Better Travel Pictures: The Wonder of Photoshop

Photoshop can turn a dark, lifeless digital picture into a thing of beauty if you have the basic knowledge of how to use it. Renowned Los Angeles photographer Alison Reynolds gives her personal photo tips on how to use Photoshop to transform your images.

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The front lawn of Castello del Nero in Tuscany, made even more beautiful by the wonders of Photoshop. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

TUSCANY, Italy, March 14, 2017 – Adobe Photoshop is a wonderful tool that can change the way you look at your digital files. After learning the basics of this program, you can fix common problems with relative ease.

But it takes practice to get used to the tools and how they work. When first going digital after years of shooting with film you have to learn some new practices that are very contrary to film rules.

Back in the day when photographers only used film, a lot of photographers would overexpose an image of a person to help in camouflaging facial flaws. This technique made for flawless skin with eyes and lips being the outstanding features.

In digital images, it is important to be right on the mark with your exposures. But if it is underexposed it is easy to fix. Now, of course, you would not want to be underexposed more than half to a stop under.


Remember each f-stop is double the light. That means, that if you are way underlit, you’d better change your settings and shoot another image to make sure you have the shot.

Photoshop is not cheap to purchase, but it will pay off over the years with helping you get your images to look the way you want. Below are before-and-after shots that show you how you can make your images better.

When shooting outside during the day, the quality and intensity of light is very different in the sun than it is in the shade. Expose for the sunny parts so you don’t get washed-out images.

Remember, the data is there in the shade, but is not there in blown-out parts of the image where you see major whites.

To address some lighting concerns, you might also buy yourself a polarizing filter for your lens. This will help you get better skies and get rid of reflections in images taken on water or those involving shiny surfaces.

Your filter can be turned so you can choose the right look for your image. Any other filters you used to use in film photography can be added in Photoshop.

Before Photoshop the image is dark, a bit muddy, and needs to be opened up.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The above photo is an image taken in Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy. As you can see, the original image started out looking a bit muddy. With the help of Photoshop, however, it becomes a bright and beautiful image. In this image the buildings are in the shade, and since I am exposing for the sunny areas, the shade areas are going quite dark.

With the use of Shadows and Highlights tools in Photoshop, the program can bring out the shady areas, as in the improved image below. There is then a way to open the image a little or a lot.

Much improved, brighter, sharper, and saturated with color, it becomes a much more beautiful image.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Photoshop is not hard to teach yourself. You just have to experiment with what the tools do when you are working on an image. However, make sure you use an image that is a copy of the original so as not to ruin the original of the image. Thank goodness, you can also use “edit” in the program to go backwards and start over.

The Photoshop tools that I would say are my favorites are Shadow and Highlights, Dodge Tool, Healing Brush, Burn Tool, Brush Tool, Clone Stamp, Blur Tool, and the Crop Tool.

There are also many things to try under the program’s “Image” tab, particularly when you roll down to “Adjustments,” which provides you with sub-categories such as Brightness-Contrast, Saturation, Color Balance and Photo Filters. Under “Filters,” you will find varioud Sharpening Tools.

There are many other tools in Photoshop, but those mentioned aobove will get you started. During the process of learning Photoshop you may want to daily try out a new tool each time you work with the program until you know what all of them will do for you.

A cloud covered painted ceiling at Il Borro is dark, with details obscured.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The above image of a lovely cloud dining room ceiling was quite dark. But with the help of Photoshop, using Shadows and Highlights as well as Adjustment-Brightness/Contrast and the Dodge Tool it is salvaged, as in the improved image below.

After Photoshop and adjustments of Shadows and Highlights and Brightness/Contrast the picture comes alive.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Early mornings are great times to get really beautiful sky colors. The image below was  actually taken just before the sun came up, although at this point it is lighting the sky a bit.

A dark image taken just before dawn at a rain slickened Castello Banfi.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

By using the Shadows and Highlights you can also get detail in the shadow areas, as in the buildings in the improved image below. Other tools used in this image were the Dodge Tool and the Saturation Tool, used to slightly enhance the color green.

A much improved image thanks to Shadows and Highlights, Saturation and the wonder of Photoshop.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Below is another shot of first light in the early morning.

In this darker origin photo, note the umbrella at the end of the building on the right.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

To improve the result this time, not only did I use the same tools employed in the previous example. I also used the Clone Stamp to get rid of the white umbrella that did nothing for the image as you can see in the improved image below.

The umbrella is gone, and the whole image is brighter and sharper.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

With the Clone Stamp you can recreate the background behind it by cloning what you see on either side of the umbrella. This will take a bit of time to learn this tool. These images taken at Castello Banfi il Borgo in Tuscany, Italy.

