Picture-perfect

PaintShop Pro is inexpensive and powerful

By Harold Glicken

Coming from a newspaper background, I’m familiar with the power of Adobe Photoshop, which photographers swear by and editors swear at. Count me among the latter group.

 

While it’s strictly forbidden for news photographers to doctor their images – deleting an unwanted person, for example – that doesn’t mean those kinds of edits don’t slip past editors. After all, when a photographer transmits his work from Singapore, who’s to know that there was a joker making a funny face in  the background? Ultimately, photographers get exposed –many times by other photographers – when the photo is published. That’s why you see former news photographers going door-to-door taking family portraits ($10 for a sitting, with two free 8 by 10s).

Count me as among those who can hardly open a file in Photoshop, much less get rid of an errant lamp post growing out of a subject’s head.  It’s a complicated program that takes much time and practice to use effectively. To master Photoshop is a badge of honor I don’t happen to wear.

For many years, I used Elements, Photoshop’s inexpensive little brother. Elements has modes for impatient amateurs such as myself.  The Quick mode makes photo editing almost child’s play, while the Expert mode delves into the mysteries of layers, color gradients, skin tone adjustments and more.

Like a fat bear whose curiosity makes him wonder whether the next hive has sweeter honey, I couldn’t pass up a sweet offer to buy PaintShop Pro X9. I had an earlier version, and found myself using it more and more. There’s no dumbing-down in Corel’s PaintShop. While PaintShop has most of the advanced features of Elements, for my money, it bests Elements by an elephant’s nose.

Like Elements, PaintShop has a photo organizer that puts your digital images in some semblance of order. From there, the program takes you to “adjust” mode, where you can add effects, and finally to “edit.”  Along the way, PaintShop holds your hand. I’ve never used a program that has so many tutorials – many are videos – and how-tos.

For example, I hadn’t heard of a photo-editing program having scripts, and I don’t mean the kind actors use. A script takes a number of commands that can be executed with the click of a mouse to enhance a photo.

 

Want to add a purple haze to enhance a photo? Click on the “purple haze” script that comes with the program. PaintShop comes with some scripts, and more can be bought.

 

Using a script, the subjects in the photo can be in stunning color, while the background is in black and white. Cover your eyes, news photographers, the color of eyes can be changed. And, like Photoshop, sin of sins, you can move people around. They actually tell you, proudly, how to do it.

Multiple photos can be merged to create a stunning photo , color gradients can be applied, shapes such as hearts can be overlaid on a photo. If you’re processing a number of photos – batch filing – you can apply the same effects, such as “smart fix,” which controls all facets of exposure, to all of them.

 

The good folks who produced the program hold your hand as you’re transported to the magical world of  the online Corel Discovery Central. There you’ll find tutorials on every facet of PaintShop. Most of the tutorials are free, but for hyper-complicated projects, there are fee-based tutorials that can last for hours.

The tutorials are easy to understand and take you step-by-step through the paces of doing things to a photograph you probably never thought were possible, from the “getting started” tutorial to using a template to make a collage. Speaking of collages, after watching the template tutorial, I arranged a beautiful (if I say so myself) collection of photos of my grandkids, printed it on an 8 by 10 sheet of photo paper, and gave it to my daughter to hang on her wall.

I find that I’m using PaintShop for most of my photo-editing sessions. It’s much cheaper than Photoshop – it costs about the same as Elements – and is geared more to experienced amateurs, graphic designers, students and business uses. I found that I could do more in less time using PaintShop over Elements.

PaintShop Pro costs $80, although it’s often on sale for less. A more sophisticated version, PaintShop Ultimate, ups the ante by $20, although it, too, is often on sale.

 

A pop-up ad when I was using an earlier version of PaintShop gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse -- $15 for the full version. No one had to give me a tutorial on how that was a great deal.

For more information, www.corel.com

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