Photoshop Elements Basics


Photoshop Elements Basics for Photographers

By Betty Sederquist

© 2014 by Betty Sederquist. All rights reserved.

Everyone has his/her own way of working in Elements, considered the simplified version of Photoshop. Other programs also address the needs of photographers, including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, and to a lesser degree (limited editing options) programs like iPhoto and Picassa. Although this document addresses Elements 11 and 12, many of the concepts mentioned here will apply to these other programs. This document covers the Expert Mode, although there are some fun special effects in the Quick and Guided Modes. The document does not cover Elements Organizer.

Workspace: the VERY Basics

Image Window: This is where you see the picture/image.

Tools: This is found at the left side of your screen. Hover your mouse over a tool, and you will see the name of the tool.

Options Bar: This is just below your image window and is linked to the Tools Bar. As you click on a tool the options bar changes, giving you lots of goodies.

Drop Down Menus (many of these duplicate commands found in other parts of Elements): Located at the very top of the screen. To access the many features here, hold your mouse button down. If the feature is grayed out, the command is not usable unless you do something else to change this.

Windows. Go to the Windows Drop Down Menu (upper right at the top of your screen) and you can click various dialogue boxes off and on. These will show to the right side of your image window. To close a window, click on the tiny “X” at upper left.


Elements (and Photoshop and Lightroom) images are made up of tiny squares of color called pixels. They blend together to create a realistic looking photograph. The size of these pixels can vary. For on-screen use (Internet, emailing to friends) a resolution of 72 pixels per inch (ppi) is typical. For print, things are different. Typically for photo quality images, use 300 ppi. (However, 240 ppi is sort of okay and some labs request 320 ppi). In a high quality photo print, the eye blends all these colors together.

Why do we care? Each square of color or pixel takes up a finite amount of hard drive space. Therefore a file with a resolution of 72 ppi takes up far less space than an image of the same physical dimensions at 300 ppi. Typically an 8”x10” image at 300 ppi might take up 20 megabytes of space on your hard drive, while the same file at 72 ppi/8×10 might take up 1 or 2 megs. If you try to print a 72 ppi image, however, you will see the little squares of color, but you won’t see this in a low-resolution email or Internet image. A lot of this quality depends on viewing distance. For example if you walked up to a highway billboard you would see large squares of color that would not be visible from several hundred yards away. For this reason fine-art printing factors in viewing distance.

Image Size

What you see on screen doesn’t always have a direct bearing on how big a photo will print. How do you find out this information?

You go to the Image Size dialog box, not easily accessible. You find this by going to the drop down menu at the top of your screen, Image>Resize>Image Size. You can change image size here.

Always leave the check box “Constrain Proportions” on unless you’re going for a special distorted effect.

If the “Resample Image” checkbox is unchecked, it will change physical size of the image if you change the resolution. For example, if resolution is changed from 240 to 72 ppi, then new physical image dimensions are 53.778 x 36 inches. File size in megabytes stays the same.

If Resample Image is checked, then you can resize the image. HOWEVER, it is difficult to make a tiny, low-resolution image bigger. Elements does its best to interpolate (average out) between pixels but if there is little information to work with (few pixels) the result will be a blurry photo. Thus it is important to take your photo at the highest resolution your camera will allow: you can easily go smaller, but not larger.

At the very bottom of the Image Size box, if “Resample Image” is turned on, Elements gives you some alternatives for interpolating images. If you choose to go from larger to smaller, choose Bicubic Sharper. If you’re enlarging an image (and typically you can “safely” to this to maybe 10 or 15% larger than the original image), choose Bicubic Smoother. Which one you choose really isn’t that big of a deal unless you’re going for extreme sizing.

Image Cropping for Output to a Commercial Lab

Most camera formats don’t fit the standard sizes offered by commercial photo labs (8×10, 11×14, etc.). The problem is so vexing that many online labs offer cropping as part of their ordering package. Elements makes it easy for you with various presets (as does Lightroom).

In addition, there are some ways to customize this. Both sound harder than they are to do.

First technique: (1) In Image Size (see above), choose the shortest size dimensions you will need, such as “8” for an 8×10. Maybe you get a length of 12.045”, which is too long, for an example, for an 8×10. (2) Now go to your Crop tool (under Modify, looks like two right angles put together), click on it. (3) In the options bar at the bottom of your screen you will many presets, or you can customize the cropping. (4) For a horizontal image, enter “10” for the width, “8” for the height. (5) Now using your mouse drag it across the image from one corner to the other. The dimensions you have selected will constrain the image to 8×10. (6) To customize your crop you can either move it around with your mouse or use your arrow keys (lower right portion of your keyboard). (7) If you don’t like your crop, hit the Escape key (upper left of your keyboard). Also, there are tons of cute little custom crop options here, like frames, arrows, etc. Just one of these styles, and drag your mouse across your image to apply.

Second technique: (1) Create a New document with the dimensions you want. Go to File>New and in the dialog box that opens enter your dimensions. Since this will be for high quality printing, be sure to enter 300 in the resolution box unless your lab tells you otherwise. (2) Open the document you want printed (File>Open and navigate to the folder with the image you want). (3) Make sure both documents are open so you can see them. Do this by going to Layout, at bottom of screen (4) Using the Move tool (very top tool with a black right hand arrow and a +) use your mouse to drag your image (or a selection) into the New (empty) file. Once the image reaches this “destination” file, the edges of the image will turn black for a moment. (5) Position as desired by dragging image with your mouse. (6) If your image is too big, you’ll need to scale it down. You do this by going to drop-down menu Image>Resize>Scale, and drag one of the corner little squares (handles) until you get the size you want. Then click outside the selection to apply the size.

File Formats

After you’ve worked on an Elements image, you will want to save it. To save it in the same format with which you opened the file, simple go to the drop down menu and choose “Save.” This will save the image in the same folder that it came from, in the same format. This will overwrite your original file, which is one reason you may want to back up that original file in another folder or on another hard drive.

Often you will want to save your file to another place, with a different name, perhaps changing the format. You’ll see a drop down menu in the “Save As” dialog box with many confusing choices. There are several basic formats that are commonly used.    Typically most point and shoot cameras save in what is called .jpg format. This is a compression program. On your camera you will see various modes like high quality, super HQ, fast mode, etc. This actually reflects the degree of .jpg compression, so that you can put more images on a single CF or HD card in your camera. Almost always you will want to save in the highest-quality .jpg format your camera offers, as low quality equals low resolution and terrible photos that can’t be enlarged, even though they may look good on-screen. In Elements, when you do a “Save As” (under the drop down File menu) you are presented with a sliding scale from 1 to 12. Typically for Internet work, where loading speed of a page is important and thus smaller files are needed, a setting of 5 to 7 is considered the industry standard. For high quality prints, use a setting of at least 10 and preferably 12. Most commercial labs prefer that you send them high quality .jpg files. Each time you open and close a .jpg file it is decompressed and compressed, resulting in some loss of image quality. The problem is not as severe with .jpg images saved at a setting of 12. Unless you’re doing specialized Internet work, ignore the options at the bottom of this dialog box.

Another format is .tiff (Tagged Image File Format). Widely used in the publishing world, these are large files and are considered “bullet proof” as they don’t suffer from the compression/quality problems of .jpg files. They are readable by many other software programs, although many labs don’t like these files because of the large sizes.

The third popular format is .psd. This means a native Photoshop or Elements file. Only you and other Photoshop/Elements users can read a .psd file.

Basic Exposure Techniques

Good exposure control is an art form. Ideally, we want to get things perfect in-camera, but failing that, there are quite a few things we can do after taking the photo (we call this post processing). In an ideal world, we want detail in important parts of our photo. However, we usually want some finessing of tonal ranges to add drama and depth to the image. Often, certain parts of the image are too dark or too light. Perhaps the entire image is too dark or light. Several areas of Elements (and Lightroom and many other photo editing programs) can help with this. They are: Levels, Shadows/Highlights, and Brightness/Contrast.

