4 Easy Photoshop Techniques to Make Your Pictures Pop!

4 Easy Photoshop Techniques to Make Your Pictures Pop!

This tutorial with photoshop techniques for making your images ‘pop’ has been submitted by Elise Hennen from 28 Studios. Read more about Elise below.

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In this tutorial I will be demonstrating some quick, easy methods for adding drama and/or interest to your shots. As always, talk to me in the Post Processing Section of the Forums with any questions or comments. As far as I know, these methods should work for both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.

4 Easy Photoshop Techniques to Make Your Pictures Pop!

Photoshop Technique #1: blur/overlay

Duplicate your picture layer by dragging the layer to the ‘new’ icon in the layers palette (ctrl+j).

Photoshop Techniques

Apply a gaussian blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur…). Blur it enough that the detail disappears but the shapes mostly keep their form.

Photoshop Techniques Overlay

In the layers palette, change the blending mode from ‘Normal’ to ‘Overlay.’

Photoshop Techniques Overlay

If you look at the before and after, you can see that this method makes the light tones lighter and the dark tones darker while softening it a touch. Basically, it softly boosts the contrast. If you want a more dramatic effect, try changing the blending mode to ‘Vivid Light’ instead of ‘Overlay.’

Try it on all kinds of shots: portraits, nature shots, you name it. I use this method ALL the time. It works so well with everything!

Photoshop Technique #2: filter the background

This one can be fun… With a picture open, duplicate the layer (as always). Use your lasso tool to roughly select the subject of your image.

Photoshop Techniques Filter

Feather the selection by going to Select > Feather (ctrl+alt+d). We want a pretty large feather, so what you input depends on your picture. Try 50 pixels. Go to Layer > New > Layer via copy. You should end up with just your subject on a new layer with a nice feather to it (fades at the edges).

Select the layer copy below your subject layer. Start trying out filters. I used Filter > Brush Strokes > Dark Strokes for this example. Most of the Brush Stroke filters work well with this effect. Using blurs tends to look a little funny. When you’ve got it all done, your layers palette should look a little like this:

Photoshop Techniques FilterPhotoshop Techniques Filter

That’s it. Try this out with lots of different filters. If you want to tone down the effect, change the opacity of the effect layer. If you want to get more advanced with your subject selection, you can duplicate the layer, mask it out, and use a large soft white brush to paint the subject back in.

Photoshop Techniques

Photoshop Technique #3: neon glow

Have you ever played with neon glow and wondered when the heck you were ever going to use it? Well, it’s time to give it another shot. This can add a touch of color and drama to your shot.

Photoshop Techniques - neon glow

Duplicate your layer, then pull up Filter > Artistic > Neon Glow. Pick a color that you think will complement your shot. In mine, the cat is lit with sunlight, so I went with a yellow to exaggerate that. Start with a glow size of 4 and a glow brightness of 18, then tweak it to suit your shot. This is what I ended up with:

Photoshop Techniques - neon glow

I’ll bet you can guess what’s next. You got it — change the blending mode to ‘Overlay.’ Also cycle through those modes: soft light, hard light, vivid light, and linear light. I prefer overlay and vivid light with this effect.

Photoshop Techniques - neon glow

Photoshop Technique #4 easy blur

This one nearly passed me by… it’s a wonderfully easy effect to soften a picture. Try it on portraits.

Photoshop Techniques - Blur

Duplicate your layer and apply a Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) so that the details start to go, but not too much.

Photoshop Techniques - Blur

Set the opacity of the layer to 50%. This is a great, super-simple way to soften a picture. It can give it almost a dreamy look. Play with opacities until you find something that works really well with your shot.

Photoshop Techniques - Blur

Want to learn more post production techniques? Check out our popular eBook – Photo Nuts and Post: A Guide to Post Processing

Read more from our Post Production category

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • ayaz May 13, 2013 05:13 am

    it is greate information for blur effect. I have a link in which you can see guidance of blur effect http://www.tutorialz360.com/how-to-make-blur-effect-in-photoshop-or-make-blurry-pictures-photoshop

  • Capri May 11, 2013 05:14 am

    Do you have a similar article for CS6?

  • Chris April 9, 2013 03:47 pm

    Thanks Darren - this is exactly what I needed!

    Honestly this has been a big help.

  • Juhlien Hääkuvaus December 28, 2012 08:59 pm

    Great post, thanks! You need to get familiar with basics and after that you can develop more advanced skills.

  • Rani S. December 26, 2012 04:01 pm

    I am a Photoshop fanatic. It’s like I couldn’t live a day without uploading a pic and working on it. I very much appreciate these tips that you have here. You know I have wanted to find stuffs like these recently. A quick and easy way to add colors to our Photoshop art is always the best.

  • Sam October 26, 2012 07:26 pm

    Omg what a nice read here! I have been figuring out what extra trick I can do to get something different for my photos. Truly, photos will pop with this new technique. I think I already have some information overload with regard conventional editing styles. Thanks for the great info!

  • Eloise October 12, 2012 04:34 pm

    Hi there, I read your new stuff like every week. Your humoristic style is witty, keep up the good work!

  • Patricia October 5, 2012 06:56 pm

    Absolutely, I find the advice and tips given here extremely helpful!

  • Sam October 4, 2012 06:07 pm

    I am not a professional photographer but I keep on trying certain things on my own to improve my skills in photography. These ideas are very helpful for beginners like me and I would surely enjoy doing these new ways of editing pictures. Surely, these techniques will make my shots more appealing to viewers.

  • erika September 1, 2012 12:18 pm

    i really like the gaussian blur technique. i will use this in the future. thanks!

  • Jocelyne May 23, 2012 04:40 am

    Hello ,
    Wow WOW !!! Sincerely thank you for sharing you're great knowledge !!! This has been a huge factor in my applying Layer & creating great finish photos !!! I've been working so hard at complicated ways ..Now this is giving even better result !!! Again ,many thanks ,as many others poeples like me you have made are life a more simpler one with great photos to share with family & friends ...

    Amateur photographer grand-ma Jo

  • Vinay Khatri May 9, 2012 08:33 pm


  • Al April 18, 2012 02:12 am

    Great tips. I'm a newbie and it's amazing how in depth you can go in Photoshop.
    Although I do think if it's a great photo it needs hardly anything done to it.

  • Sharon Mallinson March 13, 2012 08:20 am

    Brilliant technique!! Off to play now :)

  • Christina Jomes January 16, 2012 08:25 pm

    I can never edit this image like this but I tried lot can you guide me for that.

  • jasmine January 7, 2012 10:49 am

    i just want to know how to make a photo pop

  • Bonnie Loggins November 23, 2011 03:16 am

    Superb web site and I keep coming back to learn new techniques and tricks. The last pop on this article is so easy and effective - I feel Christmas cards coming on!!

  • crackers November 22, 2011 12:20 pm

    I just could not go away your web site before suggesting that I extremely enjoyed the standard info a person supply to your guests? Is going to be back regularly to check up on new posts

  • susan November 11, 2011 01:19 pm

    I'm having a hard time trying to have and work with more then one photo in work space on Photoshops emements 9?

  • Hoo Sze Ling November 6, 2011 03:09 am

    I currently use a compact camera and one of the effects I love the most is blurring of background. Thought I needed to spend a bomb on heavy DSLRs to get this but maybe it looks like I don't.

    Can't wait to try these tips out. I especially love the easy blur ... has the romanticized effect that is beautiful.

  • Dewan Demmer October 26, 2011 05:03 pm

    Overlays are your friend. You want to make you picture pop, try a b/w overlay of your picture, with Gaussian blur and hey presto ... almost all my photos have this with or without the blur ... have a look and what do you think.


  • Shane October 19, 2011 02:56 pm

    If you guys need any help, you can go here!


