- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Envy, we are told, is one of the seven deadly sins. Still, it’s understandable that Windows users would envy Apple Inc.’s IPhoto ‘08, which is, as noted here last week, a remarkable program for image management, editing and sharing.

But that should be much diminished with yesterday’s scheduled debut of Adobe Systems’ Photoshop Elements 6, a $99.99 Windows-based program that offers dazzling photo editing, solid organizational tools and a great user experience.

It’s neither IPhoto nor is it the full Adobe Photoshop, but it’s good.

To make a good deal close to perfect, spend an extra $50 and get the company’s Premiere Elements — for video editing — with Photoshop Elements. Even if you’re not an amateur videographer, Premiere Elements will help you make superb photo slide shows, guaranteed to keep after-dinner guests awake, perhaps unlike those your parents may have bored you and guests to tears with.

The basic fact is that almost all of us who use computers today are far more “visual” in our approach than a few years ago. Try running a successful EBay auction without photos of the items. Or attempt to set up a Facebook page without at least a picture of your, well, face. In business, using pictures effectively can be key in presentations, reports and even sales pitches. We also want to document the lives of friends and family, and many of us want to use photography to brighten up our homes.

That said, many of us aren’t professionals, nor do we know what to do to make that sequence of photos taken on Skyline Drive into an effective panoramic print. We also may want to share photos online.

Photoshop Elements 6 handles all these things, and quite nicely. The panoramic “stitching” is a wonder to behold; don’t ask me how it works, it just does. Do your indoor shots of people (or the family pooch) show up with “red eye,” the reflection of a camera’s flash that causes red dots in the pupils? Elements 6 will handle that for you, automatically if you desire.

I like the way you can organize photos, by tagging them by subject or keywords. Organizing by date or grouping into a download batch is a bit more involved, but doable, and comes closer to the “user events” of IPhoto ‘08.

Sharing photos is also fun — there are options for e-mail, of course, and burning compact discs or digital video discs. But you also can easily create a Web page, one that has some splashy graphical effects, such as minor animations and the like; you can even specify one of the uploaded photos as the Web page background.

Photo editing and modification with Photoshop Elements 6 is another amazing feature. Consider a group shot at a wedding. Everyone’s together, looking at the camera, but Charlie is scratching his nose in one shot. In the other, Charlie looks great and the rest of the gang is goofing off.

With this program, you can easily select “good” Charlie and merge him into the better photo.

I’m not much of a video enthusiast — yet — but here’s what I saw in a demo of Premiere Elements, exactly as the company described it: “Video enthusiasts can apply comprehensive movie themes to a sequence of scenes in just a few clicks, creating a movie complete with transitions, effects and DVD menu. Background music and sound effects help underscore emotions, add emphasis, or create a mood.”

All that works as advertised, and you can easily use the software to post the finished product to YouTube.

For less than $150 retail, you can get two powerful applications that do a lot for video and still photos.

Read Mark Kellner’s tech blog at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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