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Adobe Photoshop & Premiere Elements 8. A seven month long review from a long time user.

  • Jun 17, 2010
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I had a hard time reviewing this product, so I took extra time with it. I got it November 24th, 2009. I am publishing my review for it about 7 months later, on June 17th, 2010. My first knee jerk reaction was to give it 2/5 stars and just list the things that irritated me about it, or didn't work well. But, I am a long time user of the Adobe Elements products, and I like them, so I decided to use the products for two separate projects. One is a long time running VHS to DVD conversion project I am working on for old family home videos. The other is a sorting, tagging, dating, archiving and backup project for the over 1 terabyte worth of digital camera images we have stored on our computers. These projects are still ongoing, but I have been using the Elements products with them long enough now, that I am ready to render a fair judgment on them.

For first time buyers, the Elements versions of these software packages are well worth the money for what you get when you are a new buyer. They are quality software products, and I use them all the time. However, if you are upgrading to version 8 from version 7, then I have to say that version 8 is barely a 2/5 star product if you are upgrading from version 7 (B001DMBX7S).

My first experience with Adobe Premiere Elements was with version 3.0 which I bought as a stand-alone copy (not bundled with Photoshop Elements). When I upgraded to version 7 a year later (I got version 3 later than it had been released), there was a HUGE difference. More and better file formats were available. AVCHD files could be handled, Blu-ray discs could be burned, and streamlining had been done to everything. The timeline was better, and the video conforming process wasn't as CPU crippling as it had been in the past. However, for version 8 of both Photoshop and Premiere Elements, no such major leap forward is being made this time. In fact, most of the things being offered are either gimmicky web-only things, or "enhancements" of things that are already in version 7. The things which are new, either don't work that well, or are mostly useless to me.


Value For Productivity:.............................4/5
"Ultimate media management hub": ............4/5
"Manage and protect photos and videos":....3/5
"Edit photos with extraordinary results":......4/5
"Make incredible movies with less effort":.....3/5
"Enhance movies with pro-quality effects":...3/5
"Create and share in unique ways":.............4/5
Irritation, User Friendliness, Ease of Use:......3/5
Overall:..................................................4/5 or 2/5 (new user vs. upgrade from 7)

[Note: the computer used to test this product is a 3.2GHz, dual core processor, with 2GB of RAM, running Windows XP SP3 (yes, I am still running XP, I will upgrade to 7 when I have a reason to do so)]

I decided during my 7 month tour of this program, that I would test EVERYTHING about the product that I could, and that was a tool which I would have a reasonable desire to use or utilize. So, I basically went down the list of features they are displaying on the product web-page. For this review, I have copied that entire list down verbatim (sans any typos I may have made), and I am going to comment on each feature.

Items marked as "Enhanced: " existed in version 7 of the product, and Adobe claims they have upgraded those items for version 8.
Items marked as "Same: " are the same as they were in version 7 of the product, according to Adobe.
Items marked as "New: " are new to version 8 of the product.

[And yes, for the record, I did apply the patch they released during the time I was reviewing this product.]


The installation process went smoothly. The software also doesn't complain if you uninstall it from one computer, and install it on another. So, no draconian DRM that I could see. You are not forced to uninstall anything to use the software, and you are not nagged or forced to register the product (although they do ask once, there is a "never ask me this again" option).

Enhanced: Access and Share all of your photos and video clips from one convenient place
Yes, this is true -- if you want to use Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements as the programs you open in order to find, view and work with your stuff. I, myself, am perfectly fine with just opening the actual directory the files are stored in. I found this feature useless, with a touch of annoyance as well, when it came to their automatic indexing agent -- which you cannot shut off for any of the automatic directories it searches (My Videos, My Pictures, My Documents).

Enhanced: Easily find, view and tag and protect your media
Yes, this is true, you can open the programs and add tags to your photos and videos. You can then use those tags to call them back up again in groups, and you can set tags as protected, and individual files as protected.

Enhanced: Search for media by date or by keyword, and find using visual tags or People tags
This is also true, and you can also do this in Windows or Apple OS X. The finding by visual or people tags only works if you have gone through all of your photos and SET the tags -- which -- can take a LONG time, so be prepared for that.

