The biggest problem with Photoshop’s tools is that it is very easy to over-use them, creating images that look unnatural. Overall rules to follow: be as detailed in your editing as possible (as in make minute adjustments to the image, rather than broad, all-image adjustments) and don’t overuse a tool. Here are a few simple suggestions for how to greatly improve your photo-editing techniques:
The curve adjustment is one of my favorite Photoshop tools. Manipulating image contrast is one of the easiest ways to add clarity, definition, and appeal to your photo; it should be the first step in editing photos, simply because it is so impactful. That being said, there is a right and wrong way to do this. The wrong way: the Brightness/Contrast or Levels control; the right way: Curves.
All you have to do with curves is make a nice, usually fairly unexaggerated S-shaped curve with the diagonal line the Curves tool presents you. Even just a slight, simple curve will drastically make the image more visually appealing.
Hue/Saturation is a tool that online-ers love to take full advantage of…to the point of making the image look completely unnatural and very tainted. So, the bottom line for this tool is don’t over use. Sure the bright colors are appealing to the eye at first, but don’t forget to take a step back and scan over the image to check if it is too abnormal-looking. Viewers tend to dislike photos that are clearly manipulated. Therefore, the key is to simply enhance the colors, letting them pop a little bit. Cameras usually are unable to fully capture the brightness of colors in real life; color-manipulation should restore the colors back to their original state.
The tool to use is Hue/Saturation. To quickly break up the aspects of this tool: the Hue meter manipulates the properties of the colors; Saturation manipulates the intensity of the color; don’t even worry about Lightness.
This is on the Master (affects all colors in image). All I did was pull the saturation way over to the right.
Here I isolated the color-fixing to just Reds (from the drop-down menu) and increased it a little bit.
Here I manipulated just the Yellows and decreased some of those bright background yellows.
This is a powerful and incredibly simple task. If the image doesn’t look quite right, this is a great way to play around with the image dimensions to find the best fit for what you envision for your image.
All you have to do is drag the dimensions to where you want them to lay, then hit enter. Remember that you can hit command/control+Z to revert back to the original version. This is useful for changing how much head room a person has, how much sky is in the image, or making subjects more off-center.
New area selected:
After you hit enter, this is the new image:
Dust, Specks, and Quick Edits:
If you scanned film photos and have dust or specks in the image, then there are a few tools that can help get them out of it without disturbing the overall image. The options include the Spot Healing Brush, the Brush Tool, and the Clone Stamp Tool. All three tools are useful; it just depends on what best fits. My recommendation for this is to choose the one that best helps you reach the desired outcome.
Black and White Images:
People love to throw images into black and white because frankly, it looks cool, and can make a so-so image stand out. By using image adjustments, Photoshop can help you make a very generic B&W transformation of your image, however it does not allow for very good fine tuning. If you have an audience that won’t notice the difference between good and bad B&W filters, then go ahead and use the filter Photoshop provides; if you want a quality filter, then try downloading programs like Silver Efex Pro to help you do a great job. It will look as real as film photography.
What not to do…
…so it doesn’t look like this: