in time for Christmas photo and movie taking: Adobe’s Elements
Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business
December 18-24, 2007; issue 947
High Tech Office column;
Christmas season is prime time for taking photographs and movie clips.
In years past, Christmas photos would end up being printed and stored
in shoeboxes. Now, with digital cameras, camcorders, and large memory
cards common, all too often they end up abandoned on a memory card
large enough to store a few thousand photos.
If you want to do
better by your Christmas memories, Adobe wants to direct your attention
to its recently upgraded Elements programs: Photoshop Elements 6.0 and
Premiere Elements 4.0, for photos and video respectively. Each is
designed to be a “lite” version of Adobe’s professional (and expensive)
Photoshop CS3 and Premiere Pro.
Photoshop Elements drops the pro
version’s tools for prepping photos for commercial printing and the
scripting tools to automate a repetitive series of actions – neither
functions that most amateurs will miss. Also gone is the overly complex
interface of the pro version, replete with floating palettes and
toolbars. Instead, users get a much more approachable single toolbar
and work area that morph to fit the task at hand. At the top are four
tabs: import, organize, edit and share.
On a basic level, much
of this is commonplace. Without any additional software, Windows and
Mac users can get photos off their cameras, apply some basic edits,
print them or send them as e-mail attachments. Most digital cameras and
printers include programs that try to simplify or expand on these tasks
and other software (such as Google’s free Picasa) or online services
are also widely used.
Adobe brings in a depth of experience
working with digital images and movies, however. The organize tab can
simplify display of large sets of photos by making stacks of similar
images. It also includes a shortcut to Quick Fix; for many users, this
may be all it takes to bring a so-so image to life, improving lighting,
color, sharpness, red-eye and cropping. You can improve multiple images
at the same time.
Photoshop Elements has for a long time
included a nice feature to combine multiple photos into a wide
panorama. The new version adds a simple and incredibly useful group
shot photomerge; this lets you combine multiple shots, creating a
composite with the best features of each. Merge a few shots of groups
of people replacing the people looking away in photo No. 1 with their
equivalents from photo No. 2. Users of Adobe’s Creative Suite 3 can do
the same thing, but only with a lot of work. Elements makes it easy for
the rest of us.
Other features are also carried over from the
professional product: a selection brush makes it easy to “paint over”
areas like sky or grass, to select them for editing or removal. Use it
to turn your photo of a blue car into a red one. Again, Elements makes
these tasks easy. A guided editing tour walk users through the steps to
improve their photos.
While there are lots of programs available
to organize photos or to edit them, Photoshop Elements 6 is the best
way for non-professional users to do both.
Like Apple’s iMovie
for Mac users, Premiere Elements aims to make it easy to take video
clips off a camcorder, edit them, optionally add music, titles, and
transitions and burn them onto DVD or upload them onto YouTube.
offers two work modes: a Sceneline for dragging thumbnails of video
clips and selecting the desired parts of each clip, and Timeline, for
combining up to 99 audio and video tracks. Again, Adobe includes the
most useful features of its professional video-editing software while
simplifying the pro-software’s user interface and adding a host of
templates and themes. Users can export in HD resolutions and file
formats if desired.
Each Elements program is available for $99
on its own, but the real deal is to get them bundled together for $149.
(Currently Windows-only, the Mac versions are expected early in 2008.) •