Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 review

Price when reviewed

With rivals such as Google churning out the perfectly respectable Picasa for free, Adobe has to work hard to convince consumers to part with nigh-on £80 inc VAT for Photoshop Elements. Borrowing flagship features from the £650 Photoshop CS5 suite is a pretty bold means of persuasion.

Content-aware fill was the standout new feature in this year’s CS5 refresh, so it comes as a welcome shock to find it in Elements so soon, albeit in a less powerful form. For those unfamiliar with content-aware fill, it’s a means of removing unwanted objects from photos, with Photoshop analysing the surrounding area and filling the gap.

In Photoshop Elements, content-aware fill is added to the healing brush. That means you can’t draw neat selections around errant objects as you can in CS5, but instead have to dab away at interlopers or that portrait-ruining tree branch, which is a good deal less precise. Nevertheless, the results are often stunning. Random skiiers ruining a group shot on the slopes and fingers obscuring faces in portraits were among the objects near seamlessly removed in our tests.

Content-aware fill: before

Content-aware fill: after

It’s no magic bullet. Attempting to extract people standing in front of complex backgrounds (such as a finely detailed building), or remove large objects in the foreground will normally result in abject failure. However, a little experimentation with different brush sizes is often all that’s needed to correct a failed first attempt.

It’s also far more efficient than fiddling with the clone tool to remove unwanted objects, as well as a boon for casual photographers who think the clone tool is something the Daily Mail gets angry about.

Content-aware fill is also put to good use in Element’s panorama-stitching facility. The software steps in if you fail to leave enough overlap between different shots in your panorama, and to fill in the ragged gaps around the edges. Again, the type of shot is key. The software copes admirably with sweeping panoramas of an uncluttered beach, but our test on an inner-city skyline found the software trying to add an awkward-looking extra floor to a building.

Panorama fill: after

Content-aware fill isn’t the only Photoshop CS5 feature to filter down to Elements: layer masks are included in the budget suite for the first time. Masks make it possible to perform non-destructive edits on image layers; it’s thus much simpler to blend two images together, or manually merge photos for a high dynamic range (HDR) composition.


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? yes

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