Software Reviews

Hands-on: Adobe Photoshop CS5

Adobe Photoshop CS5 & Photoshop CS5 Extended
Text and Images by Tony Gomez

Adobe Photoshop CS5 and Photoshop CS5 Extended—part of Adobe’s recently introduced Creative Suite 5—are the latest versions of the world standard for digital imaging software. CS5 comes packed with several new features that will be of great interest to you as digital photographers, including: the clean removal of unwanted photo elements; High Dynamic Range (HDR) Pro image processing with multiple exposures; better noise removal and image sharpening; and Automatic Lens Correction to minimize lens optical distortion effects. Here I will delve deeper into how these tasks work and what effect they will have on your post-production work-flow.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) Processing and Simulation

HDR processing is a solution for the inability that a digital camera tends to have in capturing a single digital image that contains the full tonal detail range—from extremely bright, to very dark shadow detail.  You need to capture a multiple set of images, each with under, normal, and overexposed settings.  HDR then blends these multiple images into one image which has an expanded dynamic range. Photoshop has incorporated HDR processing into CS5.


OVEREXPOSED, NORMAL EXPOSURE, UNDEREXPOSED AND COMPOSITE
click the thumbnails to see the full-size images

There are some important tips to consider before Photoshop CS5 can work its HDR magic. First, take your D-SLR off the Automatic mode, and use the Aperture Priority Mode to shoot. This is because you don’t want successive images to be captured with different f-stops, as this would result in images with different focus points. Next, it is ideal to use a tripod to shoot your multiple exposures because you don’t want your hand to move the camera significantly between successive exposures, or there will be “ghosts” created in the final HDR image. However, if you don’t have a tripod available, and if your D-SLR can be programmed to rapidly shoot three successive exposures while automatically varying the shutter speed by the required amount, the three captured images should be stable enough so that HDR Pro software will give you the desired result without ghosts.  Even if there are ghosts, Adobe HDR Pro has a “ghost removal” feature. My rule of thumb for good hand-held HDR image capture is about 1 to 2 frames/second.

Select your multiple-exposed images and then from the Tools menu select Tools/Photoshop/Merge to HDR Pro to import the images into Photoshop CS5. You can control the degree of HDR processing by adjusting the Radius, Strength, and Detail Sliders to higher numbers. Also adjust the Vibrance and Saturation sliders for more intense color. Finally, the Contrast of the overall HDR image can be further adjusted from the Curve Control.  When finished, save your image as a TIFF file for high quality preservation.

Clean Removal of Unwanted Photo Elements

Most of us shoot in the real world, not in the ideal photographer’s studio. Our captured images often contain distracting objects besides the main intended subject—trees or poles popping out from behind a subject’s head, or ugly telephone wires which detract from a scene’s beauty. Wouldn’t it be great to magically remove these distracting objects? This unwanted object removal has long been the bread and butter task for professional Photoshop artists, but even the most masterful among them can leave behind telltale signs that something has been removed from the background.

BEFORE AND AFTER
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Photoshop CS5’s new Content-Aware Fill Option performs this image removal magic for you automatically without painstaking effort or masterful selection skills. This new fill feature removes a distracting object intelligently, without leaving signs of its removal because the lighting, tone, and actual noise of the surrounding areas are matched. The removal is transparent.

Unwanted objects can be removed by either being painted over with the Spot Healing Brush tool and the Content Aware Fill option, or by using the Lasso Tool and then the Edit-Fill/Content Aware Fill option. The process is automatic and nothing short of magical. Bravo, Photoshop CS5!

Noise Removal and Image Sharpening

Digital noise is present to some degree in every captured image. You need to reduce this digital noise, particularly if you are making a large print. The Camera RAW 6 plug in for Photoshop CS5 has some expanded controls for noise reduction—not only noise in the luminance (brightness) region, but also in the chrominance (color) region. To take full advantage of these expanded noise reduction tools in CS5, you have to capture a RAW image. Photoshop CS5’s RAW 6 Plug-in recognizes more than 275 D-SLR models, so there’s a pretty good chance your RAW image will be supported.

BEFORE AND AFTER
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Opening up your RAW image in CS5 makes available several new control sliders: Luminance, Color, and Edge Detail.  Move the Luminance slider to the right to remove grayscale (non-color) noise. Move the Color Slider to the right to remove Color noise. Both of these controls can have a softening effect on the image detail, so to sharpen up your noise-free image, move the new Edge Detail slider to the right. When all adjustments have been completed to your liking, save your Camera RAW image as a TIFF format.

Automatic Lens Distortion Correction

One of the greatest things about a D-SLR is that it allows you to use various lenses for different effects. However, even expensive interchangeable lenses have imperfections known as optical distortion.

BEFORE AND AFTER
click the thumbnails to see the full-size images

Three common types of optical distortions that exist, particularly in wide angle lenses, are: Barrel distortion (where straight lines seem to bow out, as if around the sides of a barrel), Chromatic Aberration (where blue fringing is present), and Vignetting (where darkening occurs in the extreme edges of the image).

Photoshop CS5 offers a Lens Correction feature which automatically removes most of these imperfections. You engage this feature from the Filter/Lens Correction menu selection. Adobe has implemented a growing database of interchangeable lenses to choose from, allowing you to custom tailor your profile to your own specific lenses if you wish to correct these optical distortions. The Adobe Lens Profile Creator is available as a free download from www.labs.adobe.com.

Computer Requirements

Photoshop CS5/CS5 Extended is available for either Mac or Windows format. For the Mac platform you need OS10.X or higher. For the Windows version, you need Windows XP/Service Pack 2 at minimum, with later versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 recommended.  Photoshop is very memory intensive, so you need 1GB minimum, and 2GB recommended. And your processor needs to be powerful enough to handle the more complex processes—dual core CPUs are recommended, with quad core preferred.

If you want ultimate control over your captured digital images, Photoshop CS5 is more than capable. The basic Photoshop CS5 version is $699.00 MSRP, with a $199.00 upgrade from CS4. The 3-D graphics market is very hot now, and a more powerful version, Photoshop CS5 Extended ($999 MSRP) offers exciting 3D extrusions through its Repousse feature. With it you can also create exciting 3-D images with realistic lighting, shadows, reflections, and refractions of lighting. For more information go to www.adobe.com.

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