The Ultimate Digital Photography Review

Francis Vale


You've got a great camera, you've got a great photo-printer, and you've got a great monitor, so now all that's left to give you a perfect photo finish is some great photo editing software. We'll have a look at two products in this Ultimate Digital Photography review. One is ULead's PhotoImpact 10 for MS Windows that has an MSRP of $89.99. The other product is Adobe's PhotoShop Elements 3.0 that runs on both Windows and MacOS X, and has an MSRP of $89.99 for Macintosh and $99 for Windows.  (Yet one more good reason to switch to a Mac.) Ulead offers a free trial download of PhotoImpact 10, and Adobe also offers a free download of Photoshop Elements (V2.0, at the time of this writing.) You might say they both want your business. So which one gets the nod?

Both of these are great products. But one of the major differences between Photoshop Elements 3.0 and the Ulead offering is that PhotoImpact 10's wonderfulness is buried behind a needlessly complex interface and bound up in several different Ulead programs. You can hide the various palettes and add more icons to simplify matters in PhotoImpact 10, as well as use the various Ulead programs as needed, but why should you have to do this when all that is required is some deep thinking by Ulead about seamless program integration and better user interface design?


With that big grump out of the way, it must also be said there are many desirable goodies and features in PhotoImpact 10. The product package also includes ULead's Photo Explorer 8.5, an image management and album creation program that features a photo touchup and edit program. There is an autofix feature in Photo Explorer, as well as a red eye removal tool, and even a tool to remove lens distortion. There is also an adjust image option that lets you crop, adjust hues, compensate for lens distortion, adjust focus, tone, etc., and even a histogram tool. In other words, you can do a lot of the picture editing fundamentals in Photo Explorer 8.5, and unlike PhotoImpact 10, its interface is easy and accessible. Think of Photo Explorer 8.5 as a simplified subset of PhotoImpact 10 and you get the product idea. And if all you want to do is manage your photos and albums then the additionally included PhotoImpact Album 10 software will do the job quite nicely. But you will have to jump back and forth between three different Ulead programs to do all this, which is a real pain in the ass.

Then there is the PhotoImpact 10 program itself. You can open PhotoImpact 10 standalone or from within Photo Explorer, and also while working on the same picture. PhotoImpact 10 has all of the same tools as Photo Explorer 8.5, but its bells and whistles feature list goes way, way up. For example, how about superimposing a fireworks display on your picture, and then have the fireworks display become an animated GIF? You even have a choice of fireworks types.  Not cool enough? How about adding some animated lightning strikes to that eye-popping fireworks display? And don't forget to drop a picture frame graphic around this whole pulsing, buzzing over the top photo spectacular.

You can easily do all of these wonderfully nutso things, and hundreds more such creative tasks with PhotoImpact 10, which also has added 17 new painting and artistic effects like emboss, crystal and glass, cartoon, to an already extensive list. Plus, when you buy the boxed version, you get 2,000 stock images and 1,000 Hemera stock photos to play with. Once you are done with your photo epic, you can use Photo Explorer to e-mail it to friends, burn it to disk, make Web thumbnails and slideshows, and make calendars.

Presuming you are not buzzed out of your gourd when you sit down to use PhotoImpact 10, you may want to do more sober photo editing stuff, like using the program's unique and enhanced High Dynamic Range (HDR) Engine that allows even casual photographers to combine multiple exposures of the same scene, i.e., bracketing For example, you can take several exposures, such as an overexposed image and an underexposed image and combine the two for a correctly exposed image using HDR. This unique feature also lets users create photos under a wider range of conditions by painting out unwanted elements from individual photos like drunk guests staggering through the wedding party picture, or eliminate moving cars or even wind effects, such as the one that blew your toupee off as the picture was being snapped.

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