Photoshop Elements Tutorial: Photoshop Elements for Digital Photographers

What you’ll learn in this Photoshop Elements Tutorial:

  • Working with Camera Raw files
  • Saving a DNG file

This tutorial provides you with a foundation for working with Camera Raw in Adobe Photoshop Elements. It is the eleventh lesson in the Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 Digital Classroom book.

Photoshop Elements Tutorial: Photoshop Elements for Digital Photographers

Starting up

Within the Photoshop Elements Organizer: You will work with several files from the Lessons folder in this lesson. Make sure that you have downloaded the Lessons folder onto your hard–drive. In order to access these files in the Organizer, you need to import them. See “Adding files and folders to the Organizer” located in Lesson 1.

Within the Photoshop Elements Editor: The Photoshop Elements Editor defaults to the last panel layout that you used. Before starting, make sure your tools and panels are consistent with the examples presented in these lessons by resetting the panels. Do this by choosing Window > Reset Panels or by pressing the Reset panels button () in the Options bar.

Working with Camera Raw files

A Camera Raw image file contains the unprocessed data from the image sensor (CCD) of a digital camera; essentially, it is a digital negative of your image. By working with a Raw file, you have greater control and flexibility, while still keeping the original image file. There is no standard Raw format in use today; each one is proprietary and differs from one camera to another.

Below is a partial list of the various Camera Raw formats and the companies that use them.

File format




.crw, .cr2


.tif, .k25, .kdc, .dcs, .dcr, .drf










.ptx, .pef


.arw, .srf, .sr2






.mef, .mos




.cap, .tif, .iiq

Phase One









Even if you have been a photographer for many years, understanding all the settings that are available in your digital camera can be difficult. Using incorrect settings can lead to poor quality images. Incorrect settings for white balance, sharpening, or color balance can lead to images that are too dark or have color tints. Because Raw files are taken directly from the camera’s sensors prior to any image processing, Photoshop Elements can undo and recalculate tonal adjustment.

Understanding the Camera Raw dialog box

Because a Camera Raw file contains the completely uncompressed image data from your digital camera, you can access certain features that would be unavailable in other formats, such as JPEG. The Camera Raw dialog box allows you to manipulate features such as the white balance, tint, and exposure. The Camera Raw dialog box appears when you open a Camera Raw file and provides a wealth of controls.

White Balance: White balance is necessary because the appearance of the color white will change, based on the lighting conditions of your scene. So when you white-balance a camera or, in this case, set the white balance for the image, you are setting what color in an image is neutral white.

Temperature: You may often hear artists, designers, and photographers talking about warm and cool colors. They aren’t just being metaphorical; colors actually do have temperatures. These color temperatures are measured using the Kelvin scale. So in this system, warm colors—oranges, yellows, and reds—usually have a color temperature of around 2500–3000K, while the cool colors are often measured at 5000K and above. When using the color temperature slider, if you move the slider to the left, you can correct a photo taken at a warmer color temperature and the image becomes bluer, or cooler. Conversely, move the slider to the right to correct a photo taken at a cooler color temperature, and the image becomes warmer.

Tint: Due to the impurities found in most lighting conditions, the color balance of images must often be fine-tuned. The tint slider is used to compensate for a red or green color cast. When using the slider, you move it to the left into the negative values to add green to your image, and to the right into the positive values to add red.

Exposure: The Exposure slider is used to adjust the brightness or darkness of an image. When the slider is moved to the left, it darkens the image, and when it is moved to the right, it brightens the image. The values used by the exposure control are equivalent to the f-stops that control a camera’s aperture. Making an adjustment to the exposure setting of +1 is equivalent to widening the aperture one full f-stop, while an adjustment of -1 would be like reducing the aperture by 1.

Recovery: Sometimes the whitest areas of your image actually contain visual information that isn’t visible, because it has been clipped to white. The Recovery slider attempts to recover the details from the highlight area of your image.

Fill Light: Sometimes the darker or shadow areas of your image still have visual information that can be recovered. The Fill Light slider attempts to recover details from shadow areas of your image, without over-brightening the black areas.

Blacks: In a digital image, the tonal value of pixels isn’t a concrete value, and you can redefine them. This is the case with the Blacks slider, which allows you to specify which input levels are mapped to black in the final image. By increasing Blacks, you expand the areas that are mapped to black, increasing the amount of black pixels in the image. This creates the appearance of increased contrast in the image. The greatest change is in the shadow areas, with less change in the midtones and highlights.

Brightness: Creating a similar effect to the Exposure slider, the Brightness slider adjusts the brightness of the image. It functions a little differently: whereas the Exposure control tends to clip the image in the highlight areas (areas that are completely white) and shadow areas (areas that are completely black), the Brightness slider compresses or expands the highlight and shadow areas.

Contrast: The Contrast slider adjusts the midtones of an image to make the dark areas darker, while at the same time making the bright areas brighter. At higher values, the slider increases the midtone contrast, while lower values produce an image with less contrast.

Clarity: The effect of the Clarity slider is similar to using the Sharpen filters found in the main Photoshop Elements Editor. It is used to sharpen the edges in your image to enhance edge clarity.

Vibrance: The Vibrance slider is used to adjust the saturation of colors in your images so that clipping is minimized as the colors approach maximum saturation. The main advantage of Vibrance slider is that it can also be used to prevent skin tones from becoming over saturated.

Saturation: As the name implies, the Saturation slider is used to adjust the color saturation of an image. The values used range from –100, which would give you a pure monochromatic value, all the way to +100, which would double the color saturation values in the image.


Tool Name


Zoom tool

Increases or decreases the magnification level of a Camera Raw preview.

Hand tool

Allows you to reposition a Raw image, when magnified, in the preview pane.

