Seven On Seven
What The Experts Think About Photoshop 7

Anytime Adobe releases a new version of Photoshop there are a host of opinions expressed about this universal graphics and photo image-editing and manipulation program. Since Photoshop affects so many personal and professional lives, we asked the opinion of seven acknowledged Photoshop experts on a number of issues that might change the way they work and on how the program's new features are a boon or a bust. Our expert panel includes: Lynda Weinman, a well-known author and trainer whose company, lynda.com (www.lynda.com) creates educational materials for digital artists in the form of books, online movies, CD-ROMs, and events.

Gregory Georges, a photographer and the best-selling author of 50 Fast Digital Photo Editing Techniques, Digital Camera Solutions, and the soon to be published 50 Fast Photoshop 7 Techniques for photographers. He also writes for eDigitalPHOTO.com and Shutterbug magazines. Visit his web site, www.ReallyUsefulPage.com.

Martin Evening is co-list owner of the ProDIG discussion list and author of Adobe Photoshop 6.0 for Photographers. Visit his web site, www.evening.demon.co.uk/

Richard Lynch is currently at work on two new books on Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. See www.redeyemag.com (coming soon). He has a free Photoshop e-mail newsletter delivered 15+ times a month, which addresses current and popular topics on Photoshop (sign up at his Photoshop forum). His web site is http://ps6.com.

Katrin Eismann is an internationally recognized artist, author, and educator who has been working with digital imaging tools since 1989. Eismann's latest book is titled Photoshop Restoration & Retouching. Visit her web site, www.photoshopdiva.com.

Scott Kelby is Editor-in-Chief of Photoshop User magazine and President of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP), the trade association for Adobe Photoshop users worldwide. He is author of Photoshop 6 Photo-Retouching Secrets and Photoshop 6 Down & Dirty Tricks. Visit his web sites, http://scottkelby.com/ and www.photoshopuser.com/

Dan Margulis is a color expert who has won a wide international following with his distinctive way of making complicated concepts accessible. He is a consultant, a teacher of master classes in color correction, and a contributing editor to Electronic Publishing magazine. His latest Photoshop book is titled Professional Photoshop 6: The Classic Guide to Color Correction. Visit him at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/colortheory/

Shutterbug--Every new version of Photoshop has new features that help people work more efficiently with images, and sometimes there are some changes that are less welcome. Could you relate to us a few of the new features or capabilities you like and what changes you feel might negatively affect your usage?

Lynda Weinman--I love the File Browser. It's probably my favorite new feature. Since I do a lot of web work and web training, I find the color profiles for web publishing to be useless and turn them off. Since browser software doesn't support color profiles, and even ImageReady doesn't support them, I see no reason for Adobe to impose them in a web publishing context.

Gregory Georges--Dockable palettes, savable workspaces, and brushes are among my favorite new features. While many photographers may not think the brushes will be useful, they can be invaluable for those interested in dodging and burning images, or for creating digital versions of traditional photo transfer techniques or for creating custom edge effects. The new Healing Brush tool is also a welcome new addition. Besides being incredibly useful for removing dust, scratches, and other unwanted artifacts on scanned images, it is also the most effective tool for fixing blemishes on portraits and when doing photo restorations.

Martin Evening--The Healing Brush and Patch tool are incredibly useful--these tools allow me to retouch people's faces much faster and easier than was the case before. And I would be lost without the File Browser, which enables me to quickly preview, rank, and rename images. Plus the File Browser is able to display any of the metadata contained in the image file, which provides me with valuable information. The whole metadata issue has huge implications for the future of image asset management and the way photographers will in future be able to distribute and access their image files. In this respect, Photoshop 7.0 is also significant, because it is the first Adobe program to fully implement the Adobe XMP "open standard" schema for the handling of metadata. I also like having the ability to save palette layouts as workspaces and save tool presets, plus much more. I have followed the development of Photoshop 7 for about a year now as a member of the alpha testing team, and for me, this is certainly a comprehensive update that does so much more than provide an OS X interface for Mac users.

Richard Lynch--My favorite new features are the workspaces, presets, and the new brush capabilities. Because I work in different modes in Photoshop being able to arrange the palettes to how I work is a clear advantage. With a two-monitor system I even found the workspace getting cluttered. In previous versions I had to find a setup that worked for everything--and it was a compromise. Now I can set everything up how I want for different things that I do and assign keystrokes to my setups and switch back and forth neatly. I guess the thing I am least enthusiastic about is the Healing Brush. Call me a control freak, but not only do I like to know exactly what's going to happen when I apply a tool (otherwise it really isn't "applying" it), but there is nothing that tool is doing that I'd really want to do--or can't do better without.

Katrin Eismann--The three big splashy features are the File Browser, the Healing Brush, and the Painting Engine. In contrast, I greatly appreciate all the smaller features, which show the depth of the program and of the engineering team. Adobe understands that there are a wide variety of people using the program. The new Contact Sheet, the new Picture Package that lets you put text, like the word "proof," on an image, the Web Photo Gallery and Spell Check. Those are examples of features that let photographers concentrate more on their photography, or running their studio--rather than working in a variety of applications to get their work done. The Healing Brush is so much more intelligent about the structure of an image than the Clone tool is. The thing with the Healing Brush is you can have complete control, but you have to be a smart user. You have to still think in layers, still think in image structure, still think in terms of where you're going to get the source information from. What I've done with really bad images is to concentrate on one specific area to build a really good image texture and I make that restored area into a new texture with the Texture Maker, to use the Texture Maker piece as the source for the Healing Brush. You don't have to worry about where you're cloning or sampling from and you can really fine-tune the image.

Scott Kelby--Photoshop 7 adds a couple of absolute "killer" features, including the new Healing Brush, and its companion tool, the Patch tool. These two tools will change the face of photo retouching forever. The fact that 7 is also the first version of Photoshop that is Mac OS X native, and fully Windows XP compatible, is huge, as is the new File Browser. Not to mention the built-in spell checker, tool presets, and dozens of other features that make it the best version of Photoshop ever.

SB--More and more people are purchasing digital cameras. Do you have any tips for digital photographers just starting out in Photoshop, or upgrading from a previous version?

Lynda Weinman--The best investment you can make is to learn all the various masking techniques. We are about to come out with a new training module in our online learning library called "Harm No Pixels," which teaches how to work non-destructively with masks and image editing. This leaves the original untouched, so you can always get back to it if you make a change that isn't wanted.

Gregory Georges--The feature-rich combo of Photoshop 7 and ImageReady 7 can be daunting to photographers, whether they have used previous versions or not. I highly recommend becoming an expert on Adjustment Layers, Levels, Curves, a few touch-up tools (Healing Brush, Clone Stamp tool), and Unsharp Mask. These powerful tools, when used correctly will enable you to get excellent results from your digital photos. Then, and only after you have become an expert on these tools, begin experimenting and using other features as your experience grows. The success you will enjoy with this approach will help you to enjoy the process of becoming an expert digital photographer and your photos will be vastly improved.

Martin Evening--I would strongly advise such photographers to equip themselves with a new PC or Mac and install Photoshop 7.0. The File Browser makes it so much easier now for photographers to access and open their images within the program. But in addition I would stress that it is important to start as you mean to go on and take care to arrange the archives of your images in such a way that it is easy for you to hunt down and retrieve a specific image at any time.

Richard Lynch--Yes. Learn how to use resolution correctly. Learn how to color correct in RGB, CMYK, and LAB. Learn to work with light rather than against it. Don't assume that you can take rotten images and fix them all up in Photoshop later. Much better to take the best shot you can and improve it. Photoshop is really for improving and altering, not recreating.

Katrin Eismann--Get the image right in front of the lens. The big tip is don't forget that you're a photographer. Photoshop is fantastic and powerful. But don't use it like a crutch. The advantage of a photographer with a digital camera is they can understand lighting, composition, contrast, and color by using the camera for seeing right away what's going on. If you have a good image to begin with you're ahead of the game. Don't rely on Photoshop to make a bad picture good.

