Before and After: editing in Photoshop Elements

Before and After: editing in Photoshop Elements

First off, let me tell you that I am more than likely the odd ball of the CMpros.


Well, for starters I shoot in jpeg.  I’ll just go ahead and admit that right off the bat.  However, shooting in jpeg forces me to get the shot right in camera.  There is no room for goof ups and I love that.  It’s good for me. Jpeg pushes me to get the shot right the first time and it works for well for me.  I have to admit, that I am often looking for shortcuts in life.  I believe that if I shot in RAW, I would get lazy with my shooting and just feel as if I could “fix it later” while editing.  I don’t want to feel as if I have an out in editing.  With my personality, I need to know that I have one chance to get the correct exposure, white balance, and so on.   That way, I don’t take the easy road and edit it all later.  I am, of course, not saying that RAW is wrong and jpeg is right or vice versa.  This is just what works for me.

Second, I’ll say that several people have tried to convince me to switch to a more “professional” editing software.  My husband, for one, has offered to purchase CS whatever the latest number is several times and I’ve turned down the offer.  I know, I know, that sounds crazy, but I have found that I really love Elements.  For the way in which I edit there is really nothing that I CAN’T do in PSE.

Also, I will admit to using an action on the final step of my images.  Please know, however, that actions will not fix any mistakes that you may have made in camera.  In fact, an action will most likely make your image muddy and yucky and down right gross unless you have a near perfect image to start with.  The actions that I love best are made by Annie of Paint the Moon and Sarah of My Four Hens.  Again, and I can’t stress this enough, please (pretty please!) do not use an action in an attempt to correct any problems that you have with an image that is SOOC.  It will look unnatural and very much actioned.  (There is a new word for you!)

Now, on with the way I edit my jpegs in PSE. This is my six year old, Allison.  This image is SOOC and very green; however, Allison is pretty anti-camera so I was a bit pleased that she gave me a real smile right away.   The sun was setting camera right and the light was fairly warm; however, this is the second shot I took of her and I was still getting my Kelvin white balance to the correct setting.  I loved the shot, though, because it isn’t often that she’s willing to let me photograph her. The first thing I almost always do is a levels adjustment by selecting  Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Levels.  This will create a new layer in the layers palette.  For this image, I moved the middle slider to the left (to 1.22) in order to brighten the image a bit. I moved the left slider to the right (to 11) to add contrast back in.

Next, I added some red by selecting the drop down arrow in the levels adjustment palette.  For the most part, I like my images to have a bit more red, but this one was very green to begin with so I added more red than I usually do.  I moved the middle slider to 1.20.  I didn’t want her face to be that magenta, so I brushed off the skin at 25% using a soft brush.  Just make sure you have the levels adjustment selected when you brush off any areas that you do not wish to be affected by the sliders that you are moving around.  So, I selected my brush, then changed the opacity to 25% (at the very top menu bar), made sure I had the levels adjustment layer selected (it’s blue!), then brushed off her face.

Next I needed to crop this a bit.  However, when I cropped I ended up with extra space on the side.  I just used the clone stamp at 100% opacity to fill in that gap.

I wanted the tree line to be a bit more warm and vivid the way it was when we were there that day.  I used the sponge tool at 25%.  I made the sponge big enough so that I could just do one even sweep across the tree area.

I like my images to have a light vignette.  I burned the edges at the bottom just a tad using the burn tool at 25%.  Again, I use a big, wide brush so that I can simply sweep the brush across evenly.

Now that I have my image looking the way I like, I run the action to give it a slightly hazy look.  I use an action from Paint the Moon called Hush Now.  I very rarely use it at 100%, however.  I lower the opacity depending on the feel of the session or image.  Notice in the layers palette, I have selected “Quiet Mist”.  That way I can erase the misty part of the action off of any part of the image.  I simply select the eraser tool and adjust the opacity to taste in order to remove the action from her eyes.  Once everything looks good to me, I flatten the image and save for print.

Finally, I’m ready to prepare this image for my blog, Facebook, the CM forum or the CMpro Daily.  I use a free resize/sharpen for web action from the Olive Juice Shoppe and adjust the sharpening to taste.  Then, I flatten and save!

And that’s it!  With this image, I had to do a few more steps than I usually do because it was a tad green to begin with, but my edits are fairly quick, easy and simple.  I love editing in Elements and I think this “little brother” editing software is very underrated.  It really packs a punch and works well for me.  I hope this was helpful and gives you a bit of encouragement if you shoot in jpeg and edit in PSE.  If you ever have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to ask me. I’m happy to help you out!


About the Author:

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's 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.” Visit Melissa Gibson online.


  1. julie gropp Apr 13 2012 at 8:19 am - Reply

    I use elements but I never knew there was cloning on it. Good to know. Thanks for the tutorial.

