Adobe Creative Suite/Photoshop CS (8.0)
A Photoshop Upgrade Like No Other

Photos © 2003, David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved

Instead of the usual numerical version increase for Photoshop, this latest edition is named Adobe Photoshop CS (Creative Suite). This identifies this version as part of a larger upgrade of most of Adobe's graphics applications, including--in addition to Photoshop--InDesign, Illustrator, GoLive, and Acrobat 6.0, all newly upgraded as a suite and all new at the same time. It is not just that Adobe has coordinated the upgrades of these applications in the same time frame, but it has integrated many functions seamlessly between all of them. They have also synchronized them as to how color management and many preferences perform so they are compatible both in usability (interface design) and in operation. Some of these shared advantages, like access to the creation of Acrobat 6.0 .PDF documents, are included in the stand-alone Photoshop CS upgrade purchase. However, for anyone wanting to, Adobe is offering an affordable upgrade to either the Standard or Premium Creative Suite collection of new applications, even if you just have Photoshop 7.0 currently.


Targeted At Graphics Pros
The Adobe Creative Suite target market is graphics production professionals in all media, from print to the web. It is envisioned that the environment in which the applications will typically be used as a networked work group. For a photographer who does professional work for advertising, editorial, marketing, catalogs in print or on the web, many if not most of the two dozen plus new features in Photoshop CS will be potentially useful creatively or as an enhancement to productivity. Even for independent professional photographers, whether commercial, portrait, or fine art, much of the Adobe Creative Suite provides the ability to not just produce more or less finished material for print or online use, but also the creation of professional quality promotional brochures, portfolios, presentations, multiple page e-books, ads, and whatever else being in business for yourself demands. For the professional-level individual enthusiast, Photoshop CS contains a dozen or more new features and enhancements of considerable value, many of which I'll describe in greater detail.


Installing And Working With Photoshop CS
Upon receiving the final release version of Adobe Creative Suite, I installed Photoshop CS, Acrobat 6.0, and InDesign CS on one of my Mac G4s, which had just been upgraded to run OS 10.3 (Panther). The Adobe Creative Suite system requirements provide support for Windows 2000 (with Service Pack 3) and Windows XP, running on a Pentium III or 4 processor PC; or on an Apple Mac G3, G4, or G5 with OS 10.2.4 or higher operating system. In other words, older computers running Windows X86 operating systems and Macs running OS 9 or earlier operating systems are not supported. The really good news, even though this is a big set of applications requiring a lot of disk space, is that Adobe Creative Suite installs easily, smoothly, and fault free.

When I first installed CS I was in the middle of a project of scanning and printing 35mm film. This allowed me to become familiar with the basic photographic processing functioning of Photoshop CS, which has not changed. Some of my scans, however, were high-bit raw output files, which I color corrected completely in Photoshop CS. I found that there is extended support for 48-bit Mode tools and processes, including all but the creative filter selections. The ability to do perspective control adjustments on 48-bit files, for example, is a great advantage.


New Features Of Interest To Photographers
Some of you might disagree with the new features I'll highlight here and wonder why I covered this one and not that one. Photoshop is like a word processing application, such as Microsoft Word, which I have used for years and, also like Photoshop, which I use almost every day. Even so, I only use a portion of the tools and capabilities provided by Word, and likewise by Photoshop. This, I think, is true of most users of an image-editing application. The bottom line is that I am not about to try to describe or extol the virtues or shortcomings of something I have no experience using myself.

1. The New Browser: Browsers are so common, almost ubiquitous, one could easily discount "newness" and pass on to other topics. However, besides being exceedingly well designed and providing both ease of use and comprehensive information support like EXIF and metadata, the Photoshop CS Browser is much more. It provides support and access to all documents in all formats that can be created or opened by every application in the Creative Suite. It also supports simple drag and drop arrangement of the displayed thumbnails and their files in any desired order. Even more significantly, you can select Automate from the Browser's menu that contains all of the automated process Photoshop CS supports including Batch Processing, Contact Sheet II, Picture Package, Web Photo Gallery, Photomerge (to build a panorama), and, what I find is potentially most valuable to photographers, PDF Presentation. All of these processes can be applied to one, a selection of several, or all of the files represented by thumbnails in a folder open in Browser.

