Adobe suggests the target market for its Elements products are “consumers” and “photo enthusiasts,” and that professionals require the tools found in the Creative Suite (CS) line. However, after taking a closer look at the Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9 bundle, I found their feature sets close enough to those in the big-brother CS5 set that many professionals could find them useful in their work. And the Elements 9 Bundle even includes some interesting features that are not found in their bigger, far more expensive, namesakes.
There are new features in all three segments of the Elements 9 bundle: Photoshop Elements, Premiere Elements and Organizer. But the biggest news for Mac users is that Premiere Elements is available to them for the first time.
The Mac Premiere feature set is somewhat shy of the Windows set, however. The Mac version has 18 fewer video effects, 7 fewer audio effects, half the number of available transitions, and is lacking the ability to export files in Windows Media format. The good news though is that there is finally an affordable, near professional-quality video editor available for Macs.Elements 9 Organizer
Mac users also benefit from the availability of the Organizer in the Elements 9 Bundle. The Elements Organizer is directly accessible from both Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements. Organizer brings all of your photos and videos together in one place and allows you to perform simple edits, create slide shows and prints, and share them in social networks.
Previous versions of Photoshop Elements for the Mac shipped with a version of Bridge, but Elements Organizer for both Mac and Windows have some interesting and useful features Bridge lacks.
One of these features is people recognition. After you identify a few faces in random photos you can run the Auto-Analyzer function in the background and it will tag other photos and videos of the same people. When it is done, photos of other people are organized in a window and you can identify them for tagging. I was even able to tag photos of a friend’s dog! Once the tagging is done, clicking on their name in the Keyword Tags > People panel instantly brings thumbnails of all of the media tagged with that person’s (or animal’s) name to the screen.
In fact, any keywording you apply to photos and videos will be used to bring the media onscreen when you click on the keyword. Organizer 9 recognized keywords that I had entered from other software and added the keywords and tagged images correctly into its database.
The Windows version of Organizer has always had a full-screen mode, but now both operating systems have the ability to perform minor edits to still images or to tag and put still images into albums from the full-screen mode. You can also play videos in full-screen mode.
Slide shows are not new to the Organizer, but in the Elements 9 Organizer you can now add transitions such as fade in/fade out, pan and zoom and 3D pixilate between images and videos. Organizer, however, is still more oriented toward still images than video.
Photoshop Elements 9
Photoshop Elements 9 includes two new features inherited from Photoshop CS5: the Content-Aware Healing Brush that debuted in CS5 and Masks. The old Healing Brush in Elements and Photoshop itself had problems when you used it close to edges or across transition areas. The new Content-Aware Healing Brush virtually eliminates these problems.
In previous versions of Photoshop Elements masks were only enabled when using Adjustment Layers. In this new version you can add a Layer Mask at any time and create a clipping mask. These features allow you to do sophisticated compositing that was previously impossible.
There are other new features in Photoshop Elements 9. One of the fun features is Guided Edits. These are sets of instructions in the sidebar that provide you with the tools you need in the order you need them to create visual effects such as lomography, 3D-like images, pop art, reflection effects and more.
Another new feature is Photomerge Style Match, which analyzes the stylistic qualities of any photo you choose and then applies these qualities to another. The style photo remains in the Style Bin so you can apply it to other images at any time.
Photoshop Elements 9 accepts all of the Photoshop plug-ins designed for 32-bit versions, and all of the Photoshop keyboard shortcuts I tried worked in Photoshop Elements. One of the few features I found lacking was in its RAW file support. A version of Adobe Camera Raw is included, but the lens corrections tools are lacking and it doesn’t allow you to sync settings between images. I did find that Adobe does keep it current with new camera releases and RAW file formats.
Despite the minimal RAW file support and the lack of some sophisticated Photoshop CS5 features such as Curves, I think that Photoshop Elements 9, especially if combined with Lightroom 3.x, would meet the needs of many professional photographers, and certainly the consumers and photo enthusiasts that Adobe sees as the program’s target market.
