3 Easy But Essential Photoshop Tips

By Geoff Harris

It must be odd to create a product or brand that then becomes shorthand for other similar products or brands. Take Adobe Photoshop. If you've only heard of one image-editing software package it'll be Photoshop. In fact, to Photoshop something, is an accepted synonym for altering or manipulating an image.

The ubiquity of Photoshop means that there are lots of excellent tips and shortcuts that show you how to radically alter an image. However, there's generally very little in the way of well...smaller, quirkier and arguably more useful techniques. Here's three that I use regularly.

Dust busting


Spotting dust and other blemishes is strangely easier when the colours in the image have been inverted.

My first digital DSLR was a dust magnet. You either had to clean it every other day or be prepared to remove dust digitally in postproduction. Fortunately, DSLRs have come on a long way and dust is not as big a problem as it once was. However, images do occasionally need dust removing (the image library I supply too quite rightly insists that images are completely dust free). Dust however can be hard to see, particularly in areas light but even tone such as sky.

The easiest way to spot dust is to add an Invert adjustment layer over the image. This inverts the colours, making areas such as sky often close to black. Once you've done this select the image (Background) layer, view it at 100%, and remove dust using either the Clone or Spot Healing brush. When you're happy that you've spotted all the dust you then delete the Invert adjustment layer.

Seeing problems more easily


Try zooming out to see your image more objectively.

Viewing an image at 100% is great when you want to check fine details. However, it's not so good at letting you assess an image as a whole (unless you have an absolutely enormous - and very high-resolution - monitor). Oddly enough however, it's often easier to see the faults of an image when it's relatively small on the screen.

I often zoom out to 5-10% magnification so that I see the image as an almost postage stamp-sized thumbnail. It's certainly easier to spot whether the overall compositional balance of an image is correct than when the image fills the screen (rotating the image 180° helps too).

Sharpening using the High Pass filter

The view of Dunstanburgh Castle from the north bay showing the Lilburn Tower and Greymare rocks, Northumberland, England

The unsharpened image.

The view of Dunstanburgh Castle from the north bay showing the Lilburn Tower and Greymare rocks, Northumberland, England

The sharpened image, once it's been flattened

Sharpening an image using Photoshop's Sharpen filter is very destructive. Sharpen works by increasing edge contrast, which tricks the eye into believing the image is sharper. However, apply too much contrast and edges are blighted by an ugly halo. Another way to create the appearance of sharpness is to use the High Pass filter.

The view of Dunstanburgh Castle from the north bay showing the Lilburn Tower and Greymare rocks, Northumberland, England

Once you've applied the High Pass filter to your layer it should look something like this...

First, create a copy of your Background layer. Next, select the High Pass filter (Filter > Other > High Pass). Move the slider to a value somewhere between 4.5 pixels and 10. The higher the value the more pronounced the sharpening effect. The layer will now look decidedly odd. Don't worry! Go to the Layers palette and set the Blend mode to Overlay.

Your image should now look sharper. To vary the effect change the Opacity of the layer. You can then either save the image as a Tiff or Psd file to preserve the layering or, more daringly, flatten the layers and save the image as a Jpeg (though I'd be tempted not to overwrite the original image, keep that preserved unchanged and save a copy instead).

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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