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I recently got my hands on a version of Corel’s new PaintShop ProX4 photo-editing software to evaluate. At first glance, it struck me how similar it is to Adobe’s Lightroom package. Like Lightroom, PaintShop is designed specifically for photographers and as such tackles their everyday workflow problems in an intuitive way.

It’s easy to use, has a neat desktop and is very good at importing and organising your photos. It’s also packed with some really nifty features that will dramatically improve your digital editing.

New in this version (available only for PC) is a suite of tools enabling you to merge multiple photographs of the same scene, which means easy HDR (high dynamic range) creations.

Possibly more interesting, however, is the ability to swap or remove elements from a shot – for example, you can remove a car from a street scene or select the best moments from a series of bracketed photographs of a group of people.

As you’d expect, there are also a number of easy-to-use creative tools; my personal favourite is the selective-focus tool, which is particularly useful if you shoot with a compact camera. One of the main challenges of compact cameras is their inability to limit depth of field (because of their small sensors), making it hard to creatively emphasise subjects by blurring out distracting backand foregrounds. The PaintShop ProX4 selective-focus effect now makes this a synch.

Another feature I enjoyed is the ability to share your photographs to sites such as Facebook and Flikr quickly and easily.

Corel has cleverly targeted entry-level photographers with a package that is loaded with great features at a very enticing price (in the region of R723). It’s slightly cheaper than Adobe’s simplified version of Photoshop – Elements, which usually retails at about R1 100. Compared to Lightroom, which costs in the region of R3 500, it’s a steal.

If there’s one major drawback it’s that many photography outlets have been slow to adopt PaintShop, so you may have to search around for it. I found it online at www.corel.com/za.

5 other photo editing software packages worth considering

Adobe Lightroom
Widely considered by serious amateurs and pros alike as the industry benchmark for organising your photos as well as simple processing. Lightroom is user friendly and powerful. R3 500.

iPhoto (Apple Mac)
Mac owners should seriously consider iPhoto. This makes organising your photos quick and easy, while providing some relatively powerful processing tools. Free.

Windows Live Photo Gallery (PC)
Photo Gallery allows you to import photos, organise and edit your work. Free with Windows 7.

Google Picasa
Aimed at ordinary folk who want to organise, edit and share their photos (especially on Google+). It’s free and relatively powerful, so well worth considering if you’re just starting out.

Adobe Photoshop Elements
Elements is probably the most powerful in this list at adjusting images, but it’s not as good as Lightroom or Paintshop ProX4 at organising your image library. From R1 100.

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