Minhajul Haque

What is Adobe Photoshop?

Adobe Photoshop Splash Screen by Elizaveta Porodina and Janusz Jurek

Adobe Photoshop is the industry’s leading graphics editing application designed by Adobe. To be more specific it is designed to work with raster graphics─meaning an image made up of pixels. It was first developed by Thomas Knoll and his brother John Knoll in 1987 and then they decided to sell it to Adobe Systems Incorporated in 1988.

Although Photoshop may sound like an image editing application it doesn’t understand an image or the content of the image. In fact, it was primarily implemented on grayscale values of an image. It is a pixel editing application. All it understands is the numerical values associated with those pixels. It manipulates pixels, enhances them, or generates them from scratch.

Photoshop gives you the flexibility to edit or compose an image in multiple layers and allows you to control them in various ways like masking, layer effects, opacity, and by changing the blending modes for creative effects.

Photoshop User Interface
Photoshop User Interface

By combining these tools and functions Photoshop offers you’ve endless creative possibilities where you’re only limited by your imagination. In fact, it is such a powerful editing application it can easily destroy an image while editing unless you know where to stop or how far is too far.

The application supports a wide range of file formats like JPEG, TIFF, GIF, PNG, and even video files. It also offers a variety of color modes to work with, RGB, CMYK, CIELAB, Spot Color, and Duotone.

Photoshop is not only limited by its own built-in features. You can extend the functionalities of this application by installing Add-ons programs called Photoshop Plug-ins or you can create your own if you have some knowledge of computer programming.

Photoshop comes as a package and it has three distinct components Adobe Bridge, Adobe Camera Raw, and Adobe Photoshop which altogether makes a complete solution for editing as well as managing your digital assets. However, many photographers today including me prefer to use Adobe Lightroom to be more productive─than using Adobe Bridge in conjunction with Adobe Camera Raw.

It is an extremely versatile software application. And for all these reasons Photoshop has become such a popular program even its name is used as a verb in general conversation.

Photoshop’s Naming Conventions

Over the years as the core software application evolved it appeared with different names and it has been rebranded a few times for the changes in Adobe’s business model. Adobe Photoshop’s naming started with simple version numbers. Then in October 2002 it got the Creative Suite (CS) branding and was distributed in two different editions: Standard and Extended. Finally in June 2013, as the company changed its licensing scheme to subscription or service rental model it got the new Creative Cloud (CC) branding that we see now. Adobe also promised to offer all the future updates and versions for free under this rental or subscription model. However, they also hold the rights to increase the rental fees.

 The Adobe Photoshop Family

Adobe has other applications under the same name ‘Photoshop’ which together is called ‘The Adobe Photoshop Family’.

  • Photoshop Touch – Photoshop Touch was a mobile application for iOS and Android users. It came with some of the basic features of Photoshop like Layers, Selection, Image Adjustments, and some Filter Effects. Unfortunately, Adobe has discontinued Photoshop Touch from The Adobe Photoshop Family.
  • Photoshop Element – Photoshop Elements is an alternative raster editing application like Photoshop CC. Although it doesn’t include all the features; it does include the most necessary and useful features of the main Photoshop. Unlike Photoshop CC, this application was built for entry-level photographers, image editors, hobbyists, and photography enthusiast. Most importantly it is still available as a stand-alone application. If you don’t like to subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan and still needs a powerful editing application you can buy it as a standalone application.
  • Photoshop Express – Photoshop Express is a mobile application with limited functionalities like Photoshop Touch. But it can be installed also on Windows 8.0 and above besides iOS and Android devices.
  • Photoshop Lightroom – Adobe Lightroom is a complete non-destructive editing application specifically designed for photographers who capture raw. It’s a database application and has different modules for different tasks, including image organization, image development, printing, slideshow for presentation, web sharing, and more. You can also work with other file formats inside Lightroom than raw, like JPEG, PNG, TIFF, PSD, and even videos.

Other Professionals Who Use Photoshop

The people who identify themselves as Photoshop users are not only photographers there is a wide array of different professionals; architect, painters, digital artists, graphic, web, mobile, or interaction designers, 3D artists, videographers and many more. It is also used in medical imaging and forensic labs. It is an extremely versatile program. It offers more functionalities than what you need. You will rarely find a professional using all its features.

Since Photoshop seamlessly integrates with other Adobe applications like InDesign, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Illustrator it helps those professional use it as an additional tool in their creative arsenal.

Why a Photographer Should Consider Photoshop

We photographers call it a ‘Perfect Shot’. While there is no such thing as ‘Perfect Shot’. By which we roughly mean something we imagined or felt while we captured it. For some, it could mean basic corrections like exposures, tones, colors, and details. For others, it could mean composing an entire image by combining multiple captures either to express an idea or to capture the wide panoramic scene, or the great dynamic range that the outdoor photographers often find themselves struggling with on a very bright day.

Unlike painting, photography is also a subtractive process. You do not have the privilege of selecting only what you find necessary. You start with an entire scene where you may not necessarily need every object it captures according to your intended usage or the genre of your artwork. By removing the unwanted objects might also improve your overall composition. Or you may want to make something very obvious or to stand out from the rest. You may also need to merge an object or isolate it.

These decisions are dependent on the purpose of the photograph and the realization of your vision. The better the realization the better the actualization will be. The Adobe Photoshop helps you get controls over these situations.

Besides, all digital photographers specifically who shoot raw images at least need to convert their images into usable formats like JPEG, TIFF, or PSD. Adobe Photoshop offers the best Raw Pre-processing Engine known as Adobe Camera Raw, in short ACR. Which comes as a free plugin that can be hosted either inside Photoshop or Bridge.

Every raw image needs some adjustments prior to its conversion whether you like it or not. Although the process is very simple. For it is the raw data your camera sensor has captured. You can think of a raw file as a negative of a film that you must develop in the darkroom in order to make it usable.

Where in case of JPEG your camera would execute some predefined instructions using the image statistics on the same raw data on your behalf. The worst of it is your digital camera is free to make any decision to convert the raw file on its own. Thus you lose control over all the critical artistic decisions you need to make during raw conversion.

So, without any question, Adobe Photoshop packed with Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw is a complete solution for your digital photographic workflow. To be honest I rarely relied on any application other than Photoshop in my entire photographic career. I think I will do so only when I will find Photoshop is no more the answer.

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