Photoshop Elements Tutorial: Reviewing photos in Photoshop Elements

What you’ll learn in this Photoshop Elements Tutorial:

  • Comparing photos
  • Creating a new album
  • Creating a Smart Album

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

Photoshop Elements Tutorial: Reviewing photos in Photoshop Elements

Once you’ve eliminated the photos that you definitely don’t want, you can review the photos that remain. This can include grouping similar photos together or viewing photos side by side.

Compare photos side by side

When you have several photos of the same subject, it’s often difficult to evaluate them in a simple thumbnail view. Photoshop Elements allows you to view photos in a side-by-side view to make it easier to evaluate and rate your photos.

1 Type sunset in the Search text field in the Options bar at the top-right of the workspace to display only the sunset images.

2 Select the first thumbnail, then Shift+click the last thumbnail to select all the images being displayed. You can also press Ctrl+A (Windows) or Command+A (Mac OS) on your keyboard after clicking the first photo to select all the visible photos.

3 Press the Display icon () in the menu bar at the top of the workspace, and choose Compare Photos Side by Side, or press Ctrl+F12 (Windows) or Command+F12 (Mac OS) on your keyboard.

4 By default, the photo on the left is highlighted. Press the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard to move through the photos.

5 When you find an image that you like, click the photo on the right side to select it and use the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate through the photos. This allows you to easily compare photos to each other.

Comparing photos side by side.

6 In this side-by-side view, you can also rate images. Select either photo (left or right) that is being displayed. Position your cursor at the left of the screen to activate the QuickEdit panel (it hides after your mouse is idle) and click a star at the top to give it a rating from one to five. Star ratings toggle on and off as you click on them.

7 Press the Full Screen View button () in the Options bar at the bottom of the screen to expand each image to fill your screen. You can also rate photos in this view using the QuickEdit panel and navigate from photo to photo using the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard or by using the left and right buttons in the Options bar.

8 Press Esc on your keyboard to exit Full Screen mode or the side-by-side view and return to the Organizer.


When you have several images of the same subject or event, or images that look a lot alike, it becomes a bit daunting to look at in the Organizer. All the images look the same and they also occupy a lot of room when they are displayed. Stacks allow you to group similar photos together to make browsing photos easier, but you can see the contents of a stack easily at any time.

1 Type farm in the Search text field in the Options bar to display all the farmland images. If the filenames are not displayed, choose View > Show File Names. If that option is already selected, drag the Adjust size of thumbnail slider until the filenames are displayed.

2 Select the first image, then Shift+click the last image to select them all.

3 Choose Edit > Stack > Stack Selected Photos. The selected photos are condensed into a stack.

4 Click the triangle to the right of the stack thumbnail to expand the stack. To collapse the stack again, click the triangle to the right of the stack thumbnail.

The expanded stack.

5 If you decide later that you don’t want the photos grouped in a stack, select the collapsed stack and choose Edit > Stack > Unstack photos to release them.

Organizing using albums

Photoshop Elements provides a variety of ways to use albums when organizing your photos. Additionally, you can use different types of albums to organize your photos depending on your particular need.

Creating a new album

Like physical photo albums, Photoshop Elements allows you to organize different pictures together into collections. For example, you could create a collection of all the photos of your trip to Disney World, your nephew’s 10th birthday party, or, as you will do in this example, a collection of Washington D.C. photos.

1 Press the Show All button in the Organizer to display all images. Make sure there are no images selected in the Organizer by clicking in the gray area between the photos. Press the Create new album or album category button () in the Albums panel, and choose New Album.


To ease the process of applying an album to photos, you can do searches in the Search text field to limit the displayed photos.

2 In the Album Details panel, type Washington in the Album Name text field. Click to deselect the checkmark for Backup/Synchronize (this option is not available in the free trial version if you are using it), and press Done. The new album appears in the Album list. You could add images to the album at this step, but for this exercise, you will add images later.

Albums in Photoshop Elements function like traditional albums.

3 You are now going to apply the album to the photos in the Organizer. Click the album and drag it onto the photo named Lincoln Memorial. The photo is added to this album, and the Album icon () appears under the photo.

The Album icon in the image indicates that the photo is a part of an album.

4 Click and drag the Washington album to the following photos: Capitol Building, Washington Monument at Night, Washington Monument, White House, Washington DC Street Scene, and Statue of Lincoln.

5 To view only photos in the new Washington album, select the album name in the Albums panel.

6 To view all your images, press the Show All button at the top of the Media Browser or click the Washington album a second time.


 Once again, if you do not see the icon for the album in the thumbnails, adjust the size of the thumbnail slider to the right until the album icon appears.


