It used to be the case that the full version of Photoshop was so expensive, most photography enthusiasts couldn’t justify the cost of the software and instead opted for Elements – the simplified version of the image-editing program.
While Photoshop is now more affordable, thanks to Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription model (currently £8.78 per month for Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5), Elements is a genuine alternative for those that don’t wish to be locked into a perpetual contract and want a value for money program.
Elements 13 has a street price of £59, or £119 when bundled with the Premiere Elements 13 video editing suite. The new version also includes a ‘light’ version of Adobe Camera Raw so you can edit your pictures’ files to their full potential. The software builds on the foundations of previous versions, while introducing a number of new features and support options at the same time.
One of the biggest additions is Elements Live, or eLive. You’ll see the eLive tab at the top of the interface alongside the Quick, Guided and Expert modules. It’s essentially a browser window that showcases the latest online training videos that will help improve your Elements skills. If you don’t want to use it, don’t worry – it won’t pop up every time you load the software, as Elements starts up in the same format as it was previously used in. But eLive is worth viewing if you are new to the software or want to get some inspirational tips. The videos featured are regularly updated by Adobe.
So what else is new? Well, Elements 13 finally sees Content Aware Fill cross over from the full Photoshop. This feature removes the hassle from cloning out areas of a picture. All you have to do is make a Selection around the area you’d like to remove, select Content Aware Fill and Elements will do its best to fill the area with what it thinks should be there. Although the target area may need some quick manual tidying up around the edges of the Selection, this feature works well and can save a lot of editing time.
Also new is Photomerge Compose – a clever Selection tool that will help you cut out an object from one image and merge it into another so that the light and colour tone match. This feature could prove invaluable if, for example, you missed someone from a group shot and wanted to add them into the scene at a later date.
Those familiar with the previous version of Elements (12) will notice that the interface in Elements 13 hasn’t changed at all. The tabs, option windows and the Toolbox are in the same position as before, which means that migration to the latest version will be effortless.
Editing made easy
Elements 13 is full of new ways to make image editing easier. For example, instead of taking a guess at your cropping, Elements 13 offers four options. All you have to do is pick your favourite and execute the crop by hitting the Return key. Alternatively, if you’re in search of inspiration, you can set five variations to see the effect of different filters and quickly see what works best for your image. What’s more, Elements 13 can help you get a better view of images as it offers support for high resolution Retina display monitors used with modern Mac computers.
Once you have edited your images, Elements 13 helps you share them quickly via social media so they can be seen by friends and family. In fact, you can employ the software to make custom Facebook cover images that link to your Facebook profile picture – a quirky feature, and one that will make you stand out from the crowd.
If you already have imaging experience, Elements 13’s Expert interface allows for a high degree of precise editing. That said, it doesn’t include the full Curves adjustments found in Photoshop, instead offering a lighter Color Curves feature. There are also fewer options for Adjustment Layers, with 11 types offered in Elements compared to Photoshop’s 18.
Value For Money
For the street price of £59, Elements 13 offers a massive amount of image-editing potential that is perfectly aimed at beginners. A year’s worth of full Photoshop and Lightroom 5 costs £105 as a Creative Cloud subscription, and is undeniably a great deal, but there are those that don’t want to hand over credit card details and sign up to a subscription just to edit their photos. eLive injects extra value and is a welcome addition that will not only prove a shortcut to learning new techniques, but will also provide inspiration and give increased learning support at no additional cost.
By introducing features like Content Aware Fill, Elements is closing the gap on its bigger brother. Take into account these new features and the fact there has been no price increase from Elements 12 and it’s safe to say Elements 13 is the best value version of Adobe’s enthusiast software we’ve seen to date.
Elements 13 is bursting with features that will help beginners take their first steps in image-editing, and enable them to produce more complicated effects in seconds. While there’s not enough novelty to justify Elements 12 users upgrading, newcomers can rest easy with the features of this excellent package.
- Street Price: £59 (As of June 2016)
- Free trial available: Yes (30 days)
- Minimum System requirements: Windows: 1.6GHz or faster processor with SSE2 support, Microsoft Windows 7 or Windows 8, 2GB of RAM, 5GB of available hard-disk space (additional free space required during installation), DVD drive, QuickTime 7 software, Internet connection required for activation and content download Mac: 64-bit multicore Intel processor, Mac OS X v10.8 through v10.9, 2GB of RAM, 5GB hard-disk space, DVD drive, QuickTime 7 software, Internet connection required for activation and content download
- Visit: www.adobe.com/uk
This review was first published in the March 2015 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.