All aboard the Carousel - Adobe talks us through its cross-platform sharing service

When Adobe Carousel was announced, back in September 2011, the initial responses were that it looked like an expensive cloud storage service. Adobe's ambitions for the system are much greater than this, though - we spoke to Chris Quek, Senior Product Marketing Manager, about what Carousel offers and where it might go next.

The basic idea of the service is to make it possible to view and edit all of your images on any of your devices. To achieve this, Carousel exists as a series of apps that are used to interact with the cloud-based storage that underpins the service.

'Tablets and smartphones are changing people's workflows - we wanted to create something that allows you to use these as part of your workflow and always have access to the images, whichever device you decide to use.'

'There are a lot of people with huge catalogues of images - maybe tens of thousands of photos, usually on their hard drive or some kind of backup. It's very hard to connect and get access to all of these on your tablet or smartphone. It's also really difficult to share a large library of images. And, when you get on to your mobile device, there's a very different user experience. That can be a real barrier to productivity and causes a lot of frustration.'

'We wanted to get away from the need to physically connect one device to another or consciously have to remember to sync your images.'

All your images, anywhere on any device

'We asked ourselves "what do people want?" and concluded that they wanted to be able to access their entire library on all devices. They wanted a common set of tools that let them do what they want to achieve. And they want to be able to share that catalogue. And we wanted to make all of this as easy-to-use as possible - simple to set up and easy to use. If it's difficult, most people won't do it at all.'

'But although we've tried to make it easy to use, we haven't dumbed-down the experience - we've taken our imaging processing technology for desktop computers and optimized it for mobile devices.' And he is insistent that corners haven't been cut to accommodate the less powerful processors used in mobile devices. 'It runs well, even on phones,' he says.

Initially the service will only be available on Mac desktop machines or recent Apple iOS devices but other versions are coming, Quek says: 'In 2012 there will be clients for Windows and Android. The key thing is that it feels like you're using the same app in each environment, because essentially you are.'

The main distinction between the devices is the way files are added to the 'photo carousel' - they use each device's native file picker. As such you select images from the camera or 'Camera Roll' of the iOS devices and use a standard OS X file dialogue or drag-and-drop on a Mac. 'Anything you can do on one machine, you can do anywhere - we want to turn every device into an equal participant.'

Once an image has been added to a photo carousel, each device can apply a series of edits. There are three tabs in the software - one that applies preset 'Looks,' a second 'Adjustments' tab and a Crop/Rotate tab. At present there are 17 Looks which can't be combined or modified, though this may be changed in later versions. The second two tabs will be more familiar to users of image manipulation software.

The interface looks essentially the same, regardless of the device you use it on. Large, simple sliders allow its use with touchscreen devices, such as the iPad, pictured here.

Like the first version of Adobe Lightroom, all the other edits affect the entire image, whether it be white balance adjustment, exposure correction (with highlight and shadow adjustment) or contrast adjustments. Both the Exposure and White Balance tabs have an 'auto-correct' option that shows what changes it's making. Opening an edited image on another device reveals the control sliders in exactly the position you left them when you made the last change. This gives you the option of beginning your edits on one device then moving to another to finish off - or hand over to someone else, with the knowledge you'll be able to see and undo any changes they've made, if you wanted.

'I wouldn't trust my images to the cloud'

Although Carousel is explicitly a cloud-based system, it recognizes that people don't want to just trust their images to a remote server they can't directly control. 'By default the Mac version of Carousel is set to copy all imported images on any computer you install Carousel on. It's very important for people to know they have the originals of their images. We want people to be in control, to know where thier images are.'

This, in turn, answers the question of what happens if you were to cancel your subscription to the service: 'The only thing that you'd risk losing are your edits. The user has all their original files but if they haven't exported the edited version, they could lose that. We store your edits for 60 days, so you wouldn't lose them just because you forgot to renew your membership or something like that.'

And, if you prefer, you can set up more than one machine to store your files, so Carousel can essentially make a backup on a second machine, every time it's connected to the web. Because all images are copied back to the primary computer, the amount of hard-drive space on your primary machine(s) defines the limit of your storage on Carousel.

