Photo Stacking in Photoshop Elements

September 10, 2014

Photo Stacking in Photoshop Elements

The Photoshop Elements Organizer is a great tool for managing your photo collection. The Organizer helps you keep track of your photos through keyword tagging and the use of virtual albums. By cataloging your images in the Elements Organizer, you have the ability to access all of your photos through a single application. And the Organizer interface, which lays out images in a grid pattern (the Photo Browser), makes scrolling through your collection to find a particular image quick and easy.

But while the Organizer grid is a great visual way to locate images, it can get a bit bogged down if, like me, you shoot lots of photos of the same subject.

photo stacks in photoshop elements

In that case, it can become somewhat time-consuming to scroll through so many photos that are visually similar.

That's where photo stacks come into the picture.

Photo Stacks

Photo Stacking is a feature of the Photoshop Elements Organizer that allows you to group a series of related or similar images together so that they are easier to find and take up less space in the Organizer window.

photo stacks in photoshop elements

Photo stacking is especially useful in situations where you have taken a number of shots of a single subject—your newly blossoming garden on a bright spring day for instance—and you want to keep these photos in the Organizer but you don't necessarily want all of them to show when you are scrolling through the Media Browser. You can use stacking to bundle all of these photos together, with just one of them showing in the photo browser. That way, the photos will all be cataloged, accessible and easy to find, but they won't take up a lot of room in the Organizer window.

Stacking photos is a great way to keep the Elements Organizer tidy and efficient.

There are basically two methods for grouping photos into stacks. You can either group photos into stacks manually or you can get some help by using the Elements auto-stack feature.

Let's look at the automatic approach first.

Using Auto-Stack in the Elements Organizer

The auto-stacking feature helps with the task by suggesting stacks of similar photos. You can use auto-stack when importing images or with photos already in the Organizer catalog.

Auto-Stacking on Import

Step 1

To use the auto-stack feature when importing photos into the Elements Organizer, check the box next to Automatically Suggest Photo Stacks in the Get Photos and Videos dialog box.

photo stacks in photoshop elements

Or, if you are importing from a camera or a card reader, first click the Advanced Dialog button in the lower left corner of the Photo Downloader window.

photo stacks in photoshop elements

A larger Photo Downloader dialog box will open. That's where you'll find the option to Automatically Suggest Photo Stacks under Advanced Options.

photo stacks in photoshop elements

Step 2

After clicking the Get Media button, Elements will analyze the photos. The Visually Similar Photo Search dialog box will open, allowing you to preview the suggested stacks and giving you a chance to tweak these groupings.

The top section of this window shows groupings of photos that the software thinks belong together. Unique Photos—images that don't appear to be part of any group—show in a separate section at the bottom of the dialog box.

photo stacks in photoshop elements

Step 3

To tweak the groupings, click and drag photos between the different stacks and to and from the Unique Photos section.

In addition, note that the first, left-most photo in each group will be the top photo, the image that shows when you are scrolling through the Organizer's photo browser. With this in mind, you may want to click and drag a particular photo to that first position.

Step 4

When you are finished rearranging the photos, create the individual stacks by clicking on the Stack button found towards the right end of the horizontal bar above each group.

Click Done when finished.

The newly imported photos will appear in the media browser with the each photo group displayed as a single thumbnail.

You'll know that a thumbnail represents more than one photo by the stack icon in the upper right corner. You will also see an arrow at the right side of the thumbnail. Clicking that arrow will expand and collapse the stack.

photo stacks in photoshop elements

Auto-Stacking Photos Already In The Organizer

The auto-stack feature can also be used to suggest photo groupings for images that are already in the Organizer catalog.

Step 1

Select a group of photos from those showing in the Media Browser. In selecting photos, keep the following tips in mind:

    • To select all of the images in the Media Browser, choose Edit>Select All from the top menu bar or press Ctrl+A (on Windows) / Command+A (on Mac OS).
photo stacks in photoshop elements
  • To select multiple images that are adjacent to each other in the Browser, click on the first image and then Shift-click on the last image. This will select the two items clicked on and everything in between.
  • To select multiple nonadjacent images, click on the first image and then Ctrl+click (on Windows) / Command+click (on Mac OS) on each additional image.

When finished, the selected images will have a blue border around them.

