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Photoshop Elements 8

November 10, 2009 - Dave Hecei
Adobe recently updated its Photoshop Elements for Macs and Windows PCs to version 8. This is one of the rare times when Adobe has been able to release both the Mac and Windows versions simultaneously. There has been several small feature updates in Elements 8 for the Mac, along with the addition of a few major features, which some Elements 6 users may or may not be interested in.

The previous Mac version was Elements 6. The Windows world welcomed Elements 7 not too long ago, but 7 never made it to the Mac. Adobe decided to wait and bring both the Mac and Windows version back into sync. Even though the Mac version skipped a whole revision number, only a few things have been changed.

For most digital photographers Elements is probably all you will ever need. For those who have never heard of Elements, this is a smaller version of Adobe’s Photoshop, a standard for many professional photographers, designers, and publishers. Years ago, Adobe had a product called Photoshop LE (limited edition), which then became Photoshop Deluxe. These cut-down versions never did very well until Elements came along.

Elements is light-years beyond these older programs. It is used for photo editing and so much more. Included with the Mac version of Elements 8 is Adobe Bridge CS4, the same version that ships with the full version of Photoshop. This is a very powerful media manager that can handle much more than just images, and it’s integrated into Elements for Mac.

There are some impressive new features in Elements 8, whether or not you will use them much is another story. First is exposure merge. This is where you can take one photo with flash and one without and combine the two to create one image. The problem with using flash, especially outdoors, is the loss of background detail. Most built-in flash units have a very short range, usually about 8-16 feet. To get the subject exposed properly the background will usually go black. By combining two exposures, one for the subject and one for the background, Elements 8 can blend the best parts of the two together.

Elements 8 can do the same with multiple exposures of the same image. Say you are at the Lincoln Memorial and you want to take a picture of your family. Just take several exposures, keeping the camera as still as possible or even use a tripod. In Elements 8 you can combine all these exposures but with the ability to erase many of the people around you. Just tell Elements 8 what you want to keep and what you want removed and it does the rest, as best it can. In most cases it does a pretty remarkable job.

The other cool new tool, Recompose, has the ability to drastically change and image by bringing elements, like people, closer together. Just select the elements you want to keep and then the areas you want to remove and Elements 8 goes to work. Depending on the background you could conceivably turn a horizontal photo into a vertical one.

While these tools are flashy it does not make sense to upgrade if you have version 6. For those who have version 4 or earlier, what are you waiting for? For those who are just getting into digital photography on their Mac and want to go beyond what iPhoto can do, Elements 8 is a powerful photo-editing tool. Considering the full Photoshop CS4 is $700, Elements 8, which included Adobe Bridge CS4, is a real bargain at $90.


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