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Elements 11, A very good buy, even at full price.
on 11 January 2013
I recently had nearly two years where I was too busy selling a house and moving countries to do any photographic processing, although I still took photos. When I finally had the time, I found that raw photos from my two new cameras were not supported, by either my Photoshop CS2 or Elements 5; I therefore needed an upgrade. CS5 was out, because of price and the fact that it contains a lot I would never use. I also needed to sort and reduce over three years of photos (7,000 +). I originally bought Elements 5 when I was teaching Photoshop to a beginner's class, none of whom would shell out the £500 or so needed to buy the full version. I only used Elements 5 to check that what I was teaching would work, and I wasn't very familiar with its full potential.
As part of my research I downloaded the trial version of Elements 10. I also read as many "How to do it" books as I could lay my hands on and tracked the development of the program since edition 5. I was aware of the criticisms in this forum, and others, about a near fatal bug in the Lasso Tool of Elements 10 but decided to look at it anyway. In the end I rejected 10, waited and eventually bought Elements 11.
Here are my conclusions for what they are worth.
1. If you don't have any image enhancement software or you have a very basic program, such as Picassa or one of the bundled programs you may have found on a disc with your camera, then buying Elements 11 is a no-brainer. It is worth buying for the Organiser alone and in the Edit module, it lets you do most things that you might want to do, as you develop your photographic skills and interest.
2. If you want one-click general enhancements then it does these as well as, if not better than, other one-click programs.
3. If you want to do more and better, you can tweak the basic one-click settings and stop when satisfied. knowing that all moves are reversible
4. If you need more than that, then there are guided edits, which both achieve good results and teach you to handle some of the important Photoshop tools, in a non-threatening way. If you want to know more, there are tutorials on Adobe TV and countless ones on the Youtube. If you are just beginning I found some good stuff on [...] (Complete with written notes).
5. If you want a good range of Photoshop tools and capabilities then it offers 80% of those and 95% of those that matter (IMHO), and most of those left out are not critical. Much of what is left out is of more interest to pro photographers, designers, graphic artists and the like. If that is you, then you want its big brother CS6. Also there is a very comprehensive set of creation tools that allow you to make photo-books, calendars etc, if you are into that sort of thing.
6. If you already have an earlier version of Elements then, even up to Elements 7 it is worth considering the change, for the enhancements in the Editor, the Recompose tool and the Quick Selection Brush (better than the former "Magic Selection Brush" I think) tools alone. These will cut your workload in half and are fun to use. You do need plenty of memory to use the Recompose Tool, otherwise it is painfully slow, but it is quite simply fantastic. You can do the same job with layers, if you know what you are doing, but it is so much easier with this tool. If, like me, you have version 5 or before, then this has all the things that you hoped 5 would have, like layer masks, vibrance and actions. After that, at versions 8, 9 or 10, an upgrade is less certain to please. The best thing to do is to download the trial version, and see for yourself.
1. The organiser and a edit workspaces in 8, 9 and 10 were getting very cluttered and so it seems like a good idea to simplify them, as Adobe have done. However, they have also made it so different I don't know where everything is! I am constantly having to refer to the help pages and YouTube to find stuff, know it is there, but just can't find it. The edit space I am beginning to understand, but the organizer space is driving me nuts. If you are not used to the traditional Photoshop format, this may not be such a problem. Update 18/3/20013. I am now friends with the organizer and I am very happy with the new setup.
2. Then there is the issue of reliability and stability. Some people have reported Elements has crashed more frequently as it has gone from versions 8 to 10, but I could not get 10 to fall over, no matter what I did to it and the same seems to apply to 11. The reliability problem may be a symptom of Adobe's tendency to bolt on more and more new stuff to the basic Photoshop engine and not take away redundant features, but I have never had a crash with Elements-I have had it happen with other software though.
3. Some experienced Photoshop users complain about the greater and greater reliance on guided edits to access certain features and it has been suggested that it may be time for Elements to become two programs, one for low volume enthusiasts and semi pros and one for scrapbookers, facebookers and the like. This edition seems to answer that problem by making it look more like ordinary Photoshop but with guided edits and photobooks etc, hidden from view. Some will like this, personally I don't. Update. I am now at peace with the new spartan format.
4. Then there is the vexed question of Amazon random number pricing and price matching with other companies. If the price on Amazon was the same now as it was when I bought it (£34.99), I would be saying, to anyone who has been put off buying it from Amazon by negative comments, that it is quite simply the photographic bargain of the year. However the price seems to vary randomly on a daily basis, currently it is £58.79. Over the last year, Elements 10 varied from £34.99 to £50, or even once, £80, with bizarre prices like £60.16p popping up. Other companies follow suite, leading to a dog's breakfast of pricing nationally. I was so incensed by this that I held off buying until the random number generator came up with £35 again! That was one day a few weeks ago, for Elements 11, and I bagged one.
There are still some gaps, like there is no access to Channels or Lab Mode and you cannot create your own actions but you can now load third party actions, if you want. But hell, 95% of the important parts of the full Photoshop is nothing short of brilliant, if you are paying £35; any more and you are being ripped off! If you want more features, then you will have to bite the bullet and shell out for CS6. Update: 'Elements+', is an add on program, which unlocks a lot of the hidden CS6 functionality, including channels, smart objects and scripts. There is no lab mode but there is 'sharpen luminosity' which is one of the main reasons you want a lab mode. A genuine bargain at £10.07 or $14.28.
I have now had enough time to assess this product, and I have to say it is a fantastic piece of kit. There is so much in that saves time and angst that it is worth having it just for the hassle it takes out of processing. I take back my previous caveat about the cost. Even at full price it is well worth the money. If you shop around you should be able to get well below full price but whatever you do get it!