Editing in Photoshop #1: Cropping and Levels

This blog post contains a guide to some basic photo editing techniques in Adobe Photoshop. First and foremost, remember that not all photos need editing. If a photo looks great, leave it alone!

Straightening a crooked image

In general, try to hold your camera straight, and when possible, steady it by leaning it on a sturdy surface. If you have accidentally taken a crooked photo however, you can straighten it in Photoshop. Here are some examples: Photo credit: Betty Photo credit: Lizzy

How to Straighten a Crooked Image in Photoshop

  1. In your layers palette on the lower right side of the screen, double click the background layer. Rename it.
  2. View -> Rulers
  3. Rulers will show up on the top and left side of the screen.
    Click anywhere in the ruler area and drag toward the photo to create a guide.
  4. Adjust the guide so it is next to an object with a straight edge that is currently slanted.
    You will use this guide as your reference. (In the example below, I have added a vertical guide to compare to the street light, and a horizontal guide to compare to the horizon line.)
    Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 3.26.01 PM
  5. Edit -> Transform -> Rotate
  6. Rotate the image until the edge of your object is parallel to your guide. Then press the “enter” key. Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 3.26.48 PM
  7. Select the crop tool from the tools palette on the left side of the screen. crop_tool
  8. Drag your crop tool to select the area you want to keep.
    Press the “enter” key once you have successfully evened out the edges of your image.
    Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 3.27.11 PM

Cropping Distracting Objects Out of an Image

You can also use the crop tool to cut out distracting objects in the background and make the focal point stand out more. Notice how much stronger the image on the right is, because I have focused the attention on Robert by cropping out the distracting elements around him:
IMG_2444_bw IMG_2444edited

Important Note #1: Whenever you edit an image, save a version of the image with a new name by going to the top of the screen and selecting File -> Save As, and naming it something that makes sense. For example, if the original image was named “Flower123,” and you cropped the image, name the edited version “Flower123_cropped.”

Important Note #2: Not every image needs to be cropped! If an image looks great already, leave it alone.

How to Increase Contrast by Adjusting Levels

  1. Image -> Adjustments -> Levels
  2. Look at the image that pops up. If your image has sufficient contrast, the “mountain range” will extend to the edge of the window. If your image looks similar to this, you do not need to adjust the levels, and can close out of the window:

    If your “mountain range” of values does not extend to the edges of the window (such as the example below), you will click on the left cursor and drag it to the beginning of the left side of the mountain. You will then click on the right cursor and drag it to the beginning of the right side of the mountain. You will be able to preview what you are doing as long as the “preview” box is checked. levels_before_and_after
    When you have adjusted your levels, click ok.

Today we will:

  • Edit our favorite photos.
  • Create a new blog post with before and after images of any photos we edited today.
    Michele’s blog post has a great example of how to show before and after images side by side.
  • If you are not sure if an image can be improved with editing, but want to include it in your final collection of 10 photos, post it to your blog today with a note asking whether it would be best to edit it or leave it alone.

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