Photoshop Elements 8 , by Adobe

Posted: 25-May-2012

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice Vendor: Adobe Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Hank Simon Class: PRODUCTIVITY

Overview

Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 is the most recent release of the Elements photo editing for the Macintosh. Photoshop is the Lexus of image-editing systems for serious photographers and related professionals. It is expensive and difficult to learn. Elements is the cheaper, easier to learn Camry of photo-editing for the everyman. In the same way that both a Lexus and a Camry will get you where you want to go, Photoshop Elements has many of the same functions as Photoshop. It is not a toy system, but a full function, photo-editing application.

I look at Elements as being a subset of the commercial-strength Photoshop reduced for home and Web use. Elements is not designed for commercial color printing, it doesn't have Selective Color or vector paths, and both the layers and other tools have fewer options than Photoshop does. For the majority of non-professionals, Elements should be more than enough for typical photo-editing tasks.

Features

  • Organizing- Adobe Bridge on a Mac to sort, find, tag, and catalog your photos
  • Viewing Options- Zoom any size from thumbnail upward, side-by-side, slideshow and others
  • Size Options- Increase the size of the entire photo or individual components
  • Selection Tools- Variety of selection methods, styles, with shapes, brushes and ad hoc wizards
  • Selection Manipulations- Tweak, add, subtract, and inverse abilities, also tools capabilities are interchangeable: you can start with one tool, then tweak using another
  • Painting, Drawing, and Adjustment Color Tools- Full array of palettes, wizards, magic wand capabilities, and drawing tools
  • Red-Eye Correction- Red-Eye Tool provides automatic, one-click, and detailed correction capabilities
  • Layers- Separate selections and objects edit combinations into associated layers for simplified manipulation and editing
  • Photomerge- combine multiple images, move people or objects in and out of pictures, change the background
  • Filters- Many filters, which can be previewed, applied multiple times, and combined
  • Manipulating Type- Full range of fonts, colors, styles, and arrangements
  • Image Formats- RAW, GIF, JPG, TIFF, PNG, PICT, PDF, BMP, Photoshop, etc.
  • Tag photos- Using People Recognition or by geographical location
  • Publishing Projects- Share photos via print, postcards, calendars, greeting cards, and photo books. Upload and save images to the Web and to Photoshop.com
  • Extension Help- Video Tutorials provides step-by-step help

And many more features - one How-to book had a table of contents that had 10 pages of features.

http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshopelmac/

Requirements

  • Multicore Intel Processor
  • Mac OS X v10.4.11 or higher
  • 512 MB RAM (1GB recommended)
  • 1GB available Hard drive space
  • 1024 x 768 resolution display
  • DVD-ROM Drive
  • Quicktime 7 software for multimedia features
  • Internet Connection for Internet services

Test Machine(s)

  • iMac 24" 2.8 GHz Intel Dual Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM
  • Max OS X10.6.2

Price

  • $79 (Company discount, and $20 Rebate coupons may be available)

Installation

Photoshop Elements 8 installs with the conventional Macintosh installer and process. It was fairly quick and there were no problems or glitches.

Interface

The Photo-editing interface is full screen with tools, layers window, and history window visible. The tools menu is on the left, a context sensitive toolbar is on the top under the menu bar, the large main editing window is in the middle with the Layers window and Editing History window on the right.

Photoshop Elements 8 Interface

Speed and Stability

I am still a novice with Elements, but the processing-heavy healing tools were quick and near-real time on my test machine. I could see the processing, but for only a split second. Even with a couple of browsers running multiple tabs, Mail, Preview, and MS Word running, Elements was stable and ran flawlessly. At my current level of learning, I was happy with its responsiveness.

Powerful Features

Photoshop Elements 8 is a tremendously powerful environment that I have not explored fully, and I probably will never get the time to explore it adequately. However, there are some important features that help understand the versatility of Elements. These include: Layers, RAW editing, Healing, Clone, Red-Eye, and Help.

Layers is the capability in the Photoshop family to separate and individually modify components and editing operations. Separating and editing the main component of the photo, as well as the sky, the background, and the foreground is an easy concept to grasp. The selection techniques to accomplish this are a little more advanced, but the concept is clear. What is more advanced is the ability to separate the different editing operations into their own layer to selectively (or repetitively) apply to other layers or even other photos. I am still only a novice with layers.

RAW format editing is just one of the many editing formats that Elements supports. I have an older camera that does not support RAW format, but it offers an additional level of editing control. Most other format may compress the photo, losing information. But RAW contains ALL of the information that the camera. One thing that this means is that areas in shadow can be more easily recovered. And, an overexposed photo can be tweaked with a few steps to create the perfect exposure. Full resolution and hidden details are accessible from RAW format.

