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Different Views: After vs. Before and After

Different Views: After vs. Before and After

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Editing Your Photos



Figure 4-5: 

The Quick Fix

window’s beforeand-after views make

it easy to see how

you’re changing your

photo. Here you see

“Before and After Horizontal,” which

displays the views

side by side. To see

them one above the

other, choose “Before

and After - Vertical”

instead. If you want

a more detailed view,

use the Zoom tool to

focus on just a portion of your picture.



If you’re tweaking an image in Quick Fix and decide you don’t like how it’s turning

out, click the Reset button at the bottom right of the Elements window to return your

photo to the way it looked before you started working in Quick Fix. Keep in mind

that this button undoes all Quick Fix edits, so don’t use it if you want to undo only a

single action. For that, just use the regular Undo command: choose Edit➝Undo or

press Ctrl+Z/-Z.



Fixing Red Eye

Anyone who’s ever taken a flash photo has run into the dreaded problem of red

eye—those glowing, demonic pupils that make your little cherub look like a character from an Anne Rice novel. Red eye is even more of a problem with digital cameras

than with film, but luckily Elements has a simple and terrific tool for fixing it. All

you need to do is click the red spots with the Red Eye Removal tool, and your problems are solved.

This tool works the same whether you use it in Quick Fix or Full Edit. Here’s what

you do:

1. Open a photo (page 47).

2. Zoom in so you can see where you’re clicking.

Use the Zoom tool to magnify the eyes. You can also switch to the Hand tool if

you need to drag the photo around so the eyes are front and center.

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3. Activate the Red Eye Removal tool.

Click the red eye icon in the toolbox or press Y.

4. Click the red part of the pupil (see Figure 4-6).

That’s it! Just one click should fix the problem. If it doesn’t, press Ctrl+Z/-Z to

undo it, and then try dragging the Red Eye Removal tool over the pupil. Sometimes one method works better than the other. And as explained in a moment,

you can also adjust two settings for this tool: Darken Amount and Pupil Size.

5. Click the red part of the other eye.

Repeat the process on the other eye, and you’re done.

Figure 4-6: 

Zoom in when using the Red Eye Removal tool so you get

a good look at the pupils. Don’t worry if your photo is so

magnified that it loses definition—just make the red area

large enough so you can hit it right in the center.

The left eye here has already been fixed. Notice what a good

job this tool does of keeping the highlights (called catch

lights) in the eye that’s been treated.



Tip: You can also apply the Organizer’s Auto Red Eye Fix in Quick Fix and Full Edit. In either window, just

press Ctrl+R/-R or go to Enhance➝Auto Red Eye Fix. (In Full Edit, you can also activate the Red Eye

Removal tool, and then click the Auto button in the Options bar.) The only tradeoff to using Auto Red Eye

Fix in the Editor is that you don’t automatically get a version set like you do when using the tool from in

the Organizer. But you can create a version set when you save your changes, as explained on page 75.



If you need to adjust how the Red Eye Removal tool works, the Options bar gives you

two controls, although 99 percent of the time you can ignore them:

• Darken Amount. If the result is too light, increase the percentage in this box.

• Pupil Size. Adjust the number here to tell Elements how large an area to consider part of the pupil.



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Tip: You can also fix red eye right in the Raw converter (page 276) if you’re dealing with Raw files.



POWER USERS’ CLINIC



Another Red Eye Fix

The Red Eye Removal tool does a great job most of the

time, but it doesn’t always work, and it doesn’t work on

animals’ eyes. Elements gives you a couple of other ways

to fix red eye that work in almost any situation. Here’s one:



4. Click the bad or empty pixels of the eye to replace their color with the correct shade. Remember to leave a couple of white pixels for a catch light

(the pupil’s glinting highlight).



1. Zoom way, way in on the eye. You want to be able

to see the individual pixels.



This process works even if the eye is blown out (that is, all

white with no color info left).



2. Use the Eyedropper tool (page 257) to sample

the color from a good area of the eye, or from

another photo. Check the Foreground color square

(page 254) to make sure you’ve got the color you want.



If you’re a layers fan, you can also fix red eye by selecting

the bad area, creating a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer

(page 218), and then desaturating the red area. However,

this method doesn’t work so well if the eye is blown out.



3. Get out the Pencil tool (page 408) and set its

size to 1 pixel.



Smart Fix

The Quick Fix window’s secret weapon is the Smart Fix command, which automatically adjusts a picture’s lighting, color, and contrast, all with one click. You don’t have

to figure anything out—Elements does it all for you.

