Top positive review
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A great photoeditor - and for upgraders this full licence is better value, but there's little extra over v11
on 25 October 2013
Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 is a great (5 stars) photo editing package for home users and serious photographers on a budget. Adobe's upmarket Photoshop CS6/CC is the defacto industry standard photo editor, and this Photoshop Elements 12 software offers the bulk of CS6's tools for a fraction of the price, so it's hard for any others to compete (although Adobe's streamlined Lightroom 5 offers a faster editing experience with fewer but better implemented tools, and the likes of freebie 'Picasso' may well provide many with all the features they need). For those upgrading from Photoshop Elements 10 and lower, there are some useful additional tools in version 12 and it has the revised Elements 11 interface that I like. However I'd always buy this full licence version rather than the similarly priced Elements 12 Upgrade version, as then you can re-install your old version of Elements onto another machine or laptop (and even use it legally at work). The Adobe licence allows you two installs, one at work or on your main PC, and another at home or on the laptop (provided you don't use both programs at the same time). However this is one upgrade I'd skip if I had Photoshop Elements 11 as there's little extra on offer (i.e. just the 'mobile albums connection' app for tablets/smartphones and a few updated features like improved 'red eye' reduction for pets and 'moving objects within photos').
Although the Elements 12 Expert Editor interface looks fairly kiddy Fisher Price, within the editors buttons and menus there's a lot of submenus and options that include Layers, Masks, the 'correct camera distortion' tool, Transformations (distorting photos or distorting/moving objects within photos), Photomerge (for creating panoramas and transferring/removing objects within photos), Levels (brightness & contrast), Colour Correction, Shadow Highlight (bringing out details within shadows), plus many selection, drawing and resizing tools, image sharpening apps and various art filters, all similar to that within Photoshop CS6, albeit in cut-down form (although Elements does lack CS6's macro recording, non-destructive filters, the Pen & Curve tools and CMYK colours required for professional printing). Elements 12 also has an advanced Photo Organizer that catalogues your photo folders into a thumbnail database so that you can search and find photos more easily (even using face recognition and location). In addition there's the Quick Edit and the Guided Edit modes to help you quickly carry out simpler editing tasks or to learn new ones.
With this full licence version of Elements 12 you can even leave an old version of Elements on the PC as well as Elements 12, as they install as separate programs - you can only run one at a time though. The photo Organizer can convert/transfer older Organizer catalog 'settings' to new versions, but it's not always possible or completely successful, depending on version and OS. To uninstall an Adobe application these days you must 'deactivate' the licence first which is done under Help in the top menu - this is important as otherwise your licence will still be active on the old PC and the new install will not register (do this if you are reformatting the system drive or you will lose a licence otherwise). Personally I choose Photoshop Elements 12 over Adobe's Photoshop Lightroom 5 as I value the extra power in the Expert Editor over Lightrooms speedier options, and I don't often use Elements Organizer preferring logical folder names instead (Lightroom is very good at the photo organisation and fast batch processing side, and it is designed to run alongside Photoshop Elements 12 or Photoshop CS6/CC rather than replace it). Lightroom 5 also deals with dSLR RAW files far better than Photoshop Elements 12, offers non-destructive filters, and it's a similar price (£100) - although only Elements/Photoshop CS6 offers advanced tools like Photomerge. If you want to spend a short time editing a large number of photos then Lightroom 5 is ideal, but if you want to spend a long time working on relatively few photos then Photoshop Elements 12 (or Photoshop CS6/CC) is the one to check out. Photoshop Elements 12's Expert Mode editor is quite similar to Photoshop CS6's industry standard editing interface, so it's easy to swap between them. Although the minimum spec for a monitor is only 1024x768 pixels the Elements 12 expert editor can feel a bit cramped on screens less than 1680x1050.
Or as Computer Shopper/PC Pro's review puts it "For new users who want sophisticated layer-based photo editing on a budget, Photoshop Elements 12 is still the software to get. Existing users should save their pennies though. However, those who just want to manage and spruce up their photos are much better off with Adobe Lightroom 5 or the free Google Picasa. Plus the dSLR camera RAW file importer in Photoshop Elements 12 is less powerful than that of Photoshop CS6/CC, so if you want to get the best from your RAW images consider using Photos0op Lightroom 5". Also check out the Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 and Premiere Elements 12 Bundle Edition, as Premiere Elements is a pretty good package for home video editing. Other highly rated budget photo editor contenders to consider are GIMP (totally free), Xara Photo&Graphic Designer 10 (£70), Corel Paintshop Pro X6 Ultimate (£70), Serif PhotoPlus X7 (£80) and if you only work with dSLR Raw files: DxO Optics Pro Standard (£110) - although there is the consistent interface advantage of staying within the market leading Adobe stable, and Elements 12/Lightroom 5 are great value if they offer you everything you want.
When installing Elements 12 you can install the latest version direct from Adobe rather than use the supplied CD - the licence code in the box will activate either. If you are unsure whether you should go for Lightroom 5 or Photoshop Elements 12 (or Photoshop CC Extended for that matter) you can download any Adobe software from Adobe's website for a fully functional 30d trial, which can then be activated by the code in the retail box. Adobe software is frequently buggy on first release, and I get the impression that Apple users get more problems than Windows 7 users like myself, but Adobe are pretty good at releasing patches to correct these (another reason for early adopters to leave an old version of Elements on the PC I suppose). So great photo-editing software but do try out the 30d trial version first to see if you like it.
Update Sept 2014 - Adobe Photoshop Elements 13 (PC/Mac) has now been released, replacing this version and adding a few more features.