Laura Shoe

Nov 032008

Here’s a nice summary of Photoshop CS4 new and upgraded features that pertain to photographers, from John Nack of Adobe:

There are a couple new very powerful features, and then there are alot of changes that make it easier to get around in Bridge and Photoshop, and easier to do things that you could already do before.

The first new feature is the ability to do local adjustments in Camera Raw using the graduated filter and the adjustment brush. Scott Kelby has a video demo of these at

These were also introduced into Lightroom 2, so if you use Lightroom (and followed my advice from an earlier post to upgrade to Lightroom 2), you already have these features and you aren’t using Camera Raw anymore. If you don’t use Lightroom, then the introduction of the ability to do your dodging and burning, local contrast, saturation and sharpening enhancements right in Camera Raw is a powerful reason to upgrade in itself. Imagine not having to go into Photoshop anymore for many of your images that don’t require sophisticated selections and masks. I consider it a huge efficiency boost. The one word of caution I have on this for you to be prepared for these tools to challenge your machine’s processing power, unless you have upgraded recently. I don’t think this is a reason not to upgrade to CS4, but you will have to be a little patient at times. (And if it is time for a new computer, check out my colleague Dave Marx’s blog, for thoughtful articles and recommendations.)

The second brand new and cool feature is Content Aware Scaling.  Consider those situations where you need to crop your image to different proportions, such as 5×7 or 8×10. But you don’t want to get rid of any of the image, and you also don’t want to squish it, making everyone really thin and tall, or widen it, making your paying customers fat. Assuming that there is negative space in your image, content aware scaling will try to find this negative space (or you can tell it where it is with an alpha channel), and will just shrink that down or expand it, preserving important areas like people at the right proportions. Russell Brown has an excellent video demonstration of this tool that I highly recommend you watch at

If this interests you but would be your only compelling reason for upgrading, I suggest downloading the 30 day trial version and experimenting with the tool. It is good, but it does have its limitations in terms of how smart it is and what situations it is useful for.

Whoops, there is one more cool new feature — it  allows you to automatically combine multiple images shot at varying focus points, to get sharpness throughout the image. So when your depth of field is too shallow, shoot multiple images and use this Blend feature.

Ok, just one more major change — the ability to leverage 64 bit Windows processing. With this you can finally exceed the 4 GB limit that PS has been restricted to working with before. Of course if you don’t have or anticipate buying a new 64 bit machine in the next year, then this isn’t applicable to you.

Otherwise I consider most of the other features as nice to have. They make your day a little easier and the experience more pleasant.

Is it worth the $199? It depends on how dear $199 is to you these days, how much tolerance you have for learning new features, and how you value the new ones introduced.   Unless you use Camera Raw and can take advantage of its local enhancement tools, the decision is not so clear cut as, in my opinion, the decision to upgrade from Lightroom 1 to Lightroom 2.

Nov 022008

Just a quick post for today, with my most used shortcuts. I can’t recommend these enough — they work everywhere, Photoshop, Camera Raw, Lightroom, and in places where other shortcuts don’t necessarily work, like in Photoshop filters.

First, the left bracket key [ and right bracket key ] for decreasing and increasing brush size … paint brush, healing brush, clone stamp, adjustment brush, spot removal tool, eraser, etc, etc.. Don’t waste your time going into brush menus for this! Similarly, shift [ and shift ] control how soft or hard your brush is, in 20% increments.

Second, for zooming in and out on an image, I use Ctl/Cmd + and Ctl/Cmd -. Again, in all of these programs. Holding the space bar down gives you the hand tool so that you can click and drag around in the image to get to the part you want to see. (Hold the space bar down the entire time).

Oct 312008

If you have upgraded to Photoshop CS3 or CS4 or if use Lightroom, then you have encountered Vibrance. Consider it a smarter less heavy handed form of Saturation. Saturation will saturate all colors equally, and it is easy to go over the edge into blobs of frightening color and loss of detail in a color that was pretty saturated to start with, just to get the saturation up on another color that started out less saturated. Vibrance on the other hand will saturate less-saturated colors more than ones that are already more saturated. It will also protect somewhat against oversaturating skin tones. Consider this example. The first image is before adjustments. My goal is to increase the saturation of the colors in the hat.


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Oct 302008

I showed you in my first clarity post how to use negative clarity in Lightroom or Camera Raw to soften skin. For a creative look, try heavy negative clarity on the whole image:



Minus 100 Clarity

Minus 100 Clarity (click on the Image to see larger)

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Oct 292008

Scrubby sliders are one of Photoshop’s great time saving features that you may not discover on your own. In many places in Photoshop, when you click and drag left or right on the name of a numeric setting, it adjusts the setting down or up — with no need to go into drop down boxes or to type in numbers. As an example, you may have worked with layer opacity, a setting in the layers palette that allows you to reduce the strength or opacity of a layer. The slow way to adjust the opacity is to click on the right facing drop down arrow to the right of 100%, and then adjust the slider that appears:

Drop down opacity slider - the slow way

Drop down opacity slider - the slow way

Th quick way is to click on the word Opacity and drag the slider to the left to reduce it. Notice that as soon as you hover the mouse over the word, a hand with a double arrow appears … this is your indication that a scrubby slider is present:

Another scrubby slider is found up in the options bar for the text tool. You can type in the font size, or instead, click on the Tt symbol to the left of the size and drag!

Set text size with the scrubby slider.

Set text size with the scrubby slider.

You will find many scrubby sliders in numeric options for your tools. Look for them everywhere!

Oct 282008

This is a digital photography post, rather than Photoshop or Lightroom, but it has me fascinated enough that I must send you over to Luminous-Landscape to see for yourself. Michael Reichman was shooting with the new $500 Canon G10 point and shoot along with his $40,000 Hasselblad/Phase 1 digital medium format system and found that image quality is pretty much comparable, on screen and for small and moderate size prints (up to 13″x19:).

Please, read for yourself:

This is a great site to monitor — excellent articles, reviews and training material.

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