Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 is here

Adobe's Photoshop Elements for PC and Mac and Premiere Elements for PC software are due for their yearly update. Version 8 of both programs has been released, and contains a host of new functionality, mostly in the ease-of-use department.

These bits of software aren't as hardcore as full Photoshop and Premiere - instead Adobe says that they're targeted just above the average consumer, at hobbyists who want headroom to learn how to do complex things and impress their friends.

Elements Organizer for PC
The Elements Organizer bundled with Photoshop Elements 8 for PC contains new technology that allows users to auto-analyse their photos and video and tag them for quality and content. Adobe demonstrated facial recognition to us, too, where you tag a person a few times and it's then able to suggest where that person appears in other photos - making tagging large photo collections easier.

The other minor change to the organiser is that tags can now be displayed in a Web 2.0 style "cloud", rather than the traditional tree. In a jab at its rivals in the consumer space, Adobe told Pocket-lint that "Ease of use doesn't mean putting brightly coloured buttons on the screen". The new functionality lies organised in menus, instead.

Photoshop Elements for PC and Mac
In Photoshop Elements itself, on both PC and Mac, Adobe has tweaked the quickfix tools. Now they all display small thumbnails below their slider when selected, so you can preview the effects of the filter. Adobe says this is because it found that many consumers avoid sliders that they don't understand, so it's trying to educate them in what colour temperature, for example, does.

New functionality has also been added that lets users combine shots with different exposures. Instead of having to choose between putting the flash on and getting your subject, or having it off and getting a clear background, you can take both and digitally combine the two without any tricksy cutting out.

Instead, you just select a background and up to 20 foreground shots, then scribble with a brush approximately over what you want to keep in the foreground. It'll line everything up for you, and expose everything a little more nicely. It'll also work in an exposure bracketing mode, for cameras equipped with that functionality.

Lastly, Adobe has added the ability to recompose shots - cutting out uninteresting space between people. Adobe's calling the tech "content aware scaling", where the software will try and work out the important bits of an image and rescale around them, instead of squishing them.

If it's not working perfectly, you can use the same brush scribbling as mentioned before to indicate areas to keep. Alternatively, if you're a wannabe Stalin, then you can also completely erase people from images - the company called this the "Ex-wife remover".

Premiere Elements for PC
Moving on to Premiere Elements for PC, Adobe has introduced a few more quality-of-life functions to the software. For starters, when you're dragging clips into the timeline, it'll scan the quality and alert you if it thinks that your video is too bright, dark, shaky or lacks contrast. It's then able to auto-correct with a filter.

"Smart Trim" functionality has been added too, which scans a clip for areas where not much is happening, and marks them for optional trimming. It evaluates based on the quality of the section of the clip, and whether anything "interesting" is happening in it - the level of which can be adjusted with a slider.

Those "interesting" things can be tracked - you can select an area of the picture to track, and then attach things to it. We were shown a clip-art bird following a girl's head, and a pixellated area following someone's face.

Lastly, instead of manually adjusting the volume of background music during a clip, you can now automatically reduce it when people are talking in a video clip. The software is smart enough to detect when noise from a clip is a car door slamming, or other background noise, and ignores it in favour of human speech.

Conclusions and Pricing
Adobe Photoshop Elements for PC & Mac and Adobe Premiere Elements for PC should be out now, and cost £100 for Windows versions of both, or £65 for just Photoshop or just Premiere on either platform. Those prices are excluding VAT.