New photo packages

One of my great interests is digital photography and I also take a great interest in the various software packages available for fixing and manipulating pictures.

Adobe will be launching updates of its digital imaging and design software packages in the next few weeks. Adobe Creative Suite 5 (CS5) has been the cause of much excitement on the Internet and, even though the products are not yet available**, there are plenty of previews, reviews and videos about them available.

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Products include the industry-standard Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Flash and Dreamweaver packages and, although I could probably resist the lure of the rest of them, the new and improved features in Photoshop have made it an object of desire in my eyes.

I made the mistake of watching a couple of videos demonstrating its powers and see that it can do some pretty amazing things. One of the most important new features is a thing called Content Aware Fill which can intelligently fill spaces in your pictures based on the bits of adjoining the spaces you want to fill.

Doesn’t sound all that impressive I know, but one demo showed Photoshop guru Terry White deleting a horse from a picture with the program automatically filling the space with grass, bush and fencing. The end result was so good that you literally wouldn’t know that horse had ever been in that picture.

The feature is equally adept at removing other unwanted items from pictures, such as power lines, street signs, or whatever. It can even fill in the missing sections of sky or ground, which invariably occur when you stitch a number of pictures together into a panorama.

Photoshop CS5 also solves a problem that has plagued digital photo manipulators for ever and a day. The problem is selecting very fine objects in one picture so that one can copy them and paste them into another picture.

This is especially true for people because of their hair which is usually fine and wispy so that, while it was possible to cut them out of a picture, it was very difficult and time-consuming to get it right.

This new version of Photoshop makes it almost as easy as falling off a log to make a rough selection of the required area and to refine that so that the most delicate details are captured.

For $699 Photoshop should be good and I have to say, based on what I’ve seen so far, that it certainly seems that way. Time will tell.

While we’re talking about imaging software, I have been fiddling with ACDsee Pro 3 which is a program that can be used to download your pictures from camera or card, organise them in folders, and perform a whole range of basic manipulations including altering exposure, colour balance, and much more.

The program was designed to be a one-stop solution for people who want to apply fixes to their pictures in the shortest amount of time but don’t really need the brute power (and expense) of programs such as Photoshop.

There is a basic version of ACDsee but the Pro version, costing $169, will process the RAW files produced by many cameras. I must say that ACDsee is about as fast as I’ve ever experienced at previewing and processing RAW files and it would certainly be worth a look, for that fact alone.

ACDsee Pro is similar in concept to Adobe’s Lightroom product and, while it is not quite as full of features, it does cost $130 less. Trial versions of both ACDsee and Lightroom are available from the manufacturers’ websites and it would probably make sense to fiddle with both, before making a choice.

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** CS5 was released on 1 May 2010.

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