5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

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Here are five quick tips for doing retouching in Photoshop that are essential to know. Learn them to do better retouching on your photos.

#1 – Load Luminosity as a Selection

In Photoshop you can use the luminosity of an image (the bright pixels) as selections. The easiest way to make a selection out of the bright pixels of a photo is by pressing Command+Option+2, (Windows: Ctrl+Alt+2).

If you cannot remember the keyboard shortcut, you can also load luminosity as a selection by holding Cmd/Ctrl and clicking on the RGB thumbnail in the Channels panel.

01 selection - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

With a selection active, you can create an Adjustment Layer to apply the selection to the Layer Mask.

02 adjustment mask - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

This Adjustment Layer will only target the brighter pixels of your image. If you make an adjustment, you’ll notice that you will only affect the bright pixels and not the dark ones.

03 adjustment lights - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

You can target dark pixels by inverting the selection. To do so, Select the Layer Mask, and clicking on Invert in the Properties panel.

04 invert mask - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

Now if you make an adjustment, the dark pixels will be affected and not the bright.

05 adjustment darks - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

#2 – Spot Healing Brush Tool Modes – Lighten and Darken

One way to remove wrinkles, blemishes, and other distractions from the face quickly and efficiently is to use the Modes in the Spot Healing Brush Tool and Content-Aware.

First, think of the blemish, wrinkle, or distraction that you are trying to remove. Is it darker than the skin tone or is it brighter than the skin tone?

06 portrait - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

In this case, the wrinkles are darker than the skin tone. That means that you want to “lighten” those wrinkles.

With the Spot Healing Brush Tool selected, in the Options bar, click on Content-Aware, and under the Mode drop-down menu, select Lighten.

07 lighten - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

Then start painting with a small brush and small strokes over the wrinkles to remove them. But you will not lose essential details in the highlights. The Spot Healing Brush tool is only targeting dark pixels which are the wrinkles.

08 before after - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

If your blemish or distraction is brighter than the skin tone, such as the bright wrinkles above the lip, then select Darken from the Mode drop-down menu, and paint them away.

10 final heal - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

To learn more about how this technique works, check out this video on the Spot Healing Brush Tool:

#3 – Open the Same Image in Two Windows

In Photoshop, you can open the same image in two windows and set them side-by-side to work on both details and the overall image at the same time.

This technique is great when you are working with two monitors. But even with one monitor, this technique can be very useful.

To open the same document in two windows, go to Window > Arrange, “New Window for [Name of Document].” Then go to Window > Arrange > Two up Vertical to put the two tabs side-by-side. You can then Zoom into one window, and zoom out on the other.

same doc two windosw - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

These are not two separate files. They are the same document, and any adjustments that you make to one will reflect on the other instantly.

#4 – