Barbara Obermeier is principal of Obermeier Design and a faculty member at California Lutheran University. Ted Padova has written more than 60 books on digital design tools including Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Illustrator, and Acrobat. Both are veteran professionals in graphic design.
Getting Started with Image Editing
IN THIS CHAPTER
Getting tips on photography
Starting the Photo Editor
Opening, editing, sharing, and saving a photo
Using Undo History
Saving your files
Image editing is incredibly fun, especially with a tool like Photoshop Elements, which enables you to modify, combine, and even draw your own images to your imagination's content. To get the most out of Elements, you need to understand some basic technical concepts, but like most people, you probably want to jump in, play around, and basically just get started right away.
You're in luck: In Quick mode, Elements helps you make basic edits to your photos, like revealing your child's face darkened by a baseball cap's shadow or cropping out the gigantic trash can on the left edge of your otherwise perfect landscape shot. In this chapter, we help you jump-start your image-editing skills by guiding you through Quick mode and how to share photos online, retrace your steps, save your edits, and more.
Before You Begin
We want to cover a few basics about photography before we jump into editing images. Many photographers and articles by professionals talk about stages and phases of photography as it relates to the developing photographer as an artist.
Rather than talk about becoming an artist, we're going to break down the process of creating photos into three phases important for amateurs to know as they prepare for a photoshoot. Our definition of the three phases of photography are pre-shooting, shooting, and post-production (commonly referred to simply as post). Each phase is important. Here's what's involved in each:
Pre-shooting: In the pre-shooting phase, you set up shots and pay attention specifically to lighting and composition. Photos taken with the best cameras under poor lighting are never as good as photos taken with simple cameras in the best lighting. In photography, lighting is everything. In Figure 1-1, a studio shot with controlled lighting is on the left; a snapshot with no controlled lighting is on the right.
Try to learn as much as you can about lighting. Be aware of a variety of lighting conditions and how you can control lighting. Use large reflectors such as a simple, white, heavy-duty cardboard to target light reflections in poorly lit areas or shadows. Use the reflector to shield heavy overhead sunlight. If you're serious about portrait photography, buy some inexpensive lights such as a softbox and a spotlight. Get a few different backdrops you can tack on a wall, or buy a backdrop stand. You can set up a photo studio easily and with very little cost.
Poke around the Internet and learn as much as you can about lighting. Learn different lighting techniques such as Rembrandt lighting, split lighting, butterfly, loop, broad, and so on. Learn to place lights in a home studio and set angles and use reflectors. You can easily set up a home studio in a room or a garage and have a lot of fun shooting portraits.
Shooting: In the second phase, you need to understand your camera. If you use a DSLR, learn how to change menu options and control settings that you use frequently. The more advanced cameras have tons of settings, but you're likely to change only a few from the defaults.
Be certain to review and understand ISO, aperture, and shutter speeds. Shoot tons of photos and bracket many shots exposing for shadows while letting go of the highlights. Change angles. Shoot low, shoot high, get in close, and shoot full subjects. Crop as much as you can with your camera and leave the fine detail cropping to post-production. Pay attention to backgrounds and move around your subjects to find the least background distractions interfering with your subjects.
Photography is like graphic design, and you use many of the same principles for good design in your photography. Look for hierarchy and simplicity, look for repetition, look at shapes and form, look for contrast. All these factors are involved with good graphic design and can also be applied to photography. Make a study of graphic design and become familiar with what makes a good design versus what appear as poor designs.
Good photographs are created. You may have to wait until the lighting in a scene is optimum and the subject is in the right position, or you may need to rotate the angle. Be patient and realize that good photos are works of art and require time and thought, such as the photo in Figure 1-2.
- Post-production: In the final phase, you edit your photographs. In this book, we talk about Photoshop Elements, so all post-production is handled in the Elements Photo Editor. We can help you improve your images to a degree, but if you begin with a good photo taken properly with your camera and under good lighting conditions, your post-production work will be so much easier.
Photo: Ted Padova, Model (left): Camille Sedar
FIGURE 1-1: A photo shot in a studio with controlled lighting (left) and a snapshot taken with no controlled lighting (right).
Photo: Ted Padova
FIGURE 1-2: Lines, form, and lighting are all important in your photography.
If you're a serious amateur, remember: Snapshots are taken randomly with no creative influence, while photographs are created with much attention to detail.
Launching the Photo Editor
Photoshop Elements has two separate components:
- The Organizer is where you manage photos. It's full of tools for tagging, rating, sorting, and finding your images. Part 2 helps you start using the Organizer.
- The Photo Editor is where you correct photos for brightness and color, add effects, repair images, and so on.
In this chapter, you work in the Photo Editor to make basic edits to a photo.
Here's how to start Elements and open the Photo Editor:
- Double-click the Photoshop Elements shortcut on your desktop or in your Applications folder (Mac) to launch the Elements Welcome screen.
Click the Photo Editor button shown in the Welcome screen in Figure 1-3.
The Photo Editor workspace loads and appears, as shown in Figure 1-4. By default, you see the Quick tab selected at the top of the Photo Editor workspace, which means you're in Quick mode (or right where you want to be for the purposes of this chapter). Quick mode offers a limited number of tools for adjusting brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness.
FIGURE 1-3: The Photoshop Elements Welcome screen.
FIGURE 1-4: The default Photo Editor workspace with the Quick tab selected.
When you first launch Photoshop Elements, you may see the eLive tab open. Click the Quick tab to see the editing options for Quick mode. See the section "Getting a Helping Hand," later in this chapter, for more about eLive.
On the right side of the workspace, you see the Adjustments panel docked in an area dubbed the Panel Bin. When in any one of the three editing modes (Quick, Guided, Expert), you find different panels. On the left side of the workspace, you see a Tools panel. Interacting with the items in the Panel Bin and using tools in the Tools panel provides you an enormous number of options for editing, improving, and stylizing your pictures.
Making Basic Edits in Quick Mode
For beginning users, the Quick mode in the Photo Editor is both powerful and easy to use. Follow these steps to make some simple changes to an image:
- Open the Photo Editor and make sure the Quick tab is selected at the top.
If Elements is your default editing application, you can also double-click your photo file in Windows Explorer or the Mac Finder, and the file opens in Elements.
- In the Open dialog box that appears, navigate your hard drive to locate the file you want to open, select the file, and click Open.
- From the View drop-down list (in the upper left of the image window), choose Before & After - Horizontal, as shown in Figure 1-5.
Make edits to your photo.
Here's an introduction to two simple edits you can make in Quick mode:
Apply a Smart Fix: Click Smart Fix in the Panel Bin to see the options. To begin with, click Auto at the bottom of the Smart Fix panel and select the After view to see whether you like the changes.
As shown in Figure 1-5, several items are listed in the Panel Bin below the Smart Fix option. Click an item to expand it and move the sliders, or click the thumbnail images to tweak the overall brightness, contrast, and color. In many cases there isn't a right or wrong adjustment. Play with the options to bring it close to your overall vision for the picture. For a more in-depth look at correcting photos in Quick mode, flip to Chapter 10.
- Crop the photo: In the Tools panel on the left side of the window, click the Crop tool. You immediately see a rectangle on top of the photo. Move the sides to crop the image to your liking. When finished, click the green check mark, as shown in Figure 1-6, to accept your edit.