Invite friends aboard the Carousel

As aspect of Adobe Carousel that wasn't highlighted at launch is the ability to give other users access to your catalogue of images. Each license allows the user to create up to five photo carousels, each of which can be shared with up to five people. Those friends then have the same level of access and control over the images as the 'host' - they can also upload their own images - the only thing they can't do is create new carousels or change who has access to the carousel being shared with them. They don't need their own license which means groups of people could club together to pay for Carousel access, so long as they designate one person to act as host/admin. This would allows participants on a photographic course or photo walk to easily share their images and propose image edits to one another's work.

Quek is keen to stress that Carousel isn't specifically designed for off-line working but it's clear that the intermittent nature of mobile connectivity has been considered in its design. 'The device you're working on will cache thumbnails of any image that has appeared in the track, and screen resolution (1440 x 900 pixel) proxy versions or any images you've looked at with the loupe. It will then pull down the full-size original version of any image you've edited.' These images remain cached until the devices' storage is needed for something else, whether that's newer images for Carousel or a movie downloaded from iTunes. This caching does mean you can continue to work on images while you're not connected to the internet. 'As you re-connect, it will re-sync all your updates.'

And there's more...

Although Quek is adamant that it isn't the case, it's hard not to get the impression that the level of functionality offered by Carousel has ended up defining Adobe's target audience (rather than the feature set being developed for with that particular audience in mind). In part this is because it seems pretty clear that Carousel will quickly grow beyond being a friends and family-friendly cross-platform sharing service. There are a couple of obvious features missing (such as the ability to specify aspect ratios when cropping), and other, more advanced ones that Quek says they hope to add: 'Raw is on our list of features for future versions. We're always thinking about how to balance accessibility and power - we don't want to make the experience too complicated.'

There will also be improved support for off-line working, he suggests: 'at the moment we don't show the user which full-sized images are available for editing from cache. We are looking to improve off-line support in further versions.'

The message seems to be that this is just the beginning: 'We're targeting mainstream consumers with our first version but we also want to give our more advanced users a glimpse of what can be done.'


Total comments: 14
The Squire
By The Squire (Oct 24, 2011)

If Carousel was to Lightroom/Bridge waht iCloud is to iTunes, I would pay for it. With basic Lightroom 1 levels of editing and, critically, sync of files and edits between cloud and devices, it would be a really usful tool for everything from field assignments to sorting through holiday snaps as you take them.

Lightroom, a *workflow* tool, needs to support cloud-enabled workflow ASAP.

1. I shoot for a day.
2. I plug my card in to my iPad/Andriod/netbook and store a local copy and trickle-upload to the cloud
3. I tag, rate, even adjust on my mobile device (off-line if I like), and these edits are upload to the cloud (when back online).
4. I get home after a few days, open Lightroom and files and edits are synced either from the cloud or over wifi (Dropbox does this sync really well, using wifi between devices before resorting to download from the cloud).


Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
By Zolotusca (Oct 24, 2011)

I am looking for Nikon to see how MyPictureTown will develop.

By tlinn (Oct 22, 2011)

I can't be too critical of Adobe for Carousel's simplicity because it has to start somewhere but it will be interesting to see who ends up using it. Its limitations vs PS or LR are so extreme that it is not going to appeal to most DPR readers (aka more serious photogs). It might appeal to my mom—except she doesn't have any "devices" beyond a computer; and she wouldn't get the whole "cloud" thing. So maybe my teenage daughter, who doesn't have any desire to edit images beyond very basic adjustments, will be interested—except she won't pay for a subscription. Hmmm.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
1 upvote
M Jesper
By M Jesper (Oct 21, 2011)

I don't have enough 'devices' for this to be beneficial. :(

By owenleve (Oct 21, 2011)

Seems like an interesting 'toy' application for someone, but not for someone like myself that is a working professional photographer with terabytes of information.

Doesn't support RAW... Seriously? Why not? Can't crop at specified aspect ratios? Why not...? I can do that part on my phone via the free photoshop tool.

Fairly odd that they would spend so much time and money on a product that seems to appeal to basically nobody...

By JensAnders (Oct 21, 2011)

I like this. Even though I'm an "Android guy" I can understand that Adobe starts with one plattform (Apple) and extends this to other plattforms.