Getting too extreme with these controls will reduce the quality of the image, creating “noise,” most often multi-colored speckles and lines in shadow areas, which is why you want to get the exposure correct to begin with.

Work on a duplicate file or duplicate layer so as not to destroy our original image. If you shoot RAW (Adobe ACR), your original image is always saved. Lightroom, another popular photo editing program, also works on just a copy of your image.

Elements offers numerous “Auto” options under the Enhance drop down menu. Often, these work great. If you want to customize these, then you must go to Window>Adjustments, and then to add an Adjustment, you must go to the teensy little downward arrow at the upper right, and then choose your preferred technique. By using the Adjustment path, you are adding a new layer to your file. More on layers in another section. You can also access Levels via Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels.

LEVELS. In this dialog box (found via the drop down menu Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels or…easier, Command/Control “L” on your keyboard), you will see a black “mountain” or series of mountains. Called a histogram, this is a map of the tones (light and dark) in your image. Many higher-end cameras also have histograms built in. For example if one big part of your image is very light, and another big part is dark, you will have two mountains. Typically you will have one mountain. If the mountain leans to the left, it means you have a lot of dark areas. If it spills out of the left side, that means there are parts of the image so dark that you can’t recover any detail. Conversely, an image with the mountain in the right side of the rectangle means an image with a lot of light tones. If it spills out of the rectangle on the right, that means there are parts of the image that are too light or “blown out,” and detail can’t be recovered.

To change the exposure, you will work mostly with the middle upward pointed gray arrow just below the mountain, moving it to the right or left to adjust mid tones to make most of the image lighter or darker. Moving the black arrow to the right “clips” the blacks, meaning that anything to the left of the arrow is completely black. Using this VERY sparingly is often great for adding a bit of drama/contrast to an image. Conversely, moving the white arrow to the left clips the highlights. Getting too extreme with these sliders will result in loss of quality.

You might want to try some of the presets and then fine tune. Elements also has an Auto Levels feature, via the drop down menu, Enhance. Play!

SHADOW/HIGHLIGHT. This is a fairly low-tech but powerful technique. Access this via drop-down menu Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Shadow/Highlight.

BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST. The label here is self explanatory. You will find this via the drop-down menu Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Brightness/Contrast.


There are lots of great tools (on the left side of your screen) for making your image better.

The options bar at the bottom changes as you change tools.

There are several categories of tools: View, Select, Enhance, Draw, Modify and Color. Under View, there is a magnifying glass that lets you move in or out of your image. To zoom out, hold down the Alt/Option key as you click. You can also use the drop down menu and Zoom In/Out. Note that there are keyboard shortcuts for this any many other commands in Elements. The Hand moves the image around, particularly good if you have moved into your image so that it is larger than the screen.

Below that are selection tools of various kinds. At the upper left is the Move Tool, great for moving selections around inside your image or even to another image. To the upper right is the Marquee tool, by default set to elliptical. You can change this to a rectangle in the options at the bottom. To use the tool, drag it across part of your photo. If you want a perfect square or circle, hold down the shift key while you’re doing this. Anything INSIDE the selection can be edited. If you go to the drop down menu and choose “inverse,” then you can edit anything OUTSIDE the selection. For most photographs, you’ll get a better result if you feather the selection slightly so you don’t have a distinct line after you’ve done lightening, darkening or other edits. The amount of feathering will vary according to the size of your image. Good starting points might be 5 to 10 pixels.

The Lasso lets you draw a free form selection. In the options section, you have a magnetic lasso, which will pull the line to areas of different contrast.

The Quick Selection tool works to select parts of the image within a given tonal range that you choose in the options section. You can also choose a brush or “magic wand” here that sort of does the same thing. Play and practice!

