The Digital Photo Guy

Learning Photoshop Elements

by on Feb.12, 2009, under Photo Editing

I finished the webcast Photoshop Elements class last night and haven’t yet received complaints or demands for refunds so I guess everyone was satisfied with the results. As I told the students, PSE is a powerful, flexible program but those capabilities come with increased complexity. The good news is that you don’t have to learn all of PSE at once to accomplish useful tasks.

Here are my recommendations for learning PSE in some semblence of structure. First, take a short class. Obviously, mine is the best 😉 but any class is better than no class. The purpose of the class is to learn some basics quickly but, more importantly, learn the jargon and terminology to find your way around PSE. I remember one of the first Photoshop classes I attended where every student had a PC or Mac in front of them. The instructor would say something like, “Click the XYZ option in the ABC menu and group the layers while holding the DEF key.” By the time I figured out where all those menus, options and controls were located, I was 10 steps behind everyone else.

When you feel comfortable stumbling around PSE, buy a book like The Photoshop Elements 7 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby. You can also buy the PSE6 book at the same site for less. Both books are nearly identical so I wouldn’t worry about missing anything. Besides, the books are nearly 500 pages so by the time you discover the difference, you’ll be ready to upgrade to PSE 8 or 9. By the way, speaking of upgrading, my recommendation is to upgrade every other version. It’s usually not worth it to upgrade every version. If I could, I’d upgrade every 3rd version.

Kelby’s book is like a cookbook. It’s strictly, “Monkey see, monkey do” until you learn enough to be able to modify the techniques and apply them to your needs. In the beginning, you’ll be baffled just trying to figure out what you should or want to do to a photo. That’s why in my class, I concentrate on workflow so you have an idea of what’s important and what’s not.

When you’re ready to remove the Kelby training wheels, buy a book like Barbara Brundage’s Photoshop Elements 7: The Missing Manual. This puppy is about 600 pages and is written like a technical reference manual. Like a dictionary, if you don’t know what you’re trying to do, this book won’t tell you. Use this book in combination with Kelby’s book to get a better understanding of what a particular tool does. Think of Kelby’s book as a box of recipes while Brundage’s book is a culinary school.

Of course, none of this will do diddly for you unless you take the time and make the effort to read the books and practice. Remember, Ctrl+Z is your friend. You can always Undo a boo-boo and, if all else fails, close the file without saving and reopen the original.

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