digital image software for the rest of us
by Alan Zisman (c) 2004 First published in Business in Vancouver
7-13, 2004; issue 789
High Tech Office column
Professionals need powerful software packages. To get the job done,
they have to be willing to invest time conquering these products' often
steep learning curves. And they must be willing to pay dearly for the
privilege. For many of us, however, pro-level products offer more power
than we need in packages that are too complex and too expensive.
With its Photoshop CS software popular with graphics professionals,
Adobe has aimed Photoshop Elements at everyday users, offering about 85
per cent of the power of its pro-level sibling for about 20 per cent of
the cost. Looking almost identical to the full Photoshop, previous PS
Elements versions might have seemed too daunting for many potential
The new Photoshop Elements 3.0 ($140) takes several big steps towards
mass-market appeal for the large number of people needing to manage and
edit digital photographs. Because digital photographers quickly collect
large numbers of images, PS Elements integrates the photo organizing
features previously available in its separate Photoshop Album. Users
can easily browse sets of photos and create slideshows, online albums
and more. Its timeline makes it easy to search a large collection of
photos, while a SmartFix feature can be used to quickly improve many
photos with a single click. Especially nice: Photo Compare makes it
easy to pick the best of a set of similar shots.
(PS Album is still for sale on its own ($70), but isn't being developed
any further. Mac users don't get the photo-organizer features in PS
Elements 3.0; instead the Mac version works with Apple's iPhoto and
sells for $15 less.)
The interface of the pro version of Photoshop and previous versions of
PS Elements is built around a large number of floating toolboxes and
palettes. In the new version's editing module, many of these are built
right into the program window, for less clutter and easier access. A
single click opens a powerful, automated QuickFix mode, offering an
easy way to fix common digital photo problems.
Quite a few of the advanced features of the recent Photoshop CS have
migrated to Elements, most trading off some high-end functions for
easier use. Among them:
- the Healing Brush for painting
wrinkles, spots and other "flaws";
- a Shadows/Highlights dialogue for
lightening shadows or darkening highlights;
- a Filter Gallery lets you preview
of combining multiple filters; and
- a Photo Filter dialogue simulates
of a wide range of real camera filters.
Several new Elements features aren't available in the pro's Photoshop
CS, including a red-eye removal tool and a cookie cutter tool.
The graphics pros might miss the ability to work in colour spaces other
than RGB, and the wider range of tools and adjustment options in the
pro-focused Photoshop CS, but Photoshop Elements 3.0 offers the rest of
us a powerful set of features with a more accessible interface at a
Adobe Premiere is a powerful digital video editor; new to Adobe's
lineup is Premiere Elements, also offering an accessible subset of the
pro-products features at a fraction of the price ($140 on its own; $200
bundled with Photoshop Elements. Windows only).
Several steps above the Windows MovieMaker included with Windows XP,
Premiere Elements simplifies importing and editing home movies,
performing many repetitive features automatically while still leaving
the option for manual creativity.
Captioning features, transitions and some 200 other effects can be used
to spice up video productions, before burning the finished product to
Premiere Elements automatically saves in the highest quality that
available disc space allows.
If you're getting (or giving) a digital camera or camcorder this
holiday season (or if you already have one), Adobe's Elements software
will help you make the best use of your new hardware.