First Look: Photoshop Express

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First Look: Photoshop Express

 

Photoshop Express, the free Flash-based image editor recently released by Adobe, had such great potential. Who could possibly make a better photo application than the fine folks who brought us Photoshop? But after working with it for a week, I’m not nearly as thrilled as I’d hoped to be.

 

Adobe targeted the program to image-editing-beginners; I figured the rest of us could use Photoshop Express for quick photo fixes too. But overall sluggishness and other limitations make this an application that’s only worth using when you don’t have access to any other image editing program.

 

Acquiring images from my Picasa account was a snap -- it took less than 30 seconds to move 64 photos. You can also grab your images from Facebook and Photobucket, Flickr is not supported. But uploading photos directly from your desktop is a pain, there are no image thumbnails displayed in the upload window so you need to know exactly what photos you want to work with or transfer an entire folder. Since each user’s storage is currently capped at 2GBs, you want to be a bit choosy about what you upload, and I ended up launching Adobe Bridge to identify the photos I wanted to work with in Express.

 

 

Then, after chugging along for six minutes to upload four (8.5 megapixel each) JPEGS, the application informed me that each image exceeded the 4000x4000 pixels size limit. Yes, this bit of information was in the Express FAQ which I didn’t read, but the end result was the same -- I needed to fire up Photoshop, downsize the images, and then upload them to Photoshop Express. This makes Express not a great solution for anyone who is shooting with a 10 megapixel or higher digital camera. And the application can’t actually handle images over 2500x2500 pixels so it downsamples uploaded photos as necessary. This is fine for images that are only going to appear on the web, which is all you’ll be able to use your Express-edited pictures for since you can’t currently print from the application.

 

Image editing was slow too -- it took seven or eight seconds just to zoom into a photo. The editing tools were both easy to use and frustrating for anyone who craves the control offered by Photoshop or even Photoshop Elements. Express’ tools are automated; to use most of them you roll your cursor over a series of options and choose the version that looks best. The “White Balance” and “Fill Light” tools were excellent, producing great results that were well-balanced across shadows and highlights and noticeably improved the image. The “Touchup” tool is bizarrely unhelpful, creating a mess that I can only compare to what you’d get if you were cloning in Photoshop while wearing a blindfold.

 

All gripes aside, Photoshop Express is an early beta and there’s just enough that’s good and interesting here to make it worth watching. If the overall speed improves and user’s gallery size is expanded it may eventually become a decent option for simple photo correction and storage. Until then I’ll stick to Flickr’s far more responsive free image editor.

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