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Adobe Photoshop 7 and Pictographics’ ICorrect suite.

The introduction of any update to Adobe’s flagship image editing program is always cause for speculation and the perennial question: Do I need this upgrade? Let’s get right to the answer: Yes, you do.

Certainly the big news about Photoshop 7 is not even an image editing tool, it’s an image management tool called File Browser. In the not-so-distant past, Photoshop users needed an external program, such as ACDSee or iView Multimedia Pro, to view images stored on their hard drives or other media before deciding which ones to open. Tucked away in Photoshop’s palette “well,” File Browser lets you quickly preview thumbnails before opening any image. This can be especially helpful for files that don’t automatically generate thumbnails and are invisible through the standard Open dialog preview. File Browser also displays metadata such as color profile, date modified, and Exchangeable Image File (EXIF) information generated by digital cameras, so you see all of the technical data for a specific image.

The tool palette not only received new tools but also got a long-overdue cosmetic update. If you do photo retouching, you’ll be more productive with Photoshop 7. The new Healing Brush lets you effortlessly remove dust, scratches, blemishes, and wrinkles. Unlike the Clone (Rubber Stamp) tool, Healing Brush automatically preserves shading, lighting, texture, and other attributes when covering areas within one image or even from one image to another. It’s cut my retouching time by 90 percent. Nestled within the same menu structure, the Patch tool lets you use Photoshop’s extensive set of selection tools to define your selection and then automatically heal that area while matching lighting and shading of the sampled pixels to the source pixels.

Photoshop 7’s new Auto Color command, like the existing Auto Contrast and Auto Levels, is supposed to color-correct images in one step. It kinda works, and for some images, it’s worth a click to see what happens. Photoshop 7 lets you customize any tool and then save your preferred settings as a new, unique tool for recall as a preset. Users can access their presets from the Tool options bar or from the new Tool Presets palette in the Window menu. Using the enhanced Picture Package command–found under File in the Automate menu tree–you can print a folder of images as customized pages, including multiple photos in different sizes on the same page. The new Web Photo Gallery templates let you create a sophisticated online showcase for your images.

The new painting engine lets you simulate traditional painting techniques (including pastels and charcoal) with dry- and wet-brush effects, and uses brushes to add special effects, such as grass and leaves. The new Pattern Maker plug-in lets you create patterns by simply selecting a section of an image. Based on your selection, the plug-in randomly simulates a new pattern and seamlessly tiles the image. The improved Liquify plug-in provides enhanced image warping controls with zoom, pan, and multiple undoes. There’s even, at long last, a spell checker for the text tool.

Photoshop 7 is compatible with Mac OS 9 and takes advantage of the newest enhancements for Mac OS X. Only some cosmetic differences created by OS X’s Aqua interface and a few menu structures were noticeable. Adobe recommends Mac OS X 10.13 (or later) for maximum performance. Photoshop 7 has estimated street price of $609 and current users can upgrade for $149.

No matter what kind of image editing software you use, color correcting photographs is a challenge. When faced with digital camera files made under difficult lighting conditions or less than perfect scans, I reach for one of Pictographics’ suite of tools. They make color correction as easy as cropping.

Pictographics offers three different tools, so you can choose the one that fits your style of working. iCorrect 4 is a Windows-only stand-alone application that costs less than $40. As with other products in this suite, you make corrections by clicking on part of the image, but unlike the other products, iCorrect 4 uses a two-pane interface that makes before-and-after comparisons and corrections easy. You correct an image’s color by choosing reference colors such as Neutrals, Sky Blue, Foliage, and Skin. You can undo changes with one click. When an image opens, the program can automatically (it’s optional) set new black-and-white points. You can also make subtle adjustments to the file’s brightness and contrast with up and down arrows. With iCorrect 4, anybody can have color correct images.

iCorrect Professional is a Mac OS and Windows Photoshop-compatible plug-in and is the best $79 any computer user can spend. If you’ve already checked boxes for Auto Black Point and Auto White Point, the plug-in automatically establishes a new tonal range when the image opens in the single pane dialog box. I keep them on permanently. Like the application, it’s built around memory colors but adds user-definable colors if you have specific tones (Caterpillar Yellow, Bronco Orange, etc.) you need to match. A friend made a digital photo of me at a trade show under different kinds of light sources, but the main light was the digital camera’s built-in flash. I spent a half hour trying to get it right with another software program, but only came close. When I selected Skin in the pop-up menu and clicked on the image, iCorrect Professional instantly corrected the color, and it was perfect. You can also modify the standard reference tones to fit “Big Sky” blue or skin tones for specific portraits. iCorrect Professional transforms these corrections into a calibrated, reference color space based on your Photoshop Color Settings and monitor profile.

iCorrect EditLab has a somewhat more complex interface than iCorrect Professional. But for less than $100, it offers more powerful capabilities. This Mac OS or Windows Photoshop-compatible plug-in works in auto mode, manual mode, or a combination of the two. It begins by automatically analyzing an image and setting each of its four-color control tools to optimized initial settings. Many times–most times, in fact–that’s all you need to do and no additional tweaking is required to get a color correct file. iCorrect EditLab’s four controls include Color Balance, Black/White Point, Brightness/Contrast/Saturation, and Hue Selective Edits, and it offers eyedropper tools, sliders, and histograms. Like all three products, changes in one color, such as skin tones, do not affect the other colors in the photograph.

If you’re serious about color, you need one or more of Pictographics’ iCorrect tools.

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