I use Adobe Photoshop every single day, it is packed with features and allows me to edit and enhance images very accurately, but it is expensive, especially if you only use it as a hobby. When my brother bought an Apple Mac I knew he would want to put his photos onto his new computer and play around with them, so I purchased Photoshop Elements for him, at just a penny under £50 from Amazon UK.
What Photoshop Elements does, is offer up all of the main features of its bigger brother (Photoshop) in a new re-designer user interface. I am almost tempted to say 'in a simplified way', but I think this would undervalue what is really a fantastic product. From the main screen you can organise and find your photos really easily. They are organise into drop down lists of the most recent, or by album name.
Once you have chosen which photo you are going to work on you can edit it. This can be done using one-click fixes to correct things like colour, contrast, red eye, skin tones etc. Once you get more experienced, you can go into more advanced editing features, these give you a lot more control over things like exposure. The advanced features even let you remove the background from your photo and add in a new one, or remove blemishes from a portrait photo.
This application also has some brilliant 'create' features. It gives you step-by-step help for making things like DVD covers and greeting cards. You can add shadows and frames to your photos and even add captions for that comic book effect. The final section of goodies enable you to share you photos. This could be online, or perhaps printing them into nice books or a calendar, which makes a great gift.
What Photoshop Elements does is give you access to some really powerful features, many of which are available in the more expensive Photoshop... however, this cheaper application presents them to you in a more user friendly manner. It offers step-by-step assistance which really helps you understand what you are doing. In some ways it could be looked at as training you for their more expensive product. If you look at it as a standalone application (which it is), then you will see that it is fantastic value for money.
In summary, if some of your photos are a little bit poor, maybe badly lit, then this could well be the application you have been looking for. If you want to add frames, shadows and spruce things up a little, then this does it. Plus, if you want an easy way to turn you photos into fantastic gifts, then you should look no further.