What, exactly, does CS4 offer photographers & others?


  • Scott Kelby writes, "We were kind of surprised, but again on my blog last week, people are still asking the same questions, ‘What’s in CS4? Should I upgrade? Is it worth the upgrade? etc.,’ so we went into the studio to put together a comprehensive discussion on all of CS4’s new features."  Check out the crew’s video discussions on the subject.
  • Do you know about (and use) Bird’s-Eye View in Photoshop, or the Targeted Adjustment Tool in Camera Raw?  If not, give Derrick Story’s Five Adobe CS4 goodies for photographers a quick review.
  • Anita Dennis has pulled together an excellent list of Bridge CS4 tutorials.

33 thoughts on “What, exactly, does CS4 offer photographers & others?

  1. Everything on your post today is helpful to me. Although I already had CS4, at least the first two installments on Kelby’s website are terrific. Adobe couldn’t do a better promotional.
    [Oh, no doubt: Scott & his crew are an invaluable resource for the Photoshop community. –J.]

  2. I am fed up with the increasing bloat and buggy update process in successive versions of Photoshop and have decided to skip CS4 and instead use Lightroom alone.
    From Adobe’s recent announcement about disappointing CS4 sales, I am apparently not the only one.
    [FWIW, Photoshop has been doing a heck of a lot better than many other products in this economy. –J.]
    Had PS CS4 been 64-bit on the Mac, my decision may have been different.
    [Well, you know how we got to the current state of affairs. –J.]

  3. I’m still using CS2. I could definitely use CS3 and CS4 has a lot of cool features it would be nice to have. No doubt.
    I wind up holding off on pulling the trigger when it comes to actually spending several hundreds of dollars for an upgrade. Rolling out CS4 only about 18 months after CS3 actually exacerbates my hesitation to jump into CS4, I find. A $400 upgrade every year and a half is pretty salty for some of us. Pro shops can just suck it up, I guess. But maybe not so much anymore.
    Anyway, I’m a photographer. I know a lot of other pro photogs who are still using CS2 and CS3 and the fact is it does what we need.
    My feeling is that if these version upgrades are going to come this frequently Adobe needs to price upgrades lower. Otherwise roll out some of the new features within version updates and issue upgrades every couple or years of so.
    What we are really talking about here are issues of cash flow. Adobe makes no money on me using an old version of CS or unpaid updates. The resistance to CS4 is most likely a pricing issue more than a bells and whistles and cool features issue. Users for whom those bells & whistles improve personal cash flow are certainly going to go for it. The question becomes how many users are more like me – would like and could use the new stuff but can also deliver the results necessary with what I’ve got.

  4. I’m just wading into CS4 now and have found lynda.com and kelbytraining.com to be great resources for the upgrader.
    Today’s post was the cream of the crop however, thanks for the links.

  5. Hmmm – $400- in 18 months, that’s a little over $5- a week.
    [FWIW, the upgrade price is actually $199 US, though in other geographies it may work out to be higher. –J.]
    What is your time worth? Even if it’s only worth $20- an hour (and I bet it’s worth more than that) then if you save 15 minutes a week you break even. Do you think the new productivity and workflow benefits could possibly save you 15 minutes a week?
    For personal users (who decide they want PS rather than Elements) then, yes, it’s a lot of money. For anyone making money from using the product it seems quite reasonable.
    You can always download a trial copy to see how it benefits you.

  6. The reason people keep asking “what’s in it for me?” is because there’s just not enough for many to make it worthwhile, specifically on the Mac. If Adobe had been in a position to offer a 64-bit version (we don’t need to go over the reasons again) maybe people would more tolerant of CS4’s aggravations (bugs … I’ve logged seven … and gratuitous changes). As it is, I have CS4 paid for and installed and still don’t see a net gain in using it (Bridge CS4 I use). Continually explaining to people in the hope that they’ll “get it” doesn’t wash when many have adapted their use of the product long ago to overcome most of the shortcomings that the upgrade is meant to address.
    [When we got rid of the layer linking column, people (my friends included) chewed us out. They adapted, however, and I don’t know anyone who’d trade multiple layer selection in order to go back to the old way. Sometimes it *does* take a lot of explanation before people say, “Y’know, there *is* a better way to work, and it’s worth adapting.” –J.]
    Anyway, you can put me down for the 64-bit Mac upgrade, but if there was a serious alternative to Photoshop I would have no hesitation in jumping ship. The question to ask is what has Adobe done to alienate long term (since 2.5) users like me.
    [What, specifically? If you don’t list specifics, it’s much harder to address your complaints. –J.]

