Lesson 1

Previous | Next

Photo Editing Workflow Process

The following process takes my photos from start to finish:

  1. Duplicate the photo and work with the copy.
  2. Crop/straighten and resize the photo. Fixing any Len Distortion should be done at this stage.
  3. Exposure & Contrast: Use the Levels Adjustment Layer to set white and black points.
  4. Tone & Color: Use the Hue and Saturation to correct color or and more pop to you photo.
  5. General Adjustments: Add contrast using the Soft Light blend mode.
  6. Targeted adjustment: Make adjustments as needed to special parts of the photo.
  7. Enhancements: Retouching and creative effects.
  8. Output: Save to PSD and/or JPG.

First Thing First

Customize Windows Panel

It may be a bit tricky for newbies to PSE to move and park the panel below in a stack.  The trick is the move it a little beyond the border where you wish to park it.  The secret is to look for the blue highlight before the release the mouse button.

setup-wordspace08This is how the panel should look when they are stacked on top of each other.  Unless you have the screen real estate, I would not stack more than 3 panels.

You can access all the panels from the Window menu.  I like to add the History panel.

  • Choose Window > History and it will open on your desktop, along with other panels. Click on the tab of the History panel and drag it over the tab of another panel in the Panel Bin until you see a blue outline.  In Windows, you may not see the blue outline until you drag a little more beyond to border.
  • Panels can be dragged out to the desktop or placed in a tab inside a compartment.
  • Panels can also be placed in a new column if you have to screen space.
  • If you want the panel tabs in a different order just drag the tab left or right.  It is sometimes hard to position the panel on the first tab so it might work better if you drag the other tabs out instead.


Add Adjustment Layers

Adjustment Layer IconThe key to non-destructive editing is the add Adjustment Layers.  What is non-destructive editing?

According to Google,

Non-destructive editing (sometimes called NDE for short) is a method of editing in Photoshop that allows you to make changes to an image without overwriting the original image data.

To correct exposure & contrast, always start with the Level Adjustment Layer menu.Choose Level Adj

Levels Adjustment

The levels adjustment is the single most important tool for correcting many aspects of your photo from exposure, contrast, white balance to other color problems because individual color channels can be isolated.  First, we will concentrate on correcting overall exposure and contrast of your photo.

3 Methods (Input Levels)Level Adjustment Dialog Box

  1. Use Auto button to automatically let PSE make the adjustment.
  2. To normalize most photos, move the black and white sliders in towards the center until they are just under the base of each side of the mountain.  This should correct major exposure issues and your image should really pop.
    The monkey in the first lesson has a lot of dark mid-tones.  In this case, you can move the grey (center slider) left bring out mid-tone detail.
  3. The third more advance method is you use the eyedropper tool.  This is to correct white balance and color cast.  The 3 eye droppers represent the black, grey and white points in your photo.  First, you must calibrate each dropper before you can set each of these points.  Drag the eyedropper using the mouse to each point in your photo.

White Balance (Advanced)

In Photoshop you have the Curves Adjustment which allows finer control over the tonal range of an image, but Elements you only have Levels which is the next best thing.  Levels Adjustment can be used to correct problems in White Balance using the eye dropper tool.

Here is a very good tutorial by Bair Art Edition:   http://www.bairarteditions.com/pages/tutorials/photoshop/cblevels.html


Levels Adjustment Layers

Watch these Videos

  1. Introduction to PSE with Michael Brown
  2. Setup your workspace in Elements 11
  3. Editing your First Photo *
  4. Straighten, Autofill, Crop and  Camera Distortion
  5. Correct Lens Distortion
  6. Make a Selection
  • Most basic Photoshop CC tutorial can be easily followed using PSE.  Please be aware of minor menu differences.


Exercise 1b before & after
Result of Dodge & Burn using non-destructive workflow

Print these Lessons

Keyboard Shortcuts to Remember

Ctrl + J : Duplicate a Layer
Ctrl + z : Undo
Ctrl + 0  : Fit to Screen
Alt + spacebar click or Ctrl + : Zoom in
Ctrl  + spacebar click or Ctrl – : Zoom out
Spacebar : Pan Hand
[ : Smaller Brush
] : Larger Brush
Shift + [ : Softer Brush
Shift + ] : Harder Brush

Handout – Essential Shortcuts

The Color Well

Color WellThe color well which is located under the toolbar is one of the most important tools in Photoshop.  It control the color of the paint brush tool.  The default is black on top of white.  Black being the foreground color is active color when you use the brush.  If this is not so on your screen, use the shortcut D to change it back to the default.

Although other color can be chosen using the Color Well, you must master the black & white selection in order to create adjustment mask.  Paint with black allows you to mask off an area for adjustment while white allow you to target a specific area of you image for adjustment.

Non-Destructive Workflow

In Lesson 1b-Non-deNew Layer Iconstructive Workflow, you need to create a new blank transparent layer instead of using Ctrl + J to create a duplicate layer.  You can do this using these 3 methods:

  1.  From the Layer menu, select New, the select Layer.
  2. Keyboard shortcut:  shift + ctrl + N
  3. Click on the new layer icon in the Layers panel.
    DO NOT use New Fill Layer>Solid Color.

Homework Project

How to download sample images

Chrome: Click on desire image to view the slideshow.  Once in the slideshow viewer, right-click on desired image, then select “Save image as”.  It is very important that you click on the image in the slideshow view, otherwise you will be downloading a very low resolution thumbnail.

Windows 10 Edge:  Right-click on desired image thumbnail, then select “Save target as”.  Do not select “Save picture as”.  Do not download in the slideshow viewer mode. 

The default file location on most web browser is the Download folder.  However that can be change in your browser setting.  You can also change the setting to prompt you for the location.  Please refer to this article in Lifewlre.


Review Lesson 1 -Basic Workflow.  Use new image 1-monkey-baby-before and save to new JPG file 1-monkey-baby-after.  Do the following step to achieve this result:

Result: Cropped to 5 X 7, Level Adj and Sharpened
  1. Download and open image 1-monkey-before.
  2. Crop to a 5″ X 7″.
  3. Add a Level… adjustment layer and adjust mid range exposure.  Tip move center slide a little left.
  4. Add a Hue/Saturation… adjustment layer and boost up the saturation (10 – 15).
  5. Merge all visible layer into a new layer by using Ctrl/Alt/Shift/E.   Use when you are doing a destructive edit.   Hint: Make sure that you are on the top layer before you merge.  
  6. Sharpen area only around the nose area using the sharpen tool.  Over sharpen this area to the point of artifacts appearing in the skin.
  7. Lower the opacity of this layer to 80% or until the artifacts are not visible.
  8. Save to Web as JPG with 80% compression.

Camera Lens Distortion



Camera Lens Distortion Dialog BoxThis is typically seen in wide angle photograph because the field of view of the lens is much wider than the size of the photo so everything needs to be “squeezed” into a square format causing the fisheye effect.

To correct the distortion, move the slider toward the right.

Pincushion or Hourglass

Pincushion distortion is the exact opposite of barrel distortion which causes an hourglass shape.  Use an extreme telephoto lens, the field of view is smaller than the size of the camera’s format which results in straight lines appear to be pulled outward toward the corners.

To correct this distortion, move the slider toward the left.


Perspective distortion is actually a function of shooting distance of the camera to the nearest part of the subject and how far the nearest part is from the furthest.  This can usually be seen when shooting tall building from very close or from a lower angle.  Sometimes you do not always have to correct perspective distortion if that is the effect you want.  The human brain is use to judge distance when an object becomes smaller at it moved farther away.

Download all sample images from Lesson 1 – 6

Sample Images