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Learning Lab

What's New in Photoshop CS?
Pages: 1, 2

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.

  • For more information or to order the book, click here.

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