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Originally published Friday, July 19, 2013 at 5:08 PM

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Adobe Photoshop cloud subscription a step up

Under its relatively new subscription model, Adobe puts Photoshop, the widely used tool for working with photos and images, into the focus of serious professionals — and hobbyists as well.

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Practical Mac

When Adobe earlier this year released Creative Cloud, the new version of its suite of creative applications, the biggest initial buzz was how the tools were being distributed. The applications are available only as a monthly or yearly subscription fee, tossing installation discs into the same bin-in-the-sky as printed documentation.

I looked at Creative Cloud last year when I needed to upgrade to Adobe InDesign CS6 (see “Creative Cloud bound to be popular with freelancers, students,” Jan. 1). At the time, my choice was to venture into the subscription model or buy the application outright. I chose to subscribe just to that one application.

It’s worked out well, allowing me to upgrade to InDesign CC without paying an additional fee.

This time around, I want to look just at Photoshop CC, the big dog of the suite. It’s used by photographers, illustrators, Web and print designers, and everyday folks who want to manipulate pixels.

That broad adoption puts Photoshop in an interesting pricing predicament. Many people use the application infrequently, making the subscription option costly. The app alone costs $19.99 per month, or $9.99 per month if you already own a previous CS product (the upgrade pricing ends Aug. 31, however). The full suite of applications costs $49.99 per month, or $29.99 per month to upgrade from any CS product; if you own any registered CS6 product, that upgrade is $19.99 per month. (Those prices require a 12-month commitment.)

Lightroom, the professional photo app, and Photoshop Elements, the consumer image editor, are both available as stand-alone purchases and separate from Creative Cloud. However, if you subscribe to the full suite, you get Lightroom 5.

In a briefing with Adobe, I was told that there is absolutely no plan to switch back to stand-alone sales of the Creative Cloud applications. However, Photoshop CS6 will continue to be sold until people stop buying it.

Based on the rocky reaction to the new pricing, Adobe is also pondering separate subscription offerings for photographers who, for example, upgrade Lightroom regularly but Photoshop occasionally; the company offered no other details.

So what does a subscription to Photoshop CC get you? In this regard, the details are more clear-cut. This version includes a bunch of new features that appeal to that broad audience.

Most new versions of Photoshop have a signature “ooh wow” feature that advances the state of image manipulation. My favorite recent one, in CS5, was the Content Aware capability that vastly improved the Spot Healing Brush for repairing areas. In CC, for photographers especially, it’s the new Camera Shake Reduction tool.

Camera shake is the slight blurring that occurs when the camera moves as you’re taking a shot or a slow shutter speed doesn’t capture a moment cleanly. The Camera Shake Reduction tool analyzes the image and compensates for that movement.

It’s not a magical fix, but I found it works well for images that are a little soft.

Photographers will also appreciate the new Camera Raw 8 tool, for a few reasons. It incorporates new features found in Lightroom 5 such as Upright, which straightens and corrects distortions and perspective (for those shots where buildings look skewed because of lens distortion, for example), and a spot-removal tool that works on areas, not just circles. But what’s really cool is that Camera Raw adjustments can be applied to specific layers, not as a broad edit before you begin working on an image.

I expect some designers to be happy for a tiny yet significant feature: editable rounded rectangles. Before, you couldn’t easily change the corner radius of a rounded rectangle shape.

Photoshop CC also incorporates all the features found in the Photoshop CS6 Extended package, including its extensive features for painting and working with 3-D objects.

There are many more improvements that span the gamut of Photoshop users, such as the ability to generate CSS code for design elements, integration with the Behance service for sharing portfolios and works-in-progress, improved up-sampling of low-resolution images, and, as they say, much more.

In fact, the sheer range of image-manipulation tools and capabilities ensures that Photoshop CC remains the top image-editing software. And in that respect, I think this version is actually moving Photoshop back into the professional realm vs. being an all-purpose editor for that broad range of people — whether that’s Adobe’s intent or not.

It’s the tool of choice for serious compositors, designers and many professional photographers, who are already heavy users. But because of the new licensing scheme, for casual or semipro users, many other more affordable options are available, including Adobe’s own Lightroom 5 and Photoshop Elements.

Jeff Carlson writes the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to More Practical Mac columns at

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