Enhanced: Easily launch photo or video editing options without leaving the Organizer
This is true, but it is about a logical as saying, "easily drive your car with the included steering wheel." It is kind of a "duh" claim.

Overall opinion of these features: they are nice enough, but I doubt many people would buy the software for them.

New: Find photos of specific people fast with automatic People Recognition
This feature takes an INSANELY long time to set up and use. You have to open every single one of your photos, and let the program scan them for faces [if you have over a decade's worth of digital photos, and scanned photos sized over a terabyte, good luck, and black out your weekends for the next couple of months, if you are determined to do this with all of your digital photos]. Then you have to setup "people" in the program, and assign those people to the faces. Then you have to drag a box around faces it doesn't pick up, and correct it when it is confused, or mislabels someone. Once you have trained the software with about 100 versions of someone's face, it is still only about 30-45% accurate when it guesses who someone is. And if they are making a face, have their head turned or angled, etc. Forget about it, the software won't recognize them. [Also, children are especially problematic. Due to the fact that children are in a constant state of change and growth, the software has a very hard time keeping track of them. This is, of course, not the software's fault, it is simple biology, but it still means that the feature is almost worthless when it comes to tracking children.] After training this feature with over 500 images of a person, it was still only correct about 60% of the time. This feature takes too long to use (and you have to kind of hunt for it in the "Organizer" in the first place), and it isn't that accurate.

New: Quickly tag video clips as you view them
This feature works well. And tagging video clips is actually much more handy than tagging photos. I use this feature regularly. It helps to have all "wedding" video footage tagged, as well as "birthday" & "graduation" etc.

New: See the same photos and videos on all of your computers with automatic syncing[1]
This works, but it is a pain in the BEHIND to setup, and it is finicky. If you have security setup on your system (firewalls, anti-virus, etc.), be prepared to fight with it to allow this to happen.

Same: Get automatic online backup and 2GB of storage[1], enough for up to 1500 pictures or 24 minutes of DVD-quality video[2]
I used this once, just to check it out. 2GB of storage is 1/4 of the storage available on my Gmail account, and that increases daily. 1500 pictures or 24 minutes of video is insulting and laughable as a "feature" or value-added service. I get that they are trying to hook people into the service by giving them a free sample, but I don't see the value as it is offered. I would rather pay an automatic online backup service to just back up the whole computer (which you can then access remotely) than deal with this over priced and inconvenient service.

Same: View your photos and movies from any web-enabled computer[1]
I used this once, just to check it out. It works, that is the best I can say about it. I don't really want my photos or movies on the open internet where any weirdo can mess around with them. Not enough security for my taste.

Enhanced: See full-screen photo and video previews in the Organizer, and edit photos full screen
Key words here are, "in the Organizer." I.E. not in the Photoshop editing software main program. Which means you have to toggle into the mode, and the Organizer doesn't load nearly as fast as it should, especially when the editor is open. What they also fail to tell you is you cannot just use the Organizer to open up and view an image or video. Oh no, you have to let their automatic analyzer build "albums" automatically, before the files will be known and useful in the program, or you have to "import" the files into the program using their "get media" function. Why one cannot simply use the Windows File system and the "my videos" and "my pictures" directory system already in place, is a mystery to me, but one cannot.

Enhanced: Quickly find your best photos and video clips with the Auto-Analyzer
Yes, this is true ... if you take the time to index everything yourself, add the tags, and organize and sort them using the system. Otherwise, all the automatic analyzer does is crawl through the files on your computer, and make a list of them that the programs know how to read to tell the programs where files are. This claim is like saying that a filing cabinet will allow you to quickly find photos etc. etc. then you get there and find a filing cabinet with a huge stack of photos standing next to it with a sales guy standing there grinning at you and proudly proclaiming, "we found all of these photos for you! Now all you have to do is sort, label and organize them into a system you can use and find, using our handy dandy filing cabinet we have provided you! Isn't science wonderful?!" At which point, I do believe blunt force trauma with the nearest heavy office equipment would be justified. So, short answer, yes the claim is "true" and no it won't save you any time or work miracles in any way shape or form. In fact, if you have spent ANY time organizing your files using the normal Windows directory system, prepare to have to do all of that work all over again, if you decide to manage those files from now on using the "Organizer." Also, prepare to be forced to use the Organizer from here on out, because the files on your computer itself, in the Windows directory system will remain perpetually unorganized. And, the only way going forward for all of your organizational work to pay off in the future will be for you to use this software forever, and to keep buying and upgrading it as new operating systems, etc. come out. Just keep that in mind before you dump the next 6 months' worth of weekends into this organizational tool. As for me, I am going to continue to do all of my organization with the normal directory system.

Enhanced: Organize photos and video clips using visual tags, and use the Tag Cloud to quickly find media with the most popular tags
This really should have just been listed in the same bullet point as the one above. It is the same stuff. The auto-analyzer will find photos and videos, put them in the "Organizer" in lists and "albums" and ask you to tag them with labels, identify the event they depict, date them, ID the people in them, etc. Yes, it works, and yes, it will take you an insanely long time to actually do all of that.

Overall opinion of these features: This is easily the most over-hyped aspect of the software. If anything they are dangerously leading you down the path of using this program to manage & organize all of your photos. What happens if the program gets corrupted or crashes and you lose all of the organizational tags? What happens when you upgrade operating systems or move computers? You have to buy a new copy of the software (most likely), and you will have to keep buying new copies of it as that happens -- until they stop making the product, at which point you will be in major trouble. The tagging takes an INCREDIBLE amount of time, and it isn't nearly as smart as they say it is. The backup and online storage offerings you get for free are a joke, and the auto-analyzer is actually a drain on your system resources.

New: Recompose your photos to any size without distorting key subjects
I tried this tool a couple of times, following the steps in the help documentation, and all I can say is that it doesn't work very well. Even when you do succeed in deleting something or someone from the scene, the deletions are obvious, the image draws together again awkwardly. Additionally, there is a reason why the sample shows people standing on a beach with a clear (and blank) foreground, middle ground, and background. That makes it very easy to re-compose the scene without it being obvious what you are doing. The tool works, but the results generally look awkward or forced. If you use it in a busy scene (like a cluttered living room, or a party) your deletions will be quite obvious. Better to learn traditional editing techniques to hide or delete things, than use this tool.

New: Create perfectly lit shots with Photomerge(tm) technology
Are you a professional photographer? No? Then move on, this isn't for you. For the rest of you, if you want to go to the trouble of framing a shot very carefully (using a tripod is pretty much required), and then taking the "light" and "dark" aspect exposures of the scene (plus a baseline), then yes, you can merge them together to get an idealized lighting version of the shot (and you can tell from my verbiage that I am NOT a professional photographer). I tried this, once, just to say that I had done it. I had to read my digital camera's manual for like an hour to figure out how to do the exposures properly, and then when I used the tool, yes, I was able to recombine them in a way which looked slightly better than the baseline image. I cannot really see the appeal of this function, but maybe professional photographers might? Of course, professionals probably shell out for the professional versions of software as well, and not the discount, mass-market versions.

New: Preview a range of adjustments before choosing the best one
This function is actually rather handy. It works very similarly to how Paint Shop Pro (version 8) previews adjustments. This version is snappier and slicker though. If you want to "try it before you buy it" for visual effects you want to add to an image, this function works nicely.

Same: Get ongoing tutorials with helpful tips and tricks[3]
Yeah ... the tutorials are kind of garbage, and they are also online, ONLY! There is no built-in, offline, help file. If you want help, and access to the tutorials, you pull up the menu, and it launches your web-browser. The tutorials themselves are poorly written, poorly organized, and offer very little in the way of examples. They also are quite light on the details. They offer more of an overview, than an in-depth view. I found other online resources much more helpful than the official "help" files and tutorials. And, also, honestly, who lists help files and tutorials as a "feature?" Didn't everyone generally expect software to come with a manual 10 years ago? And a fully functional help file 5 years ago? This is easily one of the most frustrating, and obnoxious aspects of the software -- if you are a power user and actually intend to USE the software for more than adding titles to a video, taking the red out of a snap-shot's eyes, or organizing your files.

Same: Whiten teeth and make skies bluer in one step
Pretty much every image editing product on the market has functions that can automatically: clear skin, whiten teeth, remove red-eye, adjust color and hue, etc. These functions have been around in various forms for over 10 years now. Yes, they are getting more simple to use, but they aren't exactly "must buy" features. I have used all of them, and they do work, although unless you use them sparingly, and in their lower settings, your editing will be obvious.

