”’Image adjustment control”’
Several commonly used features for adjusting brightness, contrast and tonal balance have also been overhauled. The Brightness/Contrast control, usually shunned by serious users in favour of levels or curves adjustment, has been completely rewritten and now produces effects much more like a levels histogram adjustment, brightening or darkening mid-tones without blowing out highlights or sacrificing shadow detail. Again, experienced will prefer the more precise control offered by the Curves function, but for quick adjustments to non-critical images it is a big improvement.
The Curves feature itself has also seen some work. When adjusting the curve for each channel, the other channel’s graphs are also visible, to help with precise adjustments. The tone histogram is also shown on the same screen.
One of the biggest improvements, and my personal favourite, is the new Black & White function. Rather than simply converting the image to greyscale, it allows adjustment of the tonal balance and contrast of the image by adjusting the six different colour channels. The results are very similar to the popular monochrome conversion method of using two Hue/Saturation adjustment layers, as I explained in a tutorial a few months ago.
”’Camera RAW processing”’
Photoshop’s built-in RAW format file converter Camera RAW has also been significantly improved. It starts and processes much more quickly, and now also has some new features. For tone and contrast adjustment it now has the Fill Light and Recovery options, which work in much the same way as the improved Brightness/Contrast control I mentioned earlier, adjusting mid-tones without losing highlight or shadow detail. In fact the Recovery control can pull shadow and highlight detail out of under or over-exposed shots.
Camera RAW now also has improved support for 32-bit High Dynamic Range (HDR) RAW images from high-end digital SLRs and other imaging devices. In the Extended version of the CS3 this 32-bit support extends to image editing and filters.
As well as the standard Photoshop CS3 package, there is also the Extended version, which includes all of the features of standard CS3, but also adds the ability to import 3D models in a variety of formats directly into image layers, and to move, rotate, and resize them in 3D, and even to alter and edit existing textures on those objects. It doesn’t turn Photoshop into a 3D modelling studio, but it does allow easy composition with pre-prepared 3D content. Formats supported include 3DS, OBJ, U3D, KMZ, and COLLADA.
As well as 3D content, the Extended edition can also import video content directly into a layer, again in a variety of popular formats. Also in the Extended edition, the measuring tool can also be used on 3D content, automatically scaling to take account of perspective.
”’Other new features”’
Having touched on the main improvements, there’s just room here to mention a few of the changes that will be less useful to the majority of users, although for some they will be very significant.
The Vanishing Point feature introduced in CS2 has been extended to include 3D angles other than right angles, and textures can now be applied across multiple image planes, handy for designing packaging or book covers.
The animation palette has been improved, so quick animations can be made in Photoshop without having to use ImageReady. It supports a wide variety of formats, including QuickTime, MPEG-4, and Adobe Flash Video.