eXtensions - Wednesday 27 September 2017

eXtensions - The Wednesday File (24): Protecting Our Images - iWatermark Pro

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Extra Notes

iOS 11.0.1 An update to the new iOS 11 has been released to deal with some unspecified fixes. Comments I have seen online suggest that one oif these concerns battery life.

Hasselblad has announced the latest version of Phocus, its image editing app: essential if you are working with Hasselblad RAW images, but also usable workflow and editing software in its own right.

This week Apple released the expected update to MacOS and this is now High Sierra. File types have changed, unless you have a Fusion Drive, which use HFS+, but this will change to APFS like I have on my Macs now. Also note that with the update to iOS 11, certain iOS devices will be storing images as HEIC. These will be converted to JPG if exported for other uses, such as to Windows computers, and I have seen some HEIC photos changes to JPG on the iPhone when they are edited in 3rd party apps.

My Tuesday was enlivened by a typical Seeking Alpha article with the headline, "Is There Hope On The Horizon For Apple With iPhone X's 'Bionic Neural Chip' AI?" I don't think Apple is dead just yet although someone over in the direction of Wall Street may be worried that the share price could drop 50c.

Another note on Seeking Alpha cites the trustworthy Horace Dediu who claims that the Apple Watch sold $4.9 billion lin the past year. Not bad from what is - according to many on Wall Street, and especially Seeking Alpha, a failing product from a doomed company.

I was more than a bit disappointed when iOS 11 was released last week and a number of AR apps became available only to find that the IKEA Place app was not listed in Thailand, although another furniture placement app was. At the weekend I wrote to IKEA and asked about this. I was told that this is in preparation and will be released soon: there needs to be some localisation (prices, products) and this is taking time.

Protecting our Images and Watermarking

Over the last 20 years there has been a great democratization of photography. Since the arrival of digital cameras - initially expensive, but with clear potential - taking photos has become increasingly popular. People always did take photographs, but the slow processes of developing and printing the films had an output far smaller than what we see today. Now everyone is taking photographs with quite cheap (and not so cheap) smartphones, and professional photographers are concerned. In a post on Petapixel earlier this month, Jayphen Simpson outlines the video comments of Brendan van Son who expressed frustration with influx of new photographers who are crowding locations and behaving impolitely towards others.

Many of those pictures taken by smartphone users - and probably destined for social networking sites - may not be good, but each is the work of an individual. A good photograph needs the right light (exposure, aperture, time) and a properly framed subject. Smartphone software helps with the light, but not with a bad picture. Post-processing can help if the subject is good and in focus. Even Ansell Adams was careful with this, adjusting light levels when printing from negatives (dodge and burn); and I do wish more people would correct white balance in their work, even if it is only to appear on Facebook.

In simple terms there are three types of photographer: the professional; the enthusiastic amateur, ranging from the lecturing pedantic to those who instinctively understand the medium; and those who snap what is in front of them. Once in a while, those of us at the lower end of the talent spectrum will produce a good (or even great) image.

Tiger footpath

Photographs from DSLR and iPhone

I am particularly pleased with a photograph of a female tiger I took (DSLR) a couple of years back, and there are several photos I also love, taken with a selection of devices over the years: film, DSLR and smartphones. Some of the best ones, especially faces, I have had printed, but most of those I use end up either on my website, or on social networking sites, especially FaceBook and Instagram.

Not long ago Michael Sechler took a photograph in Florida of a stranded manatee. The picture was a gem, but he was distracted and gave up his rights to the image: something he now regrets as he earned nothing from the image. Some of the best videos of the 2004 tsunami were taken by holidaymakers and few were paid properly for their output, although the wire services who acquired the rights were able to profit from them.

Occasionally, I will watermark a photograph, although I am reluctant to spoil an image by putting text or an icon across it. However, these days, if I am considering doing this, I will use iWatermark, either on a Mac or an iOS device. There are also versions for Android and Windows. Recently, Plum Amazing updated the Mac version of iWatermark Pro to version 2 (2.0.4). Users are able to apply watermarks and other identifying data to photographs and video output. There are enough options to please even me on one of my most picky days.

