Photoshop Elements 2023 ($99.99 or $79.99 as an upgrade), the most recent version of Adobe’s consumer editing software, was recently released. Elements includes many of the features of its high-end sibling but without the challenging learning curve thanks to the strength of Adobe Photoshop at its core (or, maybe more importantly, the subscription commitment). Since Photoshop Elements is the only remaining Adobe product with a perpetual license, you can use it indefinitely if you like it.
Users have the option of using the software’s Guided Edits or using automatic adjustments to edit their photos. Adobe Photoshop Elements is frequently chosen by users who are focused on completing a project, such as scrapbookers and artisans, as well as those who want to add fun or artistic effects to their images.
What is novel?
Since its initial release more than 20 years ago, Adobe Photoshop Elements has matured to the point where many of its updates fall into the evolutionary rather than revolutionary category. However, Adobe has improved the performance of Photoshop Elements 2023 and has continued to use its Sensei AI technology to add features and simplify some tasks.
More than 87 detailed guides have now been added by Adobe (along with a search function for the edits). These include “peek-through overlays,” which are decorations that can be added to one or more corners of an image to frame the picture, like flowers or plants. The right image must be selected in order for the blur of the overlay to be adjusted to create the illusion of depth. Since I couldn’t find any images in my archives that would make an intriguing combination, I opted to mimic focus stacking instead by having both the overlay and main image in focus.
New backgrounds, skies, and patterns have also been added, along with new content. Additionally updated are the collage and animated slideshow templates.
Overall, Photoshop Elements is intuitive to use and logically laid out. There are a few minor peculiarities. For instance, Camera Raw had to be downloaded because it wasn’t installed by default. I subconsciously double-clicked on an image in the Organizer expecting the Photo Editor to open when I did so. Instead, I had to select whether I wanted to open it in the built-in Photo Editor or an external editor from a drop-down menu. Although none of these peculiarities are a big deal, it’s best to explore all the drop-down menus to get a better idea of what’s available if you want to use the application to its full potential.
The Home Page, the Organizer, and the Photo Editor are the three divisions of the software (plus, if installed, the Premiere Elements video editor). The opening screen, known as the Home Page, offers quick access to news and unique tasks like making slide shows and finding recent projects and images.
For tasks like importing, rating, captioning, and categorizing photos, go to the Organizer. Adobe offers the tools necessary to logically organize photos, from creating albums to automatically identifying and stacking faces so they can be further grouped, even though organizing images requires user input (family, friends, etc.). Additionally, there is an Auto Curate function if you want the program to choose your “best” images for you. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t agree with all of the automated decisions made by the software, but many of them were perfect in terms of exposure and focus.
Users of the Organizer can email and post images to a few social media platforms. You can choose to order prints or start a variety of artistic endeavors like slide shows, photo collages, and photo books.
Without a doubt, users will spend the majority of their time in the Photo Editor. The main window’s top has three options: Quick, Guided, and Expert. For some simple editing options, such as a Smart Fix that frequently works well and can serve as a good starting point, select Quick. You can adjust the exposure, lighting, color (saturation, hue, vibrance), color balance (temperature and tint), and sharpening for more control.
There are several unique features in Photoshop Elements that are frequently helpful and time-saving. It’s crucial to remember that AI features like sky replacement only work well with specific types of images. Users must match the lighting and exposure of the main image with the chosen replacement sky, for instance, when replacing a sky. When added to a photo taken on a cloudy day, a bright, sunlit sky will look out of place unless the intention is to create a surreal environment for artistic purposes.
Similar to Move and Scale Object, features using Content Aware Fill function best when the technology can accurately replicate the surrounding area. The shadowy area of the image worked perfectly when the young model was moved below to a different section of the runway. A background with a lot of minute details might not work as well.
Elements 2023 now performs much more quickly overall, including during install and startup times as well as for the majority of tasks. The software now runs natively on Apple Silicon-based Macs and has a smaller footprint, saving hard drive space. Unsurprisingly, these Macs experience the greatest speed gains, with launch times up to 62% faster than those of Photoshop Elements 2022 on a Mac with an Intel processor.
Although switching between editing modules can be a little slow, Elements 2023 is more thoroughly optimized than previous versions, in my experience.
Despite the fact that we were unable to verify Adobe’s performance claims, the software in our testing ran more quickly on our 2019 MacBook Pro. Naturally, dealing with large files and/or undertaking difficult adjustments and editing tasks causes delays; perhaps in some cases, our expectations were a little too high. However, one of the best justifications for current users to update their outdated Photoshop Elements may be performance enhancements.
Moving Elements, one of the new Adobe Sensei-powered features of the software, is a simple-to-use motion effect akin to a cinemagraph. This technique gives a portion of a still image motion, similar to a cinemagraph. A brief MP4 or GIF is automatically created in Elements after the user selects an object or portion of the image and chooses the direction and speed of the movement. The procedure itself is straightforward, but again, the end result depends on the image. A red silk scarf trailing a dancer across a white backgrounded studio, for instance, was disappointing because the scarf appeared to be slowly melting rather than flowing. On the other hand, a model walking down the runway while wearing a chiffon dress seemed to work better. The waterfall-based Adobe demo is the best application we’ve seen so far.
There are many third-party cinemagraph apps available; some are free, while others have annual fees that can be as high as $300. You can also make your own using software and video clips. However, Photoshop Elements’ Moving Elements feature can create some eye-catching images if you select the right image.
With plans to release additional features throughout the year, a new Photoshop Elements web browser as well as beta iOS and Android apps have been made available. They are currently very basic and primarily intended for sharing and viewing within the web-based app. Templates for photo slideshows and collages are available, each with a variety of layouts, graphics, and audio. To access the apps, which include 2GB of cloud storage, you must be a registered Elements user.
Because of the many Guided Edits, Adobe Photoshop Elements is a good learning tool for those looking to advance their skills (almost) painlessly. It is a reliable editing program that caters to a wide range of experience levels. However, more experienced users will find more than enough tools and features to keep up with the majority of the fundamentals of image editing found in other software available on the market. While some of the more expensive tools, like lens corrections, are absent, most editing tools, like selections and layers, are still accessible when and where you need them.
Users of Elements today should they upgrade to the 2023 version? There might not be enough new features, aside from performance improvements, to warrant the upgrade. However, keep an eye on how Adobe develops the mobile apps and web browser in the future as that could make Photoshop Elements even more alluring.