- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Despite the claim of the now-deceased David Halberstam that journalistic objectivity is difficult to come by (he used a barnyard epithet in his original comment), a premise among reviewers is that we should approach products with some level of detachment.

When it comes to Adobe Corp. and its rather advanced consumer products, that’s a very tall order for this reviewer to fill. I’ve long been a fan, and the newest “prosumer” offerings from the firm — Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and Adobe Premiere Elements 9 — do anything but disappoint. (In calling these “prosumer” products, the intention is to suggest that while aimed at the consumer market, each has quite a number of professional-level features. At a list price of $99.99 each, or both together for $149.99, they represent a powerful bargain.)

The formal announcement was made Tuesday morning, but I was briefed on the items last week, and have worked with a “final” Photoshop Elements 9 for a few days. While I’ve spent less time with Premiere Elements 9, I was extensively briefed on that product as well.

As with earlier versions, Photoshop Elements 9 is fantastic when it comes to automated picture adjustments. I was shooting some group portraits yesterday, indoors, with less-than-perfect lighting. Bring the shots into Elements 9, click a button and, presto, the lighting and exposure are automatically fixed. Yes, I could do the same with Apple Inc.’s iPhoto, but the Elements 9 adjustments just looked better.

Another plus: You can view “before” and “after” images of the adjusted picture, which not only lets you see what’s been improved, but also the magnitude of the change.

New in this version — on the Mac platform — is the Adobe Elements Organizer, which is similar to the firm’s Bridge organizer used with the full (and seven times as expensive) Photoshop CS5. The Elements Organizer, which will import your iPhoto library with a couple of clicks, also allows for quick previewing and editing of photos. That alone is a great feature.

But great features aren’t limited to the Organizer; dive into the full Photoshop Elements 9 program, and you’ll find tools such as a Spot Healing Brush, which among other things will analyze what’s in an image and declutter or repair the picture. Examples of this, Adobe said, include “removing tourists from a crowded scene or an obstruction, such as a telephone pole.” I saw it work, and it’s quite something.

Another neat feature wouldn’t work for hard-news photos, but could be great for personal creative art: It’s the “Photomerge Style Match,” which takes the style of one photo and “paints” another photo in that style. It’s harder to describe than to use, but see it demonstrated online (https://bit.ly/9e3rjW) and you’ll catch the excitement, I think.

Sharing photos, an important feature for families and semi-pro users, is one-click easy with Photoshop Elements 9; the program ships with dedicated links to Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. This is on a par now with iPhoto, which has Facebook and Flickr sharing baked in.

On the home-video side of things, Premiere Elements 9 also offers a raft of tools and features to make editing and sharing easier. As the firm puts it, “Users can quickly find the best videos with the Auto-Analyzer that automatically tags the most interesting, highest-quality video footage — eliminating the hassle of clicking through dozens of clips to find the great ones.” There’s also a “Cartoon” feature, which lets you transform a video into, well, an animated cartoon. Not so good for a video of the boss, but better, perhaps, for a child’s birthday.

Overall, these are great products, and the bundle price, especially, represents a stupendous value. With the holidays coming, it seems a “no-brainer” to pick these two up, and get to work with them.

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