Introducing Photoshop Elements
Book Review

On December 13, 2001, in Book Review, by David Weeks

Introducing Photoshop Elements
by Lisa Lee

Que Publishing
ISBN 0-7897-2629-7
$24.99 US ($37.95 CA)

First off, I need to admit to the world that I am not a graphics wizard. I can handle most word processors; hanging indents and tables of contents don’t frighten me in the least. Communications software is no big deal.

But when confronted with the intricacies of RGB, CMK, layers, filters, and DPI vs. LPI, my eyes tend to glaze over.

So when I recently began to want to get more out of my Fuji FinePix 4700 digital camera than I could get with entry-level graphics programs, I got nervous.

Adobe Photoshop is the be-all and end-all to Macintosh digital image manipulation. Aside from the fact that it is costs much more than I wanted to spend, the learning curve is long and steep. I am not interested in slogging through manuals the size of the Manhattan telephone directory to learn to how to do basic color correction and intermediate-level image manipulations.

Last year, Adobe introduced Photoshop Elements. Elements is Photoshop without the steroids. It has perhaps 80% of the features, at 20% of the price, with 30% of the learning curve.

When I found that Adobe was running discounts earlier this fall, I jumped headlong into the Photoshop Elements pool.

Typically, the printed manual that Adobe included with Elements is adequate in that it describes the various functions of the program. But that begs the question of what you can actually DO with Elements. Simply knowing what the various menu options do will not spur the creative muses!

A well-written book on Photoshop Elements is a boon to those who want to learn more about what they can do with Elements. Author Lisa Lee has written just that book; Introducing Photoshop Elements.

The 500 pages of Introducing Photoshop Elements provides all the Photoshop Elements guidance you will probably ever need, unless you are really pushing the Elements envelope. If you are pushing the envelope that hard, you will probably be ready to move into the full version of Photoshop.

Like most all books that can replace the manual itself, Introducing Photoshop Elements spends plenty (perhaps too much) time rehashing the details of how to install and configure Elements. There is the usual blow-by-blow review of each menu option. Given that almost everyone who spends the $24.99 US ($37.95 CA) for this will have already purchased and installed Elements, the first 1/4 of the book is redundant. Adobe has quite succinctly told the Elements owner how to -operate- Elements. The main point of software instruction book like Introducing Photoshop Elements is to tell the reader how to take advantage of, and how to best use, the software.

Lee does this very well in the last 3/4 of her book. She provides highly informative chapters on scanning and acquiring images with emphasis on scanning techniques to provide good raw material for Elements work. A chapter on the basics of digital cameras is very useful for those digital camera owners who want to learn how to take images that are going to be easy to work with in Elements.

The section on printing was one of my favorites. For those who are generally comfortable with digital cameras, but can never seem to get the on-screen image printed correctly, this chapter will be very useful. There is a good balance of basic color theory and practical printing tips to help most users improve the quality of their prints.

Many pages are devoted to a discussion of color correction and image manipulation. Many users are not going to be doing much more manipulation than putting the head of Spot the dog on the wife’s (or husband’s) body. But if the resulting photo has a persistent green cast that spoils the effect, you need to know how to adjust the color balance. Lee provides good instructions on how to do basic and advanced color correction. There are several excellent tutorials covering a step-by-step correction of an image. Screen snaps provide visual backup for readers who want to see the process visually.

The last section is about designing complex images. I spent less time here, as I am not ready for the more advanced work than can be done with Elements. Suffice to say that the four chapters devoted to complex image design and editing will provide a good foundation for those interested in Elements exotica.

The one best tip that I liked in Lee’s book was the detailed discussion of how to merge separate panoramic photos into one continuous photo with proper perspective. Her description of the process of merging panoramic photos (one of my favorite Elements capabilities) was much better than what Adobe provided.

Introducing Photoshop Elements is the best book I have read so far on how to best use Adobe Photoshop Elements.

MacMice Rating: 4.5 out of 5. Deductions only for the duplication of material from the manual. Granted, that may not bother some readers who want to get it all from the book, and not open the manual.


David Weeks

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