That Blue Square Thing

Photoshopping Photographs Perfectly

Wind turbines in DenmarkUsing Photoshop to edit photographs allows all sorts of interesting skills to be developed. It's also cool, a good set of skills to be aware of and, hopefully, quite fun.

The hardest part about taking a great photograph is actually taking the photograph in the first place. If you can choose a good subject, frame it nicely and shoot the picture in decent light then you might not need to do so much in the way of editing in Photoshop. That's how I took the photo on the right - it's not been edited at all in any way. But that's really rare - to get a great image I almost always have to do some editing.

The skills get harder the further down the page you go. I've provided some basic images to work on as they provide a good chance to work on the sorts of skills I want you to develop. You could use your own images if you wanted in most cases.

Basic Photo Editing

Fort at HaldenThis is about straightening, cropping and composing an image.

This is the real basics. If you start by composing a great image then it's easy to add other effects later.

PDF iconComposing a Great Photo

Image iconHalden image - right click and save the image

The photo was taken at a castle in Norway on a rainy sort of day. I have no idea who the man in it is. It needs straightening and cropping first. Then you can think about making it more colourful as well.

Improving Photos

Tree in the sea at BenacreThis is about making the colours in your photos brighter and the photographs more dynamic and removing unwanted distractions from them.

The image of the tree in the sea had to be cropped, straightened, the colours worked on and at least one ship was removed from background. That's just the basics of what can be done.

There are a number of different skills to work on here. Make sure you try out the different correction tools in particular.

PDF iconImproving Photos - corrections and spot healing

The Halden image can be used for the first part of this.

To try out the spot healing tool try this image:

Image iconInset bites image - right click and save the image

The photo is of someone I knew. She happened to have insect bites on her hand at the time. The spot healing tool is great at dealing with problems like this.

More Improvements - the Clone Tool

Tree imageSometimes the spot healing brush just isn't enough for what you need. That's when the clone tool comes in handy.

PDF iconUsing the Clone Tool

Image iconTree image - right click and save the image

The photo was taken one January just outside Norwich. It needs to be cropped and straightened and you could think about the rule of thirds here. Then the annoying branches at the top of the image should really be removed - they distract from the lovely tree and the interesting sky.

If you really wanted to go to town you might consider removing the power lines in the distance as well, although I don't think they are anywhere near as big a problem.

Using Adjustment Layers

Burano church and housesIts better to make adjustments to images using adjustment layers. This doesn't destroy the original image, which means you can always remove an adjustment layer and go back and start again.

PDF iconUsing Adjustment Layers

Image iconVenice image - right click and save the image

This image needs lots of work. It needs to be straightened and cropped using the Rule of Thirds. You might also need to use the Clone Tool or Spot Healing Brush on parts of the image to improve it as well.

To use Adjustment Layers to fade images and to make them look like old fashioned photos, see the More Photoshop Skills page.

Marmalade Skies and Topographic Oceans

Weird coloured tree imageSo, partly because someone asked "how do I make the sky purple" and partly because I quite like 70s prog rock album covers, I thought it might be interesting to experiment with changing the colours of different parts of an image.

This is easiest to do if there's not too much going on in the image - the tree in the exercise above this would be tricky to work with as there are lots of small branches.

I reckon that with a square crop and the addition of some slightly odd text this would make a pretty decent album cover...

PDF iconColouring the sky

Image iconTree image - right click and save the image

PDF iconSquare cropping

The original picture was taken a little way south of Lowestoft at a place called Benacre. I'm not sure the tree is standing anymore.

Using Selective Colour

Coloured ducksThis is about getting creative with colours. It gets into one way of using a technique that is sometimes called Colour Popping.

PDF iconUsing Selective Colour

Image iconDucks image - right click and save the image

PDF iconAdvanced Selective Colour - to add different coloured ducks

This is simply a photo of a bathmat my kids had when they were little.

Batman and the Lighthouse

Batman and lighthouseThe classic Photoshop technique is to "photoshop" one image onto another. This can be done in all sorts of contexts and is a useful thing to know how to do.

Sometimes it can be as easy as using an image with a transparent background and simply placing it on to another image. But it's not always easy to get a transparent background, so there's another way to do this.

The aim here is to take a picture of Batman and place it onto one showing a lighthouse. If you're good then this can look really cool...

PDF iconCombining Images - note that this help sheet needs to be updated. It's not the same standard as the others. I'll get around to this at some point!

Image iconBatman image - right click and save the image

Image iconLighthouse background image - right click and save the image

I took the batman image in Toronto just after a Blue Jays game. I don't really know why the chap was dressed as the Caped Crusader, but it was too good a photo to miss. The lighthouse is at a place called Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia. It is, apparently, the most photographed lighthouse in Canada. So I took a photo of it.

Adding Shadows

Batman and lighthouseAdding a shadow to the photoshopped batman image adds a level of complexity and even realism to your work.

This is a bit tricky and takes time to get right. Follow the instructions carefully and don't worry if it's not perfect.

PDF iconAdding Shadows - how to add shadows

I based my guide on the one at Photoshop Cafewiki link, although I simplified it a little and I changed some of the instructions to be menu ones rather than "click on the thing that looks like..." ones.

Assessment Time...

This assessment is designed to test some basic skills and teach you how to add text to an image.

Use the Halden photograph to produce a postcard for sale. See the client brief document for the rules for this task.

PDF iconPostcard Client Brief

PDF iconCropping to Postcard Size

PDF iconUsing Text

You will need to export your finished postcard in two formats. Find out how to export photoshop files properly.

PDF iconPostcard Assessment Markgrid