Photoshop CS3: If You Have Not Already, Now Is The Time to Upgrade
You can purchase Adobe Photoshop for the Mac directly through B&H; Photo here. You can puchase Adobe Photoshop for Windows directly here. You can purchase an upgrade from Adobe Photoshop CS2 to CS3 for the Mac here. You can purchase an upgrade from Adoble Photoshop CS2 to CS3 for Windows here. The links above are to B&H; Photo which is my top recommendation for where people ought to buy their camera and photographic gear online. B&H; has some of the best prices and best service in the business and is where I buy all my own camera gear personally.
One of the requests that I get a lot from people is for me to talk about how I process my photos. I’m going to use this post to talk a bit about that and also to talk about how extremely happy I’ve been with the new Photoshop CS3.
First a little bit about processing digital photos. My photos definitely *do not* come out of the camera looking like the finished shots that I publish. While certain elements cannot be improved with post processing (original composition for example) lots and lots of things can improve a photo after you have already taken it.
I’ve used Adobe’s Bridge software for about a year and Photoshop for 10 years with my photography. Both of these applications are instrumental in my achieving the look and feel of my photographs.
So lets talk about why you might want to buy Photoshop CS3 or upgrade from CS2. If for no other reason there is one simple reason. Photoshop CS3 and it’s companion Bridge (Bridge comes with CS3 and cannot be purchased on a standalone basis) is lightening fast. Wicked fast. Infinitely faster than CS2. For years my biggest gripe with Photoshop has been speed issues. Especially when processing memory intensive RAW files both Photoshop CS2 and Bridge just crawled. They were so slow. But CS3 is so much faster. I’ve heard that this speed difference is especially evident on dual processor Intel Macs — which is what I’m using. But man, CS3 just flies.
For me this speed is super important. I try to shoot 100-300 photos a day and process about 30 a day from these shoots. This speed difference has dramatically increased my productivity. Upgrade or buy CS3 if only for this reason alone.
The second major reason that you will want to buy CS3 is the new and improved slider bars in “Camera RAW.” For those of you who follow my blog you know that I have been a huge proponent of shooting in RAW for a long time.
A lot of people ask me the difference between shooting in JPG and RAW. This is an oversimplification, but basically when you shoot in JPG your camera takes a photo and then processes it to a JPG file. It uses automatic settings for things like contrast and color temperature (why some white lights in a photo are bluish and some are yellowish), brightness, etc. Sometimes these automatic settings are perfect. But most of the time they are not. When you shoot in RAW, your camera saves the equivalent of a digital negative that you can later process in Bridge/Photoshop’s “Camera RAW” feature. Here, rather than use the default settings of your digital camera, you have a much wider range of possibilities. Is the photo’s contrast sort of dull? Then you can bump it up. Is the night sky too yellowish or sulfuric? Then cool the image down and get a better blue tone to your sky by lowering the photo’s color temperature. You can read more about RAW here.
For those you use Bridge and Photoshop CS2 and shoot in RAW, you are familiar with these sliders and controls. And here is where CS3 just shines. They’ve added much better sliders to get even *better* final images. In addition to the basic sliders in CS2 (things like contrast, brightness, shadows, saturation), CS3 adds some killer new sliders. Clarity, Vibrance, Recovery, and Fill Light have all been added as new Camera Raw processors and they make a ton of difference. All four of these sliders process your shots in new ways and give you significantly more flexibility in finishing your images than you had in CS2.
Another improvement of CS3 is also that my finished JPG files can now use the same Camera RAW sliders if I want to go back and re-tweak.
The third major reason to upgrade to CS3 is the size slider in Bridge. The size slider is at the bottom of the main window in Bridge and allows you to total control over the size of your images for working with them. Sometimes when you are batch keywording you want your images as thumbnails, other times when you are examining the photos for dust or blemishes you want full sized. Simply slide the slider back and forth in Bridge and it *quickly* resizes your photos to exactly the size you want to use to work with them.
Keywording your images is also a snap in CS3, the layout design of Bridge is just perfect (I probably spend about 90% of my time in Bridge and only 10% of my time actually in Photoshop). You can create commonly used keywords and then apply them as checkmarks. This is really valuable as it helps you organize your large digital library for search. Keywording is also smart because most online photo sites will recognize these keyworded images and automatically apply the tags to your images online.
In terms of other improvements in Photoshop, I didn’t notice all that much. The speed of course is huge and is more reason than anything to upgrade. There is a new tool called the Quick Selection Tool which helps select portions of images instead of using the magic wand or lasso tool. I *hated* the old magic wand in CS2. I could never get it to work right. The Quick Selection Tool seems to do a much better job and selecting parts of images to apply effects to. There is also a better brightness/contrast tool in PS3. But honestly, I spend very little time in PS3 itself, choosing to do 90% or so of my processing in the “Camera RAW” option in Bridge.
What *do* I use Photoshop itself for? I use the healing brush a lot. If you have a spec of dust on your sensor or some sort of blemish on your photo, the healing brush helps you spec it out. It can also be used to blot out that tiny little speck of peanut butter that you somehow missed when you wiped your daughter’s face before heading out to the park. I use use the burn/dodge tools quite a bit. These tools allow you to darken or lighten certain areas of a photograph. The other day I took a photo of some Hell’s Angels headstones at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland. The headstones were nicely exposed but the background was all white and washed out. By running the burning brush over the background, I was able to bring it back in a bit to go better with the foreground of the headstones.