bit of software. There’s what seems to be a very realistic rundown on the various alternatives for software, including Microsoft Word,Pagemaker, Framemaker, Quark Xpress, InDesign, Ventura, Publisher. There’s even a highly enlightening comparison of the same text set with Word, Pagemaker, and InDesign. The difference in appearance between the text set in Word and the text set in InDesign is stunning and really has to be seen to be believed. Let’s just pause here and say that I’m not disappointed that I’ve purchased InDesign.

I liked this book so much that I immediately went to Amazon and purchased a copy. I’m going to want this far longer than the time the library will let me keep it.