Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 review

£75
Price when reviewed

Since its launch in 2001, Photoshop Elements has established itself as the best way to get on top of your digital images and to bring the best out from them. The key to this is Elements’ thumbnail-based Organizer application and its ability to tag images. Photoshop Elements 8’s big trick is that it attempts to devolve this labour-intensive chore to the computer.

To achieve this seemingly impossible feat, Photoshop Elements 8 can now analyse images and apply smart tags to indicate high, medium and low quality as well as factors such as contrast, focus, motion and shakiness. It’s a nice idea, but we rarely agreed with the software’s analysis when using real-world test files – beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.

The holy grail of automatic tagging would be for the computer to somehow recognise the subject of each picture. Amazingly, Photoshop Elements 8 promises just this with its face-recognition capabilities and builds on the program’s existing ability to find faces for tagging. Elements 8 uses existing tags to identify untagged faces and can even search for other matching faces that it then displays as thumbnails ready for you to confirm or reject.

Alas, it sounds more exciting than it actually is. Photoshop Elements 8 does a reasonable job of identifying most areas of an image that contain faces and suggesting other possible matches – but it’s by no means perfect – so there’s still plenty of work involved in training the software and ensuring that the faces are tagged correctly (Adobe claims this may be improved by the retail version; we were testing the final beta).

More importantly, the software misses quite a few faces – those shot at an angle, partially obscured, or in shadow – with the result that, even after laboriously working through the face-recognition process, you still won’t have any confidence that you’ve tagged everyone.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 8

Automatic tagging proves a major disappointment, then, but at least this latest release manages to make the old-fashioned manual process more efficient. Key to this is the new tag entry field, which not only pops up a list of existing tags that narrows as you type, but also makes it quicker to add new ones. There’s also a new tag cloud view that displays more tags to choose from and indicates the most popular by size. You can also tag images and videos in Full Screen mode via the Quick Organize panel.

Full Screen mode also provides a new Quick Edit panel for applying simple enhancements, although these remain limited to basic image rotations and automatic image fixes. To really bring the best out of your images, you need to load them into the separate Photoshop Elements editor application. This semi-detached working approach can be awkward and frustrating, but it does enable Photoshop Elements to offer some extraordinary editing power, stretching all the way to non-destructive adjustment layers, which are now controlled via a Photoshop CS4-style Adjustment panel.

Details

Software subcategory Photo editing software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? no

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