  • Camera Stabilizer Geeks October 7, 2011 03:27 pm

    Great tips! One thing in Photoshop that we use a lot lately is the content-aware tool. It is great for removing items in a photo. Simple use spot healing brush (j), make sure content aware is selected up at the top, and then you and remove just about any items in your photos like they were never there. Awesome photoshop tool!

  • Steve Dell September 23, 2011 11:47 pm

    Blur/Overlay is an interesting option. I get the same effect with duplicating the layer, changing it to "overlay" and reducing the opacity to somewhere between 20 and 30%. If it's too strong, I will use 20% Soft Light instead.

    Each of these can be made into an action.

    In my workflow I have a 30% Overlay as one action and 20% Soft Light as another action.

  • Ralph lauren coupons September 23, 2011 10:06 am

    Wow! I love that first effect. (blur/overlay)!

  • orange county wedding photographer August 30, 2011 07:33 am

    How little touches can make a great difference!

  • Costa August 22, 2011 06:46 pm

    Excellent teckniques!

  • Tricia August 20, 2011 08:01 pm

    Excellent. I found this most helpful and used it on a few photographs already. Fun! TYVM!

  • Stan August 19, 2011 11:02 am

    Good PS tips! Simple to understand and easy to do. Never tried the gaussian blur as overlay for contrast and softening.

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  • samy August 16, 2011 05:08 pm

    Wow! I love that first effect. (blur/overlay)!

  • Peter Langone August 9, 2011 08:25 pm

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  • Jocko August 5, 2011 08:36 pm

    Think outside the box. Thanks for the information. These tips can be really helpful for those who like to create and use their imagination. So many tools in the box to experiment with and learn from and explore and with your help and examples we can save many hours of time learning. This stuff is great! It makes me jump on an image in my library and try out the cool effects. I feel like my box of crayons just got larger. Thanks again.

  • Ralph lauren coupons July 23, 2011 09:51 am

    Excellent idea with gaussian blur!

  • Detergent coupons July 21, 2011 10:19 am

    The effect looks great. I am impressed with how it turned out. Thanks for sharing

    Read more: https://digital-photography-school.com/4-easy-photoshop-techniques-to-make-your-pictures-pop#ixzz1Sh7hZj9H

  • Guppydas July 19, 2011 01:08 am

    Thanks for such wonderful information. I have been looking for getting the effect/result you have explained but could for so long. Believe me, I am so excited ... like I found the answer to filling that one major lack in my arsenal of visual communication tools that I use so often. Thank you so much.

  • osteopaat baby June 23, 2011 04:16 pm

    Nice effects indeed. Also nice is if you blur only the outer edges of an image. Everything inside will look like miniatures. there's a name for this, but i can't remember what it is. I'm just starting out with image effects and photoshop.

  • James May 24, 2011 03:01 am

    That blur overlay is an awesome effect.

  • Atlanta Psychiatrist May 22, 2011 09:43 am

    The blurring affects looks really nice .. I'm currently learning how to use Gimp because photo shop I don't have... but this gave me some ideas.


  • Lunchables Coupons May 20, 2011 04:32 am

    Its what I need to duplicate my picture layer. Thanks a lot.

  • rajeev verma May 16, 2011 02:07 am

    The tip about the gaussian blur was awsome.Thanks.

  • Mario Caldeira Fotografo May 13, 2011 10:24 am

    Nice Post!!!
    Thanks again

  • Medical Coding Employment May 5, 2011 02:53 am

    Excellent idea with gaussian blur!

  • Harry Hilders April 29, 2011 01:49 am

    Great tip!

  • Friendlys Coupons April 28, 2011 11:41 pm

    Easy Blur totally makes the picture look completely different and the bird stands right out. Great techniques!

  • gerald anderson April 28, 2011 10:53 am

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  • murtaza April 25, 2011 09:34 pm

    wow nice tuts i will implement it my photos

  • stride rite coupon April 23, 2011 03:23 pm

    The effect looks great. I am impressed with how it turned out. Thanks for sharing

  • Tom April 22, 2011 01:54 am


    That's a great blurring effect. I've been using it now for a few weeks and it definitely improves my photos. Thanks a million.


  • Easy Spirit Coupons April 19, 2011 06:03 pm

    Thanks! I especially like the blur effect...I'm going to be using this in my outdoor pictures.

  • How to PhotoShop a picture April 15, 2011 10:24 am

    These are some very nice tips. I especially like the blur/overlay tip to get the dark colors darker and light colors lighter. I think it makes the picture look "clearer" somehow.

  • Lester J April 14, 2011 02:12 am

    I have to admit I use the Gaussian Blur > Overlay technique quite often. Really a quick and easy way to enhance your pictures.

    The neon glow effect looks interesting, will give it a shot soon.

    Thanks again for the great tips.

  • Hair Surgery April 14, 2011 01:02 am

    My wife jsut recently started getting into diting photos with Photoshop. We are using Photoshop 7 though - I can't afford the newest version! Still, for waht she does it works great. If she keeps at it, we might loook into updating.

  • Green Wallpaper April 13, 2011 06:23 pm

    Wow, these tips are great, and look amazing! I'll have to try them out. Thanks for sharing!

  • Viking Outdoor Grills April 13, 2011 12:11 am

    Select the newly created Background Layer and then Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur.

  • Pediasure coupons April 11, 2011 08:26 am

    Wow. Amazing effect. Much thanks for this tutorial. I'll try to make the same.

  • upright vacuum reviews April 11, 2011 12:59 am

    Great post for the computer dis-inclined like myself. I need help with photoshop as well as video software. I guess we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Thanks for the help though.

  • Stride Rite Coupon April 9, 2011 06:57 pm

    Exactly - these techniques you've shared here are worth a ton. I'm a newbie and been trying to learn photoshop and you've helped me a lot. Thanks!

  • Stride Rite Coupons April 2, 2011 07:29 am

    That's a really good technique to make things focus. It's like the images came from a professional camera. I'm just astonished on how this work. I am new to photoshop and these is just perfect for me.

  • Don | Virginia Beach Wedding Photographer April 2, 2011 03:42 am

    I am laughing reading some of the older comments about this photoshop topic. I do understand what Nick was stating March10th an earlier. Its sad, and wonderful, that we can take an average image, shot by a non-talented photographer, and have it turned into a work of art by a photoshop genius. That's just the way our photographic industry is evolving. I entered an image years ago that won best in show in PPA and Virginia PPA and did nothing to the image but burn and dodge in darkroom, and hand colored it slightly. I took pride in taking portraits off the wall and sending them into competition and winning awards. When asked how much retouching was done to the image, I said none. I believe that pro photographers should be trained in composition and lighting and use photoshop for touch up. I take things out of backgrounds that are distracting all the time. I am not a dinosaur. I am not a purist. But, to use photoshop as the end all, and be of the attitude that "I'll fix in photoshop", I think we've lost something here.

  • rizasaputra March 30, 2011 12:24 am

    very good post for dummies like me, like it! thanks!

  • Chris Hodapp March 15, 2011 10:35 pm

    I think it precisely that distinction he takes issue with.

  • nick March 15, 2011 07:52 pm

    I think Colin it's because some people want to draw a distinction between a photograph and a digital image. The former is taken and the latter is made.

    A photo is a moment in time. A digital image is something created over time.

    What you prefer is a matter of choice. Personally I prefer photos.


  • Mervin March 15, 2011 12:01 pm

    Thanks a lot for these basic lessons. It really made things a lot more easier for me. I am recommending this to all other newbies like me.

  • Colin March 15, 2011 04:35 am

    I don't know why some of you respondents to this and other blogs continue to waste others' time with your constant whining about using post-processing effects. Every photographer takes and creates on paper, or whatever other media, photographs which he or she wants to take and which please him or her. Everyone has their own different ideas and aims. So what any other person thinks about the process and/or the end result is irrelevant. It is a matter of personal freedom and choice. If the case is that the end result does matter to another party then this will be because the image has been "commissioned" in one way or another and in that case it is for the photographer to create what the client wants, if necessary using any post processing techniques which will help to achieve the goal.

    When reading these blogs I often detour to view the galleries of posters and I see quite a number of instances where, if I wanted to be uncharitable and go against my message in general, I would recommend that the poster take his camera back to the shop and leave it there. However, my message is that "these are their photographs and if they make them happy it is not for me or anyone else to question their proficiency or the methods they have used". But I would use this point to say that those who take the so-called purist, dogmatic view about post-processing are, in my humble opinion, just as capable of making elementary mistakes of composition, exposure etc. as the rest of us.

    So, whilst they are of course free to express a reasonable opinion, in general these sanctimonious whiners should just shut up and let others get on with enjoying their hobby/profession.

    Please keep the "Tips" coming.

  • bryan February 26, 2011 03:02 am

    try the gradient tool with the sharpen filter in lightroom..... you can get a similar effect

  • frames for photos January 25, 2011 05:17 am

    I am a bit surprised some comments on this post. I do not think he should be telling people how to better pictures. I think there are other texts that are the focus. I thought that some techniques to improve your photos if you should choose to use them.

  • morningdew January 10, 2011 01:13 am

    I'm looking to create a Kirlian-like photo. How can I create such an effect around my subjects. I have a mac (snow leopard), Adobe photoshop 6.0 I think. I'm very much a beginner.....even if you kinow a website that can apply this type of effect (not just a neon glow or a solarize or a changing of hues/tints).

    Thanks you can email me directly at: candycain0@aol.com (#zero after the letter "n") just please include photo-effect or something like that in the subject line.

  • Evan Johnson December 15, 2010 04:57 pm

    These are exactly what I've been looking for. I knew a few already, but was able to learn more about the process.

    Thanks for the tips! I don't usually like to edit my photos, but not because I'm a purist - - just lazy sometimes.


    Evan Johnson

  • ShoeTease December 13, 2010 04:32 pm

    Thanks so much for this post! I am certainly going to use these tips to vamp up my street style pictures.


  • Jayg November 14, 2010 07:14 am

    Looking for a way to make the sky in a converted Infrared image to really pop.

    Any suggestions?

  • Tobiah November 13, 2010 11:26 pm


    The blur/overlay tip was SOOOOOOOOOO helpful.

    I don't know how long it's been that i have been envious of others photos because of a look I could not achieve. I kept trying to describe to folks that my images just didn't look crisp, and that theirs were so vivid and smooth. i tried different lenses, and many trials and errors in post processing. THIS WAS WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR!!!

    This very well might be a very novice idea, and all you folks learned it a long time ago, but to me, it's awesome!!!

    I finally found that look I was searching for!


  • Bryan Grant October 26, 2010 02:08 pm

    Great guassian blur technique. bet it works great with a gradient delete on the top layer

  • www.internationalwed.com October 15, 2010 01:44 am

    nice photoshp tecnques for photograpy..

  • Sidney Lee September 29, 2010 02:05 pm

    I was staring at the first couple of pictures going "man, this place looks really familiar". Like, REALLY familiar. And then I saw the picture of the guy on the star speeder and it hit me. These were all taken in Orlando, specifically on or near Disney property.

    Now, onto feature related comments. This was incredibly helpful. I usually go into Photoshop and just boost the saturation up about fifteen points and mess with levels, and sometimes that makes my pictures just look awful. But next time I'm working on something, I will definitely keep your tips in mind.

  • noname September 22, 2010 02:22 am

    awesome, i like it... but why blur the bird??? its already beautiful... my fav is #1, already tried using several layer with different setting from 1 photo and the result is very good... thanks.

  • Digital Camera Fan September 12, 2010 10:28 pm

    very interesting tutorial, a better picture could have been used to illustrate the neon glow effect though. I have to admit I never knew what to do with the neon glow effect either so it has been useful. Don't forget you can download the gimp which is totally free software and does most of the things that photoshop does, (this is hand if your a bit broke!).

  • king David Olaide September 11, 2010 03:05 am

    i lik dis blog, b4 2 do anytin stuff in photoshop na big problem, but wit dis i can enhance more in my designing.

  • Kyle Mulroney August 27, 2010 02:19 pm

    Haha hey! I have to say i have been working and reading and doing things on photoshop for a few years now...and u know i have always woundered how to just spice my pics up. In the few mins i sat down and learn to do these things i started making thing i didnt know i could make lol. I love photoshop and to most people i look like a pro but i got to say your awesome! If u could plz teach me me more or something that would be awesome...i love just makeing things creative and eye poping!

  • Dr. Photo August 24, 2010 03:11 pm


    I made a blog that tells you which photo editor options/settings to use in order to enhance your photos and keep them looking natural. The specific settings (values) are listed so everything should be clear.

    You can see my blog in:

    The page that shows the settings (for the free photo editor Picnik – you don’t need to install it or register to use it) is:

    If you’re interested feel free to try enhance your photos and please let me know how that worked for you – you can leave comments in my blog. It did a good job for most of my photos (not all) so I wonder how it will work for other people’s photos.

    [eimg url='http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_AftNW7z3HWc/THDREOzpWkI/AAAAAAAAAAM/25g7jR-KWCU/S730/enhanced2_best.jpg' title='enhanced2_best.jpg']

  • Dr. Photo August 24, 2010 03:09 pm


    I made a blog that tells you which photo editor options/settings to use in order to enhance your photos and keep them looking natural. The specific settings (values) are listed so everything should be clear.

    You can see my blog in:

    The page that shows the settings (for the free photo editor Picnik – you don’t need to install it or register to use it) is:

    If you’re interested feel free to try enhance your photos and please let me know how that worked for you – you can leave comments in my blog. It did a good job for most of my photos (not all) so I wonder how it will work for other people’s photos.


  • Jessica Jones August 24, 2010 01:30 pm

    This actually helped a lot with what I was doing. I'm glad I found this. Maybe you'll have some more tips that will come in handy! You're awesome dude, thanks :]

  • Alan July 23, 2010 01:46 pm

    heres mine http://www.flickr.com/photos/i3pie/4820229530/

  • TwitterBackgrounds July 21, 2010 09:16 pm

    Wow, these techniques really are a timesaver. Too bad there aren't more to read ;) This article was really pleasant to go through and the techniques are really easy to apply. Thanks for sharing.

  • Antony Pratap July 16, 2010 05:30 pm

    Great post and tips as usual.

    Tip #4 - When adding the Gausian blur, won't the whole image blur out? How to get the portrait (face of a woman) alone to remain sharp and blur the whole background out.

    I might not have got that tip/trick, please help.

    Thanks in advance.

  • georgie June 29, 2010 05:06 pm

    wow this was very helpful thankyou! ive been trying for days to remove the noise from a concert shot that i got and have been unsuccessful after reading many blogs, so i gave up and thought maybe if i just tweak the photo it will make it look better, and the first effect you did almost completely removed the noise without sparing any of the detail!! so stoked, thankyou!

  • Denver Photographer June 23, 2010 12:47 pm

    dude that butterfly shot is great!

  • Sheila Rich June 17, 2010 06:57 am

    I reallay like #4 - can't wait to try it on a portrait to soften the wrinkles (an easy digital facelift)

  • Jesse James June 1, 2010 01:30 am

    Excellent tips for making some grate looking images.

    I have never tried the gausian blur function before but will definitely give it a try since I can see it's value now.

