Photoshop. Its one of the most bandied around words in the era of digital photography but very few people actually understand what it really is.
Photoshop is a software program designed specifically for processing digital photographs and converting them from raw and untreated jpeg files into the polished finished product. It is an indispensable program in the armoury of any photographer.
There are many programs that can assist the photographer in processing a digital negative into a finished printable photograph but Photoshop also provides the photographer with the facilities of a darkroom and a professional retoucher in its basic version.
So lets look at Photoshop’s basic functions.
Depending on what version you may acquire of PS you will have a variety of different functions that are standard. The functions on the toolbar are the most like the facilities you could utilize in an old fashioned chemical darkroom. These include things like dodging and burning tools, cropping tools, zoom tools and a variety of brushes to ‘paint’ on the ‘surface’ of a print. These tools were fundamental in the production of fine art prints and have been replicated in PS for the convenience of the photographic printer.
Photoshop has added a number of other useful functions, such as the clone tool, the selection tool and the healing brush. These tools traditionally would have most closely approximated the tools of the photo-retoucher.
In addition to these functions PS offers a range of other facilities to streamline the production of a final image for publication or fine art print. These include layers, a retraceable history, colour balance, exposure and contrast controls and text overlays.
While this all might appear to be an overwhelming amount of unnecessary technical extras learning how to use at least some of these utilities is imperative to producing great photos.
After downloading your photographs onto your computer and editing out the ones you don’t wish to use, opening the photographs in PS will give you the opportunity to examine them carefully for correct exposure, any dirt on the sensor, sharpness and general clarity of colour and contrast.
If any of these areas need correction it is a simple matter to modify by using the tools and adjustment layers. The best way to learn how to use Photoshop at a very basic level is to do some of the tutorials that are associated with the program. Reading the manual that is supplied by Adobe is not essential but highly recommended.
While an expert knowledge of PS is not necessary for the average photographer it is always an advantage to have an overview of how the program really works, as it is invaluable to be able to brief someone else who may be printing your photographs on how you would wish your image to appear. So if you have a copy of Photoshop don’t be afraid to experiment with your photographs. Unlike the old darkroom days you don’t need to print anything until you are absolutely happy with it first.