I’m happy to announce the launch of Web Sharp Pro v5, which is another free update for all existing customers.
In the video below, you’ll see a few highlights including the new ability to create powerful new templates. The new templates make it incredibly easy to create custom exports for all the various ways you need to export your images. For example: you could create presets to export to Facebook with blur border, a 4×5 Instagram portrait template with some added grain, and a larger watermarked version of the same image for your website. The options are endless. Whatever your needs, you can easily switch between the settings presets you create with just a few clicks. And coming in Web Sharp Pro v5.2 (expected in April), you’ll be able to use these new presets during bulk exports to create multiple versions of entire collections of images.
In addition to the new settings presets, v5 adds support to work with multiple watermarks, the ability to interactively update your overlay templates, add secondary borders to overlays, and more. See the release notes for full details on the changes.
Note: I made some quick improvements on v5.0.0, which used a different approach to the new interface. So you’ll need to update to v5.1.0 or later to use the new “save / load settings button” I show in the video.
I’ve been using a 14″ 2021 M1 MacBook Pro (MBP) since it launched. It’s been an amazing computer and continues to amaze me. To push things further, I just upgraded to the new 2023 M2 version. Was it worth it?
Both my old and new laptop are the most fully-loaded version you can get in the 14″ screen size. That includes the “Max” version of the CPU, 8TB internal storage, and maximum RAM options
The new M2 Max includes faster CPU cores with 2 more efficiency cores to improve battery life, faster / more GPU cores (38 vs 32), and the RAM has increased from 64 to a whopping 96GB RAM (both models at 400GB/s).
There are some improvements to core features as well including Bluetooth 5.3 (vs 5.0 for better performance, stability, and security with supporting devices), Wi-Fi 6E (vs Wi-Fi 6 for improved speed / latency with a supporting router), and HDMI 2.1 (vs 2.0 for double the bandwidth to support higher refresh rates on 4k monitors).
Test results: M2 Max vs M1 Max
First, I need to note that I’m running benchmarks not long after migrating my data, which means that my M2 machine is still doing some background indexing for Spotlight which may mean that I’ll see greater gains when that process is done. Second, be sure to check out my article on how to test performance of your CPU, GPU, RAM, etc for more details on how I made the observations below.
Here are the results I saw when comparing my newly M2 Max to my older M1 Max on the same tasks:
Photoshop tasks take roughly 12% less time in G-Bench tests (scoring 50.2 vs 57.2 for typical runs, though I’ve seen the M2 get as low as 49.6 and the M1 as low as 55.9). Based on Apple claims and 3rd-party benchmarks showing ~20% performance improvements, I expected I’d see G-Bench scores in the range of 45-50. So I would say these results are in line with expectations, but not quite what I’d hoped to see. Note: the detailed M2 data will be included in G-Bench standalone as well as Lumenzia and Web Sharp Pro utilities within the next couple weeks.
Creating Smart Objects is one area where the M2 really shines. Converting a complex set of layers to a Smart Object takes ~55% less time. I’m guessing improved SSD write speeds play significant a role in that. However, opening a Smart Object for further editing only saves ~7%.
The RAM increase to 96GB offers real benefit for heavy workloads. I’ve often seen the Activity Monitor show “memory pressure” in the yellow or even red with the M1. I expect I will almost never see that with the M2. That means less use of memory compression or swap files on the disk. That helps avoid performance degradation with the M2 and helps further separate its performance from the M1. When I tried enlarging a massive image, I saw the time savings of the M2 jump to 30% vs a 20% savings on more modest files.
The internal drive is dramatically improved for saving data. Write speeds are 50% faster (6800 vs 4500 MB/s in Black Magic). That won’t speed up saving images in Photoshop if you’re using compressed formats, as the CPU is the bottleneck there. It also won’t accelerate copying data as APFS uses virtual copies internally and external sources would be slower. But if you’re saving uncompressed images, you’ll definitely see a benefit. And this probably accounts for a good part of the massive speed boost in creating Smart Objects.
SSD read speeds are the same (about 5500 MB/s on each). Yet, large files open in 20% less time on the M2 (which seems to be driven by CPU improvements decode the data more quickly).