  • Amy May 27, 2010 05:15 am

    Im having a hard time figuring out the Gaussian Blur. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I have seen it done where you have a picture of a women lets say. I want to smooth her skin using Guassian blur and instead on blurring the entire image and then going back and bringing back the detail on the eyes, lashes, eyebrows, etc. I want to only put the Gaussian blurr where I want. If i can go around the eyes, nose etc. Can anyone tell me if they have heard of this. I have seen it. But i don't know how to master it. I am using "Gimp"

  • sat May 20, 2010 08:37 am

    wow i love this haha

  • Brad April 23, 2010 03:57 am

    woah guys wats with the name calling, personally i enjoy the easy and simple steps he has layed out

  • Eric April 20, 2010 06:26 pm

    While I'm not a huge fan of these techniques by themselves, they are good leaping points to other techniques such as emulating a tilt shift look with blur. I'm a huge fan of learning it all and then applying it to fit your looks. Thank you for these!

  • Photo Editing March 31, 2010 09:38 pm

    i have learned more about this post so . I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your creative Editing abilities has inspired me

  • Gary March 16, 2010 08:32 pm

    THanks!! Learn a lot!!! superb work!

  • Darren Rowse March 10, 2010 08:01 pm

    No need to get personal guys and try to keep this conversation constructive. I'm happy for people to share their views and debate the issues - but lets keep things in perspective, not get into name calling and try to keep things civil. We're all on the same side here and have an opportunity to learn from one another.

  • nick March 10, 2010 06:15 pm

    Easy there tiger, you're becoming abusive. It doesn't inspire confidence in your opinions.

    I don't know how many award winning shots you've created but I still don't take your point. I would 'save' a potential award winning shot by removing a technical fault, I would not 'create' an award winning shot by changing a grey sky to blue, adding things that weren't there or taking away things that were.

    Now you may call that pedantic, but I see as it as having some artistic integrity. I believe Magnum and other respected authorities take much the same view. If it's a photograph and labeled as such it should have as little manipulation pp as possible. If it's labeled 'digital art' you can do as much PP as you want.

    Working in advertising I have been editing in Photoshop, as I say, since it came out. It's a useful tool, it can save, even 'cheat' important shots that are being used for commercial purposes and it can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear too. But commercial photography is a different animal.

    I read these posts to update my knowledge of what is possible. Photoshop has depths many of us will never plumb.

    I do feel a note of caution about over manipulation is worth sounding now and again though.


  • Mark March 10, 2010 05:44 pm

    @nick: So you're saying you'd deliberately lose a potentially award-winning shot because you're too stuck in your old fashioned and pedantic ways or, as mdb has suggested above, maybe you haven't a clue about editing in Photoshop. mdb also has a good point: if this article isn't for you, why are you here? Don't like the word, bigot? How about anally retentive?

  • nick March 10, 2010 05:27 pm

    I think its a question of definitions, semantics maybe. What is a photograph and what is artwork?

    If old school means focusing on composition in camera, waiting for the perfect moment, even coming back later to get the light, then I am old school.

    I am perfectly proficient in photoshop, Ive been using it since Mac was OS7, but as a remedial tool not a creative one. I certainly don't want to spend a great deal of time in front of a computer doctoring images. That is perfectly valid way to create images but I don't see it as photography which involves putting your coat on and getting out the house.

    So the view from my high horse is 'look for the shot, don't create it later'. Im happy to read artilcles to see what the pixel pushers are up to, though.



  • mdb March 10, 2010 07:05 am

    It really annoys me when people get on their high horse when it comes to editing. Some of the most amazing images I have seen certainly are not straight out of camera. The thing I love most about photography is that I can be creative with it and to me, it is artwork. For someone to say that you should only use these techniques if your images look like crap is ridiculous. I think some of these people are old school and don't want to take the time to figure it all out, and that is fine if they don't want to and are happy with their images. For some of us though, these tips are fun and informative and it doesn't mean our images look like crap or that we are less of an artist just because we like to change it up a bit. If you don't need this article, don't read it and let the rest of us benefit from it.

  • syed March 10, 2010 05:03 am

    good work for newbies.

  • nick March 1, 2010 07:34 pm

    Harsh words such as 'bigot' are out of order, but you clearly feel very strongly

    As I say, I will continue to take the Magnum approach to post manipulation of images. I will keep it to a minimum necessary to fix technical problems and to crop to recompose

    I would let your hypothetical drinks can go by, or come back later, or forget it. I want what is there, not what I want to be there (or not there). Manipulation is a slippery slope, should not a photograph be 'true'? Why not add a spaceship for a bit of drama? Maybe that grey sky would be better blue? Let's remove that person from the group photo, we don't like him any more.

    Admen bend images to fit their dream, but that's business.


  • Mark March 1, 2010 06:19 pm

    @Chris Hodapp: Well put! I completely agree.

    @Nick: I disagree. I think you're being blinkered. You think that removing objects is unacceptable? So you'd be happy to swim way out into a river to remove a drinks can that some idiot has littered which is the only thing that's spoiling an otherwise great shot? Personally I'd remove the object in Photoshop -- no one could tell the difference I promise you! But you'd get wet would you? And risk losing the light and the shot? You state that 'photography is about capturing a moment' - I think it's that and more: it's about creating great images. You say you're a purist, but I'm sorry, your attitude seems to me to show you as more of a pedant and bigot.

  • nick March 1, 2010 05:53 pm

    The sensor processes yes but the cells at the back of your eye turn light into electrical signals, old film 'processed' the light through chemical reactions. That's a red herring point you're making

    Framing a scene is composition, not fabrication. Exposure is mostly practical, making the image viable.

    I personally am not dismissing post processing on principle, I'm saying too many people actually 'create' their images in PP and that's not photography that's digital art.

    The old rules apply I think, no more post processing than is necessary to fix practical issues such as badly exposed areas (dodging and burning) any dust or other mechanical issues (spotting) and cropping to adjust composition. Adding clouds, removing objects etc is not acceptable to a purist like me.

    Photography is about capturing a moment, even if you have to wait all day for it. It's not about creating an idealised moment later.

  • Chris Hodapp March 1, 2010 12:57 am

    If you are going to be harshly critical of any post-processing done in Photoshop, then you may as well be harshly critical of digital photography in general, because any image you can see has undergone far more extensive processing from the electrical signals the sensor generates.

    And why restrict criticism to what occurs after the shutter? You're already heavily fabricating an image by all the ways you influence a scene, by where you point the camera, by waiting for particular lighting, by setting the various optics and filters, by setting aperture and exposure time, and by your timing.

    This notion that your camera produces unaltered, divine images is really quite ignorant.

    Plenty of reasons exist to shoot a picture so that little or no post-processing is necessary. Plenty of room exists to reject particular post-processing techniques because they look kitschy or gaudy. But dismissing post-processing altogether on principle is needlessly bigoted.

  • Florian February 26, 2010 08:42 pm

    Awesome, I've always been a real idiot with photoshop (yep, the cold, hard truth), but that's something even I can do. Very handy little guide, thanks!

  • Eeyess February 24, 2010 09:37 pm

    Thanks this is a wonderful post with great information i will be applying these techniques on my next photo editing project. Much respect.

  • Daniel February 23, 2010 09:56 pm

    Great tips! As for the cheating - look at it as a sort of make-up. Every girl looks much better with make-up - under condition, that it was made in such a way to improve the look and not to stand out. Make-up must be the "means" and not the "end", if you know what I mean.

  • pic-o-matic February 23, 2010 03:06 pm

    I enjoyed that post yet I can't seem to find those functions. I use a adobe photoshop elements 8 on a mac could you explain how to find and do these things on this program, please?

  • Barbara February 14, 2010 04:09 am

    This tutorial will stay tagged in my Favorites so I can refer to it again and again with new photos. Thank you for making it simple for us beginners!

  • Viejomiguel February 10, 2010 11:54 pm

    These are very useful tips, as always, at the right time and place. However, I am very surprised at the amount of opposition to the use of alteration to a photo that has appeared in the comments. True, there is absolutely no substitute for starting out with a good capture, but the simple process of printing the photo involves some manipulation. The sign of a master craftsman is his ability to use his tools to achieve the desired result, and if post processing is the sign of a inexpert or amature photographer, then Ansel Adams is a hack.

  • Mark February 5, 2010 05:48 pm

    @ Nick (23 December 2009 post):
    I'm sorry but that sort of old fashioned - perhaps even luddite - attitude gets me riled. Of course, there's no substitute for a good photo in the first place, but the whole point surely is the result: if it's a beautiful image or photo - call it what you like - does it matter how it was created? No doubt there were artists way back at the dawn of photography who asserted that photographs couldn't be called art because they weren't created with brushes and paint, or pen and ink, or whatever. Cameras, computers and software are just tools, and they should be used, appropriately, to achieve the desired result: a good, striking and beautiful image, regardless of how it was created.

  • joel February 4, 2010 01:08 am

    Fantastic tips! What a difference it makes... #1 is the technique and look I have been searching for. So simple & so effective. I want to buy everyone lunch.

  • A.K.M.Arshaduzzaman Tito February 2, 2010 08:10 pm

    I like most these articles. I think it'll bear much advantages for me. I filter among all the techniques.

  • Benz February 2, 2010 03:27 am

    When it comes to making images pop I find levels and curves work well. I start with a level layer just to check the image is using the full tonal range. If the graph is in the centre of the range I move the white point down and the black point up. If your hold down the alt key in photoshop it will show you when you start to blow the highlights. You want to stop just before that. When it comes to the black point I am not so picky. I would rather have a bit of jet black than every last bit of detail in the shadows. So I will move the black point up to clip the bottom of the graph. If the graph covers the whole range then I will use a S shaped curve to boost the contrast and the colour saturation. My Photoblog has details of all the levels curves and layers I use for each post.

  • Liz January 26, 2010 12:31 am

    I am a newbie t photoshop and had no idea how to use it, and this just opend up a whole can of worms!!! COPY background Duh Liz!!!!!!!!!

  • Buri Studios January 9, 2010 06:57 am

    The first tip is really quiet useful. Thanks much for posting this information to help fellow photographers out!

  • nick December 23, 2009 07:15 pm

    I think the point is to create in camera as much as possible, even down to the crop. The old masters would print their negatives in their entirety having carefully framed in the first place.

    The danger of post processing is that it never really stops. Because it is non destructive you never make decisions that you can't undo and so it's hard to say 'that's it., done'

    I believe many competitions now limit post processing of images to what would have been achievable in a darkroom - dodging, burning etc.

    This all begs the question of what photography now is, of course. A beautiful image is a beautiful image, but if it was largely created post prod, is it actually a photo anymore? I'd say not

  • jtimages December 1, 2009 07:27 pm

    It is an extremely interesting blog with pictures full of living colors.

    it`s absolutly fantastic!!!

  • dian nais November 19, 2009 12:10 pm

    i really love the neon glow effect.. thinking of doing it to one of my post processed photos later.

    thank you very much.. :)

  • myeshablakely November 16, 2009 04:35 am


  • Yarra November 6, 2009 12:09 pm

    simple & useful, thanks mate

  • Anh dep November 4, 2009 10:50 pm

    Too simple, but it works great!!!

  • Strkov September 14, 2009 05:58 pm

    Great stuff, I read it , try it , and it makes lot of differences to my photo. And as a matter a fact I put that photo on Flickr

  • JMarkLabbe August 28, 2009 11:20 pm

    Hi Ruth,.. I could probably help,..
    but without seeing your file (layers, color mode, etc) its hard to tell can you email me screen captures?

  • Ruth August 28, 2009 04:13 am

    Some of the Filter options are grayed out when I try some of these tricks. (Brushes, Artistic, Texture)
    Can you tell me why?
    I am on a Mac.

  • jmarklabbe August 27, 2009 10:27 am

    LOL,.. awesome
    kinda like following this tutorial:


  • Sravan August 27, 2009 01:58 am

    The only technique I think will work is the neon effect and the easy blur...

  • JMarkLabbe August 26, 2009 04:27 am


    you may have an empty layer that you are trying to guassian blur or possibly the layer is not selected to guassian blur,... you may also have selected something without knowing unabling you to perform the task???
    without seeing your file and layer setup its hard to tell,..

  • JMarkLabbe August 26, 2009 04:22 am

    as with photoshop tho,.. certain filters and effects have a lifespan and can date your image very quickly if you don't study what's current and what's not,.. safest thing to do is is find timeless techniques that wont date your pics,.. after using photoshop for 14 years, the best techniques are the subtle ones,.. usually you can find out if the photoshop user is an amateur versus pro because of the inexperience in using "every trick in the book" on one image versus being subtle and using one effect,.. on the flip side tho,.. just because its current doesn't mean it is usable either!,. my wife and i are on opposite ends of the spectrum,.. were as she wants it solve in the camera,.. and I have the attitude of solving it in photoshop,.. we both come to the same conclusion at the end,..which is to just have a great visual

  • Sandi MacLeod August 22, 2009 12:35 am

    I think I must be missing something, I just cant do the guassian blur overlay??
    Have I missed a step or something? I am trying to do this first move on a portrait. HELP

  • Romanorum July 17, 2009 02:14 am

    Thank you very much. I'm learning a lot of different things with this blog. I've liked specially this article, because these 4 pieces of advice are very useful and easy. And it's a good way to improve the digital photo's knowledge. The easy way.
    Thanks again. I read this blog always that I can. Sorry if my English is not so good.

  • timekeeping software July 4, 2009 06:28 pm

    man those effects are really lame. I knew all of them years ago when i was a beginner.

  • felicity June 9, 2009 04:19 am

    Im sorry - Im a real amateur here. I'm trying to do tip #1 Blur and when I get to Gaussian Blur Photoshop tells me "could not complete Gaussian Blur becasue selected area is empty". Could someone pls advise what I'm missing?

    Thanks :-) Felicity

  • Carlo May 6, 2009 03:00 pm

    Good job! But do you know Gimp? IIt is a free softawre product and I think it is going to offer similar services to the best commercial products... In my post-production as a wedding photographer I use it in a successful way.

  • photo retouching April 26, 2009 10:07 pm

    I reccomend your site to a lot of my clients as it is so clear and easy to follow.

  • Joseph April 24, 2009 06:26 am

    I love your write-ups. Even though I knew how to do these, reminding me that they exist and sending these tuts to friends and family are well worth the time i spend here.

    Seriously, thank you! My heartfelt thanks for all that you do to make the internet awesome.

  • SweetCapture April 24, 2009 02:57 am

    Thank you! I especially like the blur/overlay.

  • Dave Conrey April 24, 2009 02:44 am

    Personally, I recommend you stay as far away from Photoshop Filters as you possibly can. They look cheesy and amateurish 99% of the time. You may think it looks cool, but it doesn't. Just trust me on this.

  • Cathy April 24, 2009 02:20 am

    I never thought about trying out a blur overlay, can't wait to use that one! thanks Cathy

  • Rob Bell April 11, 2009 08:07 pm

    I'm a recent reader to this blog - my first visit was because your romantic candlelight article contained a picture of a friend of mine - the bearded old dude writing by candlelight. I've loved everything I've read here so far - and it's all practical and stuff I can use.

    Thanks for taking the time to produce quality content.


  • Jacqui.H April 1, 2009 09:04 pm

    OMG I cannot grasp photoshop, it does my head in every time.... Help!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Craig Cumberland April 1, 2009 02:14 am

    Hi Darren,
    I'm a yearbook teacher and really found the "4 Easy Photoshop Techniques to Make Your Pictures Pop!" article helpful. Is there anyway I can get a PDF of it for my students?


  • richard March 29, 2009 09:40 pm

    keep the usefull advice coming, i just tried out the train set tecnique with a random photo from my harddrive, i cant believe how simple but effective it was!

  • The_Stig March 28, 2009 05:28 am

    Very glad I found these tutorials. Thanks for the tips!

