Photoshop can be an intimidating program, but the key is to learn the basics and get familiar with the interface. The following are some of the lessons that I have created to help learn this program. There are tutorials all over the web, of course; this is intended to be a very simple, step-by-step guide to some of the most common tasks, to help get newbies more comfortable with this program.
Photoshop used to be a software package you could buy and install. However, Adobe has moved to a subscription model, meaning you get charged a monthly fee for access to it. This has caused some unhappiness with professionals who use Photoshop on a daily basis. The upside is that it makes it much more affordable for people to use Photoshop. No matter which version you are using, the lessons that follow should be relevent to you if you are using a recent version of Photoshop.
Some of the most common tasks used by photographers and artists in Photoshop include:
Optimizing photographs to reduce the size of the image to make them easier to view on websites
Adjusting the saturation, lightness, contrast, and other settings to make photographs look more vibrant or to give them an artistic effect
Adding text to a photograph, such as a caption, title, or an overlay to make a photograph into a slide for a slideshow or report
Altering photographs or images through artistic effects, filters, and other manipulations
The key thing to understand about Photoshop is that no one, I repeat no one, knows or uses everything that it does. People use Photoshop specifically for what they want to accomplish. When they need to accomplish something different, they learn how to do it, and add that to their knowledge base. So, the key to learning Photoshop is to start with some simple tasks, and as you get comfortable using it, you will find other things you want to achieve and you will learn those as well.
Below are a few common tasks in Photoshop, with screenshots to help you get used to this program. Do not be intimidated, Photoshop is just a program, and the way to learn it is to spend time with it.
When you take a picture on a digital camera, you can store your image on your memory card in a couple different formats. It is important to know what these formats are and how they are used.
JPEGs – This is a compression format. What that means is that a percentage of pixels (or digital information in other words) has been taken OUT of the photograph, in such a way that you can’t really see the loss of this digital information.
This makes the image resolution smaller, which makes the image load much faster on websites, blogs, and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Jpegs are “lossy”, meaning that every time you save a jpeg, more image information is removed, further degrading and deteriorating the image. If you save a JPEG enough times, eventually the quality will be so poor you may not even be able to recognize it; see image on the left (image source: shutha.org).
TIFF – This is a “lossless” format in which none of the information has been removed from the digital image. It is at full resolution, and all of the digital information that makes up your photograph remains. TIFF images can be viewed on computers, and laptops. It is good practice to save a TIFF version of your photograph on your computer so you always have access to the uncompressed digital image.
Camera RAW – if you own a digital single lens reflex camera (SLR, the kind of camera where you can change lenses), chances are you have an option to shoot photographs in Camera RAW. If you do, and you have access to Photoshop, and you are serious about taking good pictures, then you should consider shooting your photographs in Camera RAW. This format does not remove any data at all from the image, giving you the fullest range of enhancement and editing potential.
Some cameras allow you to take pictures at the same time in both RAW and jpeg, so you get two versions of each picture you take when you press the button.
Camera RAW is a format that saves ALL of the data when you take a picture, even more than a TIFF file. The only way to view camera RAW images is through Photoshop. When you open an image in this format, you get access to an enormous amount of control over how you can adjust, enhance, and modify your image, even more so than in Photoshop. The image above shows a photo being edited in Adobe Camera Raw. Note the slider bars ans multiple tabs; this format gives you enormous control over how you can change or improve your image.
Because all of the data and information of your image is preserved, this is a very large file format, and you will need a large memory card in your camera, but the upside is that you have so much more options to enhance, rescue or improve your images. With Camera RAW, you can often save a picture that has some serious shortcomings, such as poor lighting, or a color cast that is unflattering.
Once you are finished enhancing your image in Adobe Camera Raw, you can save the image as a TIFF file, a JPEG, or both (which is the best way since you have both a compressed and an uncompressed version of your photograph).
So you have installed Photoshop on your computer, and you’ve taken some great images with your camera, and now you want to share them on Facebook, your website, Instagram or your blog.
Do not just immediately upload these images. They have to be optimized first. Why?
Because forcing someone to open a huge digital photograph uses a lot more of their data. If they are looking at it on a smartphone, that’s not fair to them. Plus, the images will load very slowly, and people will not wait for them to finish loading. They will hit the back button and move on. Your image must be reduced in resolution so it will load faster online.
When I take pictures, I create a master folder on my computer for that set of images. Then, I create three sub-folders, to keep my images organized.
I have three versions of every photograph that I choose to keep: an Adobe Camera RAW version, a TIFF file, and a jpeg version for fast loading online.
When I review my pictures, I discard most of them and choose to edit and optimize only a small number. Keeping the high resolution images means I can go back and edit or print them any time I want at their full resolution.
Here is how to do that in Photoshop:
After downloading your pictures into the folder you’ve created, look at all of them and make a note of which ones are worth enhancing and uploading/sharing
Create a sub-folder within this folder and call it EDITED.
Open the photos in Photoshop by selecting FILE > OPEN.. and navigating to the file folder. Select the photos you want to edit
Select FILE > SAVE AS.
In the window that appears, give your photo an appropriate name, and navigate to the EDITED folder. Click OK,, and you will see the following box appear:
Here’s what the options in this dialog box mean:
Baseline Standard – The JPG is recognizable to all web browsers and makes the least amount of changes to your image.
Baseline Optimized – Optimizes, or enhances, the color quality of the image and produces a slightly smaller file size All modern web browsers support it; some of the earlier web browsers will not support this format. Both Standard and Optimized produce good quality images; the suggested format is Baseline Optimized
Baseline Progressive – Creates an image that will display gradually as it’s downloaded (that’s what the scans drop-down box is for: to select the number of progresive scans). In the olden days an image would slowly be created as it was downloaded; this is an outdated setting.
If you have a slightly older version of Photoshop, you may have a Save For Web option, which accomplishes the same thing. Go to File > Save For Web and you will see this dialog box. There will be four versions of your picture, zoomed in. The only settings you need to be concerned about are the highlighted ones below. The drop down boxes allow you to set the quality level of the jpeg, and the Quality box (currently set to 10 in the image below) will determine how much compression your image will have.
The general rule is, the bigger the size of your image, the lower you want the quality to be, so it will load faster online.
And there you have it – how to optimize photos for faster loading online.
One of the picture formats available to users of digital SLR cameras is RAW. What is a RAW image?
A camera raw image file contains minimally processed data from the image sensor of either a digital camera, image scanner, or motion picture film scanner.
Most digital cameras compress the pictures you take immediately after capturing the image. This keeps the file sizes low and takes care of things like color correction, tint, and exposure, so you don’t have to think about that. The decisions are made for you.
Some people prefer to have more control over how each image is processed, so they shoot in RAW mode. This mode does not compress the images at all and leaves them completely unprocessed, which takes up more space on your memory card than typical JPEG images. In fact, RAW files often require 2 to 3 times more space for each image captured.
Think of RAW files as old school film negatives. You won’t be able to see your pictures unless those negatives are properly processed. The RAW file is the negative and the computer serves as the dark room.
When you download RAW images, you will need to open them using Adobe Camera Raw, so they can be processed. This is what the RAW control panel looks like: