Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 Review

  • Editor Rating
  • Rated 4 stars
  • 80%

  • Adobe Photoshop Elements 12
  • Reviewed by:
  • Published on:
  • Last modified: December 19, 2018
  • Installation & Setup
    Editor: 90%
  • Design & Interface
    Editor: 60%
  • Features
    Editor: 70%
  • Function
    Editor: 80%
  • Value For The Price
    Editor: 90%

Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 offers a variety of photo editing benefits geared towards beginners.

Over the past decade, the average consumer has progressed significantly in terms of technical knowledge and many of the tasks that used to require a professional can now be easy accomplished from your own home. One of these affected areas is the world of photo editing and manipulation in which entry-level software like Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 offers extensive capabilities with a price tag under $100.

Adobe reached out and provided us with a sample copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 so we could put it to the test and see whether it is worth the $99.99 expense. Keep in mind, this review is based solely on our hands-on experience with the software and no outside influences affected the outcome of this review.

Photoshop Elements 12 is broken down into two different segments, the “Adobe Elements 12 Organizer” and the “Photoshop Elements 12 Editor”. The Organizer is designed to help photographers manage their media libraries and keep things neat whereas the Editor was built to change and manipulate your photos to capture that final look you are aiming for.

2014-02-28_12-55-51The Elements Organizer's was designed with simplicity in mind though it is clear Adobe didn't go out of their way to make it look sleek. Having said that it, the appearance isn't a huge issue as navigating throughout the Organizer is easy and user-friendly so those who aren't considered “tech-savvy” should be able to get the hang of it without much issue.

The Editor offers a similar interface style and again doesn't offer much visual appeal. On the top of the interface lies three central tabs which toggle separate interfaces for “Quick” editing, “Guided” editing, and “Expert” editing.  When you activate each tab, features are either added or removed (depending on which tab is selected) to cater to your individual needs. This means beginners can stick to the “quick” tab to help avoid confusion whereas advanced users can rely heavily on the “expert tab” to get the most of out of this software.  Everything is neatly placed, making great use of space without taking up too much of your screen's real estate.

The Adobe Elements 12 Organizer offers a simple and convenient way to store, browse, and organize your photo library. You can segment your photos into categories, albums, or folders and even tag people, places or events within them (much like iPhoto or Aperture). Similar to Adobe's Lightroom 5 software, the organizer offers the ability to rate your images from 1 to 5 stars so you can keep track of your favorite shots.

Tagging a photo location in Elements 12 Organizer.
Tagging a photo location in Elements 12 Organizer.

There is a “Create” menu at the top right which makes it easy to create photo prints, collages, DVD jackets and much more. Next to that is the “Share” menu which gives you quick submission to social media like YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, SmugMug, and several others. While the “Editor” is where you'll want to carry out the majority of your photo editing, the Organizer does allow you to edit meta tags and information to your image files as well as “instant fixes” which are basic changes such as cropping, red eye, color correction, and sharpening.

Switching to the Photoshop Elements 12 Editor, you'll gain access to a great deal of tools ranging from the basics like adding titles or resizing, all the way up to advanced features such as the “spot healing brush” and the “magnetic lasso”. In the “Quick” module, you'll only have 9 tools present in the left toolbar whereas the “Expert” module enables 24 tools with many of them offering different variations of the original tool.

Here are the new changes found within Photoshop Elements 12 when compared to earlier versions:

  • A simplified the user interface that was made it more intuitive for easy navigation.
  • The “Quick”, “Guided”, and “Expert” modules are brand new.
  • Quick Frames, Effects, & Textures have been added for applying dynamic effects quickly and easily.
  • New Guided Edits allow for creation of photo puzzles, old photo restoration, and zoom burst simulation.
  • Content-Aware Move offers the ability to move objects while the background gets automatically filled in.
  • Content-Aware Fill for the straighten tool will auto-adjust and auto-align the background with any gaps.

Elements 12 includes many of the core features you'd find within the full version of Photoshop including layers, RAW compatibility, and the infamous content-aware functionality. The combination of the Organizer and the Editor gives Lightroom 5 a run for its money and is surely an ideal tool for a beginner photographer who may be on a tight budget.

I've explored everything Photoshop Elements 12 has to offer and have been pleased with the experience. While I'm used to using Lightroom 5 or Photoshop CC for my photo editing needs, I was blown away at how many of the advanced tools are present in the Elements 12 software. The interface is extremely user-friendly and the “Quick”, “Guided”, and “Expert” tabs were a genius idea from the team at Adobe. When in the “Expert” tab, I am able to complete the majority of my day-to-day photo editing tasks which is impressive considering the sub-$100 price tag.

Tweaking the color details of an imported RAW file.

I originally learned Photoshop back when it was Photoshop 6 (released in 2000) and it took me months to get a real grasp on the software mainly because it was an overwhelming experience for the beginner that I was. Had I started out learning on a platform like Photoshop Elements 12, I believe I would have been able to master the basics in a matter of days maybe hours. I would have been able to work my way through the modules until I was ready for the full Photoshop experience.

This is what I consider huge selling about the Elements 12 family. You can start small, sticking entirely to the basics and then increase the functionality when you feel as though you are comfortable enough. You won't get this type of flexibility with the full edition of Photoshop and one of the biggest deterrents for new users is the complicated interface and feature set which can be overwhelming to say the least.

Those who are a fan of Instagram will be able to apply a variety of built-in filters, frames, and photo styles that Photoshop Elements 12 has to offer. You'll find a few of these small add-on features within Photoshop Elements 12 that beginners would appreciate yet are not advanced or practical enough to be included in a professional platform like the full version of Photoshop.


Photoshop Elements 12 will satisfy the job for most consumer's needs and tasks such as cropping, resizing, tweaking color, removing blemishes, and adding titles can be done in a quick and precise manner. The biggest downfall of the software is that it can be rather resource intensive and result in sluggish performance when carrying out complicated tasks (content aware is a big culprit) or when multitasking with other resource-heavy applications.

Overall, I think Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 offers a real bang for your buck and is one of the best photo editing programs in this price-range. If you are on a budget or simply don't have the knowledge or experience to jump into the full version of Photoshop, Elements 12 is an excellent starting point. It is very user-friendly and offers the room to expand your skill set as you continue to learn and become comfortable with the platform. If you're looking to pick up a strong photo editing software for non-professional use without breaking the bank then Adobe's Photoshop Elements 12 is highly recommended.