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Adobe is clearly thinking about how beginner users want to work with their images, with great Quick and Guided Edit modes and the excellent Expert mode.
Ratings in depthBest photo editing softwarePhotoshop Elements is the basic alternative to Photoshop Creative Cloud (or CS) - but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have a lot of power.It's now in its thirteenth iteration, and new features include an easier way to merge photos together, a new crop suggestion tool, extra effects and a way to create a combined Facebook profile and cover photo. Get the best tech deals, reviews, product advice, competitions, unmissable tech news and more!
TechRadar is part of Future plc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. DxO Labs specialises in lens and camera testing, image assessment and optical corrections, and DxO Optics Pro is the fruit of all this work. This is the world's most powerful image-editing application and Photoshop CC 2014 brings many small but significant improvements that reinforce its position. This Video Editor helps you create Hollywood-like home videos with little prior computer video experience.
Transfer video from DV-, web- or VHS-cameras and save video on hard drive or burn DVD discs. Upload newly made video files to all popular video hostings such as Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, etc., directly from Video Editor interface. Upload your collections to PSP, iPod, Archos, Creative Zen Vision, mobile phones, portable DVD players. Wooo, this is the best video editor I have ever tried, I used it to edit my downloaded YouTube video and re-upload the video to YouTube, it draw many visits, people think me as a professional video editor, actually I'm not, this video editor is. I am sure it is a popular video editing software, I can see there are lot of functions, it can make DVD menu, create slideshow, burn video to DVD, apple special effect to video, that's pretty cool.
I am also a AVS Video Editor user and I downloaded the trial version and absolutely love this program.
More good news is that it's now fully compatible with High DPI Windows monitors and has Retina support for Mac.Unlike Photoshop CC, Elements doesn't require a subscription.
You can unsubscribe at any time and we'll never share your details without your permission. Rather than sprinkling myriad palettes around the screen or deluging you with a baffling amount of options, you get a single tools palette; this houses the app's selection of tools, context-sensitive settings for the current tool, and your image's layers. From that point on, you couldn't buy Photoshop with a 'perpetual licence' – you had to rent it a month or a year at a time via an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.
It's also what iPhoto users migrate to when they need to step up to something more advanced, and version 3.3 makes this a lot simpler with a new 'unified' library format.
Creating great video productions is now a hassle-free task with Video Editor even for beginners. The video editing software is fully functional and only shows a text message on the output video so youa€™ll get a great idea of how to use all of its features.
Or record media files from your PC screen and create video guides, training videos or demos. You can buy a licence outright and it comes bundled with the companion Elements Organizer app.Elements 13 is available as a standalone product or as part of a package with Adobe's Premiere Elements video editing software. On small screens, this 330-pixel-wide slab of interface might grate, but it's easily toggled with the Tab key and it works well on larger monitors. It also converts raw files, and it has some tricks up its sleeve here too, using DxO's Smart Lighting technology to open up shadow details and recover the maximum possible dynamic range from your images.There are some working restrictions to be aware of, though.
You choose the plan you need, and the software is then available to you for as long as you keep paying the subscription.
Both Aperture and iPhoto store images in standalone 'library' files (though you can use them to reference external files in their existing locations, too).
You can get hold of Elements cheaper if you already have an existing version of the software. Its object removal tools are disarmingly simple to use, in that you just paint over the object you want to get rid of (you can also use a freehand or polygonal lasso tool) and press the Erase button.
In both cases, the ability to preview how combinations of effects amend your image or layer is useful. From here you can browse the latest tutorials and tips.You need to head to the Media tab to see your photographs.
Acorn 3 also brings some big changes to vector objects, making it more suitable for interface design. This uses a highly-sophisticated process that analyses over a thousand surrounding pixels for each pixel in the image. The new, unified format means you can open your iPhoto library in Aperture, complete with your Faces, Places, slideshows and albums.
You can import photos from installed software (such as iPhoto on the Mac) or directly from a folder itself.
For example, if anyone's designing for screen, then they can use the 'snap to pixels' option for shapes, to keep everything sharp.
You can do it the other way, too, opening Aperture's library in iPhoto and using templates and other design tools. The ability to dynamically update corner radius and stroke settings for vector objects will also be a boon for web and interface designers. It's a great double-act – Photoshop takes care of the editing, Lightroom takes care of the organisation. And it does work well, though there are inconsistencies in some of the more advanced options. Elsewhere, anyone working with shapes and text will be pleased to find these things can now be rotated, have gradients applied to them and be converted to Bezier objects. They aren't subtle a€“ but they do take your images in directions you might never have imagined.In fact, you can tone down these effects using sliders displayed at the right side of the screen.
High on the left, PRIME on the rightClick here for a larger image.In fact, DxO's regular 'High' noise reduction process, also improved in version 9, is very effective too and almost instant by comparison.
The free Lightroom Mobile app enables you to view and edit photo collections on your iPad, while Adobe's new Mix app offers Photoshop-compatible editing tools too. In Aperture you can 'stack' related images, but if you view a stack in iPhoto, you only get to see the top image, not all the others. There seems to be no way to organise by file type, which is a little annoying if you only want to view your raw format, or only your JPEG files.You can also place images on a map and sort this way.
The adjustments are pretty basic, often just contrast or saturation tweaks, but they are a start.And you can go further by using the built-in masking tools.
If you put the two side by side, the PRIME version is certainly smoother, but doesn't look quite as sharp. Photoshop CC and Creative Cloud are now a powerful and compelling option – and Adobe has been releasing modest but useful updates.
Click on the People tab and the Organizer will analyse your photos for people in your photograph and ask you to label them individually. Selections are also much improved in Acorn 3, moving the app from being primarily about special effects and basic image manipulation to one suitable for complex bitmap editing. But June 2014 brought a new version, Photoshop CC 2014, which doesn't replace the existing Photoshop CC app but is installed alongside it. It's certainly amongst the best for highlight recovery, though there are limits to what any RAW converter can do with overexposed areas, so the advances here are subtle rather than obvious.Smart Lighting in action. You can recover shadow detail without sliders, and the Highlights slider uses the extended highlight detail in RAW files. Lastly, there's an Events tab.From within the Organizer window you can create several things, such as a Photobook, DVD jacket and the new Facebook cover option. However, the new QuickMask deftly deals with complex masking, enabling you to 'paint' a mask and turn it into a selection. FX Photo Studio CK doesn't offer the in-depth adjustments of other MacPhun apps like Intensify or Tonality, but it does offer a wide range of striking and easy to apply image effects to browse through.Intensify CKIntensify is altogether more powerful and more complex than the previous two applications. The Slight preset on the left, custom lighting on the rightIt can also recover a quite extraordinary level of shadow detail, and without badly effecting mid-tones and highlights.
Photoshop CC introduced an all-new Smart Sharpen tool designed to maximise clarity and reduce noise, together with a Camera Shake Reduction tool that can analyse the direction of movement ('trajectory') and then reverse the blur digitally. A new Auto Enhance button enables you to improve substandard colours and exposures with one click, and the White Balance tools have been extended to include Skin Tone and Neutral Gray modes. It follows a similar route a€“ offering a range of single-click preset effects backed up by manual controls a€“ but this time they're presented as a list down the right side of the screen, rather than as thumbnail images.Intensify can really bring your images to life with enhanced clarity, crispness, detail, saturation and contrast. On Adobe's sample images it works really well, but not all shots provide the right kind of blur, so don't expect it to be a fix for every shaky shot.Photoshop CC 2014 introduces a new Focus Mask tool which can isolate the sharpest areas of your pictures.
These are improvements, but apart from the inclusion of support for the AVCHD movie format, the other new features focus on usability and appearance.
For those just starting out, the Quick mode introduces you to simple tools for cropping, adjusting exposure and sharpening your images, for example. While we appreciate the 'Color Correction' section of Acorn's documentation, some quick-fire tools for photography colour-correction would be welcome, and we also found Acorn's performance a problem on a Core 2 Duo iMac, especially with larger images and when compared to Photoshop.
For all its complexity and sophistication, though, it really only does one thing a€“ it takes the localised 'clarity' adjustments now offered by most programs for giving pictures more punch, but then makes them a whole lot more complex with Pro Contrast, Structure, Detail and Micro Detail adjustments that quickly get confusing.It doesn't help that many of the preset effects look rather similar. In our tests it did seem to cut down on 'hotspots' on cheeks and noses, though it also seemed to darken the skin tones very slightly, which may or may not be an advantage, depending on your subject.
Photoshop CC also brought an 'Intelligent Upsampling' feature to help you scale up pictures for big prints without the image degradation normally associated with upsampling.
For example, you can now opt to use embedded JPEG previews in imported images, rather than waiting for Aperture to render its own. At the bottom of the screen you'll see the "Photo Bin", which displays images in a given album, or those that you have selected in the Organizer.
It speeds things up initially, but then you still have to wait for them to be rendered when you view or edit them properly, and it's then you realise that the embedded JPEG and Aperture's own rendition are quite different, so you might prefer to get it to render your previews on import after all.
You can choose to hide the Bin from view if you prefer more space in the editor.You can click on one of the options on the right hand side, such as Exposure, and use the slider to move the exposure up and down.
But, criticising Acorn 3 too much would be a tad churlish, because this release represents a turning point for the application. The manual controls offer a good deal of subtlety a€“ if you have the patience to learn them a€“ and it's also possible to 'stack' effects using Intensify's internal layers and masking system, and save your favourite effects as presets for re-use in future. It does reduce 'hotspots', but the regular version actually looks just a little better in this instanceVisual presetsThe other main changes relate to the interface and the workflow. But the biggest cluster of new features centres on Adobe Camera Raw 8, Photoshop's companion RAW conversion tool. Aperture is an excellent tool for professionals and keen amateurs alike, and version 3.3 improves it in a number of ways.
Beneath the slider, you'll see thumbnails which show how the image will look with different amounts of the setting applied.
We've long admired Acorn but have always wondered who it's actually for, largely due to its scattergun approach regarding features, offering a few insanely powerful tools but irksome omissions. It can deliver some really impressive results, but you may have to work a little to get the best from it.Ultimately, Intensify feels too complicated for its relatively straightforward purpose. DxO Optics Pro 9 can now display 'visual' presets – you can see the effect a preset conversion will have on your image before you apply it. In fact, you can now carry out so many everyday photographic enhancements in Adobe Camera Raw that you may need Photoshop itself less and less. But it's more of a maintenance release than anything else, and Aperture is in danger of falling behind its rival, Adobe Lightroom.
Underneath these options you'll also see an "fx" icon - here you'll find a number of different quick effects, such as Cross Process or Toy Camera.
With the improvements in this release, it matches Pixelmator for basic image edits, betters all of its rivals regarding special effects, and is even starting to muscle in on Adobe Fireworks's turf regarding interface design. You can apply simpler localised contrast improvements in other programs and get a better HDR look with a dedicated HDR app like MacPhun Aurora (not in the Creative Kit, alas).
The interface has been redesigned to be both simpler and more efficient, and DxO has reorganised the tools palettes in the right sidebar. By the time the photo opens in Photoshop, you'll have already done everything that needs doing. Aperture is still faster and neater at image cataloguing, but the gap to Lightroom's editing tools - which include everyday staples like automatic lens corrections and digital graduated filters - is growing just a little too large for comfort. It's not quite in MacFormat Choice Award territory yet, but Acorn now does more than enough to justify purchase for basic interface design, quick image edits and effects work – at least if you've a reasonably recent Mac to run it on.
Intensify feels like a worthwhile idea that's been taken a bit too far.Focus CKFocus CK gets back to the relative simplicity of the Snapheal and FX Photo Studio apps. If you're familiar with previous versions, you'll notice one further change; there's no longer an Export tab.
A new Radial Gradient tool lets you highlight the focal point of your picture by darkening, blurring, desaturating or otherwise subduing the surrounding areas.
Simply click on the Crop icon on the bar on the left hand side and four suggestions will appear. It's designed to do a relatively simple job a€“ creating tilt-shift and bokeh effects a€“ as simply as possible.Along the top of the screen is a list of typical subjects to choose from, including Portrait, Nature, Architecture, Macro, Tilt-Shift and Custom.
It comes with grab handles you can use to change the shape and size and a central 'pin' you can drag it around with. Hover over each selection with your mouse to see what the software suggests - you can also take control of the crop yourself by dragging the corners of the box that appear on your image.Another new tool - Refine Selection Brush - enables the fine tuning of a selection.
You choose a subject type and Focus CK gets you started with the settings.In fact, though, it's even simpler than that. And the Advanced Healing Brush now enables you to heal irregular areas by painting over them, whereas previously you could only heal circular areas.
Essentially, Focus CK offers three ways of adding a bokeh effect and you soon get to figure out which one you need for any given picture.
You'll find out just how much distortion and corner shading your lenses produce, and you'll see how much better your pictures look without chromatic aberration –this often 'colours' fine details more than you think. It's not as sophisticated as the Clone Stamp and Healing tools in Photoshop, but it can cope with simple touch-up jobs very easily.If you've captured two sides of a building, for example, you can use the Perspective Warp tool to change the apparent viewing angle and height. Then, if something has been missed, or the selection has been over-generous, click Refine Selection Brush and click inside the selection to expand it, or outside the selection to decrease it. The Portrait and Macro settings give you a circular focus shape, which is ideal for subjects that you're looking at head on, and that you want to separate from the background.
Best of all, though, is the new Upright tool, which can detect lines in your image which it thinks should be horizontal or vertical, and automatically straighten them, correcting perspective problems such as converging verticals.
The software identifies your camera and lens from the embedded shooting (EXIF) data and selects and applies the right correction profile automatically, leaving you with almost nothing to do. It also happens to be an exceptionally good RAW converter, producing noticeably crisper detail and less noise than Adobe Camera Raw, for example.But it is quite inflexible. Adobe released an update in January 2014 which brought 3D printing capability and a number of enhancements for web designers, illustrators and photographers – photographers could now apply a 'perspective warp' to straighten buildings shot at an angle, for example. This displays an interface which is very similar to the full Photoshop software, and hasn't seen any major changes from the previous version of Elements. It will only work on your original images straight from the camera, and you'll still need Photoshop, Elements or some other image-editor for jobs like cloning, localised adjustments, special effects and other image manipulation jobs. It's not unlike the perspective crop feature, or the perspective tools in DxO Optics Pro and Capture One, except that it can correct two planes (or two sides of a building), not just one.
This quickly enables the placing of objects from one photo onto another - useful for instance for merging group portraits.To get started, select the two photos you want to merge from Organizer and open in the Editor.
The software will guide you through the process from here, from placing the photo you want to merge on top of the other, to selecting the outline you want to include.After the selection has been placed, a very clever Hide or Reveal tool enables you to refine the edge of your selection.
Heavy noise reduction inevitably starts to erode image detail, and high ISO images have other faults beyond just noise a€“ camera shake is likely (high ISOs are used in low light where shutter speeds are also likely to be slow), and the resolution of the sensor diminishes at high ISOs, too.



Path blur can follow a line or curve you define yourself, while spin blur gives a more authentic look to spinning wheels or prop blades.Photoshop's Blur Gallery has been extended with a new and more realistic Spin Blur tool and a Path Blur option for controllable motion paths. We likedThe Simple and Guided Edit modes in Photoshop Elements 13 are perfect for helping beginners get good results with very little technical knowledge, but at the same time they introduce key image-editing processes in a friendly, straightforward way.The Organizer app is essentially an application in itself. Too much smoothing can make it painfully obvious that the picture doesn't have much detail anyway, whereas keeping just a little noise can help disguise the fact.Where Noiseless scores is not in achieving the hitherto impossible a€“ noise reduction is still a destructive process you have to balance carefully a€“ but in making it simple, fast and straightforward.
It's now possible to create a 'focus mask' which selects ares of the image which are in sharp focus.
As your photo library grows, you'll need a tool like this to keep your images properly organized.The new E Live feature brings in new ideas and tips from the Internet and the Photomerge Compose tool proves easy to use. You'll soon find out if your image can be rescued and you'll quickly arrive at the settings which give the best-looking results. You could use this to create cutouts more easily, for example, or apply a stronger blur to out-of-focus backgrounds. The Crop Suggestion tool could prove particularly useful for beginners.We dislikedThere doesn't seem to be any way to sort files by type in the Organizer, for example raw files versus JPEGs.
And that is pretty much all you could ask from a noise reduction tool.Tonality CKIf you were buying the MacPhun Creative Kit applications separately, Tonality would be the most expensive. The content-aware Fill, Patch, Move and Extend tools have have 'algorithmic colour blending', which can produce more natural-looking results – though, as ever, the success of these tools depends on the surrounding objects and details in the image.
And while you can run Photoshop Actions (automated sequences of commands), you can't create them. We also had trouble using the Facebook tools as nothing happended when the 'Create Facebook cover' option was selected.Perhaps the biggest problem for enthusiasts is that the version of Adobe Camera Raw you get with Elements is much less sophisticated than the version supplied with Photoshop. You can carry out basic raw file conversions, but you can't apply curves, localised adjustments or lens correction profiles.VerdictPhotoshop Elements has always been a very popular and very capable piece of editing software for those that don't want, or need, the full power of Photoshop CC. This has sliders for six different colour ranges: Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue and Violet a€“ and you can adjust both Luminance and Saturation for each. This is Adobe's raw conversion plug-in – it launches automatically when you attempt to open a raw file.
The regular black and white presets will drop all these color values down to zero, but you can push them up manually to produce a black and white photo with the red tones pulled out a€“ or the blues, or greens. The Graduated and Gradient Filters now have a manual masking brush tool which enables you to mask the effect in specific areas.
