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Photoshop Elements 4 for the Mac: Worth the Wait?
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New Tools

The most exciting changes in Photoshop Elements 4 are some of the new tools that have been added.

Most of these tools concentrate on automating previously laborious tasks. They can be very helpful in this respect, but remember that a computer is never going to be as good at interpreting a photo's content as a human would be. While many of the "magic" tools offered do an impressive job, they are not infallible.

Users of previous versions of Elements will already be familiar with the two major editing "modes" offered. One is Standard Edit, which feels most like the stripped-down Photoshop that Elements is supposed to be (see Figure 8); the other is Quick Fix, which takes some inspiration from iPhoto and perhaps Lightroom. In Quick Fix mode, you have single-button access to commands such as "Remove Red Eye" and "Auto Smart Fix"; results from the former were generally good in my test; from the latter, they were somewhat more patchy.

Multiple images in Standard Edit mode
Figure 8. Standard edit mode.

The Enhance menu, available regardless of the mode you're in, provides swift access to all these controls and several more.

Magic Extractor

Designed to make scrapbooking easy or for swift production of composite images, the Magic Extractor lets you pull out elements of an image--a person, object, or animal--for use elsewhere.

Your original image is opened in a new window with clear instructions (see Figure 9). With one tool (the Foreground Brush), click as many times as you like on the object to extract. With another (you guessed it--the Background Brush), you click on everything else (see Figure 10). Then, you're shown a preview of what Elements thinks you're trying to extract. You can then use the Selection Eraser and Smoothing Brush tools to fine-tune your extracted object (see Figure 11).

Magic Extractor panel
Figure 9. The original image in the Magic Extractor.

Magic Extractor - making selection
Figure 10. Selecting content for extraction.

Magic Extractor - magically extracted!
Figure 11. Fine-tuning the extracted element.

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