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Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 review

Adobe's novice-orientated image editor goes mobile with new cloud sharing tools

There are three new effects in the Guided mode. You can now create a jigsaw puzzle effect, which is clever though not something you'll want to do every day (and maybe not even once), but the Zoom Burst effect is more interesting. That's not because it does anything you couldn't do manually, but because its step-by-step approach helps you to see how it's done.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 12
Restore gives you powerful options for recovering damaged prints

Best of all, though, is the new Restore Old Photo option. This tackles a job we all want to do at some point, and introduces a whole bunch of really useful tools as well as how they work.

Auto Smart Tone
Adobe Photoshop Elements 12

Elements has another new feature designed to speed up your image-editing tasks. Auto Smart Tone doesn't just apply a simple automatic adjustment to your pictures, it places four different adjustments as thumbnails in the corner of the window and displays a central control cursor which you move towards the rendition you favour most. The more you do this, the more Elements "learns" your preference, so in theory it will learn to place the control cursor in the perfect position straight away. It's an interesting idea, but the scope of the adjustments is limited, and in real life images vary too much for a single adjustment to work every time.

Performance

The new Guided Edit options are only a few of the new editing features in Elements 12. You can now apply a range of effects, textures and frames in the Quick mode. It doesn't require any image-editing skill, just a willingness to experiment and an eye for what looks good.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 12
A variety of effects are now available, though some are only in the Revel app

Mobile app developers have really raised the bar for instant image effects, and Adobe has responded with 10 modern-looking image effects which include retro-style light leaks, fading and cross-processed looks.

What would be even better, though, is if all the effects available in the mobile Revel app were available in the desktop version too.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 12
Anti red-eye features have been expanded to deal with pet retinas too

There's a new "pet-eye" tool too, a variant of the standard red-eye tool designed to cope with the particular problems posed by non-human eyes. It's difficult to take this too seriously as a major new addition, but some might find it useful, so it deserves a mention.

The new Content Aware Move tool is much more interesting. Adobe is steadily developing its content-aware technology, which "intelligently" looks for surrounding details to fill in any gaps left in the image - you can select an object, move it to a new position and the gap it leaves behind is filled automatically. It doesn't work in every situation, but when it does work, it's almost uncannily successful.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 12
The Move tool is surprisingly intelligent. Here's the image before...

Adobe Photoshop Elements 12
... and here is after, which hasn't worked particularly well

This content-aware technology is now used for the Straighten tool too. Previously, if you straightened an image you would be left with blank "wedges" along the edges, but these can now be filled automatically so don't have to crop the image and reduce its dimensions.

We liked

The purpose of Elements is to offer a pared down version of Photoshop to suit the casual user, and the features it offers are judicious and effective, offering a good balance of control and support. The Move function is almost alarmingly clever, and the array of filters give photographers plenty to play with. Organizer remains an impressive tool for managing your photographic archive, and the opportunity to expand that online with Revel could be a great advantage.

We disliked

While Revel's online services are a necessary step for Photoshop, we're not sure that they're sufficient to lure consumers who have already invested time in Apple's Photo Stream system. The fact that certain effects are restricted to the online service is a potential frustration, as is the need for an internet connection to access your archive. While the Editor and Organizer complement each well for the most part, there is some overlap of functions that may cause confusion.

Final verdict

Adobe claims Photoshop Elements is the number consumer photo editing software, and it does deserve this success. Sometimes it seems as if the successive versions follow just a little too quickly on the heels of the one before, and the changes are incremental rather that revolutionary, but this time the combination of new editing tools and the support for mobile devices does feel like a significant and important step forward.

The novice-friendly interface takes up quite a lot of the screen, but it's so efficiently organised that this isn't really a problem. And while Photoshop experts may draw attention to the tools that Elements lacks, none of these are essential for great digital photography.

Elements sets out to be all things to all photographers, from novices to experts, and it succeeds remarkably well. When you consider its capabilities, scope, ease of use and the quality of its results, it offers exceptional value for money, too.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSoftware
Software Main TypeGraphics/Multimedia
Brand NameAdobe
Language SupportedEnglish
Software Sub TypeImage Editing
Distribution Media/MethodDVD-ROM
Licence PricingStandard
Licence TypeComplete Product
Platform SupportedPC, Intel-based Mac
Operating System SupportedWindows, Mac OS
FeaturesHighlights:
  • Discover a friendly and intuitive environment
  • Do it all with one powerful, easy-to-use product
  • Take your photos and videos with you wherever you go
Easily organize and find your photos:
  • Manage your photos more easily
  • Map your memories
  • Keep track of your memories
Create perfect shots with ease:
  • Easily move objects
  • Pet-Eye Correction
  • Create fuller panoramas
  • Go from flawed to phenomenal in seconds
  • Create the perfect group shot
  • Fix photos the easy way
Easily create and share:
  • Share from Editor
  • Share photos
  • Print using integrated online offerings
Artistically enhance photos:
  • Add your personal touch, instantly
  • Learn as you use
  • Quickly turn photos into stunning illustrations
  • Tell your story in stylized text
  • Count on step-by-step assistance
  • Create rich layered photos
Licence Quantity1 User
ManufacturerAdobe Systems, Inc
Product NamePhotoshop Elements v.12.0
Package TypeRetail
Software NamePhotoshop Elements v.12.0
Manufacturer Part Number65224798
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.adobe.co.uk
Marketing Information

Empower your creative vision with photo editing options for every user level, and turn ordinary snapshots into something spectacular. Easily organize, edit, and create brilliant photos to share via print, the web, Facebook, and more. And now, take your Elements photos with you, wherever you go, on your smartphone or tablet.