You probably know what Photoshop disasters look like, but your photos can benefit from more subtle and elegant touch-ups. With these tools and techniques, you can sharpen, texturize, re-contextualize, and remove tourists, among other problems, from your shots worth saving.
Photo by Jase The Bass.
10. Create Your Own Bokeh
Bokeh is a cute name for something you've noticed before, but probably never really pinned down—the gauzy, creamy light points that appear behind the subject that's in drastic focus in a picture. Photo site DIY Photography explains how to harness and control bokeh effects, using a photo lens like a 50mm F/1.8 and creating a small lens cover with just the right kind of hole cut out. Lacking for the right kind of digital lens? The Photojojo blog details an analog-to-digital lens adaptation, perfect for garage sale and eBay finds. (Original posts: Bokeh, DSLR lenses).
9. Make Pop Art from Your Photos
Some shots have great subjects, angles, or scenes, but just can't be saved from bad lighting or other mistakes. When that's the case, your saving grace can be Photoshop guru Melissa Clifton's pop-art-style fixes. She's shown us how to Andy-Warhol-Up photos, as well as make zoomed-in-comic-style, Roy-Lichtenstein-inspired pop art from photos both good and bad. If you're not a Photoshop lover, or even owner, you can arrive at a similar bad-shot-as-art result by using Rollip to Polaroid-ize your photo, or use the Poladroid desktop software. (Original posts: Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rollip, Poladroid).
8. Convert to Black and White the Right Way
It's easy to turn a color image into black and white on a computer, and sometimes that's enough to rescue high-grain, fuzzy shots, like concert photos. Before you hit the switch, though, take Helen Bradley's advice on black-and-white conversion, which can make your shot actually suit the specific strengths of grayscale coloring. Got a specific subject to highlight? Try adding a dash of color to give your shot unique appeal. (Original posts: concerts, conversions, color in b&w).
7. De-Pixelize Graphics and Small Photos
Resizing images is grunt work enough—having to deal with pixelated results is just torture. Free webapp VectorMagic can make your graphic-style images into vector art that scales clean and smooth as it's sized up and down. It works better with clean line drawings and small, icon-like photos than full-size shots, but if you can tolerate some loss of detail, it's a lifesaver. (Original post).
6. Make Photos Look Like Miniatures with Tilt-Shift Tools
With tilt-shift photography, you can put being 50 rows back from the action to your advantage. A professional lens can run upwards of $1,200 for a very single-use tool, so try some DIY solutions. MAKE shows us a DIY lens that looks like it's made from, of all things, a plunger. There are also two web-based software tilt-shift solutions: Tiltshift Maker and TiltShift—we prefer the latter for its options and control, but the mostly automated Tiltshift Maker also gets the job done in simple fashion. (Original posts: DIY lens, TiltShiftMaker, TiltShift)
5. Use Textures to Liven Up Flat Images
For whatever reason, perfectly fine photos can lack definition. Sometimes it's tricks of light and lens, and sometimes it's because Cousin Jeff wore a sweater that just turns out like a blob. Try adding textures to a photo with layering techniques. A scanned sheet of white paper, for example, saved an otherwise washed-out photo in Digital Photography School's example. It's not a save-all, and definitely has potential for abuse, but it's a nice saving grace to have in your mental back pocket. (Original post).
4. Create Stunning and Realistic HDR Photos
High dynamic range photos are a world unto themselves, and difficult to pin down in a few sentences. A noble attempt: they make your brights brighter and darks darker, and give a more realistic look to photos. We've previously pointed to a few good guides to shooting and editing in HDR fashion: the Backing Winds' beginner's Photoshop tutorial, Gizmodo's guide to realistic HDR, and a Flickr set by Leviathor that shows how unrealistic HDR can look, if you're not careful with how you combine images. (Original posts: Photoshop, Gizmodo guide, surreal vs. real sets).
3. Sharpen Images the Smart Way
As we learned the hard way, giving your images a crisper look requires more than just leaning on the "Unsharp Mask" crutch every time. It does have its uses, though, especially if done the right way. But there's also a more fine-tuned way to sharpen your images, as Cameron Moll explains in a blog post. (Original posts: Unsharp mask, Smart Sharpen).
2. Remove People from Otherwise Perfect Shots
Stupid vacationers! Always standing and gawking at the same thing you're trying to capture just perfectly! There are ways around the herd's tendency to wander into your shots. For one, take a whole bunch of images from the same position, with the same settings, and use Photoshop's statistics and stacks tools to remove the people, almost entirely, from your shot. Online tool Tourist Remover does a similar task after you upload multiple photos. No luck with automated filtering? Try removing the background entirely and grabbing what you can from your perfect shot. (Original posts: people-free, Tourist Remover, backgrounds).
1. Craft Panoramas from Regular Shots
There's nothing wrong with your run-of-the-mill digicam, but when you want to capture the sweep and scope of a big scene, its small lens can't quite tackle the job. Don't give up, though—switch to manual settings, take a series of shots, and stitch together a panorama with free software. Our own guide relies on the very adaptable and customizable Hugin software, but we've previously pointed at a few good packages for different levels of automation and customization: AutoStitch for the click-and-go method, You Suck at Photoshop's PhotoMerge tutorial for the PS-loving set, and Microsoft's powerful Image Composite Editor for another alternative. (Original posts: AutoStitch, Photomerge, Composite Editor)
What image edits or Photoshop tricks are a regular part of your photo-fixing repertoire? What editing techniques would you like to see covered or explained in the future? We're all ears in the comments.