Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Photoshop At 20

Insiders at Adobe discuss the evolution of software that has become as vital to photography as a lens

Kevin Connor, the Vice President of Product Management for Professional Digital Imaging at Adobe, has been at the company since 1995. Recalls Connor, “Photoshop 5.0 was the most overwhelming and stressful release I was involved in. A lot of people were burning the midnight oil trying to get the release out. One night, sometime after midnight, I started wandering outside my office. A couple of the engineers had finished the last of their fixes and were planning to make a run to Taco Bell for some munchies. They asked me if I wanted anything, but I said no, that I was going to head home. When I came back the next morning, I found out the two engineers were in Mexico. Apparently, they were done with their work and decided Taco Bell wasn’t enough, and got a flight to Mexico early the next morning instead.”

Impact On Photographers
Despite the name, Photoshop really didn’t start out as a tool aimed at photographers. At first, the focus was on desktop publishing. The next major phase was when the web exploded. Photoshop hadn’t been designed as a web graphics tool, but it was put to use for this purpose, and new features were added that started the evolution into a better tool for raster (pixel-based) graphics. Now, the era we’re in is photography, but Adobe is starting to reach into what may well be the “next big thing,” with extended features for 3D imaging and video.

More important than the history of Photoshop as a product—at least from the perspective of photographers—is the impact it has had on their workflow and their art.

Photographer Jeff Schewe, who has been working with Photoshop from the very beginning and has had tremendous influence on the feature set for many, suggests, “The thing Photoshop did was democratize the power of digital imaging and manipulation. Prior to Photoshop, digital imaging was an expensive and complicated process. After Photoshop, virtually anybody with a reasonable home computer could do remarkable image manipulation.”
....Adobe is starting to reach into what may well be the “next big thing,” with extended features for 3D imaging and video.
Photo-realistic artist Bert Monroy coauthored with David Biedny the very first book on Photoshop, The Official Adobe Photoshop Handbook, and he has been continuously involved in pushing the limits of Photoshop ever since, both in his artwork and in the input he provides to Adobe. As Monroy puts it, “Photoshop changed my world entirely. It changed the entire graphic arts industry. For me, it was the maturing of a medium that allows us to create whatever we can imagine. The past 20 years have seen Photoshop mature from a really cool application to the world’s most powerful tool in the arsenal of creative people. It’s a tool that has found its way into our lives so deeply that it has become a verb.”

The history of Photoshop is also the history of an industry that seems to be in a constant state of change. Before Photoshop was even a concept, let alone an actual product, photographer Kevin Ames was creating multi-image photographs on single sheets of film with a 4x5 view camera. Says Ames, “A generation ago, photography was dominated by Kodak and Fujifilm. Today, Photoshop is the burning sun at the center of digital photography. Photography is the universal language. Photoshop helps us all communicate much more eloquently.”


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