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APP REVIEW: PHOTOSHOP EXPRESS

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Photoshop... a word so deeply intertwined with photo manipulation, it's become a verb describing the action of taking someone's face and slapping it onto the body of an Animal, a Sumo Wrestler, or Boba Fett. Sure, there's several different programs that offer similar features, but none have the same brand recognition and loyalty that Adobe commands with Photoshop. (Probably has something to do with the fact that "Photoshopped" rolls of your tongue a lot smoother than "Paint-Shop-Pro'd")

Adobe takes some of the more popular features from Photoshop and condenses them into an easy to use format with PS Express. Much like Photos and Tadaa, PS Express focuses on the ability to improve upon photos taken with your iPhone.

You begin with uploading the photograph you'd like to enhance. You can take a picture to modify, upload one from your camera roll, or if you have an Adobe Revel account (cloud server) you can pull an image from there.

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For this review I'm going to use an adorable photograph of my fuzzy little yorkie, Nikita, that I snapped with my iPhone a few months ago.

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As you can see, the overall image looks a bit grey while Nikki's features are dark and hard to distinguish. One aspect that seemed to be more prominent in PS Express than the other apps I've reviewed so far is that although a free app, PS Express offers "Premium" features at a cost.

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How much? I'm not sure exactly, they're just branded with a dollar sign in the top right hand corner. After selecting a Premium Look filter and clicking on the cart icon, I thought it would itemize the cost of the filter. Nope, just a prompt informing me that I would have to purchase a Premium Looks Pack. (Yuck.)

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This turned me off a bit. Part of me wanted to explore further and see how much these Premium Looks would cost, but I was worried that I would accidentally insta-purchase some unnecessary effects for more money than I'd like to spend (in this case: $0). If I may rant for a bit, this seems to be a recurring issue with freemium apps these days. They're like the lazy friend who only comes out of hiding when they need something. They call you up, ask you to hang out, feign interest, and then when you guys meet... BOOM, they hit you up for cash.

After this, I decided to stick to the basics and only work with what was offered for free. Panhandling aside, PS Express seems to combine the best of both when compared to Photos/Tadaa in terms of photo editing, with similar easy to use tools.

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Although some of the names are slightly different, all the standard image editing tools are there: Cropping, Filters, Color Levels, Red-Eye Removal, & Frames.

I noticed that some of these tools have an Auto feature in addition to the sliding control. I usually start out by selecting auto. If i'm unsatisfied with the auto-effect, I just turn it off and try my hand at adjusting the same effect with the sliding control. It should be noted that certain sliders feature a handy numerical value display when adjusting your image.

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Since I'm the type of person that likes to scribble down little notes when playing with a picture in Photoshop (such as writing down the values of colors and effects when adjusting both), I found the number display to be a novel addition.

One interesting feature that PS Express offers is the ability to order prints of your image at...Walgreens?

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If you're planning to pick up your Grandma's prescription and some Gold Bond at the same time, I guess that's cool. The only caveat is that it seems prints are only limited to the constrained sizes offered with the crop tool, meaning you can only print standard image sizes (4x6, 5x7, 8x10), nothing custom.

Now for the before and after...

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As you can see, I adjusted the exposure and contrast levels of my image so that Nikki's features were more visible, as well as enhancing the vibrancy of the colors. By sharpening the image, I was also able to highlight the detail of her face and hair. The tools featured in PS Express allow you to get a little more crazy than what you see here, but I wanted to make a nice print that I could give to my Mom, so I kept it simple.

Sow how does my final image of Nikita look printed on wood?

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What a little cutie! Given the spectrum of rich colors in Nikki's fur and the light/neutral colors of the background, I selected the Natural Gloss finish for this wood print. This allows the grain of the wood to shine through the background subtly, giving an added layer of depth. The reflective gloss surface harnesses the light, making the darker colors appear to be more vibrant. The combination of the two create a faux holographic effect, which is completely cool with me. ;)

So how does PS Express stack up in terms of form and function?

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While offering a slightly more in-depth approach to adjusting your image, the tools featured in PS Express seemed to be on par with Tadaa. At times I would make mental notes to compare and contrast against both apps, and PS Express felt a bit more constrained out of the two applications. While I was editing my image I found myself longing for a feature similar to Tadaa's masking tool, which would allow me more control over my photo editing. Also, the pay features felt like cheap ploy just to get me to spend my money. The worst part was that the Premium features weren't any more impressive than the ones offered for free.

Granted PS Express allowed me to edit my image to create a wonderful wood print, considering the weight that the name Adobe carries, I was expecting something a little more dynamic.

For more information on Photoshop Express, please visit: http://www.photoshop.com/products/photoshopexpress

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