November 02, 2008
CS4: What’s in it for Photographers?
I thought photographers might like to have a single, consolidated list of all the enhancements in Photoshop CS4 & Bridge CS4 that can help improve their productivity. Photographer/author/fellow Photoshop PM Bryan O’Neil Hughes kindly stepped up with a guest blog entry, below. It’s a long list, so I’ve put it into this post’s extended entry. Read on for the good 411… –J.
- Camera Raw 5: The comprehensive raw conversion engine in Photoshop and Bridge leaps forward with the ability to edit individual regions–dodging, burning, painting saturation, applying graduated filters, and more. ACR supports more than 200 proprietary raw formats, plus JPEGs and TIFFs.
- GPU acceleration: No more jagged pixels at various zoom levels. Instead, what you see is what you get at any zoom ratio, from .07% all the way up to 3200% (and everywhere in between). This gives us previews of cloned/healed data clipped to the brush and faster performance from the color management engine, HDR preview adjustments, and much more!
- 64-bit (Windows): If you’re running Windows on a 64-bit OS (officially Vista, XP64 possible but unsupported) you can now address ridiculously large amounts of memory. [Look for more performance benchmarks soon. –J.]
- Dramatically improved Dodge, Burn and Sponge tools: More power, fidelity and control linked to the speed and flexibility of Photoshop’s fast and flexible pressure-sensitive paint engine. “Protect Tones” gives you dodging and burning where you need it (while preserving the areas you don’t) and the Sponge tool can now saturate or de-saturate with the intelligence of the Vibrance logic (from Camera Raw and Lightroom).
- Adjustments Panel: The power of adjustment layers comes to a non-modal panel. That is, all of Photoshop is alive and available while you edit non-destructively. 22 new presets (all user-configurable, of course) and on-image controls for both Curves and Hue/Saturation. 89% less mouse travel than a menu-driven layers workflow. Faster, more powerful and no longer forcing you into a limited dialogue.
- Vibrance adjustment layer: The intelligent preservation control that we know and love in both Lightroom and Camera Raw comes to Photoshop in the form of an adjustment layer. Skin tones, we can now see you!
- Masking Panel: Quick and powerful masks from selections in this new, live, re-editable panel. Whether you’re creating detailed masks from scratch (pixel or vector), using the powerful and much improved Color Range control, Feathering or adjusting Density of your masks or even Refining what you have, the Mask panel offers a live spot for powerful one-stop selective editing.
- Alignment: CS3 took the alignment of multiple images far, and CS4 goes even further. CS4 offers better results, more choices for projection, even built-in profiles for common wide angle lenses. CS4 can even remove vignetting and geometric distortion as it aligns. For example, here’s the same set of images aligned in CS3 vs. in CS4 (no auto-blending applied), courtesy of photographer Ian Lyons. Most importantly, this can all be handled automatically by Photoshop, whether handing off from Lightroom or from Bridge.
- Blending: CS3 made panoramas and composites smooth, and CS4 makes those even smoother while doing entirely new things like blending focus from multiple images! From the practical (multiple product shots with varying depth of field blended to “buy” more focus) to the surreal (shallow depth of field for a subject in the foreground and the background, with a smooth bokeh between!). There’s a new option called “Seamless Tones & Colors” as well, it blends exposure data – imagine two shots, one taken with a flash, the other without – you can now quickly enjoy the benefits of both in one image! As with Alignment, there’s no guesswork with the options, because Photoshop knows best, automatically, by default.
- Content-Aware Scaling: You may have seen the wild demo-candy of sand and surf flying in and out of images as they’re dramatically rescaled, but you’re a serious shooter and you want to know what’s in it for you. That full-frame 11×17, 8×12, 5×8 that needs to fit into the 11×14, 8×10 or 5×7 frame…Content-Aware Scaling. That wedding photo for the groom’s iPhone rescaled without cutting his head off?…yep, CAS. The fixed spot you have in the magazine layout that invariably loses an arm, a head or a loved one’s face – we have your feature!
- Designed for multiple monitors: As many as 50% of professional photographers use more than one monitor, and CS4’s new interface is optimized for this. For example, palette/panel groups can float and be minimized/expanded across monitors (screenshot). With the new UI and workspace switcher, custom configurations have never been easier or more capable.
- Print: With more resolution in still images than ever before, and panoramas being easier than ever, people are printing larger than ever – so is Photoshop! Co-developed alongside the major print manufacturers, Photoshop’s print engine continues to grow more powerful and stable with CS4. From gamut warnings to more powerful automation, we’ve been working hard to make printing work for you. If you’re running OSX.5 and have a supported printer, you now have the option of printing 16-bit data – fine-art photographers rejoice!
- Auto-stacking and processing of HDRs and Panoramas: Instead of going through a shoot, manually identifying the sets of images that constitute panoramas and/or HDR merges, then handing off each set to Photoshop one at a time, let Bridge do the work for you. Bridge can examine both image content and EXIF metadata to identify image groups, then automatically create stacks of images. Once these stacks exist, you can hand them off to Photoshop to be batch processed into panos and HDR files.
- Output: Bridge can now create PDF contact sheets or Web photo galleries. Web galleries can use Flash or HTML, and Bridge can even upload them to your Web server via FTP. PDFs can contain document security options (for example, disabling printing for a book of proofs).
- Full-screen previews & Review Mode: Tap the spacebar to see any image in full-screen mode. Click anywhere on the image to zoom in to 100% view (great for checking sharpness). Meanwhile the new Review Mode (screenshot) makes it easy to cycle through images, rating & labeling while whittling down a selection by using the arrow keys to knock out shots that don’t fit. Both modes leverage your system’s GPU for smooth hardware acceleration.
- Collections: In addition to the saved searches it has always supported (now dubbed Smart Collections), Bridge offers regular Collections as well–simple virtual folders into which you can drag images and other files. An image can exist in multiple collections at once, and you can generate a collection automatically when exiting Review Mode.
- Video: As before you can preview and see still representations of the videos from your cameras (hmmmm D90 and 5D Mk. II!)
- Adobe Camera Raw is just a click away: with a keyboard shortcut (R) from the new preview modes or with the click of the new task-based button, no more worrying about preferences.
Photoshop CS4 Extended:
Maybe you’re a student or have acquired Photoshop as part of a suite, if so there’s a good chance you have CS4 Extended. While we design CS4 to satisfy all of the needs of photographers, there are a couple of noteworthy features in CS4 that you should know about:
- Video: CS3 Extended added support for the import and export of video (thinking back to the suite, if you had Flash on board we could even export Flash video content). CS4 adds a number of enhancements including sound and a much-improved display of non-square pixels. I mention this, because video is very quickly becoming a big part of pro shooter’s lives. I have a strong suspicion that the D90 and 5D Mk. II are just the start.
- 3D: “What does 3D have to do with 2D”, you ask? CS4 Extended can now create 3D postcards from 2D files – essentially adding another axis to your image to enjoy real-time, non-modal 3D control of your image. For photographers this is similar to a quick WYSIWYG perspective control or even a really fast and fluid way to invert what you see. It also makes it easy to add lighting effects in a highly editable, comprehensive way.
- Spherical panorama editing: You can now wrap images onto a 3D sphere inside which you place your camera. And why would you want to do that? Simply put, you can now use all your Photoshop 2D tools and techniques (painting, cloning, healing, merging layers, etc.) to adjust the projected data, making it much easier to retouch the image in its final form, rather than trying to tweak the unwrapped 2D form.