  7. [What, specifically? If you don’t list specifics, it’s much harder to address your complaints. –J.]
    I’ve raised the problems with half-baked Open GL rendering and picking up the wrong monitor profile for soft-proofing here in the past (as I note have others). If you want some case numbers, here they are:
    0180541677, 0180541602, 0180541806, 0180491350, 0180542252, 0180542276, 0180541800.
    Not included in the above is the debacle of CS4 and Epson printer drivers, something that Adobe isn’t entirely at fault for, but when CS3 works and CS4 doesn’t which do you think I’ll use?
    I use Photoshop all day, every day. If it wasn’t for this I wouldn’t have spent umpteen hours dealing with Adobe support staff in the Philippines and India trying to get the bugs logged into the system and fixed so when CS5 ships it will be usable.
    [Thanks for the details, Stephen. This is indeed helpful, and I’ll look into your reports. We *are* working on an update to Photoshop; details on that to follow soon. –J.]

  8. I’ve tried PsCS4 at some colleague’s Macs and I have to say I like it a lot. Unfortunately the stupid Adjustment Panel will steal about 15min a week so I’m pushing the update further away.
    John, is there any way you give us back the old dialogs by double clicking on the Adjustment Layer, like it has always been? I know it’s still there, so not much reprogramming should be necessary and you could keep working on the Panel while nobody hates on it. This whole script-workaround mess is annoying. Remember, always bring new features as an option, not as a replacement.
    The curves dialog is really the most important thing in the whole app. And Hue/Saturation also suffers from the panel. I understand you want to do more LightRoomish stuff for the beginners, fine, just don’t kill the rest please.
    This should be possible for a CS4 update, not a CS5 update. Maybe give us an option in the Layers panel “Open Adjustment Layer dialogs instead of Adjustment Panel”.
    Congratulations on making the whole app look a lot simpler and cleaner and the bar on top is great too. This is a good direction. The AP is a terrible direction. Wonder what’s going to be flushed next. MAKE IT AN OPTION! Caugh, ‘xcuse me, Make it an option. Please.

  9. I feel a little like I’m being forced to use CS4. The camera I ordered before CS4 shipped (5dmkII) isn’t supported by the ACR compatible with CS3. Yeah, I can convert to DNG. Yeah, I can export out of Lightroom (LR did release an update supporting the camera). And yeah, I understand why. You have to cut the old stuff and move on. I just feel a little… pushed.
    [Understood. I’m at least glad you get our rationale. –J.]

  10. For me, from a photography point of view, the key to looking at Photoshop CS4 is to understand it’s a collection of applications that make a fairly snappy workflow. As much as I like the current version of PS (and I do think the OpenGL implementation is good), I really like the latest versions of Bridge and ACR (5.2 is outstanding). If you don’t care about these tools, then I can see why you might miss much of the charm of this update. But I think they are terrific.

  11. I have upgraded to ever version of Photoshop since 2.5. And it’s not because I’m a fanboy.
    Is there such a thing as an Adobe fanboy outside the company? 😉
    It’s because I love to learn new things. Learn to be more efficient. Try new tools and apply that to how I work. I know a lot of people don’t like change, prefer doing it the old way.
    I spent $3,000 upgrading some lenses for my camera in the past four months. The upgrade to CS4 Creative Suite Design Premium was 1/6 that. If you use three or more Adobe apps in a Suite, the price is more than reasonable.
    Photographers are notoriously cheap because the people that pay them are even worse. So I understand the angst of paying for a tool that already works. But if you like to learn new things, and learn how to be more productive, then I see no reason not to follow the upgrade path. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than the camera equipment upgrade path we follow in this digital age.

