Adobe have made a radical change to their Photoshop program. Gone is the version number as part of the title. Now what would have been version 8.0 we have the letters CS which stands for Creative Suite. It's part of a package of programs designed to let professionals be creative. These include ImageReady CS that comes with Photoshop CS plus Adobe Illustrator CS, Adobe InDesign CS, Adobe GoLive CS, and Adobe Acrobat 6.0.
I have been part of the Beta testing team for the program over the last few months and following the official announcement I can now let you know my views of the program based on beta version x106, the last before the official release.
I will assume you are familiar with or have read reviews of Photoshop 7 so will just look at the new features. These include:
- File Browser enhancements
- Comprehensive 16-bit editing
- Integrated Camera Raw support
- Match Color
- Histogram palette
- Lens blur
- Shadow/Highlight correction
- Photo filter adjustment layers
- Picture package layout editor
- Color Replacement tool
- Non-square pixel support
- Customizable keyboard shortcuts
- Text enhancements
- Layer comps
- Metadata enhancements
- PDF presentation
- Crop & straighten photos
Let's now look at each in more detail and in my order of preference:
Without doubt the star of the Photoshop CS show is this new feature that sits under the Adjustments menu. It's the most advanced tonal editing option to come out of Adobe yet and makes adjusting pictures much easier. It has a set of sliders for shadows and highlights which you adjust until the balance of tones is correct. Simply work on the shadow areas first and then adjust the highlights to balance the picture. It's much easier to use than either levels and curves and produces impressive results.
I tried it on several tricky photographs and it handled all with ease.
The Shadow/Highlight adjustment is like having fill-in flash without the battery drain!
Match Color is another superb feature which will suit anyone who struggles to make two pictures that they may be combining look similar in terms of color. You may have a portrait taken with flash and want to combine another of someone taken in sunlight. Open both select the target and destination and then adjust the sliders until it's as close as you want. It also works when copying and pasting elements from one picture to another. This will also be ideal for people who shoot panoramas who want a natural colour transition from one frame to the next. Again it works fast and easy to match colors based on layers or base images.
By adjusting the Luminance, Color Intensity and Fade you can match pasted layers with the color and brightness of their new background.
Lens blur This feature takes the blur filter to a new level. It has all the familiar words associated with lenses such as Iris, specular highlights, blade curvature and focal distance. These are attached to sliders where you adjust the size of the aperture, the number of blades and the curve of the blades. You apply the adjustment to an area that you want to blur and it acts like a depth of field control. You then adjust the specular highlight control to make the catchlights white again. The process works on an alpha channel and by creating a gradient mask you can pin point focus to a certain plane in a landscape to throw the foreground and background out of focus. It's quite amazing. The main problem with this is processing speed. It's painfully slow especially when working on images like my 15Mb test file, and this is on a PC with a 1Ghz processor!
The lens blur option acts like a digital lens. Here I added a black to white gradient as a mask and have blurred the photo using the mask. The cursor turns into a cross hair which I placed in the foreground and it's gradually blurred the picture into the distance.
Photo filters is a feature that many photographers have been crying out for. Automated colour correction filters. Applying a filter adds a preset such as an 81 warm up or 80 blue while you can select any colour you like using the colour picker. The strength of the filter can be reduced using the opacity slider and faded using Edit>fade option. All these effects could be created using existing features such as hue/saturation or color correction, but the automated option makes it much easier.
Camera Raw support cost £80 as an option plug-in with photoshop 7.0 now it's part of the program and has support for many of the current cameras offering RAW. Currently Pentax *ist D isn't an option but most of Canon, Nikon and Minolta are included. Others will be added and free upgrades will be available to registered owners. A full list of those cameras currently supported can be found here.
The raw plug-in lets you adjust colour brightness and sharpness when you download Raw files from the camera. You can also open an advanced editor and correct chromatic aberrations that appear towards the edges of a photo.
There's now an option to view a Histogram when the photo is open and see in real time how the changes you make affect the image. This will appeal to those who understand about tonal ranges and exposure.
Photomerge is a feature that has been provided free with Adobe's baby program Photoshop Elements, so it's good to see it included here. It's a stitching feature that lets you combine shots taken in a series, such as a panorama, and automatically finds the edges where a blend should occur and merges them for you.
For those who like keeping track of your images making detailed captions you'll appreciate the new Metadata enhancements which takes the exif data read by the camera to a new level. The info is pulled into the File Browser and can be extended to include keywords. Then you have a more powerful search.
Crop & straighten photos is for those who use scanners and don't quite align the photo. Some scanners have an auto feature that rotates a skewed photo and crops it. This is no longer a problem as Photoshop's automated feature can also do the job. It rotates so the pictures is straight and removes the surrounding frame. It's also useful if you are doing screen grabs and want to crop around a palette or window accurately.
Layer comps are for those who work with lots of layers. They are designed to let you capture various configurations of a document by recording the visibility, position, and blending options of layers. You can then go back and recall a comp from the palette and bring back everything that was set at that stage
The improved File Browser has many changes including a new button on the options bar to quickly call up the Browser and an option to view large, high-quality preview images and custom-sized thumbnails. File Browser configurations can now be saved as workspaces, each assigned with a keyboard shortcut. Files can be flagged so you can hide flagged or unflagged files via the File Browser View menu, and you can drag pictures around to quickly group ones you are looking at. Metadata can be edited on multiple files with keywords or sets of keywords assigned to one or more files at once.
Other smaller features include the option to edit the layout of the Picture package and save the layout so it can be recalled in future. You can create custom keyboard shortcuts replacing defaults with your own personal set of shortcuts. Text can be added to a path or custom shape so it follows the shape of the path or custom shape.
You can now create your own slide show using the PDF presentation option which creates a PDF show with intervals between shots and special effects to ensure more interesting transitions. Anyone can view this using Adobe Acrobat.
Adobe have broadened the features that work with 16-bit images so more editing options exist. A Color Replacement tool has been introduced which is used to paint the foreground colour over the picture to replace existing colours which is ideal for red eye removal.
Finally for those working in video editing there's non-square pixel support so you can check how a photo will look when it's viewed in a non square format such as HDTV format.
So why the change to CS ? Well Adobe have grouped all their professional products and users who buy the Creative Suite can operate on projects interlinking between the programs and users. Projects can be saved in Work environments and accessed by several people who can each keep versions of the file and prevent other copies being overwritten. All complex stuff and ideal for business users, but for us Photographers it's really Version 8.0.
Photoshop CS will work with the following computer operating systems
- Mac OSX 10.2.4
- Microsoft Windows 2000 with Service Pack 3
- Windows XP
Adobe Photoshop CS will be available for street price of £605.13. Registered users of any previous version of Adobe Photoshop can upgrade to Adobe Photoshop CS for an estimated street price of £146.88.
For more detailed information about new features and upgrades for Photoshop CS, visit: www.adobe.co.uk/products/photoshop
Without doubt this is Photoshop's biggest change to date and new features really make it an outstanding purchase, whether as an upgrade or a new purchase. At just over £600 it is an expensive program and those who find it out of reach can get many of the features in Elements or Paint Shop Pro for a fraction of the price. For those who can afford it you will not be disappointed! In my view the Shadow/Highlight and Match Color adjustments make it worth the upgrade alone and then you have all the other benefits. Shame the Lens Blur feature isn't faster, but full marks overall to Adobe on this upgrade - it's a beauty!
Test by Peter Bargh