File Under: Software & Tools

New Versions of Photoshop Elements, Premiere Elements from Adobe

ElementsboxAdobe has announced new versions of its Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements photo and video editing suites for the Windows platform. These suites are what the company refers to as its “hobbyist-level” offerings, the little siblings to its flagship editing products, Photoshop and Premiere. Which isn’t to say they’re under-powered. In fact, each application packs a substantial number of features into a $100 package, with the emphasis clearly on ease of use, online sharing and quick execution of common tasks. And while the Elements apps may fall short of expectations for professionals or “prosumers,” they will appeal greatly to their target audience: mom and dad, kids, or anyone new to working with digital media.

Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements will be available toward the end of September for Windows XP and Vista and will cost $100 each. There will be bundle available with both apps for $150. A Mac version of Photoshop Elements is due at a later date (it’s on a different release schedule than the Windows version). There is no Premiere Elements for Mac, but that gap is nicely filled by Apple’s iMovie.

The Elements line last got updated in the fall of 2007, and the newest versions of both apps pack in the enhancements. The clear standout is the integration of Adobe’s new online sharing service, Photoshop.com. Both Photoshop and Premiere Elements now offer automatic syncing and backup of your images and videos through the new Photoshop.com service. Photoshop.com is essentially Photoshop Express, combined with pieces of the new Elements desktop software.

When you fire up either Elements app for the first time, you’ll be given an option to sign up for a free Photoshop.com account (there’s also a pay version with more storage space). Once Elements has your account info, using the new features is dead simple — just select the folder you want to back up away you go. All backup and syncing operations are handled in the background — no need to wait or pause what you’re doing.

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If you make some changes using the online editor at Photoshop.com, the next time you open the desktop software, it’ll update to match your changes. And don’t worry, it wont overwrite anything on your local drive — any changes will be stacked on top of the original as a non-destructive edit, much the way Photoshop Lightroom works.

For those not interested in the new online features, fear not, both apps have plenty of new features on the desktop side as well. Of course, both Elements products continue Adobe’s flagrant disregard for the user interface conventions of Windows (or any other platform), but as long as you can get past that, the new versions have some very nice new tools.

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Photoshop Elements now offers a very slick Scene Cleaner feature, which builds on the Photomerge tool that debuted in the last version of Elements.

Where Photomerge was designed to combine several images to find the best overall composite (handy for group shots where Grandma closed her eyes), Scene Cleaner works in the opposite direction, taking several photos and allowing you simply brush away unwanted subjects, such as tourists cluttering up your image of the Eiffel Tower.

Also new is the Smart Brush, which makes it easy to apply pre-set effects as a mask without having to understand that that’s what you’re doing. More advanced users can then move in and change and manipulate the mask and effects. But even using the default settings, the Smart Brush is one of the easiest ways you’ll find to selectively touch up an image.

There’s also a new set of “Quick Fix” tools designed to make it easier to do common retouching tasks like whitening teeth, brightening blue skies, enhancing sunsets or softening skin, all while retaining nice sharp edges and details.

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On the video editing side, the new Adobe Premiere Elements now supports AVCHD video, which should be welcome news for auteurs wielding those new tapeless HD cameras.

The software also features an InstantMovie tool that can create professional-looking effects through a simple drag and drop theming tool. There’s also a new “green screen” tool that makes it easy to merge video or superimpose your subject on top of another scene, without needing sophisticated video editing skills.

Once you’ve got your video looking the way you want it, Premiere can burn it off to DVD or Blu-ray and offers publishing options for just about any screen size — from mobile phones to HDTV. There’s also an option to upload your movie directly to YouTube.

Pricing for the new Photoshop.com web service is tiered. At the bottom level, there’s a simple Photoshop Express account, which hasn’t changed; you’ll still get 5 GB of storage for free. The next level up is the Basic Membership, which you can sign up for through either Elements app. A Basic account is still free and offers the same 5 GB storage limit, but it gives you access to the automatic backup features as well as tutorials and some additional themes.

Also available is the Photoshop.com Plus membership, which will set you back $50 per year, but bumps the storage to 20 GBs and offers a steady stream of updated themes, video tutorials, hints, trick and ideas.

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