For instance, with PDF Presentation you can create either a multi-page e-book or a slide show containing all of the images in a folder directly from Browser without ever having to open any of the images in Photoshop. Besides being easy and efficient, PDF Presentation creates an Acrobat .PDF file that is supported by all of the major computer platforms, including Mac, Windows, UNIX, and Linux. Also of key importance to photographers, Acrobat provides effective customizable security, so you the user can enable or deny edit access if you don't want any of your images copied, and enable or deny even the ability for someone receiving the .PDF file to print the contents.


2. Camera Raw: Less than a year ago Adobe created a Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop 7.01 (see my report on page 98 in the August 2003 issue of Shutterbug). In this new Photoshop CS, Camera Raw is an included, integral function that is launched automatically by opening a digital camera raw file (of those cameras supported). Although not listed as supported, I found Photoshop CS Camera Raw opened and recognized raw files made with my new Canon EOS Digital Rebel (D300) camera. This new Camera Raw is a redesigned, improved, and expanded version of last year's plug-in offering. The most obvious improvement is the histogram, which is now in a box to the right and above the controls for adjusting image values. The adjustment parameters have been expanded in to include detail, lens corrections, and calibration adjustments.

I was able to open and process raw files with Photoshop CS Camera Raw from four different cameras. I was also able to compare the resulting photographs as color corrected images with those that had been acquired and color corrected by other means. There were differences in the results from Photoshop CS Camera Raw with my previous images I have on file, not so much between cameras as between distinctly different subjects and shooting conditions.

These differences, I must assume, come from distinctions in how each source interprets the data. There does not seem to be any clear technical quality distinctions. In other words, if you like the "look" of the result, the obvious convenience and efficiency of Adobe Photoshop CS Camera Raw will be a significant advantage for most digital camera users.


3. Contact Sheet II: Although Adobe's press information did not mention it, the one automated utility I use most frequently, Contact Sheet II, has been again refined since its introduction two versions back. Again the Adobe programmers have expanded the size of the thumbnail images, reducing the amount of wasted white space in each contact sheet page generated. In addition, the utility seems to function more efficiently, and the choices to custom configure how the thumbnails are produced has been expanded to suit different kinds of image types, formats, and characteristics.

4. Color Replacement: For those of you who read my report on Photoshop 7.0 when it was released, you may recall that I took exception to the new Healing Brush, not finding it a useful or effective retouching tool. That criticism is and was based on 50 years experience photographing people and doing all of my own retouching. And, as far as I am concerned, my opinion still stands. However, in Photoshop CS, Adobe has added a new brush called Color Replacement to the Healing Brush group in the toolbox.

I find this new brush extremely effective, efficient, and imminently useful in retouching blemishes, adding and altering the coloration of makeup, and even to enhance or change eye color. For subjects other than portraits, like product illustrations, imperfections can be restored locally, easily and efficiently. The one thing I would recommend to improve the Color Replacement brush is an adjustment to allow varying the transparency of application so a user could build up the color gradually with multiple strokes of the brush.


5. Histogram: With previous versions of Photoshop the Histogram information graph window was accessed from the Edit menu, and it would not stay on screen as you made adjustments to image values. In Photoshop CS the Histogram Palette command is now found in the Window menu drop-down selection of Palettes, like Navigator. Click on the Histogram Palette and the window is put on the desktop. Then it may be docked in the Palette Well with other Palettes for one-click access. Or, you can now have the Histogram free-floating in the work space, where it will remain in view and reflect any edit/adjustment changes made to an open image. In addition, the Histogram now has many different view options, from a simple combined graph display of the total density distribution of an image to a breakout of each color channel displayed separately. You can even combine graphs in overlapping colored segments to illustrate the color content of the image open in the work space.

6. Match Color: One of the first commercial uses of digital editing was employed by automobile companies. They found that it was a way to simply change the paint color of the car for an ad without re-painting and re-photographing the car. That capability has now been made easy and direct with the Match Color that is a new Photoshop CS Image/Adjustment menu command. Knowing the history of this digital image process I tried it with a pair of shots of restored American 1940s cars. But, it can also be applied to many other more everyday uses, like matching garment and skin tones in a series of wedding candids to produce a more consistent color quality in an album.

