Photoshop is one of the world's most complex and flexible applications.
Now that the Creative Suite line has reached version 5.5, Adobe invited TechRadar along to meet Senior Product Manager Bryan O'Neil Hughes and hear about some 'hidden gems' of the software.
Bryan is the Photoshop team's primary worldwide spokesman. Before joining Adobe in 1999, he was a professional photographer and retoucher.
"People always end up doing things that we never imagined that they would do," he says of the software. "CS5 is a more stable release than CS4, which considering how much was rewritten is really impressive – there are over 140 fixes in this version. It's always interesting to go our and see what people are doing with the product."
There was a free update to CS5.5 for users that enables Photoshop to communicate with any device that has a wireless connection.
How close is deblur?
So what about the deblur demonstration shown at Adobe Max? "The reason that [demo] captured the imagination was that it's a problem that everybody has," says O'Neil Hughes in a tone that demonstrates he's clearly had to trot out this line numerous times before.
"Correcting [motion blur] has been the holy grail for some time. It was a sneak peek that we explicitly asked not be reported. But someone reported it and what's missing from that video is that is just internal technology we're working on.
Taken out of context, 'surely it's coming to Photoshop any day now'. It's a wonderful technology demonstration and in that example that they showed, it works very well.
"But I'll tell you very candidly, we are very early in that technology. There are a lot of people working on it, but it's a tough nut to crack, especially with the expectations that people have. When you show people a magic trick, people expect you to come through."
Camera RAW and Wide angle correction
The latest version of the software includes updates to Camera RAW – providing automated lens correction with 600 camera lens profiles built into the software. The correction also works with jpegs and TIFFs.
"So whether it's [a DSLR] or the lens on the iPhone – which we know is the most common camera on Flickr – obviously we know that a tiny lens like this has a lot of distortion, colour fringing and vignetting or an SLR [there are profiles for it]. We're also seeing 1 to 2 user-generated profiles every day."
O'Neil Hughes also takes us through Wide angle correction, which you can also see in action here:
"We know what camera [is being used] and we know what lens. We know the physical characteristics of the lens. I'm able to tell it which areas I want to be straight.
"For architectural photography, for anybody that's ever taken images of people with a wideangle lens where you have noses bending into the frame or arms contorting – this is the ability to correct all those things quickly and easily; very magical."
Taking Content aware fill forward
"A lot of people have heard of content aware fill, a lot of people don't know you can use content aware fill within the spot healing brush. It's an amazing tool but it has its shortcomings – high contrast, edge of image.
"The trick here is to use a path. People ask all the time, 'if you're adding new tools, why don't you take away some of the old ones' – it's something I'm very interested in but this is a great example of how some of the legacy ways of doing things are very powerful. So I'm going to draw a couple of points with the pen tool. I want to use a hard edged brush and much smaller brush I'm going to stroke that path the brush.
"The idea here is you're going to save a lot of time doing something you weren't able to do before. The path enables you to really constrain your brush and be specific about where you're applying it."
O'Neil Hughes then showed us Content aware fill working in tandem with Puppet Warp, something you can see here:
As O'Neil Hughes says, Content aware fill has saved people hours and hours of painstaking work by simply giving an approximation of accuracy. "The thing with content aware fill is that even when it doesn't work, it gets me much further than the tools I didn't have before. It gives me a huge step forward. [Before] I would never try to remove an area that crosses a shadow, not a problem now. Dust, dirt, moisture, a finger over the lens – it's great for just selecting that and deleting it."
On Photoshop performance
O'Neil Hughes is also keen to talk about the performance of Photoshop – he's running a two year-old MacBook Pro. "Yes it has 8GB of RAM, but we integrate deeply with the hardware – multi-core, GPU…. We do everything we can to accelerate Photoshop.
"All of our GPU features baseline on the original MacBook Air…we want to make sure that as many people can use these features as possible.
"64 bit gives you the opportunity to address larger amounts of memory. CS5 with 16GB of memory [can be] up to 15 per cent faster. To the best of my knowledge, Photoshop is the most significant cross-platform application that's 64-bit native.
"We had to rewrite over a million lines of code to make it 64-bit native on the Mac. If you see a lot of magic in CS 5 it's because we had a lot of help from people beyond the team."
O'Neil Hughes is also candid when talking about Adobe's Headlights feature, an opt-in method of tracking how people use Photoshop.
"After 21 years this is incredibly important to our development: we have an intern who just sorts through these records. Photoshop, like a lot of other applications, is used for so many different things."