May 10, 2005

Review Of The New Photoshop - CS2

By Scott Bourne

About 18 months ago, Adobe loaded the bases with its fantastic upgrade from Photoshop 7 to Photoshop CS (8.0). I have to admit that I thought they would pretty much just phone in the next upgrade. They'd done such a good job with the transformation from 7.0 to CS that no one could blame them. But I was wrong. After spending the last month reviewing the BETA version of CS2.0 (Photoshop 9.0 - code named Space Monkey) I have only one thing to say:

Get out the rye bread and mustard grandma because Adobe has done it again. The new version of Photoshop is Grand Salami! I said that Photoshop CS was a must have upgrade. Accordingly, Photoshop CS2.0 is a must, must have upgrade.

This isn't an in-depth review because so far, all I have is a BETA copy. But here are some highlights on the new features.

NOTE: I am providing this information strictly from a photographer's point of view. If you are a designer or an illustrator, you may find more comprehensive coverage of Photoshop's features for design and illustration elsewhere.

The first thing that you will notice is that the File Browser is gone. I know, I know - some of you are happy but some are sad...there are some cheers and some sneers out there. But when you see what's taken its place, you'll be happy either way.

ENTER THE BRIDGE Bridge is a new stand alone program that ships with Photoshop and replaces the File Browser. This is the File Browser on steroids. You can preview, search, find, rate, sort, keyword and otherwise organize your images in new and powerful ways. Crop, automatically adjust and process multiple Camera Raw images, with support for the new Digital Negative specification, while you continue editing in Photoshop CS2.

Batch processing from Bridge is faster than ever and allows simultaneous editing in Photoshop CS2 while your batch command runs in the background.

Some specific enhancements to Bridge are:

1) Preview all Creative Suite graphic formats-including the new Digital Negative specification (DNG)-with scalable thumbnails, full metadata, and custom keywords. 2) Sort, rank, and filter your images with a complete set of labels and ratings. 3) Compare images in separate Adobe Bridge windows, filmstrip mode, or full-screen slideshows. 4) Customize thumbnails and resize, hide, display and regroup palettes at will. Enjoy task-based presets, and save your own settings to custom workspaces for convenient recall at any time. Or switch to floating compact mode for easy Adobe Bridge access in all Adobe Creative Suite 2.0 applications. 5) Process multiple digital Camera Raw images while simultaneously organizing others and editing in Photoshop CS2. 6) Order professional quality prints, large-format output, and more, from the built-in Adobe Photoshop Services.

VANISHING POINT The new Vanishing Point tool is very cool. While it will probably be more useful to designers and illustrators, it still has lots of application for photographers who do composite work or extensive photo retouching. I'd pay for the upgrade just to get this tool.

Vanishing Point allows you to automatically adjust the visual perspective of your image. It allows you to speed through retouching tasks and paint, clone or transform your image in proper perspective.

All you have to do is define your perspective planes visually with the perspective grid tool, then paint, clone and drag objects around corners and into the distance. This will literally cut hours off precision design and photo retouching tasks.

It's hard to explain this tool. You'll realize its value when you see it in action.

HDR You know how hard it is to capture the full dynamic range of a photograph. Take your average sunrise photo for instance. You want to hold the color in the sky but yet still render good detail in the shadows. In the days of film, we used graduated neutral density filters for this task.

With digital, we started exposing for different parts of the scene and then manually dragging each image into Photoshop, stacking them and creating a series of complicated masks to hide or reveal parts of the image that didn't fit in our final product.

Now, it's as easy as opening CS 2.0 and selecting FILE > AUTOMATE > MERGE TO HDR. You select two or more images to merge and Photoshop automatically finds the parts of each exposure and merges them together.

This new tool allows you to achieve the ultimate in dynamic range with automatic conversion of exposures to 32-Bit High Dynamic Range (HDR) images. That's right, I said 32-bit! When Adobe gave me a private demonstration of this feature in Beta, I don't think they realized how important it was. This will be a real time saver.

Using HDR you can effectively get 12-14 stops of latitude into your digital images and maintain incredible quality. You can now take control of the full detail from the deepest shadows to the brightest highlights, and everywhere in between. You can use Merge to HDR to even create 32-bit HDR images from your current digital camera, by automatically combining a series of regular exposures.

MULTI-IMAGE CAMERA RAW Process a photo shoot in a fraction of the time, and keep editing in Photoshop CS2 simultaneously! Save files directly to a range of formats, including the new Digital Negative specification (DNG). Crop and straighten images with no loss of quality. Enjoy automatic adjustments to exposure, brightness and contrast, and precise curve and color settings. It's simply the best and most versatile Camera Raw yet.

