Hands-on: Why I replaced Photoshop with Affinity Photo

Photoshop has been the undisputed leader when it comes to photo editing software for well over 20 years. It has come a long way in that time and cemented its self as an essential program for any photographer. Much to every amateur photographers disappointment, nothing has really presented itself as much of a competitor to Photoshop. Until now, in 2015 Serif began to change the scene with their new Affinity range of creative software including Affinity Photo.

Affinity Photo was built for the Mac from the ground up, unlike Photoshop that has legacy code in new versions. Affinity Photo is very much targeted at photographers. Whereas Photoshop has become a tool for creatives in many different fields, not just photography. So I will be looking at how I replaced Photoshop with Affinity in my photography workflow.

Affinity Photo a Photoshop replacement
I will use this image as a demonstration of how quickly and easily you can edit your photography.

 

There are a few different reasons why I decided to switch over to Affinity Photo and ditch Photoshop for photography, here are a few of the main reasons.

  • Much quicker processing
  • Better RAW development
  • Intuitive interface for Photography editing
  • Quick and powerful removal of objects with the inpainting tool
  • Cost. Affinity Photo cost just £30ish (one off), compared to the current Adobe CC subscription you can pay around £16 per month for Photoshop. Technically you are renting Photoshop with the Adobe CC subscription model

Break up your workflow with Persona Workspaces

Opening a raw image into Affinity you will start off in Development persona, there are 4 personas in Affinity. Personas in Affinity Photo are different work areas for performing different processes. I like how Affinity give you a work area for each process so you aren't stumbling around menus trying to find what should be right at your disposal.

In Development mode, you can make powerful adjustments to your RAW image before moving onto the Photo Persona. Development is what I love the most about Affinity Photo, you can perform almost all edits here such as basic edits, lens corrections, tone adjustments, detail refinement and my favourite is the use of overlays for controlled adjustment of the part of the image. The overlays are particularly useful for landscape where you want to adjust the exposure or contrast in the sky without effective the foreground or landscape of the picture.

Affinity Photo a Photoshop replacement

After you have finished developing your RAW image you can move along to the Photo persona to make further adjustments and access more powerful tools for manipulation of your image. With this image, I just used the inpainting brush and the burn brush. The Inpainting brush was used to remove the power lines in the image, inpainting allows for much quicker removal of unwanted elements and works extremely well in most cases as you can see in the example below. Removing elements is a much quicker process in Affinity than in Photoshop.

Affinity Photo a Photoshop replacement. Inpainting Tool
Affinity Photo a Photoshop replacement. Inpainting Tool

You can see in the examples below the difference between the original and the effects of just 10 minutes of editing. How far you go with your edits is entirely up to you but with Affinity, you can achieve just about anything you want with your editing.

Affinity Photo a Photoshop replacement
Affinity Photo a Photoshop replacement

 

Conclusion

Give Affinity Photo a try, it won't replace Photoshop for everything but it can certainly replace Photoshop for editing photography. Affinity is due to release Affinity Photo 1.5 which will bring a load of new features such as a dedicated HDR persona and 360 image editing capabilities.

When comparing the £39.99 price for Affinity Photo to even Adobe's Photographers subscription it still works our much cheaper and you can use it on as many machines as you want.

Check out Affinity Photo

CloudCanvas WordPress Platform


An evening on May Hill, Herefordshire

May Hill is located between Gloucester and Ross on Wye, Herefordshire and is protected by the National Trust. You can drive pretty much within half a mile from the top and stroll up from the car park. I headed over to get some pictures of the sunset over the Brecon Beacons. On a clear day you can see the silhouettes of the big ridges such as Pen y Fan and Corn Du in the distance.

May Hill is one of my favourite places in Herefordshire to catch a spectacular sunset, the sun sets behind Hay Bluff in the summer months and you have a completely clear view of the whole spectacular show from the top of May Hill.

Below is a mixture of the photographs I took.

Where is May Hill?

May Hill is pretty easy to find, it's not far from Ross on Wye. I've marked on the map here where you can park and where the top of the hill is. You can walk up from here.


A summers day in the Brecon Beacons - Corn Du & Pen y Fan Circular Walk

A summer's day in the Brecon Beacons

So it's mid-August and the weather is fantastic, where better to spend the day than on the mountains in the Brecon Beacons. I planned a pretty straightforward route and headed over to the Beacons with a friend around lunch, the weather was just amazing in all directions.

We did a short loop around Corn Du and Pen y Fan and headed back towards Torpantau. I've mapped out where to park at the bottom of this post if anyone fancies this route and the route is also available below

You can view the map on mapOmeter by clicking here.

