Why start off a blog post about Adobe Photoshop CS6 with an image of my Aperture workflow? Because for me, this where it all begins in my digital darkroom. I want to convey how all the elements and application choices fit together in what I feel is my ideal photo ecosystem. I won't go into the pros and cons of one application over another, a this vs. that argument to fuel the flames of controversy, but simply tell you how it all works for me, and hope it may give you ideas for your work as well.
Briefly, when I bring images from the camera into the computer, I import them into an Aperture Library, with a meta data preset that includes my copyright information, along with keywords, and into either an existing project, or I will create a new one. I let Aperture manage my images rather than have them in a referenced folder outside, because I like using the built in Vault feature for backups. That said, Aperture's import dialog box lets you "back up" the images to another location (drive/folder) as well, so you essentially have the best of both worlds. I do this extra backup on import for the simple reason that I might need, one day, to open the RAW files in say Adobe Camera Raw, just in case Aperture fails me, or a drive goes down (knock on pixels!).
Because I use Aperture as my primary image software, I also utilize the complete Nik Software series of plug-ins, and the onOne Perfect Photo Suite plug-in. These are great additions to my image processing, and they both are also available to me in Photoshop as filters! Between these apps, and a few more I've recently been
playing working with, like Nik's Snapseed for OS, and CameraBag2, I have to wonder if Photoshop is even relevant for me anymore. I never followed the upgrade path from CS4 version to CS5 (or 5.5), as it wasn't a compelling enough offering. Photoshop CS4 did more than I needed it to, and I was feeling that with newer versions, Adobe was more interested in 3-D animation and graphics features than photographs.
Now since Aperture allows us to use Photoshop as an external editor, and with the various plug-ins available in both programs, I can easily integrate Photoshop into my Aperture-centric workflow, and round-trip my images as needed. Since I also do compositing and some graphics work, as well as photography, it does make sense to keep Photoshop around. But do I need to constantly update it for fear of losing out on the latest features? Of course not. So why upgrade to CS6?
Adobe Bridge CS6
Simply put, I like this upgrade! It has quite a bit to offer the photographer in me, as described by Adobe's Bryan O'Neil Hughes here. But beyond that, for me it is still a vital tool for imaging as I use it. I love using Adobe Bridge CS6 as my hub for graphics, and images I may use for various compositing projects. I can scour all of my drives quickly and efficiently for files I need, without having to import them into any program, or search referenced libraries. It gives me the big picture of the files I need, outside of my photographic work. One thing I really like in Bridge is it reads all of my Exif and IPTC data from exported Aperture files. This is a great way these two programs integrate. Bridge does one thing, and Aperture another, and both keep track of what I need them to.
Adobe Photoshop CS6
Now with all the new enhancements to Adobe's Photoshop CS6, I feel the reasons to upgrade from CS4 have arrived. The selection and Content Aware features alone are worth the price of admission. I love too how in Photoshop CS6, the mini Bridge feature acts and feels somewhat like my Aperture interface. Very cool! Now one new feature that has gotten a lot of buzz, is really a cosmetic one: the dark interface. I don't show it here because I don't use it. Actually, I don't care for it at all. I've spent a fair bit of time tweaking my program interfaces to suite me just so. If you're going to spend time in an application, you might as well get "comfortable" in it!
So, I chose to set up both Bridge CS6 and Photoshop CS6 to match my Aperture interface as closely as possible. I really do appreciate Adobe taking as much care to offer so many interface tweaks. My personal choice is a dark-to-neutral grey interface for working on images and graphics. I simply see everything better that way, as opposed to the too dark with light text variant. Salt your applications to taste as they allow, you'll be much happier and productive in the long run.
I like moving from one to the other of these three applications, almost as if they are features of one program. Essentially, they are one program with separate windows and tools I call my "Digital Darkroom"! Now why, after all this, am I saying CS6 will be my last version of Photoshop? Because it will be. There are so many features, tools, and capabilities built into this huge program, far more than I will ever need (or want), that it won't bother me not have the latest features after this. There is no fear of being left behind while everyone else races to keep pace. Let it go. I know a few really talented folks that do amazing work with version 3 of Photoshop (no, not CS3, I mean Photoshop 3!). I just don't need more than this (actually need is a pretty strong word, how about want?).
Actually, the wonderful folks at Adobe have me covered there. I can always visit them in the cloud, where for a nominal sum, I can partake of the same CS goodness everyone else kept up with. It's just for me, as I survey the photography landscape now, it doesn't feel very relevant or even important to keep up with the Photo Joneses...