Customer Review

482 of 494 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Photoshop Elements is now the market leading photo-editor. It's ideal for serious photographers on a budget, 2 Oct 2010
This review is from: Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 (PC/Mac) (CD-ROM)
Adobe Photoshop Elements is the number one consumer photo editor in terms of licence sales, outstripping Adobe's professional flagship: Photoshop CS5 Extended - largely because of its power and cheaper price. Expensive to upgrade perhaps, but there's no denying Elements 9 is an impressive package for the serious home or semi-professional photographer. As ever, increasing complexity within Elements makes the package ever harder to fully master, but all the basic tools are simple enough and the use of image layers, `Photomerge' panaramas and tranforms can be investigated later. There is plenty of on-line help at Adobe and other sites, although worryingly some of that Adobe help [`How to' guides] is slipping towards `annual membership fees' and of course much of the video help is Adobe Flash based and invisible to Apple users. But Elements 9 is still superb software for those new to image editing and PC photo databases, and you can download a 30-day trial from Adobe now.

New to Elements 9 is the enhanced 'spot healing brush' that wowed Photoshop CS5 users. Just go over a background object in the photo with the 'Content aware' brush tool and hopefully the unwanted item vanishes by blending information in from nearby - ideal for removing things like a car, person, lamppost or seagull [it works well for natural scenes]. This 'content aware' healing brush doesn't always get it right though, but often results improve with fresh attempts. There's also a new guided edit tool that can create pop art, startling graphics and reflections. Photomerge [the superb panorama stitching tool] has been `enhanced' [the blending works better]. Interestingly layer masks have been introduced, one area that lagged behind Photoshop CS5. There's now a tool to transform your new photo into a similar style to an older one [i.e. apply it's contrast and colour vividness] so the photos look good next to each other. There's also some new minor stuff [for me] like quicker uploads to Facebook, an improved editing interface within creation layout, the ability to create and print calendars and suchlike, and create virtual photo-album's scrapbook style [Serif's Scrapbook Artist 2 is more fun for this]. There's also new support for Apple Mac's `multitouch' hardware. The `Plus' version of Elements 9 offers 20Gb of on-line storage rather than 2Gb and a years subscription to `Plus' downloadable content [Flash video help and templates] - but the 20Gb storage is for US users and with upload speeds being a fraction of download speeds not many would wish to use on-line storage anyway.

The old Elements tools are also there, like one step `teeth whitening' and `Sky more blue' tools streamlined to make colour, contrast and lighting adjustments even quicker [actually useful for old faded slide scans or to give your boss a fake tan and make them look ridiculous]. For editing you have a set of 'quickfix' options or you can load the full image editor for greater manual control: such as adjust sharpness, correct camera distortion, levels, hue and skin colour/tones. Standard tools include crop and adjust image size (pixels) and you can just edit selected areas of the photos using various object selection tools. Plus there are step-through guides [guided edit] to help you get there. The software will also integrate with scanners twain interfaces if you are into scanning film, and the Fill Light [shadow/highlight] tool is essential for bringing out detail in shadows from any slide/negative scan. Plus Elements can handle large RAW camera images. You can correct lens barrel distortion using the specific tool or various generic `Transform' tools. You can recompose [shrink] photos without loosing detail. Once installed Elements 9 auto-updates itself.

Elements 9 offers complex image database features [which work better than PhotoShops CS5's]. Although all this takes a while to do, within the photo-organiser you can now quick-edit images while viewing them and you can sync your photo collection across PCs to ensure the same photos are on all of them [useful for backup protection]. Plus you can add location information to the photo via Yahoo maps and satellite GPS if your camera supports it.

System requirements are similar to Elements 7: DVD drive, 1Gb RAM, XP, Vista or Windows 7, Mac 10.5.8+, 1.6GHz processor, 3.4Gb harddrive space, internet access, and a Direct-X9 16-bit graphics card. Those with a modern multi-core PC and 4Gb system RAM will find the program far more responsive though. Elements 9 perhaps isn't a crucial upgrade from Elements 8 or even 6, but for new home users, or those with older versions, it's very powerful photo editing and image database software from the market leaders. The new healing brush and layer masks are enough to convince me to upgrade to v9, but then my workplace pays for my copy [Adobe upgrade prices are steep].