The interface is a little dated, but this is not necessarily a negative: after some updates, an app has to be relearned. Nonetheless, iWatermark Pro does need a little time to learn initially, although the end result from this is satisfying. All I have to do now is select an image and press the Process button. There are a number of ways that the input and output results can be fine-tuned: the wide range of options that the app provides can offer solutions for everyone.

iWatermark Pro

Input can be either a single image or a selection. Clicking in the Input panel brings up a Finder window so that a file can be chosen. There is a similar action for output, plus a button that allows a Dropbox destination to be used as well.

To the right of the Input is a thumbnail of a selected image. Below that is a small icon marked Watermark Manager: this tiny doorway is one of the keys to the app. This reveals a list of Demo watermarks (each can be selected and tested with an image). Double-clicking on a watermark brings up a panel that allows the user to edit that specific watermark. These include text or graphic icons and a signature among other options.

iWatermark Pro

Any selected photograph is displayed with the specified watermark shown on the image. An editing panel gives a rich set of options, including colour, font, position of the watermark on the image and (a lifesaver for me) transparency. Once done, the watermark can either be saved with the original (demo) filename, or duplicated and saved. When I save my watermarks they appear at the end of the demo list so are easy to find. The name of the watermark selected for processing appears below the Input File & Folders panel.

Along with the Main tool icon shown at the top of the panel, there are separate panels (some turned on or off with a checkbox selector) for

  • Filtering - useful if a batch of images is to be selected (some photographers may take hundreds of images in one day) and certain of these may need to be excluded;

  • Resizing - I find this particularly valuable preparing images for web use and this can reduce (for example) a 20MB RAW file to a 500KB image as part of the process;

  • Renaming contains a rich selection of tags that may be used in producing output names;

  • Thumbnails may also be created as part of the watermarking process, with options for image size and file format;

  • Metadata - while some may copy an image and easily crop a watermark near the edge of the photograph, data embedded within an image is not so easily dealt with. Several options are available, including creator name and copyright information. The app suggests that Watermark manager (the gear icon at the bottom) should be used to embed the IPTC and XMP information.

  • Output does not need have a checkbox as this is essential to the app and allows fine-tuning of file types when exporting from iWatermark as well as several other features, including red-eye, vibrance and tone curve;

  • iWCloud is a service that Plum Amazing provides to allow for storage and synchronization of watermarks between platforms (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android). I do not use this, so can offer no additional comment. It might also be useful if synchronization via iCloud (or others) were possible.

  • Advanced has two panels: Options & Logging, and Sharing (via Dropbox). Options & Logging again provides a rich set of options to allow a user to control the watermarking process itself and outputs.

  • Register is for a user to enter the details of the key when purchase ($30) has been made. Although I had bought an earlier version, the same key works in version 2: not all developers are that generous. I have also found that any queries sent to the developer are answered in double-quick time.

iWatermark Pro Once the setup is done, pressing Process watermarks the image and sends the output to a specified location. A notification also appears on the screen of my Mac (top right) with details of the finished image, including the time taken for export.

That setting up needs only doing once, until circumstances change (like the year for copyright), although some users may have more specific output needs, depending if a client is involved. It is not a lengthy process to change any of the output (or input) settings, and once this has been done a couple of times, despite the variety of options possible, this is not a difficult job. Even creating a new watermark in the Editor, for a specific job takes only a minute or two, although I tend to keep the same watermarks, just adjusting minor details (such as watermark position) depending on the photograph.

I do have a plugin from iWatermark that works in Aperture, but there is no equivalent extension for Apple Photos, which might add to efficiency. As iWatermark is not available via the App Store, this might be part of the reason. It is available for download from the Plum Amazing site, with a trial period: it works as normal but (unsurprisingly) a developer watermark is displayed. Registration removes that.

The current and great photographic output from ordinary people is part of the change that smartphones have wrought. Photographs and videos, often spontaneous, are part of the news cycle, whether this is initiated through social networking sites or mainstream news media. Those whose work is used, whether they are professionals or lucky amateurs, should be rewarded. Intellectual protection is needed as much as honesty from the news organizations negotiating for the rights to images.

Watermarking an image will give a clear statement as to the ownership of an image and iWatermark Pro for the Mac, or other platforms, is a strong and flexible app that will help those who need to have their work identified.

iWatermark Pro output

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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