Review: Photo Retouching - Adobe Photoshop Elements

Not ready for Macintosh prime time (October 3rd, 2006)

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: Software Cinema

Price: $59.00

The Good

  • Useful editing information. Easy to understand voice. Project photos included. QuickTime format.

The Bad

  • Windows, Windows, Windows. Later lessons lack detail. Can't resize interface. Her PS Elements didn't look the same as mine.

Every so often a product comes along that is very hard to rate. A couple of them grace my desk as I write this. Products that escape an easy assignment of stars usually perform their job fairly well, but fall down on other points. Photo Retouching with Adobe Photoshop Elements, a training DVD by Software Cinema, is just such a product.

Jane Conner-ziser, a Photoshop artist, walks you through 16 stepped tasks in this training DVD. Her voice is easy to understand, her instructions are complete, and the lessons are diverse, informative, and useful. Topics range from a too brief introduction to Photoshop Elements 4.0 to using layers, editing wrinkles and facial blemishes, to creating scrapbook borders and adding text. The information alone would easily yield a 4-star product, but there are a few kinks in the works.

Control - Command

The beginning of the disc is almost comical, because the first lesson includes instructions for inserting the DVD, which of course you cannot see until it is running. A minor point, but indicative of a number of small nuisances I found while watching the learning tool. I just cannot recommend this series to Mac users, without a caution sign. (The caution sign might read: When you hear press Control, press Command on the Mac.)

Interface Problems

Note that line, I watched the DVD. Software Cinema markets Photo Retouching as an interactive product, where you can follow along using the files provided on the DVD. The problem is that the interface takes up most of your screen, unless you have a large monitor. While the Read Me lists recommended resolutions, none of them worked for me. My 15" PowerBook G4 screen prevented me from using the navigation buttons in the recommended resolution. The interface in which the movies run is not resizable either.

The video automatically pauses if you open up another program or go to the Desktop. So, you can jump back and forth to try to edit along with the video, but that may disrupt the learning process. Thankfully, the movies are in QuickTime format, and you can run them directly from the DVD, or even copy them to your hard drive, which is what I did. That is the first problem.

Where is the Mac?

The second problem is the software used in each lesson. Although the tutorial is for Mac and Windows users, all of the examples are in Windows. All the shortcuts and keyboard commands are explained with Windows conventions. The narrator should have included the relevant Macintosh shortcuts too. Most Mac OS users will get confused trying to follow the Windows instructions.

Minimally, a text file delineating the differences between the two operating systems or a file that explains the Mac conventions should be added to the DVD. There is some Macintosh information in the FAQ on the web site, but not enough to learn the difference between shortcut conventions. I find it insulting when a product says its for my OS, but the examples used are for someone else's computer.

Who is the audience?

The third drawback lies in the lack of explanation as to why a particular tool is best for the job at hand. I suppose you may not care why and only want to know which tool to use, but I discovered that Conner-ziser's preferred tools for some tasks differed from other expert tutorials I have read. I wanted to know more as to why she used a particular tool or sized brush.

I do not think this is a beginner's product. Conner-ziser assumes too much knowledge at points, such as using keyboard shortcuts. In later lessons she also chooses tools or shows an edit too quickly to follow along. When I teach, I find that even advanced beginners are not familiar with the simple action of using two keys to launch a command. If you show a trainee a tool, use the tool, not the keyboard shortcut. For example, sometimes she uses the Layer menu, sometimes the Layer Palette, and sometimes the keyboard shortcut, with no consistency.

Learn New Tricks

To the program's credit, I did learn new features and tricks in Elements 4.0, and saw easier ways to select objects with features that Photoshop does not have. The information is useful, but there is not enough of it in some of the lessons.

The bottom line is, if you want to learn some interesting methods to edit photos and are comfortable translating PC to Mac, you will like Photo Retouching with Adobe Photoshop Elements. If you are not proficient on the Mac, this DVD may confuse and frustrate you. Generally, the information is worthy of 4-stars, but the interface is not for Mac users, and is barely worth 2-stars. I'm going to be nice and average it to a 3-star rating.

by ilene hoffman, Reviews Editor


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