Photoshop Has Turned 30!

In Master Photography Roundtable by Jeff Harmon1 Comment

Software Updates Status

Another little step back on my recommendation of MacOS Catalina getting the Photo Taco Seal of Approval.  I am hearing from some who still have problems with getting tethering to work in Lightroom with Catalina and Lightroom version 9.2.  If tethering is something you rely on for your business then you want to hold off there.

I am still not quite ready to give the Photo Taco seal of approval for Lightroom 9.2 that was released early in February 2020.  I expect by the next episode at the beginning of March I will be able to do that. Looking pretty clean thus far but I recommend holding off for one more week.

You can check the status of software updates for information like this over at my Photo Taco Software Updates For Photographers page.

Photoshop’s 30th Birthday

Photoshop is celebrating it’s 30th birthday here in February 2020.  30 years of pixel manipulation. I thought it might be fun to reminisce for a moment here, let our listeners reminisce with us.

First Version of Photoshop We Used

Brent’s earliest memory of using Photoshop was version 3, circa 1994-5:

Photoshop v3 introduced of layers, so compositing images together was a big thing. I was new in college and really new to the whole PS thing but I loved it. Mostly it was printing based, of course, preparing images for print whether we were learning to scan prints or slides but getting them looking good for the print process was key. I became editor of our college’s mugbook and used photoshop to deal with all the images and batch process as much as possible. I attended a small school that’s big on community so a mugbook with all faculty/staff/student’s photos in it was a big production. I then went on to be a designer for the yearbook and made the covers in Photoshop. 

I switched to digital capture in June of 2007 and haven’t looked back. I still have plenty of nostalgic thoughts regarding film but nothing beats digital capture for sure. Nowadays PS is pretty much limited to things I can’t do in LR and for printing, and of course teaching the students what they need to know for their projects. We do some digital painting and other custom creations in PS but I wouldn’t characterize those as personal projects or anything like that.

Jeff definitely did not get into Photoshop until much later:

I very clearly remember just after getting my first DSLR not so long ago back in 2011 not understanding the difference between Lightroom and Photoshop.  As I was learning how to use that camera I knew nothing about, nearly everything I read talked about Lightroom, Photoshop, or both. I had never played with either one at that point, and I had just spent all this money on the camera so I wasn’t ready to spend any more money on photography as I was learning so I was doing the best I could by shooting JPEG and using GIMP or Windows Photo Gallery (a piece of software from Microsoft that was a free download and offered a couple of sliders and some filter based editing).

After months and months of learning and trying things I caught on to Lightroom being a photo management tool that also offers a lot of editing capabilities and Photoshop being the 800 pound gorilla, industry leader, where you could do much fancier things with editing images.  

The problem for me back in 2012 was there wasn’t any Creative Cloud subscription plan available.  Photoshop was like $700 and Lightroom was $80. Both perpetual licensing, meaning you didn’t have to pay a subscription to use them.  I became convinced to buy a license of Lightroom so that I could shoot raw. Pretty sure that was version 4 at the time. There was not way I could get the $700 cost of Photoshop past the Harmon finance committee for my already expensive photography hobby, so I stuck with trying to do some of those things in GIMP for a bit.

A little later I discovered that I qualified for student licensing of Photoshop and could get it for something like $50.  Can’t remember the actual price, but that made it possible for me to finally have the full Lightroom and Photoshop experience.  I think it was the CS6 version of Photoshop I first used, which I looked up and that release was May of 2012. I think I started learning how to use Photoshop sometime in 2013.

Photoshop Transition to Creative Cloud Subscription

I went back and forth on even including this discussion in the episode.  I know that this is going to be a hot topic for a lot of listeners because I see it talked about constantly in our Facebook Group.  I actually hear it discussed constantly in any forum where photography is discussed. In the end I decided it was worth briefly covering this topic in this episode so that listeners to the show who are newer in photography can have some information to make their own decision on what they want to do.

In June of 2014 Adobe had a new release of their CS6 suite of products that they called CC for Creative Cloud and changed things up with offering subscription licensing for access to their products.  Initially it was an optional way to license Lightroom and Photoshop, you could still buy perpetual licenses. However, everyone saw the writing on the wall and knew that the optional part of it was going to go away and the perpetual licensing would be gone.

People have a lot of subscription fatigue.  There is good reason we are all fatigued by subscriptions.  Seems like pretty much everything is licensed by subscription these days.  All of the video streaming stuff, music streaming, apps for your phone. I bought a karaoke machine for my daughter a little bit ago and a few songs were included but they really want you to subscribe to the service that gets you access to thousands of songs.  My treadmill has an annoying screen I have to dismiss every time I get on it (which I do at least 5 times a week) asking me to subscribe to a fitness plan service.  

It’s like death by a thousand paper cuts.  $5 here, $10 there, all of a sudden you are paying hundreds of dollars a month for services you may not even use.  I totally get that and want to avoid subscriptions too. I didn’t pay for the subscription on the karaoke machine or the treadmill.

However, I have to say that for me personally I see software subscriptions a little differently.  Maybe because of my background as a developer I have a soft spot that makes me blind here. Software developers have a tough thing to balance.  They want to spend all of their time and energy making good software that will benefit users which means they need to charge a price for the software to make that work.  Actually, photographers should be able to understand this pretty well because pricing is a massive problem for most of us too. Price our services too high and we won’t get enough business to pay the bills.  Price it too low and you will be working like a dog and still not be able to pay the bills. A subscription model allows software to be priced with a lower up-front cost and provide a steady income stream that increases the chances of survival a ton.

On the other hand, that somewhat guaranteed income stream can lead to complacency too.  The developer could decide to just kick back for a few months and not do anything with the product because that income stream is there for them.  It would dry up eventually if nothing new ever got released, but some could be less motivated to work as hard as they had when they had to convince people to spend money on an upgrade.

I was glad to have the Creative Cloud subscription model made available to me.  If I hadn’t found the student licensing option I wouldn’t have had access to Photoshop in 2013 and that qualification for student licensing wasn’t going to be there with the next version of Photoshop.  I had settled in to the idea that I had to be happy with the version I had for a long time because there was no way I was going to afford $700 to buy Photoshop without the student licensing at the next release.

I was excited at the prospect of being able to learn and use both Lightroom and Photoshop as new versions came out knowing it wouldn’t have that heavy up-front cost.  I could use the very latest version of the tools, all the bells and whistles that it offered, and have it be something I could actually afford.

Brent, what did you think about Adobe’s move to the Creative Cloud subscription model? I have been employed by a school who has paid for my access to the Adobe creative suite of products for many years, so this wasn’t really an issue I had to deal with myself.

However, if I did have to pay for things myself, I think I would go with the $10/mo Photographer’s plan. That provides access to both Lightroom and Photoshop and would have enough value I think I would be willing to pay that. The $50/mo plan to get all of the Creative Cloud I would have to think about. I do use Premiere Pro and Audition, but I may go to other tools like DaVinci Resolve or Apple’s Final Cut.

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Photoshop 21.1.0 Released February 2020

To celebrate the 30th birthday of Photoshop Adobe has released an updated version, 21.1.0.  There are two feature updates and some performance improvements with large documents. You can read about them yourself here:

Content-Aware Fill Workspace Update

Content-aware fill (CAF) is a feature that has been in Photoshop for many years.  Next to the need for layers (applying text, doing composites, etc), CAF is probably the single biggest reason to round-trip from Lightroom to Photoshop.  

When CAF was first introduced as a feature of Photoshop there was no way to customize how it worked.  You made a selection and then used CAF and hoped that the results would replace the selected pixels with something that looked totally natural.  It felt magical with Photoshop figuring out what pixels should be there a huge percentage of the time. It wasn’t perfect though, and I found I had to select a smaller portion of the same spot and have CAF take another go at it.

In 2018 Adobe updated Photoshop with the Content-Aware Fill Workspace.  This allowed you to guide CAF to know where the pixels you were replacing should be pulled from and some other sliders and configuration so that you could increase the chance that the fill would look natural.  It was a little slower to go this route, and it still would sometimes end up with some pixels that needed another CAF iteration. Better in some situations, but slower if you needed multiple iterations.

In Photoshop 2020 version 21.1.0 the Content-Aware Fill workspace has been changed so that you can now iterate CAF as many times as you need to before leaving the workspace!  Very cool feature that Adobe says has been frequently requested by Photoshop users. I am excited to try it out.

Lens Blur Update

Lens Blur is a feature that has also been around in Photoshop for a long time.  This is a way to have Photoshop try and blur parts of an image to make it look like it was shot with a wider aperture.  You could try to fake it yourself with some gaussian blur and layer masking, but Lens blur usually faked a narrow depth of field better and certainly took less effort.

Lens Blur has been re-written in Photoshop 2020 version 21.1.0.  According to Adobe it took a lot of research from PhDs to get this to work as well as it does in this release and part of the magic behind it is how the feature now processes the pixels using the graphics processor (GPU) rather than the CPU.

I don’t reach for Lens Blur as a feature much as I am processing my own images, but I am excited about this from a momentum and direction perspective.  I really want Adobe to get more processing done using the GPU than the CPU and it feels like this is another big step in that direction. I actually kind of like it that Adobe chose a feature that isn’t used as much as some others in Photoshop to prove out the techniques of leveraging the power of the GPU to do some cool things.  Bravo. Keep it going Adobe!

Wait to Update Photoshop to 21.1.0!

If you have listened to the show much at all, you know that I provide my recommendation on when it is software updates are through the buggy phases enough for people to upgrade and not miss a beat in their post-processing workflows.  I recommend that anyone who relies on their computer and software to run their professional business and cannot afford a speed bump in their workflow wait at least two weeks after a release before applying an update.

Photoshop version 21.1.0 hasn’t been out for more than two weeks as of this episode, so I don’t recommend installing it.  You can’t run version 21.1.0 and the predecessor (21.0.3 that has my Photo Taco seal of approval) at the same time. However, there is a pretty easy way to rollback the install if you did it and find an issue through the Creative Cloud app.


Jeff: Lumenzia 8.5 ($40) from Greg Benz.  My favorite extension panel for luminosity masking in Photoshop.  Check out the Lumenzia Release Notes for all the updates and bug fixes.

Brent: More PS love: Generate Image Assets feature. I love it for creating consistent series of images and not having to worry about recropping in LR or anything like that. I just used it to create my Hero Images on my website. We can go over more details later but this is a cool feature.



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