Previously, the gradient tool would darken everything in its path, including tall buildings, but now you can mask them out with a manual brush tool. It's a simple tool with a lot of potential.Mostly, though, you'll want to start with the presets, and these do offer a good choice of 'looks'. For example, the Graduated Filter won't just darken the sky, it will also darken anything sticking up into the sky such as a building – you can now use the mask brush to remove the darkening effect from objects like this. You can click a thumbnail to see that effect applied almost instantly to the your image and, if it looks a little strong, you can wind back the percentage with a slider at the base of the preset's thumbnail. These are modest but useful changes, but don't seem enough on their own to justify a whole new application alongside the old one. Handily, this doesn't start re-introducing the color in the original image a€“ instead, it works back to a neutral black and white conversion.The presets are good, but sooner or later you'll want to start experimenting with the manual settings, which are displayed as a stack of expanding panels on the right of the screen. There's a lot more going on under the hood, though, and Adobe has overhauled its 'Mercury' graphics engine, for example, to boost performance.
There is a lot of control here, including the ability to add texture overlays, grain and photo frames. There's not a massive selection of frames, but there is still a decent variety.This is the most powerful program in the Creative Kit, and although it's designed as a black and white editor, you can 'switch the color back on' and use it as a pretty good all-round image-enhancement tool. Some photographers may get by with lower-cost alternatives like Photoshop Elements or Paint Shop Pro, but in reality Photoshop CC is out on its own.
It offers sophisticated exposure controls (Standard and Adaptive), selective contrast adjustments, clarity, structure and micro-structure controls and more.
But to get the most out of Photoshop you do need to know what you're doing – there's precious little help here for beginners. And there's a strong market in creative plug-ins which provide instant effects, inspiration and creative options simply not available in the Adobe program. You can still buy them in this form on the Mac App Store, but it makes more sense to get them all at once direct from MacPhun in the Creative Kit a€“ all six apps are useful and worth having, and it the Creative Kit offers a substantial cost saving over the individual prices.Some software bundles are a bit of a mixed bag, but here the standard is consistently high.
The improvements in each update of Photoshop CC itself are relatively modest, but they accumulate – and they'll carry on accumulating for as long as you subscribe.
Snapheal, Noiseless and Focus are quick and simple tools for carrying out a specialised job that's often quite complicated. They don't do much, but they do it well and in an appealing direct and simple way.FX Photo Studio CK is a bit of a surprise. Its photo effects look rather crude and obvious compared to the subtler effects in Intensify and Tonality, but it does have some depth to it and can give you ideas for image effects you might never have thought of.The two most powerful apps are Intensify and Tonality. It's now a powerful image-editing tool in its own right, and you can even use these tools as a filter within Photoshop.We disliked Photoshop 2014 installs alongside Photoshop CC rather than simply replacing it, and with little or no explanation. Intensify can be hard going, but Tonality is the opposite a€“ it offers creative scope far beyond its apparently straightforward purpose.But what do you compare it with? Annoyingly, our plug-ins were not migrated to the new version, so that means re-installing them or migrating them manually – and using the 'old' version of Photoshop CC until then.
The MacPhun Creative Kit 2016 offers far more inspiration than a regular image-editor like Elements or Photoshop, and it's closer to plug-in suites like On1 Photos 10 and Google Nik Collection.
The new mask brush tool in Adobe Camera Raw is really useful, but it's not yet available in Lightroom 5.5, which is unusual since they both use the same processing engine.
Creative Kit 2016 is a lot cheaper and more flexible than the Google Nik Collection, and it feels slicker and simpler than On1 Photos 10.We likeAll six apps are attractive, easy to use and responsive. Perhaps the main point to keep in mind about Photoshop is that it's designed not just for photographers, but also for illustrators, web developers and 3D artists.
As a result, each update may well include a whole host of new features and improvements, but they won't all be relevant to specific types of user.
Highlights are Snapheal and Noiseless for their simple effectiveness and Tonality for its power and subtlety.We dislikeDifferences in the interface design and user level mean the six programs still need time to absorb individually. Whatever your area of interest, Photoshop will do a whole lot of other stuff besides that you don't really need.Verdict For a while, you could still buy Photoshop CS6 as a 'perpetual' alternative to CC. Intensify is perhaps the weakest, not because it lacks power a€“ far from it a€“ but because takes the interesting concept of localised contrast adjustment and dissects it almost to the point of dullness.Final verdictIf you've got a Mac and you're looking for software that can inspire you with new ideas and doesn't bog you down with jargon and dreary workarounds, you really should try out the free trial.
That's no longer the case, so Adobe's brave new world of subscription services is the only way forward for Photoshop fans who want to stay current. The camera is connected by cable to a computer, which you use to compose images, adjust camera settings and carry out quick post-shoot enhancements.Nine editions down the road, it's still a strong facet of the program, with seamless tethered shooting facilities that now extend to compatible Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras. Not only do you get 'live view' on the comparatively big screen of a notebook or desktop computer, for accurate composition, focusing and exposure adjustments, but pro photographers can also use it to liaise with remote clients during a shoot, with the aid of Capture Pilot for iOS. Online sharing over the web is also supported.As well as merely capturing images, the program has powerful organizational tools to create a library of your shots. Indeed, the suggested method for organizing your complete collection of images is by creating a 'Catalogue'.
It's certainly a comprehensive way of going about things, but for large collections of pictures, expect a long wait while the program trundles through all your folders and sub-folders, creating previews and thumbnails as it goes.A much quicker method for organizing images is to create a 'Session'.
This is intended for quick and easy access to images from a single job or event, so you can cut to the chase and concentrate on just the relevant images.Real organizational power can be measured by how quick and easy it is to find images once they're catalogued.
Capture One makes the grade with high-end database tools that enable you to apply star ratings, colour-coding, keywords, dates and locations. This all comes complete with filters and search criteria, making the business of finding images a rapid procedure.Yet more options are available with the creation of albums and 'smart albums', enabling you to create collections of images that are physically stored in a variety of different folders without having to create multiple copies.