Creating album categories

Album categories provide yet another level of organization when working with albums. Sometimes you may want to group multiple albums into a common category to make viewing and organizing more logical. In the following steps, you’ll create another album and then organize the albums into a category. Make sure you are working in the Organizer workspace.

1 In the Organizer, type farm in the Search text field just below the menu bar. This lists all the photos in the Organizer that contain the word farm in the filename.

Filtering the display of images by using the Search text field.

2 You should have four photos displayed in the Photo Browser at this point. These photos may be stacked from a previous lesson, which is fine. Regardless, select all four photos by clicking on the stack or by selecting the first photo, then shift clicking on the last photo.

3 Press the Create new album or album category button () in the Albums panel, and choose New Album.

4 In the Album Details panel, type Farmland in the Album Name text field. Click to deselect the checkmark for Backup/Synchronize, then press Done.

You will now move the Washington and Farmland albums into a new Album group to further organize your albums.

5 Press the Show All button at the top of the Photo Browser to display all the photos in the Organizer, then click in the gray area between photos to ensure that no photos are currently selected.

6 Press the Create new album or album category button in the Albums panel, and choose New Album Category. In the Album Category Name text field, type My Vacation, then press OK.

Creating an album category and giving it a descriptive name.

7 In the Albums panel, click the Washington album, then drag and drop it on top of the My Vacation album category. Repeat this for the Farmland album.

The albums appear nested within the album category.

You can now see that the Washington and Farmland albums are nested inside the My Vacation album category, providing you with flexible organization of your albums. Selecting each album displays the contents of that album, and selecting the album again displays all the photos.

Creating a Smart Album

Smart Albums take organization to the next level by adding intelligence to the process of creating albums. With Smart Albums, you can define parameters by which photos are automatically placed into an album. For instance, you can tell every photo with a certain keyword to be automatically displayed in a specific Smart Album.

Keywords are only one parameter that can be defined; you can also use capture date, camera make, filename, and many other parameters. Smart Albums take the human error factor out of creating albums, what’s more, these Smart Albums are dynamic, which means that if you import any new files into the Organizer that match your Smart Album’s criteria, they are automatically added to that album. You can be as general or as specific as you want with Smart Albums; the only limitation is your imagination!

1 Press the Create new album or album category button () in the Albums panel, and select New Smart Album.

2 In the Name text field, type My Summer 2005 Airshow Photos.

3 In the Search Criteria section, make sure that the All of the following search criteria[AND] radio button is selected. From the Filename search criteria drop-down menu, choose Capture Date. Leave the Is drop-down menu at its default and change the Date to 8/28/2005 (Windows) or 8/28/05 (Mac OS). You can do this by highlighting the month, day and year one at a time to type the value, or use the up and down arrows to the right of the field or use the arrow keys on your keyboard to change the value.

4 Press the plus icon in the lower-right corner of the Search Criteria section to add another search criterion by which your photos will be added to the Smart Album.

5 From the Filename search criteria drop-down menu that appears, choose Camera Make. From the second drop-down menu, choose Contains, and in the text field to the right, type Canon.

6 Press OK. Only the images that match the defined parameters are displayed in the Photo Browser.

The search criteria that define which photos will be included in the Smart Album.

These parameters will find all images that were shot on 8/28/2005 and were taken with a Canon camera. You might ask yourself why you would choose parameters like this, and the reason could depend on the situation. But suppose, for example, that you went to this event with a group of people who were also taking photos at the event. You decide that afterwards you may like to share the photos with each other, but you’d like to know which photos you had taken. The search criteria defined above will find only images that were taken on the date specified with your camera (a Canon in this case). This ensures that you will always know which images were taken with your Canon camera. You could further refine the search criteria by choosing camera model for one of the search criteria and entering your exact camera model. This would be useful in the event that someone in your group was also using a Canon camera but a different model.

How Elements knows about your camera

You may be asking yourself “But how does Photoshop Elements know what camera I used?” Well actually, Photoshop Elements is just looking at the information that is already contained in each photo. You see, each time you take a picture with your digital camera, metadata called EXIF information is embedded into each image. EXIF information contains info such as your camera make and model, whether the flash fired or not, what aperture you used and much more. All of this is done without you even having to think about it! To see this EXIF information, simply click on an image that you’ve taken with your digital camera, or you can click on any image in the “My Summer 2005 Airshow” Album and right click on the image and choose Show Properties. Once the properties panel is displayed, click on the Metadata button () to display all of the information captured by the camera. When you’re finished, click the close button to close the panel. All this information can be used in a Smart Album to filter images in a variety of different ways. Give it a try!

The Metadata section of the Properties panel shows all the information that has been stored in the image.

Continue to the next Photoshop Elements Tutorial: Tagging your photos in Photoshop Elements >