Photoshop Elements 3

By Jim Purcell, Tampa PC Users Group


Adobe Photoshop has long been the industry standard for editing photos. A high percentage of all of the photographs that have been published in the past decade have been edited in some way by Photoshop. This excellent program, however, is quite expensive ($599.00 list price), very difficult to learn and has many features that only a professional photographer will use.

Adobe has worked for sometime to develop a program for the everyday photographer. They started with PhotoDeluxe then Photoshop LE but didn’t seem to get the mix of low cost, ease of use and a sufficient number of tools until they developed Photoshop Elements 1. The program was improved with the issue of Photoshop Elements 2. Both of these programs were still a little difficult to learn. With the release of version 3, they have not only greatly expanded the capabilities of the program but also have made it much easier to use and understand.

Adobe has improved Elements as it improved Photoshop. Photoshop Elements 1 was based on Photoshop 6, Elements 2 was based on Photoshop 7 and Elements 3 was based on Photoshop CS, which means that you can use some plug-ins and brushes that were designed for Photoshop CS that weren’t compatible in previous versions of Elements.

The Windows version of Elements 3 requires Windows XP with Service Pack 1 or Windows 2000 with Service Pack 4.

The Elements 3 Welcome screen is below. The choices across the top of the screen show the new organization of Photoshop Elements 3.

All of the Elements programs are loaded with the tools to edit your digital images and create an unimaginable variety of special effects and projects, especially using the Adobe system of layering. Another thing that is special about Photoshop and all of the Elements programs is that practically everything you do has a keyboard shortcut that is identified on the mouse command. As you learn these shortcuts, your speed and ease in operating the program increases greatly. There is no way that this article can begin to cover all of these capabilities. The O’Reilly book Photoshop Elements 3: The Missing Manual devotes more than 500 pages to the subject. I will try to cover “What’s new in Elements 3” and discuss some of the program’s highlights that I think by themselves make the program worth the purchase price (List Price $99.99, but often on sale for less than $60). You can get additional information and see some graphic illustrations of the program’s capabilities at You can also download a demo of the program at that site.

Some of What’s New in elements 3

Program Highlights:


The Photo Browser is the main workspace for organizing your photos. The terms “browser,” which is one of the three windows in the Organizer, and “organizer” are sometimes used interchangeably, which may at first be a little confusing. The Organizer shows thumbnails of all of the photos that you acquire from various sources. The slider at the bottom of the screen allows you to adjust the thumbnails from very small images approximately nine across to a large single thumbnail on the screen. You can acquire photos from files or folders, cameras, scanners and other sources listed under the Get Photos command button. Your files remain where you want them or have stored them. The Organizer merely contains thumbnails that point to the file. If you plan to use Organizer, you need to add, delete and move your files through Organizer to insure that the thumbnails remain connected. Some of the features of the Organizer are a bit aggressive. The Photo Downloader may jump ahead of your camera’s software, moving photos from your camera to your computer, so be aware that you may have to make choices on how you perform some of the tasks.

The Organizer automatically assigns a timeline to your photos, so you can search in the point in time in which the photos were taken or in which they were brought into your computer if there is no time otherwise attached to the file. There is a system of tagging that allows you to search in as much or as little detail as you desire.

Organizer also has a very versatile and elaborate built-in backup system for your photos. It’s easy to backup to a hard drive, a CD or a DVD. You can choose to backup your catalog only or include your files. If you choose to move your files to a CD, the program will name the CD so that when you at some future date click on a thumbnail of an archived file it will tell you the name of the CD that you have to load in order to retrieve the file.

In summary, the Organizer is a very powerful tool that you will probably love or hate, but even if you hate it, you’ll probably find some of the features quite useful.

Quick Fix Window: The Quick Fix Window is probably the most significant feature that has been added to Elements. For the first time user of Elements, it allows correction and enhancement of photos by pressing a button and, with the pictures placed side-by-side, it greatly eases the job of fine-tuning the photo. You are able to make significant improvements to your pictures while knowing little or nothing about the process. It allows you to do some positive work while learning the system. I’m sure longtime users will often start at this page to adjust things like shadows and highlights to take advantage of the side-by-side feature.

This window contains a group of four tools from the Standard Edit screen. They operate the same in both edit windows and have the same keyboard shortcuts. The Zoom and Hand Tools are the same tools found in many programs that allow you to enlarge and shrink the image and to move it about the work space. The Cropping Tool allows you to crop a rectangle or an ellipse. You can set the exact size or the proportions of the sides of the rectangle. The Red Eye tool works better than any I’ve used in removing the pesky red eye from your photos and normally requires only one click per eye. If you don’t like the results, you can undo, then adjust the darkness and pupil size and click again and continue until you have the results you want.

The Quick Fix Control Panel below is where most of the editing adjustment takes place. The Smart Fix command is what most of the excitement concerning this window is all about. With one click, the command automatically adjusts the picture’s lighting, color and contrast. If you are happy with the results, you can move on to the next photo. If it needs sharpening, you can move that tool first. If you are not happy with the Smart Fix command results, you can undo it and try using the Smart Fix slider by gradually changing the amount. Sometimes Smart Fix will not be smart enough to satisfy you and you can undo the results and work through each of the Levels, Contrast and Color Auto buttons, or the slides for each, to satisfy your eye. Of course, you still have the option of moving to the Standard Edit window, where you can take advantage of the wealth of tools and even the famous layer system with all of the selection tools to “fine tune” your job.

Summary: I’ve tried to cover the significant changes that have been included in Photoshop Elements 3. As I’ve mentioned, this article doesn’t begin to touch on the total capabilities of Photoshop Elements 1, 2 or 3. There is massive help and an extensive tutorial system available in Elements to help you utilize its many capabilities. There are also many publications that provide even more insight into the use of all of the available tools. I purchased the O’Reilly book Photoshop Elements 3: The Missing Manual by Barbara Brundage. It is an excellent and well organized manual for Photoshop Elements 3. It’s available on for about $13 below list price. (If you purchase any books from, don’t forget to go through the TPCUG web site.) u