To make a selection go away, either go to the drop down menu and choose Deselect, or (easier and faster) choose the keyboard command Command/Control “D.”

In the Enhance section, the first tool at the upper left is Red Eye, used to bring natural eye color back to those annoying flash photos. The Spot Healing brush is great, especially for getting rid of annoying specks in skies, that odd person in the background of an otherwise perfect photo, etc. Simply click on the speck, and it’s gone. Sometimes, for quality reasons, you may find it better to do this in tiny increments.

The Detail Smart Brush lets you apply lots of cool filter effects. Click on the downward arrow to the right of the square in the options section for lots more effects. The plain brush lets you add the effect, the brush with the “+” lets you add to the selection, and the one with the “-” lets you subtract.

The Clone Stamp involves a two-step process. You need to find a place to Source from. Do this by choosing option/alt click. The Clone Stamp will then copy whatever is in that source to a place of your choosing, which you accomplish by clicking on a new point. Great for getting rid of blemishes, etc.

The Sharpen Tool (triangle) lets you sharpen selected parts of your photo. Great for eyes, not so good for skies and other neutral areas.

The Sponge Tool allows you to saturate, desaturate, blur or dodge (lighten) or burn (darken). Great for small areas of photos.

The Draw section of the tools allows you to exercise some great artistic options. The Brush at upper left is what it says. The color will be whatever is in the top square in the duo of squares at very bottom of your toolbar. These are called foreground and background colors. Click on either of these colors and you will see the Color Picker. You can pick new colors here. You might want to choose one of the many presets in Color Swatches, found in the drop down menu Window>Color Swatches. If you create a favorite color, you can add it to Color Swatches.

The Paint Bucket lets you fill a selection or the whole photo with a color or pattern. Kind of fun! The patterns are a bit funky.

The Gradient works by dragging your mouse across the image. If you drag the mouse for a short way, you’ll get a sharply defined gradient. If you start dragging your mouse outside the image, you ‘ll get a much more gradual effect. By default the gradient goes from your foreground to background colors in the picker (bottom two squares in the Toolbox) A favorite is the second option: foreground color to transparent. There are numerous options and color schemes, and you can create your own gradients (via “Edit” in the options bar at the bottom). Gradients are very effective for enlivening boring, gray landscapes when used in conjunction with layers and blending modes, covered elsewhere.

The Color Picker tool (looks like an eye dropper) lets you choose a color from your image that then is displayed as either the Foreground or Background color at the bottom of the toolbox.

The Shape Tool is fun, letting you choose from a myriad of preset shapes. You can choose to have the shape filled with whatever color is in your Color Picker, or you can opt for no fill. You can also add some interesting edges to your shape.

The Type Tool (“T”) is also discussed below in the Layers section. Choose font/size/color in the options bar. You can choose to type on a curved path, and much more. To move a block of type, use the Move Tool at the upper left.

The Pencil Tool is similar to the Brush Tool.

In the Modify section, the Crop Tool lets you choose from presets or you can create your own dimensions.

The Recompose Tool is interesting. It lets you change the size of an image, dimensions, get rid of distractions, get people closer together, etc. Play!

The Cookie Cutter Tool offers even more fun. Drag it across your image and whatever shape you’ve chosen will appear with your photo inside, with the rest of the photo deleted. Great fun on layers!

The Straighten Tool fixes those annoying crooked horizon lines. Simply drag your mouse along the offending crooked line, and it is now either horizontal or vertical, depending on the line!

At the lower right of your screen are some fun special effects that sort of fall into the Tool category. Play with the special effects here!

More on Selections

These tools (Elliptical and Oval Marquee, Lasso, Magnetic Lasso, etc.) choose a certain part of your image. Hold down your mouse button and drag the mouse in the image and you will get what are called “marching ants” that look like blinking black lines. You can make edits only inside the selection, and everything else remains untouched. For example, you can make a selection, then darken or lighten, paint (and stay inside the lines!), etc.

