Monday, September 24, 2012

TUTORIAL: Using Photoshop To Touch Up Photos

I've seen a lot of posts on Pinterest lately for Photoshop Tips and Tricks and I thought to myself, "Hey! I use Photoshop 40 hours a week at my job! I'm sure there's a few things I know that would help people out." A lot of people commented on Judah's six month photo on Facebook and asked if we'd had shots professionally taken. Ha! No. I use a $100 digital camera from about 8 or 9 years ago. Definitely no fancy equipment for me - other than Photoshop. So here are a few quick tips for touching up your photos using Photoshop.

NOTE: This tutorial assumes a basic knowledge of Photoshop: how to create a new file, how layers work, etc. It is however, for beginners. Every designer works differently and has their general interface set up in just the way they like. This is by no means a professional way of going about each step - it's just one way to get things done, but there are several different ways to do several things in a program like Photoshop.

If you have a specific question about editing using Photoshop, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email. I work in Photoshop CS4 at work, but have CS6 at home. I'm also on a PC at work and a MAC at home. These instructions are for PC users (The basics are the same except for keyboard shortcuts, etc.) Click on each photo in the tutorial to make it larger to see details. Here's my original photo:

You can see I labeled a few things I wanted to touch up on. Start by cropping your image to make the composition more dynamic. I don't like how everything is so centered in this photo, and I'm not a huge fan of the way I cut off my husbands head at the bottom of his beard (sorry, honey). It just looks weird to me. So locate your crop tool (the fifth down) on your tools menu and adjust your composition:
After cropping the photo, I started with the overall lighting. I wouldn't ever recommend using the "Brightness/Contrast" adjustment to brighten your photos. Instead, choose Image → Adjustments → Levels:
The right slider controls the highlights, the middle controls the midtones, and the left slider controls the shadows. You can get a much more precise adjustment with this function. Play around with the sliders and see what it does to your image. When you settle on the brightness and contrast you like, go ahead and save your file with a new name. That way, in case you hate whatever you've done, you can always go back to your original image.
And now we move on to the easiest fix in the history of fixes: red eye. Ready for it? Locate the red eye button, it should be the 7th button down. Tip: If you hold down a tool button, you can see the hidden button behind it. For example, the red eye button also hides the healing brush tool, patch tool, etc.

Now with your red eye tool selected,  zoom in on your photo (keyboard shortcut: hold down Ctrl and the "+" plus button to zoom in, Ctrl and the "-" minus to zoom out. Ctrl + 0 (zero) enters a full screen), and drag a square over the red eye you need to fix. Voila! Easy as that.

Now we move on to blemishes. There are only a couple on this photo and they aren't too noticeable. One is a little spot on my husband's shirt and a tiny scratch on Judah's forhead, because I'm a terrible mother who only clips his nails when they become demon-like.
Select the clone stamp tool, make your brush approximately the same size as the blemish and set the hardness of the brush to "0". Now, select an area similar in color to the blemish (I usually just pick an area right next to the mark I want to remove). Now hold down the Alt button while clicking your mouse once. This will set the area to "clone." Now move the clone tool over the blemish and click once with your mouse. This should remove the mark if you blemish is the same size as the brush.
Now I'm going to move on to the background. The flash from my camera tends to flatten images and make really harsh shadows behind the subjects of the photo. This is also because our house has zero amount of natural light. Whenever you can use natural light and get away with not using the flash, the results will always be better. But I digress...
Go ahead and double click the lock icon on your layer and give your layer a name. I just named mine "Main Layer." Click the new layer button at the bottom of the layer panel and name it something like, "background." You can fill the new layer with white if that makes it easier for you to see.
I'm going to use the Pen Tool to select the background areas I want to delete. Here's a great tutorial for using the pen tool if you're not familiar with it. You want to make sure the pen is set to "paths" mode and not "shape layers." With the pen, draw around the areas you want to eliminate. You may need to zoom in to get all the little details.
With the pen tool still selected, and your main layer activated, right click with your mouse near your path you just created and choose "Make Selection." Make sure the feather radius is set to "0."
Now you have several options with what to do with this background. You can choose to just delete it, which will look like this:
You can paint over it in a new layer. You can add a separate texture or color in the layer beneath your main layer. Or you can do what I'm going to do and add a gradient layer as a new background for your image. Select the gradient tool, and use the eyedropper to select the colors for your gradient:
With your selection still active, create a new layer, and drag the gradient in the direction you want it to go.
You can de-select by holding Ctrl + D. I'm about done, and it's getting to where I want it. However, I notice Scott's shirt looks a little dingy. So I brighten it up a little with the Dodge Tool:
Much better. For the finishing touch, I like a rounded corner. I'm sure there are several ways to go about doing this, but this is how I do it. Select your rounded rectangle shape from the tool box. It should be in a hidden layer behind the line tool. Duplicate your main layer and gradient layer and merge them together. Hide the original layers.
1. Make sure you have "paths" selected instead of "shape layers."
2. The radius will change the size of the rounded corner. The higher the number, the more rounded the corner will be. My radius is set at 35 pixels.
3. Draw your rounded corner rectangle over your image. Right click and choose "Make Selection." Now hold down Ctrl+Shift+I - this will invert your selection. Now hit DELETE. This will trim off any excess image outside the rounded rectangle area.
And the final product is:

Is it perfect? Definitely not. But I think it's better than the original.

So, I realize that was kind of long, but hopefully you learned a few tips for working with your photos in Photoshop. Like I mentioned earlier. If there's something specific you'd like to learn how to do, let me know and I'll put together a tutorial!

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