Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 Review

by Reads (18,961)
  • Pros

    • Powerful photo editor
    • Multiple output options
    • Reasonable price
  • Cons

    • Confusing wizards
    • Organize system is bizarre
    • WMV-only video output

By: Dustin Sklavos

Today we begin a new review series covering consumer-grade photo editor software. First on the chopping block is Adobe’s entrant, Photoshop Elements 7. Does Elements 7 measure up to Photoshop’s marquee reputation, or is it just a truncated version of a “real” photo editor? We shed some light in this review.

First impressions are the cruelest. Like my experience with Premiere Elements 7, Adobe doesn’t have its wizards simplified quite enough for the average user but, despite too many abstracted features, Photoshop Elements 7 has a pretty solid photo/image editor lurking within.

STARTING OUT

When I first opened Photoshop Elements 7, I was greeted with this screen:

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 first open screen

I’ll break it down for you: Organize is a living hell wherein you basically “organize” your photos and videos together in the most obtuse way possible. The Edit window takes you into an interface that’s basically a full-fledged Photoshop editor with a dumbed down interface, which is actually pretty swanky. The Create window takes you into a series of confusing wizards for producing photo albums. And finally, the Share window allows you to burn your photo albums to DVD, post them online, and so on.

ORGANIZE

The Organize function in Photoshop Elements 7 is absolutely heinous and, in my opinion, should just be avoided. It looks like some kind of photo browser, but it actually isn’t. Instead, it maintains a sort of “inventory” or “album” of photos in your computer.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 organize screen

When I first opened the Organize window, it auto-selected five videos, seemingly randomly, off my computer. Now, taking a look at that screenshot, maybe you wouldn’t be as confused as I was, but I was trying to figure out how to get to the other images on my computer. Eventually I realized you go to File, and then import new images that way. It seems absurd for something that could and should function as a file/image browser requires you to manually import images, especially when it can randomly import a few videos on its own.

In the Organize window you can also click Fix, which offers the following options:

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 fix options

Essentially a bunch of basic, simple tools that unfortunately don’t work quite as well as you might expect. All of the possible color adjustments would probably be best handled manually outside of the Auto Red Eye Fix. Many of them will just blow out the image or cause all kinds of unforeseen, unwanted alterations.

EDIT

The Edit option is where most users should really be spending the vast majority of their time in Photoshop Elements 7. The Edit window looks substantially more complex than the other tabs, but in turn is also much more robust.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 editor screen

Part of the reason the Edit window looks so intimidating is because it’s basically a cut-down Photoshop proper, and actually brings with it many of the full-bore Photoshop trimmings. I’ll readily admit that, even with some formal education, Photoshop still scares the crap out of me. That said, basic cropping, trimming, coloring tweaks, layering and so on are fairly simple to handle in the Elements 7 editor.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 tweaks

This Edit portion of the software may not be very user-friendly (truthfully, not much of Elements 7 is), but having something this robust at your fingertips cannot be underestimated. It’s like getting the core functionally of the much more expensive professional-grade Photoshop for considerably less cash.

I’d recommend Photoshop Elements 7 for the Edit portion of the program alone.

CREATE

The Create section might be of some use to those interested in scrapbooking — admittedly a demographic Photoshop Elements 7 targets — but I doubt it will be much use to anyone else.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 photo book

Photoshop Elements 7 brings several templates to the table for printing out scrapbook pages, as well as the option to create a slide show video exported into Windows Media Video. This is unfortunate, since Windows Media Video is really only playable on Windows-based machines. Getting it to run on Macs is sketchy at best, and when you’re dealing with photo work, that’s not a section of the market you want to ostracize.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 slideshow

The output options for making a slide show are fairly simple, including exporting to a PDF file or outputting to a DVD. Not too shabby, but still a bit obtuse.

SHARE

In many ways I feel like the Share section should probably have been fused with the Create section, since there’s some overlap here.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 share

Photoshop Elements 7 offers several options for sharing your photos, including direct upload to Flickr or producing a CD/DVD in much the same way as Create does. The Order Prints option links you up to Shutterfly’s professional printing service, and the rest of the options are fairly intuitive.

Again, I appreciate the inclusion of all of these options but I can’t help but feel like these things could be organized better. There’s too much crossover between the distribution methods and the initial “creation.”

CONCLUSION

I’ll admit to having felt a little bit out of my element, so to speak, with Adobe Photoshop Elements 7. The video editing software we previously reviewed was easy enough for me to critique — I’m a trained video editor — but this is a world with which I’m less unfamiliar. In a way, though, I think that makes me an excellent candidate for handling software like this. Why? Because I’m still a pretty clean slate. I know how to operate traditional Photoshop, but the wizards and such are brand new to me.

In that respect, Photoshop Elements 7 is unfortunately just as obtuse as its video-editing brother, Premiere Elements 7. The Organize system makes no sense to me at all; I get the idea that it’s supposed to be similar to a project bin in video editing, but it has no analog in professional photo work. Most people I know tend to keep the majority of their photos in one or two folders anyhow, so why did we need this? Especially with Windows 7 around the corner and its Photo library basically doing the job for Adobe.

The output options in the Create and Share sections are for the most part straightforward, but they, like Organize, bring too much over from the Adobe Creative Suite 4 interface, and it’s to the software’s detriment. CS4’s interface style is designed to be robust and professional, with user-friendliness taking a back seat. Consumer-grade software shouldn’t be this confusing to look at.

Where Photoshop Elements 7 finally earns its gold star is the Edit section, which brings you into a remarkably full-featured photo editor. While yes, this is no less complicated to use than the other options in the software, the benefits to learning how to operate it are manifold. If anything, though, the Edit section is curiously out of sync with the rest of the suite, operating more like a stripped-down Photoshop than as a part of a larger suite of tools.

For the casual photo editor, I’d probably give Photoshop Elements 7 a pass. But if you have any interest in learning how to manipulate digital images, this software should be at the top of your list. The full version is available off of Adobe’s site for $99, and I recommend it.

PROS

  • Powerful photo editor
  • Multiple output options
  • Reasonable price

CONS

  • Confusing wizards
  • Organize system is bizarre
  • WMV-only video output



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