Apple claims battery life should be improved (18 vs 17 hours of video playback on the 14″ laptop). I don’t have a good way to confirm this (especially given the aged status of my M1 battery, which now shows a maximum capacity of 89% after 16 months of heavy use). The M1 has only 2 efficiency cores and they are frequently fully utilized, while the M2 offers 4 efficiency cores and should be able to run more efficiently for email, web browsing, and other simple tasks. I wouldn’t expect much improvement using performance-driven apps like LR and PS though.
The doubling of efficiency cores may help speed up tasks like background indexing which are written to prefer efficiency cores. When I allow Spotlight to index, I notice both machines max out the efficiency cores, but the M1 doesn’t seem to use the performance cores in a significant way for the task (even when on wall power).
Gigapixel runs about 7% faster. Previous hardware updates have shown huge gains as the software uses multiple cores and GPU well, it may not yet be fully optimized for M2 and might get a further speed bump with some future update.
I’m generally seeing other non-photography tasks I use (video, transpiling software, etc) save 10-20% as well.
For reasons I don’t understand, I only saw a 5% gain using Handbrake to transcode video. I wonder if there is some thermal throttling involved, as it was using nearly 100% of every core for an extended period of time – whereas Final Cut Pro X doesn’t push the CPU cores nearly as hard. I notice the fans get to to loud speeds noticeably earlier on the M2 than the M1 when using all CPU cores, perhaps due to the revised cooling design. (Note that fan noise is still rare unless you’re doing something using all cores heavily, such as importing a batch of images to LR or exporting video).
On the whole, these are fairly incremental gains and less than I’d expected.
So, was it worth it?
For me, yes (just barely). This is the single-most important tool I need to run my business and I’m willing to invest in it. That’s based largely on the desire for increased RAM, improved productivity, and my business needs for video and software development – balanced against tax considerations as a business expense and the net cost after selling the old laptop.
Unless you bought and lower-end M1 and now want to get more of the upgrades you skipped the first time, you should probably stick with the M1 you have. The performance gains are incremental and the 96 RAM option will only benefit a small group of photographers for the next few years. The future “M3” update is likely to be a more significant update and I’d wait for that. None of that is a negative on the M2 at all, it’s just that most people won’t get significant value from updating any computer in less than three years.
However, the value of Apple Silicon just got more compelling if you didn’t already have the M1. If you have an older Mac or a Windows machine, the M2 (or a now cheaper M1) are excellent computers and I would highly recommend either for nearly any photographer. The 1600-nits HDR-capable XDR display on this laptop would be worth the upgrade alone in my opinion (as well as being a very compelling reason to consider switching from Windows to Mac for photography, which I haven’t advocated for a long time prior to these new HDR screens). In addition, you get an incredibly powerful laptop with excellent battery life, sound system, and overall quality.
Most photographers should consider the Pro version of the M2 MacBook Pro. The Max CPU/GPU upgrade is more power than you need if you aren’t doing video. I’d get the 14″ version if you want a lightweight device for travel (and have an external monitor at home). 32GB is ideal for most photographers. I’d get a 1TB drive and pick up a 4TB Sandisk Extreme as an external drive if you’re on a budget.
Read my original M1 Max review for more details on why I strongly recommend any of these new Apple Silicon laptops.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. See my ethics statement for more information. When you purchase through such links, you pay the same price and help support the content on this site.
HDR (High Dynamic Range) is the biggest leap in image quality I’ve ever seen. It lets you truly show the full dynamic range of your camera without compromise. Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) v15.1+ makes it incredibly easy to process your RAW images as HDR on an HDR-capable monitor.
In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to setup and use HDR to get the most out of your images in ACR.
See my HDR page and e-book for much more detail on how to setup HDR. You’ll need to enable the tech previews shown in the video above and restart Photoshop to get support. HDR is supported in ACR for all computers at this time, but layer-based editing outside ACR in Photoshop is only supported on MacOS at this time. See my related videos on HDR in ACR and how to export HDR images for the web using the AVIF file format.
