Mastering the Basics : Adobe Photoshop

Unless you are a student of SOOC (straight out of camera), you will probably want to make adjustments to your digital images after you’ve taken them. For most of us, Adobe Photoshop is our go-to post processing software. And like most things in life today, post processing photographs can be simple or complicated depending on your level of expertise and desired effects.

Adobe photoshop CC icon on screen

Fortunately, there are a few basic functions that, once understood and practiced, can transform 99% of the images you take into the masterpieces you intended. Let’s dive into those areas.

Base Adjustments

The only things that cannot be fixed in an image by post processing are focus and depth of field. But sometimes the “fix” can be as bad at the “problem” – so in Photoshop the less is better approach is usually the best.

When making adjustments, it is always better to use an Adjustment Layer as opposed to applying an adjustment onto the base image. Adjustment Layers are non-destructive – meaning they can be selectively enable or disable to see the results and allow you to “tweak” the adjustments after they are made.

Exposure Adjustment Layer

The Exposure adjustment layer allows you to control the overall brightness of the image. For best results, open a Histogram Window, then create an Exposure Adjustment Layer. Move the Exposure slider to the right to “brighten” the image, and to the left to “darken” it. Your goal is to have an even distribution of colors in your Histogram without pushing up against one side or the other. These same corrections can be done with a Brightness/Contrast Layer as well.

Levels Adjustment Layer

The Levels adjustment layer is another great method for adjusting exposure which allows more control of light levels in the highlight, shadow and midtone areas separately by usings the three sliders under the Histogram. The left slider affects the Shadows, the middle one the midtones and the right the Highlights allowing you to fine tune the image. A Curves adjustment layer will perform the same concepts with using a different interface.

Color Adjustment Layer

A Vibrance adjustment layer will allow you to control the vibrance (increase the intensity of muted colors) and saturation (increases the intensity of all colors). The Hue/Saturation adjustment layer lets you control the color balance, saturation and brightness of all colors or each color individually. And finally, the Color Balance adjustment layer lets you control the Red-Green-Blue color balance in the Highlights, Shadows and Midtones individually.


Sometimes it is not always easy to shoot a level image. The Crop Tool in the toolbar allows you to rotate and trim an image. This is not an adjustment layer, and as such, is a destructive operation. The only way to undo this operation is immediately Edit – Undo Crop or use the History window to revert to the operation prior to the ill-advised crop.

Save file options

The way you save a file will greatly affect your ability to adjust your adjustments at a later date. .JPEG is the “default” standard used for images – but saving in this format will compress the layers into one meaning you will not be able to reopen and adjust the adjustment layers, so you should only use this option when you are happy with the final results. To be able to access your adjustments later, use a .TIFF or .PSD formats.

While this tutorial only scratches the surface of what you can do in post processing, I hope it take some of the fear out of editing your images. Once you become comfortable with these basic concepts, you can start to open the full potential of Adobe Photoshop.

Photo credits: Dimarik16.

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May 05, 2019


thanks for valuable notes, waiting for more and more.

April 25, 2019


Useful of course. As are all your blogs.

April 22, 2019


Yes, all essential edits! Great summary. William

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