It'll cost you $100, at retail, to buy Photoshop Elements 7 for Windows, the latest consumer-oriented photo manager/editor/organizer from Adobe. Dare I suggest that it'll cost you far more - in time, aggravation and who knows what else - if you don't.
There are plenty of other photo-editing programs out there for Windows, and some good ones. But Photoshop Elements 7, announced at the end of August, offers both a very nice range of editing options and ways to store and share photos online, automatically.
The editing capabilities of Photoshop Elements are such that in my daily work, I often turn to this program rather than regular Photoshop for simple editing and formatting of photos either for the Web or for print publication. Part of that comes from my not having learned the full Photoshop program in the way I would like (my bad), but part of this also comes from the ease with which Elements works. Here's what I mean:
Take a memory card from your digital camera and insert it into a card reader (or card slot on a PC or notebook) and fire up Elements 7. The program not only will import images for you, it'll ask if you would like them grouped by date and if you want an automatic red-eye fix. The grouping worked very well; the red-eye fix was pretty good: One photo still had a subject with red pupils, but that was fixed later.
Elements 7 arranged my photos for easy viewing and reuse on the Web as printed pictures or what have you. The photo with red eye? I was able to zoom in and fix it with a simple tool provided by the program. This isn't earthshaking, perhaps, but it worked so well and so easily - point, click, fixed - that it was refreshing. If you're not a photo-editing aficionado but rather want to get in and get out of your photos quickly, such features are a boon.
The new version retains - and builds on - features in earlier versions. Among the new items available, though, are several that will appeal to those wishing to spiff up the family album or build a better (even more embarrassing?) slide show for a wedding or birthday celebration.
One of the new features is called Scene Cleaner, and it's based on something I have used (and praised) before: Adobe's Photomerge technology, which lets you take, for example, two group shots and replace the guy scratching his ear and the girl whose shoulder strap snapped with better-looking images from a similar photo. Now, the Scene Cleaner will let you clean up a vacation shot, the firm asserts.
Adobe also says a Smart Brush will let you paint effects into a specific area of a photo, improving lighting, adding textures and so forth. Tooth whitening will be a one-click option - in pictures, anyway - as will brightening a blue sky, something Penn State football fans certainly will want to use. In short, more and more editing tools will be available to the user, with more and greater ease of use.
Such tools need to be used responsibly, of course, when tweaking pictures for publication, especially in responsible media. However, if you truly want to get your ex out of the picture or touch up your smile, this is an easy-to-use program that will help you accomplish such goals quickly. (I've often said to the Adobe folks that if Josef Stalin had had Photoshop Elements, he could have excised Leon Trotsky from all those old Kremlin pictures in a snap, but I digress.)
The new program makes a sop to the wired world. Buy the basic software, and you get 2 gigabytes of storage (down from a previously announced 5GB) for pictures on Photoshop.com, enough to store about 1,500 photos or perhaps one fall recital at your local elementary school. You can up that storage to 20GB for $50 a year, which should provide plenty of storage for digital memories. Having online backup, as any survivor of a natural disaster could tell you, is not a bad thing.
It's a careful balance between putting more features in a program such as Elements 7 and crowding too close to big-daddy Photoshop, whose retail price is several times that of Elements. So far, Adobe has maintained that balance quite well. If you want what may be the best way to edit, organize and store photos on a computer, check out this program; it'll be in stores next month. More information can be found online at www.adobe.com/products/ photoshopelwin/.
By the way, expect more photo-related discussions here in the coming months. I've seen some interesting picture-frame solutions that you'll want to know about as well as some new cameras from Nikon that are exciting. If you prefer a more physical photo backup, I've found some tools for that, too. Stay tuned.
• What are you cropping? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark A. Kellner is a religion columnist for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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