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After Adobe Creative Cloud came to full fruition in mid-2013, much discussion arose surrounding this new cloud-based subscription service versus the previous model of issuing perpetual licenses. In many regards, this new business model provoked a sense of insecurity in many users who were accustomed to owning a piece of software rather than having to rent it. On the other hand, Adobe CC’s merits lie in the fact that they are now able to offer continuous updates and new features to different programs as they are ready, rather than having to adhere to a more conventional schedule of upgrades. As controversial as the introduction of Adobe CC was, the one uncontested point is that Adobe CC continues on its path of delivering timely image-editing, design, video, music, and other media tool sets to fulfill the most contemporary working needs.
In regard to photography, the new Adobe CC takes the place of the former Adobe Creative Suite and maintains the same imaging-specific programs, such as Photoshop, Bridge, and Photoshop Lightroom 5 (which can still be purchased on its own, separate from Creative Cloud). These programs function in a very similar manner to the way they have in Photoshop CS6, which itself contained more notable differences from CS5. Some new features have been added to Photoshop CC straight out of the box, including more refined sharpening tools, generally better performance and speed when working, improved up-sampling and image resizing, greater support for working with 3D files, and, of course, an array of cloud-dedicated functions and features.
The new Smart Sharpen tool is one of the more notable introductions in Photoshop CC, and uses adaptive technology to help reduce noise and halos in order to produce more natural-looking imagery. More realistically, this is simply a tool that reduces much of the complexity of other sharpening tools and helps to realize well-balanced results in an efficient manner. Also working to boost image sharpness is the new Camera Shake Reduction filter, which as the name suggests, is there to minimize the appearance of camera shake in imagery. Suitable for a wide array of photo types, this sharpening effect is most effective when working with well-lit, mid-contrast, and static photographs.
With the most recent update to Photoshop CC’s feature set, a few new functions were added from the initial release that also deserve merit and notice. One of the most intriguing of these is Warp Perspective, which is an intuitive method for altering the apparent perspective of an image. This is especially useful for architectural and interior photographers, as well as those working with a lot of low-angled shots, converging verticals, and off-center, vanishing-point perspectives. This tool also benefits compositing imagery as a more refined means of mimicking the same perspective of the background image with the newly placed image layer. When working with this tool, you use the selection box to select the subject, refine your selection, and then pull and shift on the bounding box in order to match the appropriate angle. In many ways, this is something of an updated and enhanced Free Transform function that is able to scale the visual space and correct for distortions in imagery.
Another one of the newest features that aids efficiency is Linked Smart Objects. Just as Illustrator and InDesign are reliant on this feature, Linked Smart Objects are now applicable to Photoshop, as well, to benefit a cross-program workflow. In short, this feature permits the insertion of linked objects, such as a watermark or other logo, from a source other than where the photo you are working on is located. Then, when any changes are made to the logo, the changes will automatically be applied to the images containing this linked Smart Object. While mostly catering to the design community, this added functionality can serve to benefit a photographer’s networking and exporting system.
Finally, rounding out Adobe Photoshop CC’s functionality is updated support for 3D printing capabilities. 3D file types, including those created by outside 3D rendering applications, are supported by Photoshop, which can be used to fine-tune and aesthetically enhance their appearance for extended printing abilities to both locally connected printers and the Internet-based Shapeways printing service.
In addition to these new features, as previously mentioned, Photoshop CC distances itself from past releases mainly through the handling and capabilities of existing tool sets and features. The newest version of Camera Raw, now up to its eighth iteration, permits you to apply any edits or adjustments made to RAW images as a filter in Photoshop, with further enhancements possible. When up-sampling and scaling images, new interpolation methods and algorithms give way to cleaner results with reduced noise and greater detail. Additionally, the creation of image assets for website use has been overhauled through the use of Adobe Generator to permit quick asset slicing, selecting, and exporting, as well as inserting different file types and scales from within the layers palette.
