Whether you need to hide skin blemishes in a portrait quickly or do some serious restoration work on an old photo, the enhanced Spot Healing Brush in Photoshop Elements 9 will sample surrounding pixels intelligently to patch things up fast.
Not every photographer needs all of the image-enhancement tools that Photoshop puts at your disposal. This is precisely why Adobe created its popular Elements program. While retaining many of the core functions found in Photoshop, Elements has an easier, friendlier structure that isn’t as intimidating because there are fewer tools on the surface, but the program still packs plenty of image-editing power. For Mac users, this edition is a hefty upgrade that includes several features found in previous Windows versions. Estimated Street Price: $99 (standard); $139 (plus). Contact: Adobe, (800) 833-6687, www.adobe.com.
For the first time, the enhanced media Organizer is available for both Windows and Mac. All of your photos and video clips can be viewed in one convenient location, and they’re organized automatically by date with related images grouped together based on time or the event where they were taken. The Auto-Analyzer, which first showed up in the Windows version of Elements 8, evaluates and tags images as they’re imported to identify the most interesting and important aspects of an image. The analyzer automatically searches your photo collection and assigns a tag based on qualities such as lighting, focus or contrast.
One of the Organizer’s key technologies is People Recognition, which tags images that contain faces. The program basically learns the identity of faces frequently captured in your images and makes suggestions about who’s in each photo based on notes you made during import. Over time, the program becomes more intelligent and automatically associates specific faces with names. The tags also now visually represent people, places or events, so instead of searching unfamiliar file names, you instantly see every photo you took at your family reunion by clicking its visual tag.
Other ways of searching include keywords such as names, dates and other file information. For finding images taken during a specific day or time period, there’s a Date View tool that can be browsed by day, week, month or year and an intuitive Timeline that allows you to view photos taken over a particular length of time.
Much of what’s new is in the editing portion of the program. The Guided Edits mode basically walks you through how to make basic and artistic adjustments to your images.
There are also options for optimizing portraits using tools like red-eye removal and the enhanced Spot Healing Brush. Already a very capable cloning tool for correcting blemishes and spots, the brush now can remove large unwanted portions of an image. Adapted from Photoshop CS5’s Content-Aware Fill feature, the brush can take out objects such as a telephone pole or tourists in a crowded scene and fill in the background.