OR you can make a selection, then go to the drop down menu Select, and choose “Inverse.” This reverses the selection so that everything OUTSIDE the selection can be edited.

Selection editing possibilities are endless. For example, you can fill your selection with a foreground color from the picker at the bottom of the tool box (drop down menu Edit>Fill). Or try adding a nice border to the selection (Edit>Stroke). More commonly, however, we use selections to darken or lighten part of an image. Remember to feather (blur) your selections so that there is no harsh line between the selected and unselected part of your image (VERY important for photography). You can do this after you’ve created your selection by going to the drop down menu, Select, and either choosing Feather, Refine Edge, or Modify.

If you’ve spent a lot of time on your selection and you want to save it, go to drop down menu Select, go to the second listing from the bottom, and choose Save Selection. You will be asked to give it a name. At any time, you can go to Load Selection (third from bottom) and reload the selection you’ve created.

More on Retouching

Elements retouching is something of an art form and takes quite a bit of practice. For everyday purposes there are two tools that are indispensable. The first is the Spot Healing Brush (looks like a little Band Aid with a selection to the left of it). For small blemishes, simply paint over the spot with this tool. It will momentarily look awkward as it processes the correction, then the spot blends in with this background. This is particularly useful for sensor spots on a sky or for eliminating skin blemishes.

The second is the Clone Stamp Tool. If you have a large area that needs cleaning up, first press the Alt/Option key on your keyboard and position your mouse in a source/clean area. Then move your mouse to the area that needs fixing and gently move the mouse around. To avoid a “herringbone” effect of repeating patterns, regularly choose new source points.

For the Spot Healing Brush and many other tools, you can change the size of the tool by either going to the options bar and hold your mouse button down to open up this dialog box and change size (and many other things, too), or—much faster and easier—change the size of your tool with the left or right bracket keys (to the right of the “P” on the keyboard).


Think of layers as lots of window shades. Each shade has its own properties, such as color, transparency, etc. We stack these layers on top of one another and can rearrange the order, group them, get them to interact with each other, see through to the layer or layers beneath, and much more. This gives you amazing flexibility.

To find the layers palette, go to the drop down menu Window>Layers. By default an Elements file (typically a photo right out of your camera) is one layer. That layer is called the background layer and it has editing limitations. You have layers options that you can access either through the drop down menu, Layers, or in the Layers palette, go the teensy downward facing arrow just to the right of the little trash can.

For housekeeping purposes, so that you can remember what you’ve done to a certain layer, you may want to name your layers. To do this, quickly click twice directly on the name (such as Layer 1) and it will turn into a little rectangle. Type your new name here.

You can turn the layers off and on by clicking on the eyeball to the left of each layer. Also, you can see through to the layer underneath by dragging the opacity slider to the left. When you click on a layer, it turns a color (by default, blue). That means that particular layer is active. Whatever you do to a layer affects ONLY that layer.Every time you add a layer, you increase file size. For example, if your image is one megabyte in size, adding a new layer will increase it to 2 megabytes. If you are working with many layers, you can end up with some HUGE files. This is different with the much smaller adjustment layers (mentioned later).

If you want to add Type to an image, click on the T tool in the toolbox (lower left of the Draw section). Every time you create a block of type you create a new layer. Elements will automatically label the layer with whatever you’re typing.

Once you’re done with your image, you may want to flatten your file (make the image just one background layer rather than many layers). This makes the file size smaller and easier to read by other software programs. However, once you flatten the file, you lose the editing capabilities of each layer. If you have a complicated file, you might want to save your layered file and then do a “File>Save As” for your flattened file, giving it a different name. That way you can always go back to the layered file for editing.

At the top of the layers palette are some important controls. From left to right, there is what looks like a bent file folder. This adds a new layer. The next icon, a circle that is half light and dark, adds a new Adjustment layer. The rectangle with a circle inside creates a mask, an important part of Elements and Photoshop. You can only use this option if you have more than one layer; masking (covered later) won’t work on a background layer. The little Lock does just that, locking all pixels. You will seldom need to use this. Same with Lock Transparent Pixels.

