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I finally gave in and upgraded to Photoshop CS6. It’s been installed for about two weeks now and I’m slowly becoming more comfortable with it. It’s funny, since it’s essentially the same program, just updated and re-designed, but each time a I move up to a new version, I feel like I’m all thumbs for a while.

Call it caving to pressure – I’m sure that CS7 will be along before too long, and with Adobe’s new policy that requires that we upgrade with each version – instead of every other, or every couple, I figured it was time to get on board already. (I’m not exactly happy about it, but oh well…)

A few other factors came into play as well; I’d like to get one of VSCO Film’s new preset packs, which only works in the CS6 version of ACR. And I was hoping for improved performance processing my Olympus RAW files, which tend to lag a little in CS5.


Early impressions? It’s a lot like CS5, but with a noticeable facelift. I like the darker gray interface – and it’s nice that the color is adjustable, so you can lighten/darken it to taste. As usual, my first hour with it was spent getting all the settings adjusted to my personal defaults. After using it for seven years, I’m particular about how the toolbars are organized.

So far I haven’t found much about Photoshop that’s too different, in terms of how it functions. And Bridge is almost exactly the same as in CS5. (If you’ve missed my staunch support of Bridge in the past, see these posts.) The biggest change comes in ACR.

ACR controls

I didn’t see it at first, as I opened RAW files I’d previously started working with in CS5’s ACR. But a funy icon with an “i” appeared on them and, when I clicked it, it let me update the adjustments to the new ACR interface. And boy, have things ever changed there.

Gone are the brightness & fill light sliders; now there’s sliders for highlights, shadows, white point, and black point (plus a few other things moved around). Plus the values that I’m used to may have changed – when I updated my files, several of these values changed to lesser amounts.

Adobe has some information on the new sliders, but I found the descriptions on this page to be helpful – they’re simple and straightforward.  (I also found out that nearly all of the sliders can be used in conjunction with the Alt key to see the clipping maps, which is very useful as you relearn the sliders, as it lets you see exactly how much and where the adjustments are being applied.)

I’m still playing with it to try and get the hang of the new options. It’s a lot of trial-and-error, “drag the slider and see what looks good” style experimentation. But overall I think it’s an improvement. And it does seem to process my E-M5 RAW files faster.  I’ve also found that I’m able to get the image a lot closer to where I want it in ACR alone, and that the new adjustments there make for a lighter touch required on the curves layer in Photoshop itself.

Other news, good and bad. Bridge imported my keywords from CS5 and ACR still has my VSCO Film presets stored. However, after loading my actions into Photoshop, I found that the ones I use to apply the gallery frames to the images I share here were messed up. This happens every single time I upgrade Photoshop. I couldn’t find the issue in the actions, so I took a screenshot of the expanded steps for reference, then deleted the actions and just rebuilt them. Frustrating and a little time consuming, but having done this before, I’ve gotten good at it.

Also worth nothing, there’s some issues with opening non-RAW files in ACR.  I had a hard time getting it to open JPG and TIFF files in ACR and, looking on the internet for help, it seems I’m not alone – and that some people may be having worse ACR trouble than I am.  In this regard it still doesn’t work as smoothly as CS5, but I have found that if I drag files from Bridge and drop them in Photoshop, it will open them – regardless of file type – in ACR, which is what I want.

As I said at the beginning, the “all thumbs” feeling will be gone soon and CS6 will feel as natural as all it’s predecessors have. I’ll be uninstalling CS5 shortly and giving it to a friend – the license is paid for and the program is great, so someone might as well use it. I still think that Adobe has gotten greedy and needs to be knocked down a few notches, but right now they are the only real game in town, so I have deal. But who knows what the future will bring.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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