Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 review
Adobe’s enthusiast-level photo editor has been upgraded, but are the changes just cosmetic? Find out in our Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 review.
Photoshop CS6 may have demanded all the attention, but its baby brother Photoshop Elements has been quietly growing up. Now at version 11, it’s a mature, sophisticated image-editing program that provides 90% of the functionality of the full Photoshop, at a fraction of the cost.
This time around, there are only a handful of new features as Adobe has concentrated on the look and feel of the program, giving it a bright, fresh appearance with more readable text and clear tool icons.
But the refurbishment is more than just skin deep: Adobe has also made the tools more intuitive, with intelligent walkthroughs and easy adjustments.
The Elements Organiser is the tool for cataloguing, retrieving, printing and filing your images. It offers a range of techniques to make the process easier, from facial recognition to geotagging to straight calendar searches; unfortunately, facial recognition is hit and miss (we were frequently asked to put a name to bits of buildings and other inanimate objects).
You can perform some routine image enhancement tasks with the Organiser, but you have no control over the process: it’s all or nothing, with single buttons to enhance sharpness, contrast, colour and so on. It’s almost always worth opening selected images in the Editor to get to grips with them properly.
An entirely separate application, files are transferred from the Organiser to the Editor to work on them, and this is a fairly straightforward process. Even tasks offered directly by the Organiser, such as creating calendars and photo books, are processed by the Editor.
This is where the main body of Elements resides. It’s divided into three sections, each of which caters to a different level of user: Quick, Guided and Expert.
Although the three modes can act independently of each other, you can move smoothly between them – and this has huge benefits, particularly when moving from Guided to Expert mode.
In all three modes, the Options bar, which shows tool settings, has moved from the top to the bottom of the screen, and it shows all the parameters in a clear, understandable way.
Together with the tool and side panels, this takes up a lot of screen space; but they can all be moved out of the way, and there’s even a floating panel mode for those who prefer it.
Using Photoshop Elements 11
In this stripped-down view, there are only a handful of tools – selection, redeye, tooth brightening, text and healing. The Smart Fix, Exposure, Colour and other buttons that were one-click effects in the Organiser now pop open to reveal a 3×3 grid of variations, each showing the target image.
There are other simple controls as well – the Colour adjustment, for instance, can target Saturation, Hue or Vibrance, as well as having an Auto button.
While the panels have been pared down, the menus still offer the full Elements experience, with access to all the filters, adjustments and techniques. For the beginner, though, Quick mode will provide much of what they need to do on a day-to-day basis, without scaring them off.
In this mode all the tools and panels are hidden, save for a single panel that presents you with a series of options – Touchups (skin tone correction, colour enhancement, scratch and blemish removal, and so on), Photo Effects (depth of field, Orton effect, and now featuring tilt-shift, high-key and low-key effects) and Photo Play (out of bounds, pop art, picture stack and reflection).
Selecting any one of these guides you through the process, holding your virtual hand as you make adjustments, invoke filters and apply enhancements – all without reaching for a tool or menu option. Guided mode is a terrific learning experience, as it shows the power of Elements without frightening the horses.
The biggest surprise comes when you create an effect in Guided mode, and then switch to Expert. Your image is now presented as a series of layers, masks, adjustments and filters, exactly as if you’d created all the effects in Expert mode in the first place.
This allows you to edit the images you’ve created, fine-tuning the results, adjusting layer modes and repainting masks. Plus, it also enables new users to learn a lot about how the effects have actually been created.
Apart from the cleaner look, Expert mode benefits from a few new filters. As well as a powerful Lens Blur effect there are new Comic, Graphic Novel and Pen and Ink filters, all of which create variously hand-drawn looks with a great sense of realism – far better than anything Photoshop itself can produce.
The new Refine Edge window now provides sophisticated cut-out tools – not just smoothing edges, but isolating tricky areas such as hair from difficult backgrounds.
There’s also enhanced support for Actions (the automation system that enables a complex series of effects to be executed with a keystroke); however, as in previous versions of Elements you can only use Actions that have been built in to Photoshop CS. You can’t create new ones, and not all effects work.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 Review: the verdict
Photoshop Elements 11 is a mature, thoughtful release that has eschewed flashy new features in favour of a genuinely more approachable interface. The Refine Edge tool in itself is enough to warrant the upgrade; the extra filters are the icing on the cake.
Ease of use: 5/5
Overall Score: 4/5
Other photo editing options
Adobe Lightroom 4
Lightroom 4 has a more comprehensive version of Adobe Camera Raw, seamlessly integrated for easy raw file editing.
Our score: 4/5
Corel PaintShop Pro X5
A strong contender with sophisticated tools, including a useful Learning Centre to help get you going.
Our score: N/A
Adjustments are made in a similar way to Elements, with Adjustment Layers and masks, but it lacks the polish of Adobe’s software.
Our score: 3/5
This entry was posted on Thursday, December 13th, 2012 at 8:00 am and is filed under Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a comment. Pinging is currently not allowed.