There’s no shortage of options when it comes to using Adobe Photoshop to improve the quality of your nature photography. Photoshop is, after all, the standard by which all other image-editing software programs are measured. The challenge is that because it’s such a dense application, exploring and mastering all of the tools and techniques it offers can take a long time. So we asked some longtime OP contributors to share their top tips. From quick fixes to more creative uses, consider the following advice the next time you open up Photoshop.
1 Emphasize Your Subject. Cameras don’t see the world the way we do. Sometimes we need to bring that camera’s image back to the emphasis we saw when we photographed a subject. The best way to do this without changing the details of the photo is to make most of the photo darker than the subject and use adjustment layers and layer masks. Follow these steps, and even if you don’t know layers and layer masks, you’ll get good results (plus, you’ll learn about layer masks).
1. Use the Elliptical Selection tool to circle your subject. 2.Invert that selection so that everything except the subject is selected (Select > Inverse). 3.Add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer, click OK). This automatically gives you a layer mask based on the selection. 4.Adjust brightness to -30 (this isn’t critical and can be changed at any time). 5.The edge is obvious. Go to Filter > Gaussian Blur and use at least 100 pixels for the slider. This will vary depending on your photo. (You may have to lighten the whole image with Curves or Levels at this point, too.) 6.Click the eye icon of this layer on and off to see the difference. —Rob Sheppard
2 Simple, Editable Dodge And Burn. I do this to almost every image, whether I’m working on a small touch-up or spending hours enhancing highlights and darkening shadows, to get contrast, very selectively, into specific areas of an image.
1.Create a new layer in your Layers palette. Option-click (Alt-click on a PC) the Create a New Layer icon in the bottom of the Layers window (it’s the one right next to the Garbage Can icon). This opens up a dialog box. 2.Change the mode to Overlay, then check the Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray) box. Click OK. You’ll see a gray layer. 3.Use the Brush tool (soft-edged) and set it to a very low Opacity. I prefer settings from 2 to 6 percent. 4.On the new layer, paint with white to lighten areas and black to darken. Because you’re on a new layer, it’s completely editable. Build up areas slowly for a more natural look. —Daryl Benson
3 Creating Borders. An image begins and ends at its edges. I’ve spent years collecting tattered paper fringes, Polaroid edges and postcard borders, and adding them to my photos digitally. It’s usually just a matter of visually trying to match an image with the look and feel of an edge.
1.In this example, I converted the original image of overgrown stupas in Burma to black-and-white using Photoshop’s Channel Mixer and added a stained paper texture. 2.I copied and pasted the resulting image onto a new layer overtop the Polaroid edge. 3.There are many ways of blending the two. Here, I added a layer mask and painted black around the edges with a large soft-edged brush, allowing the background Polaroid border to show through. 4.Finally, I added a sepia hue to the overall image using Photo Filter (Image > Adjustments > Photo Filter). —Daryl Benson