- The Washington Times - Monday, September 5, 2005

It took me less than 30 seconds to straighten out some birds from the St. Louis Zoo.

Now, this was in a still picture, and on a Windows PC, and, truth be told, some 800 miles from the actual location, but the effect was impressive. A photo I took of the aviary, from a miniature rail car that traverses the park, was a bit dark and at a bit of an angle. Using Corel Paint Shop Pro X, a $129 program available today, I could define an axis, have the computer adjust the photo, manually crop the picture and then “auto enhance” the image, each with one or two mouse clicks.

The result: a brighter, straighter and more presentable image. I then saved the file as a JPEG, suitable for Web posting, and went on to other things.

You don’t have to delve into the darkest recesses of photo manipulation to get good results. The same is more or less true for Elements or Digital Imaging Suite, but it is serendipity to find this in software that can also function at the higher end. A serious student will find just about every necessary tool here for photo editing and enhancement. It’s not the full equal of Adobe’s Photoshop program, perhaps, but it comes close enough for many of us, and for a lot less.

At the heart of Paint Shop Pro X is the Learning Center, which lists tasks common to digital photography: getting pictures from a camera, PC or scanner; adjusting photos; retouching and restoring images; making a collage; using text to turn photos into greeting cards and the like; add artistic effects or print, e-mail and share photos online. These can be daunting to a newcomer (or new parent), but are made step-by-step easy with the narrative directions under each task. It’s a smart idea that helped me get those birds at a proper angle.

This is the kind of photo editing software I could easily imagine growing into with time and practice. That may also be true for Photoshop, but I have a feeling the learning curve with Paint Shop Pro X will be far less steep.

Even better on the picture-organizing front is Corel Photo Album 6, which will take camera downloads and place them in individual folders — that is, one folder for each device attached to the computer — and also organize pictures by date or other criteria. You can batch rename photos in sequence: three shots of a bear from the zoo were now “Bear1,” etc., instead of “P101245.JPG.” You can organize photos for backups, albums, scrapbooks — a huge hobby, I’m told — and stitch photos together for a panorama. There also are means by which you can order prints online, create backup CDs, and add sound for a slide show that won’t bore the dinner guests.

Among the projects you can create are greeting cards, calendars, certificates and collages. All these are nice features, though they may eventually seem confining — I’d like to see Corel add more projects and variations to help keep things fresh. The organization of Photo Album 6, which retails for $49, is simple. Tabs take users to the program’s four main sections: organize, enhance, create and share.

A “lite” version of Photo Album 6 is tucked into Paint Shop Pro X, but, frankly, I’d splurge and buy both if I wanted to make serious work of my photos. Given that I have a rather large box of family and personal pictures to deal with, I probably shall put both to use, and soon. More details at www.corel.com.

• E-mail [email protected] or visit www.kellner.us.

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