Photoshop CS5 adds an almost magical blemish-elimination function that doubles as a banish-your-mother-in-law tool.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


New Photoshop makes image fixing easy

June 20, 2010

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, The Post-Standard

   Photoshop, the professional image-editing software from Adobe, is celebrating its 20th birthday this year. Since the first version of Photoshop in 1990, Adobe has come up with 11 successive versions, each more powerful than the previous one.
   But the latest version, called Photoshop CS5 ("Creative Suite version 5"), is not simply more powerful. It adds an almost magical blemish-elimination function that doubles as a banish-your-mother-in-law tool. You heard me right. Photoshop CS5's content-aware editing function can even remove your mother-in-law from the tree in the photo where she tried to rescue the cat. You'll see recreated branches where mom once held on for dear life.
   There's more, but let me douse you with a cold shower first. Unless your name is Warren Buffett, you don't buy Photoshop on a whim. CS5 Extended, the least expensive version, costs $999. (If you are upgrading from a previous version, it costs "only" $349.) CS5 Design Premium, which I didn't test and which includes Abobe's Illustrator and InDesign software, costs a credit-card-busting $1,899 ($599 if you are upgrading).
   Discounts bring the costs down. Amazon sells CS5 Extended for $660.99 ($190.99 for the upgrade). The biggest price breaks are yours for the asking if you are a full-time student or on the faculty or staff of schools from grade school through college. CS5 in that case is $199. (See if you qualify at Adobe's educational-discount Web site: http://tinyurl.com/7bo8hd. I shortened the impossibly long address to the URL listed here.)
   I tested both Windows and Mac versions of CS5. They behaved exactly the same except for a few keys called different names on each platform. If you learn how to use CS5 on Windows, for example, you'll have no problem using it on a Mac, and vice versa.
   Among the many improvements in the latest version of Photoshop are:
   -- Pop-out graphics for projects and Web pages. These are much easier to make than before.
   -- High dynamic range (HDR) capabilities that rival stand-alone HDR software. (High dynamic range images capture the full range from very dark to very bright.)
   -- Improved painting effects.
   -- More modern -- at least for those used to the current version of Microsoft Office -- menus and toolbars. I had to relearn some of the functions, but that was easy.
   -- Faster action throughout Photoshop.
   -- Better memory handling.
   -- Much easier blemish removal.
   The last feature uses Adobe's Content Aware function. I've used it to surgically remove the date mistakenly printed on some of my photos. I simply outline the date to select that area and click "Fill" in the "Edit" menu. I make sure the option in the "Fill" menu says "Content Aware" and click "OK." Photoshop does the rest.
   The amazing thing about Content Aware is that it locates patterns in the image that would have appeared underneath the object being removed -- would have, that is, if the camera had X-ray vision. This ability to reconstruct the scene "underneath" something you've removed is uncanny. To anyone who works with scans from slides and old photos, which nearly always have dozens of dust spots and other blemishes, this single feature could well be the most important function in CS5.
   (And, yes, Content Aware Fill can in fact remove people from trees, given a usable pattern of branches. It's amazing.)
   Finally, let me clear up a common confusion. Photoshop is not the same as Photoshop Elements, which is also made by Adobe. Photoshop Elements has none of the professional features of Photoshop but it otherwise a solid image-editing program for non-pro users. Adobe Photoshop Elements 8, the current version, usually discounts for about $80.