Photoshop Basics Tutorial

There’s no denying it--digital photography is convenient--but images from a digital camera often come out looking a little flat and lifeless.

When we take a roll of film to the local photo lab, we never see all the minor adjustments made to our images between negative and print--all we know is that our prints come out looking great.

Lighthouse 1This short tutorial will show you some of the minor adjustments that can be made in Photoshop to add a little punch to your digital images, and get them looking a little more like the prints from the photo lab.

So lets take a look at this shot of a lighthouse on a sunny afternoon, and see what we can do to liven it up a bit.

As you can see this image is a little washed-out looking and not very sharp.

Let’s start by adjusting the levels:

From the tool bar at the top of the Photoshop page select

You will get a window that looks like the one below:

Screen Shot 1The little triangles below this graph are sliders that you can move to adjust the look of the image.

The slider on the left adjusts the dark tones in the image, while the slider on the right adjusts the light tones, and, you guessed it, the middle slider adjusts the mid tones.

You will notice that the left side of the graph has a flat area before it starts up the first “hill”.

Click on the left slider and pull it right, until it is at the beginning of the first “hill”. This will darken and enrich the darker colours of the image.

Lighthouse 2Since the right side of the graph starts with a “hill”, we can leave it as is--the lighter colours are already bright enough.

Our image is looking a little better, but still needs more tweaking.

The sky still looks a bit washed out, and the white areas on the lighthouse look a little too bright.



Next, let’s take a look at that middle slider on the levels adjustment:

Screen Shot 2Pull the middle slider to the right a bit--this will darken the mid-tones and give the image an overall darker and richer look.

Note the Input Levels above the graph. The middle number gives the levels for the mid tones, the left number for the darker tones, and the right number for the lighter tones.

It is a good idea to take note of the numbers for the Input Levels before you make adjustments.

This will allow you to keep track of how much change you have made, and give you a frame of reference for adjusting your next image.

Lighthouse 3 The colours are looking pretty good now, but the image is still a bit soft and fuzzy looking.







So let’s see what we can do to sharpen it up a bit:

There are several ways to sharpen an image in Photoshop, but I think the method described below gives the most natural looking results.

It’s a little more work than the conventional sharpening methods, but I believe that it’s worth it.

Start by selecting “Layer”-->“Duplicate Layer”.

Your will get a window that looks like the one below:

Screen Shot 3

Click “OK”. Then select “Window”-->“Show Layers”.

You will see a window like this:

Screen Shot 5Now click on the drop-down arrow beside Normal and select Luminosity.

Then click on the arrow beside Opacity and use the drop-down slider to set the opacity to 15%.




Next select “Filter”-->“Sharpen”-->“Unsharp Mask”.

You will see a window like the one below:

Screen Shot 6Move the slider under Amount till it reads 100%.
Then adjust Radius and Threshold in the same manner.

For this particular image I chose a radius of 4.0 and a threshold of 4.

These settings are a good starting point, but you can play around with these numbers a bit to suit the image you are adjusting.

You will find that these settings vary, depending on the size of the image and how soft it is to start with.



Now select “Layer”-->“Flatten Image”, and your image is ready to save.

Lighthouse 4As you can see, these minor adjustments have added a lot of punch to the image--it is clearer and the colours are richer.

Not bad for a couple of minutes work.