Elements provides you with automatic tools that adjust your image’s color, contrast and clarity in one simple command. These are very easy to use and easy to find, as they all appear under “Enhance” on the Menu Bar. While the auto fixes are easy to use, sometimes they don’t always give you the desired results that you can achieve with manual fixes. Remember that you can always try one of the auto fix commands, and if you don’t like it, you can simply undo your changes. To use any of the seven commands, select “Enhance” from the Menu Bar and click on the auto fix tool you want to use. It is best to use just one of the auto fix commands in an image, as using more than one can sometimes produce unwanted results.
Auto Smart Tone: Modifies the tonal value of your image.
Auto Smart Fix: A “catch all” command, Fixes color balance, lighting & contrast.
Auto Levels: Overall contrast for images that need minor adjustments.
Auto Contrast: Overall contrast while retaining color balance of an image.
Auto Color Correction: Best used to remove a colorcast or balance color in an image.
Auto Sharpen: Improves focus in an image.
Auto Red Eye Fix: Removes red eye.
The Red Eye Removal Tool
If you don’t get your desired results by using the “Auto Red Eye Fix” command, or if you prefer to have more precise control, you can use the “Red Eye Removal Tool,” located on the Toolbox. After you select it, you can adjust the “Pupil Radius” and “Darken” controls until you get the results you want, and simply click your mouse in the middle of the red part of the eye. The “Auto Correct” button is the same as using the “Auto Red Eye Fix” you looked at in the last lesson. You can also select the “Pet Eye” checkbox to correct the “glowing eyes” effect that can occur when animals are photographed.
One disadvantage of using the auto fix commands is that you lose some control on the final outcome. Elements offers several manual commands that give you more precise and sometimes subtle control over the outcome of your images.
If you have a picture that is either under or overexposed, you can adjust the lighting with shadows and highlights. To use this command, select “Enhance| Adjust Lighting| Shadows/Highlights…” from the Menu Bar. Make sure the “Preview” check box is marked, so you can view the adjustments before committing to them. When the dialog box appears, Elements will apply automatic corrections. You can make further adjustments by moving the sliders or entering values for “Lighten Shadows,” “Darken Highlights” and Midtone Contrast.” When you are done, click “OK.”
The Brightness/Contrast command is widely used by people new to Elements. Unfortunately, it has some real limitations. When you adjust your image using this command, it applies the changes to the entire image equally – including midtones and shadows that may or may not need fixing. If your image requires subtle adjustments and you want to use this command, select “Enhance| Adjust Lighting| Brightness/Contrast…” from the Menu Bar. Use the sliders to make your adjustments and click “OK.”
While the desired outcome is the same for the “Levels” command as the “Auto Fix Levels” command, this manual operation gives you precise control over the results. With Levels, you can adjust up to 256 different tones that can give you a much more natural finished look than the Brightness/Contrast command.
To use Levels, select “Enhance| Adjust Lighting| Levels…” from the Menu Bar. The “Levels” dialog box will appear, where you make your selections. The histogram shows how the pixels in the image are distributed at each of the 256 brightness levels, with shadows on the left, midtones in the middle and highlights on the right. While you can use the “Channel:” drop-down to select any of the available color channels, you generally want to make your changes in the RGB channel.
There are three eyedroppers under the buttons in the dialog box – black, gray and white. Click each of the eyedroppers and select pixels in the image that best represent those three options. For gray, try to find a point in the image with equal parts red, green and blue. If you need help identifying the parts of the image that are the most black, white and gray, Elements can help. Select “Window| Info,” which will launch the “Info panel.” When you have the panel opened, and you pass your cursor over your image (which will be an eyedropper), you will see the “R,” “G” and “B” color levels change. Since black is the total absence of color, the RGB levels should be at their lowest levels when you find the blackest part of the image. The opposite is true for white. You can also use the output sliders to adjust the levels for even more precise manual control. When you are happy with your results, click “OK” in the “Levels” dialog box.