Step 2

Once the images are selected, begin the auto-stack process by either choosing Edit>Stack>Automatically Suggest Photo Stacks… from the top menu…

photo stacks in photoshop elements

…or by right-clicking (on Windows)/ Control-clicking (on Mac OS) on one of the selected images and choosing Stack>Automatically Suggest Photo Stacks… from the pop-up menu.

photo stacks in photoshop elements

Elements will analyze the selected images and, after a few seconds, the Visually Similar Photo Search dialog box will open showing a preview of the suggested stacks. The top section of this window shows groupings of photos that the software thinks belong together. A separate section at the bottom of the dialog box shows Unique Photos, images that Elements is unable to place as part of any group.

photo stacks in photoshop elements

Step 3

Fine-tune the groupings by dragging photo from one stack to another, and to and from the Unique Photos area. Rearrange the images within each stack, keeping in mind that the left-most photo becomes the top photo that shows as the stack thumbnail when scrolling the Media Browser.

Step 4

When you are finished rearranging the photos, create the individual stacks by clicking on the Stack button found at the right end of the horizontal bar above each group.

Click Done when finished.

The photos will appear in the media browser with the each photo stack displayed as a single thumbnail.

You'll know that a thumbnail represents more than one photo by the stack icon in the upper right corner. You will also see an arrow at the right side of the thumbnail. Clicking that arrow will expand and collapse the stack.

photo stacks in photoshop elements

Stacking Photos Manually

Stacking photos manually is convenient when you have just a few images that you want to group or when, for whatever reason, you want to group photos that are not visually similar.

Step 1

Select the photos that you want to stack from those showing in the Media Browser. In selecting photos, keep the following tips in mind:

    • To select all of the images in the Media Browser, choose Edit>Select All from the top menu bar or press Ctrl+A (on Windows) / Command+A (on Mac OS).
photo stacks in photoshop elements
  • To select multiple images that are adjacent to each other in the Browser, click on the first image and then Shift-click on the last image. This will select the two items clicked on and everything in between.
  • To select multiple nonadjacent images, click on the first image and then Ctrl+click (on Windows) / Command+click (on Mac OS) on each additional image.

When finished, the selected images will have a blue border around them.

Step 2

Once the images are selected, group them into a stack by either choosing Edit>Stack>Stack Selected Photos from the top menu…

photo stacks in photoshop elements

or by right-clicking (on Windows)/ Control-clicking (on Mac OS) on one of the selected images and choosing Stack> Stack Selected Photos from the pop-up menu.

photo stacks in photoshop elements

Step 3

That's it!

The selected photos will appear in the Media Browser, stacked and displayed as a single thumbnail.

You'll know that a thumbnail represents more than one photo by the stack icon in the upper right corner. You will also see an arrow at the right side of the thumbnail. Clicking that arrow will expand and collapse the stack.

photo stacks in photoshop elements

Version Sets

Version sets are a type of stack that contains only one image file along with files created by editing that single image. So a version set contains an original image along with its edited versions.

Versions sets are created automatically when you edit a photo within the Organizer workspace using the tools of the Instant Fix editing panel.

On the other hand, Version sets are not automatically created when a photo is edited in the Elements Editor workspace. In that case, you can choose to create a version set by selecting that option in the Save As dialog box (which can be accessed by choosing File>Save As from the top menu bar).

You'll know that a thumbnail represents a version set by the version icon (which looks like a paintbrush on top of a stack of photos) in the upper right corner. You will also see an arrow at the right side of the thumbnail. Clicking that arrow will expand and collapse the version set.

photo stacks in photoshop elements

By the way, if you edit a photo that is part of a stack, the version set will appear nested within the stack.

photo stacks in photoshop elements

Working with Photo Stacks

To expand the stack to see all of the images that it contains, click on the arrow located just to the right of the stack thumbnail.

photo stacks in photoshop elements

Once opened, you can work with the stack structure—add and remove photos, merge stacks, change the top photo and unstack a group of photos—via the stack commands found in the Edit>Stack submenu. Alternatively, the stack commands can be accessed by right-clicking (on Windows)/ Control-clicking (on Mac OS) on one of the stacked photos and choosing Stack.

In addition, you can edit and print the stacked photos just as you would any other image in your photo collection. There's one thing to keep in mind here, though.

Finally, when working with stacks, keep in mind that most functions are applied to individual images. So if you edit or print a collapsed stack, the action will only be applied to the top-most image. One exception to this is keyword tagging. If you apply a keyword tag to a collapsed stack, the tag will be applied to all of the images contained within the stack.




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