In all these organizational respects, Capture One is much like Adobe Lightroom, and the similarities don't stop there.Raw powerAs with Adobe Lightroom, any changes and edits that you apply to files in Capture One are entirely non-destructive.
The program merely keeps a list of all the required alterations and these are applied when outputting images to new TIFF or JPEG files.
As you'd expect, changes that you make are kept on file so you can easily return to them at a later date.Adjustments are divided into various tabbed panes, including colour, exposure, lens corrections, composition, details and local adjustments. Global and selective adjustments are available, the latter working on specific areas within images. Capture One really comes to life in the quality of its raw processing tools, empowered by a brand new processing engine. The first port of call will usually be the colour pane, which enables sweeping automatic and manual adjustments for curves, white balance (including special tools for skin tones) and colour balance with separate adjustments being available for shadows, midtones and highlights. The exposure pane is similarly packed with high-end tools for exposure, contrast, brightness and saturation, along with adjustments for levels, curves, clarity and emulation for high dynamic range. The 'clarity' tool, with its variety of available methods and independent sliders for clarity and structure works particularly well.Next up is the lens pane, which includes corrections for distortion, sharpness, light falloff and chromatic aberration, the last of these complete with automatic analysis being available.
Again, automation is on hand thanks to an extensive built-in library of lens profiles and you can also apply manual adjustments based on generic profiles. Sophistication extends to the provision of independent sliders for light falloff as well as vignetting, and the addition of purple fringing as well as chromatic aberration.Performance and verdictOther highlights include advanced keystone correction tools in the composition work pane, and a host of focus, sharpening, noise reduction, film grain, moire and spot removal tools in the details pane. A separate pane enables local adjustments for selected areas of images, based on a somewhat rudimentary layers system. It combines the main tools from various other panes, making them available for localised adjustments. However, it falls a long way short of the advanced layer facilities in programs like Photoshop.Once you've made all your non-destructive edits and adjustments, you naturally need to export the image file so that it can be viewed elsewhere. Rescaling options are also available, helping to retain utmost image quality when resizing images.
You can also elect to open an exported image directly with another editing program, like Photoshop CC.
Conversions from raw files to the image format of your choice are very swift, and the program makes light of big batch conversions.VerdictCapture One Pro 9 is a seriously compelling alternative to Adobe Lightroom.
It has very good organizational abilities for cataloguing and indexing collections of image files, but its main strength is in the power and finesse of its raw processing tools. On the other hand, its layer system is very basic and no match for that of, say, Photoshop CC. That's more expensive than the Adobe Photography plan that includes both Photoshop CC and Lightroom CC. It's also a lot pricier than another of its close rivals, DxO OpticsPro 10 Elite.Ultimately though, the sheer quality of the program makes it worth the outlay.
Indeed, ON1's latest suite of imaging tools, which goes by the name of ON1 Photo 10, can still be used as plug-ins for Adobe's popular programs. However, building on the success of ON1 PhotoSuite, the new Photo 10 package is designed to be a more coherent one-stop shop for all your imaging needs.Taking its cue from Lightroom, organization takes centre-stage in ON1 Photo 10. As such, the Browse module is the starting point when you launch the app, or at least it is once you've dispensed with the Welcome screen. In fact, the opening screen is rather more welcoming than in many other high-end imaging programs or suites, as it includes access to a range of 'overview videos' that help you familiarise yourself with the system. There's a video for each of the modules, plus several more online that you can access through the Help pull-down menu.The Browse module gives thumbnail views of all your images, with options for creating albums and smart albums (collections made up of images held in different folders), favourites and watched folders. It's easy to add keywords and descriptions as metadata, while viewing EXIF information for your images. There are also options to search for images chronologically, and to include cloud storage with direct support for the likes of Dropbox and Google Drive.Overall, the Browse module isn't particularly fancy or exciting, but it carries out its duties competently. More importantly, it also gives direct access to the other main modules in the suite, via the File pull-down menu and a set of buttons on the right hand side.Photo 10's modular approachOnce you've found an image that you want to work on in the Browse module, you can select it and switch to one of the other main modules in the suite. There's also a separate Layers module for carrying out more complex edits and, if you save your images as 'smart photos' in Photoshop PSD format, the layer system is preserved so you can come back and tweak things in the future.
As well as sticking with ON1 Photo 10's own modules, you can also send images directly to Photoshop, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements or other image editing programs, directly from the File pull-down menu.
It's nothing if not versatile, enabling you to keep your options as open as possible.So-called 'non-destructive' image editing has always been popular, where edits are stored as a set of instructions within the program or an attached database, rather than being applied to images themselves. It does have its drawbacks, however, as you're forced to keep on using the program or suite of programs with which you created your original edits. Each time you open an image for editing, it gives you the choice of working on the original, or of editing an automatically created copy.
On the other hand, if you always use one option or the other, you can select this in the program's Preferences.The first destination when editing images will often be the Enhance module. For example, the Enhancements menu includes several presets like Magic Landscape, Magic Portrait, High Contrast, HDR Look and Cool Night.
Similarly, Corrections includes choices for Auto Levels, Auto Levels & Colours, Backlight.
What's nice about the presets is that the positions of sliders for adjusting colour and tone parameters are clearly visible throughout, so you can tweak any of the settings rather than being forced to use regimented values.
Further enhancement options include adjustments for vignetting, sharpening and noise reduction. Again, there's a variety of presets on hand, which you can use as starting points before going on to make finer adjustments if required.One thing that's lacking in the Enhance module is direct support for cameras and lenses. This makes the range of presets in the Enhance module look like slim pickings, and is comparatively bloated with far-reaching options. Main category headings include the likes of Architecture, Cinematic, Haze reducing, Landscape, People, Sports, Urban and Wedding, to name but a few.
Each has a wealth of sub-category options to choose from (some more than others) with thumbnails giving a ready reckoning of the effects.Many of the Effects presets have real wow factor and, as with enhancements, come complete with a raft of sliders for fine-tuning the treatments. The 'refine mask' tool works well here, for tracing around intricate edges of objects.Another powerful element of the Effects module is its Filters system.
