Photoshop Elements – Start Here!

by Erin

Photoshop Elements is open on my computer nearly every day and I can’t imagine life without it. But complete cluelessness dominated the first months and even years that I used the software. In retrospect, I can say that the learning curve is steep, but short.

Once you grasp a few key concepts about using PSE, you’ll be well on your way to conquering the software.

overexp after 032910

So, where should you start?

  • Get into the habit of working on a copy of a picture every time you use Photoshop Elements. Knowing that you won’t destroy your original image will empower you to be bold and experiment to your heart’s content.
  • Want to accomplish a certain effect? Google it. There are countless fabulous tutorials all over the internet for just about everything you could want to do in Elements.
  • Layers are the best thing about PSE and are the most important concept to grasp. Don’t avoid using them just because you don’t quite understand them. Layers separate your various types of edits from each other, which gives you incredible flexibility. For example, what happens if you don’t like that black and white conversion you did? Delete that B&W layer only, but keep all your sharpening and blemish removal work on other layers.
  • You can also use layers to make amazing changes to your image in no time. Compare the image at the beginning of the post to the original version of it at the end.

overex layers

The shot was washed out with blown highlights. (That’s what I get from shooting at high noon, I know.)

The PSE 8 layers palette screen shot above illustrates the only changes I made to this image. Here are my steps:

  • Duplicate the background layer by clicking on it and typing control + J
  • Change the Blending Mode of the new layer to Multiply at the top left of the layers palette
  • Reduce the opacity of the layer to 42%.
  • And that layer mask box – the white one with the black spots in it? That’s a whole ‘nother topic – we’ll cover it on 5 Minutes for Mom soon.

Instant correction! Not perfect, but quick and good enough for sending to grandma! If the picture had been underexposed, I would have repeated the same procedure and changed the blending mode of the new layer to screen instead of multiply.

So, now’s the time. How comfortable are you with layers in Photoshop Elements? Do you have any nagging questions about them that you would like to be covered in a future tutorial? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Overexp 032910

Email Author    |    Website About Erin

Erin helps moms become better photographers anywhere she can. Her home blog is Texas Chicks Blogs and Pics, where she caters to mommy photographers and the Photoshop Elements crowd. She is the director of advertising for Clickin' Moms, where her job is to spread the word that Clickin' Moms is THE place to improve your photography skills and get quick and supportive answers to your questions. And, she is working with Jodi of MCP Actions to convert her wonderful actions forPhotoshop Elements.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Corie March 30, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Thank you! Love the quickie tutorials with some simple things where I can start. Looking forward to the masks.


2 Rhonda March 30, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Erin, Thank you for the quick tutorials! Being a mom of 4 boys, I have so little time to really “play” and get my skills better in PSE – every little bit of knowledge is helpful! Thanks again.


3 Michelle March 30, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Ooh exciting. (And great tip.)

I’d like to know how to soften skin on a portrait. I’ve used actions with layer masks to do it but I always wonder what tool was used to create that effect!


4 LaVonne March 31, 2010 at 11:14 pm

I have PSE 8 and it is so overwhelming. I don’t understand layers yet. I usually use the guided edit, unless I find a tutorial. Then I just copy it. I need tutorials. Thank you for doing this! I need it for sure.


5 smilinggreenmom April 1, 2010 at 7:22 pm

I would love to learn Photoshop and I hate to admit that I pretty much know nothing on it! GAH! It would be so cool to learn…need to find out if I can get it on my Mac because I can only imagine how awesome it would be to have for my blog!


6 Erin April 6, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Yes, you can definitely get Photoshop and Photoshop Elements for your Mac! I use it all the time for my blog – not just for editing photos, but for creating banners, buttons and headers too.


7 Stella April 1, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Brilliant! I use layers all the time but I completely do. not. understand blending modes! More please, please, please!!!


8 Cindy Gellhaus April 5, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Thanks i have had this program awhile but was not sure how to use it. I was also wondering with can of camera you use/like. Thanks,


9 Erin April 6, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Hi Cindy,

I use a Canon 7D and love it. I think that any digital SLR is great though.


10 Carissa April 7, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I really really really want to learn how to open a mask on your blending mode like that in PSE! YAy!


11 Sara April 10, 2010 at 9:39 pm

This is great! Totally just used it on my bluebonnet pics too! I’m so PSE challenged!


12 lisa May 3, 2010 at 8:39 am

I am having an artistic photo blog hop of outdoor clotheslines that show color, beauty and vitality if you are interested come visit – 1 Wasabi Mommy


13 gezzmo May 17, 2010 at 11:38 am

Photoshop is a lot easier to use than most people think. Ive been using it for years.
If anyone is having trouble learning it, then there are loads of good lessons on the internet.


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