  12. When I brought my Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS a few years ago, I was just a keen amateur. The cost was significant, but the pleasure that, and other good gear, has given me over the years left me in no doubt that the outlay was worth it. If I lost that lens I would replace it in a heartbeat – despite the cost.
    I’ve had CS4 since December having moved up from CS3. The decision was made easier by qualifying for the Educational version, but having now used it extensively, if I had pre-knowledge of what I’ve got out of the upgrade, I would have paid the full price – no question. Just like that big white lens, it is more than justifying the outlay.
    Having said that, the biggest advantage with CS4 for me, is the local adjustment tools in ACR, and they available for a much smaller investment with Lightroom 2. And there are other features – like the Adjustments Panel – that I am not so bowled over by. I had a way of working with CS3 that suited me, and I have had to adapt it for CS4.
    The month’s free subscription to Lynda.com that comes with the purchase gives a quick and easy access to the new features. Features like Content Aware Scaling, that at first impression were nice but trivial, have proved a huge aid to composition. I love the GPU features, and the ability to Rotate the image for ease of use with a graphics tablet. The Masking panel is a god send. I could go on for ages.
    My problem now is that my free subscription to Lynda.com has expired, and they have just released a new Chris Orwig title ‘CS4 Creative Effects’. Will the spending ever end? 🙂

  13. What problems are you having with Epson printers and CS4? That’s the only combination that I use.
    For those unaware, the path from Photoshop, through Mac OS to the printer driver has been very precarious for way too long and it doesn’t take much to get garbled colours, invoke double profiling etc. There’s ample discussion of these issues on Adobe’s Photoshop Mac forum, in Chromix’s newsletters etc etc. The good news is that Adobe, Apple and Epson (and maybe other printer manufacturers) are aware of the issues, the bad news is that all the pieces aren’t in place … still. Adobe made changes in CS4 which sidelined Epson, and Apple have been working on their end (see the latest 10.5.6 update). There’s also been suggestions by Adobe’s Eric Chan with cumbersome workarounds for some of the issues.
    Maybe it’s not a problem for you. I know for a fact that the non colour-managed output from CS4 doesn’t match that from both CS3 and the SpectroProofer on my Epson 7900. I’m sure all this will be sorted out in time (I understand Adobe and Epson are having meetings) but it doesn’t take too many sheets of rag wasted to wipe out any of the advantages in productivity that CS4 is supposed to bring. Rather than get involved in the inevitable finger pointing, I’ve simply gone back to what works.

  14. you use none color managed output?
    and it is easy to do something dumb (garbled colors / double profiling etc)?
    yes, I have been there too, but I didn’t stay there.

  15. I store all my images (and music) on 2 external drives.
    What happens to Bridge collections and star ratings of my images if my C: drive dies? Does all that info die with it?
    What if for some reason I need to change the drive letter of the drive containing my images. Does Bridge no longer know where to find the images associated with the meta data it has?
    What if I take those drives with me to work (using a mac at work) Can Bridge on my mac recognize the ratings/collections I created on my home PC?
    If not… those features are almost useless to me, just like ACDSee and other similar apps.
    That’s why I gave up on cataloging my images with ACDSee and cataloging my music with winamp. When windows needs re-installing (every year like clockwork 🙁 ) or the OS drive dies I lose all that metadata 🙁

  16. Might have found a bug in windows Bridge.
    Holding alt while dragging a file from Bridge to Explorer copies the file instead of making a shortcut. Only ctrl should make a copy.

