It wasn’t long ago when Adobe Photoshop users were leery when the creative software became a subscription-only service in 2013. It wasn’t immediately apparent how the new annual fee would be justified through continual enhancements to the application. Such concerns among the loyal Photoshop (PS) user community didn’t fall on deaf ears. In many respects, the new user expectations elevated the photo editing app to many new and unprecedented performance levels.
While Adobe Photoshop remains the overwhelmingly popular choice among photographers, designers, and graphic artists across all skill levels, several groundbreaking advancements from newcomers like Affinity Photo and Luminar place the two in much closer competition. Lightroom, the counterpart to Photoshop that can be purchased from Adobe separately, continues to place itself as a strong competitor in this same segment, as well.
Is the latest installment of Photoshop up to task?
Adobe’s Photoshop underwent significant updates in October 2020, then later in February 2021, leading into the latest edition, updated Photoshop 23.2.2 released in March 2022. This current version of the software offers the most advanced features Adobe has ever produced. The company implemented Sensei machine-learning technology to automate specific advanced and time-consuming edits from the Cloud.
For the first time ever, the latest PS application lets you make single-click adjustments that will alter the mood appearance of your portrait. The mood itself depends on the slider you choose and can range from happier to sadder, angrier to older, and even an expression of surprise. Unlike the Lightroom application, which orientates itself on traditional photo editing concepts, Adobe PS is a powerful graphic design tool. With Photoshop’s Be Happy filter, for instance, the adjustment slider lets you draw your subject’s mouth open to the desired expression as it fills in a set of teeth.
What sets Photoshop’s newest features apart?
The latest filters from Adobe for portrait photography are consistent insofar as they’re irreproducible by other photo-editing applications. Unlike its competitors, the most recent filters from Photoshop allow you to achieve advanced technical results with little to no user intervention. But there’s one caveat to this. While these filters always deliver uncannily realistic results, at second unwitting spectators invariably notice something peculiar about your subject’s expression.
Industry experts and insiders describe such a reaction critique as “beta.” This means the filters are not complete, and the developers are still sorting out the finer details. As you subscribe to Adobe’s Cloud services, expect these inchoate machine-learning features the company recently introduced to improve drastically over a short time. Also, while a few excellent filters are already part of the current repertoire, filters like Skin Smoothing and Light Adjustor, for example, not all of the new neural filters are quite as advanced.
What are Photoshop’s best neural filters?
Skin Smoothing is a highly advanced filter that saves users time. Until now, fashion-orientated portrait photographers have relied on a technique called “frequency separation” for maximum control over the delicate textures and colors in their images. In past times, when the photographic medium was strictly celluloid, the equivalent photo editing process was known as “retouching.” Frequency separation entails the use of multiple tools, blurs, brushes, and several layers to render professional, high-end-looking images while Skin Smoothing can produce these results right off the Cloud in a single click.
The two other impressive filters, Light Adjustor and Refine Hair are powerful filters that professional photographers and editors resort to frequently. Light Adjustor creates an image that looks like you were moving a physical light source around your subject on location. Refine hair also helps speed up the workflow by allowing you to fine-tune how you select your subject’s hair. While they aren’t perfect tools and won’t likely win you a coveted photo editor position at a leading agency, the two still produce stunning results in as little as one click.
Photoshop Sky Replacement
The neural filters may feel too beta for experienced Photoshop users, but another recent Photoshop feature surely won’t. Sky Replacement is decidedly one of the most advanced additions to Adobe Photoshop and any photo editor since the technology first came to pass. With Sky Replacement, you can choose your preferred sky from a series of preset options, or you can customize one of your own.
When you deploy this feature, Photoshop automatically detects the horizon of your image, masks it for you, and drops in your new dynamic sky. Sky Replacement also detects and adjusts white balance to ensure that your insert properly blends with your image. The one drawback to this feature is handling snow-capped mountains. If the peaks are set against a pale blue sky, Photoshop may fail at recognizing the minor difference in contrast and insert sky over the foreground. In this case, you’d resort to the traditional manual masking process.
Practical uses for Sky Replacement
As with many of the tools discussed here, the commercial photographer may start to feel ill at ease relying upon one-click features, especially if you’re after a unique high-end look. That said, each of these tools and features can shave quite a bit of time off your typical workflow and are extremely practical if you’re not under pressure to produce award-winning images every time.
For obvious reasons, up-and-coming real estate photographers quickly benefit from Sky Replacement, while the Discover Tab lets them remain in the Photoshop app and learn about the latest features without filtering through hours of relevant material on Google and YouTube. Likewise, the CMD+F allows you to quickly type in a keyword to search an array of high-quality instructional material on the subject.
Final verdict: Despite impressive newcomers, Photoshop reigns supreme
Photoshop has been leading the desktop photo editing industry since 1990, and its cloud-based service has only amplified its quest to continue innovating on behalf of its oldest and newest users alike.
Photoshop’s color management, layout handling, precision selection tools, neural tools, and new automated features leave the software handily unrivaled in 2022. If you are semi-professionally handling a lot of images for your small business, Photoshop will take your work to the level. If you’re an industry professional, it’s safe to assume you already know.
- Powerful and stable application
- Best Sky Replacement tool in the industry
- New collaborative tools
- Subscription-only service
- No image organization as in Lightroom’s feature