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There can't be many people out there that haven't at one time or another used and Adobe product. They've been around for a long time, and have built up a trusted name as a provider of quality software, particularly in the image editing arena. Photoshop - heard of it? Perhaps the industry standard photo manipulation package, but let's face it a little expensive and complicated for mere mortals. That's where Photoshop Elements comes in. It's essentially a "cut down" version of it's big brother, so it's simpler to get to grips with, yet still with the powerful engine behind Photoshop itself. Having said all that, Elements is still a little daunting - and you'll realise why so many books, magazine articles, training videos and courses have been written about it - sometimes help files and online tutorials simply aren't enough. If you are looking for something just to remove the occasional red eye, increase the contrast or remove the odd lamp post, Elements is still far too advanced, and I'd urge you to look elsewhere. Installation ************ Before you consider installing, check your system spec. You'll need a fast PC, a Pentium3 or 4, 256Mb RAM recommended (128Mb will work) and 250Mb space on your hard disk. Installation is simple enough using the usual installation wizards, you can't really go wrong. Features ******** Where do you start with such a package? It goes without saying that the basic functions of an image manipulation package are provided - such as options to adjust levels of brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, rotate and so on. To make things easier, these basic operations can be found in the Quick Fix section. Before and after windows are shown, so you can see what the final result will be even bef
ore you commit to it. The Browser feature provided in so many packages is useful and allows you to locate images on your computer quickly and easily. Speed of your PC becomes important here, as each image is turned into a thumbnail, however you only need to do this the first time. From the browser, you can view Exif information if available (camera type and settings etc), select and load an image and begin working on it. From here you can zoom in or out, and select all manner of options from the toolbar or the menus. File menu In here you'll find the usual options to save (in various formats), attach to email, create web photo gallery, batch process, combine images to create panoramas, create slideshows, and printing options. These are just some of the options. Edit menu This contains cut and paste, copy, undo functions, plus various preferences and useful settings. Image menu In here you'll find options to Rotate, Skew, change perspective, crop, resize - amongst others. Enhance menu This has the Quick Fix explained above, plus more advanced options to adjust the light, saturation etc. A esay to use option is the "Colour Variations" which gives thumbnails of what the image would look like if you increased the green, decreased the blue and so on. This is certainly an area of the program I spend a lot of time in, just fiddling until you are happy with the results. Layer menu This is perhaps one of the most powerful options of the package, and also one of the most difficult to get to grips with. In simple terms what it allows you to do is combine various images/text as though you are placing each onto a separate sheet (layer) on top of each other. Using the various blending modes, you can change the effect of how one layer reacts with another, before
finally flattening into a single image. It certainly requires a lot of practice, but stunning effects which would be impossible on a non-layer system, can be acheived. Believe me, this is where extra books and if possible some verbal guidance comes in handy. Filter menu This is perhaps one of the most fun places to spend time. Many effects are possible, simply with the click of the mouse. You can apply different kinds of blur, brush strokes, distortion, noise, pixellation, textures and so on. Creating an image that resembles a watercolour for instance is possible, or making your friends nose look big, a charcoal sketch or an embossed engraving. There are a huge number of filters available, many where the parameters can be changed and fine tuned to your precise requirements. Some filters are more useful than others, for instance sharpening which is good to do before you print, to bring out that extra detail. The toolbar This contains lots of useful buttons which you'll need to get to quickly. Here you'll find things like the selection tools, which allow you to grab certain areas of the image to work on. The magix wand can be used to magically grab uneven shapes, such as a whole sky, a person or a building - which can then be manipulated, removed or whatever. Text can be easily added either vertically or horizontally. Fills can be performed with the fill tool, red eye removed with the red eye tool, paint brushes can be selected - and there are huge numbers of different types and shapes. The eraser lets you rub out things which you need to rub out! Most of the tools such as the blur, smudge, sponge etc allow you to adjust the size of the "brush", so for fine editing you can select a tiny size, and a large one for not so fine work. The eyedropper allows you to select a colour from the image itself, which you can then make the paint colour - useful whe
n you need an exact match. Clone is my favourite and one of the most used tools. This allows you to very easily take areas of the image, and copy them elsewhere. This is particularly useful when removing small scratches, spots or even unwanted objects from otherwise good images - and this is used in simple mode - there are a huge amount of fiddlings you can do with it! Help **** There is compreshensive help available, all broekn down into managable sections such as Transforming and Distorting Images, Printing, Hints, Shortcuts etc. You'll need to have a web browser running to read it (IE will do). Glossary of terms will take you through the baffling world of graphic jargon - so you should be able to waffle on for hours about the benefits of configuring your ICC profile and the what a rasterizer is. The online tutorials also guide you through things like using layers, stitching images together, creating greetings cards and so on. You can see by the amount of help provided, it's no simple package. Summing up ********** Whilst a full listing of all the options available would bore you (and bore me too), you can see it's feature rich. Some of the features from Photoshop are not provided, but for most of us, we won't care as you can't miss something you've never had or seen. It's going to take you a while to appreciate it's power and functionality, but you'll be impressed with the results. You don't need to be an artist to use it, far from it - many of the hard bits are automated and simply enrich your photographic hobby - as it should do. Price & Availabilty ******************* The price will vary hugely depending where you look, but expect to pay £50 or more. It should be available in any good PC store, or online at Amazon and the like. I
;t is also worth noting that the software is often bundled with good quality digital cameras, so shop around.