Eric joined the Adobe Camera Raw team in early 2008 and his achievements in digital imaging have earned him industry-wide acclaim. In collaboration with Thomas Knoll, co-creator of Photoshop, Eric is redefining image processing. Eric took on one of our biggest customer requests – delivering raw processing results that match the camera’s previews – and developed profiles that were tailored individually to the hundreds of camera models released over the years.
Eric mapped his effort into a DNG Specification update that has redefined how the photographic industry profiles and characterizes digital cameras capable of raw capture. Eric built a standalone software utility for photographers to edit their own profiles, and provided incredibly rich documentation to help photographers learn how to utilize the tool. Eric, an accomplished photographer himself, used a combination of advanced color science and a keen eye for subtle color discrepancies to provide photographers with a result that exceeded expectations.
Eric also worked with Thomas to streamline how new cameras are supported in Camera Raw and Lightroom. The list of unique formats is well over 300, and Eric has been responsible for adding the vast majority of camera support since he joined the team. This requires individual attention for hundreds of unique camera models, and profiling not just for color response but also noise characteristics and lens distortion.
Next, Eric began tackling the reinvention of our core image processing algorithms. First, he addressed an area of increasing significance for photographers – noise reduction when shooting in dim or low light conditions – and has developed a solution that rivals dedicated hardware capabilities. Eric simultaneously improved the sharpening and demosaic algorithms in Adobe’s raw processing engine to such an extent that leading photographers have referred to our processing as not just a software upgrade, but a camera upgrade. Most recently, Eric has been reinventing the new tonal controls in Camera Raw 7 and Lightroom 4, as well as in Adobe Revel, and photographers have already declared it a must-have improvement.
When not wrangling major industry issues, Eric and his wife enjoy being outdoors and going on trail hikes. While out on the trail, he likes to shoot the landscape and wildlife around him. You might also find him spending time in the kitchen, as he enjoys whipping up pancakes, muffins and cookies regularly. He also appreciates live jazz and classical music performances, having intensely studied piano from the age of four through his early twenties. As you can see, Eric’s interests and personal life inspire creativity, which feeds into the professional work he does each day. These interests in direct and indirect ways, fuel his thinking around what is developed for our customers.
Here’s a bit of my recent conversation with Eric, as we discussed his new role, how he generates ideas, and other thoughts on Adobe.
Can you tell us a little bit about your professional background?
Eric: I started my education at Stanford, where I studied computer science as an undergrad. I then received my masters at MIT in computer science, specializing in computer graphics. In the summer of 2005, I completed an internship at ATI where I learned about graphics hardware. I then worked at the Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories where I worked on drawing fonts on computers.
What about computer science made you want to pursue it as a career?
Eric: When I was growing up, I was always interested in computers. I really enjoyed playing video games, especially Nintendo – Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong. In the seventh grade, I was exposed to Photoshop 2.5 and an old Apple 2.0. These early experiences really made me want dive further into the subject.
How has your role evolved?
Eric: When I first started, Thomas Knoll suggested that I work on a product in color. This first project gave me a meaningful and manageable contribution to the team. When Lightroom 2 got shipped out that summer, I really enjoyed receiving feedback from customers on the projects I had worked on. Doing projects, like the color project, let me go into depth on a particular facet of Lightroom. I would spend hours going through forums, answering questions and creating tutorials. Today I work on so many projects that I don’t go into the same level of depth. I still work very closely with Thomas Knoll but we both work remotely. We meet up three to five times a year to do long term planning but we still communicate every day through email.
How do you innovate or think of new ideas? Process? Conferences, books?
Eric: I get ideas for many different places. I never forget that before I was a developer, I was a user of the same products. I think about the problems I had as a user and think of solutions I can do as a developer. Additionally, I get ideas from customers by frequenting forums and seeing what I could do to make their lives easier. I also like to talk to other teammates and hear their new ideas. They are all enthusiastic photographers and they understand what makes sense for the product.
What do you enjoy most about being a part of a team?
Eric: I enjoy the smallness and intimacy of my team. We all understand where we want to go. Each member of our team has a sense of ownership and even though everyone has a good deal of responsibility we realize that we are giving meaningful contributions.
Is it hard to keep motivation up being remote?
Eric: It is not a big problem for me. I have an intrinsic motivation to make the next project I work on better than the one before. Every morning I wake knowing that this is really what I want to do.