On the eve of the release of Photoshop CS5 - the twelfth version of Photoshop, we got a chance to speak to its product manager Bryan O’Neil Hughes. He told us what's in store for photographers and how will they benefit from the new features. 'We have incorporated many exciting features and improvements in this new version,' he said: 'It is our most innovative release to date.'

Photography

One of the biggest improvements that will affect photographers in CS5 is in the Lens Correction feature. It now lives directly under the Filter menu rather than a sub-set. Corrections of distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting will be based on lens profiles selected using the camera's EXIF data. ‘We will ship CS5 with a whole bunch of common lens profiles to start off with.' O'Neil Hughes would not be drawn on exactly which models would be supported but it's likely to start with Canon and Nikon (as was the case with color profiles in previous versions of Adobe Camera Raw). Beyond these, a tool will be provided for users to create custom profiles of their lenses. 'We can't profile every combination out there,' he said: 'what we need is a mechanism for sharing [user-created profiles]. It is something we could do better on.'

Lens Correction Dialog Box

The second important aspect benefiting photographers is enhancement of Camera Raw. Adobe Camera Raw v6.0 uses the same processing engine as the latest Lightroom 3 Beta, supporting over 300 raw formats. According to O'Neil Hughes, the team re-wrote the processing engine and added new algorithms for additional noise reduction. Users can choose to process their old files and render them in ACR v6.0 or use the existing '2003' processing.

Adobe Camera Raw v6.0 Dialog Box

Other, less photography specific, improvements have been made to aid access to files and folders. For instance, CS5 includes a panel within the interface aptly called 'Mini-Bridge' that allows users to have the file-browsing capabilities of Bridge directly in Photoshop.

Retouching

Another core function of Photoshop that has been updated is the potentially time-consuming and tedious job of making selections. In this version they have focused on enhancing the Refine Edge tool:

Working with Refine Edge

'It has been completely redesigned,' said O’Neil Hughes: 'a new Touch-Up brush allows me to clean up edges of masks. It learns what I want in and what I want [to leave] out.' This can help users for finer selections of complex detail such as hair. In addition, a new 'decontaminate color' tick-box added aims to remove color fringing from subjects against contrasting backgrounds. 'Someone working in production, catalog or website designing is going to save hours of work with these options' he added.

Also for the benefit of people retouching images is the much-rumored 'Content-Aware Fill'. With this tool, users can select and remove unwanted detail or objects in images. New image information is constructed, based on the patterns of surrounding areas. It can be used either as a Fill option from the Edit menu for removal of larger objects or via the spot-healing brush options for seamlessly removing smaller blemishes.

Content-Aware Fill (Before)
Content-Aware Fill (After)

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

With the growing popularity of HDR, Adobe has improved its tools and now provides options both for creating natural-looking tone-mapped images and for achieving the 'HDR look'. For multiple images, the tone-mapping option has been renamed 'Merge to HDR Pro' feature. It includes a 'Remove Ghost' option that identifies objects that have moved between exposures, and locks onto the detail from just one image (Users can override which image they want to lock). O'Neil Hughes stressed on how much effort the team put in to make this change: 'One gentleman was hired just to add that tick-box.' There's also an 'HDR Toning' option for single images has been added to create what he describes the 'HDR look' in images. 'A lot of people want to create that look but don’t know what they have to do in the field.,' he said. 'After using HDR Toning, we think more people will process single images than multiple.'

Merge to HDR Pro with Mini-Bridge Dialog Box

Workflow improvements

Talking about the development side of things O'Neil Hughes mentioned , 'For Photoshop CS5, the team did something different. We reached out to a number of users to know what they would want improvements in, and worked upon the smaller features that will lead to a big impact on the workflow.’ Called as JDIs or 'Just Do It' features the team collected feedback from around 1200 users and boiled-down to the 50 most popular requests. From those, they worked on and implemented three dozen of them in this latest version, apart from the overall development of the software.

In addition to these quick JDI processes, the workflow will also become faster for power users as the results of 64-bit support for both Mac and Windows OS which O'Neil Hughes told us will make use of multi-core and multi-processor systems. Beyond these, there are a range of 3D features and a redesigned, more paint-like Paint option. A new Puppet Warp feature allows more controlled distortion and direct manipulation of images, while pressure-sensitive sharpening comes for tablet and stylus users and the rule-of-thirds crop overlay is finally inherited from Lightroom to aid in better composition.

With CS5, Adobe is providing a number of new and enhanced features for users, but only time will tell how many of these will actually be incorporated in general workflows.