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Adobe Photoshop Elements 6: A visual introduction to digital photography Book Review
by JerryJ -  5/26/2008

The relative simplicity of modern digital photography has given rise to a plethora of digital photography "how to" books over the years. Given the relative complexity of digital post-processing, it's no surprise that how to guides for Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements are among the most common. How can an author possibly stand out in this crowded market?

Adobe Photoshop Elements 6
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Philip Andrews combines solid know-how and straight-forward instruction to make Adobe Photoshop Elements 6: A visual introduction to digital photography a remarkably good guide for first-time (and experienced) users of Photoshop Elements.

Who is this guy?

With so many Photoshop instructional guides in bookstores, one of the main reasons to pick one over another is the expertise of the author. In this case, Philip Andrews was an excellent choice. Andrews is a working photographer and author of more than 30 books. He works as an "alpha tester" for Adobe Photoshop Elements (someone who works on the very first version of a program long before anyone else, helping to refine the user interface and iron out bugs) so it's safe to say that Andrews knows more about Elements 6 than just about anyone.

What does this book cover?

The back cover of this book claims that this book "will help you get your images on par with the pros in no time!" That's a lofty goal, and I was curious if Andrews could deliver on such as claim. Indeed, the book is packed with helpful color images and simple step-by-step instruction, but "professional" quality image editing is rarely as easy as most people think.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 6
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Andrews manages to craft some superb tutorials on a variety of helpful subjects from a general overview of the Photoshop Elements 6 interface, to making simple (automated) image changes such as Auto Contrast and Auto Levels, and ultimately more complicated editing such as advanced Photomerge techniques.

A partial list of the chapters includes:

There are of course many more chapters within the book, and each chapter is further divided to cover an impressive range of subjects on everything from sharpening your images to creating photo greeting cards.

In short, there's very little that this book doesn't cover.

What's missing?

Over the years I spent working as a wedding photographer I learned that perfection is a noble goal for a photographer but that human beings are rarely capable of delivering true perfection. Much the same thing can be said for Andrews' work in this book. While each chapter covers a wealth of photographic know how, some sections simply fall short in terms of delivering the type of help that will seriously make an impact to your image editing.

For example, Andrews does a fantastic job providing 11 pages of in-depth tutorials on adding creative effect to your images with filters, but then devotes only about three pages of mostly photos to dodging and burning techniques. In my personal and professional experience, filters offer little practical benefit to everyday photo editing. On the other hand, dodging and burning (adjusting the tones of your images to lighten or darken areas of an image for creative impact) is the very essence of what photo editing is about.

Likewise, it's probably safe to say that the overwhelming number of people interested in this book won't need an entire 24-page chapter devoted to "preparing images for the Web and e-mail."

In short, if this book suffers from a single failing, it's trying to cover everything at the expense of more in-depth tutorials that will really benefit most photographers who want to use the software to improve their images.

Sometimes it's easier to see someone else do it

Everyone learns in different ways, and some people just have a hard time reading how to books and turning that information into practical application. Luckily, this book includes a bonus CD featuring more than two hours of video tutorials that provide you with one-on-one training (hosted by Andrews himself).

Adobe Photoshop Elements 6
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Andrews uses the tutorials to demonstrate a complete workflow from downloading the image from your camera through editing the image and output via print or email.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 6
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The tutorials are extremely simple to follow, and Andrews' Australian accent provides a calming narration to help you through each step. I wasn't overly impressed by the Adobe Flash-based video interface, but the tutorials are nevertheless easy to use.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 6
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In fact, I wish the CD was a higher-capacity DVD that included more video tutorials because I personally found the video tutorials more impressive and they will likely be more helpful for first-time users of Photoshop Elements 6.

Conclusions

In the end, Philip Andrews succeeds in crafting a solid instructional guide for Adobe Photoshop Elements 6. The overall feeling this book leaves me with is that the author is extremely knowledgeable, but is trying to pack too much knowledge into too few pages. Elements 6 is an extremely capable image editing application that is every bit as impressive as Photoshop CS3 - just not geared toward professionals. If Andrews wanted to cover all of the topics he tried to cover in this book, he could have easily made this book 822 instead of 411 pages long.

Still, Adobe Photoshop Elements 6: A visual introduction to digital photography succeeds in providing a wealth of useful knowledge for first-time and experienced users. If you're interested in an all-encompassing guide to Photoshop Elements 6 you'll have a hard time finding a better book than this one.

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