Adobe Pho­to­shop El­e­ments 15

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Macworld - - Contents - Jackie Dove

As smart­phone cam­eras ad­vance, of­fer­ing fea­tures that ri­val and some­times ex­ceed the point-and-shoots of old, hob­by­ist in­ter­est in photography has surged, not only for doc­u­ment­ing friends and fam­ily, but for record­ing a crit­i­cal world view – sim­i­lar to clas­sic street or land­scape photography. When Ap­ple posts bill­boards of scenes shot by am­a­teurs and pros us­ing their iPhone, it’s not hard to see where the in­spi­ra­tion comes from.

For those who want more vis­ual tricks than Ap­ple Pho­tos of­fers they turn to Adobe Pho­to­shop El­e­ments, an app de­signed for con­sumers who seek an easy way to achieve so­phis­ti­cated special

ef­fects. El­e­ments, now in its fif­teenth it­er­a­tion, is no Pho­to­shop, but a good num­ber of its ad­vanced fea­tures are de­rived from the com­pany’s flag­ship app and name­sake.

Adobe is wise enough not to mess too much with the ba­sic for­mula and gen­eral in­ter­face of this app, pre­fer­ring to en­hance and add to its fea­tures. With ver­sion 15, the up­dated Or­ga­nizer com­pan­ion rocks brand new search ca­pa­bil­i­ties and batch pro­cess­ing, while a new crop of guided ed­its re­fresh the main edit­ing pack­age.


The Adobe El­e­ments Or­ga­nizer, an ana­log to Pho­to­shop’s Bridge, acts like a mini dig­i­tal as­set man­age­ment sys­tem, keep­ing track of all pho­tos and videos to make them ac­ces­si­ble to the two main El­e­ments apps, Pho­to­shop El­e­ments and Pre­miere El­e­ments. Aside from im­port/ex­port and or­gan­i­sa­tional func­tions like rat­ings and tags, the Or­ga­nizer fea­tures face recog­ni­tion, geo­tag­ging, and built-in maps. The Or­ga­nizer is also the place for ba­sic fixes like ro­ta­tion and auto-correction. In ver­sion 15, it does a lot more.

The Or­ga­nizer now has more in­tel­li­gent ca­pa­bil­i­ties, like its new Smart Tags fea­ture. From the search in­ter­face you can see ex­actly what tags the app has placed on your images. Google Pho­tos, Flickr, and Ap­ple Pho­tos al­ready use ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to au­to­mat­i­cally de­ter­mine con­tent for tag­ging pho­tos. Adobe says that deep learn­ing al­go­rithms were used to de­velop the Smart Tags fea­ture, but that there is no on­go­ing AI tech­nol­ogy run­ning in the Or­ga­nizer.

You can use the app’s en­hanced search func­tion­al­ity to quickly scroll by Smart Tags, Peo­ple, Places, Date, Fold­ers, Key­words, Al­bums, Rat­ings and Me­dia Types, whose icons run down the left side of the win­dow. You can choose from the icon or just type in search cri­te­ria in the box at the top of the win­dow.

You can use the And or Or com­mand to nar­row down your search from thou­sands of images, video, au­dio, and projects to find the item you want. Note that each smart tag search builds on the pre­vi­ous one, so make sure the text box at the top re­flects only your cur­rent search.

The Or­ga­nizer’s new In­stant Fix up­date now lets you batch cor­rect pho­tos im­ported into the app. Just group to­gether your cho­sen shots, and the new in­ter­face of­fers a set of ad­justable slid­ers to fix them all si­mul­ta­ne­ously for clar­ity, colour, light, brand new special ef­fects, and more.


Adobe’s Quick, Guided and Ex­pert edit­ing mod­ules lie at the heart of the Ed­i­tor, mak­ing it the go-to app for am­a­teurs seek­ing a more so­phis­ti­cated but ac­ces­si­ble al­ter­na­tive to Ap­ple Pho­tos. This ver­sion de­buts five new guided ed­its to per­form com­plex tasks via step-by-step in­struc­tions. In this ver­sion, how­ever some were bet­ter than oth­ers.

Pic­ture text

While it can be a fairly straight­for­ward task to ac­com­plish that beloved clas­si­cal post­card ef­fect of fill­ing in let­ter­ing with a land­scape or other images, you need the proper tools and know-how. El­e­ments’ new Photo Text guided edit makes it drop dead sim­ple to achieve. The fea­ture lets you choose from the fonts within your sys­tem and even lets you add an em­bossed look and drop shad­ows for a pro­fes­sional fin­ish.

Just choose the Type tool and start typ­ing. You can se­lect and cy­cle through all the se­lec­tions to help you de­cide. Af­ter you choose your font, you can en­large, fit, and ap­ply some sim­ple ef­fects. Oc­ca­sion­ally, this fea­ture had glitchy per­for­mance; we’d choose a font and start typ­ing with­out it reg­is­ter­ing any let­ters on the can­vas. In that case, we can­celled and started over to achieve the ad­ver­tised re­sults.

Art trans­for­ma­tion

Cre­at­ing art from pho­tos is swiftly be­com­ing a world­wide phe­nom­e­non. Pho­to­shop El­e­ments’ new Painterly mo­d­ule of­fers a nod to that by let­ting

you add a can­vas back­ground or wa­ter­colour brush strokes to your pho­tos. There are only five brush styles, but you can change their size and back­ground colour to al­ter the look. The mo­d­ule is aided by a min­i­mal num­ber of tex­tures and ef­fects.

We found this ef­fect a lit­tle half-baked. It’s un­der­stand­able that Adobe wants to keep the tool sim­ple, but in the fu­ture, we’d like to see more en­hance­ments with ad­di­tional brush shapes and tex­tures as well as bet­ter ways to blend them.