Adobe Elements 9 has only two real competitors at the price: Paint Shop Pro X3 and Serif PhotoPlus X4 [worth investigating]. Professional users will head towards Adobe's semi-automated PhotoShop Lightroom 3.0 and the fantastically expensive Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended, although at work we have Adobe Elements 8/9 on a few imaging workstations for casual users, where the cost of PhotoShop CS5 Extended isn't justified. That said experienced Photoshop CS5 users will find Elements 9 lacking key features they are used to. Photoshop CS5 users won't find Elements 9 immediately easy to use; it's evolved into a very different program and it annoyingly hides identical tools in different menu locations.

Overall a useful and desirable update to Elements 8. Plus you can buy Photoshop Elements 9 as a cheap double pack with the excellent Adobe Premiere Elements 9 [video editing] - and Adobe offer educational discounts for schoolkids/teachers/students.
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Showing 1-10 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Oct 2010 16:03:19 BDT
Last edited by the author on 4 Nov 2011 20:29:50 GMT
Keith_Joseph says:
At full price [nearer £70] it's a tough call between this industry standard Adobe Elements 9 and Serif PhotoPlus X4. Newbies to photo editing who have that sort of cash and want to get more seriously into digital photography will probably be best served by this Photoshop Elements 9 package as it has a larger on-line user base and so more internet help, plus it has the slicker user interface, with it's interface/tools being similar to Adobe's Photoshop CS5, the de-facto industry standard that wiped out the hi-end opposition years ago. Serif PhotoPlus X4 does however offer extras like CPU multicore support, and macros for repetitative tasks, which are reserved for Adobe's flagship 'Photoshop CS5'. Also if you are prepared to wait before upgrading, Serif's upgrade prices are generally cheaper than Adobe Elements upgrade prices [dropping to as low as £15 when the new version is about to be released]. Serif's after sales service is probably more UK friendly than Adobe's US corporate shirts [although some do find Serif's friendly sales-team a bit intrusive]. Elements 9 seems stable under XP Pro 32-bit and Windows 7 64-bit on our PCs [but see other reviews for Macs and 64-bit Windows - although that XP/single core CPU 'content ware fill' bug has been fixed with an Adobe update].

Note I generally avoid the photo database 'organizer' side of Elements 9 [which is easy to do as it's totally un-integrated] - it can take forever searching through every pixel in the known universe [oddly Photoshop CS5's Bridge version is even worse]. It's the main photo editor I treasure that offers home users comparable editing power [and complexity] to Photoshop CS5, albeit with slightly cut-down tools and at a more lethargic pace. For Mac users, Elements 9 requires a multicore processor and apple OS: 10.5.8. or above, and possibly the patience of a saint according to some reviewers here [I'm strictly a Windows PC user].

I know little of Corel's latest offering, but others rate their Paint Shop Pro X3 highly as well for similar money - although it is rumoured to be buggy [Adobe in particular and Serif do offer regular patches]. Corel do offer a trial download of Paintshop Photo Pro X3. Those into virtual digital painting should check out Corel's excellent 'Painter 11' software [which also attracts educational discounts] and the Wacom range of digital tablets. As Corel X3 is getting fairly elderly now, it's often offered discounted on Amazon.

Rummage about for all things photo-editor and scanner related. My fave camera review site is For breathtaking panarama's [PhotoMerge] see and right hand drop tab.

If you qualify for Adobe education discounts though both Elements 9, and Photoshop Extended CS5 in particular, will be far cheaper [see my comment/link below]. At work we only use Adobe Elements 9 or Photoshop CS5, as users familiar with PhotoShop will find that Elements shares a broadly similar interface. Personally I am surprised just how many of Photoshop CS5's tools have made it into Elements 9, albeit often in simpler form. Elements also adds in consumer tools like quickfixes and red-eye removal, but naturally lacks a few things professionals require like Photoshop CS5's sophisticated colour management for print production. Photoshop CS5 is also simply more responsive than Elements 9 on a powerfull imaging workstation - and adding more system memory is generally the most cost effect way of improving photo editing performance. I also use XP Pro at work and home for stability and reliability as it's an established OS, and I try and avoid photodatabases such as Elements Organizer and Photoshop Bridge as they take an age to do stuff [I rely on working folders and logical folder names when image editing].