Same: Simultaneously select an area and apply incredible effects with a single brushstroke
This used to be called "picture tubes" now they are calling it, "incredible effects in a single brush stroke." These are canned clip-art, lighting effects, etc tied to a "brush" and select tool. They work, they are also for amateurs, and impress nobody.

Same: Easily clear your scene of unwanted moving elements with Photomerge(tm) technology
This one is tricky. It is basically the same as the Recompose tool combined with the Photomerge tool. You select the object in motion you want painted out of the scene, and then let the tool recompose the image and remove it, while handling lighting, etc. It works, but about as well as the Recompose tool. Which is to say, not very. Your edits will be noticed in any scene that isn't a beach, or a grassy field (with no background), etc. Simple, clear, fore, middle, and back grounds are pretty much needed for this tool to work well.

Same: Fix red-eye and improve skin tones with one click
This is what happens when the marketing department is allowed to write your bullet points for your product. This should have been included in the "whitens teeth, and makes skies bluer" bullet point. It is the same set and classification of quick and easy tools to edit a specific feature in an image. In this case: red-eye, and skin tone (i.e. acne). Yes, they work. The red-eye actually works quite well, and isn't that noticeable, but the skin-tone one is almost impossible to pull off and make it look natural. Better to do a spot delete + blend and smooth in my opinion.

Same: Create great group shots and panoramas with Photomerge technology
This is literally the third time they have listed Photomerge as a feature in this section. Yes, you can merge photos together, in this case, you can use it like cut & paste. No, it isn't super impressive, and yes, unless you have the exact same scene, shot in the exact same way, with the exact same lighting, etc., then your edits will be obvious. There is a reason they show a city scene with three people with a space, and then the exact same scene with a person standing in that exact same spot where there was a space, and then the merged photo puts them together and fills the space. They also show an image with a background that isn't ideal, and show how to swap them out, they also fail to point out that again we pretty much need clear: middle ground, foreground, and backgrounds, to make this work well.

Overall opinion of these features: The editing tools, for the most part, work fairly well. Just don't expect any miracles. A lot of the more tricky functions work best with simple and clean scenes (uncluttered), and even then don't expect miracles. Probably the most useful function is the preview function, while the functions with the most "wow" potential are the Photomerge and Recompose functions. Your mileage may vary.

New: Have shaky footage and color and lighting problems fixed automatically
I actually had shaky camera footage that I desperately needed cleaned up. The camera holder had a hand tremor, and the footage was literally unwatchable. The footage was HD AVCHD 1080i footage. I ran the tool on one, short, scene, and let it run for well over an hour (this is on a dual core 3.2GHz, Pentium 4 processor with 4GB of RAM mind you, not an off-the-shelf piece of garbage), and after it was done, it was blurrier, and zoomed in more, and still shaky. I couldn't see what good it did, at all. If anything, it made it worse. Maybe it was because the footage was HD. Maybe it was because the shake was literally THAT bad. I don't know. But I can say that it didn't work for my shaky footage.

New: Have unwanted footage trimmed automatically
Yeah, if you trust this function, you are nuts. How on EARTH does this function make its determinations on what is wanted, and what isn't? It has "quality level" and "interest level" sliders you can set (basically a scale of 1-5), and when you run the tool, the auto-analyzer will just run through the file willy nilly and suggest sections right in the middle of a scene or dialog which you would never actually cut (with suggestions like the footage is slightly blurred in that section -- which is bound to happen with hand-held cameras!). If you set it to automatic mode, expect to be missing random hunks of scene. This tool would make more sense if you were importing entire VHS to DVD projects which had the screen noise between scenes, and the black unused tape sections at the end of a video. If it JUST cut things like that out, reliably, then I would be a happy camper. Sadly, it doesn't. Sure, it found some of those things in my project, but not reliably. It would also flag perfectly wanted sections of a scene for deletion as well. This tool doesn't work well at all. You have almost no control over it, and you can't train it, either. If you have a hard time telling which sections of footage or blurry, still for too long, or things like that, then this tool can help point them out to you though.

New: Use automated options to intelligently balance audio elements
I am in no way shape or form an audio expert or enthusiast. I tried this function, and I couldn't honestly tell a difference.

Same: Get ongoing video-editing tutorials with helpful tips and tricks[3]
My complaints about the help and tutorials from the photo edition section apply here as well.

Same: Effortlessly create a polished movie by choosing a theme and letting InstantMovie do the editing, using techniques from Hollywood directors
This works, but unless you shot a wedding or birthday party beginning to end with one large scene, or several scenes strung together, the effect is very jarring. But, if you are literally looking just for menus, some effects, and some scene titles, this will get it done for you. I, obviously, opted for the more complicated, but elegant tools offered. I did try this once though.

Same: Create your movie with drag-and-drop ease in the Sceneline
Yes, this is true, and also one of the greatest strengths of this software. Being able to pull your exported video together in the sceneline/timeline with drag and drop, and also being able to drag effects and transitions in between scenes, etc. is a real time saver. This is easily the best feature of the video editing software.

Same: Easily edit slide shows and movies to the beat of a favorite song
Yeah, this is rather exaggerated. You can basically load up a song for the video, and then have a beat analyzer display itself in the timeline/sceneline. That is where the "easy" part ends. If you enjoy making music videos, etc. then this will help you, but you still have to make the scenes and video match up to the beat. Easier said than done. I will grant that having the beat functions to work with do help. Note, the beat analyzer can also do the same thing for the in-video audio.

Overall opinion of these features: pretty solid. They actually left out some of the best features of the software, such as the ability to annotate the timeline, and the ability to add key frames, and to break the scene breaks up the way you want, and to drag and drop effects (if you are an amateur action movie maker), etc. The drag and drop sceneline is easily the best feature though.

New: Use motion tracking to add graphics that automatically move with the subjects in your scenes
Yes, this works. But no, it doesn't work very well. There are noticeable "artifacts" in the footage after you do this.

New: Add graphics, frames, and animations from a new clip art library
The graphics and frames work pretty well, the animations do not. They are clip-art animations, and if you are working with high quality AVCHD HD 1080i footage, they look terrible inserted into it.

New: Apply 2D video effects (e.g. sparks or a blurry face) to a specific area of a moving object
The blurry face effect is pretty cool, and because what you are trying to do is intentionally wreck a section of the footage, this effect works much better than most. Still, the motion detection is spotty at best though, and you had better have a dang powerful computer if you want this to finish in under 3 hours. If you are editing a full length AVCHD video (instead of VHS to DVD transfers), expect to spend a LONG time on this. Sparks, and other 2D effects have mixed results. It all depends on the footage quality.

Same: Easily combine elements from different videos for entertaining results
Well, sure. You have a sceneline which you can drag any video footage from any source in. You can splice movies together, add in footage from other movies, etc. You can get very creative with this. But that is the power of the scene line. That is the editing tool video editors have been using for over a century now.

Same: Add musical soundtracks that automatically adjust to match the length of your movie
In other words, loop. Or, in rare cases, cut. There is nothing fancy about this. If you load a song which is 3 minutes long, and your footage is 4 minutes long, then it will loop and extra minute of the song. If your footage is 2 minutes long, it will cut the last minute.

Same: Jazz up the action with effects, transitions, and movie themes
This has already been mentioned in the last two video sections (their marketing people are out of control). Yes, you can add effects. Yes, you can add themes. Yes, they all work. No, they aren't super impressive. (Make you own theme using PhotoShop if you want to go the extra mile, be prepared to spend some time on it though!)

Overall opinion of these features: For what you get for the price of the video editing software, I think you are getting some fantastic tools. The automatic functions are mostly worthless, as are the effects, etc. But the sceneline, and the other key functions are EXACTLY what you need to edit your footage in a way which is presentable to the outside world. The way you can easily cut scenes, or split and then cut them, is something they aren't even bragging about, and that is actually my favorite part of the sceneline tools!

Enhanced: Showcase photos and videos together via one-of-a-kind interactive sharing templates
This function is worthless. The templates are limited, and not exactly all-encompassing. And NOBODY is going to bother with this more than once. (Except maybe Grandma). Most people e-mail their videos and photos directly, or post them to social networking sites. (Which, this software actually supports in a limited way)

Same: Share photos and movies on Apple iPhones
I don't use Apple products. Therefore, this was the only feature I couldn't test. I am sure it works fine though.

Same: Use flexible photo layouts to create scrapbook pages, CD/DVD labels, and more
This is very similar to the video templates available for the video editing software. It works, but I didn't see any real need for it. Very similar to my "meh" response to all of the other templates offered.

Same: Easily share photos via e-mail and on websites and TVs
This is actually pretty dang handy for your parents and grandparents. They can literally just click a couple of buttons, and the program will take care of the rest of the details. For the more technologically inclined, this feature is fairly unnecessary.

Same: Share movies on DVD, Blu-Ray Disc, mobile devices, and YouTube(tm)
This is EXTREMELY useful. They try to over-simplify it a little bit too much, but the ability to output your video in almost every format known to man, and with a host of options and controls over how it is exported, is one of the major gems of the video editing experience. Just make sure you have a powerful enough video card, audio card, and processor, otherwise those rendering sessions will take forever! Also, burn to your hard drive as an ISO, and then burn to disc from the ISO. That way, if something goes wrong with the burn to disc operation, you don't have to start ALL OVER AGAIN! Like I did ... more than once.

Overall opinion of these features: The video output options are the real value in this section, followed by the handy ways to share photos. Everything else is fluff.


The program will pop-up advertisements from Kodak advertising their print services. I hated that, and couldn't believe they included it.

By default, ALL of the "please bug me with ads from your 1st and 3rd party vendors offers and services" options are on and checked as approved. See screen shot uploaded for this review.

You will get pop-ups nagging you to use their premium service for backups.

It will bug you to register an account with their online service, although it isn't needed to use the software, they will imply that it is.

The auto-conform process of all preview videos and themes takes forever, and is insanely annoying.

The "photoshop elements organizer" doesn't always quit when you close it, becomes memory leak, and can cause a crash.

The "ElementsAutoAnalyzer.exe" file runs automatically, without your permission, to index your files, and can actually cause your system to slow or pause, while it does what it does.

When you go into edit>preferences>Organize & Share, and go to edit the "Auto-Analyzer Options" to turn off their obnoxious and CPU hogging analyzer process, it will pop-up a notice that your e-mail address hasn't been entered in the sharing preferences when you try to save your analyzer preferences. It WILL NOT allow you to press OK, and save anyway, it will keep the window open until you type in a real address, or a gibberish one. Even then, I didn't see the process actually disappear from the task list.

This is a quality software package for a very reasonable price. Obviously their marketing people are trying to make it a panacea for the masses to cover every possible video or photo editing situation, but the core products are good. I rate it 4/5 stars for new buyers, and 2/5 stars if you are upgrading from version 7 (don't).
[1]Available in the USA only. Internet access required. Also available at [...], no purchase necessary
[2]Photo capacity estimate based on JPEG file at 1944x2592 pixel resolution. Video capacity estimate based on DVD mpeg-2 video and audio. Actual capacity will vary based on your content.
[3]Available in the USA only. Internet access required.

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Computer programmer and information security and computer forensics professional. Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with a minor in Information Security and Computer Forensics.      … more
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Combining the newest versions of the #1 selling photo- and video-editing software* at a great value, Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 & Adobe Premiere Elements 8 software gives you power and ease of use so you can do some amazing storytelling with photos and videos. Bring all your video clips and photos together in one convenient place where you can easily find, view, and manage them; protect them with automatic online backup and 2GB of free storage;** and then dive right into a full range of creative activities. Make your photos look extraordinary and show them off in photo books, scrapbook pages, interactive Online Albums, and more. Create incredible movies with professional-quality effects and sound, and share them on disc, YouTube, and virtually anywhere else. And combine photos and videos in cinematic slide shows and visually rich movies.

Photoshop Elements 8

The toolbar says it all.

Quickly recompose your photos to any size. Click to enlarge.

Clean up and create composites with Photomerge. Click to enlarge.

People Recognition automatically identifies the people in your photos.

Showcase your photos in one-of-a-kind Online Albums, photo books, and more. Click to enlarge.

Complete photo and video editing made easyAdobe Photoshop Elements 8 & Adobe Premiere Elements 8 software offers a complete solution for photo and video editing:
  • Make your photos look extraordinary, and share them in unique print creations and web experiences.
  • Create incredible home movies with ...

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