Business-like, isn't he?



Business in Vancouver logo

    Just in time for Christmas photo and movie taking: Adobe’s Elements

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business in Vancouver December 18-24, 2007; issue 947

    High Tech Office column; 

    The 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.

    It 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.) •

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan