Saturday, May 3, 2008

Photo Editing for $100-- It's uhh... Elementary!

Prematurely sent to the reject bin last year, all this guy needed for resurrection were darker skies and a tad more contrast! (Tri-X, 16mm; Virginia City, NV)

Can't afford Photoshop CS3- neither can I, which automatically places you in the good company of thousands of others. The good news is that there are competent, cheaper alternatives out there if you're not about to use every single damn graphic, nook and cranny in that monster program!

Not one to wax poetic about photo, or god forbid, computer technology, I lost the services of Photoshop 7 when I got the new computer last December and lived off 1 month, free trial issues of various photo editing software. And after said experience trying and comparing those various trial programs, I ultimately decided on the less muscular, less influential (and far less expensive) Elements 6. Yes, I could've gone outside the Adobe family for other programs (eg- Corel's PSP X2 or Picture Window Pro, etc) that had similar features and pricing, but seems there's just more help out there (see below) when it comes to the more universal product- and lord knows I need, and will continue to need, all the help I can get when it comes to all things digital (besides I'm a sucker for those cute new, colorful selection icons).

Anyway, from what I understand, Elements has better RAW adjustments, X2 has CMYK and a few, more advanced editing tools, and Picture Pro has full 16 bit editing and an interesting alternative tool kit for layers. They're all well within the $100 price range, so pick and choose according to your particular needs. For those interested, there are a couple of free photo editing programs as well...

Sure, none of the above have all the Hollywood bells and whistles of Photoshop Sr. that I never needed and never used, and could never find or understand anyway- but they can, and do, get the job done, thank you very much. I'm not into surreal montages with wild filters and special effects, but yeah, all the aforementioned can do that too, and then some- and for a fraction of the cost.

The one thing that was annoying in Elements 6 however, was its wimpy Curves display- actually, it would've been just fine if it only didn't have the preview image the size of a postage stamp. Not a good thing when trying to manipulate subtle tonal gradations in B&W! Fortunately, very fortunately, I happened to find Smart Curve, a compatible, full feature Curves plug-in that's 100% free!

Needless to say, I don't think full time professionals will be downgrading anytime soon, and rightfully so; but for those like me who are use to making the most out of less, this is just one more opportunity to shine. For relative newbies who want to hit the floor running with Elements 6, check out the step by step ps elements 6 book, Jim Beecher's online Elements Menu, and for a more comprehensive overview, PS Elements 6: The Missing Manual. You can also find instructional videos here.

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