By Richard Lynch
Are You A Photoshop Junkie?
Photoshop junkies are people who religiously upgrade from one version to the next without thinking as if a new release were some type of signal that the current version of the program would soon expire and stop working. Others upgrading without a second thought may believe that owning the newest version of Photoshop automatically makes their images better. Regretfully, "cool" new features may sound enticing, but in the long run these enhancements may be something you rarely use -- or use once in a lifetime -- that isn't a reason to upgrade. The boring reality is that sometimes what you have is really what you need. While it does not carry the social status of owning Photoshop, it is easily possible that Photoshop Elements may serve every need you have even if you are a demanding digital technician (and at a savings of 90% (!) of the cost of Photoshop). Upgrading out of habit, obligation or anything other than a clearly defined need makes you a junkie.
The Truth About Upgrades
It is Adobe's job to make their product compelling enough so that you want to upgrade. In the early years of Photoshop, every version had a significant new feature. Digital imaging had a lot of maturing to do from the first release in 1988, so the room for improvement seemed endless. Now, as Photoshop has matured, the list of enhancements for any version may be as long as your arm, but it may be less clear if you really need to upgrade because features are not always something every user will benefit from.
Richard's Philosophy of Upgrades
- Don't automatically upgrade to a new release of Photoshop. You don't owe it to Adobe, and your version of the program will still work months and years from now.
- It is not a social embarassment to skip an upgrade version of Photoshop. For example, if you are on CS2 already, you can probably wait for CS4. People may point and wisper under their breath, but how long can they do that for? Just ask them for a compelling reason to upgrade.
- Know the Photoshop upgrade cycles. You can count on a new version every 18 months or so. Don't get the last version after it's been out 17 months when it suddenly goes 'on sale' or you'll be looking and yearing to get the next version in a month all over again.
- Don't be swept away by the hype of the 'cool' factor of new Photoshop tools. Advertising can make features look more promising than they are. Find out what tools and functions actually do by reading reviews before you upgrade, and weigh how much you think you'll actually use them.
- Find at least two actual must-have features in any new Photoshop upgrade that will save you time, effort or improve image quality on a daily basis before considering an upgrade.
- Don't upgrade if there are a significant number of tools and features that you already don't know how to use. Learn the tools you have. New features will take weeks, months and perhaps years to incorporate into your workflow. Give them time to sink in before looking for more features you won't use.
- Find out about system requirements and compatabilities BEFORE you purchase a Photoshop upgrade. If you purchase a version that requires a new operating system, it may trigger a reaction where you'll have to buy a whole new system at many times the cost of the upgrade just to run it.
- Just because it costs more doesn't mean it does more for you. Know what you are buying. For example, don't get the extended version of Photoshop CS3 instead of the vanilla version if you have no interest in medical imaging, 3D modeling and video editing.
Adobe has consistently put out an enticing product that gives users a real reason to upgrade. Adobe does work hard at it, they have a fabulous, well-tested product, and have generally productive reasons for upgrading. However, there is no reason to feel pressured, rushed or obligated. The new version will be there when you are ready for it, and your old, tried and tested techniques for image editing will not soon be worn out and displaced by the latest tool if you learn the right techniques. The real task is to learn the right techniques and theory to make your image editing efforts less tool-centric.
A Short List of Photoshop Enhancements by Version
This is an extremely abbreviated list of enhancements for Photoshop versions. Versions 2 through 7 list the major enhancements only. CS versions are listed in greater detail so it will be evident what was added in the newer versions and what you may gain by upgrading from prior versions.
Note: At this point Photoshop broke into the CS versions, the first of which was released on October of 2003. As more users still own these versions I'll use more comprehensive (but still partial) lists...
Note: The waters get further muddied here by a release of more than one version of CS3; CS3 and CS3 Extended.