Thursday, March 27, 2008

Review: Photoshop Express

The folks over at Adobe, creators of the Photoshop suite of products, have a new offering. It's the new Photoshop Express, an online photo editing and storage program. It's just been launched and is still in beta but you can set up an account and check it out now now. I took it for a spin this morning myself.

When you register, you get to choose your screen name which is included in the URL of any online albums you might choose to make public. My URL is That's pretty cool isn't it?

Once you register and go through the email verification process, you can login and begin uploading photos. I uploaded just one, a photo of the front grill of Big Blue (Stephanie Plum fans will recognize this as Grandma Mazur's car). One photo is enough to play with for testing purposes but you're not limited to that. Each account gets 2GB of file storage space.

The GUI resembles the current version of PSE6 having a charcoal background. But the program is not an online version it. Think more along the lines of the Photoshop Elements look with the Picasa feature set. As one who has and uses both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements regularly believe me when I say this is not "Photoshop Lite", it's more like "Picasa Dark".

The Photoshop Express feature set offers basic photo editing tools including, cropping, red eye removal, sharpening, tinting, lighting, saturation and such. Nothing remarkable about the tool set offered but the way it works is pretty interesting. In the screen shot below you can see what I mean.

In this instance, I've clicked on the "saturation" tool. Above the photo there appears a series of 7 thumbnails showing various levels of saturation. The center image is the original and you get to see 3 less saturated images and 3 more saturated images. That's kind cool. If you find one you prefer, all you have to do is click on it to accept it.

I think the GUI is very user friendly and pretty intuitive. I'm not sure I discovered every feature but I was able to get around the program without having to look for a Help menu. When in doubt, mouse-over the image or one of the tools or buttons and you'll usually get a pop-up suggestion. Oh, and you definitely want to "allow pop-ups" in your browser window for this site.

You can assign your photos to an "album" and you can choose to make your album public, private, or by invitation only. You can also view your photos in a slide show or send them by email.

Adobe comes in pretty late the to online photo editing/storage game and Photoshop Express doesn't have any new compelling features from what I've seen. They are asking for feedback though and they make it sound like they intend to offer more features in the future. I let them know what I think the program's missing... the ability to watermark photos with a copyright notice. I don't think any of the online photo editing/storage programs offer this feature and that surprises me. I think it would dramatically cut down on image copyright violation on the web if they came up with a one-step watermark. The other feature this program needs is the ability to add keywords (IPTC). Gotta have it.

I hope that the introduction of Photoshop Express gets the people at Picasa to sit up and take notice. They haven't added much of anything to their product in ages and that's been a real disappointment for me. I use Picasa every day but I also almost always have to use additional programs for minor features that Picasa should have.

The fact that the program is online is both an advantage and a disadvantage. For those who want to access photo editing tools "on the go" it's great to have. For those who have huge collections of photos on their hard drives that they can't possibly upload, it won't be such a great thing since you have to upload a photo to edit it. (I fall into the later category.)

I didn't see anything in Photoshop Express to make me leave Picasa forever but if anyone could win me over with an advanced feature set for online photo editing/storage it would be the folks at Adobe. I hope they're listening.