Product Added : March 14th, 2013
Category : Software
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Adobe Photoshop CS6—the world’s best digital imaging software—delivers magic that helps you bring your creative vision to life. Edit raw image files and other photos with state-of-the-art photo editing. Create compelling HDR images, black-and-whites, and panoramas. Retouch images with astonishing ease and control. Design anything you can imagine—at amazing speed. Paint and draw naturally and expressively. Even put your ideas in motion by intuitively creating stunning videos.
DO YOU NEED IT?
If you’re a photographer, probably not. You want Lightroom.
In the past five years, almost all of the major editing tools that photographers once used in Photoshop have migrated to Adobe Raw Converter (ACR). The ACR engine is practically an application in itself. It supports all major file types and has every color and tone control you’ll ever need, as well as basic content adjustments like cloning and red-eye removal. Lightroom is ACR combined with an organizing database and batch conversion tools. It effectively replaces the former workflow, which was Adobe Bridge (a basic picture organizer), ACR (running as a separate pop-up application with batch capability), and Photoshop (for content adjustments).
I really can’t overemphasize how powerful ACR is, even with advanced functions like profiled lens corrections (e.g., CA, distortion, vignetting, perspective). If the content of the photograph is sound, there’s rarely any reason to boot Photoshop.
SO WHAT’S IT GOOD FOR?
Quite a lot. The audience for Photoshop tends to fit into two categories: photographers, and graphic artists working in raster (pixel-based, as opposed to vector-based) formats. The typography, print, and painting engines are very powerful, as are the vector shape tools. Of greater interest to photographers are the content-adjustment tools. I’ll summarize a few:
* Clone tool – Copy one area, paste it onto another. Simple stuff. Useful to fix blemishes on an even tone or near an unwanted edge that the more powerful tools might accidentally sample. Largely superseded by the Patch tool.
* Patch tool – Like clone, except the pasted area is blended. This and the healing brush (same thing except with a brush-engine shape and Photoshop automatically choosing the source) are the mainstay blemish-removal tools.
* Content-aware Fill – Fills and blends the selected area with whatever Photoshop thinks should be there. It’s astonishingly effective. It’s replaced the clone and patch tools for large content adjustments (e.g., replacing a person or object with generic background data).
* Content-aware Scale – Resizes a picture while keeping the proportions of important subjects. Effectively deletes or creates empty space. Useful for adapting aspect ratios.
* Content-aware Move – A combination of the Patch tool and Content-aware Fill. Select the object, drag it elsewhere, and Photoshop blends the object into the new position and fills in the old space.
* Vanishing Point – Cloning with perspective compensation. Expand an object (e.g., a fence or a floor) that gets larger in one direction as it gets closer to the camera.
* Liquify – A smudge brush that works as if you were moving clay with your fingers. Every model you’ve ever seen was tweaked with this tool. Be fat, skinny, tall, or short. Expand the edges of your panorama. Whatever you want.
* Puppet Warp – A more precise version of Liquify. It lets you adjust the position and shape of a particular content element without affecting the other sections. Put someone’s arm at a different angle. Change the shape of a plant.
* Dust & Scratches filter – A global adjustment filter that removes and blends everything of a particular size. Combined with layer blending modes and the History brush, it makes dust (or mole removal) almost instantaneous.
* Lens Blur – A blurring filter that, when combined with effective masking, can give the impression of a short depth-of-field lens. Likewise for Iris Blur (simulates a LensBaby) and Tilt-Shift Blur (simulates the tilt function of a Tilt-Shift lens).
These tools integrate with five other major abilities: masking, layers, actions, history, and Smart Objects.
* Masking – Masking lets you selectively apply effects. Photoshop has powerful masking tools to isolate difficult content like hair. This ability is fundamental. Most of the adjustments in Lightroom are global.
* Layers – Every adjustment in Photoshop can be stacked, masked, and reordered. Layers can be enabled or disabled as needed. With Lightroom, effect order is automatic and they all apply to a single layer.
* Actions – Actions are macros that you can create or download to run an automated series of Photoshop functions. Sharpening, resizing, watermarking, border frames, and tone adjustments are common uses, occasionally all at once.
* History – Everything you do is recorded in a history log. You can jump back to any point in time or branch a document to create a separate working copy.
* Smart Objects – Smart objects retain all of the original layer data, so they can be losslessly manipulated (e.g., rotated, resized). Effects attach to the Smart Object and can be adjusted later.
Most of these tools have no analogue in any other software collection. The short answer to the Photoshop question is this: if you just want to change the tone of your photos, Lightroom is plenty. If you want to change the content (more than just simple blemish or red-eye removal), there’s no true alternative to Photoshop. Layers, history, basic masking, cloning, certain filters, sure, you can get that with Gimp. And maybe that’s all you’ll need. But for complex changes, Photoshop can make for a dramatically faster workflow and a far superior product.