 


A year with Apple Music and my thoughts

I've been thinking about writing a review on Apple music for a while because there are so many things about it that bug me. I figured I would give it a little longer before writing a full review and see if Apple updated the interface in the meantime.

Okay so they didn't update the interface so here are my thoughts on it. I'll start by saying that before moving to Apple Music, like most people, I was a Spotify user. I've used iTunes for years and have over 100gb of music updated with iTunes match so when Apple said they were coming out with a Spotify competitor I was pretty happy as I could once again have all my music in one place.

I like Apple Music, it has just about every record you can imagine but I find myself listening to the same 4 albums each month. Is this Apple's fault? I'd say yes because of their lack of playlists and poor selection on 'For you' leave you listening to the same thing. One of the best things about Spotify was the playlists, the endless playlists, each day I could pick a new playlist and I would rarely hear the same records more than twice. Maybe Apple Music has more playlists but I've have looked and can't find anymore than 20 for Singer/Songwriter genre. I've now got into the habit of going to 'New', selecting the singer songwriter genre and then going for hot tracks. This works pretty well but when you listen to music throughout the working day you soon end up listing the the same record over and over (currently listing to Rising Water for the 1000th time today).

Apple Music

For a company hell bent on excellent design how did they get the interface for Apple Music so wrong. There isn't anything intuitive about any of it. iTunes on its own is great, so why can't they keep it more inline or create a flow to finding new music. Why when you go to a genre do you have to go in another loop to select playlists for that genre. I also can't understand why they can't just incorporate the 'For You' and 'New' sections together, 'New' just seems to be aimed at teenage girls and rappers, so can't we have an algorithm that better detects your music preferences and give you some playlists based on your preference.

The 'For You' section is just a waste of space, it just recommends music you already have and then just recirculates it after a few weeks. How many times do I need to have Sia Collaborations or Ed Sheeran as a suggestion. Again if they can put 'For You' and 'New' in one section together it would leave space for a new section. Maybe call this section Discover, where you can find new artists based on your preferences.

Other small bits that irritate me, the current song info at the top, why can't you just click the artist name or album to then go to the entire alumn of artist. Instead you have to click the tiny three dots and then go through two menus to simply go to the artist's page.


Summer Woodland and Waterfalls. Brecon Beacons, Waterfall Country

With a sudden feeling that summer is quickly passing by I decided to take a trip down to the Brecon Beacons Waterfall Country yesterday. It was a stunning day and with a load of rainfall last week I was hoping to get some good shots of the waterfalls. I picked up my Grandad who is 85 but still loves a good hike and we set off to South Wales.

Everyone seemed to be out in the Beacons, we passed Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre there must have been over 100 cars parked all over the place. I guess Pen y Fan was busy on Saturday! As we go got close to the forest Fawr massif it was obvious the waterfalls would also be pretty busy.

The Waterfall Country has got to be one of the best places in the Brecon Beacons to go for the day. It's pretty easy to access and just about anyone can make their way through the forest paths. You can take a pick at countless things to do from Caving to Kayaking or you can play it safe and just walk around the falls. I didn't think my Grandad at 85 would be doing much caving.

We walked through the forest to the Sgwd Gwladus waterfall. It was nice to see so many people out enjoying the weather and the falls. We stopped above the waterfall for some lunch then went to watch some people jump into the pool, which looked pretty awesome.

 


10 misconceptions about WordPress explained

I have been working with WordPress since 2008 and I've learnt a lot since then but also hear the same things from clients when WordPress is suggested as a CMS for their project. I currently run 2 businesses that are based entirely around WordPress and a third that provides Wordpress services amongst others so it's fair to say I understand WordPress.

So this list will explain the most 10 common misconceptions about WordPress and destroy some of these myths.
 

1. Wordpress is just for blogs

WordPress did actually start as a blogging platform, in fact it was actually derived from b2 aka cafelog by Matt Mullenweg at the age of 18 in 2003. Since then WordPress has grown into a globally recognised content management system (CMS). Yes, millions on blogs use WordPress but millions of websites use WordPress to manage content.

With posts, pages, custom posts, widgets, menus, plugins and even leading ecommerce capabilities WordPress is so much more than just a blogging platform. It is a website platform. WordPress is used by some of the biggest brands in the world including, Microsoft, eBay, Harvard Law School, Mozilla Firefox, Sony and CNN to name a few. So whats next...

2. WordPress isn't secure

This is a difficult one to address because like everything security only works as well as its implemented, so if you haven't implemented any steps to secure your site then yes its not secure. This applies to anything. Out the box WordPress is secure but once you start added some of the 30,000+ plugins to your site things suddenly change.

