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Elements versus Photoshop – which is best? Tell us what you think…

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

Elements versus Photoshop – which is best? Tell us what you think…

Adobe Photoshop CS4 - FullAdobe Photoshop Elements 7 - FullAdobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 - Full

[poll id=”18″]

Here are a few questions I get asked in emails on a daily basis:

– Should I buy Elements or Full Photoshop? If I am just starting out as a photographer which should I get? If I am building a portrait business which should I get?

– Why do most of your Photoshop Actions only work in Photoshop (not Elements)?

– What are the differences in Elements and Photoshop, and why is Photoshop significantly more money?

Now I will explain, from my perspective, answers to these questions.

Photoshop is a very powerful product, designed for photographers and digital artists alike.  It is capable of doing almost anything you can imagine to a photograph, if the artist knows how to properly use the program.  Photoshop has been around a long time.  A new version usually comes out every year and a half or so.

Each version has a number.  After they got to Photoshop 7 (not the same as the new Elements 7), they started grouping Photoshop with the Creative Suite.  And Photoshop CS was born (AKA version 8).  From there CS2 (version 9), then CS3 (version 10) and the most current is CS4 (version 11).  So on my site if I say an action works in Photoshop 7+, this means Photoshop 7 and then CS-CS4.  It does not mean Elements 7.

Elements is basically a striped down Photoshop (with a few novelty items added back).  To visualize, picture Photoshop as a car.  If you have luxury car, and take away the leather seats, sunroof, power windows and door locks, cruise control, and the fancier engine – you have Elements.

It is limited in that it is missing some of the key editing tools which make Photoshop an industry leader.  These tools are why most of my Photoshop Actions do not work in Elements.  In order for an action to work, the program needs to have the commands and tools used in the action.  So if an action calls upon the full curves, channel mixers, lab mode, or a filter that is not available, etc – it will NOT work in Elements since Elements does not have any idea what it is being told to do.

As far as versions, Elements in now on version 7 – so remember Elements 7 is not the same as Photoshop 7 (an old full version of Photoshop).

So which do you need:

Elements can do most basic editing.  If you are a hobbiest who wants to digitally scrapbook, brighten up your photos, and make your photos better, Elements may be a great choice.  Elements also has some added goodies not in Photoshop that make editing faster and easier, but more automatic and less controlled.

If you are an amateur or professional photographer, or just LOVE playing with your photos and having all the tools available for you at your fingertips, buy Photoshop.  Nothing compares. But only buy it if you are going to learn to use it.  Once you really get to know Photoshop you will be in awe.  I cannot imagine life without full Photoshop.  I did start with Elements but after a few months felt like it was missing something.

The cost factor….  Photoshop costs significantly more than Elements.  You need to decide if it provides enough value to you and your life and/or business. If you are a student, there are discounts available. And occasionally you can find an older version clearanced out (for example now CS3).  Do beware, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it may be.  I have seen many buy on eBay at dirt cheap prices only to find out adobe will not support their product and that it is missing certain things when running.

I hope this helped some of you have a better idea of which fits your needs best. I would love to hear which you have, which you want and why?  Please take my poll and add to the comments below. (Notice I have Lightroom and Raw Editors listed in the poll – but that I did not discuss them here – I wanted to let those who edit in Raw exclusively vote – but this post itself is about elements versus photoshop).

Thank you,


Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™
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  1. May 19, 2009 at 12:01 am —

    This was helpful and informative : ). Thank you! Hope your vacation is going swell!

  2. Baily
    May 30, 2009 at 12:06 am —

    I got a great camera and didn’t have much to spend on the editing program but I shopped around for awhile and got CS3 Extended for only $148 dollars off the web at a great special price! Came to me in the box never open and never registered! I didn’t have to sacrafice between my equipment and my editing program because I took the time to do some web shopping! CS3 is great for taking a picture and transposing it to another background, all the tools are far more advanced I had Elements 7 before and the differance between the two is unbelievable, the quality of the finshed product is awesome! I think that it is easier to do and less of a time constrant as before, I can do more images in less time! More bang for my buck!!!

  3. Kristi
    July 24, 2011 at 10:26 pm —

    Very informative. I realize this is an older article, so I’m just wondering if elements has changed quite a bit with version 9? I really like it and feel like I can do just about anything I want with it (except it doesn’t have curves and a channel mixer). I would like to be able to create actions though. That would be so nice for doing a big batch that I want to look similar. Still a hobbyist at this point though, so hard to justify the expense. I’d rather get a new lens first.

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Elements versus Photoshop – which is best? Tell us what you think…