Adobe may be more like Apple than we like to admit. They both march to the tune of a different drummer.
Barely a year after bringing the Mac version of Photoshop Elements into near parity with the Windows version, Adobe introduces Elements 9. It’s loaded with point-and-click imaging effects that would once have taken hours in Photoshop to produce. We’ve ragged on Adobe for years to pay attention to Mac users. Elements 9 is Adobe’s answer.
Is Elements Really Just Photoshop Lite?
The answer is yes. And no. Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 (PSE9) is much less expensive than a full version of Photoshop. It also comes with a host of consumer oriented features and functions which remove much of Photoshop’s famed complexity and difficulty.
More capability. Easier to use. Less money.
Digital photography and Photoshop have changed how I take photos.
Expensive film photography required me to compose a shot, giving due consideration to lighting, aperture and shutter settings.
Today’s point-and-shoot digital cameras and DSLRs—combined with Photoshop Elements—make photo shooting a no brainer exercise. Point and shoot. Everything else can be handled once the photo is downloaded to the Mac and PSE9
Must Have More Features
PSE9 isn’t just feature laden. It’s loaded with robust features which make the photograph something it wasn’t when it was taken. For example, Photomerge has a Style Match function which takes the stylistic qualities of one photo and adds them to another, giving you a third photo, unlike, yet similar to the originals.
The Spot Healing Brush is a favorite as it quickly blends backgrounds around and over unwanted objects in a photo. In a few clicks, telephone poles, towers, tourists, cars, buildings, or other obstructions can be banished. Brush out the offending object while PSE9 automagically fills in the background. The same functions can be applied to older, scanned photos which have unsightly objects near the subject—they can be restored to look better than the original.
PSE9 uses guided elements to give you an array of special effects filters and options. It’s literally a point-and-click, step-by-step method to take a drab photo and give it trendy effects. LoMo Effect, Out-of-bounds Effect.
You also get options to create digital photo books in PSE9. It’s drag and drop in the iPhoto method, but with more options. Select a book theme, drag photos onto pages, adjust and add effects. If that’s not enough, there’s an Advanced Mode which provides even more filters, special effects, themes, artwork, and backgrounds for your photo book project. Print the finished book at home or online.
For a photo imaging app for the masses, PSE9 is complex and cluttered. There’s a lot going on, but navigation is straightforward. Almost. Click on a multi-tool in the left corner and instead of a pop-out window with more features, the features and adjustment tools show up on top of the toolbar and image area.
The charcoal motif is more visually attractive through a wide variety of Fisher Price-like colored tool icons (left column toolbar). Crop, drop, zoom, flip, erase, dodge, burn, and more. Multiple photos show up in the Project Bin to the South, which correspond to each photo in the tabs North of the image.
The real power shows up in the Edit, Create, and Share tabs in the far right column. Edit gives you a laundry list of artistic effects which can be applied in layers to the selected image. Quick controls give you access to slider bar adjustments for levels, shadows, midtones, highlights, and hue and saturation. Adjustments are made to the image in real time.
The Edit > Guided tab lists what you can do to an image, then gives you one click options, as well as an explanation of the tool.
The Create tab walks PSE9 users through the array of options in Photo Prints, Photo Book, Greeting Card, Calendar, Collage, as well as CD and DVD jackets and labels. The Share tab is also a walk through to upload photos to Online Albums, send photos via email, share photos to Flickr, Facebook, or SmugMug (no option for Apple’s MobileMe Gallery).
Adobe pushes the Photoshop.com web file sharing and management service at every turn. All uploaded and sharable photos are optimized for size and device automatically. PSE9 is intel only, so no luck if you’re stuck on a PowerPC Mac.
What still seems strange to me is why Adobe chooses to go it alone when it comes to interface and layout design. PSE9’s user interface is more Windows-like than Mac-like, yet more of a Frankenstein’s monster version of both, rather than an interface that improves on either platform’s norms.
Overall, I’m impressed with usability, value, and features. PSE9 is friendlier and does more than past versions, automates special effects and filters, yet gives you some granular control through simple left-to-right sliders. The Spot Healing Brush alone is worth the price of admission (though it takes plenty of trial and error to master). Otherwise, PSE9 has more features than PSE8, yet the upgrade price tag is significant.