IS IT HARD?
Not necessarily. There’s definitely a learning curve for graphic and web design. It takes time to learn how best to use the type and vector engines, color management, image formats, and so on. Photographers have it easier, though not as easy as they do in Photoshop CC. The ACR filter in that one obviates almost all of the conventional tone and color controls. With CS6, you still have to learn which ones are useful and when. I relied overwhelmingly on Curves, Hue/Saturation, Vibrance, and every now and again, Shadow/Highlight. Everything else was in ACR on import.
The other standard features (e.g., layers, adjustment masks) are consistent with other editors, though CS6′s advanced masking may take some study. Because Photoshop is so popular, tens of thousands of tutorials, often in video form, exist to show you how to achieve specific goals. Most of these tutorials and the PSD files packaged with them will not adapt to Photoshop Elements, Gimp, or Paint Shop Pro. I would sooner buy an old version of Photoshop than to use any of those. The polish is obvious, and if you’re going to go through the trouble of learning software this powerful, you might as well choose something you could get paid to know.
CS6 or ELEMENTS 12?
Elements provides a Photoshop 7ish toolset with a wide selection of one-click effects. We’re missing:
* Automation functions (HDR, contact sheets)
* Layer aligning and grouping
* Advanced color management
* Advanced movie support
* 16-bit color support (most everything requires 8-bit conversion)
* 64-bit code for more than 4GB of memory
* Smart Objects
* ACR advanced functions (all but basic exposure controls)
* Action recording
* Lens Correction, Liquify, Vanishing Point
* Every major new content tool above except Content-Aware Move
Unlike earlier versions, if you’re coming from CC, Elements 12 doesn’t feel like you’re working with one hand and a leg behind your back. It’s a fairly capable content editor and most of the CS6 keyboard shortcuts carry over. There’s also a Bridge-like organizer that runs as a separate program, an approach I prefer because it reduces clutter. It’s well-implemented, intuitive, and capable of downloading Facebook names, so you can tag people from a recognizable list. (While it’ll recognize that there is a face in a picture, it can’t match similar faces like Facebook, so tagging is still a manual process.)
Two changes orient Elements toward novices: first, it’s JPEG-centric, and the impression starts in the organizer. The ‘Instant Fix’ options automatically create a JPEG copy of your original file, whether raw or JPEG. There’s also no way (that I can find) to copy raw settings from one image to another. A typical pro shoot might have fifty pictures that need identical white balance correction. In Bridge and Lightroom, you fix one and paste the settings elsewhere. Here, it’s one picture at a time, and the raw converter (ACR) is stripped down to bare exposure and color controls.
But when Adobe taketh, they giveth back. Elements doesn’t immediately present the standard row of confusingly-vague-unnamed-icons. Instead, you get ‘Quick’ and ‘Guided’ interface options that reduce many of the basic tools to one-dimensional sliders with clear names and previews. It’s only when you switch over to ‘Expert’ that the standard Photoshop interface appears, along with advanced features like layers, history, and actions.
While it doesn’t have Paint Shop Pro’s broader feature set, Elements is easier to use and much faster with large files despite PSP’s 64-bit support. Neither program does batch processing, raw adjustments, or content-generation nearly as well as CS6. Professionals will still want the full monty.
CS6 or CS5?
The answer to this depends on the importance you place on speed and the functionality of ACR’s tone adjustment tools. Most of the changes to CS6 are behind-the-scenes. More features are GPU-accelerated (like Liquify, which could bog on slower systems and high-res files), large blocks of text can be changed more easily, and new blur tools simplify what used to take careful layer masking.
We also have background auto-saving, better crop and patch tools, and a more capable lighting engine. Not amazing stuff, but useful. Probably the most impressive feature is the Adaptive Wide Angle filter for correcting vertical lines and distortion in wide-angle shots.
But really, the big change for photographers is with ACR. The entire exposure adjustment engine has been overhauled. Just about all of the tone adjustment sliders work differently. I hated the changes at first, because my default workflow was to make skin tones high-key with Fill Light, and then jack the contrast to bring the blacks down. I’ve since learned to adjust the midtones with Exposure and use the Black slider to fix the black point. The Shadows slider is a poor substitute for Fill Light and not that useful, but in general, I’ve produced better results and more accurate colors faster with the new interface. I’m a convert.
CS6 or PAINT SHOP PRO X6?
Paint Shop Pro could be an alternative if (a) you work with small files, and (b) they don’t require content adjustments you couldn’t achieve with the clone tool. The features that PSP duplicates (vectors, fonts, layers, color management, etc.) tend to be less sophisticated than CS6′s equivalents, but you won’t often miss the difference. Both are very powerful.