Premiere Elements 9
As I have already mentioned, the big news in Premiere Elements 9 is its availability for Macintosh computers, with a feature set that places it between Apple’s iMovie on the low end and Apple’s Final Cut and Adobe’s Premiere Pro software on the high end.
The Premiere Elements 9 interface looks as similar to Photoshop Elements 9 as it could, given the different tools that you will be working with. This simplifies moving from one to another, or learning one if you are familiar with the other.
Premiere Elements 9 is an evolutionary rather than revolutionary upgrade (unless you are a Mac user), but as with Photoshop Elements 9, it includes many automated features for newcomers to the editing process that you can override as your editing abilities advance. InstantMovie uses creative techniques from Hollywood and automatically edits your best clips together with coordinated music, titles, effects, and transitions from your choice of movie themes.
But this version is not lacking in new features either. Its import capabilities have been enhanced to include Flip video cameras and other ultra-compact camcorders. It has been able to import video files from DSLRs for several versions.
At the other end of the imaging process, output capabilities have also been enhanced. While previous versions could output to YouTube, this version permits simple uploads to Facebook as well. Also new in this version is the ability to create Web DVDs in full HD, including menus and audio.
Speaking of audio, Premiere Elements 9 has six new functions for improving sound. They include audio polish, auto mute, cleaner, hum remover, noise fader and noise reducer, all with the NewBlue designation to indicate they are new to this version. There are new NewBlue video effects also, including cartoon and film looks. There are lots of other audio and video effects, but as mentioned earlier, the Mac version has some catching up to do to the Windows version in terms of sheer numbers.
I was surprised to find what little I was giving up in Premiere Elements 9 from the far more complex Premiere Pro CS5 I have been using. Premiere Pro allows direct import from high-end camcorders that only serious professional videographers would use, and exports files that are appropriate to broadcast or professional work, but to very few photographers. The Pro version also has more editing tools for audio and video, and more options for working with tracks and keyframes, but Premiere Elements has everything I have ever really needed, including the ability to use 32-bit third-party plug-ins, such as my favorite, Digital Anarchy’s Beauty Box Video. Of course, you also give up the ability to address more than 2-4GB of RAM, since Premiere Elements, like Photoshop Elements, is a 32-bit application.
Included as part of the bundle is 2GB of free online storage for your photos or videos on your own personal URL at Photoshop.com. You can use this area to share still images or videos with friends, to access your media when you are away from your main computer, or simply use it as online backup. Additional storage space is available at low cost.
As seems to be Adobe’s style, they have come up with another complex pricing structure. The Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9 bundle has a MSRP of $149.99, although as I write this Adobe is selling it for $99.99. There is no upgrade pricing from previous versions.
There is also an Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9 Plus Bundle with an MSRP of $179.99, on sale now from Adobe for $149.99. The Plus version includes 20GB of online storage rather than 2GB, with more storage available at additional cost. In addition to the storage, the Plus program provides exclusive access to a library of artwork, movie themes, and how-tos; Online Albums via private or public galleries; and, synchronization of your media between the online storage and your Elements Organizer. The Plus program requires an annual membership fee of $49.99 after the first year.
One advantage that Adobe products have over the competition that deserves mention is the extensive support provided on the Web site—www.adobe.com. There you can find videos showing you how to take advantage of all of the features of the software.
A 30-day trial version of the Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9 Bundle is also available on the Web site. Despite the 3.72GB trial version download, if you find that you are using only a small subset of Photoshop CS-CS5 features, particularly if you have resisted upgrading because of the upgrade cost, and you are interested in experimenting with video for your work or pleasure, it would be worth your while to investigate the Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9 Bundle.
To see an example video of what can be done (and overdone) using Photoshop Premiere Elements 9, go to http://ssholik.photoshop.com.
Stan Sholik is a commercial/advertising photographer in Santa Ana, CA, specializing in still life and macro photography. His latest book, Professional Filter Techniques for Digital Photographers, covering both on-camera analog and post-production digital filters is published by Amherst Media.