Adobe – Photoshop Elements 8 review

image-editing software for the home user
Photo of Adobe – Photoshop Elements 8
£75 (full), £63 (upgrade)

Almost exactly a year since we took a look at Adobe Photoshop Elements 7, along comes another version to freshen Adobe’s portfolio and offer the creative home user more fun-packed features and improved editing power.

Adobe tends to do a sterling job when it comes to new releases, offering enough new features to justify an upgrade at least every other version and giving the incentive for cheaper upgrade prices as opposed to buying the software all over again from scratch.

Load up Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 for the first time and you will notice the introduction dialogue box gives you the option to edit your shots or browse through your files using the new Organizer.

A good alternative to Adobe Bridge, Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 Organizer means you can view and access both photos and video clips on your computer as well as rate, tag and keyword them for quick browsing. If you tend to take lots of group shots of friends and family, the People Recognition feature can also be used to automatically spot and tag faces in a shot so you don’t have to (although this only really works if faces are easily visible and it doesn’t work with profiles).

Within this Organizer view it’s possible to apply automatic fixes or use selected shots to create designs such as photo books, calendars, greetings cards and slideshows. You can even quickly use the ‘Share’ tab to upload your shots to an online album, burn to a CD or upload to your mobile phone. However, if you want to make photographic edits to an image you will need to load up the separate Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 interface (or Adobe Premiere Elements 8 if you also have this) by right-clicking on your selected thumbnails.

Organizer is a handy tool if you want to quickly duck into your shots and make easy tweaks and it’s a perfect option if you are in a hurry. However, having both Organizer and Photoshop Elements open can be a little draining for your computer, so that’s worth bearing in mind if you’re on an older model.

Venture into the main Photoshop Elements program and you’ll find quite a few new features to get stuck into. For the enthusiastic photographer set on making sure shots are in tip-top condition, a valuable addition is the new preview adjustments option. At first we had a really hard time tracking this down, only to notice after a good ten minutes that the ‘Edit’ tab now has several different options for a variety of different interface set-ups including Full, Edit and Guided. Then everything clicked into place.

Once in Quick mode it’s possible to view how your image will look if different settings are applied by hovering your mouse over thumbnail previews. This is great if you’re not too au fait with how tweaking your shadows, highlights and contrast levels will affect your image, and the preview is very quick to display.

For giving landscapes a new lease of life or smartening up portraits there’s a number of photo fixes available within the Quick Edit tab. As well as being able to polish up your portrait subject’s teeth, you can remove red-eye or use a dedicated high-contrast black and white tool to carry out quick selective colouring edits. The menu options are minimal in this ‘Quick’ section but some brush and selection skills are useful, although the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ snapshot of the image you’re working on is handy as a guide.

If you’re after a piece of software that can help you to perfect your photographs with very little effort on your behalf then Photoshop Elements’ Guided Quick Fix is still an option and is good for bringing things back to basics. By working down a list of suggested fixes for things such as brightness or colour you can work through adjustments step by step to make tweaks, using basic drop-down menus or slide controls.

Those who enjoy printing off photographs and framing them for display in the home might be interested to hear that Photoshop Elements 8 brings an intelligent Recompose Tool to the Tools Palette. Found underneath the Crop Tool, this nifty little feature works by giving you the opportunity to alter the dimensions of your photograph down to size, masking areas or people that are important to the shot and allowing the software to automatically shrink, erase and blend to achieve a seamless end product.

This is good for taking out unwanted people in group shots or closing a wasteful gap in a photograph so a print will fit into a square frame. Admittedly, even for a seasoned Photoshopper it may take a bit of practice and a couple of trial runs to get right (especially if there’s a lot of detail in the shots) but when it does work it’s very impressive.

Naturally, as users become more skilled in working their digital cameras and feel the need to get more creative with their digital imagery, Adobe Photoshop Elements has expanded in every version to offer more features and tools. What Version 8 does here, however, is give those who are up for a challenge and want to try out more adventurous edits a chance to dive right in, whilst at the same time always offering an easier, tamer and less daunting route for everyone else.

Company: Adobe

Contact: 0800 328 4536

Is it worth the upgrade? Well... it's fair to say there have been more radical new versions in the past and with that in mind, those who have bagged themselves Elements 7 may feel they already have all they need for the time being. The addition of an Organizer is perfect if you have a lot of photographs on your computer and quickly want to dive in, tweak and share, as is the scope for adjusting the workspace using the Full, Quick and Guided edits. It's a reliable piece of software which can be tailored to suit all abilities.