I’ve always believed that Photoshop Elements is the best-kept secret that Adobe has hiding in their arsenal. If you haven’t played around with it, I think you’ll be shocked by its features: it boasts everything from advanced selections with the Refine Edge feature to simplified Guided Edits that keep your processing streamlined. Every time I chat with another photographer about software, they never can believe how much DNA Photoshop and Photoshop Elements share.

Every year, when Adobe introduces their new version of Elements, they always toss in a few fun, fresh features to keep PSE-loyalists happy. This year, I can’t believe how excited I am about two of their new Guided Edit styles: the Double Exposure creator and the Background Changer. These two photo editing methods are incredibly popular, but also tedious and can drive people crazy with making hand-drawn selections. Luckily, thanks to some quick steps, the process just got a whole lot easier!

The Double Exposure effect is a blast and can give your photos a funky, unique look. Start with a portrait that has a semi-simple background (I would recommend avoiding a person in a green outfit against an all green back drop!) and follow the prompts: you’ll select your subject, refine the edge, let Elements do a little selection magic and choose your second image! The results I got were fantastic and the process is so easy, it almost feels fake. Plus, I love that they give you effect options to apply afterwards to spice up your photos!

This studio shot was transformed into a really fun double exposure with a forest scene. (Click to enlarge)

The Background Changer is SO SIMPLE! I couldn’t get over how fast and straightforward changing a background was that I just kept trying it out on new photos; it worked every dang time. Similar to the Double Exposure effect, you’ll select your image and refine the edges, then let Elements take care of the rest. My original test took less than 5 minutes and my results were pretty darn good. My results just got better when I spent a bit more time refining my selection, too. This is definitely worth playing around with on your own.

Not only did I play around with a new background, but Elements also helps you blend the two photos together! (Click to enlarge)

I’m a sucker for effects, but there are more great new features: Selections just got incredibly easier with Smart Selection, allowing you to make highly specific edits with ease. The new Open Closed Eyes option allows you to take two photos of the same person and quickly clean up awkward blinks. If you’re like me and you love cool image stylings, then you’ll love the new Watercolor Effect, which will make a photo look like a work of art.

The Smart Selection allowed me to separate these women from their background and make them stand out a bit more. (Click to enlarge)

Along with all the Elements Editor, you also get the Elements Organizer. It’s an incredible photo management system that lets you customize how you store your images. Their newest update is a feature I never knew I wanted until it showed; Auto Curate. This option allows you to select a folder of images – let’s say you took photos at your kid’s birthday party – and it curates the photos down into the best few. It analyzes everything from the faces it finds (closed eyes and turned backs get kicked to the curb) to the focus and composition. If you’re like me, you probably take about 10 images of a scene, just to make sure you get the best possible shot. With Auto Curate, the Organizer tries to choose the best one. Amazing.

This folder of images is from when I took my dog out for the day. After Auto Curating, it weeded out the dark and out of focus images. (Click to enlarge)

Photoshop Elements will always be a player in the world of software, but sadly it is so often overlooked. These features in the Editor and Organizer are icing on top of an already delicious cake and they automate actions that can take hours in Photoshop or Lightroom. I regularly hear that Elements isn’t a “serious” option for photographers because of these “easy” follow-along features, but to them I say this: Why would I ever turn down something that can save me time and my job simpler?