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Adobe Elements 2021 Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

8 October 2020

We've always found Adobe Elements to be one of the most overlooked training tools for digital image editing. The earliest versions had superb documentation that explained everything from what a pixel is to color channels. And the newest versions were like a magic kit with tricks called Guided Edits that would amaze your friends.

But there has been a drift in the product, whose Photoshop and Premiere versions we still insist on thinking of as just one product called Elements. It's a shift from the days of Here's how to get this effect to Just follow these steps and we'll assist with a little artificial intelligence.


This drift mirrors that of computational photography in smartphones. What Elements provides is the equivalent magic when you sit down to edit your images or video.

But there's a price to pay, Hilda.

The latest, greatest computational photography tricks require the latest, greatest smartphone. And with this version of Elements, Adobe has raised the hardware bar significantly.

Elements 2021. To illustrate our long-standing recommendation to buy the bundle, we combined the Photoshop and Premiere primary images and logos for this banner.

Only Macs running Mojave or Catalina are supported. And support for Windows 7 and 8 has been dropped. The system requirements even demand an SSD to host the application.

This is all wrong.

Memory Makers

As the briefing took pains to point out once again, Elements is designed for the family memory maker who wants to share scrapbook-like productions on social media.

We don't think they are running Windows 10 and macOS 11. We don't think they've even bought a computer in the last four years. They've been making do with something five or 10 years old. They're not thinking about new hardware.

We think they're thinking about losing their jobs, paying for a roof over their heads, keeping their kids from jumping out a window and giving them something to eat. And not getting sick. Or losing their health insurance.

Of course, if you're 25 years old, five years is a lifetime in hardware. But if you're 40 with three kids, it's only 20 percent consumed. And less if you're older.

We asked Adobe if they had demographics suggesting the memory maker segment uses predominantly systems five years old or less. They didn't respond.

It would be great if these memory makers could raid just the cookie jar for an update to their favorite friendly image editing software to make those great little GIFs and video clips the rest of the family loves to get.

But they'll have to refinance their mortgage to buy a new computer first.


It puzzles us that Photoshop, which taps into the same Sensei AI technology, doesn't quite (yet) have the same hardware demands as this version of Elements, while performing many of the same tricks. But Photoshop has always seemed leaner and more efficient where Elements has been balky and bloated.

If anything, we've learned some Sensei-powered Photoshop features are more extensive than what's in Elements. The user interface and eature implementation also differ between the apps "to address the needs of customers of each application" the company said.

And it turns out that this week we attended a couple of briefings for image editing software whose updates do not require new hardware. One of them, in fact, relies on artificial intelligence to perform some very sophisticated image processing. But it will run on anything that ran the previous version.

But here's the catch.

Those image editing applications don't do video. Elements does. Memory Makers do. And video is a real hardware resource hog.

And yet system requirements for Elements are not as limiting as Premiere Pro.

Another Catch

Mac users have been caught between Apple's horrendous keyboard issues the last few years and its announcement of an ambitious move to a new chip architecture. It's just the wrong time to update Macintosh hardware even if it can't be updated past High Sierra.

Like the memory makers we sympathize with, we're unable to install this version of Elements. So no test drive from us this year. For the first time ever.

But we will cover the briefing for you.


After Sharon Doherty, group product marketing manager for Adobe, covered the memory maker targer for Elements, senior product manager Komal Desai walked through a demo, showing off the new features. Here's the summary:

The Home screen adds a carousel to access new features and try other features. It also adds auto-generated creations made from images in your library.

The new version also automatically backs up your catalog of albums, keywords, people, places, events and edits. And you can easily recover anything you accidentally lose.

Once you're in the applications, you'll discover these new and updated features:


  • Add Motion to Static Images. One click can transform your image into a moving photo.
  • Face Tilt. You can aomatically adjust the position of a person's face a bit.
  • Quote Graphics. Use preset templates with graphics, type and animaation to add a message to your image.

Among the new Guided Edits, which now total 83 edits, are:

  • Duotones. Apply a duotone (split-tone) effect to your photos for a beautiful two-color creation. Choose from custom preset social media sizes, add a gradient and more.
  • Perfect Landscapes. Replace skies without building a selection, remove haze and erase unwanted objects to enhance outdoor scenes.
  • Move, Scale and Duplicate Objects. With step-by-step help, it's easier than ever to select an object and change its position, size and more.