At the top of the layer palette is a little box that says normal. This a drop down menu with a long list of names. These are called Blending Modes, also found in many Elements tools as well. You can only activate Blending Modes when you create a new layer. You need at least two layers in a file to activate blending modes. Think of blending modes as a way of getting the layers to talk with or interact with one another. The main modes you should be concerned with are in two groups. The first starts with “Lighten” and these lighten your image. The second starts with “Darken” and, conversely, these darken your image. Avoid Lighten and Darken; instead use Screen and Multiply. This is a powerful tool for lightening or darkening sections of your image, when used in combination with layer masks (see below).

Adjustment Layers

With adjustment layers, you can change an image without damaging or destroying the original image. Adjustment layers take less room (megabytes) than a conventional layer, and cover many of the basic adjustments you’ll need for any photograph. You can access adjustment layers in one of two ways: via the half dark/half light circle icon at the top of the Layers Palette, or via the drop down menu, Window>Adjustments, which gives you a panel of icons. Hover your mouse button over any of the icons for a few seconds and you’ll get the name of the adjustment. It covers many of the image finessing tricks described above—plus much more, but the cool thing that you can always change this later (unless you flatten the file)

Creating an adjustment layer automatically creates a layer mask (covered below).Once you click on your choice of adjustment layer, you’ll get a larger panel showing various features. There are lots of presets, drop down menus, etc., with each kind of adjustment. To return to the list of adjustment layer options, click the large left hand arrow at the lower left. For some of the adjustment layers, there is a hand at the upper left with a double arrow behind it. On some kinds of adjustment layers this enables fuller functionality.

Layer Masks

Here is where Elements gets really “magical.” It’s actually easy to do, but you do have to follow some steps.

Layer masks are especially handy when compositing several images together. Say that you want to add a pretty sky with puffy clouds to your smoggy cityscape. You will need to open two images THAT ARE THE SAME SIZE (same number of pixels) , otherwise one of the images will be smaller or larger when stacked on top of the other image. First, open two images. To show two images side by side, go to the bottom left of the Elements menu to the Layout icon. Click on the arrangement you prefer. Now, using the move tool (top left tool in your toolbox), drag one image on top of the other.

Next, click on the Layer Mask button at the top of the layers palette (it looks like a gray square with a white circle inside it). The layer you’re working on (highlighted in blue) now shows a white rectangle that has a narrow frame around it. The frame means that the layer mask is active and you can use it. If you click outside this rectangle, you will deactivate the mask. Clicking inside it reactivates it.

Now go to your toolbox and Color Picker at the very bottom. If you click on either of these squares this will take you to the Color Picker. For layer masks, however, we will leave the big squares of the Color Picker alone. Instead, click on the very tiny black and white squares to the lower left of the larger squares. This creates default colors of black and white. Black should now be your foreground color (the one on top). If not, click on the little curved double arrow to the upper right of the larger squares. The fastest way to reverse foreground and background colors is to use the “X” key on your keyboard.

With black as your foreground color and your layer mask active, go to the Brush tool, upper left in the Draw section of your tools. Begin painting in your image and you will see the other image underneath. If you make a mistake and reveal too much, simply make white your foreground color (use the “X” key for speed) and paint back the top image. For subtle edge effects change the opacity of the brush in the options bar from 100% to something less.

As you paint, the layer mask will show black where you have painted.

The beauty of layer masking is that it is infinitely editable, as long as you retain layers in your file.


Black and White

Elements does a nice job creating black and white photos, although other software programs, such as Photoshop and Silver Efex Pro, probably do a better job. Until adjustment layers came along a few versions ago, the process was counter intuitive. Now it’s easy.

First, always shoot in color in your camera. This enables more editing possibilities later on.

