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Chapter 4. Viewing and Finding Photos an... > Viewing Photos and Video Clips

Viewing Photos and Video Clips

The Photo Browser is the primary place where you'll view your photos. You have a lot of control over how the photos appear there, so you can optimize it according to your preferences and your current task. You can also view full-screen photos and video clips using Photo Review.

The two buttons at the upper right of the Organizer window determine its mode. If you click the Photo Browser button, your photos are shown as thumbnails or shown one photo at a time, in an arrangement (sorting) that you choose. Alternatively, you can view your photos in the context of a calendar by clicking the Date View button, described in the section “Finding by Date,” later in this chapter.

Using the Photo Browser to View in Date Order

The Photo Browser normally shows your photos sorted by time and date (Figure 4.1). You can choose how to arrange the photos via the pop-up menu in the lower-left corner of the window (or by choosing View > Arrangement).

Figure 4.1. In the Photo Browser you can change the size of the thumbnails, the sorting arrangement, and whether or not details (such as the date and time) are displayed.

The default order for items in the Photo Browser is Date (Newest First), but it is not quite the same as reverse chronological order. This arrangement puts the most recent day first, so you'll see that day's photos at the top of the Photo Browser. Within that day, however, the photos remain in chronological time order (with the pictures you took earliest in the day appearing first).

If you're looking at several days' worth of photos, the Newest First ordering can be annoying, since you see photos for each day in forward chronological order, but the days themselves are in reverse order. This is particularly troublesome if you took pictures just before and just after midnight on the same evening; the default ordering makes this sequence hard to follow. If you prefer a true reverse chronological time order, you can change this default behavior by choosing Preferences > General and clicking the Show Newest First within Each Day button (Figure 4.2).

Figure 4.2. In the Preferences' General pane, you can control options such as how the Newest-First arrangement sorts within a day, as well as whether filenames are displayed.

Alternatively, you can switch to the Date (Oldest First) arrangement, which is a simple chronological order: You'll always see your oldest photos at the top of the Photo Browser, and you'll have to scroll to the bottom to see the newest photos.

If you have Details enabled, the date (or date and time, if there's room) is shown below each photo. You can find photos by date just by scrolling through the Photo Browser, in either forward or reverse date order. If you drag the scroll bar slider, a tool tip shows the month and year of the photo at the top left of the Photo Browser.

Using Thumbnail Views

You can choose the size of the photos (thumbnails) in the Photo Browser by moving the thumbnail slider at the bottom of the window. The size range varies from quite small to large enough to fill the window. To move the slider, you can either click and drag it to a new position, or just click the position you want to move it to. You can instantly move the slider all the way to the left or right by clicking the icons at either end.


To jump to the next thumbnail size, use the shortcut keys, Ctrl-– (minus) and Ctrl-+ (plus). This changes the size of the thumbnails just enough to fit one less, or one more, thumbnail per row.

You'll find the smallest size useful when you're tagging large groups of images or scanning through lots of images for one that can be easily recognized (Figure 4.3). The medium sizes are most useful for general tagging and browsing, and the largest sizes are great when you want to see a photo close up.

Figure 4.3. The smallest thumbnail view is best for getting a broad overview of a set of photos.

You can also choose whether the Photo Browser shows any information about each photo, or just the photos themselves. Click the Details box to show the date and tag information. In general, you'll want to leave Details on. The details that are shown vary with the space available. On the smallest thumbnails, the date shows month and year but the day and time are not shown. As the thumbnail size increases, these details appear.

The tag information shown below the photo also varies with size. For the smallest thumbnails, tags are represented on the photo by a single generic tag icon. If you pause your pointer over this tag, the tool tip shows all the tag names. As the thumbnail size increases, tag category icons appear below the photo, giving you hints about which tags have been applied. Hover your pointer over these icons to see the tag names.

You can also choose to display the filename below the thumbnail by choosing Edit > Preferences > General and clicking the box for the Show File Names in Details option. Usually, filenames aren't important and there is no need to clutter up your Photo Browser with them. But if you're looking for a file with a particular name, this option can be helpful.

Smooth Scrolling

A critical feature of the Organizer's Photo Browser is the thumbnail cache, a special file that stores small copies of all your photos. In general, you needn't concern yourself with the thumbnail cache, but it helps to know about it in a few circumstances, such as when you have out-of-date thumbnails or when scrolling in the Photo Browser becomes sluggish.

When you first view new photos, the Organizer generates the thumbnails and stores them in the cache. While this is going on, you'll see a rotating hourglass icon in the lower-right corner of the screen, and scrolling performance will decline. You can avoid some of the resulting jerkiness by waiting for the thumbnail generation to complete (the rotating hourglass icon will disappear) before doing further work in the Photo Browser. Only the thumbnails needed for the currently displayed photos are generated, however, so you have to scroll through all the new photos before the thumbnail cache is filled with the most recent imported photos.

The thumbnail cache stores three different sizes of thumbnails, but only one is generated automatically upon import. So you may notice some jerkiness in the Photo Browser when you scroll through photos for the first time at a given size. The rotating hourglass at the bottom right of the window indicates that Elements is building thumbnails. You can avoid the poor responsiveness by selecting all the new photos and choosing Edit > Update Thumbnail for Selected Items, and then waiting for the thumbnail updates to complete.

If you edit a photo outside of Photoshop Elements, the copy in the thumbnail cache will not match the current version of the full-resolution file. To remedy this, right-click the thumbnail and choose Update Thumbnail. You can also do this with a multiple selection.

The thumbnail cache file can get quite large, and since it can be entirely regenerated from the original photo files, it is not saved as part of the backup process. Therefore, when you restore a backup to a new system, the thumbnail cache will initially be empty. Thumbnails are generated and stored in the cache as they are needed—that is, as you scroll through the Photo Browser. To make the Photo Browser more responsive, use the update all thumbnails technique described previously. If you are updating thumbnails for thousands of photos, take a coffee break.

See www.enjoyingdp.com/elements/thumbcache for more details on working with the thumbnail cache.

Selecting Photos

When you want to print, share, export, or perform any other action with one or more photos, you must first select them. Then choose the action you want to perform.

To select a single photo in the Photo Browser, just click it. (Click the photo itself; if you click the date or time, you'll trigger the date-editing dialog.) To extend the selection to multiple photos, use Shift-click or Ctrl-click:

  • Shift-click extends the selection contiguously to include a range of photos.

  • Ctrl-click adds noncontiguous photos to the selection.

You can also remove photos from a selection by Ctrl-clicking them after they are selected.

Using Single-Image View

To make each photo as large as possible, while staying within the Photoshop Elements window, click the button at the right end of the slider or double-click the thumbnail of the photo you want to view. This puts the Photo Browser into single-image view (Figure 4.4).

Figure 4.4. In single-image view, you get a good view of a single photo and can enter a caption. In this example, the photo area has been maximized by turning off the timeline (View > Timeline).

In single-image view, the image is scaled to fill the Photo Browser area. (If you want to zoom in and see part of the photo enlarged, use Photo Review, described later in this chapter.) Unlike the multi-photo views, in which the thumbnails are stored in a cache, in single-image view the image displayed is created by downsizing the original photo. Because this process can take a second or two (more on a slow PC, or for RAW files), Elements initially displays an image that is scaled up from the largest thumbnail.

When you move from photo to photo in single-image view, a grainy image (the upsized thumbnail) is displayed at first, and then the high-resolution image appears a short while later. (Unfortunately, if you find this behavior annoying, there is only one solution for now: Get a faster PC, and the transition will happen more quickly.)

Navigation and selection also work in a slightly different way in single-image view. When you click the scroll bar, the Photo Browser scrolls by exactly one photo. You can also use the left and right arrow keys to move from one photo to the next.

You don't have to select the image, as you do in thumbnail views, since there is only one photo in view, and that is presumably the one you want to act upon. The photo currently being viewed is treated as selected, so you can tag it, print it, export it, or whatever, without having to first click to select it.

The caption is shown if Details is enabled, and you can enter a new caption or edit an existing one. The audio-caption icon also appears, allowing you to play the audio caption if there is one. (To learn how to record an audio caption, see Chapter 8, “Making Creations.”)

