New Tricks | Learning Photoshop

Since deciding to start Expatsteveblog just over 2 years ago, I found that this one interest has lead to 3 – as blogging lead to a desire to learn about photography, and that in turn developed (no pun intended!) an interest in digital processing, for which Photoshop has become my app of choice.

I still regard myself as very much a novice in Photoshop, as it has such a vast array of functions and tools, but based on what I’ve learnt so far, I’ve established a few ‘go to’ processes and workflows that I apply to many of my photos, especially if I’m going to put them on the blog, facebook or instagram.

In this post, I wanted to show some of my favourite ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots – but I should stress, this is in no way intended to be a tutorial or guide, I certainly don’t feel qualified to write such a post, and there are many excellent blogs, guides and videos easily available, that cover every conceivable aspect of Photoshop and photo editing.

At its simplest, Photoshop is a great tool to bring out the colours of photographs – sometimes pictures can look flat and dull, especially in this part of the world, where we battle with almost constant bright sunlight, and bland, dusty skies; oh how I miss white fluffy clouds!

This shot was taken earlier this year, at The Radisson Blu Hotel in Kuwait – a gorgeous view from a top floor balcony across the hotel’s grounds, and the Arabian Gulf beyond.


But I wasn’t happy with the colours, so after playing with various tools in Photoshop, the photo emerged much brighter, and the palm trees particularly, stand out much more. I realise of course, that these types of changes are very much to personal taste, and I’m sure there are those who would say that the photo is no longer real, but as someone who lives in sunglasses when outside, I think most of what I see is filtered!


These type of edits can also bring new life to older photos – as in this next shot, taken in 2007 in Apollo Bay, Victoria, Australia.





Maybe I went a little too far with this one, but in addition to the colours, Photoshop helps bring out darker elements of photos, the shadows. Compare the colours of the wood on the body of the main seal – the colours are clearer and more interesting in the ‘after’ version. By playing with shadows, you sometimes find features in a photo that you simply didn’t know were there.

I love how playing with photos can change the mood – as in this shot of Edinburgh Castle, taken in April 2017.


Whilst I really liked this shot – a few edits and some vignetting made it much more moody and sinister:


Of course, one of the most awesome capabilities of Photoshop is being able to remove objects or even people from photos. There are many times I take what i think is a good shot, only to find that I hadn’t noticed the unwanted car, or rubbish bin.


This photo was taken earlier this year, and features in my recent post ‘A Summertime walk‘ – its such a picturesque cottage, and the Hovis sign next door adds extra character imho. However, I can’t deny that it is spoiled by the red car parked on the right.

After many failed attempts to remove it, I’ve finally come up with this edit:


Similarly, I failed to spot the car (also red!) in this hotel shot, taken only this week in Cairo, Egypt.


But now it’s gone!


Also from this year, a shot taken on a beach near Paphos, Cyprus:


Not a great shot, and definitely spoiled by the bins. Time for editing:


This edit has colour enhancements, removed objects, and even ‘straightening’, as clearly I wasn’t holding the camera very level! Photoshop has multiple tools that assist in removing objects, the ones I use are the patch tool, the clone stamp tool, and the spot healing brush. Each one has its strengths, and between them, with patience and strong coffee, unwanted objects can be obliterated!

Recently, a feature that I’ve been experimenting with is ‘Textures’ – this is where a photo is merged or blended with another photo that causes a textured appearance. This is still very new to me, but this following shot, taken recently in the desert near Dubai, shows what is possible:



The texture I used was a photo of the cover of an old novel (there are many sample textures available on the web to download) – the unwanted black water pipe has also disappeared. It’s an interesting effect, and one that I will be exploring more.

Finally, the editing project that probably took longer than anything else I have attempted.   It was inspired by reading a number of articles showing how bland landscape photos can be enhanced, and bought to life by changing a colourless sky Рsounds simple maybe, but this was by far the most difficult thing I have tried.

To do this, you need the photo that has a boring sky, and another that has a sky that would ‘fit’ with the style of the original photo.

This is the original photo that I worked on – it was taken in 2011, in Hamburg, Germany. Its not too bad, but the sky is dull, almost non-existent.


This is how the photo looked after several attempts to merge a new sky into the background, and some colour editing and cropping:


There were a number of things that caught me by surprise as I worked through the editing – the most challenging being areas in the light coloured building with the ‘HOHE’ sign – as each window that has light showing, and the rectangular object on the roof, all needed individual editing to ensure the colours merged realistically. I’m still not sure it looks totally right, as I was unable to match the way the natural sunlight is coming from the left hand side so that needs some more work, but overall, I was pleased with this first attempt.

If you’ve never used Photoshop before, or it’s cousin, Lightroom, a trial version is available here, and it’s definitely a programme that is great fun to experiment with. It can totally transform your photos, regardless of what you use to take them, or how old they are.


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