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This chapter is from the book

Photo Quick Fix

Elements’ Quick Fix does exactly what it says. It quickly fixes your photos and it’s a great tool if you don’t have a lot of experience with color correction or fixing lighting and tonal issues. Basically, if you know that something is wrong but you’re not sure where to go, then give Quick Fix a try first. As you become more comfortable in Elements, you’ll outgrow Quick Fix and want to use Levels and Unsharp Mask and all that cool stuff, but if you’re new to Elements, Quick Fix can be a fantastic place to start.

  • Step One: Open the photo that needs color correcting (in the example we’ll use here, our photo [shown below] needs the works—color correction, more contrast, and some sharpening). So, choose EDIT Quick from the Edit tab’s pop-up menu at the top of the Palette Bin to go to Quick Fix mode.
  • Step Two: The Quick Fix window shows you side-by-side, before-and-after versions of the photo you’re about to correct (before on the top or left, after on the bottom or right). If you don’t see this view, go to the View pop-up menu in the bottom left of the window and select Before & After (Horizontal or Vertical). To the right of your side-by-side preview is a group of nested palettes offering tonal and lighting fixes you can perform on your photo. Start with the Smart Fix palette at the top. Click the Auto button and Smart Fix will automatically analyze the photo and try to balance the overall tone (adjusting the shadows and highlights), fixing any obvious color casts while it’s at it. In most cases, this feature does a surprisingly good job. There’s also an Amount slider within Smart Fix that you can use to increase (or decrease) the effect of the Smart Fix.
  • Step Three: If you apply Smart Fix and you’re not happy with the results, don’t try to stack more “fixes” on top of that—instead, click the Reset button that appears over the top-right corner of the After preview to reset the photo to how it looked when you first entered Quick Fix mode. If the color in your photo looks a little flat and needs more contrast, try the Levels Auto button, found in the Lighting palette (the second palette down). I generally stay away from Auto Contrast, as Auto Levels seems to do a better job. There’s another very powerful tool in this palette—the Lighten Shadows slider. Drag it to the right a little bit, and watch how it opens up the dark shadow areas in your photo (mainly in the hair here). When you’re done with the slider, click the Commit checkmark in the palette header.
  • Step Four: You may notice a tiny icon to the left of each slider in Quick Fix. This is new in Elements 8 and lets you adjust each setting in a more visual (and sometimes precise) way. Just click on an icon and a group of thumbnails will appear below the slider. As you hover your cursor over each thumbnail, you’ll see a preview of your image with that setting, so you don’t have to drag the slider back and forth. If you like one, but want just a little more (or less) of the setting, click-and-drag from side to side on a thumbnail to move the slider in increments of 1. Now, on to more Quick Fixing.
  • Step Five: The next palette down, Color, has an Auto button that (surprisingly enough) tries to remove color casts and improve contrast like Smart Fix and Levels do, but it goes a step further by including a midtones correction that can help reduce color casts in the midtone areas. Hit the Reset button to remove any corrections you’ve made up to this point, and then try the Auto button in the Color palette. See if the grays in the photo don’t look grayer and less yellow. In fact, with this photo, everything looks cooler and less yellow. Here’s the thing, though: just because it looks cooler doesn’t mean that it’s right. Elements is just trying to neutralize the photo. In this case, I personally like the warmer feel, but it’s a creative choice by you at this point. The Saturation and Hue sliders here are mostly for creating special color effects (try them and you’ll see what I mean). You can pretty much ignore these sliders unless you want to get “freaky” with your photos. In the Balance palette, the Temperature and Tint sliders will let you manually remove color casts, but honestly, the Auto button in the Color palette is probably going to be your best bet.
  • Step Six: After you’ve color corrected your photo (using the Auto buttons and the occasional slider), the final step is to sharpen your photo (by the way, to maintain the best quality, this should be the final step—the last thing you do in your correction process). Just click the Auto button in the Detail palette and watch the results. If the photo isn’t sharp enough for you, drag the Sharpen slider to the right to increase the amount of sharpening, but be careful—oversharpening can ruin the photo by becoming too obvious, and it can introduce color shifts and “halos” around objects.
  • Step Seven: There are a few other things you can do while you’re here (think of this as a one-stop shop for quickly fixing images). Along the bottom of the window are icons you can click to rotate your photo (this photo doesn’t need to be rotated, but hey, ya never know). In the Toolbox on the left, there’s a Red Eye Removal tool, if your photo needs it. Just click-and-drag over the problem area in your After preview for red-eye control. The Toolbox also has tools for whitening teeth, making skies blue, and making your photo black and white, but you’ll probably find you like other techniques shown in this book for those tasks better. You know what the Zoom and Hand tools do (they zoom you in, and then move you around), and you can also crop your photo by using the Crop tool within the After preview, so go ahead and crop your photo down a bit. Lastly, you can make a selection with the Quick Selection tool.
  • Step Eight: Okay, you’ve color corrected, fixed the contrast, sharpened your image, and even cropped it down to size. So how do you leave Quick Fix mode and return to the regular Elements Editor? Choose EDIT Full from the Edit tab’s pop-up menu at the top of the Palette Bin (the same menu you used to get into Quick Fix mode). It basically applies all the changes to your photo and returns you to the normal editing mode.
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