Yow, so much to respond to! Frankly I'd really rather do it in email. Is anyone else really interested in this depth of discussion about SL? lol. If not, I'm going to go back to email for much of this.
I will respond to a few things here though.
Sure. We already have a conversation through e-mail, and that's fine. But, if anyone else is interested, I'm happy to make it a thread, either here or wherever appropriate.
I just wanted to make sure I answered everyone and in enough detail to show that, while some mistakes have been made in the last year, that there was nothing cavalier about it, and that the progress overall has been positive; also, that the evolution of where Sagelight is going has been more defined and that has also given me pause about solely going the traditional higher-cost route for reasons described.
My feeling won't be hurt at all if the responses are light or non-existent.
First, I'm not really clear at this point what your goal with developing and publishing (selling) Sagelight is. Is it your sole living, and if so is maximizing profit, or at least maintaining a living wage, then a priority?
Yes, Sagelight right now is my sole living. But, maximizing profit is not a priority. Though I am a developer (and photographer) far before I am a salesman, I really do believe that sticking to the vision will find the right placement for Sagelight, and the finances will take care of itself. That is, with some care and, perhaps, some measure of calculated risk. As I mentioned, I've been working on and researching how to work it all out for quite some time, and almost have something ready that fits the vision I started with and still have for Sagelight.
Are you doing it for the originally stated reason, you wanted an image editor that did things you couldn't find any other apps doing? If so that drive remains surprisingly strong!
Well, yes an no. A lot of it is a personal level of wanting to move into new territory function-wise. But, the original goal was to combine my two strengths, which is writing extremely fast, low-level code with my hobby as a photographer and image-processing. I was a long-time Photoshop user (now I use it for graphic-art work), but I really felt that Photoshop was not quite what I wanted to see in an editor, so I modeled Sagelight after my own workflow. I also wanted to make an extremely fast interface so you could get real-time results without having to create N layers independently. For me, that was the crux of it -- I knew I could write something where you could combine 10,20, 30 different layered controls in realtime if it was written from scratch in low-level code, which was something I spent my career doing.
My main goal was to create a new paradigm for image editing that made it workable at a visceral level, so you didn't need to understand image-processing concepts to use it, but the as you went, you could move into more high-end things, like the histogram Power Curves, Light Blender, and the more professional side of Sagelight.
Yep, still strong!
How much of a priority is it to maintain "accessibility", both in pricing and in functionality?
Very. Not at the expense of the program itself, but in the sense that I wouldn't make it a priority if I felt it wasn't feasible. But, the last year has shown me that it is. I've really worked on keeping the development in the middle, by alternately adding accessible functions and professional-level functions (which the accessible functions inherit, as well). For example, the RAW functionality is ever-expanding, and the heavy-duty, graphic overflow analysis I added for version 4 has really helped in terms of making RAW both accessible and advanced. I find it a good mix to work with. Version 5 will expand even further with the RAW capability and the analysis Sagelight constantly does with your image.
Second, you seem to have some desires that are potentially conflicting, or at least challenging to reconcile (again speaking from experience). The casual user, the amateur, has rather different needs and *abilities*, not to mention time and patience, as compared to the serious hobbyist and professional. ... It's very difficult to satisfy both with one product!
That's true, in general. I have thought about that, but I am seeing it work out fairly decently, where more professionals are buying Sagelight. While I put in professional-level functions to do things I couldn't do in Adobe (for example, the Power Curves have a Chroma channel and multplier that makes the curves much more useful, etc.), I never aimed at that market specifically because I knew I couldn't aim at both. My main focus, in terms of orientation is the 'digital photographer' who wants to enhance their pictures, anywhere from the beginner who wants to do more than crop and remove red-eye, to the advanced hobbyists and enthusiast. I think more professionals are starting to realize that some software can do things not in Photoshop, whether it's Sagelight or other packages. To attract high-end professionals, that would require aiming Sagelight only at that group, as Photoshop is king there, regardless as to what it does or doesn't do.
Regarding pricing, I still think you're really selling your product short. If you price to compete with Corel, e.g. Paintshop X4 ($30), you'll be brought down to their level (no offense to Paintshop fans!). Paintshop is an ok product, some people here really like it, but it just doesn't take imaging as seriously as Sagelight. It reminds me of the difference between our product Terragen and our competitor E-On Software's Vue product line. Their software is used professionally as well, but its focus is really on *tons* of features and ease of use. Basically, as long as a feature is implemented and ticks a box on the feature list, it's "good", even if the actual implementation is not great, even if the image quality is not great, etc. Terragen has a lot less features than Vue, but each of them tends to be more solid, higher quality, etc.
I believe that I am currently selling Sagelight very short, and that it is clearly devaluing it, as described in above posts in terms of the price being a factor that people look at. As I mentioned, the whole price structure needs to change as I get this last version 4 release out. I'm just currently looking at creative ways to keep Sagelight where it wants to be, hence the delay on raising the price, ending the sale, etc.
