I Want to Buy Photoshop, But Which One?

If you are just starting to learn more about editing your photos with digital darkroom tools, you may be confused by the variety of Photoshop programs available. The names are very similar, so it's hard to know the ways they are different. Here's a short summary.


Adobe Photoshop (Photoshop for short) is the original product. It has been in use since 1990, more than 20 years! That's a pretty long history for any piece of software. It is the original photo editing program that other photo editing software companies based as their products on. Photoshop is the application professionals use to edit their pictures, create web page designs, prepare images for a printing press, even create images entirely from scratch, and more. Over those 20+ years, many improved versions of Photoshop have been sold. Currently (2014) you can purchase Photoshop Creative Suite version 6 (also called Photoshop CS6) for $699 retail (one time) or an individual Photoshop Creative Cloud (or Photoshop CC) subscription for $19.99 per month (on-going). Buy this version if you need the ultimate in control over editing your images, but be prepared for a steep learning curve.

Photoshop CC
Adobe Photoshop Elements (Elements for short) was first released in 2001. It is geared toward amateur photographers who don't need all the advanced controls and extra features of professional Photoshop. Elements focuses on easy ways to edit images and get outstanding results. Elements too has gone through many improvements in more than a decade. The current version is Elements 12, which costs $99 retail (one time). It is often available at a significant discount from other retailers like Amazon and Costco. Purchase this program if you are ready to do more than make automatic corrections to your pictures but don't need professional tools. There's a learning curve here, too, but not quite as uphill as Photoshop.

Elements 12
Last is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (Lightroom for short). This is the newest addition to Adobe's picture editing programs, first released in 2007. Designed from the ground up for digital photographers, it falls between Photoshop and Elements in both function and price. Lightroom concentrates on providing a streamlined way to organize and edit large numbers of digital pictures quickly and efficiently. Unlike Photoshop or Elements, Lightroom does not allow you to combine multiple images into one picture. So some photographers will want to own both Lightroom and either Elements or Photoshop. The current version is Lightroom 5, which costs $149 retail (one time). Lightroom's catalog model for organizing pictures takes some getting used to, but is a powerful method for finding pictures fast. Be prepared to do some training to get the most from this program.

Lightroom 5
All three products---Photoshop, Elements and Lightroom---work on Windows and Apple computers. The appearance and the commands of each program are the same, regardless of which computer system you use. And you can easily share Photoshop documents (PSD files) among all three programs and across computer systems.

To learn more about the features of each of these excellent photo editing applications, visit the Adobe website.

Adobe Photoshop CS6

Adobe Photoshop CC

Adobe Photoshop Elements 12

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5