Adobe have announced details of their latest version of the ground-breaking digital manipulation software, Photoshop, in the form of version CS4 (Creative Suite 4). This is effectively Photoshop version 11 - as Adobe added the "Creative Suite" suffix after Photoshop 7, and increased the purchasing options - including "extended" version of the software package.
The previous version (CS3), was something of a disappointment, at least for me, in that it didn't offer as many innovative new tools as I would have hoped for, as a photographer, and it seemed to be aimed more at designers and graphic artists.
I didn't upgrade (from the excellent version CS2) partly for that reason, but also because Adobe simultaneously launched the photographer-specific Lightroom - which I believe is the best stand-alone digital photography-related software ever published. I am now on Lightroom version 2, and I haven't changed my mind about it. I do very little editing in Photoshop nowadays, and work (almost) exclusively in Lightroom, apart from the occasional noise reduction or "levels" in the "Mothership".
But, Adobe, being very clever, seem to have realised that they had put all their photographer eggs in one basket (Lightroom) and have worked hard to ensure that the new version of Photoshop includes some goodies to entice the snappers back to the fold.
Two very interesting tools for photographers, in the new version, are "Content-Aware Scaling" and Depth-of-Field Blending."
According to British photographer and Photoshop (and Lightroom) expert Martin Evening, Content-aware scaling is "probably the star feature of Photoshop CS4, yet also the most controversial since it invites Photoshop users to tamper with photographs in ways that are likely to raise the hackles of photography purists...." It basically allows an image to be dragged into a space where it would not ordinarily fit. For example, taking a square-shaped photograph and fitting it into a rectangular space, without affecting the proportions of the content. So a tall photo of a building, could be slotted into a shorter, fatter space without the building looking flattened or squashed.
Depth of field blending allows the photographer to "blend" together a series of images that may be sharper at different points, and produce one image that is sharp from front to back. Adobe's sample image is a film reel, with the film unwound and extending into the distance. Imagine photographing that subject, three times. In the first shot, you get the film reel sharp, but the middle and end of the unwound film is out of focus. So, you re-take the shot, making sure that the middle part of the film is sharp, but this time the reel goes out of focus, as well as the end of the film. Then you take a third shot, making sure that the end portion of the film is sharp, but the reel and the middle are now out of focus. Photoshop CS4 will blend all of those images together and produce one photograph that has all the parts sharp and perfectly stitched together, and properly colour balanced. You'll look like either a) a photographic genius or b) a photographic genius with a very expensive shift perspective lens.
If you would like to read more about what Martin Evening says about Photoshop CS4 you can CLICK HERE to read his excellent blog.