White Balance tool

Balances colors in a Raw image when you click on a neutral gray area in the image.

Crop tool

Crops a Raw image right in the preview pane.

Straighten tool

Realigns an image.

Retouch tool

Heals or clones a Raw image in the preview pane.

Red-Eye Removal tool

Removes red eye from a Raw image.

Open preferences dialog box

Used to change preferences, such as where .xmp files are saved.

Rotate image 90 degrees counterclockwise

Rotates an image 90 degrees counterclockwise.

Rotate image 90 degrees clockwise

Rotates an image 90 degrees clockwise.


Using the Camera Raw dialog box

Camera Raw files cannot be directly edited in Photoshop Elements. When you open a Raw file, it opens in the Camera Raw dialog box. Because raw files are unprocessed, they can be easily manipulated to adjust the color and tonal balance of your images.

1 In the Organizer, type Sophie into the search text field; this isolates the file Sophie.CR2. This is a Camera Raw file taken from a Canon Digital Rebel XT camera. Right-click the image and choose Edit with Photoshop Elements from the contextual menu that appears.

2 The Camera Raw dialog box opens in the Editor. The Camera Raw dialog box actually automatically opens whenever you open a supported Raw file in Photoshop Elements.

A. Tools. B. Histogram. C. Adjustment controls.

The Camera Raw file is manipulated using the controls found on the right side of the dialog box interface. These controls allow you to set the color and tonal balance of your image and provide a visual representation, through the histogram values, of the various pixels in the image.

A: The Basic panel contains controls for adjusting the tonal balance of the image.

B: The Detail panel contains controls for image sharpening and noise reduction.

C: The Camera Calibration panel allows you to set a camera profile to use.

D: The Shadow Clipping Warning indicates the areas of the image that are underexposed, with large areas of shadow being clipped. Clipped shadows appear highlighted if they are not corrected using the exposure controls.

E: The Highlight Clipping Warning also indicates the areas of an image that are overexposed, with large highlight areas being clipped. Clipped areas appear highlighted if they are not corrected using the exposure controls.

F: The Histogram displays the tonal variation of the image as a graph.

The options of the Camera Raw dialog box.

3 If you have been adjusting the image settings while reviewing this section, press and hold the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) key on your keyboard and press Reset. When you press the Alt/Option key, the Cancel button becomes the Reset button.

When Alt/Option is pressed, the Cancel button changes to the Reset button.

4 The first thing you will do is balance the color of the image. Choose the White Balance tool () from the tools at the top of the dialog box. A good neutral area to use as a reference for white in this image is the name tag on the girl’s sweater. Click it with the White Balance tool. The tonal range of the image changes; the values shift using the white in the name tag as the reference point.

With the White Balance tool selected, click on the name tag.

The image looks a bit underexposed, and the girl’s face is somewhat dark. You’ll bring out more detail in the girl’s face with the Brightness slider. By using a combination of the Brightness and Recovery sliders, you can bring out additional details without overexposing the image.

5 Click and drag the Exposure slider to the left until you reach the -0.35 mark, or type -.35 into the Exposure text field.

Set the exposure.

6 Click and drag the Brightness slider to the right to about the 120 mark, or type 120 into the Brightness text field. This causes the highlight areas to be blown out, or to lose their detail.

Set the brightness.

7 You will recover some of the lost highlight detail by clicking and dragging the Recovery slider to the 60 mark, or by typing 60 into the Recovery text field.

Set the recovery.

8 Increase the contrast of the image by clicking and dragging the Contrast slider to the 60 mark, or by typing 60 into the Contrast text box.

Set the contrast.

9 Click and drag the Vibrance slider to the 25 mark, or type 25 into the Vibrance text field. Use the Vibrance slider to adjust the richness of the color values in an image.

Set the vibrance.

10 Choose the Crop tool () from the tools at the top of the dialog box. Click and drag to draw a marquee and create an image that is tighter on the girl’s head and shoulders, as shown in the following image. The crop area is used if you open the image in Photoshop Elements, but it doesn’t affect the original Raw file.

You can crop an image in the Camera Raw dialog box.

11 From this point, there are two things you can do with the file: Open the file in Photoshop Elements by pressing Open File or save the file as a DNG file, which is what you will do in the next part of this lesson.

Keep the Camera Raw dialog box open for the next exercise.

Saving a DNG file

You will save your image as a DNG file. A DNG, or digital negative file maintains information on all the corrections you have made, and the original unprocessed Camera Raw data. Adobe created the DNG format as a standard for Camera Raw files; this is a standard that they hope all camera vendors will eventually support. For your purposes, it provides you with the opportunity to save your original Camera Raw files in a format that can be reopened repeatedly, edited, and saved again without any loss of quality or data and unlike native RAW formats, the DNG format can embed metadata directly into the DNG file instead of storing the data in a sidecar file as is the case with most RAW formats.

1 Press Save Image in the lower-left corner of the Camera Raw dialog box. The Save Options dialog box opens.

2 Leave the Destination set to Save in Same Location, and then click on the arrow to the right of the second drop-down menu in the File Naming section, and choose 2 Digit Serial Number. This automatically numbers your files, starting with the original document name followed by 01.

The Camera Raw Save Options dialog box.

3 Press Save. You are returned to the Camera Raw dialog box.

4 Press Open Image. The adjusted and cropped image is opened in Photoshop Elements, and you can continue working on it with Photoshop Elements’ wide range of tools. If you save the file now, you see the standard Save As dialog box. The saved image will be a copy of the original. Close the file and don’t save the changes.


To edit the DNG you created, open it using the Photoshop Elements Editor.

Continue to the next Photoshop Elements Tutorial: Processing multiple files in Photoshop Elements >