Don’t destroy it, edit it
George Cairns shows how to tweak an image without altering the original file
Make changes to a JPEG in Elements without destroying your original file by using adjustment layers
Photoshop Elements’ image adjusting tools and commands are great for overcoming problems caused by your camera. This is just as well because most photos benefit from post-production tweaking to improve colour and tone – a camera isn’t as adept at dealing with highcontrast situations as the human eye.
For example, when shooting a landscape your camera may struggle to get a balanced exposure due to the contrast between the bright sky and the ground. Its auto metering mode may set the aperture and shutter speed to capture detail in the darker ground, but this will cause the highlights in the sky to over-expose and lose detail. On the other hand, if the camera tries to capture bright sky detail, it can turn the landscape into an under-exposed silhouette.
You could use a graduated neutral density filter in this sort of situation, but if you don’t have one you can fix the shot later. Elements’ main menu has a handy Enhance section that gives you access to tone-tweaking tools such as the Levels command. These commands can do a good job of clawing back missing shadow detail. However, once you’ve changed the colours and tones of an image then
you’re stuck with the results, especially if you replace the original file with the edited version when you save it.
Fortunately, you can apply many of the main menu commands as adjustment layers. These image-editing layers float above the original photo layer in the Layers panel. Adjustment layers are very versatile. You can make changes to them, then turn them on and off to compare the edited shot with the original.