Adobe Photoshop has long been the industry leader in photo editing, and CS6 (Est. $700) proves to be no different. There is no other software package on the market that can do everything that Photoshop does. Photoshop CS6 itself remains really the only choice for photographers, web developers and graphic designers.
Of course, casual Photoshop users, who might not need all those resources but want to upgrade, may be sucked into the membership vortex, whether they like it or not. The biggest drawback, especially for non-professionals, is the big-ticket price: $700. T. Michael Testi of Blogcritics.org writes, "Photoshop is considered by many to be the best image editor on the planet, but unless you are a professional, it may not be the best choice for the general consumer."
For those interested primarily in photography, not graphics or design, Lightroom 5 (Est. $150) ) can do a lot of what Photoshop does. Editors of FreshTechWeb.com write, "The biggest problem with Photoshop is basically its biggest virtue -- the abundance of functionalities and tools available to users. Even though having all the tools you can think of is definitely a plus side of a software application, the fact is that the vast majority of users do not need most of these tools."
But those who require Photoshop as part of their day-to-day business workflow will be impressed with what CS6 can do, such as the blur galleries that allow you to create bokeh and have more than one focal point, a wide angle filter that straightens the lines in wide-angle shots, interface-text-size adjustment, new and bigger brushes and a revamped crop tool. More support for Camera RAW and improvements in content awareness, video and 3D editing all make an upgrade tempting for current users.
Perhaps even more importantly, a re-engineered focus on graphics processing, background save and auto-recovery features makes Photoshop CS6 faster than ever before, enabling you to work at a rapid pace.
While Adobe will continue to sell Photoshop CS6, the company does not have plans to release future stand-alone versions. Instead, new products and updates will be contained in the company's new subscription program, Creative Cloud. Members will have access to a range of Adobe products, including Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator and InDesign, for about $50 per month. The subscription also includes software updates. The downside is that if you cancel, you lose access to all of this software.
For the time being, some Adobe products, like Photoshop Elements, will continue to be sold as stand-alone products. Click the Buyer's Guide tab for more information about Adobe's Creative Cloud.