Photoshop Elements 5 — New Features

By Jim Purcell, Tampa PC Users Group

Overview There are many online references in this article, so you might want to download the HTML version of this article from the TPCUG web site,, so that you can merely click on the URL. The basic structure and functions of Photoshop Elements were broadly covered in the article on Photoshop Elements 3.0 published in the August 2005 Bits of Blue, which can be viewed and downloaded at the TPCUG web site. Photoshop Elements is made up of three parts. The first is the Organizer that is used to gather the photos and provide a sophisticated system for organizing them with a user-designed tag system, by time or by the Windows folders to which you have assigned them. The Organizer also provides a system of backup and archiving your photographs. The second is the Editor, which is divided into two parts, the Quick Fix Edit and the Full Edit. The Quick Fix is largely a set of one-button fixes to the most common problems with photographs. The Full Edit is a set of commands using sophisticated commands, filters and layering to correct or improve almost any problem you might encounter in improving the quality of your photographs. The Editor also provides a large number of tools to create special effects. The third is the Creator, made up of Photo Creations and Digital Creations. Photo Creations are print-oriented projects. The Digital Creations are primarily computer or web-oriented. As you can imagine, there is also crossover between these two categorizations. The commentaries I have read indicate that Photoshop Elements has practically everything that is included in Photoshop that the average amateur photographer requires and that many of the Photoshop features been included in Photoshop Elements have been powerful features that have been modified to make them easier to use. To get a thorough look at the entire program, you can download a full-featured copy of the latest version (5.0) for a free thirty-day trial at The new features in Version 4.0 were reviewed in the December 2005 Bits of Blue newsletter, which is also available for view and download at the TPCUG website.

Some of the more significant new features appearing in Version 5.0 of Photoshop Elements are:

Correct Camera Distortion: The “Correct Camera Distortion Filter” is a popular Photoshop filter that has been transferred to Photoshop Elements minus some of the advanced options. Adobe has made this tool very easy to use in Photoshop Elements. This one filter allows correction of distortions caused by being too close to your subject, by having been forced to take the picture at an odd angle, or by shadows caused by the lens hood. These photos are most often of buildings which are obviously out of perspective, or of faces that look like balloons. The filter can also be used creatively to purposely create some of these distortions.

Sharpen Blurred Edges: The new “Adjust Sharpness Tool” goes beyond the Unsharp Mask that has been probably the most used method of sharpening photos. The Unsharp Mask tool reduces Gaussian blurring, which often is not the cause of the blurring. This new tool, which is quite easy to use, is capable of reducing Gaussian Blur, Lens Blur and Motion Blur. You are given a dialog box (See Below) that contains the image you are sharpening so that you can see the results of your changes in real time.

Fine Tune Exposure: The “Color Curves Tool” is introduced in Version 5.0. It is the feature that evidently was the one most requested by Elements users. It is similar to “Levels” but gives many more points of correction. It is not quite as powerful as the Curves Tool in Photoshop, from which it was adapted, but is much easier to use. A short video tutorial that explains the details of its use can be seen at:

Enhanced Support For Raw Files: Raw files can be likened to a digital “negative,” in that they contain the raw data of your picture before your camera makes the changes needed to produce a JPEG, TIFF, or other file format. The Raw format is most used by advanced photographers and sparingly if at all by the amateurs. No matter which you are, it is nice to have this capability if you have a very special subject that you want captured in all of its detail. You can process and edit the raw files of most cameras within Elements 5.0. This is apparently a great time saver. The Adobe Camera Raw Converter allows you to make sophisticated corrections to your photos even before you open them, and you can further edit the file once it is opened.

Create Dramatic Black and White Photos: Previous versions allowed you to remove the color from a photograph. The process is described by Adobe as follows: “The Remove Color command converts the colors in the image to gray values by removing all the saturation from the image. It assigns equal red, green, and blue values to each pixel in an RGB image, so the image is still in RGB mode. The lightness value of each pixel does not change”. The “Convert to Black and White” command gives you the ability to make the conversion decisions that are decided for you by the software in the Remove Color Command. This may not seem like much to those of you who lost interest in black and white when color photography became available, but to someone like my daughter it is a terrific feature. She seems to have inherited all of the creative genes that both my mother and her mother possessed. She has done some neat things with black and white photography. I know that she and those of you who are convinced that the birth of color photography spoiled your chances to become the next Ansel Adams will enjoy this new command. Click on the URL below to view a short video tutorial that does a good job in explaining just how simply this command works. 

Creations, New Ways to Show Your Photos: Photo Creations includes such things as photo layouts, album pages, DVD or CD labels and greeting cards. They can be single pages or, thanks to a new feature in Elements 5.0, up to thirty pages in one file. The new photo layout feature provides many formats but allows all to be customized. Another new feature allows you to size and resize the photos and artwork that you bring into the layout with no loss of quality, and you can still edit the photos after they are brought into the layout. You can print or email these projects or burn them to a CD or DVD. If you are interested in scrapbooking, the tools and artwork provided within this program will boggle your mind (Check the commercial website at Digital Creations enables you to make flipbooks and three types of photo galleries that are web-oriented and animated. These can be burned to a CD or uploaded to your website or to a free service provided by Adobe. The wizard does all things necessary to allow you to send the folder, which it creates, containing your project via FTP to your web server. To get an idea of the magnitude of this section of Photoshop Elements 5.0, you can click on the URL below, which will bring up the “Idea Gallery” from Adobe. There are six colored boxes at the bottom of the page. The first contains the two tutorials referenced above. The last five contain examples of what you can do and a section in each that tells you how to do it. There is also a fifteen-minute overview of Photoshop Elements 5 and a shorter one on using the program in conjunction with Premier Elements 3.0. u