Be sure to see my tests and monitor recommendations to make sure your display supports HDR. If you’re viewing the video on an SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) monitor, it will be “tone mapped” to give you a relative sense of what’s possible. In other words, you’ll get a simulation of the effect on an SDR monitor, but need to view it on a true HDR display to really appreciate the benefit. Try viewing using Safari or Chrome on an M1 or M2 MacBook Pro to see just how truly stunning it can be. Also, I would avoid FireFox for this video if it looks strange (you may incorrectly show the wrong version of an HDR YouTube video on that browser).
Please also note that I’m still learning how to optimally render HDR video, and what you see in this tutorial isn’t quite as good as the real experience. I highly encourage you to try it for yourself.
Whether you edit your photos in a huge colorspace like ProPhoto RGB or even a small one like sRGB, you’re eventually going to run into issues with “out of gamut” colors when your image is printed or viewed on another computer. For example, a vibrant Adobe RGB green may be a little more dull on a monitor that supports P3. Or a vibrant sRGB magenta may not be printable. Knowing how your images will look like on the web or as a print is extremely valuable. That’s exactly what “soft proofing” is, a preview of how your image will look will look on another monitor or as a print.
Soft proofing helps you:
Optimize your images to look their best when printed or shared on the web.
Consider various print options, such as the ideal paper to preserve the colors or shadow detail of your image.
Be more aware of how your image will appear. Whether you try to make changes or not, the final result will be different if some pixels are out of gamut (by definition, out of gamut colors cannot be reproduced on the monitor/paper in question).
Other than standard color spaces like AdobeRGB, you will need to install ICC profiles for anything you wish to proof (such as your monitor or specific papers/printers). You can create your own profiles with tools like the XRite i1Studio or download them from your the printer manufacturer or your commercial print lab.
Lumenzia (v11.3+) and Web Sharp Pro (v4.0+) include options for soft proofing. They are designed to make the soft proofing process faster and easier, as well as tools for correction in Lumenzia. These panels take different approaches, as Web Sharp Pro is only intended to output images for the web.
How to soft proof in Web Sharp Pro:
Go to Settings / General and set the “proof when hovering over sharpen” to either soft proof or gamut warning. You simply choose one or the other, and “soft proof” is going to be the best option most of the time.
The “colorspace” you choose in Settings / General is what will be used for proofing. So you can proof as sRGB, P3 (on MacOS), or Adobe RGB. You cannot proof other colorspaces because they are irrelevant (since these are the only options for exporting the image).
Just hover over the “Sharpen” button in the main panel, and the soft proof or gamut warning will be shown (unless your colorspace is set to “do not convert”, as there is nothing to soft proof when the output is unchanged).
If you wish to change the color used for the out of gamut warning, go to PS prefs / Transparency & Gamut and click the color swatch.
If you wish to confirm the profile when using the out of gamut option, you can go to the flyout menu (top right of my panel) / tool tips & info and turn on “Document & PS info”. This will show proof/gamut info as extra text below the normal panel area (be sure to click and drag down the bottom edge of the panel to see it).
Note that Web Sharp Pro does not include corrective tools, but you may use Lumenzia or add a top group layer named “soft proof” and Web Sharp Pro will toggle the group on and off with your proofing (see the Lumenzia demo in the video above to learn more).
How to soft proof in Lumenzia:
Click “Gam” to see a popup window with options. Note that the “Gam” button is disabled if there is no image open or your active image is in 32-bit mode (soft proofing is not accurate for HDR images, you should convert to 16-bits and then soft proof).
Choose your desired profile from the dropdown. You’ll notice that the list is much shorter than what you see in the Photoshop setup dialog, as the majority of the options are not useful and Lumenzia is automatically reducing the clutter to help you find relevant choices. Both RGB and CMYK profiles are supported. You may click the filter checkboxes to help shorten the list of options further.
In the hover options section, check the soft proof or out of gamut warning options as desired. You may select both.
When soft proofing is enabled, you may have the option to choose the perceptual rendering intent. If the option is greyed out, the currently selected profile does not support it. Most of the time, “relative colorimetric” is best. However, perceptual may be optimal for images with color gradients which are out of gamut (such as the soft color transitions of a rose petal).
When the gamut warning is enabled, you may also click on the color swatch to set the color used for the warning. Middle grey is often the best choice, as it clearly stands out in the middle of out of gamut colors.
Click “Done” once you’ve selected the options you wish to use and then just hover over the “Gam” button to see the soft proof and/or gamut warning.