Scott Kelby--My advice would be to learn everything that Photoshop will do, and not just use it to replicate what you could do traditionally in a darkroom. To really unlock the power of Photoshop's creative muscle, you have to think outside the box.

SB--Photoshop, coupled with ink jet printing, is replacing the traditional wet darkroom many photographers depended on. Are there aspects of Photoshop 7 which will affect the way these new "light room" photographers will work?

Lynda Weinman--The Healing Brush is going to change the way photographers deal with retouching from past versions of Photoshop. It's a remarkable new retouching tool that makes alterations to the image much easier than any tool that was previously available.

Gregory Georges--For the less discerning photographer, excellent color prints may be easily made with Photoshop 7 and one of the many available ink jet printers. Those who are picky about color or those who want black and white prints are likely to find the process of setting up a color-managed workflow challenging at best. Getting a monitor, image editor, printer, ink set, and media all working properly remains an elusive objective for many in spite of their investment in expensive monitor spiders, color profiles, and color management applications.

Martin Evening--There is nothing specific that I can think of that affects the Photoshop printing other than the way Photoshop now defaults to opening the Print Options dialog (that uses an image preview to show how the photograph will print relative to the paper size). I would say that the developments of paper, inks, and printer hardware technology are what are having the greatest impact on the improved print quality you can get these days.

Richard Lynch--My initial answer is just "no." Anyone moving from a darkroom to ink jet is almost always going to be disappointed. The ink jet revolution was a great thing for those of us who had to work in CMYK for print images where proofing was just too expensive and who look at printing from that standpoint. But if you are already used to color prints made in a darkroom, it is a different world. You'll be able to use an ink jet and get some OK results, but you won't get a photographic print--or you won't get what you would if you get an LED print (Light Emitting Diode--a photographic process). It is a great technology because it brings reasonably priced color home, but it won't substitute for the darkroom in the long run. An ink jet is fine for casual prints and works well as a preliminary proofing device. There are other means to getting high-quality prints.

Katrin Eismann--Specifically in terms of the digital darkroom, the combined ability to work with layers and blending modes to see what you're doing gives you the ability to make better images and better prints than ever could be made in the darkroom.

Scott Kelby--The retouching tools in 7 really make it a whole new ball game, and the new brushes give a level of control they've never had before.

SB--What new features does Photoshop 7 or ImageReady 7 offer photographers that previously had to use other programs to do web graphics?

Lynda Weinman--There are lots of great new web gallery settings--this is an easy and automated way to make a web site from a folder of images.

Gregory Georges--When photographers go "digital," they usually find themselves sharing their work digitally and often it is on a web page. ImageReady 7 offers features that make it easy for anyone to create online galleries, animations, rollovers, and image maps. While these features were available in a prior version, their use required more web-page design skills than most photographers would ever have. Now, creating these web design features is easy for non-HTML savvy photographers and they can create web pages that don't look like they were created with a template.

Richard Lynch--Clearly the File Browser is a great tool for the digital photographer. There may be other file browsers out that are dedicated that do more, but this one is finally right inside Photoshop, where it couldn't be more useful. There is no better way to work with your images than right where you need them. This is a must-have for the digital photographer.

Scott Kelby--Well, there's a new Pattern Maker, for making tiling backgrounds. It makes things easier, but you could make these types of backgrounds in previous versions--it was just harder. ImageReady 7 has greatly improved the process of making rollovers, but again, these are enhancements--they're not reinventing the wheel. But honestly, I can't think of a reason to use another graphics application for creating GIFs or JPEGs other than Photoshop and ImageReady.

SB--Please provide one quote that sums up your feeling about Photoshop 7.

Lynda Weinman--Photoshop 7 isn't an earth-shattering release of Photoshop, but as always, the tool gets better and better with age. With Photoshop, you can never know everything and that's the beauty of it. It provides as many choices as your imagination can throw its way.

Gregory Georges--If you are serious about digital photography, Photoshop 7 and ImageReady 7 are the tools to have--all other tools get you only part of the way there.

