Photoshop Elements 8 review

It’s been a couple of years since Adobe released Photoshop Elements 6 for the Mac, and we missed out on version 7, which was released for Windows last year. That means that Photoshop Elements 8 for the Mac is a pretty big upgrade as it’s catching up on photo-editing features that were in version 7 for Windows as well as adding the new version 8 features too.

We were, therefore, eager to load up the latest version and take a look at its many new features. Before we could do that, we encountered a small obstacle during the initial installation process. As well as installing Photoshop Elements itself, the installer program also asks if you want to install a number of other optional items, such as the ‘ExtendScript ToolKit’ and ‘Extension Manager’. We couldn’t find any information about these items in the Getting Started manual, or in the worryingly long list of troubleshooting tips contained in the ‘Read Me’ file on the disc, so it would help if Adobe provided clearer instructions here to help people get started.

Our only other complaint about this upgrade was that it felt a little sluggish running on an old 1.8GHz MacBook. We’d recommend a 2GHz processor or faster if you’re going to be doing a lot of editing work.

Three elements

Fortunately, once installed, Photoshop Elements works well and its new editing features are both powerful and easy to use. There are three editing modes available and all three get some useful new features in this upgrade.

The Guided mode provides step-by-step help for beginners. It now includes a number of options that make it easy to create artistic effects, such as making a photo look like a hand-drawn sketch or an old-fashioned sepia photo. The PhotoMerge option that was available in previous versions has also been enhanced. It now allows you to modify photos in two new ways. If your holiday snaps have been spoiled by people wandering in or out of the shot, you can merge multiple photos of the same scene to create a composite photo that contains just the image you want. You can also merge lighting settings by combining darker and lighter versions of the same shot to produce a final shot with just the right light levels.

Quick Fix mode works in much the same way as before, providing simple slider controls for adjusting lighting and colour settings. However, it now includes an improved preview option that displays multiple thumbnail previews showing the effects of different settings. You can view a specific setting simply by hovering the mouse over one of the previews, and then fine-tune the settings even further by clicking on the preview and just nudging the mouse to make small adjustments.

As soon as you move the mouse away from the preview panel the original photo reverts back to normal. This means you can quickly skim through several preview settings to see which ones work best before finally clicking the OK button to apply the settings you want.

Full Edit mode is where Photoshop Elements is at its most powerful, displaying the program’s full array of editing tools. The most impressive addition here is the Smart Brush, which can simultaneously select part of an image and apply a range of effects to the selected area.

When you choose the Smart Brush tool you’ll see a small palette containing a number of predefined effects that you can pick, such as ‘Blue Sky’ or ‘White Teeth’.

If you select Blue Sky you can apply the brush to the sky within a photo, and the brush will automatically isolate just the sky area and enhance the blue levels to make the sky look better. Similarly, the White Teeth brush will allow you to make someone’s teeth look whiter in a portrait.

There’s a variety of Smart Brush options, ranging from eye-catching special effects to brushes designed for portrait or landscape photography. They make it easy to dramatically enhance a photo in just a few seconds. The Smart Brush is also non-destructive, which means you can go back and undo or alter the Smart Brush effects at any time, without losing the original image.

OUR VERDICT

Many people will be happy to stick with iPhoto for organising their photos and making simple edits and adjustments. However, keen photographers who want more creative power and editing control will find that Photoshop Elements 8 provides an impressive range of editing tools at a very attractive price.

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