Targeted Adjustments come to Adobe Camera Raw
If adjusting an image by playing with sliders has never felt very natural to you, you will likely appreciate the new Targeted Adjustment Tool (TAT) in Adobe Camera Raw 5.2.
ACR 5.2 is a free upgrade to Photoshop CS4 or Elements versions 6 or 7. If the Adobe Updater hasn't automatically found it for you yet, you can download it yourself from Adobe's website for both Windows and Mac OS. Unfortunately for Elements users, the Targeted Adjusted Tool works in real Photoshop only.
The Targeted Adjustment Tool (TAT) was first developed as part of Lightroom so some of you may already be familiar with it. It allows you to make adjustments to portions of an image as defined by their common tonality or hue and lets you do so without touching the standard adjustment sliders. Very cool.
The Targeted Adjustment Tools works in any of five modes depending on what you want to adjust: the default is Parametric Curve but there's also Hue, Saturation, Luminance, and Grayscale Mix. To access TAT, open your favorite image in Adobe Camera Raw 5.2 and notice the new icon in the top row between the eyedroppers and crop tool. Clicking on it selects the last mode used but you will likely want to click on it and drag downward to reveal the Targeted Adjustment Tool mode menu where you can select whichever mode you need.
After you pick our desired mode, the corresponding adjustment panel will be displayed on the right where they normally are, but you won't need them. Instead, just click on the image preview window to select the area to be targeted and drag up or to the right to increase the value. Dragging down or to the left decreases the value. Camera Raw determines the pixels to be targeted based on their similarity to where you clicked. It's actually easier to do than it is to describe so your best bet is to play around with it a bit and you will soon find TAT to be quite intuitive and easy. If you really need the sliders, they're right there where they've always been of course, but it's nice not to be dependent on them.
To adjust the image here I used the Saturation mode to make the sky a bit more blue since the exposure difference between it and the rocks in the foreground left it looking a bit washed out. I then tweaked the Hue mode of TAT to slide the color of the rocks a bit more towards the red and finished it off with the Parametric Curve mode to pull out a bit more detail in the shadow areas. I never used the sliders at all.
Original image as shot before adjustments
After adjustments in the Targeted Adjustment Tool (TAT)
Camera Raw 5.2 also adds support for a number of new cameras including the Canon EOS 5D Mark II as well as updated camera profiles for some models supported in previous versions. And since it's free (after you pay off your Photoshop CS4 upgrade that is), there's no reason not to upgrade.