Elements Workflow

Following a consistent Elements workflow can make your digital editing life a lot easier and much less complicated.  This is assuming that you're not going to use the Quick Fix procedures.

You can also think of it as an Elements road map or "what to do and when to do it" when working with your photos.

A loose analogy is following a recipe when making your favorite munchy and you know that restaurants always follow their most popular recipes - the difference is that there isn't much room for 'winging it' with a recipe. 

So this could be your Elements workflow recipe, but unlike a recipe, the steps can be modified according to what you want to achieve and the overall quality of the image.  The steps that follow, then, are not written in stone - they're simply suggestions because you're free to edit your shots in any way you wish.

Let's take a look at a suggested Elements workflow and then work through a sample ...

Suggested Procedure

This Elements Workflow is summed up in three basic steps ...
  1. Start with global adjustments.
  2. Move to local adjustments.
  3. Finish with global adjustments.
Initial Global Adjustments
Getting started
  1. Open the photograph (somewhat obvious).
  2. Make a copy of the Background.
  3. Straighten if necessary.
  4. Crop.
  5. Select your view option (single, duplicate or "New Window For ...).
Now you're ready to start working on the photograph.  Some additional global adjustment suggestions (that is adjustments that will affect the whole image) include ...
  • A Levels Adjustment layer to improve exposure, contrast and color.
  • Perhaps changing the Layer Blend Modes will help eliminate either over or under exposed images.
  • Shadows and Highlights to modify the shadows and highlights in the Enhance > Adjust Lighting.
  • Removing a color cast.in the Enhance > Adjust Color menu. 
  • Hue and Saturation adjustment layer.
  • Save as a .psd to preserve any layers that were added.
You don't have to do all of the steps, only do the ones that you figure are necessary.

Local Adjustments

This is where you can have some fun with your image and your Wacom tablet. 

The steps you may take at this point include pretty much everything in the Elements menus.  They include adjustments such as ...
  • Selecting.
  • Dodging and Burning (with Elements tools or with a Soft Light Layer).
  • Cloning and or patching.
  • Healing Brush.
  • Smudging and Bluring.
  • Color curves.
  • Save as a .psd to preserve any layers that were added.
This is also where your critical eye and your knowledge of Photoshop Elements comes into play.

Global Adjustments 2

This section of the Elements workflow is the final step - where the file is prepared for printing or uploading to the web or whatever you have in mind.

  • Resize.
  • Collapse the layers.
  • Noise reduction (if necessary)
  • Sharpen
  • Save (with a new name to preserve the original).
Here's an example with commentary ...

Elements Workflow
Example 1

The first Global Adjustments

elements workflow original
The image was not nearly as nice as the original scene with a nice light blue sky and somewhat greenish water.

There is no 'pop' to the picture and the contrast is low making for a really boring shot.

elements workflow initial levels adjustment
A Levels adjustment was added to improve the contrast and the color.  It did a reasonably good job of adding some life to the image.
elements workflow shadows highlights
In an effort to add some drama to the sky, a Shadows Highlights adjustment was done on the original. 

The sky is darker now but the side of the ferry (the white parts) are now kind of gray and not particularly appealing.

Local Adjustments

elements workflow dodge and burn
A Soft Light layer was added and the default foreground and background colors (black and white) were chosen.

The foreground color was changed to white (to dodge) and the brush set to change opacity with pressure.

The following areas were dodged ...
  • The side of the Ferry from top to bottom including the passengers).
  • The three little sail boats.
The trees in the middle of the shot were burned by changing the foreground color to black.

elements workflow blue added
I went to another shot from the same day with a nice blue sky and used the Eyedropper to grab that nice blue color as the foreground color.

Back to the shot and a new layer with a Color Blend mode was added and then the flood fill tool was used to add the blue color to the image. 

Now the goal is to get rid of the new blue where it is not needed.
elements workflow mask 1
A Layer Mask was added to the new layer and black was set as the foreground color.

I zoomed in on the ferry and carefully pained out the blue cast.

There was a lot of close work which necessitated a lot of zooming in and out, especially around the masts and flags on the top of the ferry.
elements workflow final mask
The next parts to be addressed were the sails on the little sail boats, the tree line in the middle of the picture and the water around the ferry.

The same masking procedure used in the previous step was used in this one as well.

Save as a .psd to preserve the layers.

Last Global Adjustment

elements workflow levels 2
After completing the local adjustments I realized that I didn't like the overall appearance  of the image.

A second Levels adjustment layer was added and the highlights were increased.

This improved the overall contrast.
elements workflow high pass sharpen
The image was then sharpened using the High Pass filter.
elements workflow crop
The last step was to Crop the image.

I'm using Elements 10 and with this version of Elements we've the option of adding one of four overlays ...
  • None.
  • Rule of Thirds.
  • Grid.
  • Golden Ratio.
Being partial to the Golden Ratio, that's the one I selected.

The final two steps were to flatten the image and save it with a new and unique name (to keep the original intact).

Here's a side by side comparison of the original and the final shot ...

elements workflow comparison

The steps taken in this Elements workflow are pertinent to this image only and every other image will include different steps and techniques.  What that says is to resist slavishly following what is written here, other than the big picture view.

Start with some Global adjustments, move to Local adjustments and finish with the final Global adjustments.

What fits in each catergory is dependent on the quality of the image and what you want to achieve.

Page Links

Suggested Procedure

  1. First Global Adjustments
  2. Local Adjustments
  3. Final Global Adjustments

Elements Workflow Example

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