Today’s Question: An earlier question related to concerns about not being able to open PSD files in the future. It has been my plan to switch to Photoshop Elements when my Photoshop CS6 is no longer serviceable. That, of course, assumes that Elements can read the .psd format. Is that a valid assumption?
Tim’s Quick Answer: Photoshop Elements is able to open Photoshop PSD files, but with a couple of significant caveats. Layers for a 16-bit image would not be supported, and features not supported in Photoshop Elements would not be available if they are included in the PSD file created in Photoshop.
More Detail: If your primary concern is simply being able to access your PSD images without necessarily having access to the layers, you can open a flattened version of the PSD image to retain the 16-bit per channel version of the photo without layers. You can also convert the layered image to the 8-bit per channel mode to retain the layers. Both of these options will be presented if you open a 16-bit per channel PSD image with layers using Photoshop Elements.
If you choose to convert the bit depth to 8-bit per channel in order to retain the layers for the PSD image, it is important to keep in mind that features from Photoshop that are not available in Photoshop Elements will still not be available. You would simply see a placeholder layer, for example, with no ability to make changes.
So, for example, if your PSD file contains a Curves adjustment or a Vibrance adjustment, since those adjustment layers are not available in Photoshop Elements you would see a placeholder adjustment layer within Photoshop Elements, but you would not be able to make changes to the settings for those adjustment layers.
In other words, the bottom line is that Photoshop Elements can serve as a good “emergency” fallback way to access images that have been saved in the Photoshop PSD format, but there is a very good chance you will lose access to many of the adjustments and other features you took advantage of originally for the image in Photoshop.