Adobe’s Creative Cloud apps are top-rated for their powerful capabilities, but their high price, subscription-only model, and complex user interfaces leave a lot of users cold. For those who want to leverage Adobe’s technology in a more-approachable way, the company continues to pack features into its Elements Suite. The 2020 versions of Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements, available this week, continue to add new capabilities, mostly thanks to Adobe’s brand of AI that it calls its Sensei technology. We had some time to test each; here are our initial impressions.
Frankly, Elements 2020 looks a lot like Elements 2019 and 2018. If you’re familiar with any recent version of Elements, you’ll easily be able to navigate this one. The only new learning required is locating the new features. While the UI is looking quite dated, it is well thought out and continues to have the advantage of clearly separating Quick, Guided, and Expert modes.
New Features in Photoshop Elements 2020
New features in Elements run the gamut from cute — like adding fun patterns to images and ordering prints and gifts — to workmanlike — faster performance and HEIF/HEVC support. Several, including skin smoothing, object removal, automatic colorization, and one-click subject selection, are made possible through Adobe’s Sensei AI technology framework. There is also a new Auto Creations feature that works similarly to the way Google Photos looks for enhancements it can make to your images and presents them to you on a regular basis. In this case, the results are shown to you on the application’s Home screen.
New Features in Premiere Elements 2020
Elements has auto-tagged photos for a while now, but with the 2020 release of Premiere, videos can now also be auto-tagged, including using facial recognition to tag individuals. I’m pretty excited by this, as videos are especially hard to sort through when they’re just sitting in folders, and they tend to have limited metadata compared with photos to begin with. Like Photoshop Elements, Premiere has added support for HEIF and HEVC codecs on both Windows and macOS.
There are also three new Guided Edits: An automatic time-lapse video creation tool, a sky animation tool, and a tool to fill in the background areas that are normally black when you rotate a video between portrait and landscape.
Testing Photoshop’s New Object Removal Capability
Adobe has made the task of removing unwanted elements in a photo easier than ever in Elements 20. A new Object Removal Guided Edit allows you to select what you want to remove using a brush, or automatically in several different ways. If the object is in front of an otherwise consistent background, Elements then uses some AI magic to paint an appropriate replacement for the deleted object. As you’d expect, this does still have limits. Here is an example image that shows how powerful the tool is and its limitations.
First, the “before” image, an HDR I captured of a courtyard in Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia. I loved the site, but had a hard time getting a shot without a lot of tourists in it:
The first, and most important, step in the Object Removal Guided Edit is selecting the area of the image you want removed. I used the Quick Selection tool to pick out a few of the tourists I found most distracting. When I first selected them it also grabbed some of the background, but a quick shift to “Subtract” let me wipe those away. I created selections in both of the lower corners. Here is a screenshot of the selection I made in the lower left:
Once you are satisfied with your selection, you tell Elements to replace it with an in-painted region based on other portions of the image. You can further tune the results with a Healing Brush or Clone Stamp. In my case, I just let Elements do the work. You can see in the resulting image below that it does very well with the portions of the tourists that are clearly in front of the tile or a step, but it isn’t perfect at estimating what to use for a replacement where there is less to go on. Of course, corners are the hardest for it, as there is only background on two sides to work with:
Colorizing an Image in Photoshop Elements 2020
With all the attention that’s been paid to creatively turning color images into artsy black and white versions, it’s easy to forget that there are still a lot of original monochrome images that people wish had been captured in color. Elements 2020 provides a pretty sweet tool for doing just that. Once you find it (it is under the Enhance menu, not a Guided Edit) you simply invoke it and then choose from one of the looks it comes up with.
I decided to give it a try with a 60+-year-old family snapshot from our album. First I used a couple of Guided Edits to clean up the dust and scratches, fix the tones a bit, and sharpen the image. Then I used colorize. One of the looks resembles what an old color photo might have faded to, one is quite saturated like a slide, one is very subtle, and the one I chose seemed the closest to reality.
Here is the original image:
And here is the final result:
Having restored old and damaged images for clients manually, I’m quite impressed by what I could do in just a couple minutes using Elements. The difference in color between the foreground and background grass seems extreme, but looking at the original, the lighting is so different that it might well have looked this way if the image had originally been shot in color. With a little more work I could certainly have done more to clean up some of the grain and made the sky more attractive, but this keeps the flavor of the original image while giving it some new life.
Pricing and Availability
Both Photoshop and Premiere Elements are available now and are priced at $100 each. Upgrades are $80 per product. A bundle of the two applications is $150, or $120 for an upgrade. If you purchase the new version of Photoshop Elements every year, it really isn’t much less expensive than a Photoshop + Lightroom subscription, but you certainly get an easier-to-use product that you can keep forever. If you need video editing, then the price benefits are substantial compared with a Premiere Pro or full Creative Cloud subscription. So for those looking for a powerful but economical video editing suite, Elements competes more with CyberLink’s Power Director and Photo Director than it does with Adobe’s own Creative Cloud subscription.[Image Credit: David Cardinal]
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