Martin Evening--Photoshop 7.0 is an important upgrade that has a lot to offer photographers, especially those who are now shooting digitally. It speeds up the way I work enormously and I just could not afford to work without it.

Richard Lynch--Photoshop 7 is a mature upgrade for the Photoshop old-timer, with the needs of those who have been using the program for a long time in mind. The novice and newer user will grow into those new Photoshop 7 tools almost seamlessly--probably never realizing they didn't exist before. After a few months of using Photoshop 7 you won't want to step backward to Photoshop 6 again.

Katrin Eismann--I think Photoshop 7 is the version that recognizes the importance and passion that photographers bring to image making. With Photoshop 7, what Adobe has recognized and supported is the quality, time, and attention to detail that photographers sincerely invest in their images. They've recognized that, because digital cameras and ink jet printing have gotten so much better that they've met the bar, in fact they've raised it in terms of what a digital image maker can now do with the application.

Scott Kelby--Photoshop 7 is an incredibly robust upgrade, and probably the most substantial upgrade in years, but you have to look "under the hood" to see the level of improvements, enhancements, and tweaks Adobe did to this new version. The longer you work with it, the more you uncover new goodies, and the more you realize you can never go back to Version 6.0 again.

Note: Rather than address our questions on a one-by-one basis, Dan Margulis responded with this dispatch, which is posted on his Color Theory Forum.

Photoshop 7 has pluses and minuses. Depending on how each one of them affects you, you will have to decide whether the upgrade makes sense. For myself, the minuses far outweigh the pluses, so I will be sticking with Photoshop 6. However, depending on your workflow, it may be logical for you to make a different decision. Naturally, the pluses have gotten all the coverage and nobody is aware yet of the dark side. Therefore, I'll concentrate on that. But I'll lay out what I consider to be the five top issues on each side.

Pluses:
A--It runs natively in OS X and Windows XP.

B--Adds a huge array of brushmaking and painting features, to the point that it becomes a rival to Painter. This is a really big deal if you happen to do this kind of work. If anything, the power of this has been underrated, but it's not for everybody, either.

C--Liquify tool much better; a Pattern Maker added that can easily create an entire file based on a single selected object. A nice special effect.

D--A File Browser that lets us point at a given folder and it gives us what amounts to a contact sheet of what's in it and even open images directly. The thumbnails it shows are not large enough to evaluate image quality but they're plenty large enough to find a specific image if you don't know what its name is.

E--A Healing Brush, and a companion Patch tool, that try to do intelligent correction of damaged areas of an image. The Healing Brush operates similarly to the Clone tool: you click an unaffected area first and then paint over the damage. With the Patch tool you drag a selection on top of the damaged area. Either way, Photoshop analyzes the situation and tries to figure out how to repair the damage based on the patterns it sees in the undamaged area, rather than blindly cloning. It ain't perfect but it's a nice improvement.

Minuses:
A--Unlike previous versions, if we open a file that contains an embedded profile in any way other than by honoring that profile, Photoshop 7 considers that it is a change to the file even if we immediately close the file without any other change. Thus, it will generate a Save Changes? dialog that we must respond to, even though there has been no change. The ramifications of this are quite serious if you happen to accept many files from strangers who embed the wrong profiles (like, anybody who hasn't changed the Photoshop defaults). You can't open a large number of these files simultaneously just for a look-see without having to respond to a warning upon closing each one. For an operation as large as a service bureau, it's unworkable. Salesmen and CSRs are always opening client files to see what they contain, and they'll be prompted to save nonexistent changes, default answer being Yes. Similarly, any large CMYK operation that accepts profiled files from clients is in trouble. It sounds like this wouldn't affect a studio photographer who only is working on his own files, but wait, it gets better.