In the next image, I again used a lot of the same tools to obtain a better result. But in addition, a key part of improving this image was getting rid of the giant yellow balloon you can see near the tower.

An unsightly yellow balloon structure mars the image of the town square in Montalcino, Tuscany.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Once again, I used Clone Stamp to remove the balloon (belo), although it took quite a bit of work to fix this image, which was taken at a street fair in Montelcino, Tuscany, Italy.


Thanks to the Clone Stamp the yellow ballon is gone, and Shadows and Highlights has opened up the foreground.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

All the images above were shot outdoors. The following two were taken inside. Indoors, you have the problem of light being very yellow.

When shooting food especially, the kitchen is a better place to shoot since they have light that is specifically brighter and more like outdoor light.

The kitchen crew in perfect light at Il Falconiere in Cortona, Tuscany, Italy.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Note how bright this shot of the kitchen crew is at Il Falconiere in Tuscany, Italy. The image of the platter was shot in the kitchen and not much had to be done to it except using the Crop Tool.

Kitchen light is frequently less yellow and therefore better for shooting food.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Sometimes this is not possible, however, and shooting inside the main dining room will impart a very yellow cast to your images as in the image below.

More typically, interior lighting in restaurants tends to cast a yellowish pall over the images.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Using Adjustments-Auto Color or by using Adjustments-Photo Filter, this can be fixed to resemble the true color of the food. The Brush Tool was also used to provide a uniform lightness all around the dish, as in the improved image below, taken at Il Falconiere, outside of Cortona in Tuscany, Italy.

A much improved, and more appetizing image.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The final image was taken at La Sala dei Grapoli restaurant at Castello Banfi in Tuscany.

A darker image with yellowish tinge at La Sala dei Grapoli restaurant at Castello Banfi il Borgo.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

As in the food images above the color of the original image is very yellow, and the shadows needed to be brightened with Adjustments-Shadows and Highlights. Adjustments-Color Balance was also used to cancel out some of the yellow tones, as in the improved image below.

After Adjustments with Color Balance and Shadow and Highlights the image comes alive.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

As you can see, in the improved image, some of the yellow remains, since that is the ambiance of this restaurant.

So, to summarize the principle Photoshop tools I use a lot:

  • To open up shadow areas, go to Image, then Adjustments, then scroll down to Shadows and Highlights. The tool will always be pre-set to 35 on the scale. You can go lower or higher just by moving the bar.
  • To lighten an image a bit go to Image, then Adjustments to Brightness/Contrast. You just have to eyeball it ’till you think it looks the way you want.
  • You can darken an image by going to the left side of the brightness bar. Contrast is good to help make an image appear more in focus.
  • To sharpen an image go to Filter. then scroll down to unsharp mask. Only use the top bar and set it at around 50 or up to 70 for more sharpness.
  • To remove a portion of the image and then fill in the area with the texture you want, use the Lasso Tool. Circle the part you want to get rid of. Use the clone stamp and hold the option key over the area you want to replace, the one you have circled with the lasso tool.
  • At this point, only the area within the lasso selection can be worked on. To get rid of the Lasso Tool go to Select, click on it, then click on deselect.
  • To blur part of your image go to Filter and scroll down to Blur. I like to use Gaussian Blur the best. You can make the size of your brush small or large.
  • The Brush Tool as well as the Healing Brush Tool appear as icons to the left side of your open Photoshop window. Play with these a bit to see what they do. The healing tool will get rid of spots.
  • Press the Option key on the keyboard at same time as you click your mouse. This will get color and texture the same as the surrounding area you just optioned. Work with it a bit to get the feel of what it does.
  • The Brush Tool is used with the Option key on your keyboard. Hold the key when you click on an area you want to get a color from. This tool functions like painting, but it will be a flat color and is good for backgrounds.
  • You can use the Magic Wand Tool and click on an area to fill with color. If you do this the area will be the only place you can put the color on since it will lasso the area.
  • Cropping is easy. You enter your size for width and height dimensions. Next, enter the DPI size you want. 72 dpi is used for social media, i.e., media that’s to be seen on computer or device screens only. Increase 150 dpi for a better image but larger download size. If the image is going to paper, select at least 300 DPI for a printable file.

Now that you have seen the remarkable things Photoshop can do you, may want to be able to try this with your digital photography. As always, have fun with it while at the same time striving to add that extra touch of perfection to your images.

Alison Reynolds is a renowned Los Angeles photographer.

Facebook: Alison Reynolds Photography
Twitter: @BigAlPeoplesPal

Alison’s husband is CDN travel writer Joel Berliner: @JoelBerliner

CDN travel articles featuring Alison’s photography can be found at:
www.commdiginews.com/author/joel_berliner/

All photos by Alison Reynolds

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