Is image editing in Photoshop a difficult skill to master? Well, it seems that way from the outside looking in. But when you break it down, the image editing process is actually super logical. In this blog I’ll explain the techniques and processes I use to create complex photo manipulations, professional retouching and detailed compositions.
Editing Techniques + Timing = Logical Workflow
Each technique has its time and place, routine is effective when it comes to image editing.
I’m going to be using a practical example where I build a composition and then perform advanced retouching techniques on a supercar (with image reference), so you can clearly follow along. Here is the before and after…
STEP 1 – Creating Your Document
It’s important to create your document at the correct size and resolution for your needs. As a general statement, it’s better to go large and reduce image size than to go small and try to increase image size.
Pro tip: If you are creating images that will be used in print, then use a resolution of 300dpi. If you are creating images that will be uploaded to the web, use a resolution of 72dpi.
STEP 2 – Placing Stock Images into Your Document
Next, we need to place our stock image(s) into the document. To do this, head up to File > Place Embedded, this will place your image into your scene as a smart object.
Pro tip: When placing images into your document, duplicate the original layer and then edit the duplicated layer. This will leave an original version of your image in your working file. Making it much easier to revisit if you need to.
STEP 3 – Changing Your Background Composition
Once you have the focal image in your document, it’s time to take a look at the composition. At this point, you can look for stock images and start to place them into your file to see what looks good. To create a realistic result, keep a close eye on perspective. New images that you place into the scene should match the perspective of existing images.
STEP 4 – Removing Unwanted Objects with the Clone Stamp Tool
Are you ready to clean up? That’s exactly what this stage is. You have placed all the images into your document to build the composition, now is the time to remove any unwanted parts. When editing the supercar, I wanted to remove any imperfections on the bush, paving, car and newly placed stock images. See the before and after…
STEP 5 – Retouching the Focal Element of Your Image (Supercar)
Most compositions will have a focal point, you should consider this in the planning stage. Then when it comes to image editing, you should pay plenty of attention to the focal point. In my case, I needed to perform some edits on the car.
Analysis – Take a step back and think!! Look at your composition and decide what you should change. I wanted to change all the reflections on the car, as we have changed the scene and built a new composition, we needed to adjust the reflections. (The edits you perform here will be specific to your composition).
I grabbed the trusty clone stamp tool and started removing all the unwanted shadows on the car. I won’t go into all the gory details as this is a time-consuming edit. Take your time and refine your edit little by little. Here is the result…
See how much cleaner the car looks with the excess shadows removed. Perfect!
STEP 6 – Removing Personal Information/Details
When using stock images it’s important to remove any personal information such as logos, text, names etc. This will avoid any copyright infringement and ensure there is no product placement.
In my image, I needed to change the number plate. This is a free stock image so it’s not a necessary step, just good practice.
Pro tip: Use the bevel and emboss layer style when required to give your text changes some depth. This creates a realistic finish.
STEP 7 – Correcting Contrast on the Car Body
Now we have our composition completed and all unwanted parts of the scene have been removed. It’s time to look at the contrast.
Pro tip: Use levels adjustment layers to edit contrast. This is a non-destructive technique and allows for changes at a later stage if required.
I wanted to enhance the contrast to really make my image pop! It tackled the car first, then the wheels and windows and lastly, the carbon details.
Here is what the car looked like before and after the contrast adjustment:
STEP 8 – Sharpening the Car
Combining different images can lead to different areas being sharper than others. Parts of the background could be in focus when they should out of focus. We need to edit the sharpness to ensure clarity in the image and the focal areas are correct.
To edit the sharpness, we are going to use the High Pass filter in combination with layer styles. We will then selectively sharpen certain areas using a layer mask.
Combine all layers into one layer at the top of your layer stack
Rename the layer High pass
Filter > Other > High Pass – The radius selected will depend on your image size, I used a radius of 30
Change the layer blend mode to Soft light
Fill your layer mask with black to hide the adjustment
Select your brush tool > White as your foreground color
Paint over the areas that you would like to sharpen on your layer mask
It’s an effective technique to make your images look super crisp. You can go one step further and repeatedly perform steps 1 – 7 to sharpen parts of the image further.
STEP 9 – Advanced Color Correction
This is probably one of the most important steps of the process, however, it’s often overlooked. The final color adjustments help create a seamless blend between all the images within the composition. They also allow you to create a certain mood or feel. To perform this adjustment, add a color lookup adjustment layer above all other layers. Then go in and edit each color individually on the adjustment layer. I’ve also chosen to use a Photo filter to give a brighter sunshine effect.
You can see there is much more unity in the colors creating a better blend in the composition. The car looks more exotic.
If you follow these 9 image editing techniques you’ll be creating stunning images, composition and photo manipulations in no time at all.
It’s a process that requires perseverance, the cliche “practice makes perfect” is certainly true here. The more times you perform image edits, the more refined your process will be.
Ready to Apply These Image Editing Techniques?
If you think this guide was helpful, then you are in for a treat. At Inspiration Clan we have dedicated hundreds of hours to helping people all over the globe improve their Photoshop skills. Our online courses offer nothing short of a complete learning path through Photoshop. You can access every single course on Inspiration Clan FREE for 1 month using the exclusive FilterGrade discount code:
Special thanks to Jourdain Coleman for contributing this article to FilterGrade! Jourdain is the founder of Inspiration Clan and enjoys the art of image editing, compositing and photo manipulation. Check out their Instagram!