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Part 2:  Cropping;  Brightness/Contrast

This article describes the procedure for opening an image in elements and performing two basic operations, namely cropping the image and adjusting the brightness and contrast.  Hopefully you will see that it’s not all that complicated.  

Start the Program

Double click on the desktop icon for Elements.  The opening screen shown at right will appear.  

Click on Photo Editor to go directly to the editing part of Elements.  I never use the Organizer, which is a system for organizing and cataloging your photos.  I use Windows Explorer instead.  

When the editor opens, be sure Expert is highlighted at the top, as opposed to Quick or Guided.  We will go for the gold, from the outset.

Load the Image to be Edited.  

At the upper left, click on File.  A fairly long drop-down menu will appear.  Click on Open, which is the second item on the list.  

A browser window will appear.  Navigate to the image you want to open and then click Open.  The image will then appear in the editor.

To get rid of the Photo Bin and the Layers panel, which we will not use, click on the Photo Bin icon at the lower left, and also Layers, just to the right of bottom center. This will make the editing window larger.  

You are now ready to begin editing your image.  


The first thing I usually do is crop the image to eliminate excess space and place the subject within the borders where I think it looks best.  Turnings are usually centered with slightly more space at the top than at the bottom.  

Click on the cropping tool in the tool panel.  Then use your mouse to click and drag a cropping box onto the image.  Make fine adjustments by dragging the sides of the box, or move the box as a whole by dragging the center of the box.  When it looks good, click on the “accept” icon, the green checkmark, and it will be done.  

Save the cropped image to make the change permanent.  To preserve the original uncropped image, click “Save As”  in the File drop-down menu and give the cropped image a new name.  The following photos show the image before and after cropping.

After cropping the image, I then address its biggest flaw.  For the image above, that is obviously the color balance, which is way off. However, for the purpose of this article, my preference is to do the lighting adjustment next, so I’ll switch to a different image that doesn’t have such a severe color problem.  

Brightness/Contrast.  This allows you to correct an image that is overall too light or too dark.  The contrast control allows you to add the “pop” so that the image appears clear and crisp as opposed to lifeless and dull.  

Here’s the image I’ve selected.  It’s a pine box of sorts that I turned many years ago from a piece of (sorry) firewood.   

Open the image in the editor.  At the top of the screen, click on Enhance.  A drop-down menu will appear. Hover the mouse over Adjust Lighting.  A second menu will fly out to the right, showing three different options.

The Shadows/Highlights option is good for an image that has shadows that are too dark or prominent, and perhaps highlights that are too bright.  It enables you to lighten the shadows and darken the highlights, in controlled amounts, of course.  

Move your mouse to the right and click on Shadows/Highlights.  An adjustment box with sliders will appear, and the shadows will be lightened by 35%, the default setting.  

This by itself improves the image dramatically, but the effect produced by the default setting may be a bit much.  So, move the Darken Shadows slider to the left to reduce the effect.  

Another slider is the Darken Highlights.  It’s default setting is zero, so it does nothing until you move the slider to the right.  It then darkens the highlights, of course.  

Lightening the shadows and darkening the highlights tends to reduce the contrast of the image a bit.  The third slider, Midtone Contrast, allows you to correct this effect.  

Here’s the image after tweaking the sliders.  I lightened the shadows 12%,  darkened the highlights 15%, and boosted the midtone contrast by 10%.

To my eye, the image is now just a tad dark, but not by much.  We can fix that by adjusting the brightness.  So, click on Enhance, then hover over Adjust Lighting, and select Brightness/Contrast from the flyout menu.  A new set of sliders will appear. I increased the brightness 30% and boosted the contrast 5%.  

Here is a before-and-after comparison of the two images.  

Actually, the background in the final image is a bit brighter than what I prefer.  Maybe I overdid the brightness just a little, which is always a judgment call.  At any rate, Elements provides a way to darken one part of the image while leaving the rest untouched, but it involves making selections, which is a little beyond the intent of this article.  

Also, I shot the picture using a textured window shade as a background, and texture is not good.  You can see it if you look closely near the bottom of the box, and it causes horizontal striations to appear in the background, also not good.  But such is the price of education.  

At this point, let’s move on to the next article to see if we can correct the color balance in that image we were working with earlier.  

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