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Adobe’s New Photoshop Elements

I have often said that if I had only one piece of software that it would be Adobe Photoshop. Not that Photoshop does everything, but version 6 is about as close to perfect for an image editor as I could imagine. I recommend Photoshop to anyone working with digital images, my only reservation is that the $600 price tag is out of the range of almost everyone except the professional user. Now, Adobe has solved that problem with the new Photoshop Elements. Priced at a mere $99, the package is based on Photoshop 6 but is geared at the users who don’t need the high-end features.
Adobe has dabbled with low-cost versions of Photoshop before. Adobe PhotoDeluxe was included with many scanners and available as a stand-alone product, but its interface was often simplistic. Photoshop LE (limited edition) was also bundled with more expensive scanners, but it had high-end features stripped out without anything added for the new user.
Photoshop Elements strikes a nice balance between the best of the full program and holding the hand of inexperienced users. When you start Photoshop Elements, you are greeted with a screen of standard options like Acquire image from digital cameras or scanners, Tutorial, and New image (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1

The most notable feature of the program is the new Hints and Recipes palettes. The Hints palette (Fig. 2) changes depending on the tool selected in the Tools palette; and, while it does take up more screen space than needed, it is valuable information for the new user and can be turned off by the more experienced user. The Recipes palette (Fig. 3) lists common tasks that users will want to do and the steps involved. This is a great feature for learning how to use the program for to achieve specific goals.

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

The File Browser palette (Fig. 4) is another new feature that will help new users navigate their growing collection of digital photographs. The File Browser displays thumbnail pictures of images on disk and allows them to be opened into Photoshop Elements. Also new from Photoshop 6 is the Filters and Effects palettes (Fig. 5). Hardcore Photoshop users are infamous for tweaking with various filter effects to create new looks for otherwise conventional images. These two new palettes show iconic previews of the results of the filters and allow their application with a single mouse click. This makes it very easy to experiment and learn what the filters do.

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

Also different from the big daddy Photoshop is the new Enhance menu. The Enhance menu includes commands like Adjust Backlighting, Fill Flash and Color Cast. These simplify common tasks that would be done with the less-than-intuitive Curves or Levels in Photoshop.
Photoshop Elements includes almost everything from its more expensive sire. Editable text layers, layer effects, vector shapes and plenty more are still in the program. This may cause you to ask, “So, what do I lose when I pay $500 less?” Good question. The major elements that are removed are the ability to work in the CMYK and HSB color spaces and the Curves and Hue/Saturation Image Adjustments. For most users, this will not even be noticed. CMYK is the color space used for commercial offset printing, but most people either print to a desktop inkjet printer of send photos via email or the web. Curves is a great way to adjust the tonality of an image, but it is often confusing to inexperienced users. The ability to record and play back Actions has also been removed.
Photoshop Elements is a great package for amateur photographers, digital image enthusiasts, hobbyists and small businesses. Adobe has done us all a great service by repackaging the power of Photoshop into a software we can all understand and afford. A free 30-day full demo is available for download from Adobe’s web site ( Adobe also offers a special upgrade price of $69 for users of competitive programs (including PhotoDeluxe and Photoshop LE) through their online store ( For $69, this program is a steal!
Paul Vaughn is a freelance graphic artist and web designer. Mr. Vaughn has a love-love relationship with Adobe Photoshop, he can be contacted at

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