You’ll find the Smart Fix command in the aptly named Smart Fix panel, and it’s

about as easy to use as hitting the speed-dial button on your phone: Click the Auto

button, and if the stars are aligned, your picture will immediately look better. (Figure

4-7 gives you a glimpse of its capabilities. If you want to see for yourself how this fix

works, download this photo—iris.jpg—from this book’s Missing CD page at www.

missingmanuals.com.)

Tip: You’ll find Auto buttons scattered throughout Elements. When you click one, the program makes a

best-guess attempt to apply whatever change the Auto button is next to (Smart Fix, Levels, Contrast, and

so on). It never hurts to at least try clicking these buttons; if you don’t like what you see, you can always

perform the magical undo: Edit➝Undo or Ctrl+Z/-Z.



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Editing Your Photos



Figure 4-7: 

Top: This photo, taken in the shade, is pretty dark.

Bottom: The Auto Smart Fix button improved it significantly with

just one click. You might want to use the tools in the Balance

section (page 140) to really fine-tune the color.



If you’re happy with Auto Smart Fix’s changes, you can move on to a new photo, or

try sharpening your photo a little if the focus appears a bit soft (see page 142). You

don’t need to do anything to accept the Smart Fix changes, but if you’re not thrilled

with the results, take a good look at your picture. If you like what Auto Smart Fix

did but the effect is too strong or too weak, press Ctrl+Z/-Z to undo it, and then try

playing with the Fix slider instead. Or click the little triangle to the slider’s right to

try out one of the tool’s presets.



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The Fix slider does the same thing as the Auto Smart Fix button, only you control

the degree of change. Watch the image as you move the slider to the right. (If your

computer is slow, there’s a certain amount of lag, so go slowly to give it a chance to

catch up.) If you overdo it, sometimes it’s easier to click the Reset button at the bottom of the Panel bin and start again. Use the checkmark and X buttons that appear

next to the Smart Fix label (they look like the ones in Figure 4-8) to accept or reject

your changes.

Tip: Usually you get better results with a lot of little nudges to the Smart Fix slider than with one big

sweeping movement.



Incidentally, these are the same Smart Fix commands you see in the Editor’s Enhance

menu: Enhance➝Auto Smart Fix (Alt+Ctrl+M/Option--M), and Enhance➝Adjust

Smart Fix (Shift+Ctrl+M/Shift--M).

Accept Reject

changes changes



Help files



Figure 4-8: 

When you move a slider in any of the Quick Fix panels, accept and cancel

buttons appear in the panel you’re using. Clicking the accept (checkmark)

button applies the change to your image, while clicking the cancel (X)

button undoes the last change you made. If you make several slider adjustments, the cancel button undoes everything you’ve done since you clicked

accept. (Clicking the light bulb icon takes you to the Elements Help Center.)



Sometimes Smart Fix just isn’t smart enough to do everything you want, and sometimes it does things you don’t want. (It works better on photos that are underexposed

[too dark] than overexposed [too bright], for one thing.) Fortunately, you still have

several other editing choices, covered in the following sections. (If you don’t like

what Smart Fix has done to your photo, undo it before making other changes.)

Tip: Auto Smart Fix is one of the commands you can apply from within the Organizer, so there’s no need

to launch the Editor if you want just this tool. See the box on page 129 for more about making fixes from

the Organizer.



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Editing Your Photos



Adjusting Lighting and Contrast

The Lighting panel lets you make sophisticated adjustments to the brightness and

contrast of your photo. You might be surprised: Sometimes problems you thought

stemmed from exposure or even focus can be fixed with these commands.

Levels

If you want to understand how Levels works, you’re in for a long, technical ride. But

if you just want to know what it can do for your photos, the short answer is that it

adjusts the brightness of your image by redistributing its color information. Levels

changes (and hopefully fixes!) both brightness and color at the same time.

If you’ve never used any photo-editing software before, this may sound rather mysterious, but photo-editing pros will tell you that Levels is one of the most powerful

commands for fixing and polishing your pictures. To find out if its magic works for

you, click the Auto button next to the word “Levels.” Figure 4-9 shows what a big difference it can make. Download this photo (ocean.jpg) from this book’s Missing CD

page at www.missingmanuals.com if you’d like to give it a try.

Figure 4-9: 

A quick click of the Auto

button for Levels can

make a dramatic difference.

Left: The original photo

isn’t bad, and you may

not realize that the colors

could be better.

Right: Here you can see

how much more effective

the photo is once Auto

Levels has balanced the

colors.



What Levels does is complex. Chapter 7 has loads more details about what’s going

on behind the scenes and how you can apply this command much more precisely.