SOME OTHER PHOTOSHOP CS2 REFINEMENTS

HIGH CAPACITY RAM To make the most of systems running 64-bit processors, Photoshop CS2 can now address more than 2 GB of RAM. Photoshop CS2 can address approximately 3.5 GB of RAM on a Power Macintosh G5 running Mac OS X, or on a Windows XP 64-bit Edition system running an Intel¨ Xeon™ processor with EM64T, or an AMD Athlon™ 64 or Opteron™ processor.

SHADOW-HIGHLIGHT ENHANCEMENTS The popular and easy-to-use adjustment for shadows, highlights and midtone contrast is now available for images in CMYK mode as well as RGB.

SMART SHARPEN Smart Sharpen is found in the Filters menu under Sharpen and it intelligently sharpens your image. It gives you control over sharpening highlights, shadows or the image as a whole and lets you select the kind of blur applied to the non-sharpened areas. It is definitely a cut above the standard unsharp mask.

PRINTING ENHANCEMENTS New options in the Photoshop CS2 print dialog make it even easier to configure your local printer for great results and consistent color on all your printing jobs.

The new Print dialog box makes it easier to see whether you are letting your printer control color (bad idea) or Photoshop (good idea.)

NEW PDF ENGINE Comprehensive, customizable PDF presets let you take advantage of the new PDF engine in Photoshop CS2, including PDF 1.6/Acrobat 7.0 compatibility.

ONE-CLICK RED EYE TOOL Finally! Adobe gives us a simple, accurate tool for correcting red eye caused by retinal flash reflection. This tool has advanced controls for pupil size and darkening effect when you want it.

WORKSPACE & MENU CUSTOMIZATION It's your Photoshop - do with it what you will. Photoshop CS2 takes adaptability to another level, with new customization and assistance options to let you modify the environment to suit both your personal preferences and the requirements of specific projects.

CS2 comes equipped with many presets already optimized for specific task-based workflows. Plus, you can now define your own menu sets, create color-keyed menu commands, and store your custom interface settings in saved workspaces for easy switching between sets.

BUILT-IN NOISE REDUCTION High ISO digital camera shots can be breeding grounds for ugly color noise. Reduce Noise gives you advanced enhancement of problem images, including special handling for JPEG artifact reduction, and even discrete correction of individual color channels, all while preserving edge details.

SPOT HEALING BRUSH This is not hyperbole - this new tool really does allow you to effortlessly do some serious one-click retouching. Click or paint flaws away, remove entire objects, and heal across all layers with your choice of blending and sample modes-even in 16-bit, CMYK images.

OPTICAL LENS CORRECTION This feature lets you fine-tune your photos for truer images from edge to edge. Easily counteract barrel, pincushion and perspective distortion, and quickly correct chromatic aberration and vignetting, in any photo.

CONCLUSION

The new Photoshop CS2 is a big upgrade that gives photographers a hint of the future. Things like 32-bit functionality and faster processing speed are great news for working pros who need all the help they can get to satisfy their clients. But the upgrade is also important to serious amateurs. Simple things like better noise reduction, sharpening and optical lens corrections along with improved performance all around will make the upgrade worth the money to amateurs as well as pros.

Are there any negatives? Well it's too early to tell. My guess is that it will be harder and harder to run Photoshop on anything but a powerful machine. There will be some changes to workflow that will take getting used to. But my early opinion is that none of these negatives outweigh the overwhelming positives.

Also note that Adobe lowered the price on the stand alone (non-upgrade) version of Photoshop CS2 by $50 but they have also instituted the mandatory registration for Mac users. PC users got this in version 8 or CS1.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scott Bourne is the author of "88 Secrets to Selling & Publishing Your Photography" and "88 Secrets to Photoshop for Photographers." Both are available from Olympic Mountain School Press, http://www.mountainschoolpress.com. His work has also appeared in books, magazines, galleries, calendars, on greeting cards, web sites and on posters.

Scott is a professional photographer, author, teacher and pioneer in the digital imaging field. His career started in the early 70s as a stringer covering motor sports for Associated Press in Indiana. Since then, he has shot commercial, portrait, wedding, magazine and fine art assignments. His new passion is wildlife photography.

Scott regularly lectures on a variety of photo and media-related subjects. He's appeared on national television and radio programs and has written columns for several national magazines. He is the publisher of Photofocus.com, an online magazine for serious photographers and also serves as the executive director of the Olympic Mountain School of Photography in Gig Harbor, WA.