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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Photoshop CS4 Takes Off

Adobe alpha tester and all-around digital master Jeff Schewe takes us on a tour of the improvements to the new version of the Adobe Creative Suite, CS4


This Article Features Photo Zoom



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Color Range now has a Localized Color Clusters option, which allows you to constrain the distance from where the color is selected. The Content-Aware Scale tool allows several options over how objects are preserved. You can make a mask to protect certain objects or select the ability to protect skin tones.
The new Photomerge dialog adds the ability to automatically do Vignette Removal and Geometric Distortion Correction.
The new Auto-Blend Layers command with the new focus stacking option.
The result of the Auto-Blend command

Camera Raw 5
As the coauthor of Real World Camera Raw with Photoshop CS4, I’m kind of partial to the change included in the new version of Camera Raw. As might be expected, Camera Raw 5 gets the same base level of functionality found in Lightroom 2.0 that was released in late July 2008. That’s because, under the hood, both Camera Raw and Lightroom share the same processing pipeline. So, what Lightroom gets in terms of adjustments and tools, so does Camera Raw. That means local parametric adjustments using the Adjustment Brush and the Graduated Filter.

The UI is a bit different, but the base level functionality is the same. The local adjustments are done by adjusting one or more of the Control Channels, which are related, but not always exactly the same as the global adjustments.


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One of the seven images that was used for the focus stacking. The image was shot with a Canon 100mm macro
lens at ƒ/5, but shows very
limited
depth of field.
The result of focus-stacking the sharpest portion of all seven images. Ideally, you’d want to use images that had overlapping sharp sections and shots that were done on a tripod. However, the Auto-Align function can deal with
slight variations
of position.

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The new Camera Raw 5 Adjustment Brush is being used to slightly reduce the Exposure control where the brush is showing. Auto Mask constrains the mask to the range of the image color under the cursor crosshair. The Graduated Filter allows you to make a graduated adjustment.

Camera Raw also got a boost under the hood. The new version (well, actually, so did version 4.5) received its own virtual memory in order to increase the previous hard limit of 10,000 pixels. The new limit is 512 megapixels. Yes, you read that right, 512 million pixels. The odds are, you’ll be able to open your largest panoramic /images when saved in a flat TIFF format. It will open an image that’s 60,000 by 8,000 pixels in dimension. And the whole open JPEGs and TIFFs implementation has been improved as well.

Camera Raw 5 also gets, installed by default, the new DNG Profiles that were released as betas in the summer. If you’ve always hated the default colors that Camera Raw has produced, you’ll love the new profiles. They’re not ICC profiles; they’re a profile type used only in DNG and are part of the DNG 1.2 specification. The profiles named Camera Standard are a colorimetric emulation of the camera JPEG look in terms of tone and color rendering. They’re a close match to what you’ll see when looking on the back of the camera. Different cameras will have different camera-setting profiles as well. So, if you want to match the look of your camera JPEG or the camera maker’s software, that’s now an easy task.

And, if that’s not enough, you can download the free DNG Profile Editor (www.labs.adobe.com) and roll your own. Rather than dwell on the actual use of PE, you should visit the website (look for the DNG Profile Editor section) and check out the documentation written by Camera Raw engineer Eric Chan (Mad Man Chan as he’s known on some forums). The docs are very well done. You should note, however, that while editing profiles are relatively easy, they may not be for everybody—just a friendly “geek warning.”

The new color profiles will end the endless discussions about what Raw converter has better default color rendering. Camera Raw does now since you can use many various profiles or make your own. This is big news, and one wonders what the camera companies think about this.

Bridge CS4
Poor Bridge, it gets no respect, but Bridge CS4 has grown, even if what has been worked on is mainly under the hood. Bridge has long suffered from what many say is poor performance and stability—and that’s the primary work that has been done since CS3. The performance has been tuned to substantially improve preview reading and rendering. If you want to live with using the embedded previews (as opposed to spending the time generating high-quality previews), Bridge can do so just about as fast as any image browser out there. But even when the image must be parsed to generate HQ previews or even 100% previews (new in CS4), the speed has been improved.

Some new usability and functionality has been added. For example, new filtering criteria has been added, as well as improved navigation and searching. Both Photoshop CS4 and Bridge CS4 have new Flash-based metadata dialogs for File Info, but the Metadata Panels haven’t been substantially changed.

One new thing (that I’m rather partial to because the Bridge engineers kind of did it for me) is the addition of the Grid mode, allowing the ability to lock an image in a grid. No more seeing half of the top row and half of the bottom row. In the Grid mode, scrolling always will result in full thumbnail views.




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Many users of Camera Raw have complained that Camera Raw and the camera JPEGs never matched. Now, users can select from a variety of new profiles intended to emulate the on camera settings. Adobe released new camera profiles as betas when Lightroom 2.0 was shipped. These new profiles now are installed along with Camera Raw 5.
If the new profiles aren’t exactly to your liking, you can download and use the DNG Profile Editor. Visit the DNG Profile Editor pages on the www.labs.adobe.com website and read the excellent documentation.
The new Output workspace allows you to create a Web Gallery and PDF output. This figure shows the controls for the Web Gallery.

I liked its code name of Grid Lock, but some at Adobe thought that name had some negative connotations. Whatever. I like the new Grid locked views. Bridge CS4 also has received a facelift when it comes to generating web galleries and PDF slideshows.
adobe As the new version of the Creative Suite comes out, we’ll have broader coverage of the features in future issues of Digital Photo Pro.

Conclusion
Is the new version of Photoshop CS4 worth the price and hassle? Well, what would you expect me to say? There are some obvious advantages and improvements and some useful refinements, and Adobe must be congratulated for coming up with even more goodies after all these years. Heck, Photoshop is now over 18 years old (old enough to vote, too young to drink), and the guy who originally wrote it is still involved and doing neat things. Ya gotta love that!

Jeff Schewe is a reformed advertising photographer in Chicago (meaning he doesn’t really do ad work anymore). A longtime alpha/beta tester for Photoshop, Camera Raw, Bridge and Lightroom, Schewe is the co-author (along with the late Bruce Fraser) of Real World Camera Raw with Photoshop CS4 (Peachpit) and will coauthor with Martin Evening a new Photoshop for Photographers—The Ultimate Workshop (Focal Press), due in early 2009. In addition, Schewe is a founding member of Pixel Genius, LLC, along with Fraser, Martin Evening, Andrew Rodney, Seth Resnick and new member Mac Holbert of Nash Editions. Pixel Genius’ PhotoKit Output Sharpening logic was incorporated in the recently released Adobe Lightroom 2.0, and Fraser and Schewe consulted in the capture sharpening in Camera Raw.



 

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