Contrast

The main alternative to Auto Levels in Quick Fix is Auto Contrast. Most people find

that their images tend to benefit from one or the other of these options. Contrast adjusts the relative darkness and lightness of your image without changing its color, so if

Levels made the colors go all goofy, try adjusting the contrast instead. You use Contrast

the same way you do the Levels tool: just click the Auto button next to its name.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION



Calibrating Your Monitor

Why do my photos look awful when I open them in

Elements?

You may find that when you open images in Elements, they

look really terrible even though they look decent in other

programs. Maybe your photos look all washed out, or reddish or greenish, or even black and white. If that’s the case,

you need to calibrate your monitor, as explained on page

239. It’s easy to do and it makes a big difference.



The reason for this is that Elements is what’s known as

a color-managed program. You can read all about color

management on page 237. For now, you just need to know

that color-managed programs pay much more attention

to the settings for your monitor than other programs (like

word processors) do. Color-managed programs are a little

more trouble to set up initially, but the advantage is that

you can get truly wonderful results if you invest a little time

and effort when you’re getting started.



Tip: After you use Auto Contrast, look closely at the edges of the objects in your photo. If your camera’s

contrast was already high, you may see a halo or a sharp line around the photo’s subject. In that case, the

contrast is too high; undo Auto Contrast (Ctrl+Z/-Z) and try another fix instead.



Shadows and Highlights

The Shadows and Highlights tools do an amazing job of bringing out details that are

lost in the shadows or bright areas of your photo. Figure 4-10 shows what a difference these tools can make.

Figure 4-10: 

Left: This image has overly

bright highlights and shadows that are much too dark.

Right: After a little shadows

and highlights adjusting,

you can see there’s plenty

of detail here. (Use the color

sliders—described next—to

get rid of the orange tone.)



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Editing Your Photos



The Shadows and Highlights tools are a collection of three sliders, each of which

controls a different aspect of your image:

• Shadows. Nudge this slider to the right, and you’ll see details emerge from

murky black shadows as you lighten the dark areas of your photo.

• Midtones. After you’ve adjusted a photo’s shadows and highlights, the image

may look flat and not have enough contrast between dark and light areas. This

slider helps you bring a more realistic look back to your photo. Use it last of the

three sliders in this group, after you’ve adjusted the shadows and the highlights.

• Highlights. Use this slider to dim the brightness of overexposed areas.

Tip: You may think you need only lighten shadows in a photo, but sometimes just a smidgen of Highlights

may help, too. Don’t be afraid to experiment by using this slider even if you’ve got a relatively dark photo.



Go easy: Getting overenthusiastic with these sliders can give your photos a washedout, flat look.



Color

The Color panel lets you—surprise, surprise—play around with the colors in your

image. In many cases, if you’ve been successful with Auto Levels or Auto Contrast,

you won’t need to do anything here.

Auto Color

Here’s another one-click fix. Actually, in some ways Auto Color should be up in the

Lighting section. Like Levels, it simultaneously adjusts color and brightness, but it

looks at different information in your photos to decide what to do with them.

When you’re first learning to use Quick Fix, you may want to try Auto Levels, Auto

Contrast, and Auto Color to see which generally works best for your photos. Undo

the changes after you use each one and compare your results. Most people find they

prefer one of the three most of the time.

Auto Color may be just the ticket for your photos, but you may also find that it shifts

your colors in strange ways. Click it and see what you think. If it makes your photo

look worse, just click Reset or press Ctrl+Z/-Z to undo it, and go back to Auto Levels or Auto Contrast. If they all make your colors look a little wrong, or if you want

to tweak the colors in your photo, move on to the Color sliders instead.

Using the Color sliders

If you want to adjust the colors in your photo without changing its brightness, try the

Color sliders. For instance, your digital camera may produce colors that don’t quite

match what you saw when you took the picture; you may have scanned an old print

that’s faded or discolored; or you may just want to change the colors in a photo for

the heck of it. Whatever the case, the sliders below the Auto Color button are for you:

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• Saturation controls the intensity of your image’s color. For example, you can

turn a color photo to black and white by moving this slider all the way to the

left. Move it too far to the right, and everything glows with so much color that

it looks radioactive.

• Hue changes the color from, say, red to blue or green. If you aren’t aiming for

realism, you can have fun using this slider to create funky color changes.

You probably won’t use both these sliders on a single photo, but you can if you like.

Remember to click the accept checkmark that appears in the Color panel if you

want to accept your changes. And don’t forget that, as with the other Quick Fixes,

Elements gives you presets as starting points if you need some help; just click the

triangle to the right of either slider to see them. To fine-tune the color, you may want

to move on to the next panel: Balance. In fact, in many cases you’ll only need the

Balance sliders.

Tip: If you look at the color of the slider’s track, it shows what happens when you move in that direction.

For example, there’s less and less color as you go left in the Saturation track, and more and more to the

right. Looking at the tracks can help you figure out where to move the slider.