Just like Web Sharp Pro, you can go to the flyout menu (top right of my panel) / tool tips & info and turn on “Document & PS info” to see red text describing any soft proof you use through the panel.
The “Gam” button also includes an option to “add soft proof corrections group“. This creates an HSL adjustment layer with a layer mask biased towards out of gamut pixels for the selected profile. This group is automatically made visible when you hover for a soft proof, so that you may directly compare your original image (without proofing) to your corrected image (with proofing). The mask utilizes density to help ensure smooth results (see this tutorial to learn more about why density is so useful and how to adjust it). The easiest way to use the proof corrections group is to hover over “Gam” and hold <shift> as you move away (to make activate the soft proof and the corrections group), adjust the HSL layer as desired or add other corrections to the group, and then hover over Gam again to compare your corrections to the original.
How to soft proof with Photoshop:
Soft proofing in Photoshop is setup through View / Proof Setup / Custom:
You can then select the color profile you wish to use for proofing (this is the “device to simulate”).
Rendering intent is often best as “relative colorimetric”, but some images benefit from “perceptual”. Note that while Photoshop always gives you a choice, many profiles do not support it and you’d get the same results as relative colorimetric (if the ICC profile file isn’t 1MB or larger, that’s usually a clue that it does not include the lookup tables for perceptual intent rendering).
I recommend leaving “black point compensation” checked and leave the other options alone unless you understand them fully.
Then check View / Proof Colors to soft proof or View / Gamut Warning to see which pixels are out of gamut.
You may change the gamut warning color via PS Prefs / Transparency & Gamut / Gamut Warning Color. Middle grey is often the best choice, as it clearly stands out in the middle of out of gamut colors.
Whenever soft proofing is active, the proof profile name will show in the document tab (ie the file name at the top of your image). This only applies for soft proofing, not gamut warnings. You can confirm the status of the gamut warnings by reviewing the View menu.
How to compare different profiles with MacOS ColorSync Utility:
If you use MacOS, you can use its “ColorSync Utility” to view and compare ICC profiles. This is a great way to compare gamuts for different profiles. A few quick tips:
Select the profile to review in the “profiles” tab.
Click and drag to view the gamut from different angles.
<option>-click and drag up to zoom out (or down to zoom in). This is helpful to see very large spaces like ProPhoto.
Right-click and choose Yxy to view the color space with the traditional horseshoe plot of spectral colors (these are the most saturated colors we can see).
Right-click and choose “hold for comparison” and then click on another color space to compare the two gamuts directly. You should hold the larger space (which will show as a colorless wireframe) to make the comparison easy to view.
Adobe Camera RAW (ACR v15.1) just added support for a new file format: AVIF. In this tutorial, you’ll learn what AVIF is, why it is significantly better than JPG, why you should consider using it now, and how you can easily take advantage of it with Web Sharp Pro.
What is AVIF and when should you use it?
The AVIF format (aka “AV1 Image File Format”) is an open standard developed by the Alliance for Open Media (Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, etc). It offers substantial benefits over JPG, including:
Vastly smaller file sizes than JPG, PNG, and webP at the same quality. You will typically see an image shrink by 20-25% when saved as AVIF, and you can often do much better. I’ve seen several images become 85% smaller. The results are about 10% smaller than webP as well. These are substantial gains that will translate into websites loading faster, reduced bandwidth costs, faster uploads, smaller email inboxes, etc.
Support for HDR (“High Dynamic Range”). Monitors which support this new standard offer vastly improved image quality. There is no suitable alternative to AVIF for sharing HDR images on the web, so this is definitely a format you’ll see more often as HDR adoption accelerates.
Higher bit-depth encoding (up to 12-bit for AVIF vs 8 for JPG). This can help avoid banding in smooth gradients like blue skies.
Transparency. This makes AVIF an ideal replacement for PNG, as the files are much smaller.
Lossless encoding. These files are of course not nearly as small when encoded this way, but this offers a great alternative to sending TIF when quality really matters. I expect this will be a great way to send images to print labs in the future.
Support for animation (AVIF is based on a video format). This offers vastly better quality than an animated GIF.
