Tag Archives: photography

Photoshop Elements 12 Review

Photoshop Elements 12 Review

Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 brings a great new feature with Adobe Actions for script like editing while the main features of professional image editing remain a standard of the program.

Ease of Use, Performance:  4/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  4/5
How much I enjoy:  4/5

Recommendation:  4/5 Stars

Adobe Photoshop Elements 12

Adobe Photoshop Elements has been and continues to be the best low cost photo editing program that has both image editing and a powerful collection of tools that are user friendly. Photoshop Elements 12 also has an extensive organizer that allows you to keeps things nice and tidy no matter how many photos you have.

Photoshop Elements 12 is still a packaged program that you can use for both MAC and Windows computers and has a full set of features. Still a packaged program may seem a bit odd but last year Adobe took most of its popular programs and went to a subscription based system.

Many of the popular and expensive programs are now purchased through a subscription service where you pay monthly or yearly while Elements continues to be a standard package. Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements are still a standard deal but only Photoshop Elements gets my recommendation again this release.

Check out my upcoming review of Premiere Elements 12 to see why you should avoid that but Photoshop Elements 12 does get at least my begrudging recommendation. Photoshop Elements 12 still has some great features and works extremely well for simple to advanced image editing and organizing but a few problems do creep in.

Adobe Elements Organizer

Photoshop Elements 12 requires an internet connection to activate the product before you can begin to use it as a regular program. If you are not connected to the internet the program will behave like a trial version and work for thirty days then tell you to connect to the internet to continue using it.

If you think this is not a problem I do know people who have laptops they use for personal use but do not connect them to the internet. Customers are also complaining about this on the Adobe forums because they have volume licenses and are needing a way to install them on numerous computers.

During this activation it is required for each license to input an Adobe ID which means for every computer you want to install it on you would need to create a new account using separate email addresses. The forum thread about this had someone trying to install Elements 12 on 50 computers which would be a huge task to create 50 separate accounts using 50 separate emails.

I’m not sure if the individual resolved his issues or went to another program but it is this kind of basic design carelessness that Adobe has me scratching my head about. It’s like the company is trying to lose customers and the newest edition of Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements is no different.

photoshop image editing at its fiinest

Photoshop elements once you get past the installation and activation does work well and continues to be a very user friendly program. When you first open Photoshop Elements you are given a Welcome screen with choices for image editor or organizer.

On the Welcome screen is also a setting to have the program open either editor or organizer in the future as well as display or hide the Welcome screen. If you decide to hide the Welcome screen you can always go the help menu to return to it as well as having the option on the menus to open the other part of Elements whether you’re in the organizer or editor.

The organizer is a handy to keep things neat and tidy with simple to use controls and a filing system that allows you to organize but also store images in the cloud. The organizer can search your system and try to automatically organize images according to media type, people, places and events.

Adobe has brought their Revel cloud based storage to Photoshop Elements with easy album and image upload and retrieval on other devices like tablets and phones. Other organizer features include easy tagging, map location of images and even a quick edit feature.

Using Adobe Actions

Image editing using the main editing section ranges from basic to about as advanced as anyone would want for semiprofessional photographers with cropping, content aware fill and actions being the range. Simple cropping, red eye removal and filters to change images from vibrant colors to black and whites are basics of image editors nowadays and Photoshop Elements has been a standard for this for years.

Advanced features where the program can copy parts of images and move them while keeping the image around the moved object a part of the background works well when you want it. Some features are not going to be used much and some are more common but all the features I have tried in all the versions of Photoshop Elements have worked without many problems.

Actions is a new tool that is a great way to edit and improve images using other peoples scripts or lists of edits or you can create your own. Actions are a list of image edits like crop, create layer, add a color fill to the layer and then change exposure.

You can record a list of edits into an action and save that action for future use in image editing but it takes some work to get an action that works well for you. This can become a time saver in your work flow when you have numerous images to edit and have the same tasks to do on each one like I do for my product reviews.

Actions do not work all on their own every time and sometimes you do have a little tweaking and adjusting to get them to work for some of the steps. I am very impressed with this feature and can easily see how it can make editing easier and you can find a wide range of actions online for free and ones you have to pay for.

Photoshop Elements 12 continues to make your image editing an easy task but also continues to add features that make your job easier as well as more enjoyable. While some features like the activation may be a killer for some Photoshop Elements does continue to be a great image editor and organizer.

I still recommend Photoshop Elements 12 as a great image editor for easy editing and a fully feature program for enthusiast and novice photographers. Photoshop Element 12 is available from Adobe directly as a download or from retailers like Amazon as a package for about $70.

