by Stan Sholik
With the announcement of Photoshop CC 2014, Adobe has ended speculation about the update cycle of Photoshop. While Creative Cloud members have enjoyed two updates (14.1 and 14.2) since the release of Photoshop CC, Photoshop CC 2014 appears as a new release, equivalent to Photoshop 15.0. But Adobe has abandoned the previous numbering convention and 18-month release cycle. We can now expect yearly releases with the new naming convention, Photoshop CC RELEASE YEAR.
For photographers, the Photoshop CC 2014 release adds some tweaks to the Brush Presets and Color Panel, improved Smart Guides, enhanced Sync Settings, a new Content and Color Aware Fill option, and other changes. But the features of greater interest are additions to the Select and the Filter > Blur Gallery menus.
The Select drop-down menu contains a new Focus Area option. Selecting it opens the Focus Area dialog box while Photoshop automatically makes a selection of the out of focus area in the image. For portraits or other subjects with large differences in sharpness between the in-focus foreground and out of focus background, the selection works extremely well. The dialog box includes brushes for adding or subtracting areas that were not automatically included. Also included in the dialog box is a button that opens the Refine Edges dialog box if you need to more carefully mask a subject’s hair or perform other refinements.
Because of the similar tonality of the hair, skin, and background, this portrait used to be tricky to outline. Using the new Focus Area tool in the Select menu, the job is much easier.
When you select Focus Area, Photoshop automatically looks for areas in focus and makes a rough selection. Brushes are available to add to or delete from the selection, as well as a slider to adjust the range of in-focus areas.
The Focus Area tool, even with the parameter adjustments available only does a rough job. But a button is included in the dialog box to open Refine Edges.
Using Refine Edges you can complete the outline and send the image back to Photoshop.
The updated Blur Gallery includes two new motion blurs: Spin Blur and Path Blur. Spin Blur creates a circular (or elliptical) motion blur, allowing you to spin the wheels of a stationary vehicle, or make a stopped Ferris wheel appear to be turning. The spin blur overlay on the image allows multiple options to adjust the effect and the Blur Angle slider controls the “speed” of the blur. You can also create strobe effects that “stop” the spinning as many as 100 times within the blur.
The Path Blur tool is even more interesting. With it you can create motion blurs along a Bezier path that you create. Path Blur operates on the entire image or a selection, but masks are not implemented for Path or Spin Blur. With only a short time to play with the path blur, I see a multitude of creative possibilities—how about the wedding party jumping in the air with motion streaks? With the right slider settings, you can also use Path Blur to simulate rear-curtain flash synchronization.
Along with the release of Photoshop CC 2014, Adobe announced other new releases of interest to photographers. Lightroom is upgraded to version 5.5, with a few new features, and remains a standalone as well as Creative Cloud program. With Lightroom 5.5 you are able to use Lightroom Mobile on iPhones as well as iPads, synchronize star ratings as well as flag ratings, and view and sort images with a custom sort order.
The new Photoshop Mix app will be of interest to photographers who can’t stand being separated from Photoshop. Adobe Photoshop Mix focuses on transferring Photoshop’s ability to make non-destructive selections, create masks, and perform compositing to the iPhone and iPad. The mobile app includes Photoshop functionality such as upright, shake reduction, and content-aware fill. All actions are done by touch on the mobile device.
Photoshop Mix is a free download from the Apple App Store, but you must have an Adobe ID to use it. You can use the features in Photoshop Mix on any image in your camera roll, including those taken with the mobile device, or on images you upload to the Creative Cloud. When you are finished using Photoshop Mix on images, the app saves them back to Photoshop CC with the changes in layers for further refinement. Adobe is offering true cloud computing with Photoshop Mix, and it will be exciting to see where this leads.
Stan Sholik is a commercial/advertising photographer in Santa Ana, California. His latest book, “Shoot Macro: Techniques for Photography Up Close” (Amherst Media), is available this fall.