Adobe Photoshop at 22-Still a Valuable Editing Tool

by John Rettie

July 01, 2012

It’s pretty amazing to think that Photoshop is 22 years old. Any photographer older than 40 will remember how we marveled at what could be done with this magical image-editing program. Those of you younger than 30 will probably wonder what all the fuss is about as it has become just one of many indispensible tools that is part of every pro photographer’s kit.

CS6 by Subscription
Adobe recently released the 13th edition of Photoshop, although it is officially called Photoshop CS6 because it’s one of many products in the Creative Suite. As usual, it brings a myriad of improved functions and increased speed (and is reviewed thoroughly starting on p. 122). Some of you have probably upgraded already, while others may have been playing with the beta version that was available for a couple of months prior to its official release.

In many ways, Photoshop has become such a sophisticated tool that serves the needs of far more than just photographers. Indeed, Adobe says many pro photographers use Lightroom about 85 percent of the time, and only turn to Photoshop for 15 percent of their work.

I’m in that category, though I actually use Photo Mechanic for most of my initial image reviewing, since I rarely have to do any editing on an image before submitting it to an editor.

Among the new tools in CS6, the one that is probably of most interest to wedding and portrait photographers is the new blur effect palette and in particular the Iris Blur option. As its name suggests, you can use it to concentrate focus on one part of an image and blur the rest, be it the foreground or background. There are a variety of settings to adjust the shape, amount of blur and transitions. You can style the overall effect with brightness and color controls for bokeh.

Aside from the improvements to Photoshop, the biggest change is the availability of Photoshop and other Adobe products by subscription.

Adobe’s new subscription service, Creative Cloud, gives a user access to all the Creative Suite desktop programs, which can be downloaded to your computers. Once on a computer, it is a fully functioning desktop program identical to one you would purchase outright in a box. In order to use it, you do not need to be connected to the Internet. According to Adobe, the computer only needs to access to the Internet once a month to check the current status of the user’s membership.

The basic subscription costs $74.99 per month if paid monthly. However, paid upfront, it drops to $49.99 per month ($600 per year). If you are a student or teacher, the cost is $360 per year ($29.99 per month).

If you already own Photoshop CS3 through CS5, you can upgrade to the boxed version of Photoshop CS6 for $199. Adobe has a special offer until August 31st that allows you to subscribe to Creative Cloud for 12 months for $29.99 a month, paid upfront. That works out to $360 for the first year but you’d then have to pay $600 the following year.

If the only program you use in the Creative Suite is Photoshop, it’s obviously much less to just upgrade the program and it’s yours forever. However, if you use any of the other 14 programs or plan on using the storage service on the Creative Cloud, it makes sense to subscribe. Adobe charges $2,499 for the Creative Suite CS6 Master Collection, making it less costly to subscribe and get a couple of extra programs, such as Muse, which costs $14.99 per month and is not in the boxed version.

I suspect Adobe wants to encourage everyone to become a subscriber. As Apple has shown with iTunes and the App store, maintaining programs in the cloud is much more efficient because it avoids the cost of materials with upgrades can be distributed automatically. As time goes on, I would not be surprised if it becomes impossible to purchase a “hard copy” of any program.

Pentax Optio WG-2
Since the advent of perfectly acceptable images captured by smart phones, camera manufacturers are suffering from a large decline in sales of their compact cameras. In many ways it’s sad that they’ve lost the incredible increase in interest in photography with the popularity of apps like Instagram, and none have yet combined their expertise with a smart phone manufacturer.

Logically, therefore, traditional camera manufacturers are concentrating on producing cameras with features that cannot be easily offered in a smart phone. Professionals and serious amateur photographers are certainly still buying “real” cameras—it’s the entry-level market that has been hurt by smart phones. While that might not concern us, it does hurt camera manufacturers, as a large share of their profits were made in the mass market. If they aren’t careful, real cameras might become a niche market and costs will go up or at least not drop as much as they should.

Pentax, now owned by Ricoh, is a manufacturer that realizes this and is consciously making cameras with a different appeal from a smart phone’s camera.

The newest edition of its rugged Optio WG-2 is case-in-point—its case looks tough and it is. It can be dropped up to 5 feet and crushed up to 220-pound force. It’s waterproof to a depth of 40 feet and still works down to 14 degrees. The camera has a 16-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor and a 5X zoom (28-140mm equiv) that moves internally to avoid any sealing problems. The camera can also shoot 1080p full HD video at 30fps.

One of the most unique features is an extreme close-up capability; it has a ring of six LED lights and a flange that can be fitted so it works as close as one quarter of an inch. I really liked this feature when I played with the camera—it’s simple to use and produces good results. The WG-2 is available in black or red for $350; orange or white is $400, with GPS.

Photobeamer
How would you like to use your iPhone as a slide projector without having to actually use a projector? As I wrote that sentence, I realized that the use of old terms gets confusing. I am talking about the ability to transmit images from an iPhone to a large display without a cable.

Scalado is not yet a household name, but behind the scenes the Swedish company has become a major developer of imaging software that is cutting-edge. Most of Scalado’s technologies are licensed directly to smart phone manufacturers who use the technology in their own products. Chances are you’ve been using features developed by Scalado without realizing it, and the company says its technology is found in over a billion phones.

Now Scalado has started developing and selling products directly to end-users; the newest is Photobeamer, a downloadable iPhone app that acts as a slide projector for images. As long as your computer or TV has Internet access with a modern Web browser, go to photobeamer.com. A QR code shows up, you load the app on your iPhone, choose the initial photo you want displayed, point it at the code displayed on the TV or monitor, and immediately the image stored on your iPhone is displayed on the big screen.

There’s no setup or registration required—it just works using Wi-Fi or even 3G cell service to transmit the images from phone to screen. The cost? 99 cents. Now, wouldn’t it be great to have this capability built into a real camera?    


John Rettie, who resides in Santa Barbara, CA, has been covering digital photography since its earliest days. Contact him directly at john@johnrettie.com

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