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What's New in Photoshop CS?

by Ken Milburn, author of Digital Photography: Expert Techniques

It seems like each new version of Photoshop offers fewer new features than the last. As you already learned from Photoshop 7, however, quality counts much more than quantity. It's really all about getting more done while doing it better and in less time. Most, if not all, the new features in the CS version (a.k.a. version 8) are features that enhance and/or enforce a better workflow system. So, in a way, you can consider this article the fourth in my series on improving your Photoshop workflow. (See Related Articles sidebar for links to series articles.)

I'll cover each of the following most significant new features (at least as far as the photographer in me is concerned):

Enhanced File Browser

The Camera RAW converter is now built into the program, saving owners of higher-end digital cameras the $100 cost of buying the plugin required by Photoshop 7. The new features in the Camera RAW palette are covered in a previous article on O'Reilly Network. Other new File Browser features include a new menu bar within the File Browser automation, and easier and faster image rotation. You can now add keywords and metadata to files, making it much easier to search files for a particular characteristic.

Figure 1 shows how you can make oversized custom thumbnails for making critical comparisons between similar thumbnails and how you can drag the tabs for Folders, Keywords, Metadata, and the Preview into one another's windows in order to arrange them in any way that works best for you. You can then save the arrangement to a list of different workspace arrangements. So you could have one File Browser arrangement of small thumbnails with a large folder window for quickly finding files, another with nothing but large thumbnails for making critical comparisons between similar files, and so forth.

Figure 1: The newly redesigned File Browser showing one of many possibilities for sizing thumbnails and arranging windows.

Batch processing now also works from the new File Browser Menu Bar. You can run Batch commands that apply Actions to all the selected files in the browser. These Batch commands can create a PDF Presentation (slide show), contact sheet, merge photos into a panorama, create a picture package (several different subjects and/or sizes on a single sheet of paper), or create a Web Photo Gallery, all from the files selected in the Browser, rather than having to first collect them into their own folders.

You can now Apply Rotation to any files previously rotated only in the Browser. This will cause the files to be seen as rotated when they're viewed by Photoshop Album or in any photo-editing software other than the current version of Photoshop. That is because the image itself has actually been rotated, rather than simply having its thumbnail rotated.

Increased configurability of the File Browser means that it's much easier to work with the Browser when working with a limited number of files that will be dedicated to a specific project, such as a presentation, portfolio, or collection. There's now a Light Table feature that allows you to drag thumbnails into any order you like. That makes it easy to put all the shots of a particular subject, shooting angle, lighting condition (or what have you) into a unique order. That makes it easier to see and compare all the shots that might compete for a certain purpose, that might need to have their colors or settings matched, and so forth. Furthermore, you can customize the size of thumbnails and what components are shown in the Workspace. You can also save customized configurations so that you can pick them from a list. Thus, you can have different configurations for different purposes so that, once configured and saved, you can just pick them from the list.

A New Search feature with the File Browser is extraordinarily powerful. It lets you search files by virtually any combination of the following criteria: File name, file size, date created, date modified, file type, flag, rank, keywords, description, other metadata, EXIF metadata. You can even have several versions of the same criteria in the search list. For instance, the first three criteria in the list could be filename, each instance searching for a different name. You access this search feature from within the browser and the results are all shown in the light table in the browser. Note that this search feature becomes even more powerful when you consider that you can now edit and add to metadata. That means that you can create your own alphanumeric codes and keywords for finding files by endless variations of categorical criteria. You can best get an idea of how powerful this browser search can be in Figure 2. The search results are all shown in the File Browser's window, where you can use all the powerful new features--including automation--directly applied to any combination of the found files.

Figure 2. The File Browser's Search dialog (as you can see, you can easily set up numerous conditions).

Note: Be sure you make a list of all the keywords you use in your metadata. Then you'll know exactly what keywords to include in your search, and which ones to leave out.

Expanded Ability to Edit 16-Bit Files

You can now use Photoshop's most essential editing commands to edit 16-bit files. This means that you can do a lot more editing non-destructively, especially when the editing means making major changes in brightness and contrast which, in 8-bit files, could cause posterization by creating a gap between the 8-bit limit of 256 brightness levels when the adjustment causes some of the 256 levels to be compressed together. 16-bit images, by contrast, have thousands of brightness levels, so even when some of these are compressed together, there's rarely a gap between any of the 256 levels that we can actually see.

Automatic Color Matching

You can now make the color balance in one image match the color balance in another. You do it by opening a pair of images and choosing Image > Adjust > Match Color, which brings up the Match Color dialog shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. The Match Color dialog.

In the dialog, you choose the file you want to match in color from the Source menu and the file you want to match it to in the Destination menu. You can use selections to match the color in only one part of the source image with the colors in either a selected part of the destination image or in the overall color scheme of the destination image.

As you might suspect, the results work best when the two images come reasonably close in subject matter, background color, and lighting contrast. Otherwise, the program will probably do a poor job of second-guessing which colors should be made to match those in specific areas of the target image.