  17. Just used Bridge to look at a folder with 1800 photos. It pretty much incapacitated this machine for a number of minutes while generating thumbnails.
    It would be nice if it had these options:
    only generate thumbnails for the files in view.
    only generate thumbnails for files when first selected.
    a menu item or button to force the generation of thumbnails for all files in folder.
    Upon first launch of bridge it should ask me where I want the thumbnail cache to be saved and by default should select the drive with the most free space.
    Countless programs just dump mysterious crap into C:\documents and settings\user\Application Data\ without even asking! As a result I have less than 4 gigs of free space on my C: drive even though I NEVER, EVER, … EVA-EVA-EVA-EVA-EVA…EVER save ANYTHING ANYWHERE on C:

  18. More bridge bugs.
    If I copy a file within bridge and go to explorer I can’t “paste shortcut”.
    There’s no way to manually enter a path into the path bar. (stop copying apple, their decisions aren’t as great as they try to make people think they are!)

  19. I just bought an 8-core Mac Pro specifically for Photoshop work, only to find out: 1. it’s no faster than a quad core when using Photoshop 2. Photoshop CS4 is a 32-bit app whereas it’s 64-bit on Windows. I feel like an idiot for not doing more research. Most professional photographers use Macs, so I stupidly assumed it would be better. John, did I waste my money, or does Adobe plan to upgrade the code?
    Embarrassed in Denver,

  20. OK, I took a deep breath and did some more googling using different word combinations. I see that the 64-bit issue is around Apple’s Cocoa implementation. Can you offer a guess as to when CS5 will be released?
    [Historically Photoshop has been on an 18-24 month release cycle. That would put the CS5 launch somewhere in the March-September 2010 time frame. –J.]

  21. There’s a fundamental that I run into repeatedly when I’m teaching/evangelizing CS4 (Photoshop or InDesign or Dreamweaver or Flash) to friends and associates, especially if they “grew up” with an earlier version.
    It is this: new features are not the same as new *workflows*.
    The engineering team spends 1000s of hours examining user workflows and working out ways to speed things up. Good so far. They implement them in the new version. Still good. But then these things are promoted as new *features* instead of “Here’s the problem, here’s the solution” (which is how these new features got there in the first place).
    The truth is that as the apps develop they demand a new way of working, and many folks are trying to make CSx work like CS(x-1) because that’s the workflow they know.
    A case in point is the adjustment panels. The complainers are still in the old modal dialog mindset and haven’t scratched the surface of the workflow enhancement, and Adobe’s not done a good job of reaching those folks with the Good News.
    Old ways of doing things still work, but the new workflows need to be explained, or people a) don’t get the rationale, so they b) don’t really receive the benefit, and c) express their frustration by complaining about how “Adobe messed it up.”
    The development cycle has passed the point where the enhancements are blindingly obvious or can be appreciated in isolation.
    I’ve learned to work differently and as a result I get way more done in much less time than I could with CS3. Despite some issues with CS4’s performance, I would not go back, any more than I’d go back to CS2, CS or PS 7.

  22. Alan Gilbertson:
    A case in point is the adjustment panels. The complainers are still in the old modal dialog mindset and haven’t scratched the surface of the workflow enhancement, and Adobe’s not done a good job of reaching those folks with the Good News.
    The Adjustment panel is a contentious issue and a good exemplar of what’s good/bad about CS4. First up, if it was optional nobody would be complaining.
    [Sure they would. They’d complain about Photoshop being “bloated” with redundant, overlapping ways of working. –J.]
    So if the Adjustment panel is displayed, use it otherwise bring up the tried & true dialog. Given that legacy functionality seems to stick around in Photoshop long after its use-by date, forcing workflow changes is a radical change and just invites criticism.
    [I’m not sure I understand your point. You’re saying that things stick around too long, but that in this case we should have kept both the old and the new? –J.]
    Secondly, the Adjustment panel doesn’t buy much in the grand scheme of things. Unless you hadn’t twigged that there were such things as “adjustment layers”. Yes you can save a few clicks, change the blend mode etc but big deal. When you factor in the extra seconds deciphering Adobe’s god-awful adjustment icons you’re probably behind. Its non-modality also raises some interesting issues of shortcuts and how it marries to the history, something I still feel a bit uncomfortable about. The biggest issue for me however is that of the +/- keyboard shortcuts to move between points going AWOL, something Adobe support is still looking into.
    However, I can see PLENTY of other areas in Photoshop much more deserving of programming effort than the shuffling of deck chairs that the Adjustment panel typifies for me. Like using the computing resources I have on (or rather beside) my desk. Given that even bottom end computers these days come with 2 or more processors, the amount of multithreaded code in Photoshop is a disgrace. The time it takes to open and close large files in itself wipes out the milliseconds I would gain each day using the Adjustment panel. It’s when you see Adobe trumpeting features that I don’t really need and neglecting doing what it should to bring Photoshop into the 21st century that is probably at the heart of dissatisfaction with the changes in CS4. (As for Adobe’s Open GL implementation, the less said about this the better.)
    Good luck with the evangelizing.

