This is first in a series of photo book software reviews. This one focuses on Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 (Adobe PSE). I know from an informal survey I conducted of Photo Book Girl readers on photo editing, that PSE is one of the more popular software programs. So, I decided to give it a try first. If you’d like to read the overview of where I’m going with this series check out my introductory post on using external software to make your photo book layouts.
Because I have Adobe Photoshop CS (the pricier version of the program), I hadn’t really taken a look at its more economical cousin. We’re talking $699.00 versus $69.00. Yes – big difference so it’s definitely worth checking out right? I was excited to hear from a Facebook fan that PSE has a photo book function, but a bit puzzled when I downloaded the free 30-day trial and only saw 5 choices in book sizes when I opened the program. Further, I was surprised to see branded options from Kodak Gallery and Shutterfly but just a few size options under each. (b/t/w Shutterfly bought Kodak Gallery as the latter filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.)
I kept looking around for an option within the program to create a custom size. I was planning to make a photo book for my baby illustrating words from one of my favorite lullabies that I sing to him. I had decided on a portrait book measuring 8.5 inches wide x 11 inches tall. I Googled for an answer and found out that you can’t use the photo book tool to make custom sizes – only the fixed sizes you see listed above. My only option then to use this program and make a custom size, was to create each page as a single layout (versus making the entire book in a single file using the drag and drop function – typical of a photo book company’s free software.) This is what I was excited about, so it was quite disappointing to find that the options were so limited. Note that you can print any of the above sizes on your own desktop printer if you choose. I prefer to print using a photo book service.
Making a Photo Book using a PSE Template
Let’s assume for purposes of this review that you want to use one of the sizes featured. I selected one from the 8×8 Shutterfly options.
You load your photos to the Organizer in an Album and then add the photos to the Album. The selected photos will show up in the Project Bin which runs along the bottom of the workspace. When you’ve dragged and dropped your photos in and tweaked your layouts, you can then choose to print on your own printer or send the book to Shutterfly or another company to print. Note the option to switch from Basic Mode to Advanced mode in the lower right corner above the Project Bin. The advanced mode opens up a set of tools which allow you to make more complex changes to your design.
In terms of what I would normally look for in photo book software, there are some nice features. You can add drop shadows and use any font on your computer. You can also create warped text (text that curves around an object or is stretched out or altered in some way) which is not common for most photo book companies’ software. Other than that, there isn’t much of significant use to someone wanting to use this software primarily for photo book creation unless you are okay with making individual pages.
Making a Photo Book Creating Your Own Custom Sized Layouts and Templates
As mentioned above since I wanted to create my own custom-sized book, I was only able to use the software as a design tool to make single pages. In that way it’s not very different from creating my own pages in Adobe Photoshop CS, which is fine, but not quite the same as building a book using the photo company’s software. I’m basically trying to find external software that works most similarly to the free software offered by the photo book companies. Since I was designing a spread, if my book is to be 8.5 x 11 inches, then my spread has to measure twice the width – so my resulting document size is 16 x 11 inches.
Pretty much the only advantage I can see to using PSE is the Project Bin. You can drag photos from the Project Bin up onto the workspace and it will appear in a separate layer. For those familiar with Photoshop CS, you have to open each file you plan to place in the layout separately, which can get time consuming. Unless you are very organized and know what photos you want to use on which layout, sorting through all that and opening the files can be tedious. (Although note there is an Adobe program called Adobe Bridge which can help organize your multitudes of photo files. Going into detail about Adobe Bridge is not the subject of this review, but I wanted to let you know it’s there.) With PSE and its Project Bin, you can load all the photos you plan to use and then drag and drop them in layers. The layers function which is the key feature of both Photoshop products enables you to turn on or off the layer so you can toggle between them to see if you want to keep that layer or not. It is helpful once you get used to creating layouts in layers.
Outside of photo book creation, another positive for PSE is the ability to edit your photos within the program. PSE is a popular tool for post processing digital images.
Anyway after finding out that I couldn’t use the photo book tool to create my layouts, I had doubts about continuing, but I decided to go ahead and use the program to finish my book anyway. I saved each layout it in the highest quality jpeg format allowed and uploaded them as individual spreads to Artscow – the company I’d chosen for this project. Then I selected the full bleed layout so my image would take up the entire spread. Don’t forget if you plan to create your own pages in an outside program, I recommend making a test page first before doing all your layouts. Upload the test layout to your company of choice. Then run the preview and make sure the layout turns out as expected. That way you don’t waste time creating all the pages only to find out you need to move all the text further away from the edges for example.
If you like the digital scrapbook look, and you’re looking for lots of built in themes and backgrounds, there aren’t many provided within the software. You can however go to digital scrapbooking sites to download lots of free fonts, clip art and backgrounds. Just make sure they are offered for download at 300 dpi so they will reproduce well.
Adobe PSE is great program for photo editing, but just okay for creating photo book layouts. If the photo book tool weren’t just limited to the five sizes currently provided, I would be more interested in using the program to design my books, but as it is now, it’s not quite what I’m looking for so the search continues. If you’re looking for a good photo editor and just occasionally want to make your own layouts, then you may consider PSE a good option as it is way more affordable than its professional cousin Adobe Photoshop CS. After I get to reviewing more companies, I’ll do more comparisons among the different companies. Stay tuned for the next software review!
|Adobe Photoshop Elements 10
||$69.00||Project bin keeps your photos readily accessible as compared to Photoshop CS; Work in layers to easily toggle on and off changes or additions; Good for photo editing||Specific photo book tool with layouts and templates only works in very limited sizes; Can’t use tool for custom sizes – limited to creating single pages for export; Not a lot of themes and backgrounds||PC & MacFREE Trial Available|
Do you use PSE for your photo book layouts? Share your tips or comments below!