The Apply Button in Sagelight (Part I –Functional Layer editing) (revised)

Introduction

How image-editing has changed in the last 15 years is quite amazing, and Sagelight was written around that change in many ways.  One of those changes is the issue of more discrete editing, as well as making 50+ automatic layers available, where each control in the Quick Edit Mode is basically it’s own layer – something that really wasn’t possible 10 years ago.  You can move any control in the Quick Edit Mode (or any other mode or sub-function) and while you remain in that mode, Sagelight does not touch your image in memory until you press the ‘Apply’  button (or ‘OK’ or ‘Accept’ button, depending on which function you’re using at the time). 

Focusing on the Quick Edit mode, this would mean that you can move controls, open up the curves, the light blender, create a vignette, and use any one of the 50+ toning presets, as well as the Definition, Vibrance, and a host of other features in the Quick Edit Mode — all without Sagelight ever changing your image in memory.  

While using the controls, You’re basically getting a preview, and Sagelight only touches your image when you press the Apply Button, where it calculates the result you’re seeing on your entire image.   This then resets all of the controls, and it is suddenly just like you’ve come into the editor with a fresh image that just happens to be the ‘applied’ image, the one you’re now looking at after the Apply Button action.

Functional Layer Editing

Bad Editor Behavior

If you’ve been into image editing for a while, or picked up any number of free image editors out there on the Internet, you’ve probably come across the type of editor that changes your entire image with everything you do.  For example, if you adjust the brightness a little, it changes your entire image.  If you then decide to pull back a little, it then changes your entire image using the previously changed image as the basis for the change.  If you are moving the sliders back-and-forth a lot so that you can zero in on exactly what you want to see with the controls, this methodology slowly and surely destroys your image.  It is really bad behavior for an editor — thank goodness that most of these editors work only in 8-bits per-channel, as when 16-bits became the necessary minimum editing space for good editor behavior, this practice was no longer seen as a good way to go. 

It’s very doubtful any editor you’d purchase exercises this type of behavior and would not work in 16-bits per-channel.  But, if you want to get the most out of the creative digital photography editing process, check this issue out with some of the free stuff out there. 

Good Editor Behavior

Editors like Sagelight, Lightroom, Aftershot Pro, et. al., all – to some extent – work more with automatic layers.  Much like creating adjustment layers in Adobe Photoshop, except that these layers are automatically created for you when you use the controls.  For the brightness control, there is one layer; for the saturation, another layer; and for most other controls, yet another independent layer.   This means that when you move that same brightness control back-and-forth, your image isn’t touched at all, and every time you move or change a control; the entire set of controls is calculated in real-time — this is why many editors slow down as you do more and more, because it has to calculate all of the controls you’ve set every time you move just one control.

There might be a coined term out there for this type of editing, but it is basically Functional Layer editing, where each control (more or less) is its own layer, and the entire result is calculated (i.e. as a function) when any control is moved or changed.

Sagelight is the same way.  It was written with this in mind, and to support as many independent layers as possible.  At the moment, there are roughly 50 or so control layers used in the Quick Edit Mode alone, depending on which settings you use – this means that if you have a lot of controls in various positions, Sagelight must calculate upwards of 50 layers in realtime when you adjust just one single control..  Other functions in Sagelight operate in the same way (typically with fewer layers as the Quick Edit Mode), and this discussion can be directly applied to them as well.

Destructive and Non-Destructive Editors – Sagelight is Both,and that’s a Good Thing.

This is going to be a subject of another post, but I want to lightly touch on the issue here.

The issue of destructive vs. non-destructive behavior is sometimes misunderstood, and since Sagelight is basically both, it can appear singular in either direction, depending on how one sees the image editing process.

All editors are destructive.  It’s just a matter of when.

A ‘destructive’ editor is the first type of editor described above – where your image gets changed with everything you do or every control you change, even subtly.

Non-destructive editing is the second method describe, i.e. the Functional Layer Editing.  As Sagelight is a superset of the typical non-destructive model, I couldn’t define the difference as the difference between destructive and non-destructive editors.