  23. [Sure they would. They’d complain about Photoshop being “bloated” with redundant, overlapping ways of working. –J.]
    Like there’s NO redundancy at all in Photoshop? 🙂
    [I’m not sure I understand your point. You’re saying that things stick around too long, but that in this case we should have kept both the old and the new? –J.]
    I wasn’t taking a side either way, just noting that this is a change where compatibility with existing workflows was previously given more emphasis.
    As for the Adjustment panel, maybe I didn’t make it clear that I’m not for or against it (I’d like the +/- shortcut to work all the time though) but there’s more productive ways Adobe could be spending its time … IMHO.

  24. Alan Gilbertson, regarding your comment on the Adjustmen Panel, there hasn’t been a single demonstration or tutorial in the entire intdustry of this feature that shows that it’s fast.
    The reason is, that it’s slowing you down, if you were a fast user before and only speeds you up, if you knew very little about the app before or used a super slow workflow (such as the Photoshop guys from Photoshop User TV). Therefore it can not be shown to the user. Instead they toss it out and hope that someone can figure out a way to work fast with it. Hasn’t happened yet.
    I’m still waiting for someone who is faster with the AP than I am with the dialogs in older Ps versions.

  25. Add me to the list of customers greatly dissatisfied with the adjustments panel.
    [Can you be more specific? –J.]
    All I ask for is an option to return to the dialogue box behavior in CS3.
    [If you want the Curves dialog, download this panel. –J.]
    Not all of us are new users who need icons to figure out how to adjust our images.
    [I’m going to repeat this point: The panel isn’t meant for new users per se. It’s meant to make it possible to do some long-requested things more efficiently. –J.]
    I cringe whenever I see it. Is there any possibility we can see this return to photoshop in a free update?
    [Sorry, no. Making Photoshop less modal is fundamentally the right thing to do. It’s useful to focus on what, specifically, you’d like changed about the panel. –J.]

  26. Let me preface this by saying this is not mean spirited or close-minded criticism. Its just that Photoshop is very important to many of our careers so we care that it works for us. I wouldn’t spend this time complaining about itunes.
    – Add me to the list of customers greatly dissatisfied with the adjustments panel.
    [Can you be more specific? –J.]
    There is this adobe forum thread titled “Not happy about Adjustments panel” with 172 posts: http://www.adobeforums.com/webx?14@@.59b69a82/0
    -[If you want the Curves dialog, download this panel. –J.]
    Now that’s nice, can we have those for all of the adjustments? And I don’t want buttons in my workspace nor fly out tabs (just keycommands) so can there be the CS3 modal boxes invoked by keycommands? That curve dialogue works just like the one in CS3, you don’t need to have the eyedropper selected to set a control point.
    – If I am working on an adjustment layer then I decide to cancel it altogether I just press escape in CS3 and the dialogue box disappears and there is no layer in my stack. In CS4 I assigned F14 to close the adjustment panel but it still adds the layer in the stack even if I don’t need it. So I have to go and delete it. I see there are these icons on the bottom of the panel but they are annoying, I prefer alittle bit of text like the CS3 boxes. Using option to invoke a reset button was great in CS3, as was just hitting enter to accept the change and close the dialogue box.
    -I feel that maybe for most experienced Photoshop users (for photography) adjustment layers might be the most important feature. CS4 changes how we have to work with them and its not a small issue to us. If Adobe were to accomadate users by restoring this legacy workflow you would make alot of people happy. If all the new UI additions like the app frame, tabs, etc. are optional why can’t this be too?
    I just don’t see how this panel improves workflow for experienced users.

