Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0

$89.99, $20 upgrade rebate through April 30, 2005; $79.99 download.
Academic pricing available.

The best photo editing software for mere mortals gets even better with Photoshop Elements 3.0, the latest version of Adobe Photoshop Elements. Adobe has once again taken most of the features of the current version of Photoshop (now more firmly identified as a pro application), rolled in some excellent Elements-only additions, and packaged it all in an approachable, instruction-rich interface.

At less than $90, Photoshop Elements 3.0 is a worthy purchase or upgrade for most everyone who works with photos on a Mac and wants to move beyond the basic adjustments possible in iPhoto. Indeed, Photoshop Elements 3 is designed to work with iPhoto, making the photo organizing and sharing components of the Windows version of Elements 3 unnecessary (and shaving $10 from the cost of the Windows version).

If you’re using an earlier version of the Mac operating system, Photoshop Elements 3 may be the motivation you need to upgrade. The program requires Mac OS 10.2.8 or OS 10.3 and 256 MB of RAM, fairly standard minimum requirements for today’s software. One assumes that Photoshop Elements 3.0 will work with the upcoming Mac OS 10.4 Tiger without a hitch.

I found the animated demo at Adobe’s website to be a great resource for getting up to speed on Photoshop Elements 3.0’s new features. These features include an improved File Browser that allows you to edit file names, assign keywords, flag and search, and view only the photos you want to see. The File Browser also lets you create custom views and favorite folders. It’s extremely handy to be able to view thumbnail views of all your photo folders, whether or not they’re in iPhoto. As for iPhoto integration, if you set your iPhoto preferences to use Photoshop Elements 3.0 as its editing application, double-clicking on a photo in iPhoto will open it in Photoshop Elements 3.0. Any changes you make to that photo will update it in iPhoto. But be sure to make a duplicate copy in iPhoto before you start editing! That’s good advice for any photo editing, regardless of the application used.

Several new or improved functions take the labor out of photo correction and enhancement. Quick Fix automatically fixes color, brightness, contrast and sharpness. The choice is now a handy button in the top bar, with adjustment sliders that display to the right of the photo. You can also adjust settings with Smart Fix, which changes lighting, contrast and color. The Red Eye Removal tool now works even if you just click near the offendingly reflecting eyes. You may need to do a little retouching around the eyes (it gets ALL the red out), but this tool does a much better job than its previous version.

Shadows/Highlights, lifted from Photoshop, is my favorite enhancement tool. Its ability to rescue incorrctly exposed photos is just plain amazing. Perhaps the juciest plunder from Photoshop is the Healing Brush, which analyzes the area around a flaw or unwanted item and blends it out. Milk mustaches and misplaced telephone poles be warned!

The work area adds Photo Bin, a new window across the bottom of the work area that shows thumbnails of the photos you’re currently working on. This is especially useful if you’re combining elements of more than one photo or performing similar fixes. Also new is the Filter Gallery, a palette where you can choose and combine filters, and the Cookie Cutter tool, which allows you to crop photos into a huge variety of creative shapes - ideal for art projects and scrapbooking.

Elements 3.0 can now handle the complete data from photos shot in camera raw format. The Camera Raw dialog box lets you correct white balance, change the exposure, or auto fix the settings without changing the original photo data.

Elements 3.0 can now print different photos on the same page, enabling you to save money on expensive photo paper. You can also print photo packages that combine photos in varying sizes and create custom printing layouts.

Like iPhoto, Elements 3.0 automatically resizes photos for proper email sending, and allows you to create automatic web galleries of photos. Finally, Elements 3.0 lets you create an emailable slide show that includes transitions.

Photoshop Elements 3 is full of improvements that make it a worthy upgrade for users of Photoshop Elements or Photoshop Elements 2, and a no-brainer purchase for anyone who doesn’t yet own Elements and wants to work with photos.

– Elsa Travisano
Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0
System requirements: PowerPC G3, G4 or G5 processor, Mac OS 10.2.8 or 10.3, 256 MB RAM, 200 MB of hard drive space, 1024x768 16 bit display, CD-ROM drive.
Copyright ©2005 by Elsa Travisano. This review appeared in the April 2005 issue of Newsbreak, the newsletter of MUG ONE - Macintosh User Group of Oneonta, NY.