The matching can also be applied to selections within two photographs. For instance, if you use Photoshop's Lasso tool to select just the skin-tone areas of each image, the Color Match process can be applied just to the selected areas of each image. In addition, if you are going to match a number of images to just one, the "Statistics for the Source" (the basis of the match) can be saved and then those Statistics can be loaded in the dialog and applied identically to any number of Target images.

7. Photo Filters: Another Photoshop CS Image/Adjustment command opens a dialog that allows the selection of most of the common filters photographers have used in front of their lenses. Unfortunately, these Photoshop Photo Filters are intended to apply to RGB color images. So those that are really useful photographically are the four "color" filters like the 81 and 85 warming and 80 and 82 cooling filters. As for the rest of the colors, like "green," I believe these Photo Filters will be used more by production designers and illustrators for "creative" purposes and by a few photographers who think it is "creative" to produce color distorted photographs.

Perhaps I shouldn't be so critical. Considering that Photoshop's Color Balance Image/Adjustment tool cannot be applied globally to alter an image's overall color balance, the Photo Filters can be used in that manner. By using the Density slider carefully, the Photo Filters can function as an effective additive global method of adjusting a photographic image's color balance as part of the color correction process. For instance, a photo image that is a bit strong in the reds could use a small percentage of cyan to neutralize it.


8. Shadow/Highlight Correction: One of the more intimidating and difficult tools in Photoshop has been Curves. Using Curves to adjust the relative brightness of different exposure levels, in backlit photographs for instance, requires a deft hand. Photoshop CS now has an Image/ Adjustment dialog tool comprised of two sliders that makes many of the tasks formerly accomplished with Curves much easier and more effectively executed.

However, I should caution that applying a Shadow/Highlight Correction to an image that has not been optimized using Levels can have a disastrous result. This may not be apparent in the on-screen image, but it can reproduce a print with inferior quality. So, as a general rule, if Shadow/Highlight Correction becomes a part of a color correction routine it should only be applied after Levels has been used to optimize the image data to fit and fill the gamut.

Photomerge: This utility is designed to stitch a series of individual images to create a panoramic view of a subject. It is not something I do as a photographer, so in this instance I used the resources provided by Adobe to perform a trial and found the process is quite easy. It seems to produce a high quality result in which the final image appears seamless. Many digital cameras have limited wide angle lens capability, so Photomerge is a great potential advantage with photographs of interiors and some outdoor scenes.

Enhanced Picture Package: This printing utility now has greater flexibility and is able to support customized layouts of photographs.

Evaluation & Recommendation
As I stated in the beginning of this report there are a dozen or more new features and improvements in the new Photoshop CS. I have not mentioned them all, especially those which may be of value to photographers who are using their images to support a website. To facilitate access to these features Adobe has provided a wealth of support information in documents and videos, which are a part of the Photoshop CS package.

Some of you may recall that when Adobe Photoshop 7.0 was released I found that the improvements were not sufficient to recommend an upgrade. With Adobe's introduction of the Creative Suite and Photoshop CS, I believe that photographers will benefit enough to find value in investing the $169 for the upgrade. In addition, some photographers, particularly professionals, can also benefit if they have reason to use some or all of the applications in the new Adobe Creative Suite like InDesign, GoLive, and Acrobat. The upgrade price is $549 for the standard suite, which is considerably less than the first-time full version of Photoshop CS, which is $10 more than the $619 full price of Version 7.0.

I don't expect that very many photographers will immediately agree with me that the most valuable aspect of Adobe's new Creative Suite and Photoshop CS is Acrobat. This program provides great support for communicating with photographic images at a high quality level, with good security protection in the bargain. The Acrobat capability from within Photoshop CS is a convenient and efficient way to make a slide-show presentation or a multi-page document. These capabilities are easily extended or multipurposed to become multimedia and hard copy print communications using the same original resources with little additional effort. The potential for photographers is only hinted at by the extent to which the software and digital imaging industries have already employed Acrobat for both documentation and information communications. With this, and other features, the new CS version of Photoshop contains solutions photographers have been looking for since the first days when digital became an influence and part of photography.

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