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Version 6 adds a more professional GUI, feature set
Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac is a much-needed and welcomed update. A much better graphical user interface (GUI), powerful tools, and much more, all add up to the best version of Photoshop Elements for Mac yet.
When I do a review, I try to use the product in a real-world situation. For Photoshop Elements 6, I was able to use many of the tools and features in my everyday work. As an amateur photographer, I like to edit and crop photos; for my articles, I re-size images for the Web; and I use plenty more workflows.
You're probably scratching your head, wondering what happened to Photoshop Elements 5 for Mac. Version 4 is a few years old, and the Windows version went to 5.0, then 6.0, while the Mac was left at 4.0. Needless to say, Adobe did a complete overhaul and gave us version 6, keeping us up-to-date with the Windows version. And it's an amazing update!
If you're like me, you may not need a full-blown version of Photoshop CS3, which is a fantastic software application. With Photoshop, I use perhaps 20-25% of the features, so I can't justify the cost of CS3. Hence, Photoshop Elements is targeted at those of us looking for a good set of tools for amateur photography.
The first thing I noticed with version 6 is its speed. Even with a Mac Pro 8-core 2.8 GHz system, version 4 would take a while to load and open images. Version 6 is much faster, taking advantage of the Mac's Intel processors. On my MacBook 2.16 GHz system with 2 GB RAM, it takes about 25 seconds to load, which is far faster than launching version 4. Opening photos, editing, and saving all take less time than version 4. Rendering takes less time, too, when using even simple filter effects.
I recommend putting as much RAM in your system as you can, especially with the low prices these days. A friend of mine has a first generation MacBook with only 1GB RAM, and his copy of version 6 ran very slow until he added more memory. You'll also need at least OS X Tiger 10.4.8, but Leopard seems to handle Photoshop Elements 6 better.
The GUI has changed, too, and is closer to Photoshop CS3; the dark gray/charcoal background actually makes it easier on my eyes, and it just feels and looks more professional than previous versions.
In the upper right-hand window, there are three tabs, Edit, Create, and Share, which are the three basic workspaces of Elements 6. In Edit, you'll find tools and filters, plus options for editing manually, auto, or guided. In Create, you can make a Photo Book, Collage and more. There's also some artwork, too, but you can use your own. Finally, in Share, you can create a Web photo gallery, order prints, burn to a CD/DVD, etc.
There are plenty of new tools in Elements 6; what I really dig is that you can use some preset corrections or filters to make your image look better, or more creative. But I also like the amount of control you have, like in Color Curves (highlights and shadows) or color correction (hue/saturation).
As Photoshop novices, my girlfriend Marina and I were eager to learn how to isolate something in an image, so we could manipulate it. The Quick Selection Tool became one of our biggest Elements 6 tools, and we used it to great effect. Using color correcting features finished up the edit.
I love the Before and After Preview windows, which lets me judge how the edit's going. It is tools like this that help make using Photoshop Elements 6 so much easier and user-friendly. And let's not forget Layers, which allows you to create and edit more freely.
The new Group Shot feature is pretty cool-you can take a series of pictures of various people, and blend them together to create one image. It's very easy, and Adobe gives a great example: a few photos of small kids not all looking at the camera and blending them together to create the perfect picture. You can use it with Photomerge, if you want, which allows you to change up faces on your subjects.
I found out about these features on Adobe's site (http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshopelmac), which provides a lot of great, easy-to-follow tutorials. I have friends who are expert/power Photoshop CS3 users, and now I can at least feel like I'm part of the club.
If you're looking for more help, check out http://www.photoshopelementsuser.com/ and sign up for the newsletter, or subscribe to Photoshop Elements Techniques, which looks to be a very cool monthly guide. I'm considering subscribing.
Other areas of training include the always-great Lynda (www.lynda.com), along with various books from Peachpit Press (www.peachpit.com), Pogue Press' Missing Manuals (http://missingmanuals.com/), and many more. Do a web search for Photoshop Elements 6 training and you'll find plenty of educational tools.
Let's talk about RAW. I don't really use RAW when taking photos, but many photographers do. RAW allows you more control when editing your images in all the Photoshop families, including Elements 6. Photoshop Elements 6 includes Adobe Camera RAW, which allows 8- or 16-bit color depth. If you shoot in RAW, you'll feel comfortable working within Elements 6.
Overall, I'm extremely happy with Photoshop Elements 6; the speed, power, toolset and more add up to one serious piece of software at a great price. It costs only $89.99, with an upgrade price of $69.99. Adobe recommends at least a G4 processor, Mac OS X 10.4.8 and 512 MB RAM, but I suggest at least a G5 processor, Leopard and 2 GB RAM. The more RAM you have in an older or newer system, the better the performance. You can also try before you buy at www.adobe.com.
Heath McKnight is a filmmaker and author who has produced and directed several independent feature and short films, including Hellevator, 9:04 AM and December. He is currently web content manager for doddleNEWS. Heath was also a contributor to VASST's best-selling book, "The FullHD," and has written for TopTenREVIEWS and Videomaker.