Here’s what you lose in broad strokes:
* Smart Objects
* Content synthesis tools (e.g., perspective cloning, content-aware anything)
* Program-wide 16-bit support
* Adobe Raw Converter and Bridge
* Integration with Adobe products
* All the perks that come with being ‘the standard’ (e.g., tutorials, compatibility with client files)
If you’re a photographer, ACR is a big deal. It’s no small thing to do the majority of your edits in a fast and simple metadata-based tool. Nor can I discount CS6′s massive speed advantage with large files. If you’re designing for web or your project layers don’t crest the double-digits, PSP is probably fast enough. But it wasn’t much fun with my 5D II raw files.
CS6 OR CC?
Ordinarily this wouldn’t merit discussion, but Adobe has changed the pricing scheme for Photoshop CC. With Adobe CS6 and prior, the Adobe suite and individual applications were available for permanent purchase. Buy once, use forever. Adobe CC is only available by subscription. You pay for the duration you use it, usually month to month. This has ups and downs for individual users.
(+) Initial cost is less. CS6 is north of $600. Now you can get Photoshop for $20 a month.
(+) Your software is always current. When the next version of Photoshop comes out, you get it.
(+) Settings and content are in the cloud, so migrating to new installations takes less effort.
(-) Long-term cost is potentially more, depending on whether you would ordinarily buy every update. If not, the break-even for this particular package is around 2.5 years.
(-) Multi-app packages are less flexible, so you may end up paying for apps you don’t use.
(-) Pricing isn’t necessarily fixed. Very little stops Adobe from raising rates later.
(-) If you stop paying, the software stops working. Given that this would probably coincide with a business downturn, you would lose access to your work at the worst possible time.
(-) The software has to contact the licensing server once a month. It’ll work offline for 99 days. After that, you’re SOL.
That’s the stick. The carrot is the collection of new features in CC. We’ve got a new camera shake blur reducer that I didn’t find terribly effective, a radial blur tool, new resizing algorithms that don’t improve much on standard Bicubic, 3D painting refinements I didn’t try, a new ‘Reduce Noise’ slider in the Smart Sharpen box that doubles as a skin blemish remover, and the long-awaited ability (for web designers) to adjust the corner radius of a vector box shape. Not much of this blows my skirt up.
Except for one thing: you can now apply the ACR engine as a filter. And if it’s on a Smart Object, it’s losslessly adjustable. That’s huge. This one feature almost totally obviates the tone and color controls in Photoshop for general use, along with the separate filters for vignetting, lens correction, and so on. And because the ACR interface is far better integrated than the rest of Photoshop, it substantially lowers the learning curve.
CS6 can apply ACR to non-raw file types, but not natively within Photoshop. You have to force the raw converter to open these files. The ACR interface presents only once on the initial opening. It’s an awkward workflow and destructive because you can’t make changes after import. To me, this single feature is more compelling than every new addition since Content-Aware Fill.
ACR itself also has a few additions of note in CC: the patch tool and new perspective corrections. The patch tool is lossless and editable like everything else in ACR, unlike Photoshop’s version. The perspective corrections are similar to the Adaptive Wide Angle feature that debuted in CS6. They automatically correct proportions and vertical lines. It’s hard to describe, but architecture and interior photographers will love it.
As a content editor, Photoshop CS6 is in a class by itself. CC is even better. If you need the fastest workflow, advanced content-adjustment algorithms, and integration with Adobe products, there’s no substitute.
But maybe you don’t need all that. If you’re a photographer, Lightroom has global adjustments (and some light content-correction like cloning and red-eye reduction) covered. Photoshop Elements 12, Paint Shop Pro, and Photoshop 7 onward do simple content-editing (and text layouts, vector art, and painting) just fine. The major adjustment with Adobe CS 8.0 and above was the progressive addition of 16-bit file support. JPEGs are 8-bit. You don’t even need 16-bit for corrections that don’t torture the histogram.
Given the cost disparity, it’s worth starting with a $60 copy of PSP or Elements 12. If they work for you, great. If not, you’ll have to weigh whether your use scenario merits a large upfront cost or a smaller continuous dole. Adobe will let you trial Photoshop CS6 and Photoshop CC for a month. The right choice is partly a question of mindset: if each new Photoshop release has you salivating, CC is the best choice. If not, CS6 will be a better deal midway through the third year.
Adobe actually has a free download of the entire CS2 suite with activation keys, though it’s on your honor that you bought CS2. Make of that what you will.
However, there are times when more advanced adjustments are useful, such as contrast masking, that are much easier in Photoshop. There are also much more advanced processes in masking, that I am still to learn.
However, even for the short while that I have used PS6, it has been very useful and fun to use. I see some complaining about bugs etc in the software, but for me there have been no issues.
I use Windows 7 on a computer with AMD Athlon chip, 4 gig RAM and with a 1 Gig Nvidia series 430 Video Card (PS6 uses GPU graphic processing to speed processing.).
PS 6 also works seamlessly with LR3.