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Step-by-Step Workflow in Photoshop Elements 12 to Correct and Enhance Your Image

Sometimes when you’re in the throes of trying to fix your images and get them out the door, you tend to dive into your arsenal of editing tools willy nilly. But if you can take a few moments to employ a logical workflow when you tackle the correction, repair, and enhancement of your images, you can get better results. After a few sessions of following this workflow, it will become old hat. Note that these steps don’t apply to Camera Raw files.

  1. Open a photo.

    You can open a photo in one of three ways:

    • In the Organizer, select one or more photos. Click the Photo Editor button at the bottom of the workspace and then select the Quick button at the top of the workspace.

    • In Expert mode, select your desired image(s) from the Photo Bin. Click the Quick button at the top of the workspace.

    • In Expert mode, open your desired images by choosing File→Open. Click the Quick button at the top of the workspace.

      This vintage photo will never be great; it’s super soft and grainy. But there may be room for some improvement.

      image0.jpg
  2. Crop your image by using the Crop tool in the Tools panel.

    Of course, the ultimate goal is to get the perfectly framed image at the moment of capture, not later on. But that doesn’t always happen. Just make sure that you have a high enough resolution in your image so that when you do crop it, you’re not resampling the image.

    This photo has the unnecessary background cropped out.

    image1.jpg
  3. Rotate and straighten your image if necessary.

    If all you need is a little straightening, grab the Straighten tool from the Tools panel and drag it across your image at an angle, which straightens the image. If you need to rotate your image, choose Image→Transform→Free Transform and drag a corner handle of the Transform box to rotate your image.

  4. Resize your image if necessary.

    Choose Image→Resize→Image Size and enter your desired width, height, and resolution. Note that to avoid resampling your image, keep the Resample Image check box deselected. The only exception to this is if you want to reduce the size and resolution of image because your image is too large. If your size and resolution are linked (you see the bracket and link icon), entering one of the three values changes the others.

    image2.jpg
  5. When you have the image in the proper physical state, correct the lighting and establish good tonal range for your shadows, highlights, and midtones to display the greatest detail possible.

    All of these adjustments are found on the Enhance menu. Often, just correcting the lighting solves minor color problems. If it doesn’t, move on to adjusting the color balance in Step 6.

    Note that if you’re new to image editing, you can try one of the auto fixes — Auto Smart Tone, Auto Smart Fix, Auto Levels, Auto Contrast. Usually one of these fixes is enough. Don’t stack them on top of each other. If one doesn’t work, click the Reset button and try another.

    However, if you would rather move on to a more manual adjustment for contrast correction, the Levels adjustment on the Adjust Lighting submenu is the feature of choice.

    You can always apply fixes to just selected portions of your image. Also for spot lightening or darkening you can use the Dodge (to lighten) or Burn tool from the Tools panel and brush over your desired areas.

    This photo is way too green, usually the result of the magenta ink fading over time in a color print. The contrast was adjusted before taking care of the color cast.

    image3.jpg
  6. Eliminate any color casts if necessary.

    Again, you can apply an Auto Fix, such as Auto Color Correction. If you wish to use a more manual correction, try one of the commands on the Adjust Color submenu, such as Remove Color Cast or Adjust Color Curves.

    Using the Remove Color Cast adjustment worked well on this photo.

    image4.jpg
  7. If your image looks a tad washed out or undersaturated, choose Adjust Color→Adjust Hue/Saturation to adjust the saturation if necessary.

  8. Grab the retouching tools, such as the healing tools and filters, to retouch any flaws.

    Here are a few things you can do to eliminate common flaws:

    • Eliminate red eye. Automatically fix red-eye by selecting the Red Eye Removal tool from the Tools panel and clicking the Auto Correct button in the Tool Options. If that doesn’t work, try clicking the red eye in your image with the Red Eye Removal tool itself.

    • Get rid of wrinkles and other blemishes. Using the Spot Healing Brush (small flaws) and the Healing Brush (big flaws) tools zap away anything you don’t want on a face or any other body part for that matter. Choose either tool from the Tools panel and select an appropriate brush size from the Tool Options. Specify your settings and brush over the offending flaw. The Spot Healing Brush tool can also eliminate other flaws such as scratches, dust, and miscellaneous crud.

    • *Whiten teeth. This handy tool is found in Quick mode, not Expert, so you have to click Quick at the top of your workspace. Choose the Whiten Teeth tool (which looks like a toothbrush) from the Tools panel and select an appropriate brush size from the Tool Options. Specify your settings and brush the teeth to whiten.

    • *Apply filters. If you have so much dust in your image that your hand would cramp trying to clean it with the Spot Healing Brush tool, you can try applying the Dust & Scratches filter under the Filter→Noise submenu. You can also use the Reduce Noise filter under the submenu to reduce noise in your image. Be careful about overdoing either filter; they may obliterate detail and sharpness in your image.

    This photo has dust and scratches healed and the lamp next to girl’s head eliminated by first copying a section of the wall onto the lamp and then touching up with the healing tools and Clone Stamp tool.

    image5.jpg
  9. Apply any desired enhancements or special effects.

    You can apply filters, effects, and styles to your images. All are found in the Effects pane in Expert mode. You can also find effects, textures, and frames in Quick mode. And don’t forget about some of the cool things you can find in Guided mode, such as the Zoom Burst Effect, Lomo Camera Effect, and High and Low Key Effects.

    This photo shows the Vignette and Lomo Camera Effect. Because it’s quite soft in its focus, the dreamy effect helps camouflage that flaw.

    image6.jpg
  10. Add any desired text by clicking your image with the Text tool.

  11. Sharpen your image if you feel that it could use a boost in clarity and sharpness.

    In Quick mode, you can sharpen your image either automatically by clicking the Auto button under Sharpen in the right pane or dragging the Sharpen slider. Or in Expert mode, choose Enhance→Adjust Sharpness or Unsharp Mask and specifying your settings.

    This fix should always be the last adjustment you make on your image. Sharpening increases contrast, so you want to fix the flaws first so you don’t exacerbate them by making them more noticeable.

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