Photoshop Elements 12 @ Adobe

Photoshop Elements 12 @ Amazon

Easily edit images
Plenty of great features
New Actions simplifies editing

Internet connection & Adobe ID Account required for installation & activation

Lightroom 5 Review

Lightroom 5 Review

Adobe has released the newest version of Lightroom with several new features to Lightroom but the subscription based licensing that Adobe has started using is not part of this release.

Ease of Use, Performance:  4/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features: 4/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

Lightroom 5

Lightroom 5 is Adobe’s answer to a professionals work tool for image organizing and editing in the same program that allows users to organize tens of thousands of images. Lightroom has always been about organizing and about being able to edit images quickly but RAW image editing is also available from simple menu choices.

Adobe may have made a mistake by changing most of their software releases to subscription based products but Lightroom 5 is still a boxed package you don’t have to pay for more than once. Lightroom 5 is seeing a bit more front line recognition as a professional photographer’s resource for editing and organizing your images and continues to gain features that are worthwhile.

Lightroom has always been about image editing and organization using non-destructive editing and batch image organization in an easy to use environment. Lightroom has a very different look and feel to it than Photoshop but for a professional photographer who needs an image editor and an organizer Lightroom has been a popular choice.

Working w/ Organizer

Lightroom 5 brings a few new features with an advanced healing brush, upright straitening tool and radial gradient tool for image editing. New organization tools include smart previews, video slideshows, improved book creation and location based organization for better handling your collections.

The image editing tools help to make Lightroom a better tool for photographers to edit and enhance images that need some touching up but not as much as a dedicated program would. The editing features in Lightroom include almost as much as Photoshop but Lightroom has the image cataloging and collection features going for it.

New features that are noteworthy for collections and organizing are the Smart Previews with others mainly being tweaks and improvements to existing tools. The main improvements in Lightroom 5 over the previous version is a few new tools that have been carried over from Photoshop and now being usable to Lightroom users.

To understand why it takes time to add a tool that already exists in an Adobe product needs a little understanding of the difference between Lightroom and Photoshop. Lightroom is all about work flow while Photoshop is all about image editing without worrying about keeping originals.

In Lightroom you can edit images and organize things how you want but the original images are left unaltered and in the same folders you placed them in. Photoshop alters original images so if you want to save the original you have to make sure you don’t overwrite it when saving your image.

Lightroom 5 Image Editing

This means that every time you use Lightroom on an image it will automatically save the images you edit as a new image instead of destroying the original. Lightroom is built from the ground up to account for retaining the original image when you edit and moving a feature from Photoshop to Lightroom means they also have to build the tool or feature over again.

Features that already exist in Photoshop take some time to create for Lightroom so it is kind of exciting for Lightroom users to see features that already exist for Photoshop users. Every new release for Lightroom usually includes a few features that have already been released for Photoshop with tweaks to existing features included as well.

Lightroom 5 opens to the familiar interface that has collections, folders and publishing services on the left side menu. The right side menu has editing features along with some organizing functions and your metadata and commenting choices for more organizing features.

To work on folders or collections you can move images around by dragging and dropping into new or previous folders or collections but collections work a bit differently than folders in Windows. Collections tag photos no matter where they are so images in separate folders can be grouped together for editing or organizing.

Gradient Filter Lightroom 5

This may sound like an odd way to do things but for photographers who work in both single customer and multiple customer work this can be effective. Keeping images in their original folder but being able to organize them into collections works really well for photographers who work with a lot of images.

A good example would be a photographer who wants to do a bit of advertising and sets aside a dozen images from various clients to use in a print or online advertisement. He can label images he uses for the ads that are located in client folders as a new collection and easily find them using the collections in Lightroom instead of saving copies in a new folder.

Lightroom is all about being able to organize large amounts of images so you can easily find what you need as well as being able to jump into some decent image editing. To edit you can choose between quick editing and a more in depth choice by simply opening the develop selection on the menu bar or you can perform a quick change using presets.

Lightroom 5 does an excellent job of professionally organizing images with the option to edit them with some pretty competent tools without going to the extent that Photoshop offers. I highly recommend Lightroom 5 as a standalone image work flow program that allows organization and editing for images in the same program.

Lightroom 5 @ Adobe

Quick and easy image organizing and image editing in one program
Non-destructive editing
Easy to use organizing tools
Good set ogimage editing features

Somewhat steep learning curve

Joby GorillaPod Focus + Ballhead X Review

Joby GorillaPod Focus + Ballhead X Review

The GorillaPod Focus makes a unique flexible tripod that is great for location shooting using those full sized DSLR cameras and camcorders that creates a solid platform.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  4/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

GorillaPod Focus

The GorillaPod Focus is a sturdy flexible tripod that comes with the Ballhead X as a bundle for a great tripod and ballhead set for both professional and amateur photographers. The GorillaPod Focus is made for larger cameras and camcorders up to 11 pounds and can easily handle all DSLR cameras with a wide variety of lenses.

The GorillaPod family of tripods all feature a unique ball and socket leg joint construction that allows each leg to be bent and positioned. The legs are 11 inches long with each joint piece being about an inch long and the end pieces of each leg being tipped in rubber.

GorillaPod Focus Ballhead X

Each joint piece also has a rubber ring around the middle so these points hold on to objects when the legs are wrapped around them. Each leg can be used to wrap around objects like fence posts and tree limbs or just positioned for a steady tripod that can be easily positioned on uneven ground.

The GorillaPod Focus is designed to use the legs to wrap around objects with the ball and socket joints of each leg allowing them to bend in a circle or straight. With the bendable legs you can wrap one or all three legs around objects as well as use a couple legs to wrap around an object and the third as a support leg.

GorillaPod Focus Hanging Around

The tripod allows you to position your camera where you want it regardless of odd angles using a smaller tripod that is easier to carry. The GorillaPod Focus is only about a foot long and is easy to carry along with you in the field as well as in crowded areas where space is a problem.

The smaller size allows you to keep your equipment weight down as well but still have the flexibility you need as a professional photographer. The Focus is made for getting the shot you need with as little equipment as possible and the tripod works extremely well for this.

Focus w/ DSLR

The Ballhead X comes with the bundle package and is a professional ballhead that has one thumbscrew for rotation and the second for tilt. The ballhead works well and is made from quality aluminum that also includes a removable head plate that releases using a thumbscrew.

The GorillaPod Focus and Ballhead X make a great pair and work well together as a great tripod that is very versatile and worth the price. When a full sized tripod is just too much to carry and you want the versatility of a professional tripod that is only a foot long the GorillaPod is a great choice.

Mount of GorillaPod Focus

I found an easy way to carry the Focus using a couple of Velcro straps that have a triangular ring that can hold snaps from a carry strap. The Velcro straps are from a tool belt and the carry strap is from a camera bag but I am sure there are other ways you can figure for carrying your GorillaPod.

The GorillaPod Focus and Ballhead X bundle is available from a wide variety of online and local sellers including Amazon and the Joby website. The GorillaPod Focus and Ballhead X bundle costs about $120 and is a fantastic tripod and ballhead for DSLR cameras and camcorders.

GorillaPod Carry Strap

Joby and other companies like Cinetics have released several accessories for the GorillaPod tripods like levels, skates and suction cups.

Flexible legs for various positioning
Small sized for portability
Sturdy aluminum for most parts

Carry strap not included

Joby/GorillaPod Website

Cinetics Website

Cotton Carrier Vest System for 1 Camera

Cotton Carrier Vest System for 1 Camera

The Cotton Carrier Vest System is a harness that holds your DSLR snug to your body when snapped into the socket but easily accessible for those action shots.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  4/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

Cotton Carrier Vest System for 1 Camera

The Cotton Carrier Vest System for 1 Camera is a harness to take the load off your neck for that DSLR camera and almost any size lens due to the Lexan receptacle and lens strap. The Cotton Carrier Camera Vest is an over the shoulder vest that has a Lexan socket right in the front.

The adapter that fits your DSLR camera is made from aluminum and is tough enough to withstand the rigors of the field for nature and action photography. The Cotton Carrier System comes with an adapter plate that fits Arca-Swiss, Manfroto and Gitzo brands of quick release tripod systems.

Cotton Carrier Whats in the Box

The Cotton Carrier Vest also has a lens strap to hold your lens and secure it tightly while the camera is locked in place on the vest. To lock the camera on the Lexan receptacle you simple turn the camera so the lens is pointing off to your left or right and lower the adapter into the receptacle.

Turning the camera so the lens points down will ensure the lens and camera stay in place on the vest no matter the activity like climbing, biking or simply keeping up with the action. The aluminum adapter that mounts to the bottom of your camera is tough and the Lexan receptacle means no breaking of the most stressed point in the system.

Cotton Carrier Attaching System

The vest itself has a padded front with well sewn seams and a good quality webbing to hold the vest in place while the straps are Velcro in the back. You have the two main straps that go over your shoulders with Velcro ends for an additional adjustment along with the buckles on the front.

The vest has a belt that goes around your torso above your waist that continues with a strap that goes over the lens if you are using a longer lens with the Cotton Carrier Vest. Other little features include the thick rubber pad that protects your camera bottom and the two straps that help hold your camera both while in the receptacle and while shooting.

Cotton Carrier Attaching Straps


The one add-on I received with the vest is a hand strap that loops on the rubber pad and your attach point for the cameras strap where the two straps secure the camera to your vest. The vest is all top quality sewing and well-made materials for a professional quality photography system that is fantastic.