If you have a zero budget look to ebay for older versions of PhotoPlus [X2 onwards], Photoshop [CS onwards] and Elements [6 onwards] on eBay, as the basic core of these programs is little different to the newest versions [although the likes of RAW+HDR, Windows 7 and multi-core support may be lacking]. Also check out GNU Freeware GIMP [] and Google Picasso 3 [] that are both totally free to use. Plus there's the 'free' software that came with your camera.

PCPro's review of Elements 9 [it's on their 'A List']:

For VIDEO EDITING I would be a little wary of sibling Adobe Premiere Elements 9 as it is getting negative reviews [seems it's taken the eye off the ball somewhat and is too lethargic] - investigate PowerDirector 9 Ultra64 [4*] and Sony's Vagas Movie Studio HD Platinum 10 [5*] video editers as well as these are more highly rated, with Vagas Platinum getting 5* and a Computer Shopper Best Buy [with competitor's PowerDirecter 9 Ultra64 and Serif's MoviePlus X4 scoring 4 out of 5 *].


HELP: Regarding help getting started with Photoshop Elements 9: There isn't an Elements 9 printed manual, but there is one available as a pdf [which I much prefer to a printed manual as our home is overwelmed by clutter, having two teenagers in the house]. You do need internet access though to download the pdf manual and to access other Adobe Elements 9 support.

There is also the in-program Elements help menu [although it suffers from the typical annoying Adobe trait of discussing the tool in reasonable detail, but then not bothering to tell you exactly where the tool is located in the menu].

The Elements 9 manual [as HTML or pdf]

There's also plenty of online Adobe help, including tutorials and videos, at under 'my support', with the main menu at:
Plus there's the odd 'guided edit' tool within Elements 9 as well to 'walk you through' the edit.
And there's plenty of other sites offering Elements help as well [although often for older versions].


PS. Photoshop Elements 10 has now been released in the US and is available for trial download and purchase [October 2011]. If you have this version 9 don't bother to upgrade, but if you have older versions [8 or lower] or are you're new to Photoshop Elements, then version 10 is the logical buy.

Posted on 11 Oct 2010 15:13:47 BDT
Last edited by the author on 29 Jan 2011 23:47:04 GMT
Keith_Joseph says:

As an aside regarding educational discounts, if you want to buy software for your schoolkids to use on their/your home PCs, then check out Microsoft 'Software for Schools' UK Partners like:

Here you can pick up the likes of top of the range 'Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010' for just £38 providing your childs school is eligible [most will be]. This is a far better value buy than the Microsoft Office 'home & student' offerings on Amazon, as you get Outlook, Publisher and Access as well that are required for their IT GCSE and A Level.

You just select the school and input your kids name [who must be on the role-call and live at the delivery address], buy the software and the bare CD/wallet appears in the post [the rather natty CD/DVD is emblazoned with Microsoft holograms and the text 'Licensed by student and facility only']. The large discounts apply to Windows 7, Vista and Expressions as well. Adobe, Corel and Nuance software is also available via educational discounts, and university/college students & staff can also qualify but check the requirements [e.g. for Adobe, students have to be at school or on a two year equivalent full-time course - which appears to include part-timers working towards a degree as well, but check that with Adobe]. Adobe educational discount prices: Photoshop CS5 extended is about £140, Lightroom 3 £90, Photohop & Premiere Elements double pack £80, and Elements 9 £40. With educational licences you get a full single licence, not this upgrade [so you can use your old copy of Photoshop CS on another PC].

Eligable university/college students can also get this educational discounted software from their university IT shops.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Oct 2010 08:36:47 BDT
Nedward says:
If you're truly on a zero budget, download The Gimp - free!

