adobe photoshop

Masking in Adobe Camera RAW

Subject masking in ACR 14.2

Spending a lot of my working life as an editor means that I get very worked up about changes to the software that I use. A couple of months ago I mentioned the fact that masking in Adobe Camera RAW 14 had become simultaneously better and more complicated. I have been asked to talk about what I mean and about why it is better.

In the past you could pick a linear gradient or radial gradient straight from the tool box and apply those relatively simple options to an image really quickly. You could also use a brush to painstakingly paint a mask onto an image in order to carry out local colour, tone or contrast corrections to the masked area. The two most common functions were quick and simple whilst the more complex functions were, well, complex. I grumbled about why you couldn’t have the best of both worlds because the method for selecting the simpler ones had changed from a single mouse-click to three mouse-clicks.

It turns out that in ACR 14.2 you absolutely can.


Adobe Photoshop CS6 Beta

Like half of the photo geeks around the world, I have downloaded and started to play with the public beta version of Adobe’s latest version of Photoshop: CS6. This is a major revision of the software in terms of the interface which looks a lot more like Lightroom than ever before and is also a lot less “freestyle” than those used to versions such as CS3 and earlier would be familiar with. We now have a fixed window rather than the floating elements of previous versions and this will take quite a bit of time for me to get used to. It isn’t that I don’t like it, it’s just that it is a change.

Screen shot of the main window


To be honest, my main use of Photoshop is Adobe Camera RAW. I use it to convert the RAW files that I shoot into whatever file format the job requires, fine tuning the colours, composition and various other elements as I go. At first sight Camera RAW 7 is very little changed from Camera RAW 6xx that I use every day in Photoshop CS5. At least that’s what I thought until I used it in anger on a proper edit.

Screen shot of Adobe Camera RAW 7


If you look closely at the main adjustments palette to the right of the window, you suddenly see what the changes are and what they will mean for every day workflow. Gone are the labels such as Recovery, Fill-light and Brightness to be replaced with a set including Highlights, Shadows and Whites. So far, they seem to perform very similar functions when used on every day files but I have only edited two sets of pictures (neither of which have been “live” jobs) and so it may well be that I have missed something. Here are the two palettes side by side:

Adobe Camera RAW adjustments palettes from CS5 (ACR6) on the left and CS6 beta (ACR7) on the right.


I will continue to play with CS6 and ACR7 as long as the beta phase continues and I’m sure that I will come up with plenty more observations. I only use Photoshop as an optimisation tool and I don’t do any serious retouching or image manipulation with it so don’t expect an in-depth assessment of layers, filters and content aware fill from me – there are plenty of other photo geeks out there who will be able to blog about that kind of stuff!