Adobe Talks About the Method and Challenges of Creating Photo Software

Dream jobs are made where individuals labor in love, and passions are fostered. It is where “working” is hardly the right descriptor for they day-to-day. Seeing people who truly love their work and work for their passion is rare. I want to tell those stories, and I found one worth telling at a place where they produce the tools that make the lives of creative professionals possible- tools that often at first we never knew we needed, but now would find it impossible to live without.

Almost a year ago, I knew I wanted to hear the story of Adobe and meet the faces and names behind the software I, and I’m sure all of you, use every day. Adobe did not ask me to come in, did not pay for this coverage, and the process of organizing the interviews took nearly nine months to coordinate.

In that nine months, the story at Adobe shifted dramatically, with a totally new product line and an emphasis on subscription-based software. With all that in mind, I took a trip to Adobe’s headquarters in San Jose as well as their beautiful San Francisco office to get a different perspective than we normally see. I wanted to see faces and personalities instead of just names. I wanted to meet the people and hear how they produce software that is undoubtedly, no matter if you approve of their pay policies or love their new system, the best suite of digital production programs on the market. I wanted to give Adobe the chance to tell their story through the great minds they employ. How, I asked, are they capable of continually producing software that pushes the envelope and expand what we as creatives have come to expect from our post-production tools?

The answer is not a straightforward one. It’s not a highway, but a city block. There are testers and prototypes always in flux. The plan for the next release is already in motion by the time the most current release is available to consumers. But it is not just testing and discussion, but more importantly the environment that Adobe fosters.

Question everything. Fear nothing. You cannot grow by second guessing intuition.

Jeff Chien, the man behind the hugely popular Healing Brush tool as well as the newly released Camera Shake Reduction, decides his own workflow. He works with highly intelligent people to determine where they can tear down the next “it’s impossible” wall. It's this freedom to work on the tasks that interest him that lead to the greatest enhancements to the software. Creative freedom abounds.

“You have to believe it is possible,” he says. “Many people don’t believe it is possible. I believe it is possible.” This is the mentally Jeff takes every day, no matter what is presented to him. To say he thinks outside the box would be to place him into too confining of a cliché. What Jeff does, and what the entire team at Adobe seems to do, is open themselves to what most engineering organizations don’t care about: aesthetics. It’s a business that makes software, but it’s made up of artists. The reason Adobe can succeed at what they do is because they continually seek creative minds. They don’t guess what creatives want in their high performance software, they know because the company is made of them and built on their shoulders.

Whether or not you agree with their policies, Adobe has done something at their core that I think can be appreciated by everyone: they refused to sit on their laurels. Sure, years ago they were number one at the top of the industry. They could have slowed down, they could have gotten comfortable, but they didn’t. Rather than stand at the top of that mountain and enjoy the view, they continued on to the next mountain in the distance, encouraged by their past success only because it proved what was possible and what they could achieve. Instead of excitement at what was done, they asked themselves, “why shouldn’t we go for even more?”

At the end of this project, the thought I am left with is "believe the impossible." Don't believe anyone who says it can't be done. Today's impossible is tomorrow's extraordinary.

Shot and Edited by Jaron Schneider

Music Licensed Through
Camera and Grip Equipment Provided by
Optics Courtesy of Sigma USA

Special Thanks:
Rebecca Britt and Pratik Naik
The Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and PR Teams

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Zach Sutton's picture

This came out so good. Great job Jaron

I really don't understand the purpose of this video. Poorly made, no point, boring and it feels straight up like an advertisement. An advertisement that I don't even understand what it is advertising, except for just how awesome Adobe employees think they are. It feels like they paid the FStoppers to post this video. Hope you guys don't post stuff just because you were paid to.

Jaron Schneider's picture

I feel like I did a pretty explicit job stating we weren't paid. I can state it again: we weren't paid.

Sorry you feel that way Tom. The goal was to show the faces behind the software and get their perspective on making it.

In that case, I appreciate the time and effort that you put into the video. I know we readers aren't paying for this content, so I don't mean to sound ungrateful.

But, I can honestly say I didn't understand the purpose of the video. The reason why I say it feels like an advertisement is because the video doesn't really have any content value beyond just stating "adobe this and adobe that."

We don't really see how things are done behind the scenes. It isn't really focused on a specific piece of software or the progress/development there of.

The production value behind the video itself isn't that great as well. This could obviously be overlooked if the content were of value, but it isn't. So, what we are left with is a 9 minute video that doesn't offer any value or insight to the typical viewer, along with poor visuals and production value.

The only thing it does, is randomly talk about Adobe and its employees. Thus, it seems like it just feels like a bad advertisement.

I am only trying to give you my thoughts in the small chance it might help going forward. If I am wrong, and there is value to be gained from watching this video, I would love to hear what others think. To me, I couldn't find any worthwhile info/content within the 9 minutes.


Jaron Schneider's picture

I appreciate it Tom. I really do. There is a lot that goes into play when making something like this, and it's the restrictions placed on what I can show, what can be said, etc. by Adobe. I thought that the explanation of thinking behind building Lightroom as well as the Camera Shake Reduction tool were interesting and worth sharing.

BELIEVE ... this was the shittiest FStoppers video ever... I believe. Seriously guys, WTF.

Von Wong's picture

love it!

Jaron Schneider's picture

Thanks Ben :)

Alvin Toro's picture

I don't have a problem so much with the quality, I mean. It's corporate interview for crying out loud. But the timing is just pitiful. Adobe has very recently pissed off a lot of customers with their licensing antics and trying to put this out there as anything other than the very futile attempt at damage control it is will probably end up insulting the same folk it set out to appease.

Hi Jaron, Nicely put together but I think the reason for some of the comments are to do with the way the video come across and the editing and production style. It does feel very corporate and the building music in the background kind of supports that feeling, A positive upbeat tempo, we hear this type of music all the time in corporate productions. Have you ever seen a hard hitting documentary with that type of music, or any music for that matter, playing in the background. .

It's a series of interviews that are not inter-cut with any behind the scenes footage. One of the participants looks like shes reading off a script or has just come out media training!!

You also thank the PR teams and it is after all their job to paint the employers in a positive glowing light. I think they had too much influence in the interviews!!


Not bad, but not exactly what I hoped for. I wanted to see more about the people actually working at Adobe. Who are they? What are their hobbies? Are they artists themselves? Do they basically create the tools they want to use themselves? To me that tells a lot about the product they create and vice versa.

When I tried using AutoDesk products it seemed very programmer and engineer driven, even when the software was meant for artists. That made it hard to use. Then you try SketchUp and it seems exactly the opposite. Or try The Gimp vs Photoshop. The Gimp feels unintuitive to me, but people who have a programming background seem to have far less issues with it. Or even in terms of cameras. The very first Panasonic DSLR (I believe the L1) seems to have been the product of a photographer, of an artist. In particular one that has fond memories for his 70s SLR or rangefinder, who liked how those were used. When I touch and use a Pentax DSLR I can sense it was the product of photographers. They just want to create the camera they want to use themselves. When I try a Canon (and look at their product line) I get the sense that some marketing guys had a lot to say in the making of the cameras.