Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac — The Missing Manual
O’Reilly / Pogue Press
ISBN 978-0-596-51936-0, 536 pages
$44.99 US and CN (large discounts are available from Amazon.com and other online booksellers)
MYMAC: From your long list of “What’s New in Elements 6” on pages 3, 4, and 5, which ones are your top personal favorites, and why, Barbara?
BARBARA: Ooh, let’s see, John. I really like the new features in Adobe Camera Raw, the black and white conversion, Lens Distortion correction, and Refine Edge.
MYMAC: Are there any new items that the average PE6 user probably won’t use, for whatever reason?
BARBARA: Sure. I don’t think anyone will use every feature; that’s pretty much a given. Which features you use will depend on what you’re doing. A scrapper will use pretty different features from someone correcting photos to send in to a photography contest, for instance. I think the Downloader is probably the least useful feature for most Mac users, since it’s just another piece of software to do a job the OS already handles well, except for certain very specific uses, such as when you want to apply metadata templates on import. See my comments below also.
MYMAC: Which of these new features make the best case for prior users of Elements to upgrade from version 2, 3, or 4, especially version 4?
BARBARA: Well, all of them, really. Of course, if you have an Intel Mac, the ability to run natively on your hardware is probably the best reason of all.
MYMAC: Is Guided Edit a gimmick, or does it really work?
BARBARA: Oh yes, it works, although it’s not necessarily always the most effective or efficient way to do some of the tasks there. But it can be a real help to nervous beginners. For those who are braver, I’d start with the Quick Fix instead, and just push buttons and shove sliders around till you understand what everything does.
MYMAC: How easy is it to learn to make use of the new Quick Selection tool?
BARBARA: Can you draw a line? That’s really all there is to it. If you can drag with a mouse, you can use it.
MYMAC: Looking through the many new features at this Adobe official URL can readers get a decent idea about what these items do, or is this sneak peek too cursory?
BARBARA: Well, it does give a list, but it’s pretty cursory. I think they’d get a better idea by looking for one of the “first look” videos posted on many online sites. The most complete one is probably from Terry White here. That’s the best Mac-specific one. It’s 45 minutes long and gives at least a mention to most of the new features.
MYMAC: Which version of PE6’s Picture Package do you find most useful or productive? The Windows or Mac edition, and why?
BARBARA: The Mac version. I like the easy drag from one photo zone to another in the Windows version and wish the Mac version had that, but all printing from the Windows Organizer happens at 220 ppi whether you like it or not, and you can’t save your package for another time. The Mac versions of the Picture Package and Contact Sheet, while maybe a tad trickier to learn at first, are far more useful.
MYMAC: Do you think many Mac users will take full advantage of Adobe’s Downloader and new Bridge, or ignore them in favor of iPhoto’s downloader and its ability to organize images?
BARBARA: Some of both. If you do use iPhoto, probably the only time you’d want to go into Bridge would be to take advantage of some of the online features. You really need to choose between iPhoto and Bridge for organizing, or you’ll go crazy. I don’t see the downloader as being very useful to the average Mac Elements user. You don’t need more software to download photos, even if you don’t use iPhoto or Aperture or anything, but it can be worthwhile for those who want to apply a metadata template (such as copyright info or usage permissions) to their photos on import. I don’t know how many Elements folks fall into that category, though, although it is a nice addition for those more advanced or professional users who primarily use Lightroom or Aperture and just need Photoshop Elements for occasional regional editing.
MYMAC: How much do you personally use PE6’s Bridge for its keywords, metadata, labels, ratings, and organization?
BARBARA: Personally, all the time. I like living the disorganized life and I can’t stand software that takes over and forces you to do things its way. I love the fact that Bridge doesn’t care a bit about what I do with my photos outside the program. It just goes finds the current situation, and tells me where they are now. I don’t like having to launch a program every time I want to move a photo from one folder to another, and prefer a standard like IPTC metadata <http://www.iptc.org/photometadata/> keywords to a proprietary tagging system.
MYMAC: In your opinion, are people with G5s having only 32MB of video memory not really able to take advantage of PE6, with its 64MB video memory suggested minimum?
BARBARA: Yes, alas, I do think those people would most likely be better off sticking with Elements 4. Elements 6 will run, but I’m hearing from people with under-specced Macs that some PE6 features, like Photomerge, are very cranky and slow, if they work at all. If your computer falls into this category, I’d definitely give the trial a test drive before purchasing PE6.
MYMAC: Why don’t you recommend readers to “click-hold-drag-release” from iPhoto to PE6 in Dock to open iPhotos into Elements?
BARBARA: Well, I do mention drag and drop, but not specifically from iPhoto. I just think that for most iPhoto folks, learning to use the external editor command makes for a workflow that is easier for a beginner to understand, since you know exactly how the two programs are inter-relating. There are always a lot of different ways to do anything, both on a Mac and in Elements.
MYMAC: At what point in their knowledge curve do you think most PE6 users really need to learn about DNG or RAW?
BARBARA: For some people, the sooner the better, especially if you’re a mediocre photographer like me, since Raw gives you so much more latitude for correcting lousy shots. There are a lot of folks who really won’t need to use Raw ever, though, although I do suggest that at some point everyone should try correcting an image, even a JPEG or a TIFF, in the Raw Converter, just to see what it does. I’m still not totally sold on DNG, myself. It’s a great concept, but so was JPEG 2000, and for now, I don’t see it happening yet that DNG is supported when the proprietary Raw format isn’t. It’s an interesting idea for the future, though.
MYMAC: Do you use your mouse for rotating images in PE6, or have you set up any custom key commands to do this? Is such a thing even possible?
BARBARA: Mouse. Unfortunately, Elements is not natively scriptable the way Photoshop professional version is, and you can’t use System Prefs to add shortcuts to PSElements. It may be possible to set this up with a third party program, but I mostly only need Free Rotate Layer, myself, and it’s not worth going to any trouble to set up a key command for things you don’t use. Only my older cameras’ photo orientation is not recognized, and those images were all rotated long ago. I can see that it might be worth looking into what’s out there for someone who has a current camera whose orientation is ignored by PSE, but given that you can command-click (ctrl-click for the Windows Organizer) those images to select all the images you need to rotate in Bridge (ctrl-click for the Windows Organizer), and rotate them all at the same time, it’s not a huge problem. Remember that if you turn off folder viewing in Bridge (click the little folder icon with the No symbol on it on the Filter Tab), you can even see all the images on your drive at once, if you need to.
MYMAC: Thanks, Barbara. We’re glad to have you as a resource as we dig deeper in Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 and Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac — The Missing Manual. Book Bytes at MyMac Magazine highly recommends this outstanding title.