  2. Lara Gowder Apr 13 2012 at 8:29 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing Melissa! 🙂

  3. Amy Lucy Apr 13 2012 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Thank you for such a thorough tutorial, Melissa! It is so easy to understand and I am glad that you are showing us just how much can be done with PSE!

  4. Marissa Lynn Apr 13 2012 at 9:46 am - Reply

    So happy to hear I'm not the only photographer who still rocks PSE and is totally happy with it! 🙂

  5. Elena Apr 13 2012 at 10:43 am - Reply

    Great edit! I also shoot in JPEG and edit in PSE. I think PhotoShop is highly overrated as well. I absolutely love Paint the Moon and use a lot of her actions.

  6. Melissa Apr 13 2012 at 11:10 am - Reply

    Awesome! Thank you for this tutorial, I use PSE and this is a great example of using it.

  7. kim Apr 13 2012 at 11:16 am - Reply

    thank you so much, I love Elements too, and I've never used the adjustment levels…I will have to check it out!

  8. Sara Apr 13 2012 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    This is awesome! Thank you. I never knew what the sponge tool did. Excited to try it out!

  9. Melissa Apr 13 2012 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for featuring my little PSE tutorial! I hoping that I was able to help a few of you PSE fans. 🙂

  10. AmyW Apr 13 2012 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your great workflow. Like you, I find that PSE has all that I need.

  11. Cary Apr 13 2012 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Yeah! TFS, excited to play with the sponge tool 🙂

  12. Emily Apr 13 2012 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    This was really great! I always wanted pse to be enough but all I ever hear about is editing in photoshop. I was so close to taking the plunge but this validates that I can be an elements girl and that is okay! Thanks so much Melissa.

  13. Jennifer Apr 13 2012 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    Thanks! I wasn't aware of the sponge tool.

  14. Traci Apr 14 2012 at 4:08 am - Reply

    Thank you for the tutorial! I am a new hobby photography and have only been using elements. You demonstrated a lot of tools I had not had time to explore. Thank you also for letting me know elements is all I need!

  15. Gina Apr 14 2012 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    Love this- I shoot in jpeg for the same reason. I figure- that if I can't get it right there, then I really should be practicing more. I also edit in PSE9 & I love it. Again- it does everything I need it to do & any image that would require a major edit that PSE couldn't handle is something I would probably trash anyway. So glad to see that I am not the only one. Thanks for sharing your process!!! (that being said- I do wish it had recording capabilities so I could create my own actions)

  16. msn Apr 14 2012 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    Some love for us Elements users?!?! Awww, thank you!!!! <3<3<3


  17. Melissa Everett Apr 14 2012 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this! I am seriously under skilled in my Elements knowledge. I am going to give levels a try. Thanks for sharing this!

  18. Jodi Apr 14 2012 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    Great step by step here, Melissa! Thanks for the insight on how you use PSE to achieve your finished product!

  19. Monica Apr 16 2012 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    Wow! This is great. You've just saved me so much stress. I'm a very enthusiastic hobbyist, and I kept thinking that I really had to work on "getting through" PSE so I could "make it" to CS…Now I can relax and enjoy learning this great program! Thank you!!

  20. Johnna Brown Apr 16 2012 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    Loved this! I currently have PSE but have so many questions as to how to use it well. It does not correlate to any Photoshop tutorials and I get frustrated with it. I am so glad to hear you use it! I have been trying to shoot in RAW, and using the negative converter then using PSE. How did you make the trees so much warmer? I found the brush tool but I can't figure out how to "warm" things up with it!

  21. Judy Apr 16 2012 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your work, it's beautiful! Hate to admit, I've never tried the sponge tool either! Thanks for showing how to use it!

  22. Sofia Apr 18 2012 at 9:53 pm - Reply

    Thank you Melissa!

    It was nice and comforting to hear that simplicity is OK. I'm just starting off as a photographer mainly shooting children, maternity and loving young couples. My equipment is Nikon D40 (an oldie but goodie) with 4 great lenses and PSE for editing. I've been reading and reading soo many blogs and websites and most of them use Canon 5d mark, Lightroom or PS for editing, making me feel really confused and doubtful about my equipment. I have also tried RAW but I really do prefer shooting it right from the beginning in jpg.

    Again thank you.

  23. Scott Momaya May 18 2012 at 9:16 am - Reply

    you will have an amazing blog here! would you wish to make some invite posts on my weblog?

  24. Erica P May 18 2012 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing! I am loving all the elements tips!!!! 🙂

  25. krista resnick Jun 11 2012 at 3:20 am - Reply

    great post Melissa-now how about teaching a PSE course????:)

Leave A Comment


Follow this blog

Get a weekly email of all new posts.

Email address