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How to Use Photoshop Effectively and Creatively – Analyze, Plan, Execute

How-to-Use-Photoshop-Effectively-and-Creatively-post-bannerWhen you work on an image in Photoshop, are just doing things spontaneously and intuitively, or are you planning your work? If you don’t have a goal, you can never reach it. That’s also true for photo editing. Creating a piece of art from a photo can be a complex process that requires you to take lots of decisions along the way. Doing some prior planning can help tremendously with this process.

In this article, I will show you briefly how I go about analyzing my images before I start processing them. Then, I’ll give you a list of things to look out for when you do the planning for your own images.

How I am analyzing my images

In this short video, I am explaining how I dissect my images into different regions as a first step of the planning.

What you need to consider when planning

Generally, what I look for in my images are different regions that might contrast with each other or complement each other. The basic things I am looking for are:

  • Color: Are there regions that have different, contrasting colors? Can I enhance this color contrast even more in my post-processing work? If that’s the case, these regions are worth editing selectively.
  • Saturation: There’s not only a contrast between different colors, but also between differently saturated areas in your image. A region with very low saturation (e.g. the clouds in a sky) may be nicely accentuating other regions that have more saturation (e.g. the blue tones in the sky). If such regions exist in an image, I try to isolate them and desaturate the one region even more while enhancing the colors in the more saturated area.
  • Brightness: Tonal contrast is very important, and applying global contrast adjustments is often not enough to really use the contrast inherent to an image. There may be regions that need to be darkened or brightened independently from other regions. Again, these are good candidates for selective editing.
  • Details: The image in the video above, for example, has regions where the details should be enhanced and regions where this should be avoided. The tower and the ground are good candidates for applying details enhancement methods. To really make them stand out. The trees and the sky, on the other hand, should rather not receive this type of treatment. The trees already have lots of details. Enhancing them even more will make them look unnatural and take away from the main subject, the tower. The sky may quickly look strange with too much details.

Executing your plan

From these considerations, you can quickly infer which areas need to receive a separate set of adjustments, as I do in the video above. These areas will have to be isolated by creating respective masks that only reveal the respective pixels and hides the rest. Creating those masks will actually take most of the time for a typical project. But once they are created, the fun part begins. Now you can apply any set of adjustments to each of the individual regions and change them to enhance those contrasts listed above.

Final Remarks

It may seem like analyzing, planning and executing your post-processing work is less creative than just doing everything spontaneously. But actually, the opposite is true. After all, you’re not planning every little adjustment. The planning is just related to the question as to which regions you would like to edit selectively. The moment you have an idea about that, you can quickly get all the masking done, and you will have more time composing the adjustments and working creatively on the look of your image.

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