All of these changes make possible a more contemporary way of image making and support all aspects of a photographer’s workflow, ranging from importing and converting RAW files, to editing and retouching, to exporting in myriad ways. Added attention has been given, as of late, to integrate many of Adobe’s design-related assets from InDesign and Illustrator into Photoshop for a more fluid and consistent working experience between programs, since more and more users are reliant on design and presentation methods for showcasing their photographs.
Beyond the pure photographic updates with which Adobe Photoshop CC has been endowed, the largest change of all—across the board of all CC programs—has been its rich incorporation and name change, to reflect this new cloud-based method of working. Gone are the days of purchasing licenses and owning specific versions of the latest generation of Creative Suite. Adobe’s new focus is squarely on forging their suite of programs into a more malleable and overarching structure that is characterized by consistent upgrades and programs that are always up to date.
In the past Creative Suite model, Adobe would have to wait until the next release of a new version to incorporate any significant upgrades or changes to the software they had developed, which ultimately slowed down the overall process of evolution. With the cloud-, subscription-based service, updates can be released at briefer intervals. And since it is more intimately tied to having a consistent Internet connection, users can be assured their version is always up to date, in order to receive new functionality.
The other crucial aspect of moving to a cloud service is the integration of numerous tools designed to increase working efficiency, productivity, and exposure to an even wider audience. One of the main features integrated into Adobe CC is Behance, an online portfolio-sharing site that connects creatives with one another to view work in progress, as well as finished pieces, and see new creations from other users to help gain inspiration. Furthermore, integration with Behance also offers the ability to make use of ProSite, a customizable personal portfolio website that excels in aesthetic design as well as back-end ease and operability. For direct image-sharing needs, each Adobe CC subscription also includes 20GB of cloud storage to help maintain a current set of working files that are readily accessible from numerous machines.
As many benefits as working from the cloud offers, it also inherently results in several points of contention for many users. One of the most obvious, in a way, is the fact that users are no longer required to buy licenses for upward of several hundred dollars to thousands of dollars at a time. Now, the cloud-based service is structured on a membership basis, and members are billed monthly. Year-long rates can be locked in, but just like renting an apartment, the rates are susceptible to change over time. This drastic shift resulted in much criticism upon its introduction, including claims about how most users would prefer to own their software rather than lease it.
With the Adobe CC model in place, you are compelled to rely on a continuously updated system and encouraged to be a consistent user. For instance, if one chooses to resign an Adobe CC membership, their software will no longer be valid and files saved in the newer proprietary formats will not be usable on previous versions of Adobe Creative Suite; one is forced to down-save their files to universal standards (such as TIFF) in order to continue working on files. Additionally, one’s cloud-storage limit is decreased to 2GB, with any overage being lost. Another frequently addressed issue concerning the switch to CC is its availability in all countries. Currently, Adobe CC is not globally supported, and CS6 still remains the most current version available of Adobe’s programs for those regions.
While many of these concerns are serious matters for some, there are many others who will embrace the changes set forth by Adobe. The core objective of functioning in a cloud-based service is certainly enticing in most regards, especially due to the ease with which one can acquire new features, updates, and bug fixes in the timeliest manner. The lack of compatibility and swift transition from an opposite model, with little support between the two, is a questionable decision on Adobe's part.
However, in light of the status of Adobe CC as a whole, photographers specifically have recently benefitted from a newly introduced variation of the membership subscription. Rather than determining which CC programs you might use to implement a primarily photo-based workflow, there is currently the option to subscribe to a $9.99/month for one year (for the USA) plan that includes Photoshop CC, Lightroom 5, 20GB of cloud storage, and the Behance ProSite membership. In comparison to previous Creative Suite versions of Photoshop, and due to the fact of the potential for evolution within this structure, this plan (which is currently set to be available through March 31, 2014) offers the photographic essentials at a very fair price. This solution is striving to make light of a situation in which many people became caught up in the semantics describing the way a new business plan would function and affect a workflow that is so personal to many photographers.