Photoshop is one of the most essential tools for photographers of all levels. However, when you first start using it, it can be quite complicated.
Photoshop is so packed with buttons, sliders, and other tools that it's hard to know where to start.
So, in this guide, we will guide you through some of the most useful photo editing features in Photoshop. You will be able to use them immediately, even if you are a beginner and new user of the application.
See below 10 basic steps to get into professional image editing.
1. Non-destructive treatment
Wherever possible, you should always edit your photos non-destructively. This means that you should be able to edit your image as much as you want, but also always be able to undo any changes you make.
Programs like Lightroom and Google Photos are non-destructive. Photoshop is not.
One way to do non-destructive editing in Photoshop is to use layers. The levels are like a series of transparent sheets stacked on top of your image and you edit each one individually without touching the original image.
Use of levels
Layers are a real convenience. Always prefer to work with them. Ideally, each edit you make, or a group of similar modifications, should be done on a separate level. This allows you to customize the changes later, make them more or less visible, or remove them completely by hiding or deleting the layer.
Things like text or objects pasted from another image will be automatically moved to their own level. If you use something like the brush tool, you will need to manually create a new level (click New layer in the “Layers” panel to do this).
For some other common tools, you need some tricks to use them with levels:
- Spot Healing Brush: To use the Spot Healing Brush (which we'll look at in more detail later), along with a few other tools like Magic Wand and Blur, you have to manually create a new level. Select your tool from the toolbar and make sure you select it Sample All Layers in the options bar. Now make your changes to the new blank level.
- Healing Brush or Clone Stamp: To use the Healing Brush or Clone Stamp on their own, create a new layer manually. Select the tool and in the options bar at the top of the screen, place it sample into a Current & Below. Make your changes to the blank level.
- Dodge and burn with layers: The dodge and burn tools are used to add local contrast to parts of your image. To use them at their own level, go to Layer> New> Layer and then in the dialog that opens set it fashion into a Overlay. Select the box labeled Fill with Overlay-neutral color. Now use dodge and burn at this level.
You can also make adjustments to things like contrast, saturation and exposure at a separate level. Photoshop has its own special tool for this, which we'll look at below.
2. Discover the adjustment levels
Adjustment Layers allow you to make changes to the tone and color of your image in a non-destructive way. You can layer as many adjustments as you need on your image.
To get started, click on the icon Adjustment Layers (Adjustment Levels) in the "Layers" panel and select the type of editing you want to do.
A box will open Properties (Properties) corresponding to the tool you have selected and you just need to move the sliders to make your changes.
The benefits of customization levels are that you can edit them at any time. To do this, simply double-click on the level. You can also use the slider Opacity to improve the effect of the layer (to reduce opacity to reduce the effect of changes) or to hide or delete any if you do not need it.
3. Automatic photo corrections
Photoshop offers a variety of automatic options for simple modifications, such as removing shadows from your photos. You can find the most basic ones in the menu Image: Auto Tone, Auto Contrast and Auto Color.
After applying one of them, you can refine it by going to the menu Edit (Edit), where you will see an option Trays (as to Fade Auto Tone). It is set to 100 percent by default, so reduce it if you want to reduce the effect of color or tonal change.
Many of the other customization options also have automatic settings. Create a custom level for Levels, and then click Car (Automatic). You can use this technique as a starting point before adjusting the sliders manually. Use the slider to dim the effect Opacity in the “Layers” panel.
4. Make your photos stand out with depth
It is very common for your photos to look a bit flat when you open them in Photoshop. In most cases, simply adding some contrast will help them show some depth.
Brightness / Contrast may seem like the obvious way to do this. However, you can get better results using the Levels or Curves tools.
Curves are a bit more advanced, while you can dive straight into Levels and get great results. To open the Levels tool press Cmd + L on Mac or Ctrl + L in Windows.
Or, even better, open it in an adjustment layer by clicking the adjustment layer icon in the Layers panel and selecting Levels.
What you will see now is a histogram. A bar chart is a graph that shows the tonal range of your image. The X axis shows brightness, from 100 percent black on the left edge to 100 percent white on the right and all shades of gray in between. The Y axis indicates the number of pixels for each of the tones.
You can use the histogram to judge the exposure of your image. If the pixels are weighted to the left of the graph, then the image may be less exposed. If weighed to the right it may have excessive exposure to light.
When the pixels are concentrated in the middle, it shows that the image lacks contrast, which is why it looks flat.
As a rule, you want your photos to cover the entire tonal range, from black to white. You can do this by dragging the tabs below the histogram.
The left tab adjusts the shadows in the image and the right tab adjusts the highlights. Grab both in order and drag them inwards until they align with the first group of pixels on the histogram.
You will see that the shadows become darker and the light spots become correspondingly lighter and then you can adjust them according to your tastes. The middle tab adjusts the middle tones. Drag it to the left to illuminate your image.
5. Clean your photos with the Spot Healing brush
No matter how careful you are when you take your picture, there is always the possibility that there is something in the shot that you wish was not there. It could be a speck of dust on your camera sensor, a flaw on your face or a power cord that spoils a beautiful landscape.
Fortunately, with Photoshop you can remove simple things, very easily, using the Spot Healing Brush.
Select it Spot Healing Brush from the toolbar or press J on your keyboard. Adjust the brush size using the square bracket keys. Adjust it to about the same size as the item you want to remove.
Make sure that Content-sedar is selected in the options bar at the top. Now click on the point you want to remove or drag it if the object is larger. It should disappear. If there are any edges left on the removed object, run the brush over these edges to get rid of them.
Spot Healing Brush works best in small areas. It can be used to solve bigger problems, but there are other tools for these areas.
6. Remove unwanted items from your photos
How easy it is to remove an object from an image depends on the image itself. Removing someone from a plain or non-uniform textured background is something that all beginners in Photoshop can do. You have a choice of tools for this.
Spot Healing Brush tool
This brush paints on an object using texture and tone by automatically sampling the surrounding pixels. As we have already seen, it is best used for smaller repairs, such as dust and other small items.
Healing Brush Tool
The Healing Brush tool paints on an object using a texture it takes from a different part of the same image, while combining color and tone with its new environment.
Hold down the key Other and then click to select the part of the image from which you want to sample. Then paint over the object you want to remove. The brush gives you a preview of what you are going to paint, allowing you to easily match any patterns.
This tool replaces an object by copying a texture selected from another part of the image and combining color and tone.
To try it, select the object you want to remove by drawing around it, then click and hold on the selected area and drag your mouse to the part of the image you want to try. The selected area shows a real-time preview of what the end result will be.
Clone stamp tool
Works just like the Healing Brush Tool, but copies both color and texture. Users often apply it for more complex modifications, such as when they need to recreate missing parts of a photo.
You may need to experiment with each tool to see which is best for the job you are doing. Sometimes you may need more than one tool.
7. Make your photos black and white
There are many ways to convert color photos to black and white in Photoshop. Some are very advanced, but there is at least one simple method that can bring great results for new entrants.
We will use a custom level again, so click on the icon in the "Layers" panel and select Black & White (Black and white).
You will immediately see a gray scale version of your photo. But you do not have to stop there. You can experiment with defaults, which reproduce the effect of using color filters on your camera.
Then you can play with the sliders. Each slider corresponds to a color in the original image. Reducing it makes the areas that contain this color darker and increasing it makes them more intense. So, if you want an impressive dark sky, you can reduce, for example, the sliders blue and cyan.
Also, try the option Tint. Select the box and Photoshop will place a color overlay on your image. By default, Photoshop makes it sepia, but you can click and create your own colors.
8. Crop your photos
There are many reasons why you may need to crop your photos. To prepare them for printing, to center the composition or even to flatten the horizon. The crop tool in Photoshop is pretty self-explanatory. For a free cut, grab one of the thick points at the corners or edges of the image and drag it inwards.
To cut to a specific format, click Ratio (Ratio) in the options bar. Select Original Ratio, Square, etc. to maintain a fixed ratio or select W x H x Resolution to define your own.
Each time you trim, make sure the frame Delete Cropped Pixels (Delete truncated pixels) is not selected. This allows you to cut non-destructively. You will only see the image as you crop it, but the extra pixels will not be discarded. If you want to change the cut later, you can.
The crop tool also lets you flatten the horizon in your shots. Click the button Straighten in the options bar and draw a straight line along the horizon in your image. Alignment works by rotating the image and cropping the corners, so make sure the Delete Cropped Pixels is not selected if you think you may ever need to undo it.
9. Add a frame to Photoshop
A popular way to add a finishing touch to an image is to add a frame. This is very simple to do in Photoshop.
Go to Image> Canvas Size (Image> Canvas size). In the Canvas Extension Color area, select White, or whatever color you want - this will be the color of your frame. Then in the section New Size (New size) change the units to Pixels and enter the size for how thick you want the frame to be. Enter the same value in the boxes Width (Width) and Height (Height).
You need to experiment until you find a result that you are happy with. A good starting point is about 2-3 percent of the width of your image.
10. Save your photos in the correct file format
Finally, what is the best way to save your photos?
Standard image file types such as JPEG, TIFF or PNG do not support Photoshop layers. Once you save a file in any of these formats, the application will flatten your image to a single level.
To maintain the levels and to be able to continue editing the layers, either now or in the future, you must save your image in PSD format.
However, if you want to use your edited image on the Web or print it, then you need to save another copy in a standard image format, such as JPEG or TIFF.
In short, the PSD file is the working copy and the JPEG is the final version.
Your journey in Photoshop has begun!
Despite its complexity, it is very easy to get impressive results from Photoshop once you start using it. Then, as you become more confident in using it but also more ambitious, you will find that Photoshop opens up a host of new possibilities to help you.