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Adobe Photoshop Elements

By John Virata
The QuickStart Screen serves as a starting off point when first learning Photoshop Elements.
When I first heard that Adobe was shipping Photoshop Elements, I thought, "ImageReady, Photoshop LE, PhotoDeluxe," why would they come out with another image editing app? What is it going to take to justify yet another image editing application based on Photoshop, Adobe's powerhouse pixel pusher? I was skeptical. And then I became surprised when I began using it. Adobe realized the target market and tailored a powerful application to that market, while giving it a visual ease of use that most any Microsoft Office professional can harness. Adobe's Photoshop Elements can best be described as an image editing application with a lot of elements of Photoshop AND a lot of elements that Photoshop could use. At $99, Photoshop Elements delivers a lot of the power of Photoshop without the Photoshop price or learning curve.

Adobe has targeted Photoshop Elements at people who use digital cameras, scanners, even royalty free images, who need an image editing application that has an easy learning curve as well as professional level features. Photo enthusiasts, business professionals who put together PowerPoint and video presentations, and Microsoft Office warriors would seem to be the key users for Photoshop Elements.

While many of the features of Photoshop are in Photoshop Elements, some of the features, such as CMYK conversion capabilities are not. But the target market for Photoshop Elements, the digital photographers, the business professionals who aren't graphics artists, and those who need to tweak photos for a PowerPoint or video presentation won't need or want all of the power and complexity of Photoshop.

So what is unique to Photoshop Elements?

When you first launch Photoshop Elements, you are greeted with the application's Quick Start screen. This screen can serve as your jumping off point for editing and acquiring images. Here you can create a new image, open a new image, acquire images from a digital camera or scanner, view and run tutorials, and get help. This launching point is a nice touch, because rather than having a blank screen, the Quick Start eases you into the editing and acquiring process. While you can choose the same commands in the menus, and can turn the Quick Start screen off, it is nice to have a choice of running with the default Quick Start screen.

Thumbnail images within folders can be viewed from within the File Browser.
The File Browser enable you to view in thumbnail form images in any folder that you specify on the hard drive. Rather than having to guess what PIC1000010.JPG is, you can view it and also launch it directly from the File Browser. Photoshop should have this feature. This is especially a useful feature when you have multiple folders with many images. Rather than take a guess what the image is and launch it, you can see it before you launch it. It would be nice though to have the capability to delete images from within the File Browser, and move them from one folder to another within the folder.

The Recipes palette is designed to help you make specific changes to your image by following the provided Recipe.
The Recipes palette offers a quick help menu to the most widely used tools in Elements. It is designed to help you to use the tools and by following the instructions, or Recipes, will help you to achieve a certain effect or look with an image, while letting you maintain control of the process. Some of the Recipes range from adding a gradient effect to an image and removing a color cast, to removing dust specs and scratches which are common issues when scanning images. The default Recipes include add elements, color correction, enhance text, image cleanup, rotate and move, and a download new recipes dialog that enables you to download new recipes from the Adobe website.

The Filters Browser. Click on image for larger view.
The Filters Browser enables you to view and select filter effects before you apply them to your image. This is another intuitive feature (similar to the transitions palette in Adobe Premiere) that is currently not available in Photoshop. To apply a filter, you just drag the filter onto the image that you have opened in Photoshop Elements and adjust the parameters to your liking. Photoshop Elements ships with 213 filters. When you install third-party filters, they appear at the bottom of the Filter menu. Some of the filters in Photoshop Elements are found in other image editors while others are found in traditional stand alone applications. The Liquify filter for example is very similar to Kai's Power Goo. Effects such as these enable you to easily create different looks and distortions, and in the case of Liquify, enable you to create a gooey melting effect in your images. You can preview the changes in real time, but for the change to take effect, Photoshop Elements renders it out.

The Effects Browser is similar to the Filters Browser in that it enables you to see the effects before you apply them, and when you do apply them you are prompted with the question, Do you wish to keep this effect?" This is a great feature for experimenting with effects on an image. Visualizing is the key here and Photoshop Elements does a great job in helping you to visualize changes to an image before you make the changes.

Rough Photomerged image. Notice at the top of the combined image are the borders of three different images. Click on image for larger view. Photomerged image with Cylindrical mapping applied and cropped. Click on image for larger view.

Adobe Photoshop Elements

Company: Adobe Systems
Price: $99
Platforms: Windows, Macintosh
Demo Available: yes

Summary: Photoshop Elements combines much of the power of Photoshop with an easy to learn interface. Photoshop could benefit from some of the visual features, such as the Filters and Effects browsers, specific to Photoshop Elements. The software, for a version 1 release, is surprisingly stable, offers a lot of functionality for the money, and helps users to realize true visualization to the image editing process.
Recommendation: Strong Buy

Photomerge: A feature only available in Elements, Photomerge enables you to merge several photos into a single image. Each image needs to have 30 to 40 percent of the same information as the image that you want to merge it with. I didn't have much success merging images into one until I used a tripod to shoot the images. After you specify Photomerge to merge the images, it creates a pretty seamless image out of the ones you merged, provided you adhere to the stated 30 to 40 percent margin in the manual. The merged image will have a bit of "bent" pixels at the ends, what the manual calls a bowtie effect, so you have to select cylindrical mapping before you output the image. Once the final image is created, the file can be edited like any other Photoshop file. You can then cut out the part of the image that doesn't belong and you have your merged image. While this effect is available as a plug-in to the various image editors on the market, it is nice to have it as a part of Elements.

One Touch Image Correction:
Several tools unique to Photoshop Elements enable you to correct problems with an image with a few clicks. The Photoshop Elements Adjust Backlighting command is supposed to enable you to darken an image to correct for overexposure caused by a camera flash, while Fill Flash lightens images that were not exposed correctly. The Auto Straighten Crop command attempts to fix an image that was scanned in crooked. These commands, while one touch, are really up to each individual's eye to determine if you are satisfied with the result. Of the three tools mentioned here, The Auto Straighten Crop command worked the best for me.

Photoshop Elements has a bunch of other features that are more common in other image editors in this price range, such as the capability to create GIF animations for web pages, and a save for web feature. While Photoshop Elements isn't going to replace dedicated image editors or Web image editors for specific tasks, it will give the likes of Ulead PhotoImpact and JASC PaintShop Pro (both Windows only products) some pretty stiff competition.

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at [email protected]
Related Keywords:adobe, photoshop, elements, imaging, design, 2D, digital photography, powerpoint, artists


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