WordPress is open source and the plugins available in the Wordpress plugin repository are free, some can be out of date but you will be warned if they are. Some may have poor code and vulnerabilities but the mass majority are safe as long as they are all up to date on your site. Amongst the thousands of plugins available are some that have a soul purpose of securing your WordPress site such as Stop Spammers Spam Control, AkismetAnti-Malware Security and Brute-Force Firewall and iTheme Security are just a handful of the free security plugins that will secure your site from even the toughest attackers.

Security doesn't just stop at that, ensuring your server is maintained and secure is essential, enforcing strong passwords and regularly updating them and ultimately instilling strict security practices across all your emails, sites and work.

 

3. WordPress is difficult to use

This usually applies to starting out with WordPress, it can be a maze of a process to get started from hosting to installing WordPress on your hosting to picking a domain and using it. Unless you have some idea about technology or a lot of patience then I suppose WordPress can be difficult to setup. That said there are many services and options available that take care of this process and leave you with a WordPress site ready to use.

CloudCanvas (yes my company) is an all-in-one WordPress platform that allows you to launch a WordPress site in minutes with the renowned Divi theme pre installed and a load of plugins ready to activate as you need. All this is built on a super fast infrastructure with the best security implemented right into the core so you never have to worry about anything other than what content you are going to add to your site.

Once you have WordPress running it actually couldn't be easier, I always say if you can use email then you can use WordPress. The WYSIWYG editor allows for seamless content creation, you can add just about any kind of media to your articles and embed video, tweets, documents and so much more by just pasting the link into your page.

With the addition of some of the premium themes and page builders that are available for WordPress literally anyone can build a beautiful website with WordPress. Take a look at the video below to see just what is possible with WordPress.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzRWmFagVsA

 

4.WordPress can't do ecommerce

I think we have already covered how powerful WordPress can be as a CMS and when it comes to Ecommerce I was once one of those that never thought WordPress and ecommerce would or should mix. How wrong was I, over the past few years WooCommerce has grown into a global player in the ecommerce scene and now powers over 30% of all online stores. And WooCommerce isn't the only option for adding ecommerce to WordPress with others such as, Easy digital downloads,  WP eCommerce, Ecwid, Jigoshop, MarketPress, iThemes Exchange and Cart66 lite.

The truth is if you are planning on taking payments through your WordPress site then the options are unlimited.

How scalable can a WordPress ecommerce store be? I suppose this is the biggest question here, should you use WordPress or Magento for your ecommerce store. We will look at scalability here alone, it's a general rule-of-thumb that WooCommerce is perfect as long as you don't plan on having more than 5000 active products for sale at any one time. This isn't a set rule, there are stores out there running WooCommerce with over 50,000 products. WooCommerce can sale to massive serve massive demands and integrate with just about any imaginable system and POS software. But if you are planning on becoming the next Amazon then I guess like Amazon you will build your own ecommerce system but starting with Magento may be a better idea.

 

5. WordPress is slow

This is a bit like the security woes that surround WordPress, yes there are slow sites out there but WordPress is not slow per se? Just like computers you also get slow servers and like anything else in life you usually get what you pay for, so if you pay £1 a month for your server then yeah it will eventually start to get slow or just start out that way.

Geographical locations are a big factor in the site speed, if you are in the UK and you majority visitors will also be in the UK then you want a server in the UK. We see many people using £1 Hostgator hosting and wondering whats wrong with their slow site, it doesn't take a lot to figure that one out.

Another reason WordPress can be slow is because of the amount of plugins people may activate, I have worked on clients sites that have been painfully slow but after removing a load of unnecessary plugins it was like a different site altogether. Only install the plugins you absolutely need, most plugins will load additional scripts in the frontend or backend of your site and these scripts require more time to load, most plugins also make database requests which again take time.

With good reliable hosting and a well maintained site your WordPress site should be blazing fast. There are some incredible hosting options out there from Cloudways and WP Engine to Vidahost and Vultr your options are pretty vast but picking a good host is a problem that isn't limited to WordPress.

 

6. WordPress is free

WordPress is actually free to download from WordPress.org but what does free actually mean and how free is it really?

WordPress is open-source, it's built by a community of developers who put in their own time to make WordPress constantly better. You can change WordPress, break it, rebuild it or even make a new version of WordPress from it and call it something else.

