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Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 Review

Constructed from the base components of the professional Adobe Photoshop products, Adobe's Photoshop Elements 12 provides just about everything that an amateur photographer needs in one simple, straightforward package. Buy Now

Natalie Gialluca

Natalie Gialluca

Photo Editing Software Expert

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Updated: May 20, 2014

The Good

Simplicity without sacrificing quality:

When creating Photoshop Elements 12, Adobe basically stripped Photoshop CS and Lightroom down to their essence, added a nifty group of consumer-oriented features, and wrapped it inside a crisp interface and simple learning environment. Elements 12 includes several enhanced features to edit, create, and share your photos, and is a near complete package for amateur photographers.

Multiple program modes based on your experience:

There is an extensive selection of features throughout Photoshop Elements 12 so finding exactly what you are looking for can be tricky. Thankfully, you can choose from different levels of assistance, including Quick, Guided, and Expert, which will help you through the photo editing and digital painting part of the program. If you select Quick, this mode strips the icon list to the bare essentials while simplifying and automating functionality for simple, everyday actions. Guided mode takes it a step further by removing the editing icons entirely and replacing them with general topics, such as enhance colors, perfect portrait, and vignette effects. Selecting any of these options will engage a simple tutorial that guides you through the process. Expert mode goes in the opposite direction by adding the full range of options and control. You can change modes at any time in the process, allowing you to match the program to your skills as needed.

Wide array of image sharing and publishing options:

Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 has new functionality that allows you to easily view and share your photos on your smartphone or tablet. You can even sync the photos on your mobile device to your Elements album, eliminating the hassle of moving photos from one device to another. In addition, you can share a link to your Elements album, giving your family and friends access to your photo collection. In addition, you'll be able to publish photo books, greeting cards, calendars, collages, CD/DVD jackets, slideshows, instant movies, and prints.

Impressive video tutorial library:

If you are a standard amateur photographer, you often find yourself in need of some assistance. Photoshop Elements 12, beyond the guided operational mode, provides a wealth of information in the form of extensive video tutorials located on the Adobe website. They have over 40 videos dedicated to the Photoshop Elements 12 program and many others related to the larger Photoshop line of products. Each video has a run time between three and 30 minutes.

Full set of file management and image organization tools:

The organizer portion of Photoshop Elements 12 has a very simple display that essentially hides many of the features, making the program appear as less than it really is. You can quickly access a full range of tools that allow you to import files, organize images, and create everything from greeting cards and contact sheets to slideshows and HTML albums. From here, it's easy to do all of the file management and organization you need to accomplish.

Includes facial recognition tagging:

Photoshop Elements 12's facial recognition makes sorting through large numbers of photos a breeze. After a brief tutorial, where you 'teach' Photoshop Elements the names of people by using a small sampling of pictures, you simply process the rest and make a few adjustments, which should lessen over time. It is rare for a consumer product of this type to have such a high level feature that is this useful.

The Bad

Interface can be overly simple:

With three different operational modes some features can be challenging to locate, particularly when switching between them. Also, the size of some icons may be too large for some users, which are not modifiable. These are not overwhelming concerns, but they might annoy some of the more advanced users.

Lacks video processing and editing features:

While you can save slideshows as videos, this is not the same thing as having actual video processing and editing features. The fact that many mobile devices are capable of recording video gives rise for many consumers to need such functionality. Adobe offers a Premiere Elements product which includes video editing and processing, but for a significant additional price.

The Details

Free Trial 30 days
Platform Mac, Windows
Price $99.99
Upgrade Cost $79.99


Advanced Editing

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  • 16-Bit Image Editing - You can edit 16-bit images.
  • Add Grain/Noise - You can add graphical identification metadata to your images.
  • Advanced Color Image Operations - You can perform color image operations such as color correction, color zones, color transfer, and vibrance.
  • Black-and-White Conversion - You can convert a color image into a black and white image using any number of methods.
  • Blend - You can blend areas of an image together.
  • Blur - You can soften the detail of an image.
  • Collage - You can create a collage of images.
  • Color Adjustment Tools - You can use a tool to replace missing color or match existing colors.
  • Color Management - You can maintain color quality as an image moves from device to device.
  • Color to Grayscale - You can convert a color image into a black and white image using this specific method.
  • Control Points - You can use control points, a series of small squares placed on the edges and corners of a rectangular selection, to modify a selection by dragging the small squares as needed.
  • Distortion Control/Correction - You can reduce pincushion and barrel distortion effects.
  • Effects - You can add general effects to an image.
  • Exposure Adjustment - You can adjust the exposure of an image.
  • Filters - You can use any of the standard filter types to alter images.
  • Generate Mosaic Images - You can create a single large image made from a number of other smaller images.
  • Gradients - You can create smooth transitions between adjacent colors.
  • Image Correction - You can brighten shadows, fix unwanted flash, and repair backlight effects.
  • Image Zoom - You can enlarge or shrink the view of the image, in part or in total, as needed.
  • Layers - You can make changes to images on individual sheets that can be stacked to form the combined image. Each layer can be adjusted without changing the other layers.
  • Masks - You can protect certain areas of an image from being modified.
  • Nondestructive Editing Environment - You can make changes to image without altering the original version.
  • Photo Text Entry - You can type right on the image you are working on and see the text in real time.
  • Post-Processing Effects - You can create effects after processing to include framing and vignetting.
  • Reshaping, Manipulating, and Resizing - You can enhance, enlarge or reduce images, cut images to predefined or custom formats, and measure and mark image content.
  • Retouch Brush - You can remove blemishes, dust and other unusual elements from images while maintaining its integrity.
  • Saturation/Warmth - You can control the strength and warmness of a color
  • Selection Options - Once you have made a selection, you can set aspect ratios, adjust selection sizes, move selections, turn the selection into a mask and/or add feathering to the edges.
  • Selection Tools - You can use different tools to select an area of the image to work on, including the circle, square, wand, and/or lasso.
  • Sepia Enhancement - You can add a sepia (brown-gray) tone to an image.
  • Shadow and Highlight Adjustment - You can control the levels of shadow and highlights in your image.
  • Sharpen - You can enhance the detailed edges within an image.
  • Support for Custom Palettes - This software supports custom color palettes.
  • Templates - You can create project or metadata templates.
  • Text Effects - You can add effect to text, such as drop shadows, 3D, perspective, curved text, and path text.
  • Transformations - You can trim, skew, scale, flip, mirror, rotate, and/or add perspective to an image.
  • Watermarks - You can create savable, personalized, and usually semi-transparent watermarks for your images.
  • Audio Editing - You can perform basic audio editing within the software.

Digital Painting

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Learning Materials

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Professional Editing

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Standard Editing

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Standard Photo Management

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Advanced Photo Management

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File Management

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Third-Party Integration

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Photoshop Elements 12 retails for $99.99. Adobe also offers a 30-day, full-service free trial.

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