Using Photoshop Elements 9 with iPhoto

Now that Adobe is including the Organizer with the Mac version of Photoshop Elements, I’m hearing from a lot of people who think that means you have to use the Organizer. You don’t at all, unless you want to use it. If you’ve been using iPhoto to organize your photos, you can continue to use it if you’d rather do that.

Warning: Never try to open files in the iPhoto library from outside iPhoto, and never try to save back into the library from outside iPhoto. This is the shortest route to corrupting your library file and possibly losing all your photos. That library file is for iphoto’s own use only. It’s like touching a gardenia petal: It may seem fine right after you brush against it, but ¬†eventually the whole thing turns brown and dies. Don’t do it. Use one of the methods described here instead.

There are two main ways to get your images from iPhoto in Elements. Each has its pros and cons.

Set Elements as your external editor

If you send your photos from iPhoto to the Elements Editor by making Elements your external editor, iPhoto will remember your original photo and your latest saved, edited version. (If you save again, iPhoto replaces your previous edited version with the new one. It only remembers the very last version.) It’s very simple to set this up:

1. Go to the iPhoto menu ->Preferences->General->Edit Photos. From the pulldown menu, choose In application:

iphoto external editor preference
These screenshots are from iPhoto 09, but it works the same way with any version of iPhoto.

2. In the window that opens, choose Photoshop Elements as your editor. This step is a bit trickier in Elements 9 than in earlier versions of Elements, since there are two files that look very much alike, and lots of people choose the wrong one. You want this one:

elements editor
Use this one.

Notice that it’s ¬†the upper of the two files that have the blue PSE logo icon to the left of their names. Also note that it’s the one that doesn’t include the version number in the file’s name, and the one without the little curved arrow on the icon. (The lower file is actually an alias that launches the Welcome Screen. If you choose this one by mistake, the Welcome Screen opens, but your photo never makes the trip over to Elements. If that happens, go back and choose the other one.)

3. Decide how to send your photos. Once you’ve set your external editor, you have two choices for how to send the files to Elements. You can go back to the iPhoto preferences window and click this radio button:

double click preference

and then double-clicking a photo’s thumbnail will send it to Elements. If you’d rather keep the double-click for enlarging your view of the photo, just right-click/control-click the photo thumbnail and choose Edit in External Editor and send it that way.

3. Set your Save preference in Elements. You may not need to do this but if you find you’re getting the Save As window in Elements when you save, you need to go to Photoshop Elements->Preferences->Saving Files, and set On First Save to Save Over Current File:

PSE saving files preferences

Then iPhoto will import your changes and create a proper version, as long as you don’t change the name or the format of the file. If you want to see your original again, right-click (control-click) its thumbnail in iPhoto and choose Revert to Original.

(Note that there’s a bug in Elements 9: If you open the Saving Files part of the preferences, Elements will stop attaching file extensions to your photos, so if you open an image into Elements from outside iPhoto, you need to add the file extension–.jpg, .psd, whatever–manually if you save into another format.

Also, if you have iPhoto 11, the duplication of your original is normal; it remains to be seen whether or not Apple considers it a bug, as many iPhoto owners do.)

Another Way

If you like to keep lots of different versions of your photos around, or if you need to make copies in different formats, there’s another way to get them from iPhoto to Elements.

1. Export your photos from iPhoto. In iPhoto, select the photo(s) you want to edit, then go to File->Export to send copies of your photos to the desktop. Put those copies where you can easily find them.

2. In Elements, use File->Open to open the copy for editing, then make as many changes to the name, file format, or whatever and save the edited images where you can find them. (With this method, many people like to rename files as a matter of course, so they can be sure later on which are the edited files.)

3. In iPhoto, go to File->Import to Library and import your edited files as new images.

The disadvantage of this method is that you don’t have neat iphoto versions, but with this method you can save as many different states of your photo as you like. A lot of experienced Elements folks prefer this to the external editor method, because it’s more flexible.