Another Student Photo

One of the key features of Photoshop Elements has been its assortment of selection tools. With each version, these tools have been expanded and improved. My favorite selection tool is the Selection Brush. Regardless of what tool I make my initial selection with I almost always fine tune it with the Selection Brush. The student picture below was actually a team effort being photographed by Judy Raffel and refined in Photoshop Elements 6 by Len Lipman. I’ll let Len explain how the final image came about.

Judy took this photo because she liked the pattern of the tea leaves in the glass, but the background of the shirts was very distracting. I used the Quick Select Tool of PSE 6, plus fine tuning with the Selection Brush to select out the background, which I then blurred with Gaussian blur. Note that I first tried to do this with PSE 4 on my Mac (PSE 6 for Mac will be released this weekend) and it was just about impossible to do a good selection because of the strongly curved cup handle and fingers. But Quick Select Tool was almost a miracle, making an almost perfect selection. This tool alone makes PSE 6 worthwhile. For Mac users like myself PSE 6 will have another huge advantage. PSE 4 is not stable with the new Mac Leopard Operating System and can abruptly fail, but PSE 6 (Mac) is written for Leopard.

Here is the original photo.


The final result.


Blurring the background really draws your eye to the glass and its leaf pattern.

Until next time,


Converting .MOV Files to .AVI – One Way

Many digital cameras can take movies also. They often save the video in a .mov file format, which is the Apple Quicktime format. Although Photoshop Elements can accept these files into the Organize and generally play them back through the Quicktime viewer, they can not be included in a slide show. Video files for slide shows must be either .wmv or .avi files. Also, Microsoft’s Movie Maker 2 can not accept .mov files either.

A workaround for the above situation is to convert the .mov files to a format that Elements and Movie Maker can accept. Being able to convert one video file format to another is a common need. Many file converters exist and some are free. The following free file converter is one such program that is pretty easy to use, at least for converting files. There may be some loss of quality, but it does get the job done.

The program is called RAD Video Tools. It can be downloaded from the following web site.

The name of the file is RadTools.exe. To download the file, click on the appropriate link. Your browser will ask whether you want to Run or Save it. Choose Save and proceed to download it to your computer. Run the install program from your computer.

The program is pretty easy to use, especially if you just simply want to convert a file. Here is a short video tutorial on how to do it.

Click on the following link to see the video.

 Until next time,


Student Photos Take 2

Well, I decided it was time to post a few more examples of work my students have done using a few of the techniques we cover in class. They all are examples that made use of the Clone Stamp Tool, Layers, and/or Selections. All of these students have attended classes at the Torrance Griffith Adult Center.

The first two are from Bill Clarkson.

Klein-Bottle-Before Bill Clarkson

The Original

Klein-Bottle Bill Clarkson - After

Using layers, selections and a linear gradient makes for a more pleasing photo that is now ready for eBay.

Bill also submitted the following two pictures of his dog, Gus.

Gus-2-Before Bill Clarkson

The original is shown above.

Gus-2 Bill Clarkson

Again, Bill has used selection and a color fill to eliminate the distracting background.

The Clone Stamp is one of the most useful tools in Photoshop Elements. Although new versions have added additional semi-automatic selection tools like the Magic Selection Brush, the basic Clone Stamp tool is still quite useful as shown in Mary White’s work below.

P1010091 Mary White- Bafore 

Mary’s Original

Here Mary used the Clone Stamp Tool to remove the unsightly drain pipe.


Here are two more examples from Laurel Woodley. In the first she uses a combination of selection tools, including the Selection Brush to make a good selection around the bird’s feathers before placing it on a less distracting background.

P5120335 Laurel 3-before

P5120335_edited-1 Laurel 3-after

Even with the tools provided by Photoshop Elements, it takes patience and some practice to select more difficult subjects.

In this final example, Laurel changes pace a bit by turning a photographic image into a colored pencil sketch. This transformation was done using a combination of layer blending modes.

P1290143 (2) Laurel 2-before 

The Original Photo

P1290143_edited-1 Laurel-2 -after

The Resulting Pencil Sketch

Well, that’s all for this installment. Don’t forget, if you are a current or former student of one of my classes, you are more than welcome to email me before and after examples of your pictures. I will periodically post them here. It’s a good way to let others see what you have done and what you have learned.

Until next time,


Edit JPEG Images as Camera RAW Files

What is a RAW File?

Many digital cameras today can take RAW images instead of or in addition to JPEG images. When you set your camera to take RAW images, whatever camera settings like, white balance etc, that are set, are embedded in the file, but not applied to the image. Also,when  the image is stored on your memory card, it is not compressed as it is when storing it as a JPEG image. However, the resulting RAW file is much larger; thus you cannot store nearly as many images on your card as you can if you save the image in the usual JPEG format. In addition, it takes longer for your camera to write the data to the memory card, so it is not ready to take the next shot as quickly.

That’s the downside. The advantage of shooting RAW instead of JPEG images is that it avoids the JPEG compression that lowers the quality of the image as it is being saved to your memory card. Plus, since no manipulation has been done to the recorded pixels, you have a lot more flexibility when editing the image in Photoshop Elements. Generally speaking, you can make larger corrections without losing quality. In addition, there are are a additional sliders available in the Photoshop Elements’ Camera Raw editor that are not available from within the Full Editor.

That being said, most of us do not shoot RAW with our cameras. We leave that to the professionals, preferring to stay with our JPEG images. Well, what if we could open and adjust our normal JPEG images in the Camera Raw Editor of Photoshop Elements? Well we can. You don’t get all of the advantages you get from starting with a RAW image, but at least you can use the same techniques and sliders. You may find that the results you get are not only better, but also easier and quicker to apply. Try it and see for yourself.

Using the Camera RAW Editor 

Here’s how you do it.

  1. Open the Full Editor in Photoshop Elements
  2. On the Menu, click on File > Open As…
  3. In the Open As.. dialog box, select Camera RAW on the Open As line. Navigate to and select your JPEG image and click on Open.

Your JPEG image opens in the Camera Raw Editor as if it were a RAW image.


The image above is the original JPEG as it opened in the Camera RAW Editor.

The original was taken on a bright sunny day with my camera set for incandescent light, so it’s way too blue. After a couple of quick adjustments, mostly with the Temperature slider, the image below resulted.


Now all need to do is click on Open to open the image in the Full Editor of Elements for any additional cropping etc I want to do. I have used this example a lot in my classes to remove the color cast using Levels. The results I obtained with the Camera RAW Editor are every bit as good and, I am able to do it much quicker.

There is a lot more to using the Camera Raw Editor than what I’ve shown here. The important thing is you do not have to start with a RAW image to make excellent use of it.

The screen shots were from PSE 5, but the steps are the same in both PSE 4 and PSE 6. Just make sure you have the latest version of Adobe’s Camera RAW 4.3.1, which you can download for from Adobe by clicking here.

Try it out and let me know what you think by leaving a comment.