Book Review – The Hidden Power of Photoshop Elements 2

The Hidden Power of Photoshop Elements 2

By Richard Lynch
Company: Sybex, Inc.
ISBN 0782141781, 292 pages
Price: $40.00 US, $64.00 CN, £29.99 UK

Now I’ve done reviews of Photoshop Elements 1 & 2, and I’ve also reviewed books on Photoshop Elements and thought I’d gotten quite familiar with the software, its uses, capabilities and limitations. Yet as I began to read Richard Lynch’s book, I began to understand what he meant by the “Hidden Power” of Photoshop Elements 2.

Mr. Lynch, author of books on Photoshop 5 and 6, plus numerous articles on Photoshop, digital photography, wasn’t satisfied with the capabilities that came in Photoshop Elements and missed the items that all Photoshop users had grown used to part of the software. You know, CMYK mode, the ability to work in separate color channels, curves, to name a few. As he went through Photoshop Elements, however, he discovered that there were ways to imitate or use all the features he thought were missing in Photoshop Elements.

As you begin Mr. Lynch’s book, he stresses that to really understand how to use Photoshop Elements, you really need to understand the fundamentals of creating a good image. And so begins your journey into Photoshop Elements – fundamentals first, then the use of tools to help you as you continue to move through the features that abound in Photoshop Elements.

The book itself is broken down into six major parts: Preparation and Concepts for Serious Image Editing, Wrestling with Image Tone and Contrast, Serious Color Correction, Rebuilding Images, Images in Print and Images on the Web. Rather then dump the reader into the use of the tools; Mr. Lynch first addresses the issues of understanding the basics and the process behind the tool. For example, Mr. Lynch teaches the reader to take apart the image color and tone using three-color separation methods, then to isolate image objects and areas in a number of different ways. Corrections and adjustments can then be made to produce better images.

The book itself is part textbook, how-to-do, Photoshop Elements bible and guideline manual, all rolled into one. It includes projects designed for the reader to learn the process as well as to understand why it works. Designed to cover both Mac and Windows users, it also includes a CD that contains the tools that Mr. Lynch developed and practice images. Once you’ve installed the tools, when you open up Photoshop Elements you’ll discover under the recipes box, the Hidden Power tools.

As you can see below, Mr. Lynch has set everything up for the user, breaking things down for ease of use.

As you get into the book, you learn the step-by-step process to manipulate images to get them to do what you want. You don’t just jump into the tools section and speed away. Mr. Lynch follows through on his promise to walk you through each and every step so that you get the basics first, then once you understand them, you move on into the tools aspect.

Examples of learning the process- to split the RGB colors into Tones for Channels, you are walked through forty-two steps (yes, 42 steps). Once you have gone through the steps, you can split the RGB colors. Once you’ve learned this method, you can click once on the Split RGB Channels under the Separations Tab in the Hidden Power tools menu to accomplish the same objective. But now you should have an understanding of what exactly is involved in the process and what is being accomplished. Richard Lynch does this as he walk/works the reader through each aspect of the processes involved. Time after time as I worked my way though the book, I’d find myself saying, “Ok, now I understand” although I will admit that I was impressed by the tools that Mr. Lynch has developed that do tend to make things a whole lot easier. A quick rundown of what can be accomplished by using the Hidden Power Tools includes:

Applying Curves, Working with Channels, Doing Channel Calculations,
Taking History Snapshots, Applying History Brushes, Making CMYK Separations, Editing Vectors, Creating Custom Masks, Using Guides, Aligning Layers, Using Color Balance and Mixing Channels

I contacted Richard Lynch and discussed the tools that are on the CD and the new tools that are located on his website, and I asked him about the cost of the tools-

“The free tools on the website are actually free (no cost or hidden cost for
readers and non-readers), and add functionality that I wasn’t able to
completely develop while writing the book. They are completely
compatible and COMPLEMENTARY to the tools in the book. That is, the
free tools are free to readers and non-readers and valuable to both.
The ability to run actions allows users to run some Photoshop actions
(some have to be converted to work with Elements, but I am working on
getting developers involved to make more things available for free).
This in itself can add a lot of functionality, and is a great tool for
learning! A few additional tools in the free package add functions that
exist in the interface but are difficult to access otherwise — though
they essentially duplicate other functions that I thought were better
that I included with the book and CD. All tools (free and on the CD)
are compatible with Elements 1 and 2 on all OSes which allow install of
Elements (Mac and PC).”

If you are a Photoshop Elements user (Mac or Windows) and have been frustrated by the “inability” to do all the things that the more expensive Photoshop software can do, then run to your local bookstore or check online and get “The Hidden Power of Photoshop Elements 2” What you will wind up with is a book that will permit you to use the less expensive Photoshop Elements yet with all the bells and whistles of Photoshop. An added bonus is that the author is readily available to respond to questions from the users of the book or to respond to suggestions for other tools that users may see a need for in their everyday use of Photoshop Elements. You will learn by reading this book and by going through the projects. Check it out… Recommended!

MyMac Rating: 4 out of 5

Russ Walkowich


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