With tons of features vs. focused editors. I agree. I decided a while back to focus on many "product-level" (i.e. Bokeh, Light Blender, Tone Blender, HDR, upcoming noise-reduction, etc.) features in order to expose people to as much as possible. For instance, when I added the Bokeh and Lens Blur, I initially started on a few-day long project to replace the "vignette blur", but a little into it, I decided, "you know, really gotta have the full-on Lens Blur & Bokeh..." 2 1/2 months later, I had something really great, not to mention a lot of underlying code that I can use in the upcoming HDR and NL-Means noise reduction.
Sagelight pays a high price for doing this, as the Bokeh really is comparable to a lot of standalone packages out there ranging from $100-$200, but I just have much more interest in exposing things like this to everyone than I do making it a separate package that a lot of people who currently enjoy the Bokeh in version 4.2 wouldn't ever buy or experience. I do need to find ways for them to stand out, though... The LightBlender is a good example. It's probably the most powerful tool in Sagelight, but gets a little obscured where its placed. But, I am working on those issues.
Anyway I don't really see you ever truly making people understand that underlying image quality value that SL has with a low price and a split focus on the average home user market.
I completely agree. That's why the creative strategies I am thinking about... 'Guerrilla Marketing' as it were -- that is, something out of the norm, because it is unworkable there. But, as I mentioned, the market has changed so much, and is still changing at such a rapid pace, I think there is a place to be found.
Splitting your product line will help, but the price point may *still* be an issue. It's important that you look at the right apps for comparison. SL is already on par with the likes of Lightzone ($99.95, discontinued), Bibble Lite ($99.95), DxO Optics Pro Standard (149€), and more at a similar price point, and from the sound of it what you're adding for v5 will put it on par with most of DxO Optics Pro Elite (299€), Capture One ($399), Bibble Pro ($199), and the majority of Lightroom's functionality ($299). The main thing you're missing that pros would want and that most of those have is lens correction. Catalog/digital asset management capability is another, but many people already use an external DAM and Sagelight has facility for that. Note also that many of these products have a similar lite/full or home/pro version split, like Bibble, but their lite/"home" versions are generally $99!
There is what Version 5 is all about: bringing Sagelight into line with what it needs to completely well-round it, and getting rid of all of the current omissions, such as Lens correction, as well as other things. That's always been part of the plan, and why I did so many of the other functions, so when version 5 is complete, it will have all of the traditional things the pros want and a whole lot more.
Now again I have to say I love that you're not jumping straight to high pricing and I'm not in favor of raising the price just because you can. *Iif* you can make a living pricing your product lower than everyone else and get at the market you want, then I applaud you. I'm just not sure that will work. And the tools SL has seem, to me, to have the potential to capture a different market, and in many ways I think are also above the head of most people who would buy a $39 app. So you may almost be hurting yourself there, by providing features that are not only not needed but even confusing, and at a price point that devalues those same features and the app as a whole. I know you recognize at least some of these issues, but you may not agree with others (i.e. you could argue that providing access to advanced tools but not forcing them on users helps them learn them over time and graduate to more advanced capabilities in their own time).
I agree with the assessments, for sure. I think my statement about it is that I think they can be overcome with some new strategies. I at least want to give it a try. I've been looking at the market, and I think that there are a few things coming together. One is that more and more people are getting into digital cameras in terms of taking nice pictures and wanting to do more with them -- beginners, hobbyists, but have no exposure to Photoshop (i.e. traditional/old-school methodologies) but still want to do professional-level things, but more easily. Also, Adobe's new pricing scheme seems to recognize that, because they are clearly making a stand with who they want to see as customers. Lightroom has been $99 all week (or something like that), and I suspect that there is something coming in terms of this large, burgeoning market. So, it's not in a vacuum -- there's definitely a passion to it on my part, but it definitely seems to align with how the market is changing.
I know you are also struggling with what to put in your high and low end versions, along with pricing of both. These are issues we continue to struggle with at Planetside as well, so I can't claim to have resolved them either, but I do have relatively long-term experience with it at least, and it's from that experience that I'm speaking.
Yeh, it's a tough issue to crack, isn't it? One plan looks good here, but dilutes the other, and vice-versa! ha... There's always some catch with this plan or that, and finding the middle ground is definitely difficult, at best.
In the end you have to make your own choices and I hope they will be successful. If you have the time and ability to stick with it for the long-term and remain flexible, then you can try other strategies if the one you choose now does not work. That is the ideal way to approach it I think, if you have the luxury of doing so. Above all I hope SL will continue and succeed.
Well, I do have a particular plan in mind. They say "go with your passion", and the plan I am thinking of is definitely that, though perhaps risky. But, they also say "build it and they will come". Well, we both know there is more to it than that!