Photo retouching: tips to improve a photo in Photoshop

A simple photo retouch in Photoshop can make a big difference to an image. Is that this Adobe program has proven, over the years, to be an excellent ally for photography that you can get a lot of benefit from.

Within the world of photography, certain guidelines must be followed to obtain the perfect photo, such as the way the photo is taken, the lighting, or the environment. However, today, it is very common to see how photo editing programs have become so important and fundamental when it comes to revealing the perfect image to the world.

And so, Photoshop has become a linchpin for editors. According to the Adobe portal, this software can be very useful to “preview, organize, edit and publish” various creative resources.

In this post, we present you tips and tricks so that you can make a photo retouching in Photoshop of the best quality and exploit your knowledge of this Adobe tool to the fullest. Join us!

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1. Get good images

They say Photoshop works wonders, but it doesn’t work miracles either. There are very bad photographs that will not work for a retouch. In this part, you will learn how to choose a good image and it will prevent you from wasting your time making changes that will not look good in the end. 

Be you the one who captures the photos or someone else, you should not forget to verify that your selections for photo retouching in Photoshop have the following:

A correct exposure

An error before retouching photos in Photoshop would be that your image is underexposed and overexposed, that is, that it is either too dark or too light, so it will be very difficult to rescue the luminosity and shadows in case of wish.

An ideal size

When you do your photo retouching, find that the size of your photo is adequate for the medium to which it is going to be directed. For example, will it be a print or a social media post?

Check the sizes of the medium and, if it has an original size that is very different from the one you want, it is advisable to find another photo because it can be distorted.

A good resolution

For this point, it is also necessary that the photograph has an ideal size but, in addition to that, it is sought that the dpi (dots per inch) are adequate. The ideal amount is 300pp, although writing this sum into the image properties will likely make the file weigh more.

Also, remember that there are online photo banks where you can find an option for photo retouching. Generally, these have a good resolution and are free, the best-known being:

  • Freepik
  • Pexels
  • Pixabay
  • Unsplash

2. Improve the quality of your photos

There are times when you cannot choose between several images and you only have to work on the one you have. In this case, we show you how to improve the quality of a pixelated image in Photoshop or simply remove noise from your photo. 

In the case of the pixelated image, you can follow this process:

  • Open your photo or image in Photoshop by selecting the “File” menu and choosing “Open.”
  • Duplicate the “Background” layer and drag it from the “Layers” panel to “Create a new layer”. You can find the new layer at the top.
  • Open the blending options in the layers panel and choose the “Lightness” alternative. 
  • Open the “Filter” menu, and select “Noise” and “Remove Spots.” This will blur the edges of the image. In case you want the blur to be softened, go to the “Edit” menu and select “Fade to remove spots”.
  • Next, choose the amount of stain removal to remove by entering a value in the “Opacity” box. The higher the frame number, the closer the image is to return to its original state.
  • With the background layer selected, choose the “Filter” option and choose “Blur  and then “Gaussian Blur”. Preferably blur below 2. 
  • Finally, to enhance a photo in Photoshop, open the “Image” menu, select “Adjustments” and then “Brightness / Contrast”. Move the contrast to the left between +10 and +20 to increase the contrast of the other layer and enhance the sharpness of the blur.

Ready! Your photo will have a much cleaner appearance and you will have learned how to improve the quality of an image in Photoshop in just a few steps.

You can also achieve a similar effect by removing noise, since, as Professor Mario Malka, from the Adobe Photoshop online course essential for photographers, points out, ” the best thing about noise in a photo is not having it .”

3. Pay attention to details

Now is the time to do photo retouching in Photoshop! If your motivation is to give more beauty to a face or correct the colors of a location, these tips are super practical and versatile to retouch photos in Photoshop of any kind.

We recommend that you open the program and have an example photograph that meets the criteria of the previous point.

Perform a color and light treatment

When you do photo retouching, you usually start with changes in color and light. To do this correctly, follow these tips.

  • First, to improve a photo in Photoshop you will need to adjust the white balance. If you have a RAW image, you can do it automatically.
  • In case you do not have a RAW image, you will have to do it manually in the “Filters” window, within the option “RAW camera filter”, in the black and white sliders. Near these options, you will also be able to modify other aspects of color and luminosity and have a preview aside without performing an automatic change. 
  • On the other hand, if you are a photography fanatic and want to improve your retouching in Photoshop, you probably already know that the most important light is the one you place at the same time you capture the image. To do this, you can modify the “Exposure levels curve” in “Settings”,  within the “Image” window. In this way, you can regulate the lighting, brightness, and contrast.
  • Finally, if you wonder how to improve an image in Photoshop in its color, you can start to regulate the saturation and intensity, which are usually very present or absent in photographs and which you can find in the “Filters” window, within the “Camera RAW Filter” option.
  • Within this same window, you can go to the ” HSL / Grayscale” window and play with the colors according to what you need. There are also more options like this in “Settings” within the “Image” window.

Now, you also have the option to bet on presenting your photographs in black and white. Overall, as the Medium portal reveals, black and white is always “the classic that never dies” within photographic retouching, so you can give your creations a more artistic touch.

Remove extra items

This will be a small change to those annoying elements that are leftover within the image, such as tousled hair and blemishes. Follow these points to clean your photo:

  • With your photo’s layer selected, choose the “Spot Corrector” brush tool and press inside the areas with extra elements.
  • If you want to remove stains on a more complex surface and with a more subtle effect, apply the “Concealer” brush tool.

This process seems very quick and easy, but it takes a long time if you want to pay attention to detail and get a much more natural result. Also, we suggest you do all the zoom that is necessary on the photograph so as not to miss anything in your process. 

Improves the appearance of the skin

When it comes to skin and photo retouching, there is so much that can be done in many ways. There are imperfections that can be smoothed out or completely eliminated, but you need to know how to recognize which ones are in your photo. That is why we want to leave you the tutorial of 3 incredible techniques to improve the appearance of the skin in Photoshop:

  • Reduces spots and textures: applying the “Dodge and Burn” to improve a photo in Photoshop is to elevate the retouching to a very professional level. Well, in this way, you achieve a transformation in the skin through the transition from light to shadow. 
  • Modify the tone: the skin in all its tones is wonderful. However, due to the effects of light, it is often modified.
  • Corrects wrinkles: Follow the “High End” retouching technique, used in beauty photography, to achieve wrinkle correction through frequency separation. Also, you can try the other alternative, which we will mention later.

Highlight details for realism

Have you seen those photographs of older adults in which wrinkles are noticeable in detail? Well, this type of retouch seeks to accentuate imperfections to give it a more authentic appearance. It would be the opposite of the previous point, which gave ideas to soften and hide. You can accentuate the details of your photograph with the following steps:

  • Select the photo and go to the “Image” window to select “Adjustments” and then choose “Hue/saturation”. We recommend you lower the saturation in case the photography needs it because the grayish tones give it a very interesting touch.
  • Duplicate the photo layer and put a “High Pass” filter on it, choosing the pixels you prefer and taking into account the original resolution.
  • Put the same layer in the “Multiply” blending mode
  • In case the “High Pass” retouch is too high, lower the opacity of the layer according to your preference.

In a few minutes, you will have learned how to improve a photo in Photoshop, highlighting the imperfect and making the person, place or thing look very realistic.

4. Accentuate color in photos

Learning how to do photo retouching in Photoshop will be very useful to improve the quality of your photos since you will get excellent results. Of course, the information we provide is a basic guide, the rest you will have to polish with our online photography courses, which are designed so that you can become a great photographer.

For now, let’s focus on one area that always deserves a photo retouch in Photoshop: the eyes. What about photos where you want to accentuate a person’s eye color? Well, the Adobe program can also help you in your task.

Let’s see some photo retouching that you can make to the eyes of your photos. For example, you can use, as we mentioned earlier, the saturation technique to accentuate the color.

Usually, the eyes stand out a lot in a photograph, especially if it is a close-up. Therefore, there are numerous techniques with which you can modify their color.

  • One of the ways to modify the eye color in a photo is to add a new layer to the image, copying only the eye area in the original photo (this is important, just the eyes). Later, you must place that layer in raster mode, which will make it much lighter than the layer in the initial image.
  • To lighten the iris, which is what we really want, you will need to create a black mask that fills the entire layer. Then, with a white brush, try to appear only the iris (yes, avoid going overboard or you will not achieve the desired effect. Only the iris). And ready!

5. Modify the color of the objects

Now, what if you don’t want to lighten or accentuate a certain color, but instead want to change it entirely? We give you an example with a situation that you will know how to recognize: red eyes in photographs.

Be careful, here we are not referring to an artificial effect of red eyes in photographs (do you know when you take photos with a flash in dark environments?). We are talking about the redness that people can have in their eyes, generally due to being just woken up or with an allergy.

This is when we must do photo retouching in Photoshop. Or rather two, depending on the situation:

  • In case it is only that the veins are very marked, you can use a concealer brush
  • If they are all very red, create a Saturation adjustment layer and remove all saturation from the Red. Afterward, you will have to invert the mask and leave the white part of the eye blank (worth the redundancy).

This same technique, used for red eyes, can also work in case you want to improve your teeth. If you want those teeth to shine like a precious stone (yes, without exaggeration) and you do not have the availability to go to an emergency dentist for whitening, then you should bet on retouching your photograph in Photoshop.

In the case of teeth, the procedure is the same, only that the saturation that you must remove is that of the yellow color, instead of the red one. Mind you, avoid going out of line, or you’ll end up with teeth so unrealistically white that you won’t look natural.

6. Add a new texture to your photos

Another fashionable photo retouching in Photoshop is related to the theme of textures. Not only is it an effect that looks great on certain photographs, but it is also a procedure that is not so complex: basically, it is a photo superimposed on another.

Of course, is any kind of photography worth it? Well no, since this texture photo must have specific characteristics, which are what will make the image look nice enough.

The best way is to do this combination, is by using the layer’s overlay mode and experimenting with different options. If you want the effect to appear in one part of the photo, rather than the entire image, you must create a layer mask.

In order for them to be perfectly synchronized and look like compatible elements, you should know that the image resolution that you place above must be equal to or greater than that of the photo that you plan to retouch with Photoshop.

7. Get rid of blemishes

It may also happen that you want to make a photo retouch in Photoshop for people who want to remove or erase details in their photos. What kinds of details are we referring to?

  • Grain
  • Wrinkles

To do this, you must use a concealer brush. It is one of the most intuitive Photoshop resources since it works in a very simple way:

Essentially, you indicate to the brush the area of ​​skin that is clean (without grains, for example), you apply it to this imperfection that you want to eliminate and the adobe program does the rest for you. A real wonder!

Of course, you must make sure to choose a leather sector that is suitable. If you choose wrong, the photographic retouch you intend to apply will not look good at all and, even, you run the risk that the image will be worse than it was previously.

The best way to learn to master the healing brush is with the old-fashioned scientific method: trial and error. You can also resort to the High-End technique, which we mentioned earlier.

8. Modify figures and silhouettes

This is a tip for photo retouching in Photoshop that will be very useful, especially in moments where there are photos of people standing. If you manage to achieve certain conditions in the photograph, you can even pretend that the person is much taller than he really is.

How to make this change? The idea is to make the person in question have longer legs (we repeat, without exaggeration), so the procedure you will apply will be as follows:

  • First, you must select the photo starting from the person’s waist, until you reach the bottom of the photo and, with that, create a new layer with it.
  • You must stretch the layer downwards … and you will get the expected effect!

Of course, when we talk about which certain conditions apply, we are referring to the fact that you have to make sure that you are not altering the figure of the person by stretching it too much. It is not enough for you to notice that the surroundings have not been deformed, but you must also be careful not to alter the figure of the photograph as such, otherwise, it will not be credible to the viewer.

Although yes: for this photo retouch to take effect, you must be in a suitable pose. If you don’t know what position to adopt, we recommend our guide to poses for photography .

Once you have achieved the final result of your photography and you have learned how to improve an image in Photoshop, it is time to save it with the ideal file type. Choose preferably between JPEG and PNG if you want it for a digital format, as well as PDF if you want to take it to print.

We are almost to the end! But first, it is worth remembering that in addition to Photoshop, there is a great Adobe program that you have surely heard and that could become a great complement to become an expert in retouching photos. This is Lightroom, an excellent tool for image management and file reveal.

However, Photoshop is a super program with which you can do even more since you have multiple tools and ways to achieve the same result.

The best thing you can do is keep exploring day by day, perfecting your photo retouching technique in Photoshop and review our list of free Photoshop courses, which can be great to improve your knowledge and skills with this tool. If you want to learn how to make a spectacular photo book or you want to get ideas for taking photos at home, this is your moment. Successes!

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