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.

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.

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.

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.  

Elements Top Tips Page 2

You can add the same caption to multiple photos quickly and easily by multi-selecting the thumbnails in the Photo browser first and then selecting the Add Captions to Selected Items option from the right-click menu.

Who says that all the ‘face matching’ security software that’s employed in our major airports has no creative spin-offs? In what some might say is a strange application of the technology, Photoshop Elements can now locate and display the faces in not just one but a whole bunch of photos via the Find Faces for Tagging option. For those photographers who regularly create images of people, or groups of people, this feature alone will save loads of time. Just multi-select a variety of images, then choose the Find > Find Faces for Tagging option, and Elements will search through the photos, displaying the found faces in a special Tagging dialogue. Next, drag the tags to the faces (or faces to the tags) to add the label to the associated photo.    

Media Center computers are starting to pop-up everywhere. These are the machines that let you watch, record and time shift live television, play music and show movies all from your humble PC. With the release of version 4.0 of Elements, Adobe has started to forge strong links with the software (Windows Media Center) that drives these home theatre computers. Now from inside the media center you can access Elements’ catalogues and slide shows, directly providing options to display your photos or show your presentations on your TV. Similarly the output options from inside the new revamped Elements slide show editor now include specialist settings for Media Center display.   

Though I am a big stickler for ensuring that I maintain  quality enhancement practices at all times, there are still occasions when editing speed is more desirable than ultimate editing control. If haste is the order of the day then there is no quicker way to enhance a bunch of photos than to multi-select the pictures in the Organizer first and then choose Auto Smart Fix Selected Photos from the right-click menu. And there is no need to panic if you don’t like the auto correction results, because Elements saves the original file along with the newly edited photo in a Version Set, which means that you can reverse the enhancement at any time. 

Animated Stills
Is the over use of the ‘spiral’, ‘horizontal blind’ or ‘coarse dissolve’ transitions of home made slide presentations driving you crazy but you still want to add some movement to your otherwise still show? Take a look at the zoom and pan options in the new slide show editor. This feature provides the option to gradually zoom into, or pan across, the surface of a still photo as part of the presentation. The effect can be used to produce very dynamic results and is similar to the techniques that professional documentary film makers use in order to animate historical documents. 


Die-hard Photoshop users often pooh-pooh Photoshop Elements for its lack of automation features, pointing to the batch-processing abilities of the program’s bigger brother as proof that no serious photographer would use anything else. But hidden away under the File menu in the Elements Standard Editor workspace is the Process Multiple Files option which gives Elements users a level of automated processing that even Photoshop users would have to admit is impressive. With the controls contained in this single dialogue, you can rename, resize, change file formats, adjust contrast, colour, levels, sharpness and even add a watermark (labels) to files contained in a folder or already open in the workspace. For quick, efficient processing of multiple photos this is certainly the place to start. 


One of the hardest steps in the process of changing the background of a photo is the erasing of the original background. If the results of this action is convincing then you are well on your way to a successful montage. One option not often used is the Background Eraser tool. Nestled with the other Eraser tools, the pointer for this feature contains two parts – a circle (the size of the selected brush) and a crosshair in the centre. To erase, simply move the crosshair over the areas that you wish to remove.


Elements Top Tips Page 3


Many users love the Bound Photo Book feature but don’t like the pre-made templates that come with it. If you want to take back some design control, then create each of the book pages (complete with text, images and backgrounds) individually as Elements documents and then insert these pages as full-page photos into the Full Bleed book option in the creations wizard


The Version Set feature in Elements is a terrific tool to use when you want to produce a range of editing outcomes from a single photo. As you make changes to the file in the Editor workspace, be sure to save each different enhancement outcome as part of the version set (use the checkbox at the bottom of the Save As dialogue). Now when you close the file, the saved stages of the edit process are stored along with the original. Using the right-click pop-up menu you can elect to display the photos in the set and then promote any version to the top of the set.


Next time you have to correct the red-eye in a bunch of party photos, try the Red Eye Removal Tool in Elements. Long before this beauty ever appeared in Photoshop, Elements users had been using this one-click wonder to correct the red eye in their flash photos. Simply select the tool and click on the red part of the eye. Elements determines the extent of the red and converts the colour to a more natural dark grey. If the program is having trouble removing all the problem colour, try click-dragging a marquee around the offending pupil.


Next time you want to ensure that a photo will fit perfectly on a specific size of printing paper, reach for the crop tool. Select the correct proportions from the options in the Aspect Ratio drop-down menu and then proceed to crop the photo to the format of the printing paper.


With the Order Prints and Photo Email features making use of the email and address details from the Elements Contacts Book, adding in a list of your nearest and dearest could be quite a task. But rather than retype all this data, simply import the contacts lists from other programs on your computer. Select Contacts Book from the Edit menu, then click the Import button. Choose the program where the list is stored, then click OK. The contacts and their details are automatically imported and ready to use.


You know the story. You’re the only one at the family reunion who remembered to bring a camera and now every uncle Tom, Dick and Harry (and that’s not mentioning your aunt’s requests) wants a copy of the photos you took. I’m sure, that like me, there are plenty of readers who just don’t have the time to spend the next few weekends printing and posting the pictures to your favorite relatives. Well, sigh no more. The Order Prints pane in Elements provides a print and post solution with drag-and-drop simplicity. After adding in the addresses of family members, simply drag the picture from the organizer work space onto the print pane and a print order will be created. Next, click the Confirm Order button and the order is sent to an online print provider such as the Kodak Easy Share Gallery. Add in some credit card details and the pictures will be printed and posted out to your relatives in a matter of days.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Elements Top Tips Page 2
  3. 3. Elements Top Tips Page 3
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