May 16, 2011, 4:56 PM — Fifty years ago, any serious photographer would have told you that photography was equal parts taking the picture and developing it in the darkroom. Back then, however, few casual photographers bothered with the darkroom, so they missed out on the ability to really fine-tune their images. These days photography is still equal parts taking the picture and editing it--but the difference is that almost everyone does at least a little editing on the PC. Digital photography and image editing software have leveled the playing field: Now neophytes as well as pros can perfect their photos after they're taken. Last week I explained how to easily improve your photo's exposure using the Levels tool. This week, let's go back to basics. I want to show you some essential keyboard shortcuts that make Adobe Photoshop Elements a joy to use.
Let me be clear: I'm generally not a keyboard shortcut sort of guy. I know a lot of people who seem to know every keyboard shortcut under the sun, whereas I hate to take my hand off the mouse. But even I recognize the value in these tricks, because they simplify tasks you need to perform over and over and over again when editing photos.
1. Use the Spacebar to Grab Your Photo
Here's the most useful keyboard shortcut ever invented for photo editing: No matter what tool you currently have selected, just press and hold the spacebar to temporarily switch to the Hand tool. Drag your photo around until you can see the part you need, and then release. You'll be returned to your selected tool, so you can keep working without interruption. This works even if you are in the middle of making a selection with something like the Lasso tool.
2. Use the Scroll Wheel to Move Around Your Photo
Suppose you're zoomed in and want to get around the photo quickly. You could use the aforementioned spacebar trick to switch to the hand tool, but there's another way: Use your mouse's scroll wheel. When you roll the wheel, your photo will scroll up and down. But hold down the Ctrl key while you scroll, and it'll move from right to left. In this way, you can easily go anywhere in the photo without clicking.
3. Zoom In and Out With Scroll-Alt