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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Photoshop CS5: What’s In It For You

As the newest update to the pro standard enters the creative marketplace, we look at how some of the new features will affect professional photographers

This Article Features Photo Zoom

New controls give a marked improvement to the edge-detection capabilities in CS5. You can work the radius adjustment via the Radius slider and get even finer control with the new Refine Radius tool.
Refine Edge And Mask
When you first look at the Refine Edge and Refine Mask dialogs (they’re identical except for the name, with the former being used to modify selections and the latter being used to modify layer masks), you might assume only cosmetic changes were made in Photoshop CS5. After all, at first glance, the controls are the same, with the only changes being to layout and appearance within the dialog.

In actual fact, there are some very significant updates behind the scenes that greatly increase the power and flexibility for refining selections and layer masks. The presence of a new Edge Detection set of controls hints at this. Instead of merely refining your selection or mask in a uniform way by adjusting various sliders, you can exert control over how the edges are identified. To begin with, you can adjust the Radius slider to determine how far outward from the existing edge Photoshop should evaluate in order to refine that edge. Turning on the Smart Radius check box will cause Photoshop to analyze the nature of the edge and utilize a variable radius along the edge so that crisp edges remain narrow and soft edges remain more gradual, for example.

Even better, there’s now a Refine Radius tool, which is a brush you can use to adjust the edge-detection radius in specific areas of the image. This is a perfect solution for situations where the object you’re trying to select or mask has an edge with fuzzy areas, such as feathers, fur or hair. After adjusting the settings to optimize the edge for most of the area you’re working on, simply paint with the Refine Radius tool over problem areas so Photoshop will evaluate those areas more broadly. If you’re familiar with the Extract filter (which no longer installs by default with Photoshop), this is similar in concept. The result is an ability to clean up challenging selections or layer masks with very little effort, and the refinements applied generally prove to be impressive.

Adobe Camera Raw continues to be improved. Some of the new ACR features seem redundant with similar capabilities in Photoshop, but in reality having these features in ACR makes your workflow more streamlined because you’re making changes up front instead of deeper into processing.
Adobe Camera Raw
If you’ve started to wonder if Adobe Camera Raw was trying to compete directly with Photoshop on account of the many new adjustments and features being added with each new release, you’re not alone. What you may not have realized is that these updates are driven in large part by the need for Adobe Camera Raw to maintain feature parity with Lightroom. This is necessary in order to enable a round-trip workflow between Lightroom and Photoshop. The result can create some confusion, but also a sense among photographers that they don’t need to use all of the features available in Adobe Camera Raw, which is actually a fair assessment.

However, you don’t want to overlook some of the improvements to Adobe Camera Raw that actually can be helpful in your RAW conversions. Most notable among these new features is vastly improved noise reduction and a subset of the lens-correction features you’ll find in the updated Lens Correction filter in Photoshop. While applying corrections for lens issues certainly can be applied after RAW conversion, it makes sense to get such adjustments out of the way early. And it most certainly makes tremendous sense to apply noise reduction as early in your workflow as possible. Ideally that means never having any noise in the original capture, but when that isn’t possible, you should explore the updated Noise Reduction settings in Adobe Camera Raw.

In most cases, the Luminance and Color sliders are all you really need to combat noise in the RAW conversion. However, for particularly noisy images, Adobe Camera Raw now offers the option to retain detail and contrast when removing luminance noise and to retain detail when removing color noise. The important thing is that the algorithms behind these sliders have improved considerably, enabling you to reduce noise in your RAW conversions as never before was possible in Adobe Camera Raw.


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