Photoshop editing is an everyday bread for every photographer who wants to achieve substantial results. We will show the main steps for photoshop editing on a specific example.
Here are the main steps:
- Select the photo for Photoshop editing and open it.
- Level the Horizon
- Edit Light & Shadow settings
- Remove Blemishes and unwanted objects
- Change the sky if needed
- Edit colors
- Dodge & Burn
- Crop Image for the final usage
- Sharpen the Image
- Save Image for a specific use.
Select the photo for Photoshop editing and open it
Every photographer takes a lot of photos, especially of today’s digital cameras. Therefore, the photoshop editing process’s first task is to select the best ones and edit these. There are several photo formats that we can get from a camera. I prefer the RAW format and recommend it to everyone. Although at first glance, a RAW photo may look not very appealing in terms of photoshop editing, it provides the best options.
Let’s see a list of photos in Adobe Bridge. Here we can view all source photos and select the best ones for photoshop editing.
Opening the image from Adobe Bridge is easy. Just double click on the selected photo. If it is a RAW format image Photoshop will open another tool – Camera RAW.
Level the Horizon
Our specific example is based on a landscape photo photoshop editing. Leveling the horizon could also be needed in exterior portrait photography. So that’s why I keep it as a general rule.
Horizon level can destroy the overall composition feeling of any image. I can see many beautiful photos out there that are correctly taken, edited, color-managed, but with an unleveled horizon. So do not forget to correct it if needed.
In my case, I will correct a straighten the horizon in Adobe Camera Raw. Let’s go to the Crop tool, select Crop & Rotate, and then click on the Straighten Tool.
Now find any line that is corresponding with the horizon and click and drag along this line. The image will automatically rotate a bit. Then press Enter, and it is done.
Edit Light & Shadow settings
Let’s make the basic light setting. This is practically the same for all available photo editing tools, not only in Photoshop or Lightroom. So let’s correct the Exposure if the photo is underexposed. Generally, I prefer to edit a little bit underexposed images.
The reason is you usually have more digital information available. If the image is too bright or overexposed, you can hardly recover it. So let’s use the Shadows slider and bring back some information in the shadows area.
Set the fundamental contrast and then fine-tune the Highlights if needed. For example, if the sky is too bright. Use the Blacks and Whites slider to fine-tune the overall contrast setting.
Increase Texture and Clarity but just a little bit. We will fix the details and sharpening in Photoshop later on.
You can increase the drama in the sky area with the Dehaze slider.
The final correction we will make in Camera RAW will be Removing chromatic aberration, and let’s use the profile correction.
Finally, go to the Open button at the bottom of the page and click it to open the photo for Photoshop editing.
Remove Blemishes and unwanted objects
Zoom in the image and precisely check for any blemishes or spots that need to be eliminated. If you find such a spot or blemish, take the Spot Healing Brush Tool and paint over the spot.
Photoshop will remove it automatically.
In the case of a larger object that needs to be removed, we can use another technique. So let’s remove the group of stones. Create a new rectangular selection around the object.
Then go to the Edit menu and select Content Aware Fill. Now a dialog box will appear. On the left side, we see our image with the selected object. We can see the final suggested image with the object removed and then the setting panel on the right side.
You can now paint over areas in the image that should serve as a source for creating the AI content replacing the object. So in case, I want to have only the grass to set as the source.
Other parts I want to paint-out with the brush. I have set minus brush as a default (erasing), but you can easily change it to plus by holding the Alt key and add more areas to your source part.
After fine-tuning the area, press the OK button, and the object is removed. Let’s make a final tuning of the image. In some cases, the Content Aware fill tool can create a recognizable repeating pattern, and we don’t want that. So let’s gran the Spot healing Toll and make a couple of strokes to fine-tune the critical areas.
Change the sky if needed.
I decided to replace the sky in my particular image as the next step in the Photoshop editing process. I could use it, but I want to have a more dramatic sky. It is possible to do it with the standard Photoshop tools, but I want to use the Luminar 4 filter, which offers excellent functionality here.
So let’s go to Filter->Skylum->Luminar 4
After Luminar 4 starts, we go to the Creative tab ( small palette icon on the right side) the go to AI Sky Replacement, and select Sky Selection. A list of skies will appear, so let’s choose one of the skies.
