Adobe Photoshop CS2 review

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Photoshop dominates the world of professional photo editing so completely that a new release is awaited with genuine excitement and its launch is a Red Letter day. Rip off the wrapping and install this latest version, however, and your first feeling is likely to be disappointment, as there’s little immediately obvious in terms of new tools, palettes or commands. In fact, the most visible change is the loss of the former File Browser palette.

In practice, this is a major step forward. Visual file management has been devolved to the Adobe Bridge application, which offers a number of core image-handling advantages (see Adobe Bridge, opposite). In the process, Adobe grafts on numerous Photoshop-based automation features, such as the ability to apply image mode and type conversions. Particularly impressive is the ability to select multiple images taken with bracketed exposures to produce a single HDR (high dynamic range) image with 32 bits per channel, although the editing options then available are limited.

The most welcome Bridge-based feature for Photoshop CS2 users is the ability to load unprocessed camera images into the Camera Raw module. Here, the new automatic image analysis, curve adjustments, and shadow and highlight clipping previews help you get the best possible results from your digital negatives. And you’re now able to save export settings or simply copy and paste settings from one Raw file to another. Best of all, you can load multiple files simultaneously and, while they’re being processed, multithreading means you’re able to carry on working within Photoshop, Bridge or even Camera Raw itself.

Photoshop CS2 also addresses the most obvious of its limitations when dealing with digital photos. Hidden away among the 100-plus options under the Filter menu is a new Reduce Noise filter that can target unwanted grain in individual colour channels as well as correcting JPEG compression artefacts. There’s also a Smart Sharpen command that is able to correct types of blur – gaussian, lens and motion – and independently sharpen shadows and highlights. Most impressive is the Distort | Lens Correction filter that lets you interactively or precisely adjust for pincushion or barrel distortions and for the angle of your shot, and then throws in control over chromatic aberration and vignetting for good measure.

There are also two new tools, or rather variations on existing tools, that soon prove invaluable when enhancing your photos. Compared to the existing Colour Replacement tool, the dedicated new Red Eye tool lets you remove this common problem with a single click while offering advanced control over pupil size and darkening amount if you need it. The new Spot Healing Brush intelligently analyses the area around the tool to automatically sample the best pixels for healing the area under the brush. It isn’t fail-proof, but in most cases you can remove flaws or unwanted objects with a single click.

When the Healing Brush was first introduced it caused jaws to drop, and Photoshop CS2’s new Vanishing Point capability will do the same. This is a comprehensive filter dialog in which you first set up perspective planes to match those in your image using the Perspective Grid tool. You can then use the dialog’s Marquee, Stamp and Brush tools to copy, clone and paint, with each tool automatically adjusting to the image’s underlying perspective. Copy a window on one side of a building, for example, and you can then move it to the other side with its size and perspective automatically updating in real-time as you drag. This is especially good for applying text to product packaging mock-ups. Adobe has even found a way of storing the perspective information for future reuse within JPEG files.

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