The real costs of WordPress really depend on what you want to do with it, there is obviously the hosting cost which can range from less than a £1 per month to thousands a month. Then the plugins, yes there are tens of thousands of free plugins but the really great stuff usually comes at a cost. By the time you have premium plugins, themes, services you can easily spend over £500-£1000 per year.

A lot of people that use WordPress will have had their site built for them, most web agencies will be proficient with WordPress. When I started Lakewood our first website was built using WordPress and still to this day we build bespoke sites for clients with WordPress. Having a professional site built specifically for you will cost anywhere from £1500 upwards.

The reality is WordPress can cost what you want it to, you can start with low cost hosting and free themes and move towards bespoke themes and dedicated servers when you need it.

 

7. WordPress sites look the same

This is one of my favorites, a client saying they don't want a WordPress site because they don't like how WordPress looks. I don't usually bother trying to explain this, I get that once upon-a-time there was that typical WordPress look. I can't actually think how to describe it but I do kind of get what is being said.

I actually don't know the number off the top of my head but at a guess there is over 20,000 themes available for WordPress. A lot of those themes will be completely customisable so no two will look the same so saying WordPress sites all look the same is like saying all clothes look the same.

Here are some wicked showcases of sites built using WordPress:

 

8. WordPress isn't scalable

Going back to point 1 WordPress is see as a cheap solution that is just for small sites and blogs, probably because it's free or open-source. In reality the only limit to WordPress scalability is the infrastructure, you can build a site with hundreds of millions of visitors on WordPress as long as you have the servers that will handle that.

With some truly amazing hosting options available now it's actually not as expensive as you would imagine to run a large high traffic site, yes you will need a VPS at least but with AWS and companies like Vultr you can built an infrastructure that will scale and grow with your website.

WordPress VIP is a service for WordPress site that have huge amounts traffic, take a look at the big sites that run on WordPress VIP and tell me WordPress can't scale.

 

9. WordPress doesn't come with support

You would be right in thinking no support comes with WordPress, well support in the sense you can't really email WordPress when your site goes down. Yeah there are people who think you can do that, but anyway WordPress has one of the largest communities behind it. Infact you will probably get support from the WordPress supports forums quicker than you would from a typical web designer/developer.

You are actually spoilt for choice when it comes to support, you can hire a pro to build your site for you, use a service such as our CloudCanvas or sign up for a maintenance and support service such as WP Helper or WP Maintain.

 

10. WordPress sites are low quality

The great things about WordPress actually also server to its downfall in a way, it has become so accessible and the themes available has allowed just about anyone to sell themselves as web designers or developers. Almost 70% of the businesses that we get coming to us at Lakewood have had bad experiences with a so called web designer who got in too deep and left a mess behind and usually decided to go onto something else.

You don't have to look around more than one corner to find someone who will build you a website and usually it will be with WordPress. Its this that can give WordPress and the internet a bad taste, if you pay for a website and get one of these you can't really be blaming WordPress can you?

Again you get what you pay for, whether thats a cheap web designer or cheap hosting you will eventually find yourself wishing you had spent a little more time researching what was best.

 

Conclusion

So now you have a better understanding of WordPress you can go out there and launch an awesome site. If you have any questions at all regarding anything above drop a comment below and I'll do my best to answer them.


Dequeue Divi Builder Plugin Scripts and Styles when not needed

We recently published this article on the Lakewood site but I know a few people will look here for Divi resources as I will continue to publish CSS tweak and modifications for Divi.

This is a very simple function that simply removed the Divi Builder Plugin scripts and styles when they aren't being used on the current page or post. You can add the following functions to an mu-plugin or to your theme functions.php file.

Why would you want to do this you may be asking? The answer is simple, why load the Divi Page Builder assets when the page builder isn't in use, it will just add unnecessary bloat to your page and increase your page load times.

Here is the function:

Please note this is for the Divi Builder Plugin only and not for the Divi Theme. Any questions please ask them below.


Summers Evening in Elan Valley, Rhayader

Elan Valley is a little gem hidden in the Welsh countryside and best known for its dams and reservoirs. It's a place that's pretty easy to get to and no matter which direct you come from, the drive is just spectacular.

Making the summer evening I thought I would take a drive over from Hereford, I planned on stopping to have a look at a few places I've driven past before but never had the time to explore. I ended up doing a loop from Rhayader, around Elan Valley and back to Rhayader. Along the way, I managed to get some stunning pictures of the sunset.

Below are a few of the images from the evening and I've put more on my Instagram account.


