Getting Started with Photoshop Elements Photo Organizer

Populating your Catalog

When your photos are organized, you will find your can enjoy them a lot more. In fact, with Photoshop Elements, the organizing process itself can also be a lot fun. Chances are you'll discover a lot of photos you didn't know you had, and you'll rediscover many you hadn't looked at in a while. You might even be inspired to scan in all your old photo prints you've got stashed in shoe boxes, as I have.

Although we say we are "importing photos into Elements," your photos don't actually live inside Elements. They are still files on your hard drive, just as they always have been. Photoshop Elements Photo Organizer just indexes them. You can think of the Organizer catalog a little like a computerized card catalog that you would find in a library. The catalog is just an index or database, but the actual books still sit on shelves in the library. Part of the job of a librarian is to track everything that happens to each book. They do this by way of the catalog. Similarly, you are the "librarian" of your photo collection, and Photo Organizer is the catalog where you index and track everything ahout those photos.

Imagine if someone snuck into the library and removed a book without going through the librarian. That book would be gone, but of course the library would still have a record of it in their catalog.

The same thing happens when you delete, rename or move photos on your computer outside of the Photo Organizer. This results in missing files in your database. You'll still see a thumbnail for them, but they will appear with a missing image icon. Organizer does a pretty good job of relocating photos you have moved, but it can save time if you do your file management directly through the Organizer using the File menu commands or via drag & drop in the folder tree when you switch to Folder Location view.

Deleted files, of course, won't be found and you will need to delete them from the catalog eventually. Again, it's best if you delete unwanted files directly from the Organizer.

The main point here is to understand that the photo files on your hard drive are not duplicates. Never delete a file on your hard drive thinking it will continue to existing inside Photoshop Elements.

That said, it's about time we got started importing and organizing! If you've already installed Elements, you may have already imported your photos and begun organizing with tags and collections. If that's where you're at, you can skip reading the importing steps that follow. If not, you have two choices for initially populating your catalog with photos from your hard disk:

If you were not diligent about storing all your photos in a few main folders, you can have Elements search your entire computer for photos. This has the potential of importing a lot of junk, so if you know more or less where you photos are located, you'd be better off using the import from files or folders method.
--> Importing Photos by Searching Your Computer

If you keep all your photos under My Pictures, or have a good idea which folders on your computer contain your personal photos, it will be faster and easier to acquire your pictures using the "From files and folders" method.

This is also the option to use for getting photos you have stored on CD or DVD.
--> Importing Photos from Files and Folders

To import photos by searching, go to File > Get Photos > By searching... The default settings are to look in all hard disks, exclude system and program folders, and exclude file smaller than 100KB. If you know you have files smaller than 1 megapixel (100KB) you may want to lower this number to 30KB or so, but be aware, this will likely result in finding a lot of non-photo image files as well. (But you'll be able to easily remove these extra files from your catalog after importing.) After choosing the settings, go ahead and click the Search button.

This might take a while, so go and grab yourself a beverage or snack.

When the search is complete, you'll get a long list of paths pointing to folders where pictures were found. A message below the folder list shows you how many files were found. Clicking on a folder in the list will show you small previews of those images along the right side of the dialog box. Chances are, most of the folders contain images that are not personal photos and which you don't want to import. After reviewing the list, Ctrl-click to select each of the folders containing pictures you want to import. Click Import Folders, and only those you selected will be imported.

When it's done, you might get a list of files that were not imported, either because they were duplicates or because the file was damaged. All you can do here is scan through the list and click OK. If you've ever had pictures sent to you from another Photoshop Elements or Photoshop Album user, you might see a screen for importing attached tags.

If you're just getting started with the Organizer, you can skip over this screen by making sure no boxes are checked and clicking OK. Importing tags can be useful, but when you're just starting out you'll want to establish your own tags first.

Finally, Elements will display a dialog box telling you that the files you just imported are the only ones being shown.

At this point it may be all photos in your catalog. If you need to import photos from CD or DVD, continue to the next page for instructions.
--> Importing Photos from Files and Folders

To import from specific folders, by clicking the Get Photos button on the toolbar (the camera icon), then choose "From Files and Folders" from the submenu. Navigate the dialog box until you see the top level folder where you store your photos and click once on it to highlight it. The "Get Photos" button should become available. If the folder has folders under it thtat contain photos, you'll want to make sure the "Get photos from subfolders" box is also check.

Then click the Get Photos button and sit back and wait. If you have a lot of photos on your computer it could take some time.

When it's done, you might get a list of files that were not imported, either because they were duplicates or because the file was damaged. All you can do here is scan through the list and click OK. If you've ever had pictures sent to you from another Photoshop Elements or Photoshop Album user, you might see a screen for importing attached tags. If you're just getting started with the Organizer, you can skip over this screen by making sure no boxes are checked and clicking OK. Importing tags can be useful, but when you're just starting out you'll want to establish your own tags first.

Finally, Elements will display a dialog box telling you that the files you just imported are the only ones being shown. At this point it may be all photos the in your catalog.

Importing by Drag & Drop

You can also drag and drop individual files or an entire folder of pictures from Windows Explorer onto the Photo Browser window.

If you're ever browsing your photos outside of the Photo Browser and you come across photos you're not sure if you've added to your catalog, this is a quick way to add them. If the file already exists in the catalog, a screen will pop up to tell you so and the files won't be imported a second time.

If the Photo Browser window is covered up by the window you are dragging from, you can pause on the Organizer button on the Windows taskbar in mid-drag and it will instantly pop forward.

Importing photos from CDs or DVDs

You probably also have digital photos stored on CDs and DVDs. At some point you might want to catalog these photos in the Organizer, too. You do this using the Get Photos > From Files and Folders command, but when you choose a folder from a CD or DVD, you have some additional options under the "Offline Media" section of the Get Photos dialog.

Keep Original Photos Offline - With this option, only a small "proxy" photo is copied to the hard drive. This proxy is used when browsing your photos in the organizer, but whenever you want to work with those photos, you will need to insert the original disc. If you leave this box unchecked, the full-size original photos are copied to your hard disk, making them more accessible. If you have plenty of disc space, I suggest you leave the box unchecked, and store the CD as an archive in a safe place. The only time I use this option, is for photo CD that have been given to me by someone else, where I want to browse them, but not I'm not likely to print or edit them, or use them in projects.

If you do choose to keep the original offline, be sure to make a reference note regarding the disk. Here you will want to make a note about how the disk is labeled and where it is stored. If you have a lot of photo discs, you might want to come up with a coding system to label the disc and cross-reference the code in the reference note.

Later, you might change your mind about keeping photos offline. If so, check out my tip on how to replace proxy images with the originals in Photoshop Elements Organizer.

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