Here's a new twist for me on my blog, some tips on processing photos. I will try and post one a week or so for a while, and see how that goes. If you know anyone that might be interested, please pass the blog URL along! Here we go!
After opening a photo, these are the steps I usually take when editing a photo:
Using the Cropping Tool on the Toolbox, I click and drag a bounding box around the image to improve composition. There are guides that help suggest placement using the rule of thirds, and you may rotate the crop by moving your cursor outside the bounding box. The tool darkens everything it will crop away.
Before you begin the crop, you may enter the size dimension and/or resolution in the option bar of the tool at the top of the screen. Any box you draw will then have the dimensions and resolution you enter. If you do not enter a dimension, the tool will use the photo as a reference, and keep the resolution the same.
Double-click inside the box or hit the Enter/Return key to apply the crop. Hit ESC to exit and start over.
The next step is to deal with the overall exposure of the image. Is it too light, too dark? I like using the Layer Adjustments for these. My favorite tool is Levels, the one that looks like a histogram. By moving the black, gray and white triangles, I can change the overall appearance of the photo drastically. Usually I move the black triangle to the left edge of the graph in the histogram, the white triangle to the right edge, and the gray triangle is adjusted to my taste. See examples below (Levels adjustment is in black):
Here is the Before image in color:
Here is the After Image in color. Red circles indicate changes in the Levels adjustment:
Here is a BW image Before the adjustment:
Here is the BW image After adjustment:
3. Dodge and Burn Layer
Next I look at individual areas in the photo I may want to lighten or darken, and create a D & B layer to this adjustment on. I go to the Layer Menu at the top of the screen, and pick New/Layer. With the dialog box open, I then select Mode/Overlay, and check the box that says Overlay-Neutral color (50% Gray):
Once the new layer is created (it should appear gray in the Layers Panel), you can then paint on it to lighten or darken areas in the photo. Choose a paint brush that fits the size of the area you want to work on, make it 0% hardness in the options bar, and make the opacity setting in the neighborhood of 10-20%. To lighten, make your foreground color white; to darken, make it black. If it is too powerful, lower the opacity; if you don't see a change, raise it. White areas usually aren't changed much by this procedure.
That's it. I apply other adjustment layers as needed, like hue/saturation, brightness/contrast, etc., but the basic workflow is above. Don't forget to save your work as you go, every 15 minutes or so.