I bought it.
This is significant since, as we all know, it costs quite a bit of money. I’ve been using Photoshop for a few years, off and on, in various trial modes and through other, ahem, delivery methods. I cut my teeth on CS2 but never really became one of “those guys” who tweaks every single thing they can—especially after Photoshop Lightroom came around to streamline my workflow. I still need it, though; my photographs are far from perfect and even Lightroom will only get me so far. I typically say your photography should get you 80% there, Lightroom will bring you an extra 10–15%, and that top 5% is done in Photoshop. Since 90–95% ain’t bad, you can see why I stick around Lightroom and rarely leave its dark, warm comfort. CS5 had some too-cool-to-ignore hype surrounding it with some great new features aimed specifically at photographers. Here’s a quick rundown of the ones that I wanted to see first-hand:
- Content Aware Fill
- Content Aware Healing
- Merge to HDR Pro
- Lens Correction
- Fix my crappy Iceland photos filter
I added that last one myself.
First, content aware fill. It works—really! It’s not perfect and works best in certain situations; it’ll do a great job on a background that’s really out of focus and needs some more sky and blurry lines added to it… no problem. If you have a really shallow depth-of-field photo and are trying to fill space that overlaps with sharp focus and blurred out bokeh goodness? Forget it.
You’re going to get a mud-pie of random fill textures. You don’t need me to show you this: there are enough videos to fill your brain for hours.
The same really goes for the content aware healing brush—it’s probably my new favourite way to edit out zits and lines and might, in time, replace the clone tool for my minor needs when I can’t get around including an object in the frame (or, more likely, never noticed that I did). But again, if the brush gets too big and you start selecting larger areas of an image, you’re going to overwork this new tool and it’s going to give some funky, nasty results.
Merge to HDR Pro
Merge to HDR Pro works like a charm! Love ‘em or hate ‘em, High Dynamic Range imagery is here to stay, but Photoshop never had the right kind of “pop” to their algorithm for me to make the finished version interesting. I used a third-party plugin called “Photomatix” which is the industry go-to for HDR processing. With the release of CS5, I’m afraid that I no longer need Photomatix to get the desired results.
Check out a 7-shot HDR that I took on a weekend workshop I took with Younes Bounhar (to my knowledge Younes has not, and does not plan to shoot any HDRs). At the time I knew I wanted sky and foreground detail as well as something to reflect in the water, so I bracketed my shots like crazy and figured I’d get what I wanted. Loading it into Photomatix, I wasn’t able to pull off satisfactory results on the blend. Then I threw the same shots into CS5′s Merge to HDR Pro and the inital render was promising. Of course, a few tweaks here and there, some curves and levels adjustments helped make it really pop. I also wanted to give the expanse of the landscape more room, so I tried out the new-to-CS4-but-old-news-now content aware scale, to letterbox the image from 6×4 to 16×9. It’s not perfect; I didn’t remove the “ghosting” clouds in the sky (though HDR Pro has a Remove Ghosts feature that works brilliantly), but it’s definitely better than the rice-pudding–coloured stuff Photoshop used to produce and call HDR.
Right now, Lens Correction isn’t fully developed, and certainly not for my 6 year old brick of a camera. You can download and create your own profiles via Adobe and more will be available in a future release. Being able to do this in Camera RAW was my #1 request for Lightroom (my idea!); another reason for me not to have to go into Photoshop… but this is a Photoshop first impression so…
Every time there’s a new software release I go back to my crappy Iceland photos from 2007. Being inexperienced, I didn’t know what I was doing with my little Canon Rebel XT and ended up underexposing the entire trip. As Adobe Camera Raw evolves, my ability to extract decent shots out of failures expands too. Raw 6.0 uses a lot of the new interfaces we’ve seen in the Lightroom 3 Beta release; the rendering of RAW files is of a new calibre including a heightened ability to remove noise from high ISO images. That said, there’s only so much crap you can save from crap. Get it right the first time kids—looks like it’s time for another trip to Volcano Island.
Photoshop has become a very customizable program; you can create your own panels, modify the menu and toolbars to suit your needs. There are things I may never find or use and countless others I’ll discover over the next few months, but knowing they are there is definitely a value-add.
MiniBridge is a way to view and open files quickly from within Photoshop (no switching over to lame old “regular” Bridge to add an image). Workspaces come pre-defined, and you can edit and customize these all you want —I chose “Photography” as my workspace, natch ;). If you create images on any professional level you owe it to your clients to be able to meet their needs. This will include the type of touch-ups and changes Photoshop can provide. The new feature-set bring you tools that will make this job easier, and quicker. It will not “unsuck” your pictures, but it will save your ass when you need it to.
Is it worth buying?
That depends. Photoshop Elements is pretty cheap by comparison, and gives you a lot of the “fun” options of Photoshop. I recommend Lightroom whole-heartedly to anyone and push it like I get a commission (I don’t) for something that will process your images most of the way there, which is all the way for most of us.
Also, there are a lot of options to buy Photoshop bundled with other Adobe software—if you have need for any of these it’ll be cheaper to buy them as a set. Seeing as I’m just a photographer, I stuck with the à-la-carte choice of plain-old Photoshop (not the extended 3D magicry). I also joined the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, which on its own is alright, I guess, (sorry guys but your brother/sister company kelbytraining.com is where it’s at!) but really paid off with 15% off Photoshop. That discount applies to all Adobe products so my $100 digital subscription paid for itself; if you’re going to get it (aren’t you?) there’s no reason NOT to become a NAPP member first.
Of course, you can always try before you buy: Adobe gives you a free 30-day trial which is pretty generous considering I can’t get that with any of my other photographic accessories.
You can pick up Adobe’s Photoshop CS5 on Amazon.Follow @macgasm