Photoshop Elements Review: Fun, Simple & Subscription Free
For beginner photographers, picture editing hobbyists or creators on a budget, Photoshop elements is an ideal software that's fun and simple to use.
By Ash Darrow
Photoshop Elements is Adobe’s minimalistic reinvention of their iconic Photoshop app.
If you’re looking for photo editing software that’s inexpensive and easy for beginners, Photoshop Elements 2023 may be just what you need.
Elements is built to offer a high impact, even if it’s your first time using photo manipulation software.
Both Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements have to make trade-offs to balance the features you’d find in their full releases with their budget and beginner-friendly versions.
However, that isn’t to say that you can’t do some powerful edits with them.
My Adobe Photoshop Elements review is going to walk you through everything you need to do about this app, from features to value.
What is Adobe Photoshop Elements?
- More affordable than the full Photoshop release
- One-time purchase—no subscription!
- Easy-to-follow guided edits for beginners
- Streamlined for quick edits
- Essential photo editing tools
- Relaxed learning curve makes this app quick to get used to
- UI still has no Dark Mode or custom themes
- Photoshop Express and the Lightroom app might be better for quick social media edits
- Limited social media integration
- There’s an argument for just getting full Photoshop instead
- No lens distortion corrections
Adobe Photoshop Elements is a streamlined version of the popular Photoshop application.
Adobe designed Photoshop Elements to be geared towards beginners, consumers, and anyone working with a budget.
Photoshop Elements 2023 has all of the creative tools that you’ll need to edit your pics.
It also features some impressive AI tools to add motion to photos, select subjects automatically, quickly touch up facial features and replace backgrounds in seconds.
Photoshop Elements is perhaps best known for its broad selection of fun filters and effects that let you create blurs, painterly looks, distortions, textures, stylized text and more.
If you have any experience using the full Photoshop app, jumping into Photoshop Elements will be a breeze.
- Guided Editing Modes
The first thing I want to talk about when it comes to Adobe Photoshop Elements are the guided editing modes.
The software is designed for beginners who might not have a lot of editing experience, and these guided edits are absolutely worth it.
The guided editing modes walk you through everything you need to know to edit images.
You can learn the basics, like turning a color picture into a black-and-white photograph, adding text to your image, or creating a cool photo collage.
There are more advanced image editing techniques as well. I was surprised to see guided edits on how to remove people from the background of images, but they were really easy to follow.
These guided edits are like getting a basic image editing course with your software.
- Quick Mode
Quick mode is exactly what I was hoping to see with Adobe Photoshop Elements. Quick mode minimizes that hectic Photoshop screen to just a few essential tools.
This is a great first screen to see for beginners. You won’t be overwhelmed by all the same tools as you’d find in the full Photoshop release.
I work with plenty of professional photographers that wish they could take full control over the Photoshop layout to remove all the features they never used.
Quick mode is an attempt to do just that, and it does it well.
- Quick Adjustments
Some of the most important edits you’ll make to any photograph are the adjustments. These adjustments let you change the little things like color and exposure.
Quick Mode has an entire tab of quick adjustments. You can quickly click through these presets and find one that works for you.
You don’t have to worry about messing with curves or sliding around color values. Photoshop Elements does all the work for you so you can focus on the overall look of your image without having to worry about the details.
Some of the quick adjustments offer subtle changes that will help you dial in the perfect image. Other quick adjustments have dramatic changes that are sure to create an image that pops.
- FX, Textures, and Frames
It really wouldn’t be a consumer-level photo editing application without some cool special effects.
Adobe Photoshop Elements definitely doesn’t slouch when it comes to effects that come bundled with this software.
There are plenty of effects that you can use with just a single click. There are a variety of painterly styles and plenty of more abstract effects options.
You can also add textures to your image. These also work with a single click – a great way to add a little bit of color and a unique look to any photograph.
The last thing I want to touch on is the pre-included frames. If you’re looking to make postcards, greeting cards, or quick edits to send to the family, these frames will add a lot to your images with virtually no effort.
- The Organizer Workspace
Organizing your library of photographs is one of the most important lessons you learn as a budding photographer.
You might not be taking a few thousand pics in a shoot like a professional, but you’ll be filling up those memory cards faster than you know.
The Organizer Workspace is an effective tool for keeping track of all of your photos.
Adobe includes a lot of impressive features for keeping track of your pictures, including geotagging your images.
I should mention that the organizer workspace did start to lag a little bit when I tried to import a lot of photos.
I’d recommend importing a little at a time rather than trying to throw hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures at this app in a single sitting.
This will give you practice in culling your images and picking the best of the best.
- Expert Mode
Are you ready to ditch the training wheels and switch over to something a little bit more professional?
Photoshop Elements 2023 includes an Expert Mode that really opens up what you can accomplish with this app.
Expert Mode gives you roughly triple the amount of tools that come in Quick Mode. it’s also got a layout that feels a lot more like the full Photoshop release.
The tools available to you in Expert Mode are going to let you really get your hands dirty when it comes to editing your own images.
The powerful tools available here are what you need to do professional-level edits.
Expert Mode lets you use familiar tools like the healing brush, cloning tool, and new tools that beginners might not have experience with.
The only thing that I wish I had seen in Expert Mode was an easier way to access the layers panel.
Editing your photographs in layers is one of the things that separates consumer editing software from something closer to a professional editing app.
You can still quickly navigate to the layers menu, and it’s just a few clicks away rather than being out in the open where the “experts” would need it.
