Photoshop @ Work

It’s been a busy past two weeks for me, but I did have time to meet with some interesting customers.

We all know Photoshop is used by artists and graphic designers, but some of the most interesting uses of Photoshop are in health and science. Think CSI and ER.

I visited a state forensic lab’s latent print department. Forensic professionals use Photoshop to enhance images of fingerprints, namely improving sharpness/contrast, and isolating fingerprints from patterned or color backgrounds. Each operation, adjustment, and the settings for that adjustment, needs to be logged and submitted with the evidence.

In the past, users needed to do this by hand. With Photoshop CS and CS2, user can have Photoshop log all the changes to the file. Those changes can be stored in the file as metadata and/or in a separate text log file.

Try it for yourself:

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > General (Win) or Photoshop > Preferences > General (Mac)
  2. Check the "History Log" option
  3. Choose one of three ways to "Save Log Items To": As Metadata embedded in the file. As an external text file or as both Metadata and a text file.
  4. Choose one of three options for "Edit Log Items": Sessions Only (only open and save operations), Concise (just the title of the operation), or Detailed (the title of the operation and all the settings).
  5. Click OK.

To view the history log as metadata, choose File > File Info… Then choose "History" from the left-hand column to display the history.

I also met Robbie Halvorson, who works for Guidant, and also leads the Minnesota Maya User Group. He uses Photoshop along with Maya to visualize and design new medical products. The new HDR features in Photoshop CS2 are especially useful for 3-D. HDR images can be used to realistically illuminate scenes and objects. We’re working on a demo to show off at a joint Minnesota Maya/Twin Cities Photoshop User Group meeting in the near future.

Here are some tutorials, white papers and other resources for scientists and health care professionals.

I also learned a couple of television misnomers which I found interesting:

Contrary to what is seen in popular TV shows, people never ‘overlay’ two fingerprints to match them up because it actually makes it more difficult to analyze and compare the two prints.

This is because finger prints get distorted due to different pressure and angles. For example, file prints are made by rolling the finger, which is hardly every the case with latent prints from a crime scene.

Finger prints are most often compared side by side.

Additionally, when people go to use a heart defibrillator on TV, the ECG usually shows a flat line. The ECG would actually show ventricular fibrillation, which is an irregular, fast heartbeat.

A defibrillator will not ‘re-start’ a heart which has stopped.

3 Responses to Photoshop @ Work

  1. Good to see that you guys are following this stuff up. The history log is one of the most important items not just for forensics, but also for scientific imaging in general. Being able to define workflows for digital images is going to become more and more important to scientific journals and funding agencies.P.S. Were you part of that phone meeting we had a couple of weeks ago with Ashley?

  2. Bryan, thanks for your comments. Adobe is very committed to imaging for scientific study.The history log feature is a direct result of customers coming to us and asking for help to solve a real world problem.I’ve seen creative people use the history log to document cool effects workflows/processes, so it’s not just for scientists and forensics experts anymore!Sorry, I was not in on the phone meeting.

  3. Fast forward to 2007/8 and Photoshop CS3 … many forensic professionals are turning off their history log. Why? In law enforcement, these docs may be discoverable. This means that the opposing attorney can read your log back to you and quiz you about it.”Well Mr. Hoerricks, I see that you applied Smart Sharpen on the Burn layer but not the Dodge layer. Can I ask why? And why, Mr. Hoerricks, do I see several Undos here? What are you trying to hide?”So, you see, the history log can be problematic. From a supervisor’s position, it is a valuable tool for training new employees. The log can be used by the trainee as an exemplar for performing the work, and as a tool for examening the trainee’s work flow and work product.Still and all, this many years later, I am glad that it’s there.Cheers,Jim HoerricksSenior Forensic Video AnalystLos Angeles Police Dept.