REVIEW: Photoshop Elements/Premiere Elements Bundle Is Great For Prosumers

PS Elements—Full Edit

The Full Edit window. Click to enlarge.

  • Full Edit is practically the full Photoshop experience, with most of the tools and menu items intact (though they may be moved, like the Edit–>Transform [now under Image] and Image Size and Canvas Size, now under Image–>Resize). Many of Photoshop’s panels have either been eliminated or partially absorbed by their tool’s Options bar (Brushes, for one) and there are many Photoshop features that aren’t available, such as actions, channels, Smart Sharpen, animation, Lab color mode and all the specialized tools found in Photoshop CS3 Extended. Photoshop Elements is therefore not for users who want to get really good at Photoshop but are looking to save money by purchasing Elements ($99) instead of Photoshop CS3 ($649). That being said, if you can’t afford Photoshop or if you don’t expect to need the full range of Photoshop features, Photoshop Elements has at least 75% of the features Photoshop CS3 has and at 15% of the price! The power offered by the Full Edit screen makes Photoshop Elements an unbelievable value, something that should probably be sold for at least a hundred dollars more.
  • PS Elements—Merge Photos

    Photomerge, Auto-Blend Layers and other advanced Photoshop features are put to good use in Photoshop Elements. In this image, a user is combining two group shots to ensure everyone is looking their best. Click to enlarge.

    Two major features of Photoshop—layer masks and Smart Objects—are supported by Photoshop Elements but users can’t actually make their own. Layer masks are available only on adjustment layers, and can’t be added to other layers. However, here’s a tip: if you select your image and make it a pattern (Edit –> Define Pattern) then you can insert the image as a Pattern adjustment layer, complete with its own layer mask. The technique requires an extra step but the results are the same as a traditional layer mask. As for Smart Objects, users can’t create their own but Photoshop Elements comes with a ton of good graphics, backgrounds and clip art (look for Artwork, under the Create button) and they all appear to be Smart Objects. You can make a Smart Object into a normal pixel-based layer with Layer–>Simplify Layer. It’s like the functionality is there to handle these Smart Objects but the application doesn’t want to acknowledge they exist. I think Smart Objects would be a great feature for consumer and prosumer users since they allow upscaling without degrading resolution, and resolution is one of the easiest things for a beginner to degrade. Smart Objects, done correctly, can save a lot of frustration.

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    PS Elements—Photo Book

    The Photo Book feature. Click to enlarge.

    Apple’s Aperture has had the upper hand over Lightroom when it comes to printing: Lightroom prints only single sheets, while Aperture has been able to print portfolios and books from the beginning. However, Photoshop Elements has both of them beat when it comes to creating projects and sharing photos. Users can create photo books, calendars, collages, online galleries and slideshows, as well as sharing via e-mail, burning to disk, and ordering prints online. Some of these services are provided through a partnership with Kodak. As with all things in Photoshop Elements, creating and sharing photos is easy to do and often accompanied by step-by-step instructions. The Photo Book feature is particularly impressive, creating good layouts with no fuss and offering a couple layout tools similar to what one would find in InDesign: Arrange, Align and Distribute. The application does most of the work anyway, so a robust layout interface isn’t really necessary, and if a user wants to get more creative I suggest Adobe PageMaker or Apple’s Pages.

    PS Elements—Web Gallery

    The Online Gallery feature allows users to tweak many aspects of their photo galleries. Click to enlarge.

    I am also impressed with the Online Gallery feature: there are a lot of very cool templates, some of which have great interactivity and animations. iWeb got some buzz as an application with cool templates for photo galleries, but Photoshop Elements has some great ones too. I haven’t seen iWeb, but I think it would be hard-pressed to compete against Photoshop Elements. Even Photoshop and Lightroom could use these templates to improve their own gallery selections.