  • Lynette March 27, 2009 11:15 pm

    I really enjoy all the tips that you send. I am sure I could find these in books but would spend hours and now I have a couple of tricks to try! Thanks a bunch, keep them coming.

  • Eva March 27, 2009 12:03 pm

    I think the blur/overlay technique is a variation of The Orton Effect, to which there is a link above in 'If you enjoyed this article, you might also like...'
    As for using these effects - well, it's personal taste. You need to try things as your skills develop, only to reject them later, perhaps. But here is the how to, always room to learn.

  • jpm8jpm March 5, 2009 07:39 pm

    the idea is to have an option just in case you are board with your old photos...it will be a great idea if you look for your old photos and try to do these enhancements...you will surely love it and start sharing them again to your old friends...

  • werlwind March 3, 2009 05:47 pm

    I am glad that I stumbled across this sight. It really taught me some useful filters that are really easy. Probably never would of thought of it.

  • Jeff Paul Scam January 24, 2009 04:35 pm

    It has been amazing to grow any business on the Internet, I need to market strategically to my customers, using a range for tools from content sharing to email marketing, search engine optimization, co-branding, ad buys, and more, to reach your target audience.

  • Jerry January 20, 2009 01:44 am

    I just tried this technique on a portrait and the result was amazing. I had been trying for a few days to "pop" the color off the print and nothing got it were I wanted it - that is until I tried your suggestion. Thanks!

  • kezia December 7, 2008 09:22 am

    this is great for self studying like me, very helpful yet simple easy to follow steps. love it...
    keep it!

  • Millard December 5, 2008 09:28 pm

    I will spend the next couple of hours working on some of these. Great tips.

  • Percy November 22, 2008 09:38 pm

    I'm a wedding photographer from the Philippines... I'm using these techniques for almost 2 years already... and it really worked for me together with masking and other techniques in Photoshop... specially that in weddings the photographer is just relying on whatever is available in the set and with equipments available... The rest of it is Photoshop already... but of course you really have to get the nice angles of the shot... after that it's Photoshop....

    Thanks for sharing this technique..

  • Vic November 22, 2008 01:00 am

    Thanks for you very useful info.

  • Anonymous November 13, 2008 09:18 am

    Thanks for the soft blur thing, helped me finish my masterpiece...

  • Adrian September 25, 2008 04:48 am

    Great tip with the blur layering

  • photographik September 13, 2008 08:31 am

    Great stuff!

  • arofarmer September 12, 2008 06:35 pm

    THANK YOU!! Finally got to know how LAYERS work! Thanks for the simple yet enlightening tutorial... it opened another door for me to express my images. Just have to relate back to GIMP becos i'm not using photoshop ; )

    Thanks again!

  • zigwig August 13, 2008 06:35 pm

    thanks for this! :) i used some techniques on my portrait shots and i love the angelic surreal glow. perfect for young subjects :)

  • Julie Harris Photographers August 11, 2008 11:27 am

    With Photoshop, there's always something new to learn. Thanks for the detailed tutorial. Keep it coming! :-)


  • ShaZ Ni August 7, 2008 04:00 am

    hehe..wow..cool techniques..i never knew dis..
    all i ever did with photoshop was trial and error LOL!

    XD thanx!!

  • arman August 6, 2008 02:19 am

    thanks for this blog, i learned new tricks and applied visit http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/gallery.asp?memberID=236351

  • nany August 3, 2008 03:58 pm

    This is cool. :)) NICE.

  • Nony August 3, 2008 03:58 pm

    nice work. you did explained it well. it's easy to follow. do more! :)) pretty please. ;)

  • Rajita- Logo Design July 31, 2008 05:14 pm

    Really good tips for new designers

  • sreekumar ev April 5, 2008 03:56 am

    wonderful tips, really wonderful.


  • Kerryn April 4, 2008 06:22 pm

    Great tips will have trying them out

  • Zac Preuss March 6, 2008 11:59 pm

    this really helped me out.. it was great

  • Dotti March 3, 2008 03:12 am

    Thanks for making photoshop more understandable. Can't wait to try these!

  • Sushi February 21, 2008 11:17 pm

    Oh my gosh!!!...this tutorial is so sweet :D
    i soooo love it!!!
    i havent use photoshop
    im trying to use it now ^^ then after that i'm going to show it to my friends and teacher *.*
    i wish teacher going to take me for inforama *.* hehehe
    maybe she would do that after showing this...i sooooo love you!!!!!!
    you rock!!!!
    dont worry..i'll tell them whose that nice person who become my guru :D
    my computer and you!!!

  • ctraos February 2, 2008 05:12 am

    exelente tutorial, muchas gracias !!

  • Corsi fotografia Milano January 30, 2008 08:32 pm

    Wow, I will stry this tecniques.. Easy and with good results...

  • Roxxy January 24, 2008 10:07 am

    As a hobbyist photographer for years, I try and capture the best image that I can, but within the limitations to my creativity that time, location, element of surprise etc can stand in my way of the result.

    Some of my favourite images have been captured and then manipulated and they inspire me greatly.

    Manipulating the end result of a photo is by far not a new concept as it has always been around since film photography, so learning these varied techniques is something I enjoy.

  • Linda Walcroft January 11, 2008 03:55 pm

    Love that blur/overlay! I am a fan of experimenting with blending modes for layers but I haven't tried that one.

  • Simon January 10, 2008 02:04 pm

    Hi - great tutorial, thanks. I use most of these techniques myself but there was one or two I had never used before. Another interesting technique is to take a layer that is mostly transparent - duplicate it, gaussian blur it, add a low opacity rainbow gradient blending mode, then merge the layers. Gives a surreal, colourful aura to an object.

  • Percy Acosta December 31, 2007 11:12 pm

    Hi.. your techniques were very simple yet very effective... It
    helps me a lot specially for my rush post-processing before i make lay-outs on wedding albums.. Thanks for the tips .. It's amazing.. God bless

  • Whitney December 15, 2007 01:48 pm

    I have been looking for easy tutorial fixes forEVER
    And I am AMAZED at these. I love all of them!!

  • Umar December 14, 2007 05:17 am

    Nice stuff
    Ima try it out soon!

  • Aman Cheema December 7, 2007 08:30 am

    This is a magnificent video and tutor

  • Ariful Alam December 7, 2007 04:27 am

    I like this tutorial very much. Thanks. It is very easy, effective and handy. I want more like this.

  • meme November 26, 2007 09:14 pm

    thx for that
    simpel and so nice
    i like at

  • Bob Marley October 29, 2007 01:14 pm

    Very simple and tedious techniques.

  • Ta4ka September 8, 2007 02:06 am

    Awesome stuff, simple and fast, thx dude

  • Mary June 7, 2007 02:21 am

    Hi. I just followed a link from a photo group to this site. It's interesting; I do photography where I work of boring instruments. I've been using the Gaussian blur technique for some time, but I use it to make a shadow of the instrument and offset it a bit both horizontally and vertically. Easy to do with text as well and much more flexible than using the 'shadow' that's in some font menus.

    It's fun to play with Photoshop--I've gotten so much more bold once I learned to use and position layers.

    I'll bookmark this blog. Thanks.

  • Jo April 22, 2007 12:28 pm

    You have just increased my enjoyment ten fold. I love to toy around in my graphics program but I must admit....there are so many bells and whistles that I often get overwhelmed. I took the above tutorials and applied them (with variations) to the same photo and got ten different looks - all equally wonderful. Thanks for your efforts.

  • Stefani April 13, 2007 07:14 pm

    wow cool!..these are good tips. im lovin it!! thx for that. keep up ur good work,k? ^^
    i'd like to see another cool tips.

  • MyAppleStuff April 7, 2007 10:06 pm

    Thanks :-)

  • Vince March 6, 2007 12:52 pm

    Nothing wrong with editing to one's heart's desire, as long as he remembers this:

    Editing is a SUPPLEMENT to good photography, NOT a replacement for it!

