Exploring RAW Image Editing with Photoshop Elements

In the realm of photo editing, Adobe Photoshop has long been the go-to software for professionals and enthusiasts alike. However, its accessibility can be daunting for beginners, and the subscription model might be a turn-off for some. This is where Photoshop Elements steps in, offering a one-time payment model and a more beginner-friendly interface. In this post, I navigate the process of editing a RAW image using Photoshop Elements, highlighting its features and comparing them to the full version of Photoshop.

In a recent video I explored Photoshop Elements and its benefits for photo editors. You can watch the video at the end of this article, but here is a summary of what I covered.

The Photoshop Elements Interface:

Upon opening Photoshop Elements, the interface reveals a set of tools on the left, options along the bottom, and three modes at the top: Quick, Guided, and Advanced. Opting for the Advanced mode, will provide you with a layers palette – a crucial feature for advanced editing. The layers palette allows for a non-destructive approach to editing, enabling users to experiment and fine-tune their edits without altering the original image.

Working with Camera RAW:

Before diving into the edits, we need to install Camera RAW, a tool similar to Lightroom that facilitates RAW file editing. While Camera RAW in Photoshop Elements lacks some features present in the full version of Photoshop, it provides a range of powerful tools. Auto adjustments, temperature tweaks, and adjustments to contrast, highlights, and shadows set the initial tone for the RAW image.

Selective Editing in Photoshop Elements:

One drawback of Camera RAW for Photoshop Elements becomes apparent in the absence of selective editing tools that are present in the full version. However, a workaround for this is to use tools within Photoshop Elements itself to emulate the effects of selective editing. Through layer masks and careful adjustments, we can bring attention to specific areas of the image without affecting the entire photograph.

Selective Sharpening:

Selective sharpening can also be very useful, and it’s important to note that not all images require global sharpening. Duplicating layers, applying sharpening filters, and using layer masks enable the user to selectively enhance certain elements of the image, such as foreground details, while maintaining softness in the background.

Emulating HSL Adjustments:

In the absence of Hue, Saturation, Luminance (HSL) sliders in Camera RAW, we cab emulate these adjustments using the Hue and Saturation panel in Photoshop Elements. By individually tweaking colour channels, subtle yet impactful changes can be made to specific elements in the photograph, adding vibrancy and depth.

Creating a Vignette Effect:

To conclude the editing process, a vignette is applied to the image. Using a new layer and the gradient tool, a subtle vignette is created, drawing focus to the central elements of the image. In the video I show the blend mode and opacity adjustments necessary to achieve the desired effect.

Learning from the Experience:

In the final section, the blogger reflects on the experience of using Photoshop Elements for RAW image editing. While acknowledging the limitations, such as the absence of certain advanced tools, the blogger highlights the surprising number of features available in Elements, especially considering its one-time payment model. The verdict is clear: while professionals may stick to the full version of Photoshop, Photoshop Elements provides an excellent, cost-effective option for beginners.


In the video, I’ve explored the intricacies of RAW image editing using Photoshop Elements. From working with Camera RAW to emulating selective editing and making nuanced adjustments, Photoshop Elements proves to be a powerful tool for those entering the world of photo editing. While it may not replace the full version for seasoned professionals, its accessibility and feature set make it an attractive choice for beginners looking to enhance their photography skills.

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