The arrival, last month, of Adobe's Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac, list
price $90, begs a question: why would a Mac user want this software,
particularly since Apple's $80 ILife offers its own photo program,
There are several potential answers to the question, however. There
are people, including those who've switched from PCs running Microsoft
Windows to the Mac platform, who would find Photoshop Elements more
comfortable. Others are looking for something with more capabilities
than IPhoto, but aren't ready for either the cost or learning curve of
the full Adobe Photoshop program.
Both groups will find a lot that is useful in Photoshop Elements 6 for
Mac. It's a great program, a good compliment to IPhoto, and something
I could envision using on a daily basis, largely because I work with
photos just about every day.
IPhoto's great strength is its extreme ease of use and integration
with digital cameras and other image sources. Photoshop Elements 6
plays off of this, using another Adobe program, called "Bridge," to
let users view photos in IPhoto "libraries" and then work with those
images. Bridge is included in the Photoshop Elements 6 package.
This means that if you've built up IPhoto libraries of several hundred
(or thousand) images, you can edit, enhance or use these in Photoshop
Elements without an extensive conversion process. This is part of what
makes Photoshop Elements a "middle path" for Mac photo enthusiasts.
Although IPhoto has some good editing and enhancement tools, these
have their limits. The full Photoshop program is the "gold standard"
for image editing and manipulation, but it may be too much for many,
as mentioned earlier. Photoshop Elements delivers a "just right"
combination of power and ease.
One example: take those inevitable group shots that you'll find in the
aftermath of a wedding, graduation, company picnic or other event. In
some of those group shots, everyone is looking at the camera except
for one person. That soul is swatting at a fly, or is otherwise
distracted. In another group shot, the fly-swatter is great and
everyone else isn't.
In earlier days - or in Stalinist Russia after Trotsky was literally
made a "non-person" - you'd need razor blades or other devices to
excise the offending person from a negative and perhaps insert a
better one. Today, you line up the two photos digitally, make a
selection, and Photoshop Elements moves the better image of Mr.
Fly-Swatter into position. It seems magical, and, to this reviewer, it
is. (Such manipulation is anathema at The Washington Times and other
reputable newspapers; for your Aunt Sally's 90th birthday scrapbook,
however, it may be acceptable.)
Ditto for stitching together photos into a panorama. Photoshop
Elements 6 for Mac will do this far more easily than I ever could with
other software, no matter how much patience I could manifest.
It's also easy to take a collection of photos and "publish" them
online in an interactive Web album. That's something IPhoto does, too,
but I like the Photoshop Elements approach.
Both programs also offer a variety of output ideas, including books,
calendars, T-shirts and other items. Once you enhance a photo by
removing "red eye" or other blemishes, why not share it with Uncle
Harry on a coffee mug?
Despite some similarities, I get the sense that Photoshop Elements is
not only the more powerful photo-editor, but is also designed for more
"commercial," or near-commercial applications. I know that when I take
photos for use in print or on the Internet, previous Mac versions of
Photoshop Elements have made it very easy to modify and save photos in
just the format needed. That hasn't changed in this version.
If you're happy with Apple's ILife suite, you may not feel compelled
to add Photoshop Elements to your arsenal. But if visual communication
is important, having this new version of Adobe Photoshop Elements for
Mac will not only enhance your images, it will also improve the way
you work with them.