    That's important!

    -Vince :-)

  • Wild Curl March 3, 2007 10:45 am

    Elise- Thank you for the tips on making my photos pop. I appreciate your simple directions and use of pictures to aid in my learning. YOU ROCK!

  • Eddy Chan February 25, 2007 06:50 pm

    I now take most pictures with digital camera (compact 5mp, not DSLR), I found so far on my computer screen, the sharpest pictures with the best colors were those taken with film and scanned. With compact digitals, auto-everything, almost cost nothing to take pictures, I found the output to be 100% family snap shots. With limitations of digital compacts, without photoshop and some time in front of the computer, don't even dream of many printable pix. For 1 aspect, the depth of field of most digital compacts are way too deep and one can hardly take a portrait with blurred background if the pose is more than 3 feet from the camera. On the other hand, knowing and experimenting with all that photoshop has to offer makes me wonder would there be any "real photo" in a few years from now! Is the advancement in technology killing photography too quickly.

  • d4o2 February 25, 2007 06:42 pm

    nice, the last one really looks cool

  • Mojo Denbow February 3, 2007 07:37 am

    So simple that even I could do it. Your tutorial approach to step-by-step works wonders. Thanks!

  • elise (googlit) February 2, 2007 11:00 am

    I got the blur/overlay tip years ago from [the amazing] Scott Kelby at a Photoshop conference. It's pretty widely used. You can probably find all of my tips in some form or another elsewhere on the internet... I write my tutorials myself, but that doesn't mean that other people don't use the same techniques as me.

    and thanks for all the positive feedback! :)

  • cindy@staged4more January 31, 2007 09:39 am


    i have to confess, i am not very good with photoshop other than adjusting contrasts and rotate the photos. but these are some pretty fun tips and i may try with family photos. thanks for inspiring me to "play" with photoshop!



  • Mark January 25, 2007 01:38 am

    That blur/overlay sounds like an exact copy of something writting on dooce.com a few years ago.

  • Britton January 23, 2007 08:24 am

    Thanks for these tips. I'm with some of the commenters above in that I don't like to over photoshop my images, but I think these tips are great.

    My favorite was Tip #1. My personal preference on that tip was to set the blending mode to "Soft Light" and then adjust the layer opacity to get just the right amount of "pop". (For an example of this see www.brennphotography.com/blur-overlay). I found that doing this, while less dramatic and way more subtle, was a way to keep the pictures looking more true to life.

    No tip is perfect and no tip is perfect for every image, but I think that's what great about this post. You can learn something from these tips and then apply it in your own way to your own images.

    Thanks for the tips!!!

  • ken January 22, 2007 10:16 pm

    Wow, I am just blown away by the quality of your tips.
    Keep up the great contributions.
    Sunny Scarborough

  • Rirath January 22, 2007 02:03 pm

    I've heard and used many of these before. The filter debate is a decent one, but as many have said knowing which buttons to push is only half the battle.

    It's not hard to teach someone how to hold a paintbrush or use a camera. Teaching them to take that basic knowledge and make something with it is a whole other story.

    So long as filters aren't abused, they are fair game.

  • Kerri January 22, 2007 01:53 pm

    You know, I keep reading the comments that are so critical of using filters and special effects. As a professional wedding and portrait photographer, I have to say that I am surprised that anyone would not use any tool available to them to offer a unique, creative and quality product weather it is for yourself to enjoy or for a client that you may have been contracted by. Also, as with any artform, photography is an always evolving form of expression, it is not just to represent the reality that so obviously exists, but to engage all of the viewers 5 senses. And, Critics, are you all not aware that before digital, not only were many of these effects done in the darkroom as stated so appropriately by "admartist", but were there not filters and effects that were applied at capture?
    And I will guess that abstract art was never a favorite of yours since it looks so "unreal", god forbid.
    Sorry, I had to vent on this. Can we really be applying boundaries into what defines a beautiful image? How limited an imagination that must create, for if it does not exist in reality, it is not to be appreciated for its beauty?

  • syahid January 21, 2007 09:11 pm

    love the tips.
    work with the gaussian blur and love it much.

  • Karen January 21, 2007 02:12 pm

    Thanks for these tips Elise. I've used the Gaussian Blur one before but am keen to try out the others you show in the tutorial.

    I'm a bit surprised by some of the comments on this post. I didn't think it was supposed to be telling people how to take better photos. I expect there are other posts that focus on that. I thought it was talking about techniques to enhance your photos IF YOU SHOULD CHOOSE TO USE THEM. So those commjents about 'the artistic integrity of photography' seem pretty misplaced.

  • Torley January 21, 2007 10:25 am

    Great techniques, thanx for doing this. I've been doing a lot of post-processing based on photos from the online world of Second Life, as shown here:


    Some of this I knew before, but it's good to know they're handy and practical, and used by others. I'm always hungry to learn more!

  • jiminyClickit January 21, 2007 09:25 am

    Thank you, Elise. I'm a PhotoDeluxe holdout (learned on it, have not seen a need to change). This tutorial translates to my older, simpler program, and I'm thrilled! Usually I get apologetic not having PhotoShop . . . not anymore. I've been unsaturating that second layer before blurring, and as often as not the overlay setting at maybe 30% opacity gives an atmospheric look. For those of us who cannot buy new cameras on a whim, Thanks again.

  • Katie January 21, 2007 07:54 am

    I really love your tips. Not everyone has the knack to be a professional, so these tips work great! Thanks for sharing.

  • Alex Georgiadis January 21, 2007 06:38 am

    Did you know that your website is blocked in China? I have to use a surrogate gateway like vtunnel.com to view it. Weird huh?

  • Jopegs January 21, 2007 06:27 am

    Awsome love this site there is always good tips & info to learn from... thank you :)

  • Brian January 21, 2007 01:55 am

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! These tips are amazing, and simple. I love them.

  • Karp January 20, 2007 10:16 pm

    I usually use UnSharp mask with a maximum radius, 0 treshold and 20-40% to bring more contrast to an image. It's magic.

    Set the layer to screen for the real hazy dreamy look. Really gives the feel of a soft-focus filter.

  • orangeacid January 20, 2007 10:09 pm

    This is probably the most useful PS tutorial I have ever read. The blur/overlay thing is such an amazing little trick, it makes almost every picture I have ever taken look loads better. I also find it can be useful to tone down the effect by reducing the opacity, and sometimes soft-light works better than overlay, but thanks for bringing this to my attention!

  • Leigh January 20, 2007 08:28 pm

    Awesome! thx!


  • Askana January 20, 2007 07:22 pm

    Good effects, except for the neon glow on the cat.

  • Adrian January 20, 2007 05:17 pm

    Hi and thanks very much for that supercool and easy effects, hope there will come more of such simple and effective tipps. Thanx

  • Graydon January 20, 2007 04:56 pm

    There's no use arguing on whether you should or should not use PhotoShop filters and how they look so 90's (or other decade).

    Photography can be about personal expression... which means whatever floats your boat goes.

    Photography can be about replicating the world as you see it... and if you have to tweak a few things electronically to compensate for your camera... then so be it.

    Photography can be about highlighting an issue / subject and if you need to blur out some background in a natural way... or a creative way... use the tools you have available for your need.

    There's a reason that digital photography took off... where else can an individual do so much with so little (sometimes talent, sometimes money)... It's become the easiest "artistic" outlet for people.

    Follow your own desires while respecting others.

  • Arbutus Photography January 20, 2007 02:51 pm

    Fantastic trick on the #1 blur overlay!!

    This is what we have been looking for for our wedding photographs to produce the best quality!

  • subcorpus January 20, 2007 11:50 am

    kewl effects ...
    though i saw it some other sites ...
    ur is better ...
    thanks ...

