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How to edit photos – beginners guide to Photoshop Elements

April 11, 2022

Photo editing is the next step in photography – once you’ve taken the shot, if you need to make any changes, crop the image, change the colour, or fix any blemishes, then a photo editing package will let you do this. This how to guide will get you started with the basics and is our beginners guide to editing photos with Photoshop Elements.


Welcome to the AP Improve Your Photography Series – in partnership with MPB – This series is designed to take you from the beginnings of photography, introduce different shooting skills and styles, and teach you how to grow as a photographer, so you can enjoy producing amazing photography (and video), to take you to the next level, whether that’s making money or simply mastering your art form.

Improve your photography from AP and MPB

Each week you’ll find a new article so make sure to come back to continue your journey. The start may seem basic to some photographers, but it’s an important step in making sure you’re comfortable with your equipment and the basics of photography, as it’s part of the foundations that help build into great photographs, and once you know these, you’ll be able to play with them, and understand further articles in this series.


There are a few photo editing packages that come with Windows and Mac computers, but these are quite basic, and it’s likely that you’ll soon reach the limits of what you can do with these.

In many ways Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard for photo editing, but it comes at a fairly high-price, being roughly £10/month, and if you stop paying this you’re no longer able to use it, meaning you could be looking at paying £10/month for the rest of your photo editing life!

But, there are a few different options out there, particularly if you want to save money.

Adobe offer Photoshop Lightroom, as well as Photoshop Elements.

Adobe Photoshop Elements - Quick Mode

Adobe Photoshop Elements – Quick Mode

For most people Photoshop Elements will give enough features for editing images, and it’s one of the best photo editing software packages available for beginners.

How much does Adobe Photoshop Elements 2022 cost?

You can try Photoshop Elements for free for 30-days, without paying. If you do want to buy it, then you’ll find it’s price is £86 as a one-off payment. We’d recommend you give the trial a go before shelling out for it, as some people love Photoshop Elements, and some people don’t!

Things you’ll want a photo editing package to do:

  • Crop and resize images
  • Adjust colour
  • Adjust brightness and contrast
  • Remove unwanted objects from an image
  • Convert to black and white
  • Adjust orientation
  • Create artistic effects and changes

There are also a range of free photo editing tools out there… (have a look at our list here)

We’ll use Adobe Photoshop Elements 2022 as our starting guide, as the tools and controls on offer are fairly universal, and you should be able to find very similar features in other photo editing packages.

An an example the hand selection tool is used in almost every photo editing package available to move the image around. The zoom tool, crop tool, and text tools are all universal tools that you’ll find in other packages as well.

There are three different ways of using Photoshop Elements, using the Quick, Guided, and Expert tabs at the top, and this makes it really user-friendly for the beginner.  Once you’ve got Photoshop Elements installed, and gone into the “Photo Editor”, you’ll want to start with using the program in the Quick mode.

Top left controls

These are the main tools you’ll be using to adjust images, or crop… (top left), and hover over the controls and you’ll find a text label pops up so you can see what each tool does.

Adobe Photoshop Elements - Quick Tools

Adobe Photoshop Elements – Quick Tools

There are also keyboard shortcuts you can use if you want to quickly switch between them when editing an image. Here are the tools, and the keyboard shortcuts in brackets – simply press the key on your keyboard for the tool you want to switch to. You can press it again and it till toggle between the different options if the tool has more than one function.

Adobe Photoshop Elements - Quick Tools - and keyboard shortcuts

Adobe Photoshop Elements – Quick Tools – and keyboard shortcuts

The 10 Tools you need to know in Photoshop Elements

Here’s a quick overview of what each of these tools do. Once you’ve got these worked out, you’ll be ready to change and adjust your image with ease.

  1. Zoom tool – this lets you zoom into the image for a better view, as well as zoom out (you’ll also find a zoom slide control in the top right)
  2. Hand tool (H) – this lets you move around the image if you’ve zoomed in
  3. Quick selection tool (A) – This lets you select something in the image, and once you’ve selected it, you’ll be able to use the move tool to move this (if needed), or you can select something in the image to adjust just the selected area
  4. Eye tool (Y) – This is designed to correct “red-eye” in photos, but also offers a pet-eye option, as well as opening closed eyes! Depending on the photo you use, you may get mixed results.
  5. Whiten teeth (F) – This one needs no explanation; it’s designed to whiten teeth. Simply draw over the area in the image where you want to whiten teeth.
  6. Straighten tool (P) – To use this you draw a line along an edge in the image, and the program will automatically straighten it for you
  7. Horizontal text tool (T) – This lets you create text, and once you’ve selected it, you’ll find a variety of options at the bottom
  8. Spot healing brush tool (J) – this is great for removing anything you don’t want in your image – try the “Content aware” option and Photoshop Elements will automatically work out what needs to fill the content you are removing
  9. Crop tool (C) – This lets you crop the image, as well as set the aspect ratio, for example you could set it to 5:5 if you want a square image
  10. Move tool (V) – This lets you move selected in the image, or any other objects you’ve created, such as text

Top right options

The top right is where you’ll find quick adjustments you can make, and with Photoshop Elements you can see the changes apply to your image in real time as you select the different options available. If you don’t like the changes, simple click the “Undo” button at the top.

