Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 review

£75
Price when reviewed

Adobe Photoshop Elements occupies a photo editing niche, tucked in between full-on professional editors like its parent, Photoshop, and budget and freeware applications like Google’s Picasa.

With the rise of online editors like Adobe’s own Photoshop Express, space in this market is getting tight and Adobe knows it needs to keep ahead of the competition by offering ever greater ease of use combined with innovative features.

It’s a tough job, but with Photoshop Elements 7, Adobe looks as if it has the answer. It’s really two integrated applications – a photo organiser and an editor. The former allows you to rate pictures, add captions, keyword tags and other metadata and organize them into albums, but the only significant addition here is a text search feature.

Entering a text string in the new text search box finds all images in the catalogue that include the text either in filenames, tags, captions, or other metadata fields. This is such a basic requirement it’s hard to believe it’s been absent up until now.

Editing power

More exciting are the changes that have been made to the editing facilities. This begins with Elements’ editing modes have been split into three different modes: Quick Fix, Guided Edit and Full, in order of sophistication and complexity.

Quick Fix provides one-click auto adjustments to put right exposure and colour problems. The Touch Up section of the Quick Fix panel now sports two new brushes for whitening teeth and making skies more blue.

To whiten teeth, or ‘fix’ hazy skies, you just paint them with a ‘smart’ brush. The smart selection component of the tool automatically – and surprisingly accurately – selects just the bits you need and applies the correction.

You can change the brush size, but that’s about the only option; the intensity of the effects are fixed. The teeth whitening tool also doubles up as an effective dodging brush, selectively brightening anything it’s applied to.

Switch to Full Edit mode and the Layers palette reveals what’s happening beneath the surface with these Smart Brushes. They combine the Quick Selection tool introduced in Photoshop Elements 6 with masked adjustment layers. You can go further with the Smart Brush tool in Full Edit mode.

The tool options bar provides an impressive array of effects that can be applied with the brush, including cloud contrast, antique contrast, bright eyes, greenery (to intensify foliage) and a range of colour and monochrome toning effects.

Some of the effects are editable. Greenery, for example, is a straightforward Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, and you can also directly edit the layer mask to extend or confine the effect to certain parts of the image.

Helping hand

Photoshop Elements’ guided editing module has been expanded too, to include Photoshop-like actions – macros that apply a sequence of edits to an image. The new Action Player includes a small number of actions for adding a caption bar, resizing and cropping and a handful of special effects. But despite the fact that Elements can be coerced into playing some Photoshop-created actions it’s not currently possible to record actions.

And no Adobe upgrade would be complete without a killer new feature and in Elements 7’s case it’s Photomerge Scene Cleaner. Building on existing Photomerge features, which allow you to combine facial features from different shots, Photomerge Scene cleaner automatically removes unwanted detail from images.

Details

Software subcategory Photo editing software

Requirements

Processor requirement 2GHz

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes

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