New Plugin Brings Lightroom and Photoshop Elements Together At Last

Update: A newer version of this plugin is now available. 
Please visit the
Elemental plugin page to download the latest version, and find the latest documentation for the plugin.


Lightroom’s non-destructive editing capabilities support most of my digital photography workflow needs.  I rarely need to resort to external tools to edit my photos, but rarely is not quite the same as never.  There will always be some situations where Lightroom needs a little help.  For me stitching together panoramas, correcting lens distortion and correcting perspective issues are the main culprits.

Before Lightroom I was a Photoshop Elements (PSE) 6 user.  I had been hoping to completely migrate away from it and remove it from my system, but I still keep it around as an external editor to pair with Lightroom.  I’d love to be able to splash out and use Photoshop instead but as I’m only a hobbyist I simply can’t afford it.  An upsell version (from PSE) of Photoshop CS4 would cost me over $1200 AUD at the Adobe store.  That’s a lot of money for a piece of software I would rarely need to use, especially when my couple year old version of PSE does everything I really need at a fraction of the price.  My photography would benefit more from me investing that cash in a brand new Nikon DSLR camera body, lens or flash than a software upgrade.

Standard Lightroom Photo Edit In MenuStandard Lightroom External Edit Preset


One of the things I’m missing by not using Photoshop is tighter integration between my external editor and Lightroom itself.  The Lightroom Photo->Edit In menu contains a number of entries (see above) that allow you to work with files in Photoshop CS3 (or later), launching directly into the desired feature without having to render those files first.  This would not only speed up my editing process but also reduce the need to waste CPU cycles rendering files that will only be discarded later anyway.  With Photoshop Elements my only option is to use the standard external editor feature which doesn’t allow me to launch directly into the PSE feature I’m planning to use.


Elemental Lightroom Plugin Menu Extras

My new Elemental plugin resolves these issues.  It adds 5 new menu items to the File –> Plug-in Extras and Library –> Plug-In Extras menus, emulating the integration available to users of the full Photoshop product.  This includes letting the user select photos and launch them directly into the Photomerge dialog, or open them as Smart Objects (a feature Adobe doesn’t advertise is available in PSE).  It even adds some new options for good measure, namely Remove Lens Distortion and the ability to directly Open in PSE.  And it does this all while avoiding the Camera Raw dialog which should be redundant given your Develop module edits in Lightroom.  The only feature I couldn’t reproduce was Merge to HDR in Photoshop because PSE does not have a matching feature.  By all reports the HDR generated by Photoshop was of limited usefulness so I doubt many would miss it anyway.


When you first try to use one of these menu options the plugin will attempt to locate your installation of Photoshop Elements.  If you have used the default install location the plugin shouldn’t require any configuration.  If it can’t find PSE then it will open a dialog asking you to locate the PSE editor before you continue.

There are also a few other dialogs you may see during regular operation.

First is a reminder to save your files before opening in PSE.  Saving your metadata (Ctrl + S, or Cmd + S) writes the Lightroom edits to the photo or XMP sidecar making them available to other applications.  If you don’t save your files first PSE will show the initial, unedited image which is unlikely to be what you intended.  Once you’ve gotten into the habit of saving before opening you can configure the warning to not show again.

Next is a warning that displays if one of the selected photos is a virtual copy.  Virtual copies do not have a dedicated, matching image file so you can’t save the metadata to the file or sidecar and they can’t be opened in PSE.  For virtual copies you will be given the option of opening the master file instead, or ignoring the virtual copies entirely.  Once again the dialog can be set to not show again if you have a preferred option you will always use whenever virtual copies are selected.

The last dialog is one you will only see if you use the plugin for more than 3 weeks and it will only show once.  Its a “buy me a beer” donation request.  I’ve put a fair amount of work into this plugin (including learning a new programming language) to make Photoshop Elements do things its not supposed to be able to do, and to work not only on Windows but also the Mac platform.  I’m hoping you will find my plugin useful enough that you would consider saying thanks in a liquid fashion.  If you are extra keen you don’t even have to wait for the 3 week reminder.  You can donate (and update the configuration) at any time by opening the Elemental entry in File –> Plugin Manager dialog.

I hope you find this plugin useful and as always please leave comments below if you have any feedback you would like to offer.  I’d also like to send out a big thank you to Mark over at Rusticolus Images who quite patiently tested the plugin on OSX and helped me iron out a number of rather large kinks on that platform!


Posted on July 5, 2009 at 2:13 am by Matt · Permalink
In: Howto, Project, Software · Tagged with: , , , , , ,