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Misc. Changes

The following changes may not be that noticeable, but they are all welcome improvements:

Brightness/Contrast Improved

In the past, the Brightness/Contrast adjustment was the most crude and destructive adjustment you could find in Photoshop. It was impossible to maintain the full brightness range in an image and was very easy to clip areas to solid black or solid white. That was really unfortunate since it was the easiest adjustment to learn and was the starting point for most beginners when they were learning Photoshop. However, I did find the adjustment to be useful when working on masks, textures and other non-photographic images. The crudeness of the former version of this adjustment caused most Photoshop teachers to insist that beginners never use Brightness/Contrast. That advice is now completely outdated.

The new and improved Brightness/Contrast dialog box doesn’t look all that different from the old one, but changes have been made behind the scenes that make all the difference in this feature. The Brightness and Contrast sliders now work using the same ideas that have been used in the Camera Raw dialog box. That means adjusting the Brightness slider on a full-range image will no longer cause clipping in the shadows or highlights because it will concentrate the change on the midtones while leaving black and white areas alone. The Contrast slider is also improved and now applies an S curve to the image, which will also preserve detail and deliver a more pleasing result.

If you need the Brightness/Contrast dialog box to produce the same type of adjustment as was available in previous versions, turn on the Use Legacy checkbox. This checkbox is sticky, which means that Photoshop will remember the last setting you used the next time you open the dialog box.

A Few Things To Look Out For

Here are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind when using the new Brightness/Contrast dialog box:

Adjustment Layers: If you open a file that was created in an earlier version of Photoshop, don’t expect any Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layers to automatically update to use the new features in CS3. Instead, you’ll have to double-click on the Adjustment Layer to edit the adjustment and turn off the Use Legacy checkbox if you want the new method to be used.

Backward Compatibility: Saving a file that contains a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer that was created using the new version of the dialog box (with the Use Legacy checkbox turned off), will cause an error message if you attempt to open the image in a previous version of Photoshop. That makes sense because how would the old dialog box be able to interpret a feature that didn’t exist when CS2 was released? So, if you plan to open your layered images in older versions of Photoshop, either use the legacy setting, or merge the Adjustment Layer into the image layer before saving the file.

Actions: Existing actions that use the Brightness/Contrast dialog box will be unaffected by this change since they will be applied using the legacy settings until you re-record the steps that use the dialog box.

Minor Adjustment Changes

A few of the other adjustment dialog boxes have changed, but the changes are so minute that you might not even notice them:

Levels: The numeric entry fields have been moved so that they are positioned next to the sliders they relate to. This doesn’t change the way you use the dialog box at all, so it shouldn’t take much to get used to it.

Channel Mixer: Adjusting the Red, Green and Blue sliders so that the total of the sliders produced a result above 100% would often create an overexposed look. Adobe has simply added a Total readout so you can easily see when the total gets above 100%. This doesn’t mean that you should never have it go over 100%; use whatever settings makes your image look its best. It’s just nice to use it as a guide to show you when you might want to experiment with lower values. Adobe also changed the default settings used when the Monochrome checkbox is turned on. The new defaults (40% Red, 40% Green and 20% Blue) produce a much better starting point for a grayscale conversion when compared to the old defaults (100% Red, 0% Green, 0% Blue). The Channel Mixer also received the same Presets system that is found in the Black & White and Curves dialog box so you can quickly access frequently used settings.

Smart Filter Adjustments: You can now apply Variations and Shadow/Highlight adjustments to a layer in a non-destructive way (similar to an Adjustment Layer). This new feature is known as Smart Filters and will be discussed in Chapter 6, Layers.

Adobe did themselves proud when they updated Photoshop’s adjustments for CS3. They revamped the Brightness/Contrast feature so that beginners wouldn’t unsuspectingly ambush their images when using it. We got a wonderful new tool for converting color images to black & white, and Curves junkies got all the bells and whistles they’ve been writing to Santa about all these years. I’m all smiles here.
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