B--(There's nothing wrong with the following change, until it's coupled with #1.) Unlike previous versions, Photoshop 7 reads EXIF data. The English translation of this is that some digital captures have no embedded profile for purposes of Photoshop 6, but they do for Photoshop 7. This was pointed out late in the beta process so nobody really has a good handle on it yet, but all the cameras that are known to do so at this point state that the profile is sRGB. Unfortunately, none of them actually behave as sRGB devices. At least two Nikon and two Canon models have been identified as behaving this way, including the Nikon 950 that I own. They say sRGB for Photoshop 7; in fact they are more like Apple RGB or ColorMatch RGB. This means that, in order to open the files without getting an alert every time, you have to turn profile mismatch off in color settings, which one would prefer not to do. But at least it's workable. The problem is, however, how this operates in conjunction with problem #1 earlier. If you have such a camera, you are in the same position as the service bureau--although you have generated the file yourself, it has an incorrect embedded profile. Therefore, you either have to open in sRGB and deal with a photograph that's darker and flatter than it should be, or open it in a correct way and have Photoshop 7 treat the very act of opening it as a change. In other words, if you are used to opening a whole batch of images from a given shoot at the same time just to examine them quickly without changes, you can't do this in Photoshop 7. Every image will give you a Save Changes? prompt. You can't even quit the program to close the files.

C--As you might know, layered files saved in PSD format are much more economical if the "Maximize Compatibility" option in preferences is turned off. Otherwise, every layered file saves, in addition to the layers, a composite flattened version of the file. This unnecessarily bloats the file size, often doubling it. The original need for this was when Photoshop 3 introduced layers in 1994, a Photoshop 2 user wouldn't be able to open a layered file at all without the composite, but at least could see something if the composite was there. Since there are few Photoshop 2 users left, there's really no excuse for this option to be checked, and it can be a big deal if it is. If you use, say, three adjustment layers on one base layer, checking that option doubles file size. Unfortunately, Adobe has now decided that this is a needed option, because InDesign and Illustrator don't read layered files without the composite, although why anyone would want them to is unclear. Therefore, when first we uncheck the preference, we get a new warning message saying that we shouldn't do so. Assuming that we still persist and check this new warning saying yes, we understand, but we still want to save without a composite, the suffering is not over. In spite of our having declared twice that we wish to do the sensible thing that 99 percent of all users should do, Photoshop 7 won't let us do it in peace. Instead, each and every time we save a new layered file, it will warn us that we shouldn't be doing it, and require that we respond. There is no way of turning this bogus warning off.

D--The TIFF format has been seriously degraded. Adobe owns it, so they can do whatever they like with it, which is unfortunate because so many of us depend on its stability to make a living. Some years ago, the spec was amended to permit, among other things, layered TIFFs or those saved with JPEG or ZIP compression. A layered TIFF, unlike a layered PSD, must carry a composite version. Most but not all applications can place a layered TIFF, but whether they can image it is unknown. Layered TIFFs can be large. At the very least, they'll clog networks and strain RIPs. As for JPEGged or ZIPped TIFFs, as far as I know only Adobe products can even place them. In Photoshop 6, users were given the opportunity to access these dubious features but had to check off a preference to do so. By default only a standard TIFF could be saved. A few people did decide they needed the features but by and large the world said no, quite logically in my view. Notwithstanding the clear lack of interest in the market, Adobe has decided to make these changes mandatory in Photoshop 7, even if you are one of the 99 percent of users who never want to save a TIFF with layers or with one of these exotic compressions. They'll be in your face every time you save. And, naturally, thousands of less sophisticated users, who don't know the difference between JPEG and JPEGged TIFF, will be saving them by mistake, let alone saving enormous files because they don't understand why smaller TIFFs are a good idea or don't notice the tiny box in the save dialog box that "alerts" them that they're saving layers.

E--In certain versions of Photoshop 7, notably OS X, the Custom CMYK dialog now defaults to 400 percent total ink, unusable for any printing conditions. As I haven't been using OS X and the issue is not present in 9.2, I can't give further details.

We would like to express our appreciation to all the people who responded and took time out from their busy writing schedules to answer our questions.

Chris Maher and Larry Berman are photographers, writers, and web designers, specializing in image intensive photography sites. For more information visit their web sites www.ArtWebWorks.com and www.BermanGraphics.com.

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