Again, you can choose from a rich array of Filters, easily adding them to the main Effects and fine-tuning them for exactly the look you're after.
Similarly, the masking tools remain on hand for filtering of selective areas within images.The complete range of Effects and Filters is powerful, flexible and easy to use. This contains a system for automatically searching out faces within an image, or you can select them manually, before going on to apply retouching and enhancements. In a similar but rather more basic way than in the popular PortraitPro Studio, you choose a face to work on and click to assign the centre of both eyes and the corners of the mouth. You can then go on to apply a typically wide range of preset enhancements, as well as making individual adjustments to 'skin retouching', 'colour correction' and 'eyes & mouth'. Each of these sections has a set of sub-adjustments with their own sliders.Quick and easy fixes are very accessible, and there's scope for more finely-tuned enhancements.
However, the Portraits module isn't as far-reaching as PortraitPro 15 Studio, especially compared with the latter's 'sculpting' abilities.
Retouching also lacks some of the finer points of programs like Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.Once you've worked your way through a number enhancements, effects and other fixes, the Layers module (which is really more like a sub-module) really comes into its own. Indeed, the blending modes are very similar to those that are available in Photoshop.Perfect Resize has been another popular app that's found favour as a plug-in. It's ideal for maintaining optimum quality when upsizing or downsizing images for screen or print applications. Like the Black & White effect, it hasn't been dropped from ON1 Photo 10, but rather redirected to another area of the suite, this time to 'Export'. It comes with a good range of options for image and print dimensions, image type, sharpening and file types. As such, it's the last link in the chain, enabling ON1 Photo 10 to serve at every step of your complete workflow.VerdictThe complete set of tools in ON1 Photo 10 combines quick and easy edits based on a powerful range of preset enhancement, corrections, effects and filters, to good portrait retouching facilities and versatile export options. Its main strength is in its incredible array of effects, which combine a barrage of presets with fine-tuning possibilities.
The layers system adds to the overall prowess of the package, going beyond what's available in Lightroom, although Photoshop still has a significant lead in the elegance, sophistication and sheer power of its manual editing facilities.


However, it doesn't cross the bridge from amateur to pro-grade solution a€“ and again, it's only available for Windows PCs. It's been developed over the last six years purely for Macs a€“ indeed, there's still no Windows development waiting in the wings. Images for both programs share the same file format, and are therefore fully interchangeable.Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Affinity Photo is its price.
These include the Photo, Liquify, Develop and Export personas, each of which has its own dedicated workspace. However, they go above and beyond mere workspaces, with each bringing to the stage its own set of tools and modes of operation.For processing raw files, your first stop will be the Develop persona. Support for new cameras and lenses is being continuously added, with updates to the program so far being free for users.
The Details section adds sharpening refinements and noise control, while Tones contains curves, black & white conversion and split toning adjustments. The main raw processing tools are many, varied and powerful, and there are additional tools arranged in a vertical button strip down the left-hand side, for things like removal of red-eye and blemishes.Once you've finished in the Develop persona you may feel that your image is ready to go and needs no further work.
For example, the Healing Brush tool set includes the regular healing brush and additional tools for patching, blemish removal and red-eye removal, plus a context-aware Inpainting tool that does an excellent job of removing objects from a scene and intelligently filling the space to blend in with the surroundings.Finally, the Liquify persona hosts an array of pinch, push, twirl and turbulence tools, complete with mesh view and the ability to freeze or thaw selected areas of the image. The speed and fluidity with which edits are updated on screen is particularly impressive.Alive and kickingThat speed is on show throughout Affinity Photo. Not only are the editing tools very good, with excellent fine-tuning and customisation options, they're also super-fast in action.
Most adjustments can be previewed live, in real time and without any lag, even if you're working on images with huge numbers of layers. It's great to be able to get instant feedback on adjustments, which can also be applied as 'live layers'.The same immediate, constantly updating previews also apply to live layer blends, for which 30 options are available. Similarly, live filters offer instant previews and non-destructive application.Similar speed and dexterity is available when retouching images, using tools like dodge and burn, clone, blemish removal and red-eye fix. These enable you to use powerful tools from Affinity Photo within the Photos app, including develop, haze removal, liquefy, miniature, monochrome and retouch.If there's a flaw in Affinity Photo, it's that the seamless support of Photoshop image files (including complex layered files), doesn't yet quite extend to plug-ins.
Some work fine, others don't, but it's an area in which Serif have been making strides to ensure greater compatibility with existing third-party plug-ins, and a growing range of new ones.Also, much like Photoshop itself, image organisation and cataloguing tools are basic in the extreme. In this respect, the Serif program could do with a companion app along the lines of Lightroom.VerdictOverall, Affinity Photo is a fabulous program that really does rival the best professional and enthusiast-level image-editing packages on the market. It easily takes the lead over previous Serif programs that we've seen for PC, and is a worthy winner of Apple's 'Mac App of the Year' award, 2015.As with most photo-editing programs, a 30-day free trial version is available. Although it doesn't offer the full feature set of its bigger brother, there's plenty of depth to this beginner-friendly photo editor. Unlike CC, a monthly subscription isn't required, so it's worth considering if you prefer to pay up front for your software.
If you're into video editing, you can also choose to buy it bundled with Adobe Premiere Elements.
With new features such as shake reduction and dehaze, as well as improvements to facial recognition and guided edits, the photo editor has much to offer for both beginners and experienced users.Elements comes in two parts, the organizer and the editor. The editor also includes a pared-down version of Adobe Camera Raw for processing images taken in the raw format.The Elements organizerThe organizer is for sorting your image library, with intelligent modes that help to divide your photos into categories based on People, Places and Events.
Tasked with pulling out faces from a set of 200 wedding photos, the new organizer's success rate was about a third better than the old Elements 13 organizer, with fewer mistakes. What's more, as you add new photos Elements will recognise faces and automatically add them to a person's stack.
If you like to organise your photos by faces, the improvements are very welcome.Quick EditsElements' photo editor is split into three editing modes, Quick, Guided and Expert. In the Quick mode, settings and menus are kept to a minimum, with access to simple tonal adjustments and one-click effects. This feature pulls out five effects from a database of over 2500, based on analysis of the image in question.
