Discover how to set up the ideal photo editing workflow for Photoshop Elements. Our tutorial will show you how to import images into Elements, rate them and make several key first edits.
Why would you choose Photoshop Elements as your main image editor when many cameras come with free software bundles for editing and managing your photos?
Because not only is Elements a much more integrated, easy solution for organising and editing your raw and JPEG images, but it also represents something of a recognised standard for image editing.
For starters, Elements Organizer offers an excellent way to keep your image collection in order. With the ever-increasing capacity of memory cards you’ll often be adding hundreds of shots to your collection in one go, and keeping them organised is one of those things that’s easy if you keep on top of the task – but if you wait until the backlog is huge, you’ll regret that you didn’t do it sooner!
In this Photoshop Elements tutorial we’ll show you just how easy it is to import, sort and rate your images. If you’ve got Elements 11 or higher the Organizer interface is laid out slightly differently from earlier versions, but the principles of importing and sorting your shots are the same.
Next, we’ll look at how you can apply some basic edits to an image using the Full Edit/Expert mode.
The ideal Photoshop Elements workflow
1 Get set
Launch Organizer via the Welcome screen, or by clicking the Organize button if you’re in one of the Edit modes. If you haven’t yet imported any of your images, you’ll be greeted by an empty workspace. To import photos that are already on your computer select File > Get Photos and Videos > From Files and Folders. Navigate to your images, press Ctrl+A to select them all and click Get Media. To import photos from your camera or a memory card, select the From Camera or Card Reader option.
2 Star rating
At the top of the interface in Elements 10 and earlier is a slider with four small squares at the left and a single larger square at the right: drag the right to make the thumbnails larger, or left to view more, smaller thumbnails (the slider is at the bottom-right in Elements 11, and it’s labelled ‘Zoom’).
There are five greyed-out stars below each image (go to View > Details if you don’t see them): click on a star to turn it yellow and apply that rating to the selected shot.
3 Tag ’em up
Double-click an image and it fills the screen so you can take a closer look – tap the arrow keys on your keyboard to move through your shots. Click Places under Keyword Tags, then click the green plus sign and choose New Sub-Category.
Type the name of a place where one of your images was taken, hit Return, then drag-and-drop the tag onto the image. If you highlight multiple shots (by Ctrl-clicking or Shift-clicking on them), you can tag all of them at one time.
4 Album charts
Tick the box next to your place name to show only the images with that tag; click it again to display all images. Click on a ‘one star’ image and hit the Delete key: as well as removing it from Elements, you get the option to delete it from your hard disk entirely.
Under Albums, click the green plus sign, select New Album and give it a name. Now you can drag images into the album. Click Done, then select Show All at the top-left. Drag another image to your new album, and drop it into the name.
5 From Organizer to Editor
In the Organizer workspace, navigate to your image , right-click it and select Edit with Photoshop Elements Editor. The image will open in the Full Edit/Expert window. Click the Enhance menu, and you’ll see there are some ‘Auto’ commands to try, and most will often work quite well, but we’ll cover a few important manual tweaks you can make.
6 Boost the saturation
Click the Zoom tool (the magnifying glass symbol in the Tools panel). Click the image a few times to zoom in. Notice that the cursor shows a plus sign. Now hold down the Alt key. See how it changes to a minus sign? Click on the image, then double-click the Hand tool to fit it to the screen. In our image, the colour is a bit weak, so we went to Enhance > Adjust Colour > Adjust Hue/Saturation. Increase Saturation to +12, then clicked OK.
7 Exposure and contrast
Next go to Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Levels and you’ll see a histogram, a graph of the brightness levels of the pixels in the image. Drag the white or black slider under the histogram to adjust the lightest or darkest pixels in your image; hold down the Alt key as you do so, and you can spot where pixels are being ‘clipped’ (made pure white or solid black).
The blacks are okay here, but we adjusted the whites to 223 to get a ‘true’ white in the image. The correct, best way to adjust the brightness of an image is by adjusting the centre, midtones slider. In this case, set it to 1.10 and click OK.
8 Crop and save
Select the Crop tool. Under Aspect Ratio in the menu bar, choose ‘Use Photo Ratio’ to retain the image’s 2×3 proportions. Adjust the crop frame to take some off the top and right-hand side, then click the green tick.
Go to File > Save As and you’ll see that Elements renames the image to ensure you don’t overwrite your original file. Choose Photoshop (PSD) from the Format menu if you’ve added layers to an image, and want to preserve these so that you can tweak your edits at a future date.
Sharpen photos the smart way: demystifying Photoshop’s image sharpening tools
Adobe Lightroom: what every photographer needs to know about the ‘alternative Photoshop
Best Photo Editing Software? 6 budget alternatives to Photoshop tested and rate
Photoshop Curves Tool: 6 techniques every photographer must know
Best photo editing tips for beginners: 18 quick fixes to common image problems