Photoshop is the gold standard for image enhancement, but for many photographers, it’s overkill. Adobe’s Photoshop Elements, now up to version 8, focuses on the best tools Photoshop has for typical adjustments and distills them into simple steps for improving your photos quickly, with a gentler learning curve than Photoshop.
Recently released for both Mac and Windows, Photoshop Elements 8 improves on many of the classic tools and adds quite a few new ones that make the whole experience of postprocessing digital photos fast and fun.
Reflecting the times, the updated Organizer panel in the Windows version now offers media management of video clips, as well as photos. The Mac version doesn’t include the Organizer found in the Windows version. Instead, it comes bundled with Bridge CS4, which also has video compatibility and many of the same keywording and tagging organizational functions that the Elements 8 Organizer has.
Elements 8 also includes multiple ways to share images and videos, such as online web galleries, and now features the ability to sync your media across multiple computers—a helpful feature for multicomputer households and small businesses. Learning has never been simpler, either, with Guided Edits that walk users through many of the new features. Here, we’ll look at some of the key updates in both versions of the program that have made Elements 8 so successful at finding a comfortable balance between complex image processing and intuitive operation for which the software is known.
For photographers with hundreds and even thousands of photos, it’s important to keep images organized, and the Elements Organizer Panel does just this. Though it would seem like Adobe has skimped on a major part of the Elements 8 software for Mac users, Bridge CS4 is a great training ground for photographers interested in upgrading eventually to the more sophisticated capabilities of Photoshop CS4.
For Windows, the Elements 8 Organizer has been included with Adobe Premiere Elements 8, as well, which means that users now can keep their photos and their videos in the same place. This also means that videos can be tagged, and in fact, Elements 8 offers the Auto-Analyzer for intuitive and automatic tagging of photos and videos using Smart Tags such as In Focus, Faces, Blurred, Multiple Objects, No Objects and other classifications that the software is able to intuit by examining photos. Auto-Analyzer runs in the background while you work to learn about and interpret media, defining your image library and filtering images into organizational categories.
One of the key features of Auto-Analyzer is People Recognition, a new feature that uses sophisticated algorithms to learn gradually the identity of faces that frequently pop up in your imagery. The mode begins by asking you to note the face or faces in an image as they’re imported. Once names are added, Elements 8 begins to suggest them as possibilities for similar faces in other photographs, asking you for confirmation until eventually it’s able to automatically keyword faces with a high degree of accuracy. People Recognition makes organizing your photos super-quick, but the real benefit is for users with extensive back catalogs of images. People Recognition will go back into older photos and libraries that have been imported and will suggest names to the faces in those, as well. People Recognition works only for photos, though. There’s no video compatibility.
Elements 8 also includes a variety of enhancements aimed at keeping your library easily navigable, with a streamlined interface for keeping your media convenient. You can drop photos into albums while previewing in full-screen mode. Keyword tags can be added easily and applied to photos not only through typing, but also through a new Tag Cloud, which references frequently used tags and sizes them by incidence. Full-Screen Quick Edit. Numerous refinements to Elements 8 make image editing quicker and more efficient. Elements has had full-screen image viewing before, and it now can be used for video, as well. In this version, however, Adobe also has added a Quick Edit panel to full-screen viewing with one-click fixes, like rotation of an image, auto color adjustments, auto levels, auto contrast, red-eye fixing, auto tonal-range adjustment and more.
Photomerge Exposure. In previous Photoshop Elements versions, there were a few different Photomerge modes for combining groups of images into one perfect shot, like Photomerge Group Shot for combining shots with more than one person and Photomerge Scene Cleaner for removing distracting background objects. In Elements 8, the new Photomerge Exposure tool quickly and automatically combines multiple exposures of a scene into one perfect exposure. By using a flash in an image, for instance, the foreground and any close-up subjects will be well illuminated, but the background will be woefully underexposed. If you meter a long exposure for the background, especially in a darker scene, then the foreground subject often will be incorrectly exposed. By taking the two images, analyzing the points present in both images and then aligning them, Photomerge Exposure combines the exposures into one image with optimum range from shadows to highlights. Photomerge Exposure works with up to 10 images, and there are controls and tools for tweaking the scene for perfection.
Recompose Photo. The Recompose Photo feature inherits a hand-me-down from Photoshop CS4’s Content-Aware Scale feature. Photos can be resized automatically without distortion to the main subjects. Backgrounds can be squeezed together or stretched while your designated subjects stay the same size, and subjects with space in between them can be pushed together or farther apart. A group shot with a lone individual on the side, for instance, can be fixed and cropped into one image while also subtracting distracting negative space. The Protect Tool and Remove Brush are used to paint in the areas of your photo that you’d like untouched or removed.
Need to adjust color and tonality in one part of the image without affecting the rest? Photoshop Elements 8 makes it easy to quickly create selections and adjust lighting, color and more with simple slider controls.
Elements 8 also includes new ideas for sharing images. In the Share Tab, there are a lot of presets for outputting images, including e-mail attachments, CD and DVD burning, optimization for mobile devices and phones and, of course, online via preset albums on Photoshop.com or even to other websites through the Export to FTP option. There are quite a few new and fast templates in which photos and videos can be saved, with transitions and effects, including Fade In/Out, Pan and Zoom, and 3D Pixelate.
The program includes 2 GB of ar
chi-val online storage, and if that’s not enough, Elements 8 Plus (only available for Windows) extends that number to 20 GB for an annual fee of $49. Elements 8 Plus also includes regularly released tutorials and seasonal-themed artwork and templates for fun customization of your images during the holidays.
Photoshop Elements 8 is available for both Mac and Windows at a list price of $99. A Windows bundle of Photoshop Elements 8 and Premiere Elements 8 for video editing is available at $149. Elements 8 purchasers can choose to upgrade at any time to Elements 8 Plus for the $49 annual fee. Contact: Adobe, (800) 833-6687, www.adobe.com.