Adobe Photoshop Elements2019
Still powerful, but this once peerless beginner’s photo-editing package is now past its prime.
Adobe adds a scattering of features every autumn to justify a fresh version, but in an era when tablet and phone apps are becoming more sophisticated, and enthusiast-grade editors are getting cheaper, it becomes harder to justify Photoshop Elements’ existence.
That said, it’s easy to forget how much editing power lies beneath the software’s consumer-friendly surface.
Plunge the software into Expert mode and you’ll find many of the power features that are in full-fat Photoshop.
So what’s new?
Most of the fresh features come in the form of Guided Edits, where Elements takes you step by step through procedures that add effects such as motion blur, removing scratches and blemishes, or popping a colour in a black and white image.
The majority fall into the novelty category, or what Elements cringingly describes as “fun edits”. Arguably, the most impressive of these is the “multi-photo text” process. Here you select a background image, add some large text over the top of it, and then fill each of the letters with a different photo.
Elements makes this process practically fool proof, but it only gets you halfway there.
For example, there are no instructions on how to move the photos within the frame of the letters, leading to awkward crops such as the chopped-off face in the first “O” of our test image above.
Then there’s a “partial sketch” tool, where you can select part of a picture to look like it’s been drawn in pencil (coloured or greyscale). This can tip over into the “easy way to ruin a nice photo” category, as the pencil sketch effect isn’t very convincing. It’s also one of the few times I’ve seen a Guided Edit fail.
The final step is meant to allow you to flip the parts of the image that are sketched and which aren’t, but in my test it simply turned the whole photo into a sketch.
Further Guided Edits let you overlay a frame and text on a photo, while another lets you create “fun memes” (we’re applying for an injunction to prevent Adobe ever using the word “fun” again).
These are the type of memes that were popular in 2012, with the photo in the centre and text above and below.
It works well but you wonder where Adobe’s developers have been for the past few years. What are they planning for next year: Myspace support?
In Adobe’s defence, it makes sharing the memes and other Guided Edits simple. My 25MB image was automatically resized below Twitter’s 2MB limit without any intervention. But the social networks you can share with are restricted to only Flickr and Twitter.
- Not supporting Instagram, at the very least, is baffling. Aside from Guided Edits, other new features are thin on the ground.
There’s a revamped collage system: you select the images you want to use from Elements’ rather tired-looking Organizer, hit the Create button, choose Photo Collage and have a selection of layouts to choose from.
This time it’s easy to move the photos inside the frames and Instagram-style layouts are included – but there’s still no way to upload directly to that network. There’s also a revamped home-screen and a feature that uses “AI” to automatically create slideshows of events such as birthdays.
There wasn’t a great deal of the “I” being used in the slideshows it created for me – pictures seemed to be plucked at random and were often repetitive.
Finally, there’s support for the High-Efficiency Image Format if you’re running Elements on a Mac, which is useful if you’re editing iPhone snaps. Elements finds itself trapped in an awkward middle ground.
⇒ If you want to make collages, flashy graphics or to smash your photos with filters, there are all manner of free apps available: Google’s Snapseed, Over, Enlight, even Adobe’s own Photoshop Express.
⇒ If you want the high-end features, such as layer-based editing, the ability to wipe errant objects out of photos or to add gradients to boring skies, then Affinity Photo is perfectly capable and much cheaper on desktop and tablet.
Which leaves me wondering what the point of Photoshop Elements is in 2019. The Guided Edits are good at steering you through tricky processes and it’s lost none of its power, but its rivals have got better and cheaper.
At £87, Elements starts to butt up against Adobe’s own Photography Plan, which includes both Lightroom and full Photoshop. These tempting alternatives leave Elements feeling like it’s run out of steam.
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