I will get into destructive editing in the next couple blog posts.  The main point is that Sagelight as as non-destructive as other non-destructive editors – you can save a preset at any time, and the next version will do that for you automatically if you wish.  As a superset of the destructive model, however, Sagelight is also and definitely destructive to your image, just as all editors, non-destructive and otherwise are ultimately destructive to your image out of necessity.

Sagelight’s model is also destructive at exactly the same point – this is when and where Sagelight becomes a superset, by allowing you to control when the destructive part happens, and then to continue on as if you’re in another editing session or editing program altogether. 

I will explore more of this in an upcoming blog post (so be warned that some of the above text may be repeated).

When Your Image Actually Gets Changed — The Apply Button vs Exporting Your Image

Before continuing, I want to point out that it is not the image on disk/in storage that gets changed.  The original source should never be overwritten.  When I say the image is changed, I mean the image in memory, which can then later be saved to another filename.

 

With regard to keeping solely within a Functional Layer Model, this is where Sagelight diverges from many other editors

Sagelight was written as a hybrid between the Photoshop Model and the model described above.  Photoshop is very powerful because of layers, which allow you to perform many actions on your image without changing your image.  With Photoshop, you can add a saturation layer, then a curves layer, and so-forth, then go back and change the saturation layer without affecting the curves, and other layers that followed the saturation layer.   However, this is done manually for each layer.

The model described above, and in Sagelight, does exactly that, just automatically for you and in a specific order that is better for your image; you don’t have to create a new adjustment layer for every single action because every type of action you could do is already its own layer by default. 

The Photoshop Model is very powerful, but also tedious in this sense.  The layer construct in Photoshop also means you need to be more intentional about your editing (the subject of another blog post), where the method in Sagelight allows you to experiment in many different directions without worrying about which layers are active, created, or just taking up space.

The model that only allows you to move automatic layers is also limited in its own way. Some editors have a model similar to the base Sagelight model described above, and that is all you can do with your image until you export it in some way — that is, apply these changes to your image.    You may have seen this referred to as the ‘sidecar’ model. 

This tends to be limiting because then there are only certain things you can and will do with your image.   For example, you can typically sharpen, brighten/darken, add/remove color, use toning curves, definition, vibrance, and a number of other things, and that’s all you can do until you export your image. Different editors have different ways of dealing with this, including the ability to specifically add layers as you go. 

 

Sagelight’s Model is a Supserset of the Functional Layer Model

Sagelight’s Apply button was built with the restrictions of this model in mind.  The idea of the Apply Button is that when you press it, it applies these changes to your image in memory, and then resets all controls — your image is now ready to be edited again just as if you loaded it as new. 

This gives Sagelight a lot of power.  In the Quick Edit Mode, this means you can practice more Discrete Editing (the subject of an upcoming blog post), which is better for your image than doing it all at once, and it also means you can go into many different functions that you wouldn’t be able to use otherwise.  

Programs Within the Sagelight Program

For example, when you press the Apply button, you can then go into the HDR, Power Curves, Bokeh, Tone Blender, and 70+ other functions in Sagelight that either wouldn’t be appropriate or too demanding to be put in the auto-layer method.  The Bokeh, for example, is a serious process, and uses all of your processor speed and a lot of your memory — it’s better for it to be an independent program, rather than taking shortcuts to make it fit into the auto-layer system.  Plus, the Bokeh itself uses many layers, so it can be much more powerful, providing vignettes, highlighting, color, and other controls — and to focus on only those things you’d want to with Bokeh.  Then, when you press the Accept/Ok button in the Bokeh, this is just like pressing the Apply Button so you can start all over again.

This methodology allows Sagelight to have separately defined professional-level packages inside of Sagelight itself, all of which use the same functional layering approach.  You can use plugins, Bokeh, HDR, Power Curves, the Light Blender, Smart Light, many different effects, Vignetting, Duotoning, Soft Glow, Noise Reduction, and so-forth, many of these options being high-end packages rivaling professional standalone packages.

In addition, because you’re in the same session, you can view, load, and merge previous history states.  One of the most powerful tools in Sagelight is the Undo Brush, which allows you to make subtle or drastic changes in your image and merge them (with a brush or transparency level) with any state in the history or snapshot buffer. 

