Adobe has kicked off its conference aimed at assisting creative artists in the world of digital design and content creation. It may not get all the press of the Apple iPhone event, but it’s no slouch, with more than 12,000 loyal attendees hungry for more creative goodness offered by Adobe. This year, Adobe continued its efforts to deliver everything a creative artist needs, with an additional boost in the use of artificial intelligence.

Before I get into the rundown, I want to offer kudos to Adobe for acknowledging the horrific events that transpired recently in Las Vegas. This was a classy gesture from the company and its leader, CEO Shantanu Narayen. The tragic event really hit my heart as I drove past the crime scene on my way to the Venetian and Sands Expo to attend Adobe Max. Definitely surreal.

Keynote highlights

Narayen and his team focused on bringing updates to existing Creative Cloud apps, as well as introducing two new apps for creatives, all with the undertones of embracing science. “If we can put art and science to work, magic will happen,” Narayen said. What does that statement mean? AI. That’s the key to it all and Adobe Sensei is a big part of this.

SEE: Getting started with drone photography (TechRepublic PDF)

Creative Cloud app updates

Adobe Illustrator offers a few updates regarding performance as well as interface enhancements, which include what’s called and”essential panel” to aid in speeding up the creative workflow. And mobile app Adobe Capture has been empowered with Adobe’s AI engine, Adobe Sensei. This is a great addition to the app that allows you to capture patterns, colors, and even shapes with your smartphone and integrate them into your next creative project via the Creative Library cloud service.

The power of Adobe Sensei comes into play when you’re trying to match up related assets based on the item captured. For example, if you snap a photo of a greeting card because you like the font, you can highlight the text in your photo. Adobe Sensei will compare that font with fonts available to you via Creative Cloud. Pretty slick use of AI.

SEE: Ultimate Adobe Photo Editing Bundle (TechRepublic Academy)

Photoshop gets more brush flexibility and organization capability, allowing you to access your custom brushes faster. The software has also been updated to take further advantage of creative hardware, such as the Microsoft Surface Studio, which uses a hardware dial to toggle through menus and buttons on the screen. Most important, the pen tool has been updated with increased functionality. You now have brush smoothing to correct your lines drawn on the screen that may be slightly jagged. It can also create symmetrical shapes without the need to copy and invert half the shape you’re building. Sensei will help complete the task.

My favorite photography editor, Lightroom, has been updated–not without some controversy, though. The Lightroom we’re familiar with is now “Lightroom Classic.” This is the desktop version you know and love. The “classic” designation has added to make way for the new Lightroom CC.

The beauty of Lightroom CC is its seamless integration across all platforms. You get one unified experience regardless of the device you’re using. Your experience on a powerful desktop computer will be the same UI you’ll see on a mobile device. I appreciate the effort made to keep things consistent, but power users of Lightroom on the desktop may not welcome the changes.

At its core, Lightroom is a digital asset manager that happens to have photo editing capabilities. It wasn’t clear whether Lightroom CC will offer these same capabilities to professional photographers and enthusiasts alike. Are the original images stored on the device or are they stored on the cloud? Right now, Lightroom CC is cloud based, which means you’ll have to keep an eye on your cloud storage allotment. This also means that if you need more space, it will come with additional costs. However, during a Q/A session with the Adobe executives, Bryan Lamkin, executive vice president and general manager, digital media, said that fans of Lightroom Classic have nothing to worry about with regard to functionality. Adobe is taking into consideration the features of Lightroom Classic and working to integrate them into Lightroom CC.

Adobe Portfolio was also discussed as a way to further organize your online portfolio and branding with a hosted website. I don’t know how useful this will be for seasoned creative artists, as they probably already have an established website in place showcasing their work. Portfolio is included in the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography package at $9.99 per month.

Yes, I love shooting photography and telling great stories with them, but I also enjoy creating video. I use Premiere Pro and After Effects for my video editing needs via Adobe Creative Cloud. Updates for these applications are minimal. Early in 2017, the Essential Effects panel was introduced, which offered an easy way to create motion graphic templates and titles for video. I enjoy using this feature regularly for my personal and client videos. It definitely speeds up the workflow. Premiere Pro also allows for easy editing 360-video in this VR crazed world.

SEE: 2017: Must-have mobile photography gadgets and accessories (ZDNet)

From beta to production

Adobe Spark has been removed from beta and is ready for production. This app is for content creators looking to be effective in social media with campaigns. Creating infographics, short video clips, and even hilarious memes is easy to do in this mobile application. This is great for keeping your brand connected to the masses via social channels.

Project Felix is now Adobe Dimension. This is the 3D design app that is by far the simplest way to create 3D compositions. I played with the beta and had my challenges with performance, but the concept was great. Simply drag and drop 3D shapes into a scene and create your magical design.

The power of AI

The use of Adobe Sensei is being driven home to the attendees and viewers. This AI engine watches everything creative artists do within the Creative Cloud suite of software: every click, every font selected, every layer mask added. It’s all tracked for learning the ways of a creative artist. Sensei focuses on computational creativity, experience intelligence, and content understanding. You can tell it with voice controls inside Photoshop to find specific images for your project. It will look on Adobe Stock, as well as your own library. In the demo, the presenter, David Neuschleler, asked for images of his “kid.” Sensei returned several images of his son that could be used for a project, but it also returned an image of a baby goat. Yes, a baby goat is also known as a “kid.”

In my previous discussion about AI and photography I said that there’s no way it’s going to replace a creative artist. Adobe assured me that this is not the job of Sensei. Sensei’s job as an AI is to enhance creativity, make repetitive tasks more efficient, and learn your particular style of creating content. The presentation also included the AI understanding of finite details of the content. For example, if you’ve completed a photo shoot with a model and need to address images of the model looking to the left, Sensei can find those images with a beautiful graphical interface. It can even aid in masking and compositing those images into other creative works.

SEE: Digital transformation at the Missouri Photo Workshop (TechRepublic video)


The event was fascinating to me as a creative artist. Adobe Max has also opened my eyes with regard to AI in the creative space. I don’t believe AI will remove the creative artist from the market, but I do believe it will help creative artists get more work by speeding up workflow.

I’ll be here throughout the event, attending sessions and chatting with Adobe staff. Stay tuned for more coverage. Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Twitter as I will also livestream from time to time.

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