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As a small business owner, I am constantly seeking newer and less expensive ways to handle my business operations. One of the main items that I seem to spend a lot of time and money on is in the area of marketing. There are a number of products on the market today that can certainly address all of the needs of a small business owner. And, as you can imagine, some cost more than others.
One of the products that I sprung for last year was Adobe’s Photoshop Elements. While it costs about $99 for a single copy, it is a very encompassing tool and worth its price tag. The Elements software provides a complete end-to-end photography experience and offers an infinite number of possibilities for organizing, editing, and sharing photos.
Elements primarily has two main workspaces – one for organizing and one for editing. The organizational end of the tool allows you to upload photos into the application and then group them in galleries. (See NewPhoto.jpg) Then, you can add themes, titles, and captions to the photos. There is a wide range of editing features available including enhancing the image’s color, clarity, composition, and layout. The tool also takes editing a step further by providing the ability to modify only portions of a photo and remove objects from an image by circling it on the screen. (See FullEdit.jpg) Once the photos have been edited, you can use them in a number of ways for creating marketing materials such as in company brochures, business cards, letterhead, invoices, signage, or even logos. Elements also provides some templates for creating some basic marketing materials as well. (See Templates.jpg) One of the most notable features available in Elements is its sharing functionality. You can arrange your photos into galleries and uploaded to KodakGallery.com or Snapfish for sharing with friends, family and business associates.
One of the greatest challenges facing those who choose to use Element is the learning curve. Users who are either computer savvy or familiar with previous versions of Elements and have the time to spend will find the program is amazing. However, for new users, those with fewer computer skills or those who simply do not have the time available to spend learning the tool, the software will probably be cumbersome and frustrating.
Recently, Adobe launched a free, less encompassing version of Elements in a web format. Much like a Kodak Gallery.com or Snapfish, this application, called Photoshop Express (photoshopexpress.com) offers both editing functionality as well as online storage capabilities. Getting started with Photoshop Express is very easy and simply requires you to register as a member on its website. (See CreateAccount.jpg)
In about two minutes, your free membership is created and you can login to begin using the tool. (See Welcome.jpg) Uploading photos is similar to any other tool and simply requires you to browse to the photo and start the upload. Once uploaded, your picture appears in on the screen and you can move on to any necessary editing. (See UploadedPhoto.jpg)
In comparison to Elements, the available editing features are a bit more general but still rather encompassing. The “Basics" include such action items as cropping, modifying exposure, red-eye removal, touchup, and saturation. The “Tuning" category of editing functions includes such things as white balance, highlight, fill light, sharpen, and soft focus. And, you can also add effects to your images such as pop color, hue, black and white, tint, sketch, and distort.
From an organizational perspective, Express offers similar album and gallery type features. You can arrange your photos in albums by subject, date, location, and so on. One notable difference between Elements and Express is that Express actually assigns you your own web page for sharing your photos through your “My Gallery" page, a publicly visible page for sharing your albums from the images in your library. However, it also offers links to sites such as Flickr, Facebook, Photobucket, and Picasa.
Express is a very comparable tool to Elements in that you can edit, save, and store your photos for use in your marketing materials. One of the nice features available in Express is that your membership includes photos storage for up to 2GB, freeing up your computer’s hard drive and making the images available to others in your small business who may need to use them as well.
When deciding which product to select for your small business desktop publishing needs, you must first consider the cost. By using Express, you can save yourself about $100. Additionally, Express is very simple to use and saves the time lost on learning Elements. Beyond that, it really depends on how you plan to use the tool. Both applications offer the ability to edit, store, and share photos so it really comes down to choice. I wish that Express had been available when I was looking for a desktop publishing application for my small business. If it had been, I would have saved my money and given the free option a shot first.