1. Camera Raw: Camera Raw is now up to par with Lightroom 4 so they’re basically the same thing (comparing to the Develop module of course). Sure, I use Lightroom most of the time, but I still use ACR too. When some one hands me a file to work on, I don’t import it into my Lightroom library and all that. I usually just open it up in ACR. If you find yourself editing random photos here and there, then you’ll want to consider upgrading.
2. Content Aware Improvements: To me, this is a must have. There’s a new Content Aware Move tool that let’s you move part of one photo to another and attempts to fill in the gap that you leave behind. With the right image, it works great. Wrong image… eh… But throw that in with the content-aware option added to the Patch tool and I think it’ makes a pretty compelling feature to consider for retouching.
3. New Adaptive Wide Angle Filter: This one is pretty cool. Lightroom has the Lens Correction panel which works great. But I have to admit, I’ve been jumping to Photoshop to use the new Wide Angle filter more often now if I’m trying to fix perspective problems from wide angle shots.
4. Background and Auto-Save: If you’re working with large images (especially when you consider the file size of images from, say, a camera like the new Nikon D800), you wind up spending a lot of time saving your images and waiting. With Background Save, you can continue to work while it saves in the background. It’s the kinda thing that you have to experience. If you’re not working with really large files, it’s probably not an issue. But if you are, you’ll probably upgrade in a heartbeat once you see this in action.
5. Blur Filters: The new blur filters are a little more gimmicky in my opinion. It’s not a huge selling point for me personally, but if you’re creative and like to mess around with pseudo-blur techniques, then it’s something you’ll at least want to check out.
6. Crop Tool: For Lightroom users, this one isn’t too overwhelming. We’ve had great cropping since Lightroom 1 so now Photoshop is catching up. Still, I crop in Photoshop a lot too, so it’s nice to have a similar experience now
7. The Dark Interface: It’s definitely not a huge selling point, but it does sweeten the pot. Especially for Lightroom users. Face it – our photos just look better against a dark interface right?
8. Video: If you’re shooting a lot of DSLR video, I think you’ll find that Photoshop may just be the tool that actually gets you editing video. My co-Photoshop Guy RC Concepcion said it best, when he explained that now we can edit video in a program that we’re used to working in, rather than learning an entirely new program to do it. I still haven’t caught the video “bug” yet, but I do have to say the upgrades Adobe has done with video have been catching the eye of even the video pros that are out there.
9. Skin-Tone Selection: If you’re adjusting skin tones, then the new feature in the Select > Color Range dialog can come in handy. For example, if you’re trying to remove the red from some one’s face, you can quickly select their skin tone and use Hue/Saturation to reduce the red (rather than manually brushing and masking). This one is a hard call for me. I totally think it’s a cool feature, it’s just not something I’ve used much yet so the jury is still out. I guess you have to think to yourself how many times you try to select some one’s skin. If that’s a lot, then you’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of this feature.
10. Overall speed improvements: Speed is always a tough sell. Once you use something that’s faster for about a day or two, it becomes second nature and it doesn’t “feel” faster anymore. So, to me at least, speed didn’t seem like anything great. But after using CS6 for a few weeks and going back to CS5 to do some videos a while back, I can say that the speed improvements are the real deal. I mean, I use Liquify all the time for retouching and that tool alone is 1000% faster than it ever was. Overall though, the whole program just feels zippier (I can’t believe my spellcheck didn’t come up on zippier!)
10.5. Some old tools return: They also added Lighting Effects and Contact Sheet back in. I guess you can call them features for photographers “technically”. Lighting Effects is definitely cool if you’re looking to add some mood to your photos. And if you’re creating Contact Sheets (which is back in CS6) that’s not a bad tool either, but if you’re a Lightroom user then we can just do contact sheets in the Print module.
If I had to choose, I’d say that Content Aware enhancements, the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter, Background and Auto-save, and the Camera Raw enhancements make the upgrade worth it for photographers. Throw in the speed improvements and I think any Lightroom user who uses Photoshop would be happy with their $169 (after NAPP member discount) upgrade cost. Hope this helps a little.