  • Precise Video Selections. Select a specific object or area of your video and easily apply an effect that tracks throughout the video.
  • Real TimeVideo Effects. See high-quality playback of effects without rendering first. And crop your videos faster thanks to GPU-accelerated performance.
  • New Music Tracks. There are 21 new music tracks included in the new version.

Among the Guided Edits in Premiere are:

  • Double Exposure Videos. Follow the simple steps to play a video within a photo to get the best of both worlds.
  • Animated Matte Overlays. Reveal your video with animated matte overlays. Apply different shapes and animation styles to full videos, select scenes or as transitions.

There's also a new backup and restore option. It can automatically back up your catalog structure, including albums, keyword tags, people, places, events and more.

And all of this information is easy to recover if it's accidentally deleted, corrupted or your disk goes south while you're moving north.


First lets look at the system requirements.

On macOS you'll need:

  • Intel 6th Generation or newer processor
  • macOS 10.14 Mojave through 10.15 Catalina or macOS 11 Big Sur
  • 10-GB of available hard-disk space to install applications; additional 13-GB to download all optional content; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on a volume that uses a case-sensitive file system or on removable flash storage devices)

On Windows you'll need:

  • Intel 6th Generation or newer processor or AMD equivalent with SSE4 support but Intel 7th Generation or newer processor or AMD equivalent with SSE4 and AVX is recommended.
  • Microsoft Windows 10 version 1903 or later (version 1909 recommended); 64-bit versions only; Windows 7, Windows 8.1 not supported.
  • HEIF/HEVC import supported only on Windows 10 version 1903 or later.
  • 9.3-GB of available hard-disk space to install applications; additional 13-GB to download all optional content; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on a volume that uses a case-sensitive file system or on removable flash storage devices)
  • Microsoft DirectX 12 compatible display driver
  • Windows Media Player (required if importing/exporting Windows Media formats)
  • Compatible DVD burner required to burn DVDs

On both platforms you need:

  • 8-GB of RAM
  • 1280x800 display resolution (at 100 percent scale factor)
  • DVD-ROM drive (for installation from DVD)
  • Internet connection required for product activation and content download

Recommended specifications for both systems includes:

  • 16-GB of RAM for HD media
  • 32-GB or more of RAM for 4K media
  • 4-GB of GPU VRAM
  • Fast internal SSD for app installation and cache
  • Additional high-speed drive(s) for media


Adobe demoed three new features and three new Guided Edits in this release of Photoshop Elements.

New Features

Add Motion to Static Images

You can simulate a slight video effect by added motion to an element of your static scene.

Moving Images. This is the sort of image that might profit from a little movement like zooming in on the background. Oddly enough Adobe didn't supply the GIF but just the static JPEG..

Face Tilt

You can aomatically rotate a person's face a bit. It's hard to see looking at before/after images side-by-side but it's dramatic when rolling over the images. Note especially the change to the arm framing the baby's face.

The only thing more impressive than seeing the results is using it yourself. During the demo, we were impressed by the realistic latitude this new feature possessed.

The baby's face moved dramatically but it remained realistic.

Babies, of course, have nice fat faces which provide a healthy margin of error for moving facial features around. Things get a little less real when you have something like a pair of glasses to deal with. A simple tilt won't cut it to rotate glasses.

Quote Graphics

This simply adds preset templates for graphics, type and animaation to stylize any text you add to your image.

The presets are arguably a little fancier than your bona fide memory maker might be able to conjure up out of thin air. But maybe not.

New Guided Edits

Among the new Guided Edits, which now total 83 edits, are:


You can apply a duotone (split-tone) effect to your photos for a beautiful two-color creation. In a duotone, a darker color is used for the shadows and midtones, disappearing in the highlights while a lighter color is used in the highlights and midtones.

The effect on press (where this technique originated) was to add dynamic range to the image, building darker shadows with some detail and maintaining detail in the highlights that was not otherwise possible with just one color or ink.

In digital imaging it doesn't do that. Instead, it provides a color transition determined by tonality. That can set a mood or simply a rendering style.

