By Chris Malinao
The recommended approach to Photoshop—if you’re a photographer grappling with image editing for the first time—is to just dive in and do it. Open a picture and edit it. Tackle the easier things first and proceed little by little, understanding the basics every step of the way.
It starts with what a photographer needs to do with his photos using Photoshop. These include: opening a picture in Photoshop, cropping, adjusting the exposure and color, cleaning and retouching, understanding resolution, and finally saving the finished version of the file.
It will greatly help also if you gain an understanding of layers and blend modes, and fully understand how to select and mask. Start with the basics first, learn to edit a photo following a tutorial, then progress to editing more and more photos. Funny thing happens along the way when you do this.
Learning on your own is good if you’re an autodidact, a person who can learn things by himself. Look at tutorials in books and on the internet and follow the steps. Learning how to edit is very much like learning how to cook or how to bake: you follow a recipe and its instructions. And you need to write it down. You cannot hope to memorize a recipe instantly the first time you use it. Write down what you did to edit a photograph so it can guide you again in the next photo. Do that until you memorize what you did.
Aside from the basic cropping, exposure enhancement, color correction, and retouching, Photoshop offers other tools that can be very helpful to the photographer. There’s Clone Stamp tool to clean up your images.
For example, let’s say you visited a memorable temple somewhere in Southeast Asia but it’s always crowded with people. You can use the Clone Stamp tool to remove two or three tourists. If your problem is the never-ending stream of people showing up at your scene, there’s a Photoshop technique for that, too. Take several exposures (on a tripod for unchanging framing), with all the tourists in it, and then you can tell Photoshop to remove all elements that moved and retain only the elements that were steady: the temple and your girlfriend who stood there without moving.
You can also change backgrounds. This requires that you use selections, so learn it. Then you can select the image of your girlfriend and relocate it on a background of a beach. There’s also the matter about Layers, Blend Modes, Masks, etc. So much to learn in Photoshop! Start with the basics first, then progress to more complicated things.
But sometimes, you need to ask a question. Why is this thing not doing what it should? What should I do? The book cannot talk back to you, nor can YouTube which is a great source of Photoshop tutorials. Faced with a blank wall, you need to call for help. Send out a question on the tutorial’s forum; Internet people are often very willing to help. Or call a friend who knows how to use Photoshop. Ask how it’s done. Or attend a workshop like the ones offered by the non-profit Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation (FPPF).
Whatever you do, bear in mind that digital post-processing is an essential part of photography. If you’re not editing your photos in Photoshop or some other software, you’re losing out as a photographer. There is so much that you can do in Photoshop and other image editors to make your pictures look great.
[Chris Malinao teaches digital post-processing methods such as the Lightroom workflow software and Photoshop editing software to photography students at the Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation (FPPF), a non-profit organization that offers year-round workshops in Comprehensive Digital Photography, Lighting Essentials, Wedding Photography, Strobist Lighting, Food Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and other specialty photography workshops. For details of FPPF workshops, visit www.photoworldmanila.com.]