PSE | 4 things i can’t live without

by Melissa Gibson

I know I’ve mentioned this before and I’m certain you all know this by now, but  I really dig Adobe Photoshop Elements.  If you are a beginner looking for editing software, this is the one for you.  On the other hand, if you are more advanced in your photography journey, this may also be the software for you.  In fact, I know loads of extremely talented photographers who use Elements.  It is an editing program that is highly underrated and definitely packs a punch.  Today, I’m going to show you my most favorite editing features that you’ll find in PSE.   All of my before images are SOOC shots.

The Clone Tool:  I use that thing like mad.  It is such a handy little feature.  You can remove electrical sockets, parts of a window frame, entire trees and even people!  Here, I have taken out the sticks on the right side of the frame.  I also cropped this one a little as well, which helped to remove part of the distraction.  Remember, when you are using the clone tool, make sure you have “sample all layers” ticked up top.  That way, material will be taken from all visible layers in the layers palette rather than just one.  You can also choose the blending mode, I choose normal, and the opacity of the stamping.   Many times I will blend in the cloning using a soft brush with a low opacity.

PSE | 4 things i can’t live without  photo

PSE | 4 things i can’t live without  photo

The Color Boost Tool:  Many times in my images I want a subtle boost of color.  There are a couple of ways to do this in PSE.  In this case, I boosted the color by adjusting the color curves.  I created a new layer and named it “color boost”.   I then went to Enhance >  Adjust Color > Adjust Color Curves.  There are default choices in the pop up box that you can choose from and those usually work fairly well.  For this image, I moved the sliders around a bit to create that classic ‘S’ curve.  Once I clicked “okay”, I went over to the layers panel to adjust the opacity and brush the changes off of her skin.

PSE | 4 things i can’t live without  photo

PSE | 4 things i can’t live without  photo

Adding tones with levels adjustments: Now this is my favorite and most common edit in Photoshop Elements.  By going to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels I can change the tones of the image.  I am able to up the exposure and choose to adjust the red, green, or blue sliders.  I am also able to brush the tones off of the skin since I am working in a new adjustment layer with each slider that I move.  For example, if I am changing the green, I will edit green in one layer.  Then, brush off of the skin.  Next, I may adjust the blue slider in another layer, after which I will brush off of the skin as well.  Moving those sliders will dramatically change your image.

PSE | 4 things i can’t live without  photo

PSE | 4 things i can’t live without  photo

The Burn Tool:  I like the burn tool for a couple of reasons, but you have to be careful with this feature.  Too much burning can be bad for your image and make it look unrealistic.  However, burning (and dodging) can draw attention to part of an image so long as you use it subtly.  In this case, I used the burn tool to help bring out her reflection.  I only used it lightly, yet it makes that part of the image stand out a bit more.  Burning (and dodging) are great tools to use in black and white images as they help draw the eye to shadows and highlights.  If you’re using these tools in color images, as I mentioned, be sure to take it easy and always work in duplicate layers.

PSE | 4 things i can’t live without  photo

PSE | 4 things i can’t live without  photo

And there you have four reasons why I really love Photoshop Elements.  There are so many useful functions in this software, but these are the ones that I use most often on my images.  Again, if you’re just starting out and looking for an editing program, PSE is an excellent choice.  Then again, if you’re thinking that you need to upgrade in order to get the edits you want, try out these options and see how you like them.  Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments or in the forum.  I’m always on the lookout for Elements questions and I’m happy to help you!

PSE | 4 things i can’t live without  photoMelissa Gibson, Georgia
Copywriter | CMU Instructor | CM Mentor
website | facebook | pinterest | instagram | mentoring | ask a pro | daily project
Melissa is a proud MWAC who gears up with a Nikon D700, prime lenses, and edits her “fun, childlike, and whimsical” photography solely in Photoshop Elements. Melissa is one of the instructors for CMU’s Mastering Manual Exposure and the new Processing 103: Photoshop Elements and her goal both now and when she first began her photography journey in 2005 is to, in her own words, “remember my girls’ lives for them. They are so young yet growing so quickly. I know they won’t remember it all so I feel it’s my job to document it for them.” She is a self proclaimed goofball that loves reading, giggling, sweet tea, her iPhone, kisses, instagram, and having fun with her small family which includes her husband and three darling girls.

Read all photography tutorials from Melissa Gibson.

PSE | 4 things i can’t live without  photo

sponsored giveaway!

PSE | 4 things i can’t live without  photo

We want to give a huge thank you to Mod Straps for sponsoring today’s photography tutorial!  They are giving away a Classic Camera Strap and Drop in Pouch to one lucky winner. The Classic Camera strap is lined with their signature, plush fabric and strong enough to withstand a pulldown weight of 70lbs.  The versatile Drop-in- pouch allows you to carry your camera in style while keeping it free of dust, dirt and sticky fingers. Just place your camera inside, secure the pull strings, and you’re ready to go. It is also lined in their signature, plush fabric.  To enter to win, simply comment on this post telling us what your favorite post processing tool is.  The winner will be announced here on this post next Thursday, May 2, 2013 after noon EST so make sure and come back to see if you’re the big winner!

giveaway update!

Congratulations to Krystle who said, “My favorite (LR) tool is the adjustment brush. So many applications! Lovely photos:)”!  I will email you shortly on how to claim your prize!

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163 Responses to “PSE | 4 things i can’t live without”

  1. Jennifer Oberheim
    May 01 2013 at 9:46 am #

    Can’t live without the healing tool! Or the dodge/burn tools…do I REALLY have to choose!?!?

  2. May 01 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Multiple, adjustable layers. Not exactly a tool, but couldn’t live without it.

  3. Daniela
    May 01 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Great article, I will be coming back to it!

    I love PSE, two of my favorite tools are the gradient map to start a B&W conversion and the soft light blending mode for layers to add contrast.

  4. Lola
    May 01 2013 at 11:53 am #

    Use all the time the healing tool and filters such as gaussian blur

  5. May 01 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    My favorite post-processing “tool” is a high-pass filter to define the eyes and shadow details.

  6. May 01 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Burning and dodging… and layers…

  7. Ellen K
    May 01 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    The clone tool, probably! :)

  8. Kathy
    May 03 2013 at 8:24 am #

    LR4 and exposure white balance sliders

  9. Jessica Reischel
    May 04 2013 at 11:57 pm #

    You are so great Melissa!! You make it all look so easy!! ;-)

  10. Regina
    Jun 09 2013 at 10:21 am #

    I have to admit that layers intimidate me. Is there a PSE workshop that you or anyone else recommends?

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