A Guide to Finding the Right Photoshop Program

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Author: Morrigon
VR Publish Date: Mar 18 2007

Photoshop can be a wonderful thing. I've had a lot of people ask me, which is the best Photoshop program that costs the least amount? (Who doesn't want the most for the least amount of money?) So I've decided to make a little something, call it a tutorial/article, whatever you want, but I figured this might help some people.

Currently I am editing pictures using Photoshop CS (though CS2 is available, I'll get to that later) and I have to say, it is an amazing program but is quite bland looking and rather confusing if you don't already know your way around the Photoshop programs.

When I first started using Photoshop, I went into Wal-Mart and purchased, Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0 . This is certainly not the newest version of Photoshop Elements, as a matter of fact the newest version is Photoshop Elements 5.0 and is available here .

If you are unfamiliar with the Photoshop programs, but want to explore the world of photo editing and see what it has to offer you for an affordable price, 5.0 is your best choice. It may seem a bit pricey now, but compared to what you will have to pay for other programs, it is well worth it because 5.0 has most, if not all the features CS or CS2 may have, and it is easier to navigate and understand.

As far as I know, all Photoshop programs, if purchased online or not, come with booklets to help you along your way and also something I like very much about all of the Photoshop programs, you can go online and get any of your questions answered at their website. So don't worry folks, it may seem very overwhelming but just sit back, relax, and you'll figure it out.

If you are interested in just leaping into the Photoshop programs and don't want to worry about purchasing something less professional then having to upgrade later, then by all means, take a look at some of the more advanced photo editing programs Adobe has to offer. I will explain a few of them so that you know more about what each are for.

Photoshop CS2
Photoshop Lightroom
Photoshop 7.0
Photoshop Elements 5.0
Photoshop Album 3.0 (Starter edition)

I'll explain each one of these programs briefly weighing out the pros and cons of buying the particular program.

Photoshop Album 3.0 (Starter edition)

This program I have not personally used myself. I have considered buying it for the simple fact that it is easy to work with, good for organizing your images whatever they may be. This program is essentially for importing pictures, resizing, rotating, and basic touchups. For example, if you had a picture of yourself with this program you could load it into the computer, adjust the brightness and contrast, and fix any small thing about the image like, removing a blemish or getting rid of red eye reflections. It is great for organizing your images into particular folders and will make it extremely easy to send the images to anyone you'd like to. Another great thing about most if not all Photoshop programs, including this one, it allows you to easily order prints, photo albums, and many other things including T-Shirts and coffee mugs.

The downside to purchasing this particular program is mainly how much you will be limited. If extensive photo editing (making someone's hair long, changing a background ect.) is what you are looking for in a program then Photoshop Album 3.0 is not for you. This program is specifically made for small touchups and will not give you a lot of personal control over what the image looks like and what you can do with it.

Photoshop Elements 5.0

Once again I must say I have not had the privilege of working with this program in particular though the first Photoshop program I purchased was Elements 3.0, I think I can safely assume that though 5.0 is an improved version, they are generally the same. I have already spoken a good deal about this program but I suppose I'll add a bit more and sum it all up here so you can better make the decision on your own.

This program provides a great amount of freedom when it comes to what you want to be able to do to your photos. It has all the general options that any other photo editing program would have such as adjusting brightness & contrast, yet this program goes far further than Photoshop Album 3.0 . With 5.0 , the window of opportunity opens for you to really go wild with your images if you want. If you use this program you will be able to change the background of your image, change the subject to any color, easily add frames or borders, text, and much much more as well as do simple adjustments like fixing blemishes.

5.0 Offers you essentially what the more advanced Photoshop programs such as CS and up, but it is more simplistic in its design, easier to navigate (and much more colorful!). It is an all around fantastic program for beginners who really want to take their first step into photo editing because it allows you to edit your photos in a free artistic sense, but also makes it easy for you to learn the basic steps as well as the more advanced techniques.

The disadvantages to purchasing and using this program are, you will be extremely limited to the amount of add-ons available to you. Many Photoshop artists these days download fonts, brushes, actions, and pallets (which we will learn about later) into their programs to further enhance their works of art. With Elements 5.0 You will not be able to download such things!

As far as I know, downloads for fonts, brushes, ect are only available on versions 7.0 and up for Photoshop, so if you are wanting to really expand your options in these programs you will want to purchase a slightly more advanced version of Photoshop than 5.0.

Photoshop 7.0

I must admit I do not know a huge amount about this program. I have never personally experienced using it so I have instead gone out and done some research, read some reviews on the program and saw what was added and what others said had been improved. 7.0 's main appeal seems to reside in the fact that the overall appearance and performance of the program has been greatly improved compared to some of the older versions. A large part of 7.0's appeal comes from the fact that it makes photo management very convenient. Finding your images will no longer be a hassle with this program as it will show each of your folders and its contents in a gallery style, the thumbnails are large and you can easily find or move any image where you would like to. It also makes general upkeep of your images easier. You will find with this program that you can do a "mass rotate" (select a large number of images and rotate them a certain direction) easily with this program and it will not freeze up, very nice.

A nice feature about this program is, the "Healing Brush" has been vastly improved. What is the Healing Brush you ask? Well it is a simple tool most Photoshop programs have. When used correctly, you can easily erase simple problems in a photo, for example, a zit, or a shiny patch of skin, dark circles under your eyes, or remove unwanted stray hairs and other things that may bother you about a particular image.

As mentioned before, this tool is available in other versions of Photoshop such as Elements 5.0 and lower, (I'm not sure about Photoshop Album 3.0 though) but in 7.0 its uses and performance have been vastly improved upon and you will find that the tool is much more responsive and you will get better results this time around.