  27. [Sure they would. They’d complain about Photoshop being “bloated” with redundant, overlapping ways of working. –J.]
    That’s the most risible argument for forcing costumers to use a slower workflow I’ve ever heard. I really thought you learned your lesson after CS3’s GUI disaster. If you OFFER a new function (as you promised personally), different users might find a way to work with it and see improvements, then show the rest of us and we adapt.
    If you FORCE us to use it, you risk that the feature is slow crap and nobody finds a fast way to use it (as is still the case). Go to your own forums and find out about it.
    As soon as I see a video of someone taking less time to do curves adjustments in CS4 than me in CS1 I accept the feature but still won’t accept the strategy of just shoving it down our throats.
    Unfortunately the Photohop-guys with their show that only features newbie-tips are slower than a turtle.

  28. It’s depressing this many months after the CS4 launch, that *still* the only advantages anyone can claim for the Adjustments Panel are theoretical: “improved ‘workflow’,” and “non-modal is the future”. It hasn’t improved my workflow – it’s completely messed it up, to the point where CS4 may be the first update since v5 I skip altogether.
    I honestly don’t think Adobe understand the way in which professional retouchers (who live and die by adjustment layers if they’re worth their salt) use the modal dialogs and the old shortcuts to make quick, decisive moves.
    Some manager somewhere may have felt dissatisfied that the shortcuts weren’t the same between apps, or that Photoshop’s colour tools weren’t the result of a single clear line of reasoning. The fact is, they might not have been design perfection, but they were perfect – and I really do mean perfect – for swift, skilful work.
    Look to Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky, and the oh-so-helpful Michael Palin character “improving efficiency” in the blacksmiths. Adjustments Panel == tin of nails.
    [Ben, I really, *really* need to hear *specifics* about what bothers you, in chapter and verse. Talking about “workflow” (a pistol-whipped abstraction of a buzzword if ever there was one) or speculating about pointy-haired managers doesn’t give me anything actionable. I’ll post a query on this subject. –J.]

  29. “Ben, I really, *really* need to hear *specifics* about what bothers you, in chapter and verse.”
    Working on it. Thanks, Ben

  30. Adobe seems to be falling into a trap called “firefox”.
    With each new version Firefox developers add some “new and improved” way of doing something.
    Last thing they have added is the ability for the browser to remember the page zoom factor for each URL visited.
    It would be nice if it worked properly (if levicki.net and http://www.levicki.net were detected as a same website) and if it was OPTIONAL.
    However, there is no visible UI option to turn this feature off (except by digging through about:config) and to revert to previous behavior.
    Before that they introduced close button on each tab instead of only one close button at the window edge. Again, it was a behavior breaking change and again it wasn’t OPTIONAL.
    So, if there is a sure way to piss off long time users of any software it is this — make a behavior breaking UI change, make it a new default, and don’t allow us to revert to the old way. We just love that… NOT.
    [I don’t know what, specifically, you’re talking about in Photoshop. I do know that if we keep old ways of working alongside the new ways, you (or someone) will excoriate us about bloat & redundancy. –J.]

  31. I guarantee you, if you don’t change the most core functions of the application, nobody and I mean nobody will call them bloat. New features that don’t work too well, are a different story.
    I wonder how many people have to tell you that they don’t consider the dialogs bloat. Anyone who uses the AP doesn’t notice them, why consider them bloat? You could make it a simple option in the AP options. One little checker and everybody is happy. Nothing to reprogram as the dialogs are all still in there now, only unaccessable due to another huge usability fail. Please fix as soon as possible. Thanks.

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