Adobe Photoshop Elements 4 & Premiere Elements 2 All in One, by Chuck Engels, ISBN: 0-672-32876-3

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, September 2006
Published by: Sams Publishing
Requires: Adobe Photoshop Elements or Premiere Elements
MSRP: US$34.99, CAN$46.99, UK£24.99

There are millions of copies of Adobe Photoshop Elements 4 out there. The same is true for Adobe Premiere Elements 2. And although the software version numbers are different, as of this writing, both represent the latest product advances. What you choose for photo and video editing is obviously up to you, but the Adobe brand is sufficiently well integrated into the popular consciousness that anyone turning toward some serious photo editing and video editing has to at least seriously consider both programs. Generally, for business users who require professional looking results, Photoshop Elements 4 and Premiere Elements 2 are really the best choices in a marketplace that's jammed with competent, competitive products. If you're like me however (ten years of occasional Photoshop use; eight years of occasional Premiere use), being able to turn to a book which is basically a version-specific guide for the software, often helps improve productivity in situations where the action needed to correct a problem or accomplish some task proves elusive. Confession: I've never used either product often enough to become proficient. I need a book.

I set out the do this book review of Adobe Photoshop Elements 4 & Premiere Elements 2 All in One in order to determine if it could become my next desktop companion for both programs. I need constant help. While I use both programs once or twice every week, the amount of time that I have to just sit back and play with them is basically nonexistent. So my need for quick access to information is crucial. The book conveniently offers Sams Publishing's familiar Contents At A Glance which is basically a chapter by chapter list of all the headings. Better than that, the Index is a detailed, 46 page monster in which you can find entries for almost every single significant reference, feature, function and term in both programs. In other words, finding specific subject content is easy. Score one for Sams and author Chuck Engels.


Chapter one is a general introduction to each program. Although some of the information is aimed clearly at complete novices, much of it is also aimed at 'tweeners like me who can't boast any great skill with either program, but who still at least know where most of the bits and pieces are located. Score another one for Engels.

The rest of the book is the heart of things. Part I includes eleven chapters containing step-by-step tutorials for every major feature of Photoshop Elements 4. Coverage is excellent, with lots of emphasis on organizing digital images, editing with layers, color correction, print output and everything else that Photoshop is famous for. Part II provides exactly the same quality of coverage, in fourteen chapters, for Premiere Elements 2.

Part III is a bit of a compendium which covers the unique aspects of both programs working together, and includes an extensive and well written chapter on creating multimedia slideshows. If you're a slideshow or travelog producer at home or at the office, you owe it to yourself to check out Photoshop Elements. Creating superb, professional slideshows is very easy to do in Photoshop Elements, and you're working in a stable and powerful environment which starkly contrasts with so many less stable, bug-ridden slideshow programs currently populating the market. There's also some excellent and quite creative coverage of DVD menu template use for Premiere Elements.

The last two pages of the publication contain a list of Key Terms used through the book. This small section is a bit like a mini-glossary. It might be useful on occasion, but looks more like minor filler to me.

Last but not least, if you register the book online, Sams Publishing will provide you with access to a large pile of bonus content on the web; a total of four bonus chapters covering Blend Mode examples, Creative Photograph techniques, Setting Premiere Elements Preferences, and a transition and effects list for slideshow producers.

Engels has help throughout the book from three other contributing experts: Jennifer Fulton, Scott M. Fulton III, and Steve Grisetti.

I've been using Sams Teach Yourself Adobe Photoshop Elements 4 & Premiere Elements 2 for a little over two months and I think I like it. At least I haven't turned to one of the other terrific books published by Sams and others. In fact, the book has repeatedly been a great help on at least four different projects. Although I've been a Nero Burning ROM fan for years, I'm now using Premiere Elements quite often for DVD authoring. The main reason is that this book helped me over a couple of unfamiliar areas in Premiere. I'm a fan now.

Cons: So called lay flat bookbinding does not lay flat on your desk when the book is open. Maybe one day the publishers will figure out how to make an open reference book lay flat on the desk, freeing both hands to follow instructions with mouse and keyboard? Locked ring binding maybe? Heavy duty Cerlox binding? Either one would be terrific. It's a faint hope. Typical lightweight page holders simply can't manage one of these 688 page marvels. No color examples. I don't care what anyone says about color printing costs, because tutorials on color adjustments, brightness and contrast must be accompanied by color screenshots and examples. Black & white and grayscale aren't good enough.

Pros: Well written and clearly organized. While there are any number of decent publications available which can provide you with step-by-step guidance, very few of them make it as easy to find, in one detailed volume, tutorials for so many different digital photo and video editing, composition, production, authoring, and program tasks. Engels' writing style is readable, friendly and tends to keep you moving through each tutorial. That's important because some of the steps needed to get where you want are tedious and occasionally difficult to understand for people who don't have a full grasp of all the terminology. Engels helps out by salting the entire book with lots of "Key Terms" definitions. The feature, function and task coverage for both Photoshop Elements 4 and Premiere Elements 2 is very good, with literally hundreds of explanations. The book purchase is money well spent and will help you get the best results from Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements. Recommended.

KSN Product Rating:

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