Adobe’s new Photoshop Elements 2.0, built on the same powerful engine as their popular Photoshop software, is designed with photo hobbyists and amateur enthusiasts in mind. With simplified, stripped-down features, it offers valuable image-editing capabilities at a fraction of the cost.
Priced at about $150 (CDN), Photoshop Elements 2.0 was introduced to compete with similar programs such as Jasc’s Paint Shop Pro, Ulead's PhotoImpact, and FrameMaker. But its near-professional functionality combined with helpful, but not pandering, walkthroughs, gives it several edges on the competition.
The overall display is not nearly as intimidating as its bigger sibling’s. The main area is devoted to your picture (or pictures, with its new batch processing feature) and a Windows Paint-like vertical palette that uses far fewer tools than you’ll find in the $1,100 (CDN) version of Photoshop. There’s a collection of folder tabs across the top for snazzy, previewable effects and filters, and a couple of help and how-to folders that you’ll probably remove after getting to know the program a bit better. Though it’s simplified, novice users will still need to go through a novella of help files before confidently applying a majority of the available tools.
One feature of Photoshop Elements 2.0, which has yet to make its way into the professional edition, includes the ability to select from a thumbnail directory of your pictures. Many of Photoshop’s processes are now automated, such adjusting flash and backlighting effects, creating panoramas by stitching individual shots, or straightening out scanned images. The red-eye brush tool works fairly well, although I’ve used other programs that do this automatically, and often more accurately.
The Quick Fix feature lets you easily tweak the levels, contrast and focus quite nicely; however, the steps are confusingly listed in the wrong order – according to Adobe’s help files – and it opens a window that takes up so much space, it’s sometimes hard to tell how it’s affecting the original picture.
Photoshop Elements 2.0 makes it easy to share or upload photos, by reducing their overall size and letting you attach them to e-mails directly from within the program. Multiple photos can also be saved as a PDF slideshow – a cool way to share albums with friends.
Missing from this version are features such as curves, slicing, colour channel editors, and masking, which prevents specified areas from being changed. However, you can add and edit adjustment layers, leaving the base untouched. Photoshop Elements 2.0 also lacks the ability to apply a digital watermark to your files, which is important for photographers looking to protect copyright.
But for the average home user just looking to enhance their personal pics, Photoshop Elements 2.0 should prove effective, intuitive, and enjoyable.