Mul­ti­ple ef­fects

The new Ef­fects Col­lage guided edit al­lows you to con­struct an artis­tic pre­sen­ta­tion by carv­ing up

a sin­gle photo into sev­eral sec­tors, au­to­mat­i­cally adding a dif­fer­ent special ef­fect to each one. It’s an in­trigu­ing idea, but not ev­ery photo will lend it­self to the lim­ited num­ber of ef­fects com­bi­na­tions of­fered.

It would be nice if you could ad­just the borders your­self, though there were quite a num­ber of se­lec­tions to choose from in each pre­set. It would be great choose which ef­fects go where rather than just hav­ing to use the built-in tem­plate. But that’s a mi­nor quib­ble with this cool fea­ture, which dresses up mun­dane pic­tures in a pleas­ing way.

Cam­era, ac­tion

Say you don’t know how or were un­able to catch a cool mo­tion shot? Or maybe the scene should have had more ac­tion than it re­ally did? The new Speed Pan guided edit adds a mo­tion blur be­hind your

El­e­ments al­ways shipped with many as­sets, in­clud­ing pic­ture frames for scrap­book­ers and blog posters. Ver­sion 15 gives you Frame Cre­ator, a new way to cre­ate your own cus­tom frames in­stead of hav­ing to choose the app’s pre-made ones. The idea is to give users head­room to ex­pand the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the soft­ware with­out hav­ing to use the built-in art­work. Th­ese new frames can be saved in the app’s frame for­mat and used with any photo, plus you can share them with friends.

We found this to be one of the least in­tu­itive guided ed­its. De­spite the in­struc­tions ac­com­pa­ny­ing each frame tool, the out­come was hard to vi­su­al­ize and in­volved too much ex­per­i­men­ta­tion for a quick re­sult. It would have

Orig­i­nal frames

sub­ject to cre­ate a feel­ing of move­ment. Just se­lect the sub­ject and let the soft­ware do the rest.

been eas­ier had Adobe in­cluded some shapes in this mo­d­ule with ways to tweak the edges in­stead of de­pend­ing on user sleight of hand.

At­ti­tude ad­just­ment

The new Ad­just Fa­cial Fea­tures tech first orig­i­nated in Pho­to­shop Fix, and then mi­grated to Pho­to­shop CC as the Face Aware Liq­uefy fea­ture. Mak­ing faces look friend­lier has come

into vogue for ev­ery­thing from so­cial me­dia por­traits to group shots and self­ies. While I’m not a huge fan of en­hanc­ing peo­ple’s faces, some pho­tos do ben­e­fit from that slight trans­for­ma­tion of a neu­tral ex­pres­sion into a smile. But that’s not all you can do.

You may want to cor­rect a squint that goes with that frown, or oth­er­wise make slight cos­metic changes to lips, nose, and even the shape of the face. But don’t go crazy, be­cause ap­ply­ing th­ese ef­fects can dis­tort the nat­u­ral looks of your sub­ject.

While the defin­ing blue cir­cle does not move and you can’t re­size it – and on at least one im­age we tried – it cut right in the mid­dle of the

face, en­larg­ing the im­age helps to rec­tify that is­sue. Also it would be help­ful if each eye could be ad­justed sep­a­rately, as squints (and faces) are not nec­es­sar­ily sym­met­ri­cal.

Bet­ter fil­ter­ing

Fil­ters are a great way to try on new looks for special or not-so-hot pho­tos, and an up­dated Fil­ter Gallery not only lets you choose a cool fil­ter but also fine-tune the de­tails. You can eas­ily try out each fil­ter by click­ing it, where it will ap­ply di­rectly onto the open photo, and then use in­di­vid­ual con­trols to tweak. While the main fil­ter was ap­plied in real time, the ad­vanced fil­ter some­times ap­peared in a small pre­view box that was harder to see.

Mac­world’s buy­ing ad­vice

Pho­to­shop El­e­ments 15 is a ma­ture prod­uct that gets new and en­hanced fea­tures on a yearly ba­sis while keep­ing an elab­o­rate and en­gag­ing in­ter­face con­sis­tent and easy to use. If you are a photo en­thu­si­ast who seeks special ef­fects good­ness with­out the learn­ing curve, Pho­to­shop El­e­ments is the ticket. While we found at least two of the new guided ed­its less than com­pelling, improvements to the Or­ga­nizer were uni­formly use­ful.

For the very most part, Pho­to­shop El­e­ments 15 per­formed well with­out lag time on most oper­a­tions, but oc­ca­sion­ally we en­coun­tered glitches or in­ter­mit­tent buggy be­hav­iour. Adobe says that it rec­om­mends El­e­ments for ma­cOS Sierra, and de­spite a crash here and there, the app func­tioned as ex­pected.

Pho­to­shop El­e­ments Or­ga­nizer Smart Tag and vis­ual search in­ter­face

Type in or use Smart Tags to com­bine or ex­clude key­words in your search

Pick from your own font col­lec­tion; fat ones work best for stuff­ing in pic­tures

Put a photo in­side your text for that old-time post­card look, or maybe a Spring­steen al­bum cover

Orig­i­nal photo art: Mask your photo, use tex­tured brushes to re­veal parts, layer tex­ture in the back­ground, and top off with a fil­ter

Three special ef­fects in one

A Na­tional Park Ser­vice horse car­ries a ranger through Cen­tral Park

Why use built-in frames when you can cre­ate and share your own unique ones?

Smil­ing face looks pretty nat­u­ral, when noth­ing but a smile will do

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