It's an interesting approach to the current craze for retro effects that says, rather than just adding a generic preset, we'll instead tailor that preset to a particular image. However, in practice the five effects it offers can often seem rather random.New Guided editsFor those who want to take their image-editing further, the Guided mode offers 40 step-by-step guides for tasks like creating composites, spot color effects and restoring old photos. This may not be offering anything new in terms of tools, but it's an astute feature that helpfully guides beginners through a perplexing process. The other new guided edit is for adding motion blur to suggest subject movement, which, although fun, is more of a gimmick.One of the clever things about the three editing modes is that you can switch between them as you go. For example, if you use a guided edit to add a zoom burst effect and then switch to the Expert mode, you can peek under the hood of the guided edit to see how the effect takes shape on different layers. It's a useful learning device that will help beginners to get to grips with Photoshop fundamentals like layers and masks.
Then once you're ready to make the move, the Expert Mode gives you full access to all the wonderful tools, filters, layer styles, blend modes, and other features that Elements offers.New features and verdictNew to Elements 14 is the Haze removal command. Recently introduced into Camera Raw and Lightroom, this helpfully cuts through atmospheric haze in your photos for deeper shadow detail and extra clarity.
In keeping with the Elements 'make it simple' mantra, there's an auto-dehaze feature alongside the manual control that does the job with a single click.Shake reductionAlso making the move from Photoshop CC is Shake Reduction. It can't perform miracles, but it can turn a shaky mess into something usable, perhaps even printable. Complex cut-outsThe new Refine Selection brush is designed to make life easier for those who like to make complex composites and cut-outs by aiding selection of tricky edges like soft fur or hair.
But it's nothing new, and Elements 13 users can happily get the same impressive results by dipping into the powerful Refine Edge command.Is Elements 14 worth the upgrade?The big question for existing Elements users is, is it worth upgrading? There's isn't a huge amount of innovation going on here, with arguably the two headline features a€“ dehaze and shake reduction a€“ being hand-me-downs from Photoshop CC. The new guided edits are useful, but underneath the lick of paint they're really just Photoshop Actions. By presenting the brush as a brand new feature, Adobe has only served to underline the fact that, elsewhere, not a great deal has changed.
Perhaps most disappointingly, other than the standard camera format updates, the Camera Raw plugin has been left untouched. Elements isn't all that interested in appeasing raw-shooting DSLR users a€“ they can get their kicks in Lightroom or CC.
Adobe understands that everybody is a photographer now, and so it's made a photo editor for everybody. The real strength of Elements is that Adobe has managed to do this while still offering great depth for the advanced user. And thanks to the different editing modes, the journey from absolute beginner to seasoned Photoshopper is smoother than ever.Do the mathIn the past the difference in cost between Elements and the full Photoshop was so vast that most of us made a decision on which version to go for based on the price alone. For the same outlay as Elements 14, you can get 10 months worth of Photoshop CC, plus Lightroom and a bunch of Mobile Apps, with a subscription to the Adobe Photographer's Bundle. For professionals and serious image editors, there's no doubt that the photographer's bundle offers far greater value for money. But cancel the CC subscription at the end of those 10 months and you're left with nothing, whereas Elements is for keeps.VerdictElements 14 comes with several interesting new features, along with the usual smattering of hand-me-downs from Photoshop CC.
It's certainly the best Elements yet, but the improvements are incremental rather than impressive. If you're looking for an entry-level photo editor with a superb learning curve, you can't go wrong. In Manage, you've got an image browser and file manager similar to Adobe Bridge, where you can quickly navigate file folders, display image previews and examine EXIF data. All common image file formats are displayed, including raw files, with raw photos from recent Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras displaying flawlessly. Various viewing formats are available, including a map view to geolocate your image capture locations.When you've hit upon an image in need of a quick edit, switching to the Adjust tab reveals a simplified editing interface similar to Lightroom or on1 Perfect Effects. Here you can use simple sliders to make common enhancements like boosting colour saturation or removing image noise.You'll also find a selection of around 100 effects filters here. Called Instant Effects, they're split into various categories such as Landscape, Portrait and Film Styles. Multiple Instant Effects can be applied to a photo, but whilst the adjustment sliders can still be used to tweak the overall look of your image, the Instant Effects themselves are not customisable.
As well as Instant Effects, the Adjust workspace also contains portrait touch-up options for whitening teeth, removing red-eye and even slimming a waistline.Performance and ease of useThe Manage and Adjust sections are useful, but it's the Edit workspace that houses PaintShop Pro's most powerful features, many of which can also be found in Photoshop. Even the layout is similar, with a tools palette to the left of the image preview, and tool options above.On the right of the image preview is a customisable pallet stack which includes a Materials section where you can select colours, gradients, patterns and textures. There's also a neat complementary colours feature here, where PaintShop Pro will pick one or more complementary tones to accent your current colour choice, making it easy to create attractive graphic designs. PaintShop Pro isn't just an image-editor, it's a design and illustration tool too.You'll also find a Layers pallet in the Edit workspace, as PaintShop Pro uses a fully layered workflow, enabling you to work with multiple raster, vector, art media, masking and adjustment layers.
Painting effects into or out of a layer mask is as easy and effective as it is in Photoshop, plus there's layer opacity adjustment, as well as blending and grouping options.It'd be easy to get a bit baffled by all the available tools and features in the Edit workspace, so Corel has included a helpful pallet called the Learning Centre. Click on an editing tool and here you'll get a brief description of its function, plus a quick walkthrough of how to use it and a few tips for best results.Text wrapping is new to version X8.
By marking out a selection with any standard selection tool and typing within it, the text will automatically wrap to fit. The effect also works if you draw a vector shape and type inside this, making it easy to create speech bubble effects. The only slight drawback is the tool's speed a€“ it can be a bit sluggish and slow to respond.Another fresh feature is the Magic Move tool that automatically fills the background behind a relocated object or person. This is a development of Magic Fill, which is Corel's take on Photoshop's Content Aware Fill, and clones areas of background surrounding a deleted object to seamlessly fill the blank space.
