By Tom Hogarty
This week Josh Haftel joined Adobe’s digital imaging product management team to help drive Adobe’s mobile and web photography strategy. Josh brings with him a wealth of experience in the photography industry, including product responsibility at Nik Software and Google Photos. I’m excited to have Josh join my team and wanted to provide you all with a quick introduction below.
TH: How did you get into photography?
JH: From the age of 6, I always had a camera with me. They were never that great – usually 110 film cameras with one-time use flashbulbs – and like most kids, I took some pretty lousy photos, but I didn’t know nor care…it was just super fun. The first time it dawned on me that I might actually be able to take good photos was when I was 9 and I took a picture of Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s home) that happened to look exactly like one of the post cards they were selling in the gift shop. That experience stuck with me, so when I had the opportunity to join the yearbook in high school as a photographer, I did. This started my life-long love affair with photography, leading me to the Rochester Institute of Photography where I graduated with a BFA in photography.
TH: What was your first experience with digital photography?
JH: As a sophomore in high school in 1994, our incredibly progressive yearbook counselor wanted to create the yearbook digitally. We got the school to purchase an Apple Color Classic and a scanner, and I went to town scanning in every photo for the yearbook while another student learned Quark and laid everything out.
TH: Many photographers remember their first version of Photoshop. What was yours?
JH: Photoshop 3 was the first version I ever set eyes on. I spent so much time in Photoshop throughout high school, learning the shortcuts, ins and outs, etc. that I still can’t believe I didn’t fail out of school. While most of my friends were playing sports or video games, I spent most of my time playing with Photoshop, and it was magical.
TH: How does smartphone photography play a role in your artistic workflow? Are you shooting more or less with your DSLR over time?
JH: Smartphone photography has had a huge impact on my photography and has only inspired me to shoot more. Smartphone photography has changed the way I see and the way I tell stories. Before smart phones, I’d often shoot a lot and then edit down in post to create the story I wanted to tell. With smart phones, and the immediacy they allow, I find myself shooting fewer frames but sharing more of them, with less interest on a lasting impression and more focus on sharing what is happening right at this moment. The way I now shoot with my mirrorless is very similar to how I shoot with my smartphone, and I often mix images together between the two. With my DSLR, I continue to shoot my environmental portraiture as well as abstract art, as I find myself conditioned to shoot slowly and methodically with it, resulting in very different imagery.
TH: What do you think are some of the biggest advantages of smartphone photography? Are there any negatives to smartphone photography?
JH: First and foremost, smartphones have brought photography to everyone, which is huge. Thanks to smart phones we’ve enjoyed unprecedented innovation, competition and technological advances, which have opened the door for an entirely new group of people who might never have been able to invest the time and money needed for traditional photography. The number of photos being taken and the new uses for photography have completely re-invigorated the art form, which tickles me pink. Of course smart phone photography has its drawbacks. We’ve all gotten so caught up in this new technology that we often focus more on taking a photo of an event or object rather than simply enjoying it. As a result, not only are we missing out on so many of life’s simple pleasures, but we’re often impacting others around us (if you’ve recently been to a concert or restaurant, you surely know what I’m talking about).
TH: Why did you want to come work for Adobe?
JH: Adobe represents the pinnacle of my impact as a product manager focused on photography. I don’t think any other modern company has had a larger or more lasting impact on photography than Adobe. Adobe not only has the pedigree but also the ability to continue to make a deep, lasting impact on the way that art is produced and consumed, and I’m super excited to be part of that.
TH: Some people want Lightroom on mobile to have parity with Lightroom desktop. Do you think the app will ever get to that point, or is that not the goal?
JH: Every year, the gap between what mobile and desktop devices can do seems to shrink. Apple, Google, and Microsoft continue to merge the desktop and mobile experiences, both in the hardware and in the software they create. I can imagine a time in which context or environment will more inform the features and abilities of an application than the device being used. So in that sense, yes, I feel that we will see parity between the two…and I welcome it.
TH: Lr mobile is a cloud-based photography workflow similar to Dropbox for files or Evernote for text. Do you have any qualms about going “all in” with your photography and the cloud?
JH: I personally do not have any problems with a cloud-based photography approach. I’ve already uploaded my entire 10+ TB photo library to the cloud as my off-site backup (it literally took three years of constant uploading – I can’t wait for faster upload speeds to reach my neighborhood). The product I’m using as a backup doesn’t offer much in the way of photo support though, other than letting me download the image as well as different versions of the same image. I can’t wait for the day when a photo’s location will be irrelevant, much the same as Dropbox, Evernote, Spotify, or Netflix have made the location of other types of media that I regularly interact with irrelevant.
TH: What are some of the innovations you’d like to see in the mobile photography space? Where do you think there is opportunity?
JH: I’m a huge fan of technology, especially when it helps eliminate the boring and mundane. Just as autofocus let photographers focus more on the subject and moment, I think new advances in mobile photography will enable photographers to spend more time engaged with storytelling rather than the mechanics of photography. I can’t wait for the day when we won’t have to worry about focus, depth of field, field of view, ISO, etc. (Well, ISO is almost a non-issue thanks to some of the latest cameras). Having access to depth maps of the scene would make the tedious process of selections that much easier and less time-consuming. Being able to learn the types of processing that I like without having to do all the work would be great. Basically, get rid of any tedious, repetitive action so that we can focus on what we as humans do best: create.
Check out more of Josh’s photography at joshhaftel.com