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What's new for photographers in Photoshop CS5  
Sunday, April 11, 2010 | by Rob Galbraith
Content-Aware Fill and Puppet Warp are the attention grabbers of Photoshop CS5 and, as the recent online sneak peeks have shown, these new features will enable users of Adobe's flagship image editor to bend pixels in novel and creative ways. But if you're a news photographer, or any other kind of shooter trying to keep it real in your photographs, then neither feature is going to see much use - or shouldn't.

The good news is that Adobe's Photoshop CS5 efforts weren't limited to these two whizzy features. They've implemented numerous other improvements to the program, ones that will be useful to photographers simply trying to prepare pictures for the web, delivery to a client or onto the printed page.

Here are some of the things to look forward to when Photoshop CS5 ships next month, things that are not Content-Aware Fill and Puppet Warp:

Camera Raw 6 The RAW conversion plug-in within Photoshop CS5 includes improved noise reduction, better sharpening, more vignetting options and the ability to add grain to a photo. Camera Raw 6 is designed to be feature and conversion quality compatible with the upcoming Photoshop Lightroom 3 (which is available in beta form now).
In the RAW: The Camera Raw v6 plug-in. Click to enlarge (Screenshot courtesy Adobe)

Refined selections The revamped Refine Edge feature could be the sleeper hit of this release for photographers who make frequent and sometimes complex selective tone and colour changes using Adjustment Layers and layer masks. The new Smart Radius control in Refine Edge promises to automatically detect the type of edge being outlined, including objects that are difficult to isolate such as hair, and optimize the selection edge accordingly. Pair that with another Refine Edge addition, a function for detecting and removing colour fringing along selection borders, and if it all works as advertised then it will deliver better selections in less time.

Choosy: The revamped Refine Edge feature in Photoshop CS5. Click to enlarge (Screenshot courtesy Adobe)

Automated Lens Correction The Lens Correction filter, which now resides at the top level of the Filter menu, reads the photo's EXIF data and then automatically applies the right correction profile based on the camera and lens in use. The filter can automatically correct for geometric distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting (straightening fisheye lens photos is among the types of corrections possible, as demonstrated in the screenshot below).

Users can create their own camera+lens profiles using a utility called Lens Profile Creator that will be downloadable from the Adobe Labs website, as well as search for and install profiles created by other users.

Manual adjustment of correction parameters is also possible, as before.

Convergence: The Lens Correction filter automatically straightening a photo captured with the AF Fisheye-Nikkor 16mm f/2.8D. Click to enlarge (Screenshot courtesy Adobe)

HDR goes Pro High Dynamic Range imaging gets a boost in Photoshop CS5, owing to improved alignment and tone mapping in the new Merge to HDR Pro dialog, as well as a feature for removing the ghosting that comes from an object moving slightly from exposure to exposure in an HDR sequence.

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Home on the Range: The Merge to HDR Pro dialog. Click to enlarge (Screenshot courtesy Adobe)

It's possible to apply HDR-like effects to single photos in the new HDR Toning dialog (Image > Adjustments > HDR Toning). HDR Toning has most of the same controls of Merge to HDR Pro and is meant to enable HDR-style tone mapping even when you have only one photo of the scene to work with.

Support for 64-bit operation on both Mac and Windows By allowing Photoshop to utilize much large amounts of RAM, working with big photos and performing RAM-intensive tasks can be much faster within Photoshop CS5 running in 64 bit mode. A computer and OS capable of 64-bit operation is required, plus to take full advantage of the benefits you'll need to have copious amounts of RAM installed.

Photoshop CS5 does not run on Macs with PowerPC processors. Photoshop CS4 for Windows was already 64-bit capable.

Bridge to Bridge: The Mini Bridge panel. Click to enlarge (Screenshot courtesy Adobe)
The File Browser returns Adobe has brought back photo browsing from within Photoshop.

This capability went away when the separate Bridge application was introduced alongside Photoshop CS2 in 2005. Now with Photoshop CS5 you get both Bridge, which lives on as its own application, and the new Mini Bridge panel, a reincarnation of the File Browser palette from Photoshop CS, but with a new name, updated design and a direct path to Bridge itself.

Other changes and workflow tweaks include:
  • A new Protect Detail option has been added to the Sharpen tool that, when enabled, prevents this tool from creating massive sharpening artifacts.
  • Scanner support has been buffed up to TWAIN 64.
  • It's no longer necessary to first convert a 16 bits per colour photo to 8 bits per colour before saving it as a JPEG (which doesn't support more than 8 bits per colour). Now, the conversion to 8 bits per colour can happen behind the scenes when saving a 16 bits per colour photo to this file format.
  • cs5_ruler_button.jpg
    Straighten Up: The Straighten button on the Ruler options bar (Screenshot courtesy Adobe)
    A Straighten button has been added to the Ruler tool, making it quicker to perform the longtime straightening trick of drawing a ruler line along an element that should run straight across the photo, such as the horizon, but is currently crooked. Once the ruler line has been placed, clicking Straighten rotates the photo the needed amount, and takes the place of navigating to the Arbitrary Image Rotation dialog and running the straightening operation from there.
  • Trackpad gesture support in both the Mac OS and Windows 7 can be disabled.
  • cs5_crop.jpg
    Guidance: A Rule of Thirds or Grid overlay can be displayed while cropping (Screenshot courtesy Adobe)
    Rule of Thirds (shown at right) and Grid overlays can optionally be displayed while cropping.
  • The Save As dialog can be set to always default to the folder in which you last saved a photo.
  • Selecting a printer automatically lists the profiles installed for that printer at the top of the list of profiles.
  • Assuming sufficient screen real estate, workspace names can be displayed as a row of buttons, making it quicker to switch to a different workspace. Changes to a workspace can also be automatically saved.
  • Configurator, the custom panel creation utility introduced with Photoshop CS4, is revved to version 2. It's not clear what, if any, major changes have been made. Configurator 2 will be available as a free download from the Adobe Labs website.
Coming this quarter

Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Mac and Windows is slated to ship mid-May 2010. A new license of the standard version is US$699 direct from Adobe's U.S. online store, or US$199 if upgrading from Photoshop CS2 or later. A new license of the Extended version is US$999, or US$349 if upgrading from Photoshop CS2 or later.

Adobe is staging an online launch event for Creative Suite 5 on Monday, April 12, 2010 that will feature both Terry White and Julieanne Kost of Adobe showcasing what's new in Photoshop CS5. Register here to watch the event.

Adobe has also posted a number of videos about the new version in the Photoshop CS5 Feature Tour section of the Adobe TV website.

Revision History
April 13, 2010: Added link to Photoshop CS5 videos.

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