Adobe has unveiled the 14th version of Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements. We spent some time with advance copies of both, and here’s what we learned: For those looking for a powerful, but still easy-to-use, set of photo and video editing tools, Adobe’s new Elements 14 is hard to beat. Meanwhile, anyone planning on working with 4K videos should take a look at Premiere Elements 14.
With that summary out of the way, let’s dive in. Two of the more exciting new features in Photoshop Elements 14 are borrowed from Adobe’s own Photoshop CC: filters to remove camera shake and atmospheric haze. Before anyone gets too excited, this doesn’t mean you don’t need to hold your camera as still as possible, or can shoot in heavy fog and expect the software to make it look like a sunny day. The shake reduction filter can help save an image and make it at least usable, but won’t make it great.
Similarly, Haze Removal (available in Expert mode, and very similar to the Dehaze tool found in the Camera Raw module of Photoshop CC) can’t work miracles. You can see from this image of the Plain of Temples in Bagan, Myanmar that the filter works wonders for the foreground of the image, but can only remove some of the haze covering the mountain range across the river in the background:
Photoshop Elements 14 also adds a guided edit that allows you to add motion blur to images, and an enhanced Refine Edge command in Expert mode that intelligently aids the selection of finely-detailed areas like hair and fur. I used it on this very difficult image of a male lion framed against an earth tone background. I started with a very simple selection and then “painted” around the edge with the Refine Edge tool. While not perfect, the result took me only a minute or two, while doing by hand could easily have consumed twenty or thirty minutes.
Photoshop Elements has had facial recognition to assist in organizing images by person for a while. But version 14 has improved the interface, and the underlying algorithms seem to be more powerful and more accurate — much like the ones introduced in Lightroom CC 2015 (aka Lightroom 6). The process of tagging and naming people is now quite straightforward and relatively painless.
I’m a big fan of the three modes of the Elements editor — Quick, Guided, and Expert. It is awesome to be able to move back and forth between them during an editing session, depending on the task at hand. For fast work, the Auto tools in the Quick mode get better with every release. Often they are all an image needs for quick posting to the web or a social media site.
For a deeper dive, perhaps into types of corrections with which you are unfamiliar, the enhanced Guided mode helps you find your way through a series of steps that might otherwise require watching a tutorial video and trying to take notes and repeat the steps on your own. There are more Guided edits than ever — helpfully separated into Basic, Color, Black & White, Fun Edits, Special Effects, and Photomerge. Finally, there is the Expert mode, for when you know what you want. It is nearly as powerful as the photo-specific tools in Photoshop.
The Photoshop Elements 14 Editor is designed to scale its UI elements automatically on high-DPI Windows machines. But some, like the Surface Pro 3, don’t have quite enough resolution to push the UI over to 200% zoom. You can force that manually by going to Preferences -> Displays & Cursors -> High Density Displays, and selecting it yourself. It will cut off a bit of the bottom of some screens, but it still works okay.The Elements Organizer application and the Premiere Elements Editor automatically zoomed on my test Surface Pro 3.
The headline feature in the new version of Premiere Elements is support for 4K video. Now that many cameras, including many action cameras and drones, can capture 4K video, it was a no-brainer for Adobe to add support for it to Elements. Extensive support for motion titles has also been added. It is also now possible to create black-and-white versions of your video while colorizing specific subjects. Besides adding those new features, Adobe has also beefed up the audio editor and many of the guided edit tools in the product.
Adding motion titles is really easy, since Adobe has provided a set of templates that you can start with. From there, you can make your text look how you want, change the layout of the titles, or their background. The resulting videos look quite professional:
Like Photoshop Elements, Premiere Elements has a three-mode interface — Quick, Guided, and Expert — but the modes are structured a little differently. The Quick mode features wizards for creating an edited video on your own or using a template, and for learning video editing. The Guided mode presents common tasks in more or less the same order you might perform them in an editing session — starting with adding your media and trimming clips, and finishing up with adding various special effects, titles, and narrations.
Now that Adobe has officially cut the price of its Photography Cloud subscription to $10/month for Photoshop, Lightroom, and its mobile apps, the economic advantage of spending $100 on each new version of Photoshop Elements isn’t all that compelling unless you only upgrade every few years. A better reason to choose Elements over Photoshop is that it is much more intuitive and easy to use than either Lightroom or Photoshop CC.
For photographers who don’t want to be beholden to Adobe in the form of an annual subscription, Photoshop Elements 14 is also a great alternative. For videographers, the economic case is more compelling, since Premiere Pro is only available with the more expensive cloud subscriptions ($50/month and up) or as a single application subscription ($20/month).
With Elements 14, Adobe has once again raised the bar for consumer-focused photo and video editing applications. Roughly speaking, they contain almost the same functionality that their big-brother applications, Photoshop and Premiere Pro, featured only a few years ago. For photographers, if you can live without some of the esoteric features of Photoshop and Lightroom CC like mobile sync and content-aware, then you can save some money by getting the less-expensive and easier-to-use Photoshop Elements for $100 or less. Similarly, if you aren’t a professional video editor, the $100 Premiere Elements is likely to be a better option than Premiere Pro. You can get a bundle of both Elements applications (which each include the Media Organizer application) for $150.
[Image credit: Cardinal Photo]