If you double-click a photo in single-image view, the Photo Browser returns to a medium thumbnail size, so you can double-click to both enter and exit single-image view.

Using the Properties Palette

You can view all the information associated with a photo (such as the file size and location in the Windows' file system) by opening the Properties palette. You can do this several ways:

  • Right-click a photo or thumbnail and choose Show Properties.

  • Select a photo and press Alt-Enter.

  • Select a photo and click the Show/Hide Properties button at the bottom of the Photo Browser (Figure 4.5).

    Figure 4.5. Shortcut buttons at the bottom of the Photo Browser provide quick access to the Properties palette and Photo Review.

  • Select a photo and choose Window > Properties.

The Properties palette can be either docked in the Organize Bin (Figure 4.6) or free-floating (Figure 4.7). You can switch back and forth between the two modes by double-clicking the title bar (when floating) or the tab (when docked), or by choosing Window > Dock Properties in Organize Bin.

Figure 4.6. The Properties palette can be docked in the Organize Bin.

Figure 4.7. Properties as a free-floating window. The General pane provides a quick overview of the key information about a photo.

The floating Properties palette can be resized like any window. When it's docked, you can change its height by dragging the top divider up or down. Its width is set by the width of the Organize Bin, which you can change by dragging its left edge.

You can view properties for only one photo at a time; the Properties palette shows only the number of items selected if there is a multiple selection.

Properties panes

The Properties palette is divided into four panes: General, Tags, History, and Metadata. When you open Properties, the pane you last used is displayed.

The General pane shows a photo's caption, filename, and notes (Figures 4.6 and 4.7). You can edit all these items in this pane. If you edit the filename, the name of the file on the disk changes, and the link in the catalog is updated to match. This is the best way to rename individual files.

You can also see the photo's file size, pixel dimensions, folder location, and capture date. If there is an audio caption, you can play it by clicking the Audio Caption button in this pane. You can also record an audio caption (see Chapter 8).

The Tags pane shows all the tags that have been assigned to a photo (Figure 4.8).

Figure 4.8. The Tags pane of the Properties palette shows all the tags you've attached to a photo.

The History pane shows the history that Photoshop Elements has tracked for a photo (Figure 4.9). It shows the date when the file was last modified, the date it was imported, and the location from which it was imported. It also lists other actions you may have taken with the photo, including

  • Whether the photo has been edited

  • To whom the photo has been emailed

  • When the photo has been printed

  • When the photo has been sent for online photofinishing

  • What creations include the photo

  • When the photo has been exported

Figure 4.9. The History pane of the Properties palette shows what you've done with a photo in the past.

You can search for photos using this history information; see “Finding by History,” later in this chapter.

The Metadata pane shows information that is embedded in the photo file. This information most commonly comes from your digital camera, though some scanners and other software may provide information here as well. In Brief mode the Metadata pane shows the items you're most likely to be interested in: the basic camera settings (Figure 4.10). This information varies to some degree depending on the camera you are using, and it may be absent entirely if the image did not come from a digital camera. It may also be absent if you've edited the photo in certain programs; most older programs, and even a few newer ones, strip out the metadata when you edit a photo.

Figure 4.10. The Metadata pane of the Properties palette in Brief mode shows the most useful information from the photo file.

To get all the gory details, you can view the complete metadata by clicking the Complete button at the bottom of the pane (Figure 4.11). You may want to enlarge the window (if you're using the floating Properties palette) by dragging the lower-right corner so that you can see all the data at once. This pane shows every bit of metadata in the photo file. You generally won't need any information, however.

Figure 4.11. The Metadata pane in Complete mode shows all the metadata in the file.

Using Photo Review and Photo Compare

The quickest way to get a close look at a photo is to select it, and then press F11 or click the Photo Review button at the bottom of the Photo Browser. (You can also right-click the photo and choose Photo Review, or select the photo and choose View > Photo Review.) This fills most of the screen with the photo (Figure 4.12), with a toolbar at the top and a filmstrip down the right side.

Figure 4.12. Photo Review shows each photo nearly full-screen.