Divi hide menu on scroll down and show on scroll up

Divi is a pretty awesome theme, I use it right here on this site with CloudCanvas, the menu on Divi come with a tonne of options but most people will stick with the standard fixed menu which out the box is great. We wanted to make it better for the CloudCanvas website, I wanted to make the menu hide on scroll down but show when you reach the bottom of the page or scroll up again.

Lakewood uses this technique and I think it allows for a less distracted experience of the website without losing the ease of access of having the menu at the top of the screen at all times.

See it in action here

I will assume a few things before we start.

1. You understand what CSS and javascript is
2. you are using the default fixed menu on Divi

We will start with the CSS that will hide and show the menu for us:

The script will add in a moment will add some classes to the Divi #main-header element, the first class it will add is the .detached, this will give the menu a fixed position. The .invisible class is added as we scroll down to hide the menu, I've added a 0 opacity here to give a smoother transition effect and the completely hide the menu when scrolling back to the top quickly.

You can play around with these styles as you wish.

Now for the script:

As this is for Divi the only part if the script you may want to change is the menuOffset, detachPoint and hideShowOffset. I added this to the footer of our site using a MU plugin but you can add it to a child theme or to the Divi intergrations tab on the theme options pages.

Resources
https://alexcican.com/post/teehan-lax-navigation/
https://medium.com/@mariusc23/hide-header-on-scroll-down-show-on-scroll-up-67bbaae9a78c#.44iho4ejc


5 Travel Inspiring 5K Desktop wallpapers from Unsplash

Unsplash is one of my favourite resources for stock photography and the fact its free actually comes second to the fact the photography available is truly outstanding. You will find Unsplash photography on a lot of my projects from CloudCanvas to WP Helper. I also make use of Unsplash for other things such as keeping my desktops fresh with some inspirational wallpapers.

Since 2013 I started using 4k (retina) MacBook Pro 15", last year it got destroyed by a glass of water and decided to get an iMac while waiting for the insurance to send a replacement MacBook. I went for a 27" 5K iMac, it's a hell of a machine but has a habit of making even the best photography look blurred. So I've picked out 5 5K wallpapers that look as sharp as a needle on your high resolution displays as I know finding high res wallpapers can be a nightmare.

Preview the images below and click the download button here to get  the zip file containing the orginal 5k versions of these images.


How to minify your HTML, Javascript and CSS without a plugin

It's more important than ever ensure all aspects of your site are optimised including your raw HTML and inline Javascript and CSS. I will share a function I use on on my sites in a MU-Plugin, using WordPress functions we can remove all whitespace and comments from our HTML output. This function also preserves essential comments for IE, Google Analytics and comments within script tags.

You can add this function to a mu-plugin to use on your site or multisite network. You can even disable compression on a select portion of code by using this tag before the code

Here is the function to minify your HTML, Javascript and CSS on WordPress:


Llyn y Fan Fach, Brecon Beacons National Park

Llyn y Fan Fach, Brecon Beacons. Photography and walk.

Right in the middle of the west Brecon Beacons National Park is a mystical lake, high up in the mountains, the Llyn y Fan Fach lake sits at the foot of the Black Mountain. Even without the folk tales the lake has a sense of eery silence to it, almost entirely surrounded by ridges the lake is quiet and still with shadows cast over parts of it.

Llyn y Fan Fach has its very own folktales that add to the magical sense of the place, it's definitely worth reading about before you go. Here is a short narration of the tale.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Sub71snnUE

Llyn y Fan Fach Circular Walk

Llyn y Fan Fach is a great place to go for a short walk with some incredible scenery that you will struggle to find anywhere else, the atmosphere around the lake is just incredible and well worth a visit anytime of the year.

 

Getting there

Getting to Llyn y Fan Fach is pretty simple but the roads are country lanes at best, I certainly wouldn't advise coming during bad weather unless you have a decent 4x4 and even then you will struggle to get out in the snow. Around summertime you can access the carpark easily after driving down a few gravel lanes, which have been improved recently, it's a bumpy ride but an enjoyable one.

The walk is around 5 miles in total but can be longer depending on where you come back down the ridge. I've mapped out the route I took although I definitely missed something somewhere as I ended up coming down a small but steep gully, a path I certainly wouldn't recommend to most.

In general it's a very easy going route with most uphill parts being pretty gradual, the walk along the ridge is spectacular and follows all the way to distinctive escarpment of the Black Mountain.

Depending on your fitness you can complete the walk within a few hours but keep an eye on the weather either way. From the car park you can follow the gravel track all the way up, past the fish farm and all the way to the Llyn y Fan Fach lake. From the the lake you can easily see the path right of the lake following up along the ridge. This might not be as obvious in mist or cloud so it goes without saying, take a map and compass.