AVIF was only finalized in 2019 but already has widespread support in Chrome, Safari, MacOS, multiple browsers for iOS / Android, etc. However, support for AVIF does not imply support for HDR versions of AVIF images. At this point Chrome, Brave, and Opera support HDR, but we’re waiting for other browsers to catch up. HDR is going to be significant and AVIF is clearly the format which we’ll be using for it (especially now that Google removed support from the competing JPEG XL format from Chrome development). The only real benefit of JPG at this point is a wider range of browsers and apps which support it, and that difference is shrinking steadily.
When should you choose AVIF?
You should use AVIF for exporting all your HDR (32-bit) image.
This is the only realistic option for sharing HDR images on the web and a key reason to start using AVIF now.
In the future, AVIF will be a better choice than JPG for the rest of your images. But you probably should not use it to replace regular JPGs (yet). While 80% of browsers already support AVIF, you still don’t want 20% of visitors to be unable to see your image.
I would expect that by mid to late 2023, we’ll be at a point where browser adoption is high enough to start switching all images over to AVIF.
You can use it reliably now to upload to many social media sites. If it uploads, you’re fine (as the image will be converted to JPG as needed).
You can use AVIF in controlled situations such as putting them on your iPad for display or emailing friends you know can view AVIF.
The missing 20% are a combination of the MS Edge browser and people who haven’t kept their browser current. You could simply add “alt” tags whenever you feel comfortable that adoption is high enough. See the “can I use” page for latest adoption numbers (hover over the various blocks to see share of total browsing).
If you’re a web developer, you can use the HTML <picture> tag to specify an AVIF as your preferred file and fall back to JPG (to ensure everyone sees the image). Of course you’ll need to do a bit more work (including exporting two copies of each image), but this would enable much faster page loads for 80% of your viewers (and possibly better search ranking).
Note that WordPress does not support AVIF in its media library, but you can add images to your server and link to them by URL in your WordPress posts. Support in WordPress is inevitable, but I’m not aware of any specific plans to add support (and support is likely to require PHP v8.1 on your server as it adds support for processing AVIF to create derivative images such as thumbnails, etc).
How does AVIF quality compare with JPG?
AVIF is better, hands down. You can export as a lossless 12-bit image, which means it will be effectively identical to a flattened TIF. In contrast, a JPG will always use a lossy compression and 8-bit encoding, which creates artifacts and risk of banding. Of course, you’ll mostly use a form of lossy compression and probably 8 or 10-bit encoding to get smaller AVIF files. So you can always get a better result with AVIF, and most of the time you’re going to get both better quality and smaller files at the same time.
There are some differences in the details, which matter if you use aggressive compression or plan to zoom into the details of the image. I’ve generally found:
AVIF tends to show much more subtle artifacts. Depending on how you gauge quality, you can really push the compression.
The higher bit depth of AVIF not only helps avoid banding, but also eliminates the need to add dithering (noise) to hide banding, which helps reduce file size.
I see less color noise with AVIF.
The first place I notice loss of detail with AVIF is in subtle fine texture. Things line the lines between marble blocks in a building may go missing. You can hardly tell the difference at 100%.
Occasionally (such as around a star on a clear blue night sky) you’ll see a block of noisy artifact. It’s less common than what I’ve seen with JPG, but a good reminder than you should test a variety of subjects and images before you push compression to the most aggressive levels.
How to convert an image to AVIF with Web Sharp Pro
Web Sharp Pro v4 added support for Windows users to export any image directly from Photoshop (PS) as an AVIF**. This includes source images with HDR content, layers, or transparency. Simply go to Settings / General / Format to select AVIF and use the panel like normal. That’s all there is to it. If you have not installed the required 3rd-party plugin, you will see a prompt during export with guidance to download and install that plugin.
There is also an option in Web Sharp Pro to recompress existing files (such as a folder full of JPGs) to AVIF to quickly reduce the size of hundreds or thousands of images on your website or computer. Go to the flyout menu at the top-right of the panel and choose “Recompress images to AVIF”.**
Note that exporting directly via Web Sharp Pro offers a few advantages. It offers 12-bit encoding (at ultimate quality), improved quality for fine color details, and supports transparency.