Balancing color

Photos often have the right amount of saturation, but suppose there’s something

about the color balance that just isn’t right, and moving the Hue slider makes everything look funky. The Balance panel contains two very useful controls for adjusting

the overall colors in your image:

• Temperature lets you adjust colors from cool (bluish) on the left to warm (orangeish) on the right. Use this slider for things like toning down the warm glow

you see in photos taken in tungsten lighting, or just for fine-tuning your color

balance.

• Tint adjusts the green/magenta balance of your photo, as shown in Figure 4-11.

There are presets for these adjustments, too, but you may find that they’re all much

too exaggerated if you’re after realistic color, so you’re probably better off using the

sliders.

Tip: In early versions of Elements, these sliders were grouped with the Color sliders, since you’ll often use

a combination of adjustments from both groups. Chapter 7 has lots more about how to use the full-blown

Editor to really fine-tune your image’s colors.



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Figure 4-11: 

Left: The greenish tint shown

here is a common problem

with many digital cameras,

especially cellphone cameras.

Right: A little adjustment of

the Tint slider clears it up in a

jiffy. It’s not always as obvious

as it is here that you need a

tint adjustment. If you aren’t

sure, the sky can be a dead

giveaway: Is it robin’s egg

blue like the left photo here? If

so, tint is what you need.



Sharpening

Now that you’ve finished your other corrections, it’s time to sharpen your photo, so

move down to the Sharpness panel. Sharpening gives the effect of better focus by

improving the edge contrast of objects in your photo. Once again, an Auto button is

at your service: Click the Sharpness panel’s Auto button to get things started. Figure

4-12 shows what you can expect.

Figure 4-12: 

Left: The original image. Like

many digital photos, it could

stand a little sharpening.

Middle: What you get by

clicking the Sharpness

panel’s Auto button.

Right: The results of using

the Sharpen slider to get

stronger sharpening than

Auto Sharpen applies.



The sad truth is that there really isn’t any way to improve the focus of a photo once

you click the shutter. Photo-editing programs like Elements sharpen by increasing the contrast where they perceive edges of objects, so sharpening first can have

strange effects on other editing tools you apply later.



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Tip: If you see funny halos around objects in your photos, or strange flaky spots (making your photo look

like it has eczema), those are a sure sign of oversharpening; reduce the Sharpen settings till they go away.

In fact, many modern cameras apply a pretty hefty dose of sharpening right in the camera, so you may

decide you like your photo best with no extra sharpening at all.



Always look at the actual pixels (View➝Actual Pixels) when you sharpen, because

that gives you the clearest idea of what you’re doing to your picture. If you don’t like

what Auto Sharpen does (a distinct possibility), you can undo it (press Ctrl+Z/-Z)

and try the Sharpen slider instead. Zero sharpening is all the way to the left; moving

to the right increases the amount of sharpening Elements applies to your photo. As

a general rule, you want to sharpen photos you plan to print more than images destined for use online. You can read lots more about sharpening on page 260.

Note: If you’ve used photo-editing programs before, you may be interested to know that the Auto

Sharpen button applies Adjust Sharpness (page 263) to your photo. The difference is that you don’t have

any control over the settings, as you would if you applied Adjust Sharpness from the Enhance menu. But

the good news is that if you want Adjust Sharpness, or if you prefer to use Unsharp Mask (page 261), you

can get that control—even from within Quick Fix. Just go to the Enhance menu and choose the sharpener

of your choice.



At this point, all that’s left to do is crop your photo; page 99 tells you everything you

need to know. However, you can also give your photo a bit more punch by using the

Touch Up tools explained in the next section.

Tip: If you have a Mac, OS X has some pretty sophisticated sharpening tools built right in. Preview lets

you apply Luminance Channel sharpening, a complex technique you might like better than Elements’

sharpening options. Open a photo in Preview and give it a try (Tools➝Adjust Color➝Sharpness) to see

whether you prefer it to what Quick Fix can do.



Touch-Ups

At bottom of the Quick Fix toolbox are four special tools to help improve your photos. You’ve already learned how to use one of them—the Red Eye Removal tool (page

133). Here’s what you can do with the other three:

• Whiten Teeth. As you can guess from its name, this tool makes teeth look

brighter, as shown in Figure 4-13. What’s especially nice is that it doesn’t create

a fake, overly white look.

• Make Dull Skies Blue. It’s a common problem with digital cameras: Your subject is correctly exposed, but the sky looks washed out. Unfortunately, if your

sky is really gray or blown out (white-looking), this tool won’t help much—it

should probably have been called “Make Blue Skies Bluer.” It is useful for creating more dramatic skies, though.



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