Photo Explosion Deluxe, as its name implies, is a digital photo-editing program. The program, created by the Ulead Company, but published, under license, by the Nova Development Company contains all the tools you need to edit a digital image. The program can be bought through Nova Development's web site, Best Buy, or CompUSA for $49.95, though I did notice that some boxes had a $20 mail-in rebate sticker from Nova Development. You can contact Nova Development for free technical support through the Web or by phone; you just pay for the long distance call.
To run Photo Explosion, you’ll need a computer with a Pentium 166 of faster microprocessor, Windows 95,98, NT, 2000, Me or XP, with 32 MB RAM, a CR-ROM drive and you MUST have Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher installed. During setup, you are given two choices for installation, TYPICAL at 410MB, (recommended), or FULL at 900MB. With the included bonus software, you can create CD slide shows that you can watch on TV using a DVD player, transform a series of photo’s into a 360 degree wide-angle or panorama view, or create slide shows for your Palm or Pocket PDA’s.
I selected the FULL installation and experienced no problem with the installation. It does not automatically create a shortcut, or have a “create shortcut” option, so once you have installed the program, you must create your own shortcut. Once opened, you select between three modes, BROWSE, PHOTO, or PROJECT. You select the mode depending on what you need to do. Each mode has two panels, an OPTIONS panel, on the left, and a WORKSPACE panel, on the right. The OPTIONS panel displays all the different possibilities and settings available for any given function, while the WORKSPACE shows the current photo. All the active photo’s and projects appear at the bottom of the WORKSPACE in a Thumbnail Strip. To put photos in the strip either double click the photo or drag the photo to the strip. Once a photo is in the strip you can view it by double clicking it’s thumbnail. To remove the photo, right click and select close. Each mode also has it’s own toolbar with shortcuts for many of the functions available for that mode.
You use BROWSE mode to store, organize, or otherwise view photos. There is a folder tree in the OPTIONS panel and, after selecting a folder; the multimedia files within are displayed as a thumbnail. (insert PhotoX1 here) By selecting BATCH ADJUST, you can enhance, rotate or convert the photo’s into one of 16 different formats. All of these adjustments are automatically applied and there are no settings for you to adjust. (To apply adjustable settings, you must be in PHOTO mode.) ENHANCE will allow you to straighten, crop, adjust brightness and contrast, adjust hue and saturation, or adjust the focus. ROTATE allows you to rotate either 90 degrees to the left or right and flip either horizontally or vertically. Note: if you have Windows XP, you have most of these organizing and viewing options already available.
Here’s the meat and potatoes of the program. PHOTO MODE allows you to fix, enhance, edit and transform your digital photo. You can select a photo to edit by either double clicking on it while in BROWSE MODE or by using the “GET PHOTO” option. Once a photo is selected, it becomes your base image and you can apply global changes to the image or select specific areas to adjust using the EDIT tool. Within EDIT, you have six options to make adjustments to your photo. Many of the adjustments have easy to use preset effect thumbnails. These thumbnails display several quick examples of how the adjustment will modify the active image. (insert PhotoX2 here) Don’t like the new effect? Just select another or click on the UNDO button and the image reverts back to the previous image. You can UNDO the last 10 changes. Here is also where you can remove the infamous “red eye” problem. Also if you ever wondered what you would look like with blue eyes, no problem, you can even change your eye color to whatever color you want.
The editing tool SELECTION lets you modify parts of an image while leaving the base image intact. There are four styles available, SHAPE, TRACE, COLOR, or SMARTSELECT. Depending on which style you selected, use your mouse to trace the area you want selected. (This feature would work a whole lot better if you had a graphics table instead of the mouse.) The outlined area is now a “layer” that you can drag to another part of the photo or drag to the thumbnail strip to use in other photos. After creating the layer you can apply the same effects to it as you could with any photo (i.e. size, color, rotation. etc.). It then becomes a layer on top of the base photo. This layer is completely independent from the base photo and can be moved anywhere on the photo and you can have other layers placed in front of or behind it, depending on the effect you need. You can also set the order in which the multiple layers appear. Think of it as having several photos on top of each other, but you can see through the top photos to the bottom or base photo.
After adjusting the color, cropping, or adding objects to a photo, you next might want to add some text. You have several options within TEXT to choose from. You can choose from dozens of fonts and text color, you can add shadows; you can curve the text, and with special effects, even make the text look like glass, neon, fire, or snow. After adding text you can resize, rotate, slant, change the perspective, or distort the text using the TRANSFORM tool. This tool is fun and easy to play with. Repairing an old photo is a standard of any photo-editing program. This one is no exception using the PAINT option. If you make a mistake, don’t worry; there is an ERASER available. Changing the look of your photo can be accomplished using one of the EFFECT options. Using the EFFECT option lets you make the photo look like it is printed on fabric, look like it is an oil or watercolor painting, or even look like a pencil or charcoal drawing. The final option for editing your photo is DECORATE. With this option you can add a frame to your photo, or several types of edges around the photo. There are several edge shapes available, and all give you the ability to added color or text to the edge. A nice feature within DECORATE is the SIGNATURE option. With this option, you can actually create hand-written text to your photo. Again, this would be easier using a graphics table, but with a lot of practice you could get pretty darn close.
In Photo Explosion Deluxe, the project mode is where you create custom greeting cards, name cards, business cards, invitations, or certificates from scratch or from ready-to-use templates. The templates are fully customizable, so you can personalize them to meet your needs. Most templates come with text already on it, but that text is replaceable. Just click on a line of text and you can replace the text, change the font, move it, rotate it, even enlarge or decrease the size. Also, nearly all templates have a layer where you can place a photo in it. Even the background image of the template can be changed. A great feature in PROJECT MODE is the fact that you can even create your own stationary. (insert PhotoX3 here) Letterhead, envelopes, and labels can be created with an image to reflect your company or business, however, no text.
After finishing your photo or project, what do you do now? Why, you need to save it or print it. This is accomplished with the PRINT or SHARE options. The options for printing include NORMAL, single photo on a sheet of paper, TILED, single photo in up to 30 rows and 30 columns per page, POSTER: prints sections of the photo on different sheets of paper, which you then tape together top make a poster, T-SHIRT, reverses the photo to print on a T-shirt transfer, or MULTIPLE. After selecting two or more photo’s, each photo is repeated multiple times per page, depending on the template selected. (insert PhotoX4 here) If you selected only one photo though, that photo will be repeated across the page. There are over 100 templates available in which to print multiple photos. While in BROSWE MODE you can have a thumbnail print of all photos in that folder. Note: if you have Windows XP, you have a lot of these printing options already available.
After adjusting, editing, adding text, adding special effects and saving your work, you can now use those photo’s to post to the Web. Each WEB menu has several ready-made templates to do this. WEB PAGE is used to create a single photo Web page, WEB ALBUM is an electronic photo album that you can send by Email or post to the Web, WEB CARD is a multimedia card (image, and sound), that you can Email or post to the Web, and WEB SHOW creates an online Web slide show from selected photo’s from your folders.
While the features are easy to use, the old adage still applies: Practice, Practice, Practice. My first attempt to edit a photo took a lot of time and when finished, it looked as if I cut two photos apart and used pits and pieces from both to make a single photo. While this is the purpose of this program, the different image qualities of the photos I used, made it more than just a simple cut and paste procedure. If you are combining two or more pictures into a single photo, image quality is very, very important. Let me restate that; image quality is very, very important. Imagine taking a black & white photo of people, a color photo of a mountain, and putting the people into the mountain photo. It will be nice, but you can see that the people just don’t belong in that photo. You will need to make changes and adjustments to ensure a quality product at the end. I do think this is a very good program for the armature photo enthusiast. It is easy to use and with all the different options available, you can spend hours trying “what if” scenarios. This program is well worth the money and should be included as part of any photo enthusiast’s computer programs.