Can Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 improve where Elements 10 left off? We installed the latest version of Adobe's consumer editing software to find out
Adobe Elements has been the number one photo-editing package for amateurs and enthusiasts for several years. A simplified substitute to Photoshop, it has been designed to be user-friendly for beginners, while also offering advanced functionality to satisfy more experienced users. Elements 10 offered what we thought were all the features an enthusiast could possibly need, so has Adobe released another version too soon, or has Elements 11 improved again? Let’s look at the latest features to find out.
Unlike Photoshop, which is aimed at professionals who like to concentrate on editing their shots with the finest control, Elements 11 offers more ways to organise and share images. Open the Organizer and the first obvious differences are the larger icons and cleaner looking interface. These changes have made it much easier to navigate, and not only can you view full-screen image previews, it’s easier to manage your photos based on the people in them, where they were taken, or when they were taken. Provided you have an Internet connection, the places view is a great area of the organizer to plot an image or group of images, and if your camera supports GPS, Elements 11 will now recognise the coordinates before automatically adding the images to its integrated Google map.
The organizer sports a cleaner looking interface. Most of the main options have been repositioned from the top to a horizontal task bar at the bottom.
Elsewhere in the organizer, the new events view lets users assemble shots based on the date, month and year they were taken. Finding the shots you add to the events area is also made very easy thanks to a new calendar column on the far right of the interface. Not forgetting the importance of sharing images, Elements 11 supports direct uploading to emails and social media channels such as Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and Flickr. These options are available from the share tab within the organizer, but unfortunately there’s no option to export images directly to Twitter.
From the top right of the organizer you have various options to export your images directly to social media channels, such as Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.
Switching from the organizer to the full editing area reveals it’s not only the organizer that adopts the new, friendlier looking interface. Icons and palettes are much larger than those in previous versions, which suggests Adobe’s focus is on making sure the interface isn’t a daunting place for inexperienced users, or those who haven’t used the software before.
You’ll find the options bar has now been moved to the bottom of the interface in Elements 11. Tools in the toolbox have also been moved into seperate categories, such as View, Select, Enhance, Draw and Modify.
Elements 11 also adopts the three editing modes – Quick, Guided and Expert. These offer different ways to edit your shots based on the skill level of the user, and though there haven’t been any changes to the Quick edit mode, there are more options within the Guided and Expert edit modes.
The Guided edit area is a great place to work if you’re unsure of how to go about achieving certain types of adjustments or effects. It offers a clear explanation of each effect as well as a small thumbnail image to give you a clearer idea of how the final result will look. The four new additions to this edit mode include High Key, Low Key, Tilt Shift and Vignette.
The Guided Edit mode offers thorough descriptions and basic sliders to show users how to apply certain types of effect.
Moving into the more advanced Expert edit mode, there are three new filters, which include Comic, Graphic Novel and Pen and Ink. Each of these artistic filters come with four ready-made presets and sliders to take precise control.
The three new filters – Comic, Graphic Novel and Pen and Ink are found from the Sketch flyout menu.
Elsewhere, Refine Edge has been enhanced to offer all the functionality of Photoshop’s Refine Edge, with the added benefit of a Erase Refinements tool. This works by restoring the original pixel edge if you’re not happy with the adjustments you make using the Refine Radius tool. Adobe has also taken time to refine the Actions command. Actions were introduced into Elements 10, but you can now load pre-made actions from the Internet, but unfortunately you can’t create your own custom folders.
If your not happy with the work you carry out with the Refine Radius tool, you can now use the new Erase Refinements tool to preserve the original selection edge within Refine Edge.
Performance & Interface
In terms of its performance, Elements 11 ran fast and smoothly on our 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Macbook Pro. No infuriating delays were experienced other than when we started working with extremely high-resolution files. Adobe claims the performance and rendering processing has been optimised to make it run faster, and an area where we did notice a speed improvement was when we switched back and forth between the organizer and editing area.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 comes with Adobe Camera RAW 7.1
Working with Raw files in Camera Raw 7.1 was also trouble-free, but we’re expecting another Camera Raw update soon to make it compatible with recently launched cameras, such as the Fujifilm X-E1 (see page 24) and Sony NEX-6 (see page 42).
Elements 11 sports a much cleaner looking interface. Those who are thinking of upgrading will need to get familiar with the tool options appearing beneath an image, rather than above it.
As for the interface, we like the light grey surround and darker background, however the positioning of the tools and palettes will take some getting used to for previous Elements users. The Layers palette now appears at the top right of the interface, where previously it was at the bottom right. The organizer and layout icons are also repositioned at the bottom of the interface, but as we discovered there are two really useful icons for taking steps backwards and forwards if you make mistakes when you’re editing. Hopefully this will be a feature we see in a future version of Photoshop.
The Undo and Redo icons save you having to load the History palette each time you’d like to take a step back, or forward.
The significant developments in Elements 11 are found in the Organizer and it’s fair to say little has changed in the full editing area, other than it sporting a new look.
Elements 9 and Elements 10 users won’t see a huge benefit from upgrading to Elements 11. Yes, you’ll get a more intuitive organizer to work with, as well as the latest Raw converter, but these features alone don’t really justify the expenditure.
Elements 11 gives you the option of loading Actions, however you can’t create your own like you can in the full version of Photoshop.
For users of older versions however, Elements 11 is a more attractive proposition. When you consider that it offers Masks to edit your images more precisely, and Actions to apply repetitive tasks more quickly, it offers a lot more control at your fingertips than you will have been used to in the past.
Elements 11 offers Layer Masks – a feature adopted from Photoshop. These were first introduced into Elements 9, with Actions arriving slightly later in Elements 10.
What’s more, if you’re struggling to open Raw files in your current version of Elements because your camera is producing newer files than your software can read, £74 is a reasonable amount to pay for a package that’ll give you all the Raw support you need. Although we’d say this latest release doesn’t offer any groundbreaking changes, we’re yet to use any other software package that offers quite so much for your money.
If you own any previous version of Photoshop Elements you’ll be eligible to an upgrade price of £64. To purchase your upgrade copy you’ll be required to visit Adobe’s website, where you’ll be given the option to download Windows or Mac versions.
2GHZ or faster processor
Microsoft Windows XP with SP3
2GB of RAM
7GB of available hard-disk space
Color monitor with 16-bit color video card
1024×768 display resolution
64-bit multicore Intel processor
Mac OS X v10.6-v10.8
2GB of RAM
7GB of available hard-disk space
1024×768 display resolution