Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 review

Price when reviewed

There’s no doubt masks have been a highly sought-after feature – a cottage industry has sprung up over the years with developers offering mask plugins for previous versions of Elements, so it’s good to see Adobe reacting to consumer demand.

The other new additions to the suite are high on novelty value. The photo-merge group style feature is one that will have photography purists reaching for the green Biro. It allows amateurs to apply the “style” of iconic photographers to their own work, by showing Elements a moody Lartigue portrait, for example, and asking the software to apply the photo’s tones, contrast and exposure settings to a photo of their wife.

Adobe insists none of this breaches copyright, as the software is only mimicking the style of other people’s photography, not actually stealing its content. It works well, too, as long as the photos you’re copying are of a very distinct style, although we found it added a lot of artificial noise to some of our test images, which was then difficult to remove.

The new “fun edits” also borrow a little creative inspiration. These are an extension of Elements’ long-standing guided edits, where the software takes you step-by-step through advanced procedures. So you can now turn a portrait into a clichéd piece of Warhol Pop Art in as little as three clicks, add an artificial reflection to a landscape, or emulate the retro appeal of the Russian Lomo cameras.

Pop Art

The most impressive fun edit is “out of bounds”, a technique that can be used to make photos pop out of a frame – handing consumers the kind of advanced editing skills that were previously the premise of magazine designers.

Adobe has also improved one of the weakest parts of the Elements suite: the Organizer, which manages both your photo and video library, and forms the join between Photoshop Elements and its video-editing sibling, Premiere Elements. This now feels snappier, especially with libraries containing hundreds of high-res images, although the way it forces you to manage albums within the Organizer (move photos around using Windows and it can get confused) is frustrating. And for those who want to share their edited wares on social networks, there’s now seamless integration with Facebook, with Photoshop cleverly resizing photos to Facebook’s maximum resolution before uploading to avoid wasting bandwidth.

After last year’s middling upgrade, Photoshop Elements 9 puts real distance between itself and Google’s ever-improving freebie, providing both full-editing power for those who want maximum control over their photos, and helpful handholding for those who simply want to achieve results in the fastest time possible. With a reasonable discount for buyers of previous versions, it’s a compelling upgrade too.


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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