Photoshop Elements: Why does my flat document open as "background"?

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  • Updated 8 years ago
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When I hit Command/O to open a photo, it opens as "background", which means you can't do many kinds of edits. Why am I forced to click Layer/New/Layer from Background/OK for every single last photo in order to use everything in PSE? This is what crippleware does, not professional purchased software...
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John Sankey

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Posted 8 years ago

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Chris Cox

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Official Response
No, that happens in Photoshop as well.

Documents that have no transparency or layers open as a background -- because that is the representation of a flat document without transparency or layers. The background is not locked, you can edit it as-is. Nothing is forcing you to add a layer or change the background to a layer.
If you add layers, or convert the background to a layer - then you've added things that the file format can't support, and you probably can't save back to the original file format.
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John Sankey

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1. PSE 9 says the background layer is locked.
2. To place two images side by side (collage) the canvas size of one must be increased to make room for the second. That's not allowed with the background layer, only with unlocked editable layers.
3. When one image is converted as above to layer 0, canvas size increased, then the second image added, the combined file can indeed be saved in the original format, whether JPG, BMP, whatever.
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Chris Cox

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1) ...only if you try to do something that requires a layer. You can paint on the background, use adjustments on the background, etc. without converting it to a layer.

2) You can increase the document size even without layers.

3) You can save a copy to JPG or BMP, but unless you flatten the image to get back to a flat document (background only) you are losing data (all layers, and possibly data on the sides).
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John Sankey

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Chris, in my version of PSE (as supplied PSE 9 with the camera raw update but NOT the Wacom update, floating windows) the resize option is greyed out until I convert the layer to editable. The screen is sitting right in front of me as I write this.

And, when I combine photos as above and say save as JPG, it does it and I get exactly what I see on the screen.
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Chris Cox

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Hmm, Image Size should always be enabled.

I wonder if you're looking at a different command...
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John Sankey

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Top line on screen, Image/Resize

And BTW, again with the PSE I have, I can't move an image when it's in the background layer. So I can't change my mind and move it within the expanded canvas with the move tool to make space on another side for the image I'm pasting in...

As soon as I grit my teeth and do the 4 mouse clicks required to make it layer 0 instead of background layer, everything works.
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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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So, just to be clear, if you have a background layer like in the image below, your Image Size and Canvas Size commands are disabled? (unlike my image below):

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John Sankey

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MTSTUNER wrote:
"John, if you just double click on the background layer thumbnail then the layer will be converted to a regular layer"

Thank you, MTSTUNER - doubleclick + return does it a lot faster than hunting through the menus.