Other Great Features of Photoshop Elements
- Edit Using Layers
Photoshop Elements 2023 gives you an introduction to editing your photograph with layers. Layers allow you to change aspects of an image without altering the rest of the pic. Layers can get complicated, but Photoshop Elements keeps things streamlined to the basics.
The histogram is the photographer’s best friend and Photoshop Elements has one that’s easy to read. All you need to do is go into the windows menu and activate the histogram, so you can start balancing your colors and exposure like a pro.
You probably know Photoshop for its impressive range of filters, but Photoshop Elements has most of those features as well. Filters range from generating distortion and creating huge artistic impacts to filters with a lighter touch designed to clean up your pics.
- Easy to Create Memes and Macros
Memes and image macros are some of the most popular images online. Photoshop Elements has built-in features that will help you turn your pics into viral macros.
- Great for Quick Social Media Posts
Photoshop Elements is going to be a great tool for beginner or budget photographers who are primarily focused on turning out quick pics for social media posts. There’s a lot in this tool, including the photo collages features, that are going to seriously upgrade your Instagram game!
- All of the Fun of Editing Pics Upfront
Editing pictures is a lot of fun, but it can also be a hassle when you have 30 layers in your project and you’re working on pixel-perfect edits. Photoshop Elements 2023 sidesteps those complicated edits by letting you get to the most impactful changes right away.
- Powerful Editing Tools Like Quick Select and Clone Stamp
Photoshop Elements gives you access to some pretty impressive tools. You’ll have the bread and butter of photography post-production at your fingertips, including some of my most used tools like quick select, clone stamp, and a variety of other essentials.
- Introduction to Content-Aware Tools
One of the biggest advancements to come to Photoshop has been the content-aware tools. Advanced tools, like content-aware fill, assess what’s already in the photograph and adjust everything around it accordingly. If you’ve ever wondered how professional photographers can remove cars or people from an image, this is how they do it.
- Easy to Learn the Basics With No Intimidation
Opening up Photoshop for the first time can be an intimidating experience. There are dozens of tools to click on, and new features seem to spring up out of nowhere. Photoshop Elements 2023 is much more approachable, and it’s going to be ideal for anyone who wants to test the waters before jumping into the deep end of an entire photo editing software.
The performance of Photoshop Elements was effective, but it did lag when things got a little more involved.
Photoshop Elements runs fast for the most part. You’ll find that editing your pictures is going to be a smooth process with very little lag.
Even when I was using the included guided edits or creating multiple layers in Expert Mode, my images were edited and exported fairly quickly.
Things started to slow down considerably when using the Organizer Workspace. Adding your library of photographs to this workspace might take some time and get your laptop’s fans spinning.
I enjoyed the ability to customize certain aspects of my editing workspace, but I found myself really wanting the ability to edit themes or at least turn on a dark mode to match the rest of my laptop.
I tested Photoshop Elements 2023 on my Macbook Pro (14″ 2022 32GB RAM). What better laptop to try than the one I use for the full-fledged Photoshop release… although it may have been a bit of overkill?
To be fair, I have heard from Windows users that they have had similar experiences with the Windows version of Photoshop Elements as I did with the Mac version.
Are There Any Alternatives to Adobe Photoshop Elements?
Here’s where things start to get interesting. There are a few applications that you should consider before making a Photoshop Elements purchase.
The GNU Image Manipulation Program, also called GIMP, is an open-source and totally free piece of editing software. Y
ou can use GIMP to learn all the basics you get with Photoshop Elements, but without the cost.
There’s another competitor to Photoshop Elements, and that’s Adobe’s own suite of mobile apps.
A lot of the eye-catching and quick edits that you can do in Photoshop Elements are done faster by Photoshop Express and other Creative Cloud apps.
You could also just jump right into the full Photoshop CC app. There’s nothing that Elements can do that the full Photoshop CC can’t, and you’re likely to make the upgrade eventually as you get better at editing images.
The last alternative that I want to talk about is the app that’s already on your smartphone.
Your smartphone camera app comes with plenty of features for editing, including adjusting the exposure and basic color correction.
However, where it struggles is the implementation of AI, especially within one single app.
Overall, Photoshop Elements is definitely a powerful tool with new features, but it’s not without some competition.
How Much Does Photoshop Elements 2023 Cost?
If none of those alternatives sounds tempting to you, then Photoshop Elements is definitely worth the money.
You’ll be paying around $100 USD for this app which is the same as you’d pay for the video editing program Adobe Premiere Elements.
The best selling point with Photoshop Elements is that there is no hidden fee or subscription, only a single purchase for a lifetime of ownership. This is a rarity among Adobe apps.
There is even a trial version that lasts for 30 days – the only way for you to get Photoshop Elements for free.
Adobe updates this software on a yearly basis, which means new features can be expected pretty frequently.
Adobe Photoshop Elements is surprisingly powerful, and you’ll be able to use this editing software for a wide range of editing jobs before you need to upgrade to something with more features and power.
Photoshop Elements Review | Conclusion
Adobe Photoshop Elements is a great app for anyone who wants to learn the basics of working with photo editing software.
I find that it’s also a great choice if you’re looking to get effective edits without messing around with all of the complicated features in a full editing application.
While it won’t be replacing Lightroom or the full release of Photoshop anytime soon, it’s definitely a contender in its niche of lightweight editing apps.
It’s also a heck of a lot of fun, and in this age of quick sharing to social media for maximum likes, I think it’s a great option to consider.
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