Healing and Clone are some of my favorite tools. I used these tools extensive in the pictures of my dog. To hide larger areas, such as his tags, I'd use the Clone tool, then smooth over with the Healing tools. The nice thing about the Spot Healing tool is that you can center a blemish or area to blend within the selection circle, and the Spot Healing tool will automagically blend it with the surroundings. On my 24" iMac, I could watch the sub-second calculation, so it wasn't instantaneous, but it occurred faster than I could react. Sometimes, when I was too close to his dark lips, while trying to heal areas of light fur, the Tool would pick up the dark area. But a simple Undo fixed that error, allowing me to do a Mulligan. In the Smile picture, you can see how I cloned a lot of area around the rug, then used to Spot Healing to blend the rough spots in just a few minutes. I feel that the tool is so good, that it looks like I took two different photographs. And, I still have a long way to go up the learning curve.

Red Eye Correction is available with many cameras and in some editing software. My camera does not have this feature, and I did not explore it with Elements, because Red Eye correction requires "red" and most animals reflect yellow or green due to lighting, so Red-Eye correction doesn't work. However, the feature has many levels of control from automatic, to semi-automatic, to fully manual. All levels appear to be easy to learn and understand. However, they gave unexpected results, when I applied them to the "yellow-eye" of my dog, before reading the Help examples.

Help function and video tutorials are extensive. Although Elements is powerful and complex, the Help function and video tutorials have everything you need to learn the software. If you know what tools you want or you know what you want to do (in terms of using the tools), then the Help and videos are good. But, if you need a little more help even knowing where to start, in terms of photo-editing, and how to increase your skills, then it is very easy to become overwhelmed.

I felt like I was trying to read an encyclopedia to learn to speak English. I think I also would like a 30-day hand held course (or a book, Learn Elements in 30-days ?) to start me with the basics across the board, then incrementally add more advanced features. Many of the books that I read offer that in some form or another, but usually by tool or software function, rather than general growth in photo-editing from the Elements perspective.

Basics

I have to admit that I prefer to use iPhoto for storing my photos, and I have other ways of sharing, so my main focus on Elements was its photo-editing capability. From that perspective, I approached Elements in three steps: Novice Level work with immediate capabilities, Beginner Level advanced editing with a little experience, Intermediate Level exploration of expert-level tools. I am not yet at expert level.

Novice Level

Out of the box, I worked on a cell phone photo of a buck, first, using the magic wand and brush tools to add some color, somewhat inartistically.

Original Cell Phone Photo of a Buck

First attempt at modifying the cell phone photo

Beginner Level

I read some of the books and looked at some videos to better understand the selection tools and color adjustment. And, I'm beginning to explore layers, which is a powerful tool in Photoshop for separating and independently manipulating components within a photo without affecting other components. At this point, I still don't have the hang for adjusting the colors, but I can improve the sharpness of the buck in the second photo.

Also, I cropped the original picture of my dog Shep, adjusting the color, then used the clone and healing tools to remove the tags and collar. I'm sure that I can continue tweaking, but I like these results.

Second modification of the buck photo. The color is not good, and the buck is fuzzy

Third modification of the buck photo with improved color (still not adequate), and a sharper buck

Original picture of Shep

Crop the picture, adjust the color, then remove the tags and collar using the clone and healing tools

Intermediate Level

I used layers to create this 4th photo of the buck. I still have a lot of tweaking, but I am happy with the direction of improvements. The next photo is Shep smiling. I wanted to edit it to focus on his smile, so in the last photo I cropped it, rotated it, then used the clone and healing tools to eliminate the added features. Finally, I used layers to modify his eyes. Because the red-eye correction only works on "red eyes," I chose to do a cut and paste from another picture. The eyes are a little off, but the smile is near sparkling. And, with lots more tweaking, I believe that I could make them sparkle!

Fourth edit of the buck photo, using layers

Shep Smiling, Original

Edited Shep smile picture

Summary

Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 is an excellent value for the non-commercial photographer, providing tools and capabilities that support the major photo-editing needs, as well as storage and sharing functions. Although some capabilities are easy to grasp out of the box, Elements requires practice and dedication to use effectively. It is complicated and not easy to learn all functions without tutorials and 3rd party manuals. If you want to dig into advanced photo-editing, with minimal cost, Elements is a great tool. If you just want to dabble, there are other photo-editing tools available that are much easier to use, including iPhoto. But they don't have the range and the power that I've illustrated in this review. And, if all you want is something that has a few more functions than iPhoto, I recommend looking elsewhere, because trying to learn Elements quickly is frustrating. It takes persistence and dedication. It has taken me a month of exploration, and I only understand the basics.

However, if you want to be able to make realistic color modifications and add interesting effects, as well as merge the best components from multiple photographs, then I recommend that you invest in a copy of Photoshop Elements. Buy some manuals, and be prepared to spend many weeks to months experimenting and learning so that you can achieve the desired level of expertise.

Pros

  • Excellent tool for storing, editing, and sharing photos
  • Most of the function of Photoshop at small fraction of the cost
  • Simple tools for photo repair
  • Powerful tools can be learned, incrementally, from novice to expert level
  • Much more affordable than Photoshop

Cons

  • Very Steep Learning curve for the novice
  • Obscure to use as a first photo-editing tool
  • No manual for guidance
  • Complexity makes learning painful, even with good manuals
  • Not much easier to use than full Photoshop

Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice