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Photo Flops: Five Photoshop Fixes For Common Image Issues

By Stephen Farnow

The digital age has created a revolution in photography with instant-gratification LCD screens on cameras. And even when those images don't meet our ever-increasing standards, we now have tools like Adobe's Photoshop to post process those images and bring them up to snuff. While there are a limitless number of digital enhancements you might consider, the following five will address your most common image problems.

Problem 1: Ho-Hum Composition
The well-known rule of thirds suggests visualizing your scene as divided into horizontal and vertical thirds and positioning the most interesting element (the subject) at an intersection of the imaginary lines that define those thirds. This creates dynamic tension in the scene and makes it more interesting. It's harder to do than you might think, however, especially when you are snapping away.

Photoshop's crop tool can come to the rescue. With it, you can create a frame that zooms in on your subject, eliminating uninteresting background, and better locates your subject per the rule of thirds. Consider zooming out a bit when you take your photos; this will give you more flexibility later when recomposing your image within Photoshop.

As taken, the hippo is a little lost

Now the hippo is the focal point.

 Problem 2: What's That Doing In There?
Unwanted detail at the edge of an image, so-called edge intrusions, can capture a viewer's attention away from your main subject and deflect their interest. These can be tree branches, people cut in half, anything that competes with your subject. The result is an image that can feel overly busy, maybe even confused. Your goal should be to keep the viewer's eye in the interior of your image and on your primary subject (which you have placed per the rule of thirds).

These edge intrusions can actually be difficult to notice when composing pictures because your attention is focused on your subject. Photoshop's clone tool, although designed to create copies (or clones) of objects, is a great tool for removing these intrusions. With it, you can copy adjacent scenery (grass, sky, etc.) over the intrusion and eliminate them altogether.

Before Cloning Out Intrusions

After Cloning

Problem 3: Everything Looks Washed Out
The human eye is very sensitive to contrast, the difference between the darkest dark and the lightest light. If the tonal range is black to white, the image has good contrast. All too often, however, the range is markedly less, with the darks (or shadows) not completely black and the lights (or highlights) not completely white. These images feel a little dull or washed out, as if they were taken on a hazy day.

While Photoshop has an Auto Contrast function that will make a big improvement, consider using a Levels adjustment to really optimize your image. Levels will allow you to darken your darks (referred to as shadows) and lighten your lights (referred to as highlights), while stretching all the tones in between. The result is a much more vibrant image, both in contrast as well as color.

Before and after a boost in contrast


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Related Keywords:image editing, photoshop enhancements, digital imaging, digital photography,

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