Adobe Photoshop is an amazing program to use for editing and retouching pictures. Photographers, bloggers and designers use it to clean up images, crop, edit colors, and much, much more. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a professional photographer or take classes to be able to use Photoshop. All you need to get started is the software and some digital photos.
NOTE: This guide uses Photoshop CS6 as a reference. The latest version (as of 2016) is Photoshop CC (part of the Adobe Creative Cloud series of apps), but anything you learn here can be applied in almost any recent version of the software.
When I first started using Photoshop, I had no idea what a layer was or what the majority of the tools did. To be honest, I still don’t know what all of them do, but I know how to edit an image and I know how to make it look exactly the way I want it to. Learning how to retouch spots, color correct, adjust contrast, work in layers, and sharpen are the basic tools you need in your arsenal. In addition, using keyboard shortcuts will help you work faster, so those are an excellent concept to learn, too.
So let’s get started. I will show you how to take this:
… and end up with this:
Open your image in Photoshop. I like to have certain windows open at all times to make it easier when I work. Go to Window and click on Adjustments, Color, Layers, Navigator, Options and Tools. You can open different windows and close these if you prefer. You want to work in a way that’s comfortable for you.
- Hit “C” to open the Crop tool.
- Move in the edges until you get the image you want. If you want to maintain the aspect ratio, hold down the Shift key.
- Hit Enter to remove the unwanted parts.
When it comes to cropping, I would rather do this now so I don’t have to waste time retouching parts of an image that I don’t need in the end. Save it as another version (title_ret or title_02) so that you still have the original to go back to if need be.
2. Removing Spots
- Push “F” to change the screen view.
- Push the space bar and use the mouse to move to the top left corner of the image.
- Start scrolling down until you get to spots.
- Hit “S” to use the Clone Stamp Tool. I like to use a brush that has blurry edges, and sometimes I’ll lower the opacity to blend better. This image, however, doesn’t need any opacity changes.
- Find a spot.
- Push Alt + mouse click on part of the image to replace the spot with.
- Then click on the spot until it disappears. Do this for the entire image until all the unwanted spots and dust are removed. This will definitely take some practice, but it’s an essential skill to learn if you want to clean up blemishes or dust spots.
3. Adjusting Contrast
It’s pretty rare than I have a perfectly-exposed image, and often, the subject just doesn’t pop the way I want it to. Enhancing the contrast is a great way to improve the overall look of your image.
- Go to Adjustments and click on Curves (it’s the third one from the left). The Curves layer will open up. I like to work in layers because I am not making permanent changes to the image. The layer can be removed or hidden so I can see how it looks originally.
- Click on the line and move it up to lighten it.
- Move the line down to darken it.
- The left of the graph represents the dark areas and the right represents the light areas. As a rule of thumb, I like to start by making two points. I lighten the light areas and darken the dark areas until I like the contrast. There is usually an S-shaped curve. Do what looks good for your image, you may want less contrast for a softer image or a lot of contrast for drama.
4. Color Correction
The great thing about Curves is you can adjust colors as well as contrast.
- Click on RGB and a choose a color to work on.
- This image looks a little yellow to me so I chose Blue and moved the line to the upper left, slightly.
- Also, I want it to be more red so I chose Red and moved the line to the upper left until it looked good.
- Next, I added some green.
5. Removing Unwanted Objects
This a little more complicated, but trust me, it’s do-able. I don’t like the dead flower in the top right corner, it’s distracting. So, let’s remove it!
- Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to select the part of the image that you want to replace the unwanted part with.
- Copy (Ctrl + C) and Paste (Ctrl + V), and a new layer will appear (Layer 1).
- Press “V” and move it until it completely covers the unwanted part.
- Hide the new layer by clicking on the eye in the Layers Palette.
- Click on the Background Layer, and use the Lasso Tool to select a part of the image for removal.
- After making the selection, choose Refine Edge at the top and change Smooth to 2.
- Make Layer 1 visible and make a mask.
- Choose a brush with blurry edges, make sure it’s black and lower the opacity to 50%.
- Mask out the edges and other parts ’til it looks good.
- Don’t worry about messing up, these aren’t permanent changes.
- Change the brush to white to bring back parts of the image that were masked out if you masked more than you wanted to.
- Use the Close Stamp Tool (S) on the background layer to clean up the image.
6. Flatten and Sharpen
- Go to the Layers palette and Flatten the image. This will combine all the layers into one layer.
- Click View on the top of the page. Sharpen and Unsharp Mask.
- A window will pop up. Change Amount to your preferred level of sharpness (I usually start around 85), Radius to 1.0 and Threshold to 0.
All done! I saved the final as “title_fl.jpg”; and I set up a folder for my original pictures and a folder for the final pictures.
I hope that these tips will help you get started with retouching pictures in Photoshop. There are so many ways to get the same outcome so, please share your Photoshop tricks in the comments below 🙂