Photo editing software tends to fall into two categories; either detailed and complex programs for serious photographers and professional graphic artists, or fun and frothy means of enhancing family photo albums by using lots of effects and repackaging the images on calendars and T-shirts, etc.
Avanquest’s Photo Explosion Deluxe 4.0 attempts to steer a middle path between these alternatives by offering extensive editing facilities alongside a huge collection of playful packages, all for less than £40. Photoshop users need not feel threatened as the editing section is on a par with Paint Shop Photo Pro and newcomers shouldn’t be daunted by the size of the manual (nearly 400 pages) as the emphasis is squarely on providing clear and simple instructions; there are additional tutorials both in the Help menus and online.
What you do notice at the install stage, though, is that the Photo Explosion functions are split into three separate sections, so you’ll constantly be flitting between Photo Explosion Album (which sorts your collection into categories and tags them), Photo Explosion Image Editor (which manipulates the pictures) and Photo Explosion Project Studio (which produces the likes of calendars, postcards and scrapbooks).
The Deluxe part of the package is further divided into four. FantaMorph lets you transform (morph) one photo into another in real time, while MemoriesOnTV creates slideshows complete with background music which you can play back on TV. PanoramaPlus does what it says on the label and stitches together photos or videos in widescreen panoramas, and MontagePlus builds a composite photo out of a series of thumbnails.
If you’re already familiar with Photo Explosion you’ll be pleased to hear there are more than 200 new features, including the Quick Fix Studio which provides rapid adjustments to contrast, lighting, colour, focus and red-eye. In addition, the Makeover Studio makes you look more glamorous by smoothing skin, brightening eyes and teeth, removing blemishes and dark circles under the eyes and even adding fake tan (although we found the latter appeared streaky, like ‘real’ fake tan!).
If that wasn’t enough, you can redo your photos in various artistic styles and when you’re happy with the finished result, upload your photos and videos directly to Facebook, YouTube and Flickr. A new Extract tool enables you to cut out figures from one photo and then paste them into another, and calendar and scrapbook makers will rejoice that there are over 4,000 new project templates to choose from. However, some regular users of Photo Explosion 3 will be disappointed that the number of photo frames has been drastically reduced to 36, and editing functions can often be frustratingly lengthy.
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