Photoshop Elements 3 is the latest release of the photo-editing suite designed to give you the tools to get the most out of your digital images. Like many things from the Adobe fold, Photoshop Elements has a robust feeling of technical quality about it, and lots of time has been spent making the suite accessible without trawling through a manual. Small details like Help buttons in each area really make this user-friendly, without dumbing down, and of course, it comes with a tutorial.
The basic premise here is organise, enhance and display, all in the Adobe way. Version 3 brings new features, mostly in the realms of organising and sharing - and those familiar with the Adobe Photo Album will see many of the functions reproduced here. Of course, you could use the existing features of XP to do most of these tasks, like arrange your photos, show them as a slide show or burn them to a CD, but Elements makes the job of administering your photo collection a lot more pleasant. You can create a calendar, a web gallery or a postcard, for example - which gives Elements a wider appeal to the home digital camera user.
On the organisation front, you can view your images in a handy calendar, so you can flick back to August, and all your summer holiday photos will be sitting there, waiting to be shown to Grandma. Of course, many, if not all, digital cameras ship with similar software, so you might feel you’re not getting much extra for your money. But it doesn’t stop there - there is also a range of background music - so you could invite friends over after your honeymoon, and have your laptop happily showing your pictures whilst playing a bit of Bach, or Big Band. Of course, you can browse for music and play any of your own MP3s.
If editing photos, or rather tidying them up to give your final image that professional look, is your thing then this is where Elements comes into its own. There are quick fix options, which apply a number of filters to compensate for any quality problems in your image. If you want to control the changes more closely, you get the option to punch the auto button or slide the slider. You can view your edited photo along side the original, so it’s easy to see if you are over-doing things. The ubiquitous red-eye removal feature is in there, which seems to be the top of most people’s lists. You can also stitch pictures together to make a larger panoramic image.
The suite of options presented in Elements has been well thought out. For your average home digital camera user, this is one of the better options for a photo-editing solution. It will appeal to the whole family - Dad altering the contrast on that steam engine, Mum making party invitations with pictures of the kids on the front. Advanced users might miss some of the more powerful features of Photoshop, but Elements contains the essentials, and is by no means a gimmick - there are some powerful tools here. The real question is whether you think it is worthy of the £70 price tag.