** AVIF support in Web Sharp Pro is facilitated by use of a free 3rd-party file format plugin which is only available for Windows. As a result, Web Sharp Pro does not offer an AVIF export option for MacOS (and I am unaware of any development to add MacOS support). However, you can still use Web Sharp Pro to facilitate exports using the ACR method described below.
How to convert an image to AVIF with Adobe Camera RAW (ACR v15.1+)
If you are using MacOS, you should use ACR v15.1 to export your images as AVIF. This offers support for HDR content. However, you will need to create a flattened copy of your source image and transparency is not supported.
You need to set a couple PS preferences to use this workflow:
You need to enable AVIF support, which is part of the HDRO tech preview. Go to PS Prefs / File Handling / Camera RAW Preferences / Tech Previews, check “HDR output” and restart PS.
You also need to ensure that ACR is used to open your image, as the file export options in ACR are only offered when opening the image. PS Prefs / File Handling / Camera RAW Preferences / File Handling and set the TIFF dropdown to “automatically open all supported TIFFs“. You do not need to restart PS after making this change (which may be handy if you wish to toggle back and forth to avoid seeing the ACR dialog when opening some images).
Once you’ve enabled those settings, you can then export either using Web Sharp Pro to facilitate the process or export manually. The key is to generate a single-layer TIF file (which ACR can open for export and which also supports HDR). You cannot open a layered file or one using a Smart Object directly into ACR, so this flattened TIF is a requirement. This TIF is only intended as a temporary file, which you can delete after you’ve converted it to AVIF.
To export using ACR:
Export a flattened TIF
If exporting manually: Go to File / Save a Copy, select TIF and make sure “layers” is not checked.
If exporting via Web Sharp Pro: Go to Settings / General / Format to select TIF as your export format and export with the panel as you normally would.
Open your temporary TIF or TIFs (you may shift-click to select and open multiple images at once for bulk conversion).
If you’ve set the preferences as required above, your image should open directly into the ACR dialog.
If you exported manually, review every image which should be HDR to ensure that the HDR button is active in ACR.If you are using Web Sharp Pro, the image will always open correctly and you do not need to do this review.
If converting multiple images, shift-click them in the filmstrip so that all are selected.
Click the “convert and save” button. This is an icon with an arrow pointing down, and will be located near the top right by the gear (settings) icon.
==> If you do not see this button, it is because you did not open the image directly and immediately into ACR (you cannot save when invoking ACR later in the edit), it wasn’t a single-layer file (no Smart Object), or one of the above preferences was not set correctly.
Choose export settings:
Setting the destination dropdown to “save in same location” is very convenient, or you can choose a new location.
Set the file format dropdown to AVIF. Set the quality between 7 and 11. A safe general choice is around 8 for a good balance of size and quality.
Make sure “enable HDR display” is checked if exporting an HDR image. I recommend setting the space to “HDR Rec 2020”.
You may may leave metadata set as you like (you can choose “all” and control the metadata through Web Sharp Pro).
If exporting via Web Sharp Pro, do not use image sizing or sharpening as Web Sharp Pro does this for you and offers optimized results.
You may delete your temporary TIF file(s) now.
Note that using Web Sharp Pro dramatically simplifies step #1 (along with offering options for watermarks, borders, cropping to social media templates, etc), helps avoid the risk of HDR images becoming SDR in step #2, and simplifies step #5 (as you won’t have to make changes in the ACR dialog after your first export).
If the image does not open directly in ACR, make sure you have set both preferences above and that you are trying to open a TIF which has a single layer (and that layer cannot be a Smart Object).
If you do not see the icon to convert and save in ACR, make sure you are opening the image directly into ACR. You will not see this option for any image or layer which was already open in PS.
To confirm your exported image, you may open an AVIF with Photoshop and it will show in the ACR dialog. Or you may open it with the Chrome web browser, which properly supports HDR (just drag and drop it into Chrome).
Note that there are numerous 3rd-party tools and websites available which also offer AVIF conversion, but almost none of them support HDR (ie they will produce an image which is clipped to the SDR or “standard dynamic range”). So it is important to use a tool which provides proper support for HDR AVIF exports. The above workflows are the only ones I have tested successfully, other than using some very complicated command line tools. In time, we should expect to see many more simple options become available.
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