Color Matching works nearly perfectly when you're trying to match slightly different exposures in the same shoot, or when something like a passing cloud or a flashing light affects the color in some of the frames in that series but not in others. If you try to make it a magical solution for matching colors between any two dissimilar images, you're in for some big (and probably unpleasant) surprises.

New Interactive Histogram Palette

The Histogram palette now instantly reflects any image adjustment as you make it. For instance, you can open the Histogram palette, then the Curves palette, make changes in the levels, and see the changes in the histogram as you work. The result is that you always have a clear idea of what the dynamic range of the image is and where the pixels are concentrated over any range of values. You can even show the Histogram in colors, so that you can see the distribution of colors at the same time as you see the overall histogram. This works equally well for any of the commands on the Image > Adjustments menu. Figure 4 paints the picture better than these words can.

Related Articles:

The Ideal Digital Photographer's Workflow, Part 3 -- You can achieve greater control over the quality of the images produced by your new digital camera if you shoot them in RAW format. Trouble is, it can take an inordinate amount of time to convert RAW images into something your image-editing program can use. In Part 3 of Ken Milburn's series on creating ideal digital photography workflows, he details several steps you can take to save hours of RAW-process work after every shoot. Ken is the author of the upcoming Digital Photography: Expert Techniques.

The Ideal Digital Photographer's Workflow, Part 2 -- Ken Milburn follows up on suggestions he made in Part 1 of this two-part series about creating a minimally destructive workflow for the work you do inside image-editing software. Here he offers five nondestructive editing steps to take once you've downloaded your images. Then he provides some second-stage editing techniques to enhance the impact your images will have on your clients, or your friends and family. Ken is the author of the upcoming Digital Photography: Expert Techniques.

The Ideal Digital Photographer's Workflow, Part 1 -- Ken Milburn offers a workflow that digital photographers can follow for preparing for a shoot and determining a shooting procedure, and for downloading, cataloguing, tracking, and archiving the image files that result. Ken is the author of the upcoming Digital Photography: Expert Techniques.

Figure 4. The new Histogram palette in expanded view with the All Channels and Colors option chosen. When opened, the Histogram instantly changes to reflect any adjustment to the image.

Shadow/Highlight Correction Command

Although they can still be useful techniques, you no longer have to rely on using a white layer in Soft Light Mode to lighten over-dark shadows or using a duplicate layer in Multiply mode to darken over-bright highlights. You don't even have to switch to Photoshop Elements so that you can use the Fill Flash command. The new Shadow/Highlight dialog (Image > Adjustments > More Options box at the bottom of the palette (see Figure 5) gives you considerably more control over the detail in both the darkest and lightest areas of the image. There are two operational modes in the Shadow/Highlight dialog. In basic mode, there are just two sliders; one for shadows and the other for highlights. For those rare occasions where that's just not enough control, you click on the More Options box to reveal sliders for Color Correction and Midtone Contrast. You also get entry fields for Black Clip and White Clip.

Figure 5. A view of both versions of the Shadow/Highlight dialog.

Text on a Path

At last! A powerful new feature with virtually no learning curve! If you want to place text on a path, you don't have to switch to Illustrator, create the text on the path, and then import it into Photoshop (where it gets rasterized in the process, whether you like it or not). Nor is there any complex dialog with lots of options. Now you can simply draw any path with the Pen tool, choose any of the text tools (horizontal, vertical, solid or selection), click at any point on the path, and the text will follow the direction of that path in the order in which the points along the path were placed. If you reshape the path, the text will move along with it. If you want to change the size or style of the text, all you have to do is edit it by highlighting and changing it just as you would any text that's not on a path.

Lens Blur Filter

If you're a photographer or work with photographs a great deal, you're probably quite accomplished at "controlling" depth-of-field by selecting the area you want to keep in focus, inverting the selection, and then throwing the contents of the inverted selection out of focus with the Gaussian Blur filter. Of course, this technique still works as it always did. The problem is that there was no way to "adjust" the blur so that objects became fuzzier as their distance from the central point of focus increased.

In Photoshop CS you now have a filter called Lens Blur (choose Filter > Blur > Lens Blur) that does just that. You place a gradient layer over the photo before you run the command, then point to the place in the gradient where you want sharpness to be the greatest. Sharpness deteriorates as it moves away from that point. The result is a much more realistic depth-of-field simulation than one can hope to get by simply knocking the subject out of its surroundings and then blurring them uniformly. Of course, you can get a much better depth-of-field simulation by applying different amounts of blurring to different layers and then erasing through the layers from least out of focus to most out of focus. Trouble is, it takes a lot more time to do a credible job. At least, with Photoshop CS, you get a choice between an acceptable result with minimum time spent and a near-perfect result when time/money are no object. You can get a better feel for how the new filter works in Figure 6, below.

Figure 6. A layer mask is used to separate the out-of-focus area.

Customizable Keyboard Shortcuts

You can now create your own lists of keyboard shortcuts by choosing Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts. You can add to the existing shortcuts by creating shortcuts for commands, tools and palettes that you find yourself using frequently. You can also create sets of shortcuts that are useful for special-purpose operations.