  • agloco January 20, 2007 11:29 am

    a lot of photoshop tutorial on digg frontpage lately, even video tutorials but and i think this is one of the best.. bookmarked!

    -So Hot, Asia

  • Matt January 20, 2007 10:17 am

    Hi and thanks for these quick tips! I just used the first technique on this picture I have of my daughter that I really like and it looks great! Amazing how quick and easy it was to make the pic more "deep" and appealing.

  • GoManGo January 20, 2007 10:14 am

    Very cool, very practical suggestions. Many thanks.

  • Andrew Ferguson January 20, 2007 09:45 am

    The results from the first tip look decent. I'm going to fiddle around with that a bit.

    However, the other three come across looking really amateurish and dated (late 90's paint shop pro anyone?). Probably because, as Martin said, it's really easy to see what you did.

    Thanks for posting the first one, but the other three I could live without.

  • Alniner January 20, 2007 08:05 am

    Always some great tips....however, I have enough blur in all my shots. lol. No help needed.

  • matt January 20, 2007 07:51 am

    i like the first and last techniques.

  • The Average White Guy January 20, 2007 07:39 am

    I've been doing the gaussian blur+overlay for a while now. It's particularly useful when you're trying to clean up a photo that's been enlarged or has too much mezzotint, grain, or artifacting (from a video source).

    Thanks for the other three useful tips!

  • Armands January 20, 2007 07:34 am

    The first and the last examples jus adding soap effect to the photo. I really hate photos like that!

  • Christian January 20, 2007 07:07 am

    Excellent! Great tips. I especially like #2, always wanted to know how to do that.

  • Charmaine January 20, 2007 01:22 am

    Love the tips! Photoshop is like...magic...and mostly undiscovered for me, so this is really helpful.

    I used the last trick quite often when I had access to photoshop, and I really really love it. It's especially good for stuff like portraits and if you're into making desktop wallpapers out of your photos. Sometimes you might want to experiment with the amount of blur and the amount of transparency of the respective layers to get subtly different effects.

  • James January 20, 2007 12:14 am

    I personally (my opinion) do not like filter effects that you can see. That is just my view.

    However, the tutorials - whether you like the results they give or not - offer the reader a further understanding and a point of research. For example, hmm... If I can duplicate a layer and blur it and overlay it to give an effect, I wonder what would happen if I duplicated a layer,'posterized (or other filter!)' it and set it to colour dodge.

    It's all food for thought - you have to experiment to gain any real world experience and knowledge.

    Keep them coming!!!


  • Daze January 19, 2007 09:01 pm

    Some great tips there, thanks for the detailed run-down and everything.

    I also use Shadows/Highlights quite a bit to make the occasional photo stand out a little more, as well as an Omni light under the Lighting Effects menu in Photoshop - quite handy sometimes :)

  • -=wh@len=- January 19, 2007 02:19 pm

    Good job on the tips Elise! I liked #2: filter the background. I had fun applying different filters to get interesting effects to the background. Have you tried CS3 yet? Way cool, you can turn "regular" filters into Smart Filters that can be edited at any time.

    Anyway keep up the good work and will be looking forward to more of your tips.

  • tim January 19, 2007 01:30 pm

    "it’s all about artistic expression!"
    If it were all about the 'art' I doubt you'd be using "artistic" filters in Photoshop that any monkey can use in a couple clicks.

    I'm obviously with Martin.
    It's so easy to show someone how to click a few buttons and manipulate something. But I think the understanding of when and how much should be applied is so much more important than the technical process.

  • Andrea January 19, 2007 10:39 am

    Good points Martin (I want to visit Germany some day--good photo ops!), but, Hey, it's all art, anyway! Whether or not you tweak your photos, it's all about artistic expression! :) Thanks for the tips, Elise! This is a great blog--I just joined. Yay! These are fun tools we can use to express ourselves.

    By the way, Martin, you probably get nicer photos in Germany just because you have prettier things to photograph than where I live! With the scenery around here, I NEED photoshop! *g* just kidding (photo opportinities are everywhere if you know where to look....)

  • Bessy January 19, 2007 07:19 am

    While this sort of thing will always be more useful for some than others (photoshop tutorials often get criticised by some and praised by others depending at the commenter's experience level and personal tastes) - I personally loved these simple tips.

    Please can we have more?

  • Michele January 19, 2007 06:36 am

    Love the Blur/Overlay tip! I'll have to try it with some nature shots that I have!

  • Reader January 19, 2007 05:43 am

    Thanks for the tips!

    I live in a fairly cloudy region and often get dull colors so the first technique does wonders with some of my image.

  • Brian Auer January 19, 2007 05:14 am

    These tips are great. When I read the headline, I thought it would be centered around the basic editing techniques. But I can see now that this is very much geared toward the artistic side of photo editing.

    The Blur/Overlay and the Easy Blur techniques are my favorites from these tips.

  • googlit January 19, 2007 03:58 am

    I'm all for getting good pictures and altering them (if at all) only in the slightest. That's what I do most of the time. The purpose of these is just to add a little something, and is certainly not meant to use all the time for all your pics.

    The only one among these that I use often is the first... it's a subtle effect and can add a lot to a picture without making it look very Photoshopped. The last one works well on portraits, etc... it usually doesn't look over-done and helps to soften a picture.

    I certainly agree that overly-photoshopped images tend to look cheesy. Photoshop is a powerful tool that should be used in moderation. But sometimes it's ok to have some fun with it.

  • John Wesley January 19, 2007 02:54 am

    Nice simple tips. I can't wait to try them out.

  • Mr. Deeter January 19, 2007 01:33 am

    While Martin and the SexyNinjaMonkey have some good points -- as amatuer photographer who may never get the time or hardware that it will take to make these images without some of these basic photoshop steps -- it's just nice to cheat sometimes.

    Nice blog - I read it every day. There's always something new to learn or to re-realize.

    ~Cold in Iowa

  • admartist January 19, 2007 01:22 am

    Another perspective: While I am obsessed with image quality and I never quit striving to increase the number of my shots that are technically perfect, I believe good technique alone does not make a superior, or even an accurate, image. Photography has many many inherent limitations due to the equipment and, at its best, is an imperfect method of capturing light and documenting 'reality'. Even shots that are as technically perfect as possible often fall far short of the actual scene. Just changing brands of digital camera could give the same results as the edits of the train set, cat, and bird.

    Editing is as old as photography. Most of the really famous images of the olden days are NOT straight from the camera--in fact, 'straight from the camera' did not exist before digital except with Polaroid type instant pictures. The filters and methods in Photoshop were originally derived from traditional darkroom manipulations of film development and printing, they are just easier, faster and less toxic.

    Isn't photography all about visual communication? If edits/tweaks/effects serve to support what one is trying to say with an image, I say go for it. I wouldn't rule out any method that could help make my images communicate what I really 'saw' and/or 'felt' at the time. Thanks very much for the tips!

  • SexyNinjaMonkey January 19, 2007 12:02 am

    I'm with martin... I've been working on ways to make sure my photo's look the way i want them too with as little editing as possible (if any). I think doing this has improved my photography somewhat. But yes, if your pic's constantly turn out looking like crap... try some of these techniques to make them that little bit more appealing.

  • Martin January 18, 2007 11:43 pm

    Hello. I really love this blog and I have read very much interesting and helpfull stuff !
    I hope its okay to critizise this entry .[?]. In the beginning of my photography-career I used this filters very often. You can have a "not very good" photo on you pc, but with this techniques the look really good [in the first seconds]. As I recognized this I tried to do better and better shots and less of the filters. Yes, I am a big fan of editing my images, but I try to do this in a way it is not seen ... You know what I meen ? In my opinion it looks much more "eyecathing" over the long term if your visitors can*t actually say what you did to make an image look like.. Hope this critique is not too hard ;)
    Greetings from Germany,