Photoshop Editing Technique 1 – Introduction

by Peter Zack

Reason for the series

Editorial note: Since this is the first article on software I thought I’d explain the series before we get to the first subject which will follow in the days and weeks to come. I’d like to write a series of short articles on basic software applications most of us might use on a daily basis. I’m no Photoshop Guru, but I do have some experience I think is worth sharing. I want to hear feedback and suggestions for future articles. Use the contact link here or on the top of any page to email anything you like. If I don’t know how to do something, I’ll try to find out and share it with everyone. So don’t expect an answer until I try it and test out the subject myself. Have a look at the menus to the right and you will see Photoshop articles published there as they are added.

Software and photo editing is an always hotly debated issue. When is a shot a photo, and when does it become a creation of the artist and his or her software skills? I don’t know. But I do know that I don’t like the over-saturated and over-sharpened images we too often see. Sometimes a shot just didn’t work and applying sharpening 3 times isn’t going to save it. But software is an important part of the process and knowing how to apply the right sharpening technique might save that shot. Even just to clone out a dust spot or remove a power line. The great photographers have done it since darkrooms were created and there’s nothing wrong with using the powerful tools we have today. Like everything, moderation is the key.

I’ll try to explain these in easy point form and use screen shots to show the process. Software is like buying lenses these days. You go grab Photoshop CSxx and tomorrow there’s a new and better version. I started with PS7 and used that for quite awhile. I upgraded to CS2 and have used that since, with some use of Freeware programs and Lightroom. So I don’t subscribe to the idea that you need the latest and greatest software unless maybe you want to turn Pro. Save your $699 for a new prime lens. If I were shopping for software today, I’d go buy a discounted version of CS2 or CS3 and save some money. Now if you can’t afford Photoshop (PS) there are a large number of Freeware programs on the internet. If you want to share yours and why it’s a great program, go to the contact link and send us your thoughts, we’ll have a look and possibly share it with everyone.

I would recommend 2 Freeware programs to start and only because I have some experience with them. is a very similar program to PS. it offers many of the features that PS does in a more basic format. It’s a great way to learn and get started without cost. If you visit the forums there, you can download plugins, ask questions and learn with tutorials. Like any freeware program, I encourage anyone who downloads the software, to donate something to the authors. I don’t have any affiliation with any of them but consider that for a $10 or $20 donation you could have a free way to edit your photos for years to come. You also get new plugins created for you, by someone who is willing to share their talents (also for free) creating plugin software.


The other Freeware program is GIMP, found here. Very similar to (PN) with some different tools as well. One of the things that make these programs easy to use is the forum that has to get answers and GIMP offers an online manual and many ways to get the information you need online. Try them out and maybe one of them will do everything you need.

So for the purposes of this series, I will be using what’s considered the “Gold standard” software, Photoshop. As much as possible, I’ll use version CS2 so that people with older versions can do the same things. I will however provide some sections that only can be done on PS4. Assuming that not everyone has the newest version of PS, most will at least have CS2. You should also be able to get the same or similar results in PN, GIMP or any number of programs. Unfortunately that will not always be the case though as PS has some unique features the others don’t (yet) have.

At this point I don’t plan to write article on subjects that take 2 hours of touch ups and rendering to get one finished result. Maybe that will come but I like shooting more than editing. If the series proves popular, we may provide the tutorials in a down-loadable PDF version you can print and create a brooklet to follow when you are processing your images. A similar series dealing with Lightroom will follow shortly. Particularly for wedding and event shooters, this may be the only software you need.

So let’s do a quick adjustment to a shot.

Underexposure: You have a shot that is underexposed. The common thing most would do is go straight to levels or brightness–not so fast. There might be a better way to adjust the image that is fast and can cause less artifact creation in the shot. First open the shot and create a new layer. 11

TIP: Instead of using the menus to create a layer, drag the background to the icon on the bottom of the layers window as shown here.

With the duplicated layer, you will see a pull down menu that shows normal. Click on the down arrow and highlight Screen in the menu.  You can now adjust the Opacity slider to get the level of adjustment needed. If the shot is still too dark, duplicate the layer a second time and make the same adjustments. Always make a copy of the background Layer and not the copy. With this method I find the colours remain correct and it’s a fast way to adjust a shot while preserving IQ (image quality).


When you have the adjustment the way you want it, go to the small side arrow in the upper right of the dialogue box. Click on Flatten Image to combine the layers. As always use Save As in the File menu and save the finished image as a new file.

sample-1 sample-2
Original image Adjusted image

Cheers and good shooting –Peter Zack


4 Responses to “Photoshop Editing Technique 1 – Introduction”

  1. Peter, Thanks a bunch. Glad to see this as I am one person who needs help in this dept…I would very much like to see a black and white lesson as well.

  2. Peter, that’s an interesting technique. I of course would have created an adjustment layer with curves or levels. Do you know anything about the technical difference of using a screen layer?

  3. I use Gimp exclusivly. I don’t want to invest that much money into a photo editor, and Gimp is frankly quite good at what it does. 🙂

  4. Andrew, I probably should clarify a comment in the article. I said “The common thing most would do is go straight to levels or brightness–not so fast.” I’ve seen many people discuss using Levels, Brightness etc to boost or correct an underexposed shot. But no mention of a Layer is considered. If we adjust an image directly (The Background Layer), we have permanently changed the image. Pixels have been directly affected and data has been lost. But many will adjust an image the quickest and shortest route. The shot looks fine on a computer screen and then they go to printing. Now it has Dittering and other artifacts.

    So for many to save time and for those that don’t understand Levels or aren’t getting the results they would like, the screen adjustment is very fast and easy.

    I don’t want to leave the impression that adjusting Levels in a layer is destructive. It’s not. It is however, destructive to edit the photo directly without an adjustment layer. The more editing you do to a photo will greatly effect the quality of the final image.

    Many of the hundreds, if not thousands of options available in Photoshop are unknown to most. Here I’d like to try and show some of the ones I’ve learned in an easy to understand format. This is just another simple method to achieve a similar result in less time and less fiddling.

    In a future article, I will discuss Layers Levels and exposure adjusting. The idea of the first article (and many more to follow) is to offer simple and clear ways to enhance your images without spending hours on the computer.

    Of course if you want to spend hours reading these pages, we’d love it.

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