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Photoshop - your first steps

Photoshop - your first steps - Entering the world of Photoshop for the first time, an introduction.

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Adobe Photoshop

If you take photographs and have a computer you could improve your results using an image-editing program. The latest cameras sold are digital models that don't use film and are ready to edit, but if the camera you have is a traditional film-based model you can convert the photographs to digital using a flatbed scanner. These can now be bought for as little as 40.

Digital photographs look like normal photos, but they are made up of tiny coloured squares, known as pixels, and although 'editing' sounds like quite a complex procedure, it's simply a case of looking at a photography and seeing things that are wrong and then, using the tools of the program, moving these tiny pixels around or changing their colour or appearance. Photoshop is one of the best image editing programs, because it was originally developed for professional users, but has become the main program used by camera enthusiasts around the world.
The layout of Photoshop is, at first, quite complex to follow, especially if you have dabbled with the budget programs, such as MGI's PhotoSuite or Adobe PhotoDeluxe, but once you become familiar with Photoshop's toolbox and menus it's a wonderful program that can do anything you've dreamed of, plus a whole load more.
before To see what it's capable of I've taken a very simple point & shoot picture taken using a Nikon Coolpix 950 digital camera and applied a little magic. The image has been reduced in size so that it can be seen fairly quickly on your computer. The actual size was about four times this.
adjust levels The first thing to do is make the picture look brighter by adding a little more contrast. Digital cameras often produce images that lack the punch, or sparkle, that a film based model delivers. Photoshop has many ways to improve the picture using brightness and contrast, levels, curves and saturation options. In this case a quick selection of auto levels from the image>Adjust>auto levels menu sorts out the image.
clone As with many street scene, we see there are a few bits of rubbish lying in the road and, in this case, a skip over at the right hand side. These can be removed using the clone tool (also known as a rubber stamp), which you use to sample a nearby area and paint over the offending items using the sampled area. The tool simply picks up pixels and then paints them in the new area.
While the Clone tool is active you could remove the TV aerials and any other things you don't like. Moving modern items prevents the thatched cottage from being dated so the photo could now have been taken when the cottage was built. With a little skill you can also use the clone tool to remove cars and cables or in portraits, blemishes, wrinkles, stray hairs etc.

The next job is to make a sky to paste over the dull white washed version in the existing photo. Photoshop has a superb render clouds feature found in the filters>render>clouds menu. This automatically creates a canvas of clouds that can then be pasted into a photo. You could paste it straight into place but I have a method that produces a more realistic set of clouds.
foregroundcolour Create a new canvas, file>new, and make it about twice the size of the image you're working on. Select a foreground colour that is the colour you want the sky by clicking on the colour square at the bottom of the toolbar. I chose dark blue, but the choice is dependent on the result you want - dark green can be quite 'before the storm', orange for sunsets and black for foul weather. Leave the background colour as white.
blurclouds Then apply the cloud filter to create a pattern of white over the selected colour. To make the clouds look less harsh use the gaussian blur filter from the filter>blur>gaussian blur menu and set it so the clouds are still defined, but less harsh. Now copy the whole image. Select>all, then e dit>copy.
selection Go back to the cottage photo and select the white sky using the magic wand tool. Clicking anywhere in the sky will put a set of dotted lines around the pixels with similar colour values, in this case white. You can then adjust this selection using various options. I went to select>modify>similar to pick up extra pixels that the Magic Wand had missed and then select>modify>expand and set one pixel to ensure that the edges of the selection were right against the roof top.
skyin Now go to edit>paste into, which pastes the sky into the selected area. Now you can use the move tool to position the clouds so they look most natural.
huesat If you are not happy with the colours use the i mage>adjust>hue/saturation option which lets you make slider adjustments to the colour (hue) and vibrancy (saturation) and brightness (lightness). Play around with all three sliders to obtain a more natural colouring.
layeropacity When you use the paste mode Photoshop creates a new layer. This is like placing the clouds on a piece of glass over the original photo and means you can make changes to this layer without affecting the layer below.
When you're happy, save the picture and merge the layers (known as flattening) to make the file size smaller.

This whole thing took less than five minutes and is a vast improvement. You could go further by adding a gradation to the clouds or make the whole thing darker and add light in the windows to create a winter evening scene, or add rain against a stormy sky. You could also add a fancy border, turn the picture into a jigsaw, place a texture so it looks like a painting, blur it for a misty dreamlike effect and much more. Your are only limited by your imagination.


You can download the image of the cottage here so you can have a go at the tutorial yourself. 


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Thanks Its quite helpfulSmile

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Hi. Would it be possible to download copies of the original photo here so that we can play with the above techniques ourselves ?

Hi Bill,

It's an old tutorial so I'm not sure who the photo belongs to. Let me see if I can find out for you.


Hi Bill,

Pete's given me the image so I've uploaded it to our download section. I've added a link at the bottom of the tutorial that'll take you to where you can download the image from.

I hope it helps,

Thanks Nikita !

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