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If forced to choose a photo editor to sit down and have a beer with, Elements 8 would be our drinking buddy of choice. It’s friendly, smart, and it seems to know what we want to do with our images even before we do. Unlike with Photoshop CS4, which is certainly the expert in its field and the go-to choice for pro photographers, Elements 8 packs just the right combo of helpful, intuitive tools for average Joes and powerful features that even hard-core Photoshoppers can appreciate.
The first important pro-level addition to note is the inclusion of Bridge CS4, Adobe’s excellent photo-management application, which makes sorting through hundreds or even thousands of photos much more manageable. Rather than compete with iPhoto ’09--which includes some very cool features, such as face- and location-recognition--Bridge is about saving you time and helping you tag and organize photos on your Mac’s hard drive, so you can get back to taking more photos or doing amazing things with them.
New editing modes in Elements 8--Quick, Full, and Guided--let you manipulate your photos quickly, easily, and with minimal fuss. Common touch-up tools such as red-eye reduction and automatic fixes for lighting, contrast, and color are only a click away, while additions like Whiten Teeth (represented by a little toothbrush, natch) are a godsend for beautifying smiles in portraits, family photos, or your Facebook profile photo. In fact, the Whiten Teeth tool is also a great tool for brightening parts of any photo, not just whitening coffee-stained pearlies.
We saved this shot by brightening the baby's face using the Whiten Teeth tool.
For outdoor shots, the Make Dull Skies Blue tool can bump up the color of the sky with a click and a swipe of the cursor across the portion of the photo where the sky appears. These and other insta-fixes are all added as layers to your original, so when you save the photo, it becomes a new PSD file, and your original remains intact, in case you decide later to go in a different direction.
Adobe built Elements 8 with hobbyist photographers in mind, and the app covers several tricky scenarios that most family historians have no doubt encountered. Everybody’s had the experience of revisiting vacation photos and coming upon an image of complete strangers who wandered into the frame. Thanks to the new Scene Cleaner, they’re outta there. As long as you have a couple of similar images, swapping in the background from a clean shot is a simple procedure. What was once a complicated multistep edit has been reduced to a couple of mouse clicks. Scene Cleaner is essentially the opposite of the Group Shot function, which allows you to quickly put together a composite image from multiple shots--perfect for getting everyone smiling and looking the same direction in a family photo. And speaking of family photos, if you’ve ever wished you could make a portrait image landscape (or vice versa) the Recompose tool can easily stretch or compress backgrounds, while maintaining the proportions of foreground objects or people. It’s a powerful tool borrowed from Photoshop, and the results can be stunning.
Elements 8 offers powerful editing tools for hobbyists at a jaw-droppingly low price. In our case, the ability to vastly improve a family photo to the point where we could use it as the focal image in our 2009 holiday greeting card was worth the hundred bucks alone.
For entry-level photo editing, iPhoto '09 works fine. But Elements 8 blows iPhoto away in terms of power, intelligence, and flexibility.
Photoshop Elements 8 for Mac
REQUIREMENTS: Multicore Intel processor, Mac OS 10.4 or later
Tremendous value. Smart automatic touch-up tools let hobbyists pump up their photos with a few clicks. Includes a full version of Adobe Bridge CS4 for managing and viewing photos.
Project templates in PSE 8 are cheesy in comparison to those in iPhoto.