- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Would it be too much to say that Adobe’s newest version of Photoshop Elements, No. 8, list price $99.99, is the Big Mac of home photography software — something that’s consistent no matter where you go?

As with each of its predecessors, PSE8, to make an acronym of it, is familiar to users of its earlier versions. That’s part of the appeal, of course; if you’ve used PSE7 or PSE6, at the very least, you’re familiar enough with the program to dive right in to PSE8.

Consistent user experiences, after all, are what keep many of us walking into McDonald’s or Starbucks outlets all over the world; we know what we’ll find when we get there. The difference with PSE8, however, is that the familiar has been updated with the incredible.

For example, PSE has long had the ability to “recompose” a photo by getting rid of someone you don’t know or don’t want in the picture. This is often called the “ex eliminator.” I prefer dubbing it the “Trotsky remover,” in honor of the legions of Stalinist drones who excised images of the late comrade Leon Trotsky after he fell out of favor with the big man. Now, however, you can do your recomposing without distorting the remaining subjects in the photo. See? Something familiar and something new, together in one package.

Another nice item, similar to a feature in Apple Inc.’s iPhoto, is People Recognition, a fancier term, I guess, than “facial recognition,” which is what it is. In short, you can “train” PSE8 to recognize Aunt Martha or Cousin Waldemar, and the program will find all the photos featuring that person. As any new parent (and many pet owners) will tell you, there probably are tons of photos of “the kids” on your hard disk, so quickly finding a specific person is a great thing. (And, no, I haven’t tested this on photos of our pets.)

Oh, and keeping with the notion that you probably have hundreds — even thousands — of digital pictures you wouldn’t want to lose, Adobe offers 2 gigabytes of free online storage, which you can increase to 20 GB for $50 a year. An Elements Plus subscription, as the $50 online service is called, also gets you updated templates for photo publishing projects and crafts as well as online tutorials for the program. Not a bad deal, I’d say.

Users of PSE8, along with a companion video-editing program, Adobe Premiere Elements 8 (PRE8), also list-priced at $99.99, or sold together for $149.99, have a new Organizer program, modeled on Adobe’s professional-grade Bridge program, that lets them flip through photos and videos on their computers and take a quick look at any item. In the case of photos, they can get a full-screen preview and make quick edits using the Organizer feature.

As the name Photoshop Elements suggests, the program is a subset of Adobe’s famous (and much more expensive) Photoshop software. While it has many of the features of Photoshop, these are easier to learn and use than the main Photoshop program. For example, the program will give you step-by-step guidance in editing an image; there also are many automatic presets to use when making photos look better.

Once photos are improved, cropped and sorted, PSE8 will let you share them online using supplied animated templates and Adobe’s Flash technology. The slide shows are easy for even casual Internet users to view, the firm asserts, and from what I’ve seen, that appears to be the case.

The same ease of use can be credited to Premiere Elements: You can do a lot with videos there, but it’s easier to learn and use than Premiere is. It’s easy to edit out “dead” video footage and other rough spots in a film, and a special Publish to YouTube feature is available - just the thing for making your Halloween video go viral.

In terms of price, features, performance and stability, Photoshop Elements 8 and Premiere Elements 8 set a high standard in their fields. For Windows users (a Mac version of PSE8 is available, but there’s not one for Premiere Elements) these two programs might be all you need to handle digital images and video.

- E-mail mkellner@washingtontimes.com

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