The Perfect Landscapes

This feature can replace the sky without requiring you to make a selection (which can be harder than it sounds), remove haze (which is easier than it sounds) and erase unwanted objects in outdoor scenes.

We were appalled by the image transformed in the demo. It went from an underexposed shot on an overcast day to a garish Disney poster that bore little resemblance to reality. It just looked fake.

So when we got hold of the before/after images we ran the before image through Photoshop's Camera Raw filter. We fixed the exposure, then we darkened the highlights and we turned some of those flat shadows into black to increase the contrast in the shadows.

That made significant but realistic improvements to the image but it didn't pretend to turn an overcast scene into a bright sunny day.

Perfect landscapes? Not by a long shot.

Move, Scale and Duplicate Objects

With step-by-step help makes it easy to select an object, drag it to another place in the scene, resize it and seamlessly patch the hole it came from. But this too seems like a step too far.

Relocate. In this image, the woman has been moved further into the surf, reduced in size and the hole where she originally appeared has been repaired.

You're really leaving the world of photography for the world of illustration. That may impress your friends but it makes for misleading memories.


Adobe demoed three new features and two new Guide Edits in this release of Premiere Elements.

New Features

Precise Video Selections

Select a specific object or area of your video and easily apply an effect that tracks throughout the video.

Tracked Selection. Here the girl is preserved while the background is blurred.

This one was impressive. Just drop an effect on your video, then make a selection to either include or exclude from the effect. Click the Track button and Elements will got through your clip tracking the selection. Then you can play it back.

The demo used a clip of a young girl running through a field of flowers. The effect was NewBlue Cartoonr Plus applied to the field, excluding the girl, who remained realistic as she ran through the drawing of flowers.

There was a noticeable border between the excluded area and the included area. It can be feathered a bit but you still see it.

Nevertheless, this is the kind of thing that's fun to do and Elements makes it easy, too.

Real Time Video Effects

You don't have to render effects on your video to see play them back. Tapping into the GPU to process crops makes that operation faster, too.

That didn't help the tracking operation in the trick above but it does come into play once the tracking has been computed. There was no separate rendering required before playback.

New Music Tracks

There are 21 new music tracks included in the new version.

New Guided Edits

Premiere Elements gets two new Guided Edits.

The Double Exposure Videos Guided Edit places a video within a photo.

Double Exposure. The photo of the leaf becomes a mask for the video clip of the couple.

The Animated Matte Overlays Guided Edit masks your video with overlays than can themselves be animated.

Animated Mattes. The rounded squares focus the viewer's attention on the pet in the middle of the frame.

These can work like spotlights to focus attention on parts of the scene.


One thing that never seems to change about Elements is the price, we seem to write every year. And it's still true.

Upgrades from previous versions of either Photoshop Elements or Premiere Elements remain at $79.99 while a new license for either is still $99.99.

But we always recommend you spring for the bundle, which is $149.99 for a new license and $119.99 for the upgrade.

If you bite, we'd appreciate purchasing through our affiliate links:

  • Photoshop Elements 2020 at B&H
  • Premiere Elements 2020 at B&H
  • Bundled Photoshop & Premiere Elements 2020 at B&H


We were impressed by the face tilting capability in Photoshop Elements. We suppose the other new features will be useful but we're not big fans of replacing skies and while we love to add type, we don't think you really need to wade through presets to do that. Turning a still into a GIF was a cute trick but not something we'd want to do regularly.

On the video front, we liked being able to select an object (crudely though, given that last year you could select a subject) and apply a filter on it or around it.

We're glad Adobe paid some attention to a backup and restore utility. It's one thing that just isn't done at home. And it's essential.

But, as we said, up top, the hardware requirements, presumably driven by video and artificial intelligence, are unfortunate. And that's the one big thing about this release we can't get over.

It's no less true than it was before that Elements is a great way to learn about digital image and video editing. But it's hardware requirements restrict its usefulness as the hub of an image and video collection to fewer memory makers than before. We lament that because it matters more than the vaudevillian stunts the new version offers in exchange.

We'll give it two corners and recommend sticking with what you've got over refinancing the house. There just isn't much meat on the bones this time around.

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