All of this and more is available because of the Apply Button.

If you want to make Sagelight more like other programs that keep it solely non-destructive (i.e. ALL editors are destructive at some point, but with the limited functional layer model, you can avoid applying and exporting your image), all you have to do is stick with the Quick Edit Mode and save the current settings as a preset.  The Quick Edit Mode alone allows you to use the Fill Light, Light Blender, Saturation, Vibrance, Focus, Definition, Focus, Smart Contrast, Vignetting, Color Toning, and many more aspects all without leaving the Quick Edit Mode or pressing the Apply Button. 

As you want to do more, you can press the Apply Button and continue to make changes to your image, which effectively starts another editing session.  You can always go back by looking at the Undo History Window and loading your image, or save a snapshot for later use.

Sagelight is Primarily a Photographic Editor

Sagelight, at its core, is a photographic editor. This means that it is oriented to making photographs look better, either by correcting issues or providing the tools to creative enhance your picture.

This is why the Quick Edit Mode is the first mode entered into when you launch Sagelight – this contains the generalized tools to help you make great changes to your image. the HDR, Bokeh, Light Blender, Power Curves, and many other functions are essentially separate, independent programs in Sagelight that do different things to your image and return you to the Quick Edit Mode.

On the other hand, many other functions aren’t professional-standalone-program-level functions, but useful for overall editing and it wouldn’t make sense (in any way whatsoever) to put them in the main Quick Edit Mode. For example, the Gaussian Blur is very useful for many things, especially when combined with other functions. The Median function (especially with the Threshold Slider Set) is useful for certain things, but it has no place in the Quick Edit Mode. A few more additives that are great for creative digital photograph editing that are useful as their own functions (as opposed to being in the Quick Edit Mode) are Duotone, Photo Filter/Gradient, Artistic Duotone (one of my favorites), Change Colors, Add Noise, Cropping, resizing, Clone Brush, Undo Brush, and so-forth,

Without the ability to apply your changes within Sagelight, it wouldn’t be possible to have any of these other additives.

Conclusion

The Sagelight model was specifically written for the advances and changes in digital image editing. Better photographic equipment, as well as higher computer speed and memory, have much more possible in this realm in just the last few years.  The Sagelight Model is a superset of the ‘sidecar’/sole functional-layer model with the power to apply the changes to your image without specifically exporting them, which allows you to do more with your image and to also be more creative within the scope of one editing session.

This method also allows you to more discretely (i.e. step-wise/incrementally) change your image while also being able to apply more creative changes overall.  This not only adds to the creative process, but is better for your image.  As I mentioned, this is a subject of another blog post, probably Part II. 

The Apply Button gives Sagelight much more power, allowing it to have major, intensive, and focused, independent functions that would otherwise not exist in the same program, such as HDR, Bokeh, etc. 

As a more-or-less stream-of-consciousness post, I thought I would explore why Sagelight has the Apply Button.  For some, it is a diversion from some of the editors they are used  to, and since the Sagelight Model with its Apply Button is basically a superset of the generalized editing model seen in many editors these days, I thought it would be great to explore it a little and explain the thinking behind it.

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5 thoughts on “The Apply Button in Sagelight (Part I –Functional Layer editing) (revised)

  1. I understand your use of the Apply button to set changes from the layers and then clear the layer memory to get ready for another setup of layer functions – but couldn’t this be also accomplished by writing the image out to disk as a layered tiff file and then in effect – loading the image again?

    • Right, that’s exactly the case. In Sagelight or any other editor, you can simply write out the image to a file and reload it. Sagelight simply has the Apply button so you can continue to use the other functions in Sagelight once you’ve used the main mode (i.e. HDR, Bokeh, Smart Light, etc.). It also makes it easier to edit the image in smaller pieces, which I recommend (I intend another blog post on that).

      Another level the Apply Button gives you — that you either couldn’t do by saving/reloading, or at least it would be more cumbersome — is the use of the Undo Brush and the ability to load any history state, to merge changes and such. For example, my recommendation is to use the Dodge and Burn Brush, and then the Undo Brush to touch it up; the same thing with the Wire Worm Plugin and the Clone Brush, as examples.

      Rob

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