A simple summary of this product is that it has been greatly improved in its performance and you will have even more options available to you when it comes to doing the photo editing you love ;)
Quite possibly the feature that is most noticed about this particular version of Photoshop is, the availability of add-ons and plug-ins. (brushes, actions, fonts, pallets ect). This is, as far as I know, the first Photoshop program where such things are available. Most add-ons or plug-ins are free of charge depending on where you go to find and download them. The best place I have found so far is www.deviantart.com . They are all free but the only downside is you need to read the requirements that each artist post if you download their plug-in . Be aware that some artists specify that their plug-ins are not to be used off of the DeviantArt site and their word is law on the subject.

By now if you have clicked on the link I have given for Photoshop 7.0 you will have realized the major downfall of this product...It's price. I gave a link that will bring you to the Amazon.com page for Photoshop 7.0 because they offer new and used versions of the program and are slightly cheaper than purchasing at the official Adobe Photoshop website. Please note that if you purchase any program from Amazon.com you should still have an official version of the program and will be able to seek upgrades from the official Adobe Photoshop site without any trouble.

If you are serious about photo editing but don't want to spend a huge amount on any more advanced Photoshop programs, then 7.0 is for you, but understandably, most people are looking for something quite a bit less costly.

Photoshop Lightroom

I have not had the pleasure of working with this particular program though I hope to some day. I have heard great things about this version of Photoshop and can only hope that some day I will have the opportunity to work with it at least once. This program is for Serious photographers, and is not really meant for photo editing.

One of the main things this program is about is, nondestructive editing. See, when you load a picture into a computer (not scan it), it obviously comes up in a certain format, that usually being jpg. or something along those lines. That is perfect for simple photo editing and sharing of your photos. Photoshop Lightroom allows you to load a picture's raw format. Meaning you will get the most crystal clear, unaltered version of the picture you took on your computer, essentially, the original. This is a must if you are considering professional photography because it allows you complete and total control over your image from start to finish.

Photoshop Lightroom will allow you to make the same adjustments to various photos, such as changing the white balance (white balance helps you change the overall look of a raw image by telling the program exactly what you want white to be and it will base the rest of the image on the information you have given it. For example if it was a wedding picture you would want to adjust the white balance until the Bride's dress is the exact shade of white you want it and the rest of the image will be balanced and natural as far as people's skin tones and the colors of their clothing.) Exposure (Exposure is how bright the image is, plenty of us have seen an over/under exposed image, this program will help fix such issues) and plenty of other issues any professional photographer may face with his or her raw image files.

A great feature from Photoshop Lightroom is, whatever changes you make to a file in that program will be instantly transferred to whatever Photoshop image editing program you may have (for example, Photoshop CS2). The programs can work perfectly together at all times, making Lightroom a perfect addition to any serious photographer's collection of photo editing programs.

Obviously this program has a few drawbacks if you are looking for a photo editing program. It is built only to change the overall look of an image and will not assist you in say, changing the background of an image or any other little quirks you'd like to add to an image. As far as I know, no plug-ins are available for this program as it is essentially built to manage raw image files and not to really make extreme drastic changes to an image.

Photoshop Lightroom is designed to organise your images quickly so that you can pick out what you want, and what you don't want. Lightroom is for people who wish to spend less time in front of the computer and more time out actually snapping those photos. So if you are mostly interested in editing pictures and adding "crazy" things to them, Lightroom is not for you. Lightroom is for any photographer who wants to take great pictures and let them speak for themselves instead of making vast changes to the images until they become something completely different from what they originally were.

Photoshop CS2

Though I have not worked with this particular program, I have worked with and still use Photoshop CS, a less up to date version of this particular program. Photoshop CS2 is absolutely perfect for any person who is very serious about photo editing and wants to take it to the extreme. With the versions CS and up you have unlimited access to every form of photo editing right in front of you, merged into one program. CS2 makes finding your images extremely quick and easy.

With new browsing options you can open multiple windows, you can also have different windows depending on the task you wish to accomplish and which image you'd like to find, also the newest and nicest feature is a built in slide show. Just select the specific files or folders you wish to have in a slideshow, and CS2 will take care of the rest of it for you.

Remember how we talked about the benefits of Photoshop Lightroom? CS2 has it all, you can work with and adjust raw image files right in the CS2 workplace and save the files to pretty much any format you would like. Plus, you won't have to wait while the program makes the adjustments you want it to; you can select a certain amount of images and then select what you want done with them, then move on to other images while the program processes and saves the info you need it to (no more waiting for us impatient people!).

Photoshop CS2 opens a new window to the world of photo editing. Tasks that were complicated and near impossible before have now been made easier. I cannot list them all in fact if you are interested, please visit the link I have given you and watch their video, it's absolutely facinating! Image editing has come very far and CS2 is breaking down new boundaries to allow us easy access to what was once thought of as impossible!

Obviously with any program this advanced and amazing, there's going to be quite a hefty price tag. In my opinion, that is the only real downfall of this particular program other than it being quite advanced. If you are just starting out in the world of photo editing, a program like CS or CS2 can be quite overwhelming, rest assured, if you still wish to purchase this amazing program, it will come with a (large) book that will guide you through any questions you may have and there are many many tutorials online for CS2.

And thus ends my guide to the main Adobe Photoshop programs. I hope this has been helpful to you and I hope if you are looking to purchase a good photo editing program, you find it whether or not through me. If you have any questions about what I have written here please message me or email me and let me know, I'm always open to opinions as well so if you want to discuss anything, just let me know.


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