Progressing to the Next Level – Photoshop

In a previous post I outlined the benefits of editing your images so I thought it would be a good idea to outline the thought process behind my choice and some of the trade offs that need to be made. Admittedly it is nowhere near as important a decision as buying a camera but it is still a significant purchase than needs time and thought.

Free bundled software

I started of using the software that came with my camera, Olympus Master. However I quickly became frustrated by certain elements of the program and how it worked. Here are the main things that bugged me about it:

  • It’s slow as hell. Doing any adjustments took time and converting a RAW to JPEG took over 60s and killed the rest of the computer while doing it.
  • Lack of features, particularly for RAW development
  • Ropey looking results (although this is probably user error!)
  • Destructive work flow. Any edits made to pics are permanent so seeing the effect of what you have done is difficult.

So I decided to upgrade. I chose Photoshop Elements but why?

Photoshop Elements

Something to bear in mind is that Photoshop CS is the industry standard editing tool and therefore if you aspire to the best you should aspire to Photoshop, however it costs £600 ($700) so you need to be serious. First thing to do when choosing any software is to download the trail version to see if you can get along with it. I did that with Photoshop Elements (PSE) and this is what I found:

Things I like about Elements

  • Adobe Camera RAW(ACR) – This is the RAW conversion program that is bundled with PSE. It uses the same RAW engine as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CS (the top of the range software packages) so produces excellent results, just with a few less features than in the full PS version.
  • Layers – PSE editing software supports layers which a method of applying adjustments. Very useful for non-destructive regional pixel level editing. I.e. you can edit the sky separately to the land in photo and easily see the effect it has.
  • The tools all work in the same way as Photoshop so all the tutorials on the web are easily used.
  • Cost – Its costs about 10% of the full version of Photoshop

PSE is often call Photoshop for photographers. I estimate it has around 90% of the tools you get in full PS that are useful to your average amateur photographer. Of course the more and more your progress the more likely it will be that you will outgrow it and want full PS or Lightroom. However my rule with full Photoshop is “if you don’t know why you need it then you don’t need it”, stick with PSE.


Things I wish elements had

  • Layer masks – This is a tool useful when using layers to edit a small part of a photo. They are not native to PSE but you can get them with a free plug in so not a huge issue.
  • Curves – Curves are a tool that is fantastic for editing colour and contrast in an image. Again they are available as a free plug in but you can’t use them as an adjustment layer.
  • The full version of ACR – Photoshop CS4 introduced a fantastic version of ACR that allows you to do all sorts of new tricks such as regional edits. It cuts down the amount or work you need to do in PS by a lot. However this will probably never be in PSE as Adobe has to maintain the benefits of spending £600

What next?

Well if you are struggling to get that zing out of your new camera or find you photos just lack a certain something then give editing software a go. Photoshop Elements is a great place to start (and no I don’t work for Adobe).

As you may have seen I have already posted one tutorial showing you how to do an editing trick – Out of Bounds. I’m going to start posting some more like that but a bit more useful rather than the trick things (although I might show a few more tricks!)

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6 Responses to “Progressing to the Next Level – Photoshop”


  1. 1 Mandy 7 May 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Even if I did have the money I don’t think I could bring myself to buy Photoshop CS. And I agree that Photoshop Elements is a very good substitute with the right pricetag. And that’s what I use.

    If I did have some money to spend at the moment on post processing software, then I would look closely at Apple’s Aperture 2 software it looks really good and the price’s tag not that bad?

  2. 3 Bill Bartmann 4 September 2009 at 12:09 am

    Excellent site, keep up the good work

  3. 4 BloggerDude 9 October 2009 at 12:17 am

    I don’t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, :)

    A definite great read….

  4. 5 PhotoJoe 2 February 2010 at 11:55 pm

    I know I’m a bit late in saying this, but did you consider GIMP?
    A lot of people might seem apprehensive about trying unknown software, especially with the Linux link, but it does probably 90% of what PS Elements does as well as layer masks and curves on top of that. All that for free!
    I’d strongly recommend it to beginners before paying any money for similar software.
    And no, I don’t work for GIMP :P


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Welcome to my blog

I am an amatuer photographer living in Sheffield, England. My blog will detail my photography journey, from fumbling beginer to, hopefully one day, competant and knowledgeable photographer

By sharing my experince hopefully I can help every one else with the same goals and maybe, just maybe impart some of the knowledge I have leaned

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