What's the Difference Between Photoshop and Photoshop Elements?

Let us consider the differences between Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements. Adobe Photoshop CS4 ($699 at Adobe) is the newest release of the powerful and respected Photoshop program, which is designed for the professional market. Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 (on sale for $79 at Adobe) is a cheaper version of Photoshop, aimed at the consumer and prosumer markets.

Advantages of Photoshop

The experienced photo editor or digital artist will prefer Ps to PsE. Photoshop has many more features and tools, and has better support for advanced formats, such as RAW images, CMYK color mode, and 16-bit images. Photoshop also has been designed with layer-style editing in mind. Photoshop is a more precise tool in expert hands.

Photoshop also has advantages for specific interests within the consumer and prosumer markets. For instance, those interested in High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging may be wooed by Photoshop's image-merging abilities and may find it easier to obtain Photoshop CS3 or 4 than to purchase Photoshop Elements and an HDR-creation suite such as Photomatix Pro.

If the price of Photoshop seems steep, there are ways to save money on the suite. Students can get up to 80% off Adobe Software at this student relations website. There are often other ways to receive discounts. Be on the lookout for coupons or rebates on Photoshop software, or consider older versions of Photoshop.

Advantages of Photoshop Elements

Photoshop Elements is not strictly a scaled-down Photoshop. Though it lacks many of the more advanced features and tools of the Photoshop Creative Suite, it includes some tools that may have greater appeal to the amateur.

Photoshop Elements has a greater number of tools that require less user interaction. Elements includes an automatic red-eye reduction tool, an automatic skin tone filter, and an automatic lighting adjustment tool. These are "press of the button, wave of the mouse" tools that make image adjustment easy for the uninitiated.

Photoshop Elements, not only as a function of its price, attracts a wider audience than Photoshop and is the number one selling consumer photo editing suite in the world, according to NPD Group.


Both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements have a powerful yet sleek feel. Both editors support all common photo formats: JPG, BMP, GIF, PNG, TIFF, and even PDF. Both share a similar windowing design, with a toolbar containing the most powerful tools at the top, several undo/redo/layer windows to the right, and an easy-to-access control panel to the left.

Both suites are well integrated with Photoshop.com and Photoshop Mobile. The former offers 2 GB of online storage for image backup and sharing. The latter, presently in beta release, offers integration with mobile platforms such as smartphones.


Photoshop and Photoshop Elements are well-designed user-friendly photo editors. Photoshop Elements is not a poor man's Photoshop. It is built ground-up as a different piece of software for users with different needs.

If you remain unsure which suite to use, consider this thread in the Steve's Digicams forums. Know also that Adobe releases both suites for free as 30-day trials, so it may be a good idea to give both a test drive before committing to a software suite.

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