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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).