The results are impressive and on a par with what you could achieve in Photoshop, though as with any clone-based tool, it's most effective when working with large, uniform areas of colour or patterning.
For smaller touch-ups, then there's always the Clone Brush.Alternatively, to delete large objects without using cloning, try the Smart Carver tool. This compresses a photo horizontally or vertically to conceal the image element you want to remove. You'll need to first select this by painting over it, as well as highlighting anything you specifically want to keep. Then PaintShop Pro automatically shrinks the image and adjusts the surrounding background to stitch together around where the object once was. The only downside with Smart Carver is you're left with an image that's reduced in horizontal or vertical size, so it's not the best choice for removing objects if you want to preserve the picture's aspect ratio.One area of PaintShop Pro that's been enhanced in version X8 is its batch processing abilities, thanks to a new Batch Process wizard.
This makes it a doddle to select a group of photos and resize them all, simultaneously apply your own watermark, or add a themed frame design.Batch processing also lets you execute Scripts to multiple images.
These are PaintShop Pro's take on Photoshop's Actions and enable you to record a series of edits and then replay them to quickly make numerous corrections to additional images.Camera RAW Lab is PaintShop Pro's raw file preparation workspace and it's been improved for version X8 with a redesigned layout and bigger image previews. Whether you're working in this or the main Edit workspace, you'll also be able to utilise X8's new Lens Correction feature that enables easy correction of lens distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration.
This can be done manually, or automatically with the aid of lens-specific profiles included in the software.Finally, version X8 is now faster when using various brushes, and it saves images more quickly.
Even with version X8's speed enhancements, some tools can be frustratingly sluggish, and then there's price to consider. Back when Photoshop cost a hefty one-off payment, PaintShop Pro could indeed be had for a fraction of the price. The process is designed to be automated, so whether you shoot pictures on your phone or add them to folders on your computer, they still end up safe and sound on Google Photos without you having to lift a finger.There is an important limitation. When your Google Drive fills up you can upgrade but you have to pay.With that in mind, it's worth remembering that Google Photos is not the only game in town. See our Google Photos alternatives at the end of this story.How it worksIf you've got a Google account you can start using Google Photos right now.
If not, you'll need to log in a€“ and if you have more than one account, choose the one to log into.
Each Google account has separate photo libraries.If you're on your mobile device, download the Google Photos app (it's on both Android and iOS) and use it to log in to your Google account. Image thumbnails with no badge have been synced, those which are waiting will have a circular sync badge in the bottom right corner, and those just synced with briefly show a tick in a cloud. Nice symbolism.That 16-megapixel limitationAll this is fine if you use your mobile device for photography, but it also works if you shoot with a regular camera and copy images across to your computer.
Google has uploader apps for both Windows and Mac and you'll find the links in the left sidebar menu on your Google Photos page. Once they're downloaded, look for the 'Google Photos Backup' app.These are not like the Android or iOS mobile apps a€“ they're simple uploaders that prompt you go choose specific folders on your computer, for example 'Pictures' or 'Desktop'. Any photos you add to these folders will now be synchronised with your Google Photos account. Once it was running on a test Mac, the uploader minimised to a toolbar icon and a drop-down menu for program Preferences, including the folders you want to sync (if you change your mind), the Photo size (remember, high quality and free, or full res that counts against your quota). But even if you use higher end kit, it could still be useful as a solution for showcasing and sharing your photos with a wider audience.
The website had a glitch where a new album name was displayed as 'Untitled' in the main view, even though we gave it a name a€“ though the iOS app reported the name correctly. Beginners can use simple auto enhancements, while more advanced users can push Light, Colour, Pop and Vignette sliders around. There's also a selection of effects filters named after planetary moons in our solar system, such as Phobos and Diemos, the two pint-sized moons of Mars.These are a tiny bit disappointing, though, because they just shift the colors around. So why oh why (oh why) didn't Google use the editing tools in Snapseed, the utterly excellent image-editor and effects generator Google acquired as part of its Nik Software buyout?The good news is that you can install the free Snapseed app on your mobile device, then open an image in the Google Photos app, tap the menu icon top right and choose 'Open in Snapseed'. When you've done all the work you need in Snapseed, you save the photo the edited version then appears alongside the original in Google Photos.It's even cleverer than that.
Snapseed 2.0 saves your effects and adjustments non-destructively in 'Stacks' a€“ which are just like layers in Photoshop. When you re-open a saved Snapseed image from Google Photos, the stacks are still there, ready to be re-edited if needed.By now you may be noticing some similarities between Google Photos and Apple Photos. In fact, there is no way to manually tag images, and this will be a major issue for photographers used to complete control over their image metadata and search criteria.Instead, Google Photos goes in a whole new direction, using a combination of date and location data (where available) and its own object recognition and search algorithms to find pictures on its own.
Its search tools include some preset search terms, pulling out 'Places' from your images' metadata and offering intelligently recognised 'Things' such as 'Sky', 'Flowers' and 'Ruins'. You can also type your own search terms into a search box, and this is where it gets interesting. Google Photos will use a mix of hard image metadata already in the pictures and its own intelligent image recognition tools to show you its best guess. If you don't tag your images at all, you will probably be delighted at its ability to pick out photos which match your search criteria, some of which you may have forgotten you even had.
But it's not the kind of precise, data-driven search you might be used to in other programs.
It delivers mostly-right results with no effort, and does sometimes surprise you with photos you forgot you had and ideas for using them that you wouldn't have thought of.There is a sting in the tail for iOS users, though. Every change or addition in the Google photosphere will be added to the Photos app on your iOS device, which will then mirror these changes on iCloud a€“ and vice versa. If you don't choose one or the other, you'll end up duplicating changes and doubling your data transfers.
Google Photos alternativesGoogle Photos is a smart, fuss-free way to backup and share your photos online but it's designed primarily for casual photographers.



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