Photoshop Elements 4: The Missing Manual
Book Review

Photoshop Elements 4: The Missing Manual
by Barbara Brundage

O’Reilly Press
ISBN: 0-596-10158-9 510 Pages
Price: US $39.95 CAN $55.95

Remember the days when you’d rush to the special software store to buy the latest release of your favorite software application? And the long walk to wherever lugging that heavy User’s Manual? You ask, “What’s a User’s Manual?” It’s that thick volume that covers every aspect of an application, including explanations and examples of every feature offered. Typically, it also includes some information on the technology behind the scenes. It makes it possible to just jump right into a new program and learn how to make it work for you, without hiring a personal tutor or taking an expensive two-day training course. Well, worry not! Photoshop Elements 4: The Missing Manual, is here to fill that gap, and at a very modest price. The inside back cover announces that the missing CD-ROM means that you just saved $5.00 and that all the add-on software is instead available for download from the dedicated web site.

Photoshop Elements 4 (PE4), is not just a pared-down version of the professional Photoshop program. It includes many tools and features for the amateur not found in the much more expensive digital artist’s tool. Elements provides a variety of ways to organize and quickly fix your digital images. While not always readily apparent, PE4 goes way beyond the basics and Photoshop Elements 4: The Missing Manual will guide you through discovering the wealth of features. The layout of the book provides plenty of before and after examples of image manipulation, step-by-step instructions for using a particular tool or technique, and lots of insets with title bars like “Workaround Workshop,” “Troubleshooting Moment,” and “Under the Hood.”

Part 1 of the book contains introductory information, how to navigate the application, how to organize your photos, and basic editing and repair techniques. Part 2 is a first look at selections and layers, the two techniques that make digital imaging programs such powerful editing tools (in my opinion). Part 3 presents some pretty sophisticated retouching tools and techniques. I found Chapter 10: Creating Panoramas and Transforming Images to be the gem of this section. I think I’m holding that camera straight, only to discover later that I’m not! Well, the author explains the four PE4 tools for restoring proper alignment and straightening out those problem photos in the Transforming Images section of The Missing Manual. No more leaning towers, houses, people or mountains! Free Transform is the most powerful of the four and includes the capabilities of the other three tools. It is also the most challenging to use. Skew can give or remove an image slant. Distort stretches an image in, out, up, down, you get the idea. Perspective can be used to correct apparent distance distortions. And, there are filters described for dealing with barreling or pinching of individual objects in your photo.

Part 4 instructs in the large collection of drawing tools, using image modification techniques with filters, effects and layer effects, and lastly, there’s all about working with type. Many creative techniques are presented in this section, offering a great starting point for individual artistic expression. Part 5 is subtitled Sharing Your Images. This is the logical last step in the digital imaging journey with PE4 and The Missing Manual. This section includes how to get the most impressive results on paper, whether printing your masterpiece at home or sending it out. The chapter on optimizing images for the Web and Email also includes step-by-steps for creating animated GIFs, HTML photo galleries, and slideshows.

The last section is titled Additional Elements and is a collection of additional information you might want to know about when working with PE4. There are a few bits about graphics tablets, free stuff on the web, and resources to advance you beyond the scope of The Missing Manual. The first two of the three Appendixes are the menu items with brief explanations for first The Organizer (Windows only) and then The Editor. The last appendix provides useful information for installing and troubleshooting the program.

In Summary:
Photoshop Elements users, you need this volume on your desktop. You’ll find The Missing Manual a valuable digital imaging resource, whether to remind you of technique procedures, or to introduce you to new tools and methods. Rating: 4.5 out 5


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