PSE 10 Review

When reviewing any product (such as PSE 10) there’s always the temptation of falling into the same old trap.  You end up with a biased review for any of the five reasons ...

  1. Your over-zealous brand loyalty results in a glowing review
  2. Your loyalty to another brand results in a denigrating review
  3. Your attempt to review the entire product’s features results in a sketchy and boring review.
  4. Your highly technical review loses the average reader and misses the product's features totally
  5. Your review consists of the features you like, or at worst the features you understand.
Photo Shop itself has travelled a long way since its birth in 1987 as a graphics display program.

Photo Shop Elements 10 is marketed at enthusiasts, and like its big sister CS5 allows access to layer technology.  From Photo Shop Limited Edition in 1999, this software has undergone many metamorphoses, so an attempt to show all of its features is a non-starter. 

This review looks at the new features.


Should I already own Photo Shop Elements 9, I would not purchase Photo Shop Elements 10 (PSE 10), since the recent material would not justify it; but I would recommend it to a novice keen to start, because of its facilities, layout and price.

The software is available both as download and as a disk set, for both MAC and Windows but you should check that your OS is the right platform.  As a download it is 1.5GB and may take considerable time to download.  On your hard drive it occupies 2.3GB.

Support for Photo Shop Elements is widely available; the best advice is to type “Photo Shop Elements 10 tutorials” into your web browser.

Its processing is reduced to 8 bit, compared to the 16 bit of its bigger sister Photo Shop CS5.  Some argue that this downgrades the image.  In the flat tonal range of a near monochrome image the absences of the nuances in tonal values may be noticeable; so in close portraiture work the number of observed skin tones may appear reduced; where the range of adjacent tones is large, the omission of intermediate tones will not be as apparent.

Guided Edit

pse 10 guided editFor the beginner, the Guided Edit in PSE 10 is a well laid out work flow.  Additions to Guided Edit since Elements 9,
  • The Orton Effect.
  • Picture Stacking
  • Depth-of-Field Effect.
The order within the Guided Edit has been changed and there is an improved Content Aware Spot Healing Brush to fill-in where objects had been.

The first edit stage is that of cropping the image.  A fuller description of the options is given below; I’ve chosen the Golden Mean option for this example. 

The cropping area is moved until the golden mean is located on the object of interest and the “TICK” or the “DONE” button chosen.  The grid can be flipped vertically and/or horizontally to aid composition.

The Crop Tool now has four crop guides ...

  1. The Normal view has the conventional re-sizeable quadrat without grid markings we are familiar with.

  2. A conventional grid 14 squares by 10 squares to allow you to trim accordingly to your layout needs.

  3. The Rule of Thirds view overlays a quadrat divided into horizontal and vertical thirds.

  4. The Golden Mean view overlays a quadrat marked out to the classical 5:8 rule.
Gold Mean Example

pse 10 original
Original Image

pse10 golden ratio
Golden Ratio from Guided Edit

pse10 golden ratio end
Golden Ratio after Crop

As we move down the Guided Edit, we move though the standard image corrections to the esoteric.  Of these, the one I have used the most often since Elements 7, is the Group Shot, which enables you to assemble the best image from several, when the group cannot all smile and sit still at the same time!

Orton Effect

The Orton Effect, first described by Michael Orton, and extolled by analogue film camera practitioners including Freeman Patterson and André Gallant, exhibits an ethereal glow and is a new addition to PSE 10.

This is brought about by the technology which creates a blurred layer above the main image (or background layer) of which the contributing quantity can be chosen; and then the chosen amount is blended into the image.

You can achieve this for yourself using adjustment layers without PSE 10!

pse 10 orton effect

Smart Brush

The combination of layer and Smart Brush technologies gives another two of the new facilities.  Paint Effects lets you paint onto areas bounded by changes in contrast or tone, with textures from a fairly limited palette.  Again the amount of texturised image can be controlled. A wider range of filters complements this facility.

pse 10 smart brush

By choosing the effect in the Smart Brush choice, the type of effect can be selected; by setting the amount of opacity afterwards, the extent of the treatment can be decided, since the effect is created in a new layer.  I selected the background and gave it the “old paper” treatment, leaving the flower untreated.

Text Tools

The new Text Tools include options for applying text along boundaries of your choice.

Using the Smart Brush on object can be highlighted and its edge chosen as the path on which text can be applied.  A shape chosen from the standard palette of shapes can be similarly used. 

A freehand line completes the additions to this tool.  Text applied in this manner responds poorly to a line which has sharp changes in direction; smooth paths give the best results.  As an example, I chose Text on Custom Path Tool by holding my tablet pen onto the Text button on the Tools Bar.

pse10 web text


The organiser of PSE 10 is not intuitive to use, but it’s the most powerful and fastest I’ve seen so far at this end of the market.  Facial recognition algorithms are common in many imaging packages, including some free packages; PSE 10 also has object recognition.

I chose an image of a notable recognisable object from an image which I knew I’d captured several times within the folders loaded into the Organiser. At least 9 images were missed in the search.

The search for duplicate images was impressively fast and surprisingly accurate, and did show images of similarity as in those taken around the same time and place for the construction of a panorama.

Like Photo Shop Elements 9, PSE 10 offers the opportunity to assist in the uploading of images to social networking sites.  Should this be the only reason you are considering the purchase of Elements, there are cheaper and free alternatives available.


The big sister of PSE 10, Photoshop CS5, is around 10 times dearer and probably only a small percentage of Photoshop CS5 gets used by the dedicated user.  So value-wise, Elements 10 gets my vote.  In terms of basic processing of images it does the business.

If I was a complete beginner, I’d choose PSE 10 since the processing value per £ or $ is quite high; however, if I had Elements 9 already, I’d not upgrade since the additional features do not merit it.

A grid to enable Golden Mean or any other cropping can be generated as a layer and overlaid during editing; the Orton Effect is similarly achieved by the use of layers – and such tutorials exist out there on the web; the SmartBrush enhancement is a matter of personal artistic taste.  The organiser improvements are worth having.  If you’re into video-photography, the package including Premiere Elements 10 might justify upgrading from 9 to 10.

The guided edit procedure does help the beginner and lay down good habits for the future.
The language and terminology differ from that used in Paint Shop Pro, “panels” rather than “palettes” being one example; the layout and interaction of these being another.  So, translating tutorials for one into the other makes for interesting exploration.

In all the program is stable and fast.

PSE 10
Page Links


Guided Edit

Orton Effect

Smart Brush

Text Tools



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