Change your life!? Okay so it’s a big task but for some people, being able to use a bunch of professional editing and management features via a simple, easy-to-use interface, is a life-changing experience. That is exactly what the guys at Adobe try to do with their entry-level photo-editing package – Photoshop Elements.
Now in its fourth revision, you will find more ‘power with ease’ features jammed into this ‘econo’ package than ever before. So in this issue we thought that we would get Philip Andrews to list 20 of the best cheats and show you how they can help your photo-editing in a jiffy.
TURNING THE STRAIGHTEN TOOL ON ITS SIDE (Above)
So you think the Straighten tool in Elements 4.0 is a cool new addition to your editing arsenal. Well why not? Being able to reorientate crooked horizons by drawing a straight line along the demarcation point between sky and ground is a simple solution to correcting photos that have been taken slightly askew, but the real power cheat is the way the feature can be used to straighten vertical picture parts. Choose the Straighten tool, then hold down the Ctrl key while drawing a line (click-drag the mouse) alongside a part of the photo that should be vertical. Release the mouse button then the Ctrl key, and the photo is automatically rotated to the precise degree. All that is left to do is crop out the edge detail.
SELECTING FAVOURITES IN FULL SCREEN MODE
Anyone who has played with the View Photos in Full Screen option (select thumbnails in the Photo Browser workspace and then press F11) in Elements knows that this feature produces a quick slideshow displaying each photo in turn according to the settings that you make in the initial pop-up dialogue. What is not generally known is that, with a few quick keystrokes, you can add star ratings to your pictures while they are being progressively shown on screen. Ctrl plus numbers 1 to 5 attach 1 to 5 star ratings, with Alt F1 adding a Favorites tag and Alt F2 hiding the thumbnail altogether. These keystrokes ratings system makes the Full Screen mode a great way to edit the images from a recent shoot.†
Most Elements users create their catalogues (the thumbnail collections that you see in the Photo Browser workspace) from folders of images stored on their hard drives, or directly from their camera downloads. But the program can also generate catalogues from pictures stored on CD or DVD disks. When you File > Get Photos from your disk you have an option at the bottom of the dialogue that lets you keep the original pictures ‘offline’ (on the CD or DVD) but load proxy versions of the photos into Elements to use for browsing, searching, tagging and organising. If you try to make changes to the photo itself, Elements asks you to insert the original disk so that the program can apply edits to the full version of the file. Offline files are indicated with a small CD disk icon in the top corner of the thumbnail. If you don’t select the Offline option in the Get Photos dialogue, Elements will copy the photos from your disk to the hard drive, then create a catalogue from this collection of files.
PAINT YOUR WAY TO PRECISE SELECTIONS
So what does 10 years of Photoshop practice get you? Well one thing is for sure, I can now make complex selections using the Lasso, Marquee and Magic Wand tools and a variety of ‘add to’, ‘subtract from’ and ‘intersect with’ actions with comparative ease. So you can imagine my surprise to find that Elements users can create equally as complex selections in seconds using naught but a few scribbles. Using the Selection Brush tool, you can create a selection by simply painting over the areas of the picture that you want included. To remove areas from the selection just hold down the Alt key and paint again.
Pixel-Based Searches (Above)
The ability to search a series of pictures by filename, date taken or even some obscure metadata entry is nothing special. Many editing and management programs can do that. But what about searches based on dominant pixel colours? The Photo Browser Find† By Visual Similarity with Selected Photos option does precisely that. It uses the colour and tones in the selected thumbnail (or thumbnails) as the basis for locating other photos in your collection that are similar. The program then displays the results, arranging the most similar results first and successively less-exact matches next.†††
Create an instant sense of warmth to photos that are suffering from being too blue because they were taken on an overcast day, by employing the powers of the Adjust Color for Skin Tone feature. This will switch the cold feeling of the photo to one that is more reminiscent of hot, balmy afternoons.††