Media & Techniques

Use These 3 Simple Photoshop Tools to Enhance Your Photos

Does the word “Photoshop” send you into a panic? Do the words “photo editing software” have you running for the hills? If so, have no fear! I’m here to tell you that Photoshop doesn’t have to be scary. Knowing even a few simple tricks can really take your photos to the next level. Maybe you’re looking for ways to spruce up your Artsonia gallery. Maybe you’re a blogger looking to take your online photos up a notch. Or, possibly, you just want to know how to tweak those precious photos of your family. Whatever the reason, I have you covered.

Here are 3 Photoshop tools to enhance your photos.


1. Contrast

Sometimes the only thing your photographs need is a simple contrast adjustment. In Photoshop this can easily be done by bringing up the “Levels” (Image>Adjustments>Levels). When this command is brought up, there are arrows on either side of the of the tonal range.

The left (black) arrow represents the shadows, and the right (white) arrow represents the highlights. The middle (gray) arrow represents the mid-tones. A good rule of thumb is to drag the left arrow and right arrow inward until a peak begins on the tonal range. Then, use the middle arrow and drag it either direction until you achieve the contrast you desire.


Photo 1


Photo 2
Here, in the “After” photo, you can see that the image packs more of a punch. The background looks lighter and the colors look brighter.

2. Crop

Nothing is more bothersome than stumbling upon a blog where the photos have the potential to be awesome, but there are so many distractions that you can’t focus on the subject. A simple crop can cut those items out for good.

In Photoshop all you need to do is select the “Crop” icon on the toolbar then simply click and drag it around the area you want to keep. If you don’t get it right the first time, use the handles on the sides of your crop box to adjust.

Pro tip: It’s a good plan to outline your entire photo with the crop box first, then hold shift while dragging a corner handle to the size you want. This will help keep the aspect ratio of the original photograph.
Photoshop Crop

3. Correction

Have you ever taken a photograph and only later realized there was something you wanted to get rid of but couldn’t crop out? If so, you will love this tool. In Photoshop, select the icon from the toolbar that looks like a stamp. It’s called the “Clone Stamp Tool”. Essentially, this tool grabs pixels from one area of your photograph and clones them in an area that you select.

You’ll first have to tell the tool which pixels you want to clone. After you’ve selected the tool, hold the Alt-button down and click the pixels you want. (In the photo below I alt-clicked just to the left of where “Borel” was written on the sticker to select the white pixels located there.) Release the Alt-button and move to the area you want to correct. Then just click and hold your pointer and start to see the cloning take affect. Imagine how this tool could really polish your photos! You could erase students’ last names or class codes, fix a tear on the corner of an artwork, or even erase a stray pencil mark!


Photoshop Correction


Photo 5
For all those that are new to the world of Photoshop, don’t let it scare you away. If you just give these 3 simple tools a chance, you can help take your photographs to the next level.

Do photo editing programs like these overwhelm or excite you?

Photoshop pros, what are some of your favorite Photoshop tools or shortcuts that you could share?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jennifer Borel

Jennifer Borel is one of AOEU’s Adjunct Instructors and Academic Advisors and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She runs her own photography business and is passionate about students exploring the medium.

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