Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The arrival last month of Adobe’s Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac, list price $90, poses a question: Why would a Mac user want this software, particularly since Apple’s $80 ILife offers its own photo program, IPhoto?

There are several potential answers. There are people, including those who have switched from PCs to the Mac platform, who would find Photoshop Elements more comfortable. Others are looking for something with more capabilities than IPhoto, but aren’t ready for either the cost or learning curve of the full Adobe Photoshop program.

Both groups will find a lot that is useful in Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac. It’s a great program, a good complement to IPhoto, and something I could envision using on a daily basis, largely because I work with photos just about every day.

IPhoto’s great strength is its extreme ease of use and integration with digital cameras and other image sources. Photoshop Elements 6 plays off of this, using another Adobe program, called “Bridge,” to let users view photos in IPhoto libraries and then work with those images. Bridge is included in the Photoshop Elements 6 package.

This means that if you’ve built up IPhoto libraries of several hundred (or thousand) images, you can edit, enhance or use these in Photoshop Elements without an extensive conversion process. This is part of what makes Photoshop Elements a “middle path” for Mac photo enthusiasts.

Although IPhoto has some good editing and enhancement tools, these have their limits. The full Photoshop program is the “gold standard” for image editing and manipulation, but it may be too much for many, as mentioned earlier. Photoshop Elements delivers a “just right” combination of power and ease.

Take those inevitable group shots from a wedding, graduation orthe like. In some of them, everyone is looking at the camera except for one, who is distracted. In another photo, he looks fine.

You can line up the two photos digitally, make a selection, and Photoshop Elements moves the better image of Mr. distracted into position.

Ditto for stitching together photos into a panorama. Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac will do this far more easily than I ever could with other software.

It’s also easy to take a collection of photos and “publish” them online in an interactive Web album. That’s something IPhoto does, too, but I like the Photoshop approach.

Both also offer a variety of output ideas, including books, calendars, T-shirts, etc.

I get the sense that Photoshop Elements is not only the more powerful photo editor, but is also designed for more “commercial,” or near-commercial applications.

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

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