Adobe Photoshop Elements - Top right tools

Adobe Photoshop Elements – Top right tools

Don’t forget to check out the “Create” menu at the top , where there are a range of different tools available, including the ability to create a Slideshow, Collage, Prints, Cards, Photo books, Calendars and more.

Bottom left options

You’ll also find an undo and redo button at the bottom left. This is also where you’ll find the different options available when using the tools from the top left corner.

Adobe Photoshop Elements - Bottom left

Adobe Photoshop Elements – Bottom left (Undo/redo and more)

Bottom right options

Bottom right you’ll find more options, including fx/effects, textures, and frames.

Adobe Photoshop Elements - Bottom right

Adobe Photoshop Elements – Bottom right

Don’t forget to save your changes…

We’d recommend saving the edited file as a new file, so that you always have your original image to go back should you need to. For example, you might not like the changes you’ve made, or you might want to try something completely different. If you keep the original image untouched, then you can always start again. You’ll find all the options for opening and saving images in the File menu at the top.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 2022 – Beyond the Quick mode:

Guided mode

Adobe Photoshop Elements Guided mode

Adobe Photoshop Elements Guided mode

After you’ve got to grips with the basics, why not have a look at the guided mode. You might find it quicker to try some of these guided features, as the software teaches you how to get the results you want, for example with object removal, or creating a vintage effect.

Expert mode

Adobe Photoshop Elements - Expert mode

Adobe Photoshop Elements – Expert mode

Once you’ve got to grips with the Basic mode, or if you want to jump right in, then have a look at the Expert mode, which has a similar layout of controls as the full Adobe Photoshop program. To find out what each of the tools do, simply hover over them and you’ll see pop-up text letting you know.

You’ll also find a range of Photoshop Elements tutorials on Adobe’s website.

Some helpful Photoshop Elements links:

An introduction to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is an advanced image editing, and management tool. This uses a library  (catalogue) in order to keep a record of all your changes. It can be particularly useful if you’re editing a large number of images and want to apply the same changes to all of your images. It’s also available as the “Classic” desktop application, or the new Lightroom Creative Cloud (CC) version, letting you work with documents “in the cloud” across different devices.

An introduction to Adobe Photoshop 2022

Adobe Photoshop CC 2022

Adobe Photoshop CC 2022

Adobe Photoshop tends to get all the latest features first, and if you’re serious about photo editing, then Photoshop is well worth learning. It’s one of the most popular photo editing packages available, so you’ll find lots of tutorials on-line on how to use it and get the most out of it.

Adobe Photoshop Vs Photoshop Elements – What’s the difference?

Adobe Photoshop is the flagship image editing package from Adobe, and not only gives photo editors and retouchers a complete package of tools, but also offers specific workspaces for 3D, Graphic and Web, Motion, Painting and Photography. It offers a vast array of tools, but with that, it can at times seem a bit daunting, as it can take a while to get used to the software and controls, as well as how to make the changes you want.

In comparison, Photoshop Elements is designed to be quick, and easy, for both beginners and the more advanced photographer, and includes a range of tools that help you produce content for print, such as photobooks, calendars and cards. Of course you can do the same with Photoshop, but you will need to work out how it’s all going to be laid out yourself. Some people will prefer the precise control over every step, whereas others will prefer the simplicity of Elements.

For the more advanced photographer and editor, Adobe Photoshop provides a complete range of tools that mean you can expand into different areas beyond just photography, whether that’s graphic design, illustration, motion or more.

Adobe Photoshop 2022

Adobe Photoshop 2022 – Photography Workspace

There’s also a big difference in how you buy and pay for Photoshop vs Elements. Photoshop is a subscription package, with the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography package (which includes Photoshop and Lightroom) available for around £10/month and you’ll always get the most recent version when it comes out. Whereas Photoshop Elements is subscription free, meaning you pay for it once, and it’s yours forever, but if you want the latest version, you’ll need to buy it again.

More on Adobe Photoshop:

You’ll also find versions of Adobe Photoshop available on your smartphone or iPad so you can start editing on the move.

If you’re looking for free alternatives, or want to know what else is available, have a look at our guide to free and subscription-free photo editing software.

For an extensive guide to Photoshop and Lightroom, have a look at the AP Improve Your Photography “Photoshop and Lightroom” book. or have a look at the Photo Editing section.


Tune in next week, for the next article in the series of the AP Improve Your Photography Series – in partnership with MPB.

Find the latest Improve Your Photography articles here.


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