I love Photoshop, it has a terrifying array of features, most of which I haven’t even looked at. Many people complain about the excessive use of Photoshop in images, I don’t mind it at all, as long as it is appropriate to the image. I heard an analogy somewhere that compared photography to the written word, how a news article differs from a poem. Both use the English language but the news article should relate the facts where a poem can be about a thought or an emotion, or filled with metaphors and double meanings.

So if you are taking a photograph as a record of an event or a news story, or you are trying to represent factual information in any way then don’t touch Photoshop. If however you are trying to create or perfect a beautiful image then get ‘shopping!

I also don’t believe that you should use Photoshop to fix mistakes, get it right in camera and keep in mind what editing you intend to do later. The final issue is excessive or simply bad use of Photoshop’s tools. See this link for more information 🙂

The following is a very brief description of hoe I used Photoshop on my ‘not goth’ image of Samantha. I am in no way a Photoshop expert, but this is just the method I have worked on over the last year and I kinda like the final image.

The raw images are loaded onto my computer and backed up straight away to a portable hard drive, then I make my selections from a set, initially based on the pose then checking the technical aspects such as sharpness. Once the selections have been made the set is renamed and any images to be edited are moved to a sub folder called Edits (no really)! These are checked in the Canon raw software before being sent directly to Photoshop. I immediately save a PSD version of the file.


I edit all my images with layers, it means I can go back in and adjust things at any stage. The first thing I do is duplicate the background layer and rename it Retouch, this means I always have a copy of the original image to return to if needed. It is also a good way of keeping track of the edit, switching off all but the background layer can show your your progress and quite often reveal if you have gone too far with the editing.

The following describes each layer used in the above image, it will be in reverse order here as the Photoshop layer stack reads from bottom to top, but that would just look wierd written down.

Background: This is the original image as imported from the Canon raw software.

Retouch: This is where any blemishes are removed, including skin, loose threads and fluff on clothes and stray hairs.

Smooth: Very subtle skin smoothing, any areas that need to remain sharp are retained by painting a layer mask.

Brightness + Contrast: An overall adjustment to get the tones and contrast closer to what is required for the final image.

Curves Dark and Curves Bright: This is two adjustment curves grouped, one is set to brighten the image the other set to darken, then using a filled layer mask both are turned off, I can then paint locally where I want to accentuate highlights or shadows, its like dodging and burning but I prefer the control doing it this way, and it is much easier to paint out mistakes.

Hue + Saturation: This layer was used to strip out some of the colour in the skin tones.

Curves: An overall curves layer which I just added to increase the contrast, I used curves as it has more control across the various brightness ranges in the image.

Brightness + Contrast: This is doing the same as the previous layer across the whole image but I hadn’t made up my mind how far I wanted to go, so I kept the original too. With it’s position in the layer stack this adjustment affects all the previous layers.

Vignette: This is a layer filled with black and a feathered ellipse is cut out, this is then reduced in the fill section to blend it with the underlying image. Any additional shape can be added with a feathered brush.

At this point I had finished the image and uploaded it, but I can’t help fiddling so I added a couple more layers

Sharpen: I used an unsharp mask filter on the image which really boosts the contrast around edges and shadow to light areas, make the image ‘punchy’, I think that is the phrase anyway.

Hue + Saturation: To create the sharpen layer I collapsed all layers to a new layer which sits on top of the image, at this point I decided to try stripping out a little more flesh tone.


Just as a bit of a test I made a video showing the layers! It’s a bit pants I know but I always like to see the before and after.


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