I first got Corel Paint Shop Pro and that was good. Just like Photoshop but just a fraction of the price. The only real issue I had with that wasn't with the product at all but more with the lack of information and help. I couldn't find that many good tutorials for using PSP. Then when we got the Mac, I had to go Photoshop because Corel doesn't work with Mac's. So I bought Elements 8 and basically had to relearn what I already knew to do on PSP. I liked Elements. I liked that I could find tons of tutorials and actions for Elements. Then Travis offered me his version of CS3 and how could I resist. I LOVE it. There is so much I can do, and best of all I can do a little research via tutorials/books and get step-by-step instructions to do just about anything I can imagine!
These are older pictures (6-9 months ago) but I have been going through all my pictures and trying to get rid of the ones I won't do anything with. I take tons and I'm trying to weed em out now. It's so much easier when they're pictures of someone else's kid, but when it's mine I just can hardly bare to part with any of them... So I found a pocket of old pics that I've never done anything with and perhaps didn't feel inspired by them at the time but learning more of the tricks and tips in PhotoShop and now having CS3 available, I've reopened some and I LOVE them. Good thing I didn't get rid of them back when I should have. Here are my before/afters.
For those just learning and maybe feeling helpless in Photoshop (ahh-hemm Malia), have you discovered "actions?" There are tons of downloadable actions (some free and some for $$) that you can load into photoshop and it does effects for you. You may want to do some minor tweaking but you don't have to mess around with all the steps! Here are some free action downloads that I've found and like: