Add a Consumer Element to Your Business Arsenal

by Gerry Blackwell

Adobe's Photoshop Elements lets you edit images without spending a fortune on overly complex software. We take a look at the latest version of this consumer product to see if it can help small businesses.

To make the most of the digital photos you shoot for catalogs, brochures, flyers, newsletters and Web pages, you need a software tool that will help fix, edit and enhance pictures. Among professionals, Photoshop from Adobe Systems Inc. is the tool of choice, but the current version of Photoshop sells for at least $500 and is much more complex than most small businesses need. Luckily, Adobe also offers a stripped-down, easy-to-use version, Photoshop Elements, which sells for $99.99 on CD or $89.99 as a download only.

Adobe recently launched Photoshop Elements 4.0, which adds several useful new features that simplify image editing. And while Adobe targets PE primarily at consumers, it makes good sense for many small businesses as well.

Always a strong competitor in the consumer photo editor market, PE offers virtually all the editing functions most people will ever need — and makes most of them very easy to use. Elements lets you:

  • crop, straighten, rotate, resize and flip images
  • adjust brightness, contrast and levels
  • adjust color balance, hue and saturation
  • select objects in a picture to adjust or enhance separately
  • add text and drawn objects
  • delete objects in a picture by copying other part of the image over them (cloning)
  • apply special effects filters to sharpen, blur or distort images, or make them look like paintings or other kinds of art work

Elements helps you organize and view images by theme, date and subject. It also lets you create photo projects but mostly the consumer-oriented variety such as slide shows, greeting cards, photo albums and Web photo galleries.

The real core of the program is its photo editor, and Elements' strength as an editor lies in its simplicity. The Auto Smart Fix function, for example, automatically corrects color, levels and contrast. It may be all that a poorly taken picture needs to make it useable. There are separate automatic adjustments for each of these attributes as well or you can adjust them manually.

Photoshop Elements also uses adjustment layers. Rather than making adjustments directly to an image, you create a layer in which you make the changes. Layers can be saved with the image. It means you don't have to worry about making permanent changes to an image that you later regret. You can also fine tune adjustments without starting over. To see the difference an adjustment has made, just toggle it from visible to invisible.

New to You
Many of the new features in Elements 4.0 relate to managing, sharing and viewing pictures, but others make it easier to edit pictures. These include:

Photo Elements 4.0 Selection Tool