Photoshop Elements is the ‘amateur’ alternative of Adobe Photoshop, It’s much cheaper and it’s designed not just for experts, but novices and intermediate photographers too. On the other handAdobe Photoshop may be the world’s most famous image-editor, but it’s a complex, professional tool with a professional price tag.
It’s designed around Adobe Photoshop, and in its Full Edit mode it has many similarities with Photoshop and the same techniques can often be used in both programs. Some of Photoshop’s more advanced features have been taken away in Elements, though, and a range of novice-friendly quick fix tools and effects have been added, with Quick and Guided Edit modes designed for less experienced users.
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Adobe Photoshop Elements is designed more as a complete end-to-end tool for all your photographic activities. It comes with an Organizer which you can use to catalog your whole photo collection, offers simple image enhancement tools and can be used to launch a whole series of ‘creations’ like photo books, greetings cards and more.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 comes with a list of enhancements to both the Organizer and the Elements editor itself. The Organizer gets some interesting new visual search tools which use clever image-analysis techniques. Not everyone has the time or patience to apply keywords to their photos, so this offers an alternative way of finding matching images where the software does the work, not you.
There are enhancements for social networkers, too. You can now use your Facebook friends list to tag photos, and upload videos straight to YouTube through Organizer.
Improvements to the Elements editor include 30 new Smart Brush effects and patterns which you can paint straight on to your photos. There are three new Guided Edit effects, too, for those who want to enhance their pictures and learn at the same time.
New overlays for the Crop tool help you compose your photos more effectively according to the Rule of Thirds and the Golden Mean, and it’s now possible to add text to a path (curved line), the outline of a shape or a selection. This won’t hold much interest if you use Elements mainly for photography, but it enables you to add more interesting text effects to greetings cards, calendars and other photo creations.
Photoshop Elements is not a small app. On my system, it takes up 2.6GB of disk space, so make sure your hard disk has plenty of headroom. By comparison, Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 (available for $99.99) uses only 364MB. Elements is available for both Mac and Windows, but there’s no 64-bit version. Installation is a multi-step process that involves first downloading and installing the Adobe Download Assistant and then requires a reboot.
When you first start the app, the Welcome screen offers two basic choices on large buttons: Organize or Edit. This introduces a somewhat jarring aspect of Photoshop Elements—the separation between the organizer app and the actual editor. The two-step startup for Elements takes longer than PaintShop, Picasa, Windows Live Photo Gallery, and Apple iPhoto. But Elements’ Organizer beats products in its own category—Serif PhotoPlus X4 and Corel PaintShop Pro. Serif’s organizer is even less integrated and capable than Elements’, and, while Corel offers a bit more integration, its organizer isn’t as slick and powerful as Elements’.
The Social Organizer:
The Elements’ Organizer has been more tightly knitted to popular social networks. Elements can now download your Facebook friends list and use this to tag people in your photos; those tags are preserved when the snaps are uploaded to the site, saving you from having to enter the same data twice. It’s also easier to upload videos to YouTube (with support for Full HD files), although this will naturally be of more use to users of Premiere than of Photoshop Elements.
The Organizer is shared by both Photoshop Elements and Adobe’s prosumer video editing app, Premiere Elements. This is where you import, organize, and share out your photos and collections. It lets you add captions, star ratings, tags, and do basic fixes like rotation and auto-corrections. Though Photoshop Elements can play and tag video, it’s not easy to filter on just videos in Organizer view. A more relevant limitation (for a photo-editing app) was the inability to zoom to full pixel size in Organizer. I think that wherever I’m viewing a photo, I should be able to zoom in and out. It’s just one of the problems of separating the Organizer from the Editor. Another is that once I’m in the Editor working on a photo, I can’t just hit the forward and back arrows to switch to the next and previous images, as I can in so many other apps.
A full screen view of Organizer with hide able toolbars lets your photo take center stage, but I wish a similar view were available in the full editing app. You can, however, drag the image view onto a second screen for a nearly unencumbered view, though there’s still a window border.
When you plug in camera media, an option added by Photoshop Elements appears in the Autorun window, called Organize and Edit (“Import” would have worked for me). This opens an old-style dialog in Organizer called “Photo Downloader“—another somewhat un-standard name. After copying the files to your hard drive, a second Import dialog opens to get the photos into Photoshop Elements’ catalog, and finally your pictures show up in the Organizer. Other software usually combines these steps, which I prefer. Photoshop Elements’ first import dialog lets you choose naming and target folder options and whether to delete the pictures from the card.
Not only can Photoshop Elements 10′s Organizer find and identify faces in your digital photos after you tag some of them with people’s names, but it can also now hook into Facebook, download your friend list, and attach Facebook contact’s names to photos. Photoshop Elements’ face recognition did a decent job of identifying more photos of the same person, but it couldn’t handle profile views, and sometimes proposed persons of the opposite gender (embarrassing) or failed to recognize the same face in the same session. At one point, it even wanted me to identify a subway warning sign—clearly face recognition isn’t yet a perfect science, and something I’ve seen in pretty much every competitor’s implementation, too.