archive // 2005.01.06 02:55:51 [her]

Photo Tools #02 – Interview mit "Power Retouche" Autor Jan Esmann: "I believe in conscious control with intuitive tools" [english]

esmann.jpgEckehart Röscheisen sprach mit dem Maler Jan Esmann, Autor der professionellen Filtersammlung "Power Retouche" über die Hintergründe eines außergewöhnlichen Projekts für Profi-Fotografen. "Screen2.0" veröffentlicht das Interview in der Originalsprache Englisch.

Screen2.0: How comes that a talented painter works on complex algorithms for professional image manipulation based on optical parameters? Why did you start this project?

Jan Esmann: I started because I was continually frustrated because of difficulties correcting scans of my paintings in Photoshop. So I decided that rather than be frustrated I should try and do something about it. I have programmed for fun so taking that step was no so big. The first plugin I made was that sharpener because i set as a goal to figure out how to make an unsharp mask that did not create negative edgelines. I managed a simple solution and thought others might be interested too. So I created a simple webpage and waited for a response. Also I created the photo-mode saturation and the color corrector.

It turned out that a number of photographers found my approach interesting so we began emailing. They suggested plugins that could handle things photoshop could not, or at least tools that could do it with greater ease. This gave birth to the radial density corrector, the "Toned Photos" plugin and the exposure editor.

Then it was obvious that I had a talent being able to translate my experience with painting and color theory (which has always fascinated me) into useful plugins. Apparently I could make tools intuitive, that were in Photoshop nerdy or complicated, so I decided to start a proper company and also to translate the plugins to Apple's Mac OS X.

So you see, it really just happened somehow by itself. Not that it did not take effort and time and I have in fact two full time jobs: painting and programming.

Screen2.0: What makes this set of filters unique in your view?

Esmann: What makes the filters unique is that they do what you want – and that you are offered controls that make explicit what you as a photo editor intuitively want to do, yet may perhaps not be quite conscious of. This I have only been able to do because I have trained myself to be so conscious about what I do, when I paint, so I know what you need to be able to do with color, exposure, etc.

The general bonus of "Power Retouche" is, that the filters all aim at having no destructive or detrimental side effects. Photoshop CS's new Shadows/Highlights function is nice, but it creates halos. So I tried to make a filter for HDR (High Dynamic Range) compression that does not create halos nor flatten the highlights. Similarly the sharpener makes no edgelines. The saturation tools does not chop the image up into primaries, like Photoshops saturation does, and so on.

Screen2.0:What do you think of integrated "quick fix" tools like "Intellihance" (Extensis) or "Auto Eye" (Aufo FX)?

Esmann: As for integrated quick fix tools, I am not a fan. I am a craftsman and believe in conscious control with intuitive tools that help you become conscious about what you want to do. Photoshop of course started the auto correction scheme with Autolevels and later Autocontrast, but I have never liked them.