After you’ve brought your image into Elements, go to the drop down menu Enhance>Convert to Black and White, and you’ll be presented with lots of options. Moving the sliders will change the values of the colors, much like color filters did with black and white in the film days.

Camera RAW (ACR)

This feature has revolutionized photography. Camera RAW, also known as ACR (Adobe Camera Raw), means the processing is done NOT by the camera (as with typical .jpg format images found in a point and shoot entry-level camera) but afterward in the computer. To shoot RAW you must have a camera that features this format. Most DSLRs (digital cameras with interchangeable lenses) offer RAW, as do high-end point and shoots.

There are a few disadvantages. RAW files take more hard drive space, both on your camera card and also on the computer hard drive. Older versions of photo editing software often don’t process RAW files from newer cameras. Sometimes you can download upgrades from the Adobe website, but with really old software versions this is not possible.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of RAW is that you can do radical adjustments in exposure and color balance, etc. and still have high-quality files. Without RAW (using Levels or Auto in a .jpg file, for example), you are in danger of having a lot of image degradation, such as spots in the shadows and banding.

To process RAW files, simply open your camera file (you choose RAW in your camera settings ahead of time) . You will immediately be presented with the RAW screen. You seldom will use anything other than the first (Basic) panel.

Although things can get rather complicated here because of all the “bells and whistles,” there are a few critical controls in the panel at the right. The first is color balance. You can choose from some presets in the drop down menu or use the two sliders to get the color you wantBelow that you’ll find several other important sliders: Exposure (darkness/lightness), Highlights (move this slider to the right and you can recapture detail in lighter/highlight areas, and Shadows (similar to adding fill light in the old film days with a reflector or flash to give detail in shadow areas).

If you’re interested in Highlight or Shadow warnings, click the tiny arrows above the histogram.

All your adjustments create what is called a “sidecar” file, a tiny separate file with .xmp at the end of the file name. This is where your RAW adjustments are stored. If you move your file to a different folder or hard drive (for example) you should move the .xmp file along with it to retain the changes you just made. If you want to go back to your original settings, go to the VERY tiny little arrow at the top right of the slider panel next to the panel name (Basic, Detail or Camera Calibration) and you will see an option that says Reset Camera Raw defaults. You can reedit your RAW file at any time.

Once you have made your RAW adjustments, you have several options. At the lower left of your window you can Save the file in a variety of common formats. You can Open the file right into the main part of Elements,  or Cancel, or if you want to move on to another project without doing anything further to the file, you can click Done.

Monitor Calibration and Papers

Have you ever had an image that looks great on your computer screen, but when you print, the print looks very different from what you see on screen? It happens to everyone. There are two main culprits here (although there are other less important ones, too): the monitor and the paper you choose. Most of the time, the problem is the monitor. For example, most monitors that come out of the factory show the image too light, so that your prints are then too dark. CRT monitors (those big bulky monitors that are now pretty much out of date) are the most problematic, with lots of color shifts. Flat-screen monitors are better, but beware of laptop screens because lightness and darkness will be affected by viewing angle. To fix this problem, you need to buy calibration hardware/software. Prices start at about $150. The process sounds much more difficult than it is. Basically you rest the calibration device on the monitor screen and let the software do its thing. The process takes maybe 10 minutes.

Manufacturers make wonderful papers these days for almost any purpose, from velvety matte surfaces to watercolor to metallic to high-shine glossy. However, each paper will show colors differently. Technically speaking, each paper has its own characteristics, described in an ICC profile. Often, directions are included in the paper package and many manufacturers now use common, generic profiles because this topic can be so confusing. For step by step directions on installing ICC profiles, there is an excellent explanation at Other resources include the websites of the various manufacturers. is another resource for many papers and ICC profiles together with installation instructions. Different paper manufacturers will also have profiles and explanations on their websites. Unfortunately, Elements does not offer any ways for setting up custom paper profiles, so you’re limited to the defaults offered by your printer.