Of course, you might worry that you'd kill one of your favorite shortcuts by accidentally assigning it to another operation. Two safeguards are built-in: First, you can create your own sets so that you can activate them only when performing a certain routine. But even if you try to assign an existing shortcut to another operation within the same set, Photoshop CS pops up a warning that you are about to do this (see Figure 7). Then you simply choose a different shortcut.

Figure 7. The Keyboard Shortcuts dialog: note the warning and dialog that pop up if you try to enter an existing shortcut.

History Log

I think this is one of the hottest new features in CS, but perhaps that's because I'm an author. I can now have the program record every modification I make to an image and in the exact sequence in which it's done. I can save that data in one of two ways: either as part of the file's metadata (a pre-formatted database of info that's recorded by the photographic and editing process as the image goes through its workflow) or, (if I want to keep the information to myself and the file size to a minimum), to an external file.

Getting this to happen is dead simple. You just choose Preferences > General. In the general preferences dialog Log Options pane, choose either Metadata or Text file or both. Then you can choose Sessions, Concise, or Detailed. Sessions simply logs the time and date for each time the file was opened. Concise includes the Sessions info as well as the History palette entries for each session. Detailed will include all the text that would also appear in the Actions palette if you were recording an Action. (Needless to say, this is a great help in recording Actions after the fact). By default, all of these boxes are unchecked. Figure 8 shows you what this box looks like.

Figure 8. History Log options are chosen from the pane shown at the bottom of the General Preferences dialog.

This information can be a great help when it comes to billing clients. It helps you remember what you did and what to bill for. It also helps to reinforce the validity of your charges if the client questions them. The same information is also useful when you see a wonderful result several months after achieving it and want to apply the techniques that were used to another image. Lastly, and most importantly, they're a great help in creating Actions. You can find a file that resulted in what you wanted, look up the History Metadata on the file, and record all the operations and settings in the required sequence as an Action. You'd then be able to recreate that effect dozens of times with no problem.

Customizable Help

You can create How To tips in any HTML editor and then save them to the additional How To folder that installs with Photoshop CS. If you follow the instructions for installing these files, they will then appear at the bottom of the Help menu. This could be a very helpful way to enter files that you've found particularly useful in a book such as my Digital Photography: Expert Techniques book.

Color Replacement Tool

The Color Replacement tool is a new addition to the Healing Brush tool group. It is closely related to the Healing Brush and the Clone tool in that it picks up color, either once or contiguously, from an anchor point that you establish by pressing Opt/Alt and clicking. The most frequent use for this tool would be to replace color, such as red-eye, but it could be equally useful for removing stains during photo restoration.

Related Reading

Adobe Photoshop CS One-on-One
By Deke McClelland

Improved Photomerge

The Photomerge command that originally allowed you to stitch sequential frames into panoramas in Adobe Photoshop Elements has now been incorporated into Photoshop CS. This version doesn't limit you to stitching only a few frames, however. Furthermore, it is much more capable of seamless stitching -- even if your camera rotation and exposure matching aren't entirely perfect. You can now choose a vanishing point and you can also choose Cylindrical mapping. There is still no QuickTime export for animated panorama tours, however.

Auto-Cropping and Straightening of Multiple Images

If you do much scanning of snapshots and cutouts, you're going to go ape over this one. You can simply drop a bunch of photos onto a flatbed scanner and scan the entire bed at once. Then, all you have to do is issue the File > Automate > Crop and Straighten command. Believe it or not, Photoshop CS will automatically find the edges of each image, crop them to straight lines, rotate the image so that it is absolutely vertical or horizontal (the program is smart enough to figure out which it should be-at least, most of the time) and then prompts you through saving each image as a separate file. Now that I shoot almost entirely digitally, I'll hardly use this feature. Still, I'm sure that some relative will want me to scan photos from their scrapbook. When that day comes, I'm sure going to save a lot of time and frustration.

New Photo Filters

For some time, you have been able to purchase third-party plugins that duplicate the effects of the most popular over-the-lens glass filters used in conventional photography. Now you can precisely duplicate the effects of the 81 and 85 warming filters and the 80 and 82 cooling filters as well as most of the solid-color filters. These new Photo Filters are found on the Image > Adjustments menu ... not on the Filters menu, so if you already have Photoshop CS you may not have noticed them.

Export from ImageReady to Flash

You've been able to export an ImageReady animation as a Flash animation in the past. The difference is that now you can export path animations as vector paths in true Flash Format -- and not just convert the file to a bitmap animation that will play in Flash.


This article has concentrated on the new features in Photoshop CS that most favor photographers, rather than those who use the program for graphic and web design work. Still, I think one can readily see that Photoshop is concentrating its developmental efforts on features that make workflow more efficient and less destructive. It's all about saving time and we all know that time is money.

Ken Milburn has been a photographer, both full- and part-time, for nearly five decades. In addition to countless articles, Ken has written 17 books on web design, Flash, Photoshop, and digital photography. His latest book, for O'Reilly, Digital Photography: Expert Techniques, was released in March 2004.

O'Reilly & Associates just released (March 2004) Digital Photography: Expert Techniques.

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