By Monte Ferguson
Photoshop, every Mac user has heard of the product. Even if they've never used it they know of it. Adobe's Photoshop is THE image manipulation tool that all the pro's use. Photoshop is to the creative community what Microsoft Word or Excel are to the business community.
It is a complicated program which can handle a variety of different tasks. Photoshop is like a paint program,with many more tools and features. It is a digital darkroom, allowing all kinds of experiments with photographic media, that have been digitized. It also gives you the ability to composite several images together and apply effects to your images.
With Photoshop 7 Adobe began tailoring features to satisfy demanding professionals in three disciplines. Those disciplines are Digital Photography, Print, and Web Design. Photoshop CS continues this trend. Therefore we're going to group the new, or improved features, by the discipline that they target.
For those who've made the move to digital photography Adobe has added some features to make your life easier. RAW image support, an add on feature introduced after Photoshop 7 shipped, is included with Photoshop CS. Working in the RAW format means you are working with all of the pixels that the camera captured. You are dealing with the highest quality image. It also means that modifying your image will not lead to a degradation in the image quality. (Which is what happens when you modify and resave a jpeg image, some of the original detail is lost.)The updated Camera RAW plug in offers more flexibility in adjusting your digital images.
Another welcome feature for photographers is the Shadow/Highlight adjustment tool. This tool is great for pictures which are under or over exposed. You can modify the values of the shadows and the highlights separately, while preserving the mid tones. It's like having a chance to apply a fill flash. Have you ever had a shoot where the colors in one series don't match up with the colors in a second series? A real pain usually requiring a reshoot or some major massaging of the affected images. Photoshop CS has a new feature that allows you to apply the color scheme of one image to another, or one layer to another. You can also use filter adjustment layers to simulate the effect of standard photographic lens filters.
Photomerge, a new feature with this release, brings a panorama feature to Photoshop. A panorama is one large image made up of several over lapping individual images. Photoshop's Photomerge feature automatically merges photos into seamless panoramas. Each of the component images can be preserved in a separate layer for more control of the final result. There is also a perspective fixing tool to help you line up your images. For anyone who has fussed with making a panorama you just have to try out this feature.
Professionals working in the printing industry are Adobe's core market. Features added, or refined, in this release will benefit people who demand exacting color reproduction.
Photoshop 7 allowed you to open and do some minimal amount of work with 16-bit images. Photoshop CS allows you to modify, apply any effect, and work with any tool on a 16-bit image just like you can with 8 bit images.
A new Histogram palette allows you to monitor the changes in your image as you make them. You can now view the histogram as you work on your image.
Adobe has taken the technology behind the Healing and Patch tools and used it in a new way. The new Color Replacement Tool allows you to change the color of any area in your image, while retaining the original texture and shading details. It can also be used for dealing with red eye in photos.
Finally, Photoshop is smart enough to take a scan of multiple images and copy each image into it's own document. While doing so it will automatically crop and straighten the image for you. This was one of my biggest gripes about a $900 image editor.
Have you ever had to stop what you were doing in Photoshop so you could work with text in Illustrator? Then you're going to like the new ability to create and manipulate fully editable text on any path, or inside any shape. No need to fire up another app just to add some text to your images.
Working up designs for a client can be a tedious and time consuming process. Having to remember to Save As all of the time, and keep everything organized. Now Adobe has added a feature called Layer Comps to streamline that process. Layer Comps allows you to build different versions of a document. You can selectively turn layers on or off to show variations. You can also nest layers, to create sub groups of designs, up to five levels deep. Best of all this means you only have to track one file.
Some designers think big, really big. Now Photoshop can keep up. It can handle files that are up to 300,000 by 300,000 pixels, with up to 56 channels per file.
Web designers also have something to look forward to with this update. (Note: Some of the more advanced features require Image Ready which is included with Photoshop.)The Web Photo Gallery feature gains new professionally designed templates. It even includes support for client feedback, with no extra programming or coding required. You can now directly export to Macromedia Flash, SWF, format. Exporting to SWF format retains vectors, and dynamic text (including embedded fonts). You can also export each layer in a composition to its own SWF file. Which allows you to retain the control and layout that you had conceived in Photoshop. Exporting to HTML has been beefed up. Photoshop creates leaner, more easily edited HTML. A new Web Content palette makes fine tuning layers and roll over slices much easier. You can now combine slice sets, and layer comps to export different document configurations. Web designers will also appreciate the ability to select, group, and manipulate multiple objects using automatic Smart Guides. You can also organize nested object groups up to five levels deep. Adobe has really been toting dynamic content with all of their products. Adobe says you can easily import database and spreadsheet content for automated graphics production. You can also directly define and edit variables and data sets.
Not every feature is easily categorized as appealing to one demographic or another. There are some features that everyone can take advantage of.
The new File Browser has been beefed up. It's no longer just a tab. It's a full fledged application in its own right. The file browser now allows you to batch process your images without having to open them in Photoshop. You can assign keywords, modify metadata, change file names, even change orientation of files.
Have you ever chafed at trying to figure out a keyboard shortcut in Photoshop? Now you can change, or create your own, keyboard shortcuts. When you're done you can even save them and share them with other users. (Even PC users). You can create shortcuts for menu items, tools and palette commands.
The Picture Package feature, which allows you to combine multiple images, or multiple instances of one image, in a single print has been updated. You can now interactively edit the existing layouts. Which makes it easy to precisely control image position and spacing.
A couple of features will benefit those working with video or content intended to be repurposed for DVD authoring. You can now work with non square pixel documents, say a captured video frame, without the distortion caused by viewing non-square images on a computer monitor. New customizable document presets, in standard video sizes and aspect ratios, come with actiion-safe and title-safe guides. This helps with files intended to be used in video or film, say menus for DVD's.
One of the features I liked in this release is borrowed from Photoshop Elements. It is a welcome screen that offers some useful tips, tutorials, or run downs on new features when you first launch the program. (It can easily be turned off if you find it annoying via one check box.) Speaking of tips and tutorials, I was impressed with the included information from the welcome screen. Though not comprehensive they are very helpful and give you some ideas on how to use the program effectively. Another nice feature, for getting up to speed on the program, is the included Total Training CD. I found it a great aid to focus on what was new and get some ideas on how the new features worked. The enhanced File Browser will definitely help streamline your work. You'll spend less time moving between Photoshop and the Finder. I also found the color correction features to be a big boost. Handy for those of us for whom masks are a tedious and time consuming chore. For just plain fun I have to say that I think the Photomerge feature is one of the best additions to Photoshop. One other thing of note was that the program definitely feels more responsive. It's not drop dead dramatic but I have noticed somewhere around a 7-14% speed up on the same hardware.
There are no earth shattering new features per se in this release. If you're looking for one big reason to upgrade this may not be the upgrade for you. I'm still miffed that Abobe continues to produce Image Ready. Why not just kill the product and get it over with? Incorporate the features into Photoshop where they belong.
Photoshop is a big program that tries to appeal to a very wide base of users. Adobe has wisely tried to incorporate new, or improved features, that will target as much of its user base as possible. With this release Adobe has focused on building upon technologies already present in the program. Therefore this version is more of an evolution, rather than an evolution. A good deal of work has gone on under the hood and it shows in greater refinement to existing features. Overall this a good, if not outstanding release. If you're still using Photoshop 6 or earlier I'd heartily recommend upgrading. If you're already using Photoshop 7 you might want to pass on this upgrade. I would say look over the updated, and new, features closely to see if it makes sense to upgrade for your situation.
Posted: Saturday, September 24th, 2005