I could not recommend this any higher as the perfect solution for holding your camera while doing activities and needing your camera ready in seconds. The vest has four attach points for the straps or other gear while the lens strap has a Velcro flap to tuck it away if you’re not using it.

Cotton Carrier

The Cotton Carrier is comfortable and fits a wide variety and build types of people so the camera vest does work well for many different people. The vest has a variety of additional add-ons like the hand strap that costs $35 while the Cotton Carrier Vest for 1 camera costs $150.

The camera vest is a fantastic way to keep your camera secure on the trail while biking and simply getting around the scene while trying to capture every shot. I highly recommend the Cotton Carrier 1 Camera Vest as the perfect way to carry your DSLR camera with a variety of lenses securely.

1 Camera Vest @ Cotton Carrier

Professional Quality
Securely holds DSLR with long lenses
Fits a variety of sizes
Quick Release mounting system


Video Editing with Corel VideoStudio X6 Ultimate

Video Editing with Corel VideoStudio X6

Corel VideoStudio X6 Ultimate is a fantastic video editing software suite that includes some great new features like NewBlue Color Fixer and proDAD Mercalli SE Stabilization for professional videos.

Ease of Use, Performance: 4/5
Look & Feel: 4/5
Features 5/5
How much I enjoy 4/5

Recommendation: 4/5 Stars

Video Editing with Corel ViedoStudio X6
Corel VideoStudio X6 Ultimate is a fully featured video editing software for movie creation using either a fast and quick Movie Wizard or detailed step by step editing where you can change and add effects, titles, chapters and more. Corel has added a few nice features to their latest edition of editing software that helps video creation and adding some finishing touches as well as making things easier to edit.

Working with Titles Corel VideoStudio X6

New features include Motion Tracking where your view will follow a moving object or objects like titles or thought bubbles can follow a moving object while other new features include several effects filters. One handy filter is NewBlue Color Fixer that allows brightness and color adjustments that are easy to adjust and create your own style to each video segment.

proDAD Mercali SE is also a new filter that helps in image stabilization but this filter will vary on your video in how much stabilizing and smoothing to jerky or jittery action when used but I found it worked well to edit out those jerky smaller movements using a biking action video. I tested this filter with a video where I took an action cam on top of a remote control tank then to a bike and then on top of a car and it did a good job of smoothing out the small jerks and bumps but still obviously being action cam footage.

NewBlue Color Fixer Corel VideoStudio X6

Other new features include support for 4X Ultra HD, customizable motion and stop motion, subtitle editor and customizable random transition effects but the NewBlue and proDAD Mercalli filters are a few of the better new features. VideoStudio includes some older but fantastic features in filters and effects while the Movie Wizard is the easy way to automatically create a movie using a set theme.

Corel VideoStudio X6 works fairly well to automatically create chapters and titles but for better control and more of a personal touch editing and making sure your chapters and effects are where you want them the regular editing works great. You have three modes with Capture, Edit and Share as major themes to your interface with each having separate menus and choices for editing for an easier workflow.

Motion Tracking Corel VideoStudio X6

Effects are easy to use and most of the editing features simply open a smaller window or a menu choice to add and alter effects and are added to clips for better control of each effect. You can render the entire movie and change things later like putting the entire video through another filter or effect which will take more time because rendering does take time depending mostly on your computers specifications.

Corel VideoStudio X6 Ultimate is for Windows computers only and the better your processor and graphics processing power as well as memory the faster your video will be rendered but the program does work on computers with processors as low as 2 GHz. I had no problems with video importing and format acceptance by the program for a variety of formats such as those form cheaper camcorders that use an odd video format that is usually compatible with most software.

Stabilization Effect Corel VideoStudio X6

Corel has done an excellent job with keeping features you need like easy to use automatic movie creation for simple home movies like vacation videos as well as professional videos for websites like mine. Corel VideoStudio has enough new features in Corel VideoStudio X6 with just the stabilization and color filters that it would make a good purchase or upgrade from a previous edition and does have plenty of format and device support to make a fully featured video editing software.

The Pro edition of VideoStudio does not include the NewBlue and stabilization filters but still includes plenty of features and lots of filters and effects for home videos and those vacation movies that cost $80. I highly recommend Corel VideoStudio X6 Ultimate for an excellent and easy to use video editing program that costs $100 and includes all the new effects and filters along with the full suite of video editing features.


Large Selection of Tools and Filters
Two New Tools to correct color and clarity of videos
New Effects Work Easily
Easy Video Editing, Create Full Movies Including Chapters & Titles

No 64 bit support & Windows PC’s Only
Slow Rendering But Not Too Bad

VideoStudio Ultimate X6 @ Corel