By KitHB (Oct 21, 2011)

I hope Adobe asked Kodak nicely whether they minded if Adobe used the word "Carousel" to indicate a device that holds and displays pictures. The Kodak Carousel was the mainstay of displaying transparencies for a whole generation.

As Kodak are in trouble and Adobe is rich, I expect they've been careful to do the right thing there.

By Octane (Oct 21, 2011)

So it keeps all edits which means you have to maintain a Carousel account to have access to your edits? I don't get it, why would I pay for a service that keeps my edits hostage? It's like working in Lightroom and then they get to keep my catalog file and I have to keep paying them so I have access to my catalog file? Why in the world would that be a good idea?

Here is my cloud service: Remove Desktop. I have full access to my computer from any device anywhere I want including all data and all software I own. I have full processing power of my desktop even on my smart phone. There are plenty options to share photos via Flickr or Facebook or Smugmug for free. All without giving any company access to my data. (Splashtop is awesome)

I also don't like that they favor Mac and iOS. Don't talk about 'all devices' when it's limited to Apple products only. Saying the other platforms will come later doesn't convey trust.

By RLPhotoAndImaging (Oct 22, 2011)

The article clearly states that edits must be output to your chosen device for you to save them prior to account termination.

By dbateman (Oct 21, 2011)

This will be very powerfull if they continue to advance it and create many layers of user input or different accounts.

When this service supports Windows, Mac, Android devices and has a pro account that allows full edits control like lightroom (online version always updated) and basic editor for friends, family and clients. And then if it can handle Raw files, I would be fully sold.

To have all images virtually, where I could access anytime on any machine and let others view and restricted other users to edit, would be a dream.

Then the future of Raw anywhere, and have cameras upload to the service would be excellent. No more worries of Card is too full.

I see a lot of potential here. Just not there yet, or Google will beat them too it.

1 upvote
By rgolub (Oct 21, 2011)

How does this handle RAW files? DNG?

This looks *awfully* basic. Crop / rotate / a few adjustments. No layers. So as someone who has 'thousands' of files carefully backup up on various hard drives I don't see the attraction. It's not as if I just suddenly get the hankering to edit a 5 year old picture while sitting in the cafe with my iPhone.

I might be interested in a service that cataloged those thousands of pics so I could show them to someone in the cafe, but my Flikr feed does pretty much that for my developed files.

So, for 'advanced users' there isn't much. For 'mainstream' users, well, good luck with that.

1 upvote
By kadarpik (Oct 21, 2011)

Admit the current system is good for nothing.

Photography is really primitive and basic for most of non pros, this is what they need most. But thing are evolving there as well, imagine you shoot wedding, your camera is connected to high speed wi-fi network, you grab your iPadX (model 10 pobably) you do some fast edits with Lightroom X and publish photos quickly. Photos are still in the camera's CF card. 1DX has already 1 Gb/s ethernet, there are wi-fi devices soon at this speed as well. Guests can view photos on their smartphones or tablest etc. Or you are shooting real estate, do not need anything very special, you leave from site and go to sleep at home because you have done editing on site. This is all real with RAW photos soon.

You have self service printer on table during wedding where guests can print photos, the list is autmatically updated from your published edits. Connection is wireless of course, may be using 5G mobile or new generation 1 Gb/s wi-fi.

Comment edited 13 seconds after posting
By JosephScha (Oct 22, 2011)

Fixing your images on line = software as a service: nice
Ability to share your pictures with others: have had that with for years, it's very willing to share (the other viewer doesn't need to sign up, as for Snapfish...)

Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (Oct 25, 2011)

I think the current version appeals to the Facebook generation. The folks that use their phones or P&S cameras to capture their "life" and display it online. They can access and edit all their email from any device, and they can access and update facebook from any device, so why not their photos?

And that's part of the answer to "Why not raw?" The target audience for this release doesn't even know what raw is, unless you're referring to vegetables. The other reason is bandwidth. Who's going to upload raw files from a 16 or 18 MP camera via a mobile connection?

I want to see the image and metadata sharing from this incorporated into lightroom, so I can access my own image library, on my own hard disk, from multiple computers no matter where I am. Instead of importing and editing on a laptop in the field, then exporting, then importing into my desktop catalog, let me access one image catalog and library from all of my computers.

Comment edited 26 seconds after posting
Total comments: 14