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Adobe finally tackles image management - at least for the digital camera user.

These days most photo-editing packages provide some sort of visual management of multiple files, but the power on offer is totally inadequate for professional photographers and digital camera owners needing to bring collections of thousands of images under tight control. That's where Photoshop Album comes in.

Most users tend to manage their image collections by splitting them into directories but often you'll want to see the images from multiple directories or a cross-section from them all, say every picture containing your managing director or cousin Jill - or both together. With Photoshop Album that's not a problem as all your images are automatically added as thumbnails to the single, central Photo Well. That gives you instant access to all your images but of course you've then got to narrow down to the ones that you are interested in.

By default Photoshop Album picks up the date your images were taken and sorts them accordingly, but to take real control of your photos you need to tag them. Running down the left of the screen is a panel in which you can create keyword-based tags organized into four main categories - People, Places, Events and Other. Once you've created your tags, say "Rome" under Places and "holiday" under Events, you can simply drag and drop them onto your images. To then limit the Photo Well to only showing holiday snaps all you need to do is to check the Holiday tag's check box. It's a simple and efficient system and Photoshop Album also provides two important tags, Favourites and Hidden, so that you can quickly pull out your best images and hide your worst.

So, once you've selected your images, what can you do with them? The most obvious option is to view them onscreen for which Album provides an Instant Slideshow command (though this is surprisingly slow). You can also enhance your images with the Fix Image command. This provides Before and After previews, four automatic fixes, control over colour, saturation, contrast and brightness and dedicated photographic features for mimicking fill-in flash and backlighting and for removing red eye. Alternatively, you can right-click on any image and open it into your favourite editor, most probably Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. All changes are made to a copy of the file which seemed strange at first, but actually makes a lot of sense as it means that Album can provide a Restore Original command if you later regret your changes.

Other options on offer are the ability to create web galleries based on a range of templates and the ability to share photos and order professional prints via online services. More power comes from the multi-faceted Creations Wizard which lets you select images and then run step-by-step wizards to turn them into slideshows, greeting cards, e-cards, calendars, photo books and even video CDs. In each case the last stage is to choose an output option between Print, E-mail, Order Online, Burn to CD and Save As PDF. These last two are particularly powerful and show Adobe making excellent use of its general graphics-based experience.

Photoshop Album isn't the right choice for everyone. In particular its link-based approach means you have to be careful when housekeeping your image files, while to make the most of the program you have to be willing to make a long-term commitment to comprehensive tagging. It's a lot to ask and many users, especially professionals, will be better off sticking to a quicker, on-the-fly solution such as CompuPic Pro, or going the whole hog and choosing an advanced media cataloguing system such as Extensis Portfolio.

However there's a lot of room between these two extremes and for the digital photographer currently drowning in a sea of images, Album could well prove the lifeline they are looking for.

Tom Arah

requirements Pentium III or higher, 256MB of RAM, 150MB of hard disk space, Windows 98SE, Me, 2000 and XP, SVGA, Internet Explorer 5 or higher, CD-ROM

Features
5
Ease of Use
5
Value for Money
5
Overall
5

ratings out of 6

Album
Software / Upgrade
Save $$!   Save ££!
Books / Reference
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System RequirementsPentium III or higher, 256MB of RAM, 150MB of hard disk space, Windows 98SE, Me, 2000 and XP, SVGA, Internet Explorer 5 or higher, CD-ROM

Tom Arah

January 2003


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