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Oct 2010 08:57:16 BDT
Gimp makes you feel like a gimp though, I'd prefer paint over gimp, this elements 9 is great improvment, never bothered changing from 7 to 8 but 9 was worth the change

Posted on 11 Nov 2010 08:29:44 GMT
Mr D.K Lind says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Nov 2010 16:00:42 GMT
I use the Gimp simply as it's so much faster than PSE. Comparing it to paint is just silly, it does most things the full version of Photoshop does. It lacks management, but Picasa does a great job of that. Each to their own, though.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Nov 2010 21:21:10 GMT
Last edited by the author on 26 Oct 2011 12:38:28 BDT
Keith_Joseph says:
Hi, I don't which bits are 'my fancy talk', but thanks for the 'good review' and your later comments, and no I'm not an Adobe representative [probably wouldn't keep plugging Serif or mentioning Corel if I was]. I work at a university, hence my comments on educational discounts. I guess my written output is normally for technical publications, so my reviews will reflect this. Plus I was limited by the Amazon maximum word number for a review, which has probably given this review a 'clipped' style as I kept cutting words from sentences to get it to fit - I must be a blogger not a tweeter.

As you say Photoshop Elements 9 is a safe first buy for any digital camera and PC enthusiast and it's a lot more consumer friendly than Photoshop CS5. However if your needs [and camera] are relatively simple you can check out the freebies first as it may be all you require. Upgrading later is a trickier decision as the Elements upgrade price is so steep and most of the tools will still be the same as you already have.

Regarding 'GIMP', those I know who use it at work complain bitterly that their boss is too mean to buy them Photoshop CS5 or Elements 9, so presumably they rate it lower than the Adobe offerings [i.e. 'it's OK, but...']. Having licences for Serif PhotoPlus X4, CorelDraw Graphics Studio Suite X5, Adobe Photoshop Elements 9, & Photoshop CS5 Extended, I really don't need to try GIMP, but I suppose it's worth investigating if you'd rather spend your hard-earned cash elsewhere (or your boss is a meanie). GIMP's interface isn't great, but it does have all the main image editing tools and it costs nothing [other than your time] to run. The Windows Live freebie Photo Gallery is also quite good [fast] at organizing photos:

Live Long and Prosper

Posted on 21 Nov 2010 10:58:15 GMT
G Brown says:
Keith J, Wonder if you (or anyone else watching this) have any experience of using PSE9 on a Mac. I've used CS2-4 on Windows but just swapped to Mac.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Nov 2010 11:23:35 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Jun 2011 09:27:23 BDT
Keith_Joseph says:
Hi Graham - Sadly I am not a Mac fan despite our collection of iPods [as I like my games and cheap prices], and back in the days when I used to use Mac G4s a lot for specialist software [around 2001-2006] I always found the Windows version of Photoshop far better implimented than the Mac version, and the same for Microsoft Office [and Photoshop Elements for that matter]. Generally the Mac versions of Photoshop and Office always seemed a bit behind the Windows versions.

I would say Elements 9 is naturally not in the same league as Photoshop CS4 in terms of speed and depth of features, but it still gets the job done for general photo editing. Can't you run Photoshop CS4 under Apple Bootcamp? - 'Content Aware Fill' is nice but not essential, particularly Elements 9's cut-down version. Perhaps try opening an Amazon customers discussion under Elements 9 and Photoshop CS5 to find a few fellow Mac'ie photo-editors. Also try the Photoshop fully functional 30-day trial download [CS5 and/or Elements 9] on your Mac and see how you get on - some reviewers report serious problems with Elements 9 and the Mac, and the is the Apple/Adobe tiff over Flash, but Adobe do issue patches. Photoshop Elements 9 requires a Mac multicore processor and Apple OS: 10.5.8 or above.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Nov 2010 13:28:39 GMT
Last edited by the author on 21 Nov 2010 13:52:42 GMT
G Brown says:
What a cheek, D. Lind! Keith Joseph takes time to write a detailed and very helpful review and you take a swipe at him - and post nothing helpful yourself. I think the guy has done us a favour. Thanks Keith!
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