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Photoshop Elements was already a more mature product than Premiere Elements, as the version number would imply. Here again Adobe seems to have focused some attention on ease of use for the beginner, which is no bad thing. But there are also quite a few new photo retouching facilities and options for sharing your photos.
As with Premiere Elements’ Media Downloader, Photoshop Elements’ Photo Downloader now has more than one mode. In this case, you get three, with the Standard Dialog simplifying things, and the Automatic Download option copying files across as soon as you hook up your camera or memory card, using the most recent settings. The old interface is still available as the Advanced Dialog, but with some useful new features. It’s now possible to ignore previously downloaded photos automatically, saving you the trouble. You can also automatically create photo stacks out of multiple photos of the same subject. We found this did a pretty good job, although it did have a tendency to get the matches wrong occasionally – such as stacking different children wearing similar clothes together. But the overall results were accurate enough to be useful. You can also preview videos in the Advanced Dialog.
The Correct Camera Distortion filter lets you remove the unwanted effects of lens curvature.
Photoshop Elements 5 has a few more editing abilities, too. The Convert to Black and White facility goes beyond merely de-saturating the colour channels. You get a selection of presets for faking different monochromatic photography systems, or you can customise your own. You can now also take advantage of a powerful Adjust Color Curves filter, which lets you tweak the brightness and contrast levels of shadows, highlights and midtones separately. Again, there are some presets, or you can configure the settings manually.
There’s a filter for correcting camera lens distortion, too. This lets you reduce the effects of the curvature of your camera’s optics, such as converging parallels. There are tools for removing overall distortion, perspective, and vignettes (where the edges are lighter or darker than the rest of the image). You can also extend the image edges so it fits a rectangular frame again. The new Adjust Sharpness enhancement offers a lot more control than the usual sharpening controls in low-end image editing apps. Too much sharpening can give an unnaturally harsh look to your images, but the controls in Elements are sufficiently configurable to produce some very natural-looking results, enhancing the detail without introducing noticeable artefacts.
Using Convert to Black and White, you can mimic the effects of shooting in monochrome.
Most of the remainder of the new features are focused on presenting and sharing your images. There’s a very neat template-based online gallery creation system. This embeds your album into a Flash interface, which can then be uploaded to the Web. However, sharing photo galleries in this way works via Adobe’s own Photoshop Showcase rather than one of the popular third-party options such as Flickr.