With the release of Photoshop Camera, Adobe flexes some serious tech for consumers but at the expense of working artists.

The smartphone camera completely transformed how the world communicates. For the first time, regular people can shoot, capture and share content that’s ‘good enough’ or better than what they are accustomed to with dedicated cameras.

Because you’re reading this on Photofocus though, you’re not the average consumer. Our readers are exploring different areas of photography as they hone their vision. We know that while a smartphone will never replace a dedicated camera, it has its place.

One area that’s been lacking on smartphones, though, is the promise of computational photography. That’s all starting to change with apps like FOCOS, Adobe Rush and now Photoshop Camera.

Adobe Photoshop Camera is a new, AI-powered camera app that truly shows us that “Adobe magic” I’ve been hearing about at Adobe’s MAX conferences. Imagine an app that can composite PSD or AE (that’s After Effects, BTW) effects live onto a scene you’re capturing. The result is astonishing, to say the least. Let me put it this way, Adobe Photoshop Camera is the only smartphone app (that I can talk about publicly) that when using it I was at a loss of words. Seriously though — I was not expecting PSC to have this much technical awesome in it.

Adobe Photoshop Camera makes use of downloadable looks and effects called Lenses which you can download from within the app. Lenses are viewed live on your smartphone screen when you’re shooting with PSC or you can import your photos and edit those.

On my iPhone 11 Pro Max, Photoshop Camera’s live effects are quite impressive. Other than the technology behind the app, PSC feels like an app that was made for a different time. Lenses dominate the photo visually, which is fun for a moment. But once this distraction passes and reality sets in, what I’m seeing are images that don’t feel like my own work because they’re not.

Taking a look at the current lenses offered with v1 of Photoshop Camera, you’ll see influencers, Adobe’s built-in looks and Billie Eilish. What you won’t see are lenses from artists who represent underrepresented communities or regular working professionals. To quote Adobe, “our new app also unlocks the power of the creative community by allowing users to access a curated feed of lenses made by well-known artists and influencers.”

The lack of diversity in the art world, especially the photography world, is nothing new. Considering what’s going on worldwide with BLM and COVID-19, the corporate messaging within PSC reads like Adobe is tone-deaf. Do you really care about influencers or celebrities right now?

Another thing I need to address here is while PSC will delight some consumers, it’s another app that does nothing to help professional artists make money. Yet the potential is there.

Don’t hate the players, but …

If you think I’m an Adobe hater, think again. Adobe has been a part of my work since 1994 and I couldn’t imagine life without it, at least for now.

Those early years in Photoshop helped me land my first job out of college coloring Titan A.E. for Fox Animation Studios. When Fox moved their animation studio to China, I learned Macromedia Flash which helped me get my next job. After the dot-com crash (and a nice break) I transitioned to a full-time photographer in 2005. It was a rough transition but Adobe apps helped me climb out of two years of poverty, eventually landing my first cover.

I won my first ADDY award using Adobe apps and when the Great Recession ground my business to a halt, I creating techniques for vertical video that would later be called Cinemagraphs.

On a quick break at my SGI terminal. Fox Animation, 1999.

I’m a change agent when it comes to photography or as Shutterbug put it, “Ahead of the Curve.” One change I’ve been seeing over the years that concerns me is Adobe’s growing lack of support for working artists, specifically photographers. The potential within CC apps to help photographers make ends meet is there, but it feels like since Adobe made the move to Creative Cloud, they’re putting profit before people.

The long game ain’t ever been easy

When Moses ran out of shelf space, ADDYs went on the floor.

If you combined all the print work and awards just between to of my friends and I got over the years, you could build a freakin’ house. Yet, with all our experience it’s never been easy. Take a look at what photographer Jeff Newton or Chief Creative Officer Matt Fischer is doing with his ad agency.

Believe me, we’ve seen some tough times but we’re here to stay. One thing we all had in common was that when we got into the game, the path to making a living was clear. Thanks in part to social media and AI, today’s working artists face a career path that’s confusing, manipulative and quite frankly harmful to their mental health.

Add in trying to make a living as a person of color or worse, a female LGBTQ+ person of color and what you have is an industry that’s ripe for change. If next-gen content-creators don’t believe they can earn a living, CC subscriptions will decline.

The growing interest in non-Adobe apps such as Capture One Pro, tells me a shift in the market in happening.

Pro tip: Take care of your customers needs and they will take care of you.

I get that large ships can move slow but for a company with vast resources as Adobe, can’t they do something to help people make a living? Seriously, what’s the hold-up here?

Look at what Adobe is doing to help with COVID-19 on their official page. There’s a lot of good here but nothing of substance to help working artists. The high tide raises all ships and conversely when the well runs dry we all thirst.

Some ways I think Adobe could help:

  • Build a marketplace so from within an app we could upload and sell various, Lightroom presets, PSC lenses, LUTs, etc.
  • If you build a marketplace Adobe, don’t rips us off.
  • Option to privately distribute lenses to clients so they can continue to create on-brand content remotely.
  • Ability to export PSC images as layered files to various CC apps.
  • Ability to convert lenses for use on Instagram and other socials.
  • Tutorials and white paper documenting how to create lenses.

Since the pandemic broke out I’ve been the primary caregiver for my immunocompromised mother and my three-year-old son, so I can’t speak to how I would use Photoshop Camera with my work specifically. That said, it’s been fun to use casually when opportunity strikes and that’s where I think Photoshop Camera works best right now.

What I have experienced using PSC are moments where the stress and anxiety that occupy my mind vanish. The relief from worry about my COVID-19 positive papa and stepmom, my family in Italy or anything on the news, is a testament that the Adobe Magic is real. I want to thank the team behind PSC for these precious moments of peace, but please Adobe use your magic to help those who help you — the working artists.