John G. Clifford Jr
Photoshop versus Elements
I know that full-blown Photoshop has a multitude of features for graphic artists, etc. What I'd like to know is, as a person who is interested in photographic retouching and slight editing (not wholesale swapping of backgrounds, etc.), but who also wants access to things like PS actions, will I ever regret buying PS Elements versus the full monty?
I think I am in a unique spot to answer this question. I was a Photoshop snob until 2000, when a publisher asked me if I would write a book on Elements. I'd already published a few Photoshop books and wrote about it in magazines. My knee jerk reaction was to reject even the idea of it, as why would a pro take Elements seriously? But instead I agreed to take a look and see if I could come up with an angle. Within a week, I found that my previous perspective on Elements was all wrong ... the program could do a lot more than most people thought. Not only that, it would do a lot more than the manufacturer said it would. In fact, there were features hidden in the interface that you could access if you knew how that rolled out more of the power of Photoshop and made Elements a serious tool for digital photographers. That was when I wrote the first of my Hidden Power Books. I actually took apart the program folders and explored what could be added to Photoshop to bring back the editing tools I thought I needed. That process of discovery actually changed the way I edit images in Photoshop and Elements for the better while giving me new respect for the program.
That said, I know fully what Elements can do, I think, and what the real limitations are. For example, you can indeed save a CMYK image out of Elements successfully - and no you won't find it on the color mode menu. You can work with channels - in a different way than Photoshop, and I think a better one. You can apply layer masks ... you can run actions ... you can mix channels, do calculations, you can apply obscure features like Blend If, you can work with and combine vector elements. ... some of which require the tools I make available from my elements website: hiddenelements.com. There are tools for every version of the program. They are not plug-ins, really, but actions that you install in Elements to access native features that lie hidden there.
In consideration of all that, here is what I am fairly certain cannot be done in Elements:
Other things I would tend to want to use Photoshop for rather than Elements:
I may have missed a few minor things here and there will be specific tools you will not have access to if you are used to working in Photoshop. Some people find that to be a huge drawback, but my impression is that just about anything you need to do in normal photo correction can be accomplished. In fact my Photoshop Courses here on betterphoto.com are open to Elements and Photoshop users because the techniques I prefer are so similar and applicable to both programs, without requiring any modification to the program as is.
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