By Ellis Vener
1. The Content Aware Spot Healing Brush. It works great on faces and makes many of the retouching techniques I used prior to PsCS5 obsolete. On the down side, while it’s a marked improvement over the Spot Healing Brush in Photoshop CS4, it doesn’t always do a perfect job, especially if your output is going to be large in size and high resolution. You still sometimes need to do some basic area selection or masking to limit the active area and prevent edge explosions when the spot you're retouching is up against a well defined area of different tone and color. And you still need to do a little cleanup work for a more invisible blend of the area you’ve spot healed with its surroundings.
2. Content Aware Fill. I do a lot of stitched panoramic work where the edges of the composite are an irregular shape. For the foreground, I generally just crop, but boy, oh, boy does this work like magic for filling in the missing areas at the top and sometimes along the sides. Here’s how you do it: Shoot your over lapping frames (50-60% overlap works best, but sometimes 25-30% works, depending on the subject content) and then stitch them using your favorite stitching program. You may notice that some areas around the edges are empty. Rather than crop into the composite, try this: Select the Wand tool, click on an empty area to select it, and hit Delete. A dialog box (see below) will pop up and ask if you want to fill in the area using Content Aware Fill (yes). As with Content Aware Spot Healing, it’s not perfect yet but it's getting there.
3. The Mac OS X version of Photoshop is at long last both coded in Cocoa and 64-bit enabled. This allows for far better utilization of multi-core multi-processor computers and eliminates the 4GB cap on RAM imposed by the 32-bit version. But wait … not all of your old standby actions and plug-ins will work with the 64-bit RAM version. You'll have to wait for them to be updated or switch back to 32-bit mode to use them when you need to. Windows users have had the 64-bit option since CS4.
4. This won’t appeal to everyone but they’ve improved the quality of Photomerge for making stitched panoramas. For high-resolution work I still like the results from PTGui 8.3.10 better.
5. Adobe Camera Raw 6—better algorithms + better process = better results. If you don’t want or need to add Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 to your software suite, ACR 6.x is fundamentally the same as Lightroom 3’s Develop module but with a different interface. And it lets you do something no version of Lightroom will let you do yet—choose the color space and bit depth you want to work in, and it lets that choice drive both the preview and the histogram. Ths really is something I’d like to be able to do in Lightroom.
6. (because there are far more than 5 great things about Photoshop CS5) More and different brushes and brush patterns. I may never use 98 percent of them, but for photographers who do venture into painting artistry, this is fantastic.
Learn more about Photoshop CS5 from Adobe TV:
Photoshop CS5 Overview
Photoshop CS5 What's New for Photographers
Photoshop CS5 New Camera Raw Features
Painting in Photoshop, Part 1
Photoshop CS5 Content Aware Fill
Photoshop CS5 Automated Lens Correction