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Newspaper Column - Digital Media Tools

Adobe Photoshop CS and Wacom Intuos2 Tablet

The best just keeps getting better.

For more than fifteen years I have been saying that Apple should buy Adobe and make the Adobe applications available only on the Mac. Once again I feel like saying it because no digital photographer (which very soon will mean all photographers) can ignore the superiority of Adobe PhotoShop for manipulating his images and making them be what he had intended when he pressed the shutter, or to enhance them to another level far beyond their origin.

PhotoShop CS is a milestone in software development for digital photography. And I hate it when PC users say to me, "I can do the same thing on my PC". I want PhotoShop to be an exclusively Mac product. Here are the ten most important new features of PhotoShop CS (according to Adobe).

Improved File Browser - Quickly preview, tag, and sort images; search and edit metadata and keywords; and automatically share batches of files from the improved File Browser.

It isn't as elegant as iPhoto but it sure beats its pants off in the features that serious photographers want category. Actually a great no-nonsense browser, I still prefer iPhoto for organizing my image library and giving me the sense that I know where everything is though.

Match Color command - Achieve a consistent look between package shots, fashion photos, and more by instantly matching the color scheme of one image to another.

Ever had a terrible shot that had the exposure just right and a good shot that was over or under and color balanced wrong, well you can now tell the software to take a look at the first one and give it's values to the second one. If you have a whole batch of images that need to be shown together this could literally save you days of work matching all the images.

Histogram palette - Monitor changes to your image in the Histogram palette, which dynamically updates as you make adjustments.

If you are a Histogram freak this will make your day. Not only are the Histogram palettes in one place now, they also operate in real time and show you a ghost of the old setting while displaying the position of the new setting. Time to break out the champagne.

Shadow/Highlight correction - Quickly improve the contrast of over- or underexposed areas of an image while preserving the overall balance of the photo using Shadow/Highlight correction.

This function, as they say, makes it all worth the price of admission. It is unbelievable how easily this simple little function makes a bad photograph into a good one. No more masks, no more agonizing for hours over the right settings. Just slide the lever and the shadows disappear. Some photographers might even fire their assistants and throw away their reflectors.

Text on a path - Create eye-catching typography by placing text on paths or within shapes. Edit the text at any time, even in Adobe Illustrator(r) software.

The advantages of this are self explanatory and mostly aimed at poster producing graphic artists but even the rankest amateur will be able to produce a better Christmas card.

Integrated digital camera raw file support - Get truer, higher quality output by working with the complete raw data files from most major digital camera models.

For serious amateur photographers and professionals this was the most wanted change and it hasn't been a disappointment. Having full RAW support is now a must for all serious digital imaging software. The interface is well thought out and thorough.

I personally recommend that all users of high end digital cameras, especially DSLRs, still buy, update, and use the software developed by their camera manufacturers because not everything is equal in the world of RAW. But I also recommend using PhotoShop CS and imagine that most everyone that has both will end up using PhotoShop CS the majority of the time or in combination with the camera manufacturer software.

Comprehensive 16-bit support - Perform more precise editing and retouching with expanded support for 16-bit images in core features, including layers, brushes, text, shapes, and more.

As mentioned above, Adobe did an incredible job of producing the most all around useful digital photography manipulation software available at this time. There are some individual features that are taken further in other digital image manipulation software but not in combination with all the features present in PhotoShop CS.

Layer Comps - Create design variations for clients more efficiently by saving different combinations of layers within the same file as Layer Comps.

Another feature that will be hard to comprehend by anyone not working in the commercial art world, but appreciated by those who do.

Macromedia Flash file export - Use ImageReady CS to create Macromedia(r) Flash(tm) (SWF) animations, complete with vector artwork and variable text.

A juicy bone for the multi media users and a tip of the hat to Macromedia.

Customizable keyboard shortcuts - Customize, save, and print a summary of your ideal set of keyboard shortcuts, so the functions you use most are always at your fingertips.

Some day I will learn to use the keyboard rather than the mouse, or maybe I won't.

Wacom Intuos2 Tablet

The Wacom tablet I am using at the moment is the 9x12 inch model. At first I thought it was kind of big, with what seems like a very large border around the active area but once you get used to it, you understand why the extra real estate is necessary, it just makes it more comfortable to use. You can really lean into it just like working on a drafting table and have a place to overhang and tape your artwork for tracing.

The 9x12 area is ideal for a 17" monitor and even with the wide screen of the 17" PowerBook I never seem to run out of room. The mouse has over 1000 increments of seamless pressure and the overall responsiveness and accuracy of the tablet has to be experienced to be appreciated.

I won't go into technical details here (you can find that on the internet at www.wacom.com) but have to mention that for DSLR photographers this tablet and Photoshop CS make the job of getting rid of blemishes, unwanted bits and bobs, and those pesky CCD dust spots a breeze.

I am running out of room in this column but will give further reports of PhotoShop CS in upcoming columns and if Wacom will allow me more test time on their products I will give further reports on them too. I don't want to give the Wacom back.

Next column - a comparison report of some of the best external FireWire drives available. LaCie d2 200MB, Maxtor OneTouch, the IceCube HD drive case, and Sarotech HD drive case.

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