Luminar 4 now replaces the sky. You can now fine-tune setting like Horizon Blending, relighting the scene, and setting the global light to achieve the best blending of the new sky with our original image.
I am now satisfied, so I will press the Apply button and return from Luminar to continue with Photoshop editing.
Editing the colors is one of the most critical parts of Photoshop editing. You can use many tools—for example, Hue/Saturation, Curves, Color Balance, Selective Colors, and more. I will use the Camera Raw filter because it is complex and provides many settings in one place.
So let’s go to Filter->Camera Raw Filter.
Now go to Filter settings on the right side and scroll down to the Color Mixer section. Here you can see three primary Tabs: Hue, Saturation, and Luminance. We will start with the Hue.
Then use Yellows, Oranges, and Reds slider to fine-tune the grass color tones, building and roofs, and bushes on the river bank.
Then switch to the Luminance tab and decrease the Aquas and Blues sliders to get a darker and more dramatic sky effect.
Dodge & Burn
To increase contrast in our image’s specific areas, let’s use an old, powerful, and useful method even today. I know professional photographers who use the Dodging & Burning as the only and primary retouching method.
As always, there are more possibilities. Create a new layer by Alt-clicking to a little plus icon on the right bottom side. Then a dialog box appears where you set the following:
Set Mode to Overlay and then click the option Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray). Click OK, and a new layer is created. Press D for Default color setting will set the foreground color to Black and the background color to White.
Then select a soft brush, set the Fill parameter to a low value like 10%, and start painting over any area you want to be darker. When you press the X key, the colors will exchange, and you can now paint over parts you want to have brighter.
Crop Image for the final usage
Now is the right time for the final cropping. You should know how you want to use your photo. For example, I want to post the image on Twitter, so I want to crop it to 800 x 400 pixels.
It is essential to mention that cropping has to be done before sharpening. Because if you plan to make a large fine art print, you will apply different sharpening compared to sharpening for a small sized image for Instagram, Twiter, or Pinterest.
So select the crop tool and select one of the saved or default cropping presets. Or you can define your custom settings. Insert your own values into the width and height fields in pixels, and select 72 px/inch resolution as the final photo will be posted to the web.
Sharpen the Image
Sharpening is one of the final phases of Photoshop editing. We can apply more methods or approaches. The most popular ways are using the Unsharp Mask or the High Pass filter approach. Adobe is improving the tools, and I’d like to demonstrate using the Smart Sharpen Tool.
Before we apply the sharpening filter, we must create a pixel layer containing all of our recent edits and changes.
By pressing a complex key combination Alt-Ctrl-Shift-E (Opt-Command-Shift-E on Mac), we will create one consolidated layer on the top of the layer stack.
Another critical step is to Right-Click on the new layer and to select Convert To Smart Object option.
Let’s go to Filter->Sharpen->Smart Sharpen.
Now let’s set the Amount and Radius. Increase the values subtly and parallelly check how the image is sharpened. Also, check the noise level – the best part for it is the sky area. If you notice a noise starts to appear, you can increase the Reduce Noise slider to reduce it.
When you are done press, the OK button, and sharpening will be applied. If you change your mind and want to fine-tune the sharpening settings further, no big issue. As we converted the layer to a smart object, we can quickly return back and open the Smart Sharpen filter again and correct the settings.
The last step before saving and exporting the image will be a slight vignetting. This is not a mandatory step, but in some cases, it could improve the overall impression and lead to the focused part of the image.
I will use the Camera Raw Filter again and pull a bit the Vignette slider to the left side.
Save Image for a specific use
The last step in the Photoshop editing process is saving and exporting the image for a specific purpose. So let’s go to File->Export->Save for Web (legacy).
A dialog window will appear. Here we will set the type of image we want to have. I want to have a JPEG image for social media, so I will choose JPEG. One of the essential attributes when posting any photo online is the size.
So let’s change the quality slider and see how the final image size changes. The size is indicated in the left bottom corner of the dialog window. Another parameter influencing the final photo size is the image size, so we can fine-tune width and height in pixels until we get a satisfying size.
Press Save and choose your local or cloud disk location where the final image should be stored.
Photoshop editing is a complex process that allows you to get most of your photograph or even change it completely. The advantage of Photoshop is there are many ways how to get the same result. It is a question of preference for each of us which method to choose. As we showed in this example, the process could be mastered by even a beginner.