Monday, April 30, 2012

Photoshop CS6 Beta-First Impressions

I have shot in camera raw since going digital in 2003.  Initially I tried the Canon software that came with the camera, but this was too slow and clunky, so I switched to photoshop.  Ordinarily I do not upgrade to the latest version of Adobe Photoshop until I am forced to do so. The incentive to upgrade comes when you buy a new camera model and discover that  Adobe Bridge will not open the files.  A prime example is in the case of CS3.  This version of CS supported the Canon 10D, and 40D, but since CS3 had been replaced with CS4, by the time I purchased by 7D in late 2009, I found I was not able to open 7D raw files as Adobe does not offer updates to camera raw for old versions of Photoshop.  Adobe's position on this is that they do not force one to buy the latest version of Photoshop, as they offer a free DNG converter, which converts the raw files from any camera into an Adobe DNG  file, which is a raw file that will open in any version of bridge.  While this does work, it creates another step in the workflow, so I quickly upgraded to CS4.

I broke with this pattern when CS5 came out.  My brother Coy of Country Captures shot JPEGs in his 30D and processed them with the old Photoshop 7, but he decided to change to  shooting raw shortly after CS5 came out.  I watched him working one evening and realized that CS5 was a great improvement over CS4.  For one thing the images from it simply looked much better, and there was greatly improved noise reduction, and sharpening available in the camera raw processor along with other features.  I learned an important lesson at this point as I had been using CS4 much the same as I had CS3 and didn't realize that there were a lot more features available in camera raw, such as the local adjustments window, which enabled one to do dodging and burning, etc.  in camera raw.  I had purchased Scott Kelby's CS3 book, but not the one for CS4.  I bought the book for CS5 and found it to be extremely valuable as it told about new features and improved workflows. To my surprise, some of these were available in CS4 also, but I was locked into the same workflow I used in CS3 and missed  these important features.  The point is that if one does not buy a book, watch online tutorials, or participate in discussion groups, it is easy to get the latest version of software, continue with your ingrained workflow, and miss many of the new features that will improve or simplify your work.

Recently I became aware that CS6 was available in a beta version, which one can test free of charge.  It is essentially a trial version of CS6 extended, but Adobe recommends that once CS6 is launched that one should un-install the beta version and download the actual release version, although it is possible to purchase the serial number and activate the beta version.

At any rate I have been using Adobe Photoshop CS6 beta for over a week and am very impressed with it for the most part.  Perhaps it is just me, but I think there has been a further improvement in image quality since CS5.  Perhaps most noticeable is the change in the appearance of the interface, which now has a dark elegant appearance.

CS5 Interface-Note light grey color scheme

CS6 Interface-dark elegant appearance

 Menu and  Crop Tool Options Bar
It is possible to customize the appearance if one does not like the new interface, but I for one think it is a great improvement and will use it as is.

As is usually the case there is somewhat of a learning curve as some controls are not where one expects them to be. I immediately ran into this with the new and "improved" crop tool.  Perhaps in time I will come to prefer it to the one in CS5, but only time will tell.

The crop tool has several overlay options including the rule of thirds, the golden ratio, and golden spiral, which can be useful aids in achieving a pleasing composition.  I use the rule of thirds in most cases.  This feature was first introduced in CS5, but it only had one overlay option, which was the rule of thirds.  Another major change is that the resolution box is gone in the options bar.  Photo size is still there, but to view the resolution one must click on custom in the options bar, which opens a drop down menu where one can access it, or it is simpler to press the R key, which will open a crop image size and resolution box in the top third of the workspace (at least on my machine).

Another important change is that one can grab any of the corners of the crop box and drag it diagonally.  In all previous versions of photoshop, at this point one composed the photograph by moving the crop box over the photograph,  but now one must move the photo about within the crop box to position the image.  Initially this is very confusing as it is easy to reflexively try to do it the traditional way.  One  can select "classic mode" so that it performs like previous versions, but on my machine it k reverts to the default mode when I close an image, so that I must select classic each time I open a new image.  I think I will adapt to the new method, but I do I hope Adobe puts the resolution box back in the options bar,

Based on my experience to date, I think this is a worthwhile upgrade and I intend to purchase it when it is officially released.  At the time I downloaded the beta version, they said that this would be within 30 days, so it should be before the end of May.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


Lindsjö taxar said...

Interesting! I still use Picasa and think of purchase Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 to create more. I hava a 60D since 3 weeks upgraded from my first 1100. Now I take photo lessons to learn more.
Should I purchase elements 10?

Willard said...

I have no experience with Elements 10--I started with the first version of Elements which was 3.0 if I recall correctly and soon upgraded to the full version of Photoshop.

If you are serious about photography, I think you need to use something more than Picas as an editing program. Lightroom is something else to consider as many are happy with it. Whatever program you end up getting, be sure to buy a good book about it or take training as the professional programs are not as intuitive as the entry level ones, but they give you so much more ability to work with you images and they are well worth the learning curve.