Easier than it looks...Photoshop

There are times I'm asked to teach Lightroom or Photoshop but I have to say no.  Not because I don't want to.  I dearly LOVE to teach, especially things I love like the artistic end of photography.  When a prospective student asks me if they can video the training session and/or they want to take detailed notes...such as step by step keystrokes and mouse clicks during the session.  Nope, sorry.

Some learn best that way.  I get it.  But there are some things you really can't get that detailed with.  And, as intimidating as Photoshop might look to a new user, it's not a step by step process to work magic with it.  Some think there is a certain process that is done to each image to bring it to life.  For some very special artists out there that have a very specific style there very well could be a very expect process to get that look.  Even then I'd venture a guess that every picture is different just a little in some aspects of what is done to them in Photoshop.

So how do you learn to be fairly good at Photoshop.  I'd say you get comfortable after playing with it for about 100 hours.  That's REAL comfortable.  This is the point where you have learned enough about all the features and the variables that they have, to start thinking about what you want, and then just knowing how to get that look.

Of course, you don't learn it all at once.  As you get to know and have used each feature enough you add more to your palette of things you can do.  In the end, and after plenty of practice, you will be able to bring up an image and start editing with confidence.

Here's a simple example.

Aurora on the beach - original

The above shot is the original shot taken on the beach at Huntington Beach.  Although Aurora is stunning as always with a great pose, the sky looks lack luster, the sand is dirty, and focus isn't on her as it should be.  This is where Photoshop skills, a couple plugins, and a vision of what we'd like come into play.

So, let's make it artistic.  Overboard a little for some but it's art...we can do whatever we want with art.  I love the surreal look myself and I think I got that here.

Aurora finished


Now, here are a few things I might have done to make this image look like I wanted.  And I tell you this to give you more of a feeling for editing from the minds eye and not push this button, then this button, and then this button.

I use the NIK filters from Google and the Photographers Photoshop package from Abobe's Creative Cloud.

  • I pulled her hair out using Liquify to show some wind and enhances her already wonderful emotion.
  • I dodged and burned to highlight her shape giving her an almost 3D look.  I also streaked her hair brighter to show more body.
  • The sky is very blah.  So, I brought in a stock image to add a dramatic sky to the background and blended it in with a mask.  Then I used several features in NIK.
    • I used the center lighten to put most of the light on Aurora and darkened around her.
    • Adding some tonal contrast to bring out the lights and darks just a bit more, especially the sand.
    • Then some detail extraction was done...seasoned to taste as all of these are.
    • And last was an image sharpener to put just an illusion of better focus.

So, I could give you a keystroke and mouse click in total detail, but 90% of the adjustments were done to meet my vision of what I wanted, and it would be useless to mindlessly follow the same thing on every image.  Each one is done with adjustments custom to the exact look we want.  Here is another image from the next day and obviously a whole different approach was taken to edit this one to give it a very different look.

Tayler finished

So, get crack'n.  Learn Photoshop by just using it and using it.  Watch a lot of videos and get the basics down and after a while you'll get the hang of how to use it by feeling more than just step by step.  Then you can become the artist you need to be.

Have fun!!