Bryan O’Neil Hughes  grew up in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, the same place where photography pioneer Ansel Adams was discovered and where he too realized his love for the medium. But as he watched as his peers captured things landscapes and fine-art photos, he knew from the start that his interests lay elsewhere. “At first I was really into racing cars and taking pictures, so I thought it would be great if I was a motor sports photographer because it would involve the best of both worlds,” he says. “I got that job and professionally shot freelance motor sports, but it made me hate both photography and racing.” 

Soon after he left his motor sports photography career behind, he began working as a retoucher where he did restoration, retouching and managed digital imaging labs. It was then that his dream became clear—he was determined to work with Adobe, he explains. “I joked that I would’ve filled a candy jar if that’s what it took, but over time I began getting out there in front of audiences and built my career on being a user advocate.”

Now fifteen years later, the self-taught imaging specialist has become the Principal Product Manager for Digital Imaging at Adobe Photoshop and has since evangelized Adobe Lightroom, worked as an educator for and produced a number of software tutorials that have gone viral throughout the imaging community.

“For me, it’s really about being the voice of the user because I was a user as a photographer, I was a user as retoucher and I had a good sense of what people in the field wanted,” he says. “So, my unique role on the team over the years has been being the person to lead a number of very reactive campaigns that were based on the things that professional photographers or designers look for in the software.” 

Bryan O’Neil Hughes spoke with Resource about his career, his work on Adobe Mix and the new line of Adobe software. Read our interview below. 

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As the Principal Product Manager for Digital Imaging at Adobe Photoshop, can you briefly sum up what you do for our audience? 

I regularly speak and educate on Photoshop, but I’m also working on a bunch of next generation stuff that leverages Photoshop technology beyond just Photoshop. 

And you also work as an online educator. How has that been?

It’s always been great. I have a couple videos that went viral and one of those achieved six million views, but a lot of the shorter ones are just intended to be free and easy. I also have about eight courses with right now and I’m a speaker at Photoshop World where I teach three courses. So, I’m really out there educating people all the time.

I’ve read that you’ve been a “pinch hitter” for Lightroom. Can you tell me about that?

Well, I’ve been on the Photoshop team for about fifteen years and I’ve evangelized Lightroom since its first beta version. So, in addition to teaching courses, writing books and magazine articles about Photoshop, I continue to evangelize Lightroom and have all throughout the years. As a product manager, I sometimes need to jump in on a briefing, but more often than not I’m continuing to drive awareness and understanding about where [Lightroom] sits in the greater portfolio. 

Can you tell me about the ideas behind Adobe Mix and how the idea for a new tablet app came about?

Obviously, there are a lot of imaging apps out there and we’ve had more people shooting, editing and sharing than any other time in history, but we’ve seen a lot of folks who need to go over to the desktop just to do a few things that we thought they could do in a mobile space. So, Mix is really focused on selective edits and basic compositing. Things that traditionally, people had to use Photoshop to do. We set out not to create a compromise, but to create something that’s just as powerful for the iPad. And at the same time we wanted to deeply integrate it with the Creative Cloud as well. It’s an imaging app for today. 

So how long has the Adobe team been working on Mix and the other new mobile app products? 

They started a bunch of different points. Mix actually went from prototype to product in about ten months and it was easily the most ambitious of [the apps]. Luckily, we have a really strong group of folks that were originally from the Photoshop team, myself included. 

Since there’s already a version Photoshop for the iPad, I’m wondering why Adobe would create an entirely new app instead of just integrating it? 

Photoshop Touch is really popular and I think it made a lot of sense for the people who first used the iPad when it came out a few years ago. It uses the same terminology as the desktop app and it even used the same design language. But what we found is there are a lot of people that want to solve problems but don’t really understand the language, so we wanted to make something that focuses as much on the experience as the problems you solve. So, Mix is very much a subtract of that, but it’s not trying to three or four dozen things—it’s trying to do only a couple of things but really, really well. I think this also leaves room for Photoshop Touch to be itself, while Mix really delves into the experience and utilizes the Creative Cloud. 

Right. So in a more general sense, what do you think the integration of these user-friendly apps says for the future of imaging software? 

We’re showing that we can bring desktop power to mobile applications and that the technology can do things like cloud computing, which is new for Adobe, but there’s also a lot to do with integrating everything with our desktop apps and the cloud. So, there’s a common design language and themes throughout the apps, but there’s also a common sense of tying into the cloud for storage, integration—and in the case of Mix—it even ties into the cloud for processing. And of course, all of these apps were created using the new Adobe SDK (software developer kit), so we can use this tool kit internally to make future applications. We’re also starting to open it up to third parties so they can use some of the features you see on these apps as well. 


Our EDU 2014 photo contest presented by Resource, Sigma and Viewbug is upon us, and the submissions are coming in. But with a different set of judges each year, we have decided to give you the chance to get to know them a bit better.

While this year’s panel includes the likes of Brian Matiash of Google+ and NIk Software, Vice President of Content at Shuttershock Scott Braut, Principal Product Manager for Photoshop Digital Imaging Bryan O’Neil Hughes, renowned portrait photographer Peter Hurley and Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Vincent Laforet, we’ll be individually speaking with each judge about their accomplishments in the imaging industry and their views on photography education. Here are the rest of this year’s sponsors: Epson and Focal Press as the Bronze Sponsors; Mpix, Spinlight 360, Smart Albums and Phase One as the product sponsors; along with BridgeWater College and Montserrat College of Art as the School Sponsors. Stay tuned!