Photo Review shows your photos larger than in single-image view, and it eliminates all unnecessary window frames and other user interface components so you can focus on the photos themselves. It also allows you to zoom in to see only part of a photo. You can use Photo Review to display an instant slide show as well.

When you enter Photo Review, only photos that are present in the Photo Browser, with whatever search or filter is active, are shown. They are shown in the same order as in the Photo Browser, which depends on the arrangement you have selected. To include only certain photos, select them before switching to Photo Review.

Photo Compare is similar to Photo Review except two photos are displayed instead of one. It is described later in its own section.

Photo Review settings

The first time you use Photo Review, you'll see the Photo Review Preferences dialog (Figure 4.13). By default, this dialog will appear every time you enter Photo Review. I prefer to uncheck the box for “Show this dialog each time…” so that the preferences dialog doesn't appear every time. Once you decide on your preferred settings, you'll want to use the same ones again and again, and unchecking this box streamlines the process.

Figure 4.13. The Photo Review Preferences dialog lets you control various aspects of Photo Review.

You can access the Preferences dialog at any time in Photo Review should you want to change your settings.

You can choose a file for background music, though you'll probably leave this setting on None most of the time (unless you like listening to the same music over and over while you're looking at your photos).

Background music is useful primarily when you're using Photo Review to create an instant slide show to share at your PC. Choose from the music in the pop-up list, which includes all audio files that have been imported into your catalog. Unless you've imported audio files (oddly enough, via Get Photos), this list will be the music that comes with Photoshop Elements and is added to new catalogs by default. Click Browse to choose a file that is not in the catalog; the Organizer will import it automatically.

If you have audio captions with any of the photos, you can choose whether they play during an instant slide show. You can record audio captions in your camera if it has that capability, or you can record them using Elements.

The Page Duration pop-up menu gives you a choice of a 2-, 4-, or 10-second delay per photo, but you aren't limited to those choices. While it may not be apparent, you can click this field and type in any number you want, from 1 second to 3600 seconds (1 hour).

The options with check boxes control various aspects of how Photo Review displays photos:

  • Include Captions: Determines whether text captions are displayed.

  • Allow Photos to Resize: This applies only to photos that are of lower resolution than the display on which Photo Review is running. If the box is checked, such photos will be stretched (but not distorted) to fill the screen as well as they can. If the box is unchecked, such photos are shown at a size determined by their pixel dimensions (for example, a 640×480 photo would occupy one-fourth of a 1280×1024 screen).

  • Allow Video to Resize: Video clips are generally of much lower resolution than your screen. If you check this box, they will be stretched to fill the screen and will therefore look grainy and fuzzy. If you're viewing the slide show from a distance, this may be preferable, but if you're looking at it up close, you'll probably want to leave this box unchecked. The video will then be shown in a window at the center of the screen and will have its maximum sharpness.

  • Repeat Slide Show: If this box is checked, the slide show will start over automatically after the last photo. If the box is left unchecked, the slide show will stop with the last photo.

Controlling Photo Review

Once you're in Photo Review, you control what's displayed via the toolbar in the upper-left corner (Figure 4.14).

Figure 4.14. The Photo Review toolbar makes it easy to move between photos, rotate photos, zoom in on a photo, or take actions such as tagging a photo.

The three buttons at the left control navigation of the photos, and whether they advance automatically or not. When you first enter Photo Review, the automatic advance is paused. To start a timed advance (in other words, to play a slide show), click the large green button with the arrow. The photos will be sequenced at the rate set in Photo Review settings. While a slide show is playing, the play button changes to a pause button.

You can advance one photo forward or backward using the smaller arrow buttons, but the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard do the same thing and are generally easier to use.

The button with the×exits Photo Review, but again the shortcut key—Esc—is easier to use.

Taking action in Photo Review

Moving to the right along the toolbar, the next few icons allow you to rotate or delete the currently displayed photo.

A great deal of capability lies within the Action menu, which invokes a menu of actions that you can take on the current photo. You can't do everything you can do in the Photo Browser, but you'll be able to do most of what you want (Figure 4.15).

Figure 4.15. The Action menu makes it possible to perform many actions on a photo without leaving Photo Review.

From the Action menu, you can auto-fix a photo, mark it as one you want to print, tag the photo or remove a tag, add the photo to or remove it from a collection, or display the Properties palette.

Rating photos

When you're reviewing photos, one of the most important things you can do is to tag them for their quality, which enables you to dramatically reduce the number of photos you need to look through later when looking for good shots. You can do this via the Action menu by choosing Attach Tag > 3 Stars, for example. But the only way to do this efficiently is to use the shortcut keys, which are easy in this case:

  • Alt-F1 for Favorites, Alt-F2 for Hidden

  • Ctrl-1 through Ctrl-5, for 1-star through 5-star ratings

You can also delete the current photo by clicking on the trash-can icon. Depending on your particular catalog and PC, however, deleting can be much slower than tagging. One alternative is to tag photos you expect to delete as Hidden, and then later delete all the hidden photos at once. (This is inconvenient, of course, if you are using the Hidden tag for any photos that you don't want to delete.)

Marking photos for printing

You can't print directly from Photo Review, but you can mark photos as ones you'd like to print. While viewing a photo, choose Mark for Printing from the Action menu. Nothing apparent happens when you do so; but once you exit Photo Review, the Organizer will indicate how many photos you've marked and ask if you want to print them, either on your own printer or via an online photofinisher. Chapter 9, “Printing Your Photos,” explains what happens next.


By default, Photo Review fits each photo to the screen, which is usually what you want when you're looking through a set of photos. The entire photo is always shown; it's not cropped to match the aspect ratio of the screen. Unless the photo is of exactly the same aspect ratio as your screen resolution, you'll see black stripes either at the top and bottom or at the sides.

If you want to judge the sharpness of an image, there's no substitute for viewing actual pixels: One pixel on the screen shows exactly one pixel in the full-resolution image. You can switch to this mode by clicking the Actual Pixels button.

Unless you have a particularly high-resolution monitor or a low-resolution image, you'll only be able to see part of your image in Actual Pixels view. (For example, a 6-megapixel image is about 3000 pixels wide, whereas typical PC screens range from 1024 to 1600 pixels wide, so they can display only a third to a half the width of the image.) To see other parts of the image, use the scroll bars.

In addition to the fit on screen and actual-pixels views, you can choose any zoom level by clicking and dragging the zoom control slider at the right of the toolbar. A higher magnification than Actual Pixels (100 percent)—such as 200 percent or 300 percent—is useful when examining small details.

Customizing the display

The strip of photos at the right edge of the screen is useful when you're jumping around from one photo to another, but when you're just stepping through photos using the arrow keys or viewing a slide show it's distracting and unnecessary. You can close it by clicking on the center of its left edge (Figure 4.16). When it's closed, this edge remains visible, so you can open it again by clicking on the same spot.

Figure 4.16. Click the small button at the center of the left edge of the filmstrip to open and close it. Click any photo to show it full-screen.

You can move the toolbar by clicking the handle at its left edge and dragging. By default, the toolbar sits a little inside the top-left corner. I prefer to push it all the way up into the corner. You can also reduce the toolbar to just the four navigational controls by clicking the arrow at the toolbar's right edge.

A Hidden Way to Clean Up Photo Review

If you want to just view your photos and eliminate the onscreen toolbar and the edge of the filmstrip at the right—you can. A hidden control switches Photo Review into a different mode of operation, in which the toolbar fades away completely when you haven't moved the mouse or pressed a key for a few seconds. In this mode, the filmstrip doesn't show, and there is no vertical stripe at the right edge of the screen.

To enter this hidden mode, go into Photo Review and choose Photo Review Preferences from the Action menu. While the Preferences dialog is displayed, press Ctrl-Alt-Shift-F. This switches Photo Review in to or out of the special mode. Note that this key combination works only while the Photo Review Preferences dialog is open. Once you've changed the setting, it persists unless you change it again.

Using video in Photo Review

Photo Review works for video as well as for photos. You can play a series of video clips, or mix stills and video.

If you're advancing manually from a photo or a video to another video, the new clip won't play automatically; you must click the green play button. Once you've clicked the button, the video will play and the slide show will continue. Still photos are shown for the time selected in Photo Review Preferences, but video clips always run for whatever their duration is.

If you have a camera that produces 320×240 video clips, you'll probably want to disable Allow Video to Resize in Photo Review Preferences, because low-resolution clips look terrible when scaled up to full-screen size unless you're across the room. But if you have a camera that produces 640×480 video clips, I recommend enabling this option; such clips can look remarkably good even when scaled up to 1280×1024.

Photo Compare

You can also view two photos at once, which can be very useful when you're trying to choose the best photo from a set (Figure 4.17). You can enter Photo Compare from the Photo Browser by selecting two or more photos and pressing F12, or choosing View > Photo Compare. If you're already in Photo Review, just click the Photo Compare button in the toolbar.

Figure 4.17. Photo Compare shows two photos next to each other for easy comparison. Select either pane by clicking on it, and then click in the filmstrip to change the photo in the current window.

You can change the layout of the photos by clicking on the triangle to the right of the Photo Compare button. You can split the window either horizontally or vertically (Figure 4.18).

Figure 4.18. You can choose either a horizontal or a vertical split of the Photo Compare screen.

The toolbar and filmstrip are associated with one of the two windows at a time. Click in the window you want to change, and then click in the filmstrip or toolbar. The selected window is indicated by a blue outline.

When zooming and panning in Photo Compare, you can choose whether or not the two windows are linked by clicking the chain-link icon at the right of the toolbar. If you're comparing two very similar photos, linking the windows makes it easy to zoom in and scan around, comparing the two photos for sharpness and other details (Figure 4.19).

Figure 4.19. Zooming in to Actual Pixels view in Photo Review, with the two windows locked together, is a great way to compare sharpness on two photos of the same scene.

Photo Compare is not very useful for video clips, because it shows only the first frames of each video; you can't play them in their entirety in Photo Compare.

Working with stacks

If you have sets of photos of the same scene that you have made into stacks, Photo Review and Photo Compare are great tools for finding the best one of the set. From the Photo Browser, click the stack and press Ctrl-Alt-R to reveal the stack's elements. Then press F11 for Photo Review.

Once you've found the best photo, you'll want to set that photo on top of the stack. Unfortunately, you can't do so from Photo Review or Photo Compare; you have to exit to the Photo Browser:

Navigate to the best photo in Photo Review or Photo Compare.

Press Esc, and the Photo Browser will show that photo as selected, so you'll know which one it is.

Right click on that photo and choose Stack > Set as Top Photo.

Alternatively, you can apply star ratings while viewing the stack's members in Photo Review, and then examine the star ratings in the Photo Browser to choose which to place on top of the stack.

Viewing Video Clips from the Photo Browser

As mentioned earlier, only the first frame of a video clip is shown in the Photo Browser. A small icon appears in the upper-right corner of the video's thumbnail to indicate that it is a video (Figure 4.20).

Figure 4.20. The filmstrip icon in the upper-right corner indicates that this thumbnail represents a video clip. The image is the first frame in the clip.

You can view video files in two ways: via Photo Review, as described in the previous section, or using the video player window. To use the latter approach, double-click the video clip's thumbnail in the Photo Browser, which opens the video player window (Figure 4.21). You can play the video by clicking the large button or move to a particular spot in it by dragging the large slider.

Figure 4.21. Double-clicking a video clip displays the video player.

The video player window opens at a size that shows the video at its optimum resolution—that is, each pixel of the video is represented by one pixel on the screen. You can enlarge the window by dragging any corner or side (just as with any Windows window). You'll lose some crispness, since the video is of lower resolution than the area in which you're displaying it, but if you're viewing the screen from any distance (especially if multiple people are watching), it will give you a better view.

Unfortunately, the video player window reverts to the minimum size each time you open it, and you can't advance from one clip to the next without closing the window. As a result, you have to resize the window every time you play a video if you want it larger than the minimum. Using Photo Review (with Allow Video to Resize enabled in Photo Review Preferences) is a better option for playing video clips scaled to fit the screen, as well as for playing a series of clips one after another.

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