When Creative Cloud officially launched last year there seemed to be little reaction from photographers. But a lot has changed since then. In April—around the time one would expect a new version of Creative Suite to be announced—Adobe revealed that it was switching to subscription-based services for all Creative Suite products. Photoshop CS6, and other current CS components, will continue to be available as perpetual-license products and Adobe will continue to support them “indefinitely” or until they are no longer compatible with the latest operating systems.
However, CS6 will not be eligible for feature updates. For example, Adobe Camera Raw 8’s latest camera support is available for CS6. However, ACR 8 updates such as the new Upright tool, Radial Gradient tool and other features originally implemented in Lightroom 5, will be available only to Photoshop Creative Cloud (CC) subscribers. (Lightroom 5 continues as a perpetual-license program as well as by CC subscription.)
At this point, photographers have three choices: sign up for the Creative Cloud, stick with their current version of Photoshop CS or upgrade to Photoshop CS6. Adobe’s decision to eliminate the option of purchasing a perpetual-license product has raised the hackles of many photographers, which isn’t surprising. Remove choice from pretty much any equation and people are going to get upset. Objections also revolve around being tied to a monthly fee and, in some cases, an annual commitment.
However, those who regularly update Photoshop to the latest version will find that they save money with the subscription-based model. On the other hand, photographers who prefer to upgrade Photoshop less regularly (or who sell the license to an older version to help pay for a new one), will feel a financial pinch.
Hands-on With Photoshop CC
We tested Photoshop CC on a two-year-old Macbook Pro with 8 GB of RAM. Although Photoshop CS6 was already installed on the Mac, there were no conflicts other than not being able to open both versions of Bridge at the same time.
Since we used a reviewer’s promotional code, we didn’t go through the process of signing up for CS and choosing a plan. However, the installation steps we followed are the same as you would for installing a trial version of CC applications.
Installation was pretty simple, although you have to first download the Creative Cloud installer. Once that was done, and we entered an Adobe ID (you’ll have the opportunity to create one if you need to), it took about 11 minutes to install Photoshop CC. That’s not bad, especially considering our sometimes-erratic Internet connection. In order to streamline download and installation times, Adobe kept Bridge as a separate install. To keep things simple, we launched Photoshop CC and went to File > Browse in Bridge to install it from within the application.
The software downloads to your desktop so you don’t need an Internet connection in order to use it. However, you will have to log on every 30 days (with a grace period after that), in order to validate your subscriptions. Other than that and more frequent updates, the user experience is pretty much the same as using a perpetual-license product.
The overall user interface hasn’t really changed but, as always, a What’s New workspace option highlights new features in the drop-down menus. Earlier updates from Photoshop 13.1 are not highlighted but those of you who miss the Print Size option, which was removed from Photoshop CS6, will find it in the View menu.
Some of Photoshop CC’s new features are part of ACR 8 and are pretty much the same as those implemented in Lightroom 5. Although, sadly, Smart Previews is omitted, Photoshop CC users have access to the new Upright, Spot Healing Brush and Radial Gradient tools. The Upright tool makes short work of straightening images and adjusting perspective. The Spot Healing Brush is no longer restricted to a circle, so you can more accurately “paint on” adjustments and is a really useful addition. The Radial Gradient tool also allows for more selective adjustments but since it functions as an oval, it’s not quite as flexible as the enhanced Spot Healing Brush. But you can achieve some subtle effects, emphasizing one area of an image over another, and it’s great for creating vignettes.
Outside of the feature updates with ACR 8 for Photoshop CC, Camera Shake Reduction generated a lot of excitement when it was previewed last year and was implemented in the latest Photoshop CC release. Effective only on images that are blurred by camera movement, Camera Shake Reduction analyzes the image and uses reverse engineering to figure out the camera’s path of movement and corrects the blur. Convert your image to a smart object before enlisting this feature for nondestructive editing. Overall, the feature works pretty well but it’s not a panacea for all images.
Perhaps more importantly, Smart Sharpen’s algorithm has been improved, the dialogue is resizable, you can now access all sliders without clicking through tabs and a Reduce Noise option has been added. The new algorithm uses an adaptive method to help reduce halos, for example, while Reduce Noise smoothes out sharpening that has been applied to noise elements. This is a step forward in sharpening technology and, while it’s not perfect, it’s a definite improvement over CS6’s Smart Sharpen. Like Camera Shake Reduction, Smart Sharpen can be used as a smart filter for nondestructive editing.
A new option, Preserve Details, has been added to File > Image Size for upsampling images. While enlarging images beyond their intended size is often touchy business and avoided whenever possible, there are times when you’ll need to generate a larger file for print and Preserve Details will help minimize the negative results that often come from upsampling.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing new features is the ability to use Adobe Camera Raw on any layer as a filter or, if you’d prefer, as a nondestructive smart filter. This means that the tools in ACR can be used on individual layers at any time. For example, you can adjust the color temperature in one layer, increase clarity in another, and reduce noise in one or more layers.
Another benefit for Photoshop CC subscribers is a free portfolio on Behance, the online photography platform and showcase that has gained traction among pro photographers. Adobe acquired Behance in December and has integrated access to Behance into Photoshop CC. Though we didn’t set up a pro site on Behance, it’s a welcome addition and certainly adds more value to a CC subscription.
There are plenty of other new and enhanced features in Photoshop CC, far too many to evaluate here. And there are additional features that Adobe’s working on now that have yet to be implemented, including the ability to sync settings across computers using CC. The menus are in place and, when this feature goes live, you’ll be able to sync preferences, actions gradients, tool presets and more. There are certain preferences, however, like scratch disks, that are not included in this sync feature simply because some preferences are computer-specific.
Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud
Pros: Timely updates; overall faster performance; better/smarter sharpening capabilities; use of Adobe Capture Raw in layers and as smart filter; free Behance pro site included with annual membership; Creative Cloud may be more cost effective than perpetual-license products
Cons: Ability to sync settings/preferences across computers not yet available; no perpetual license available for Creative Suite products other than current versions (e.g., Photoshop CS6); Creative Cloud membership may be more expensive than updating Photoshop every other version
Prices: $20 per month for annual Single-app plan that includes full version of one desktop application and 20 GB of cloud storage; $30 per month for month-to-month Single-app plan that can be canceled any time; $50 per month for annual Creative Cloud complete plan for individuals that include full versions of the most popular desktop applications (Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat, etc.) and 20 GB of cloud storage; $30 per month for annual Creative Cloud Student and Teacher Edition (same features as Creative Cloud complete plan for individuals)
Note: Check the Adoble Creative Cloud site (www.adobe.com/products/creativecloud) to see pricing plans for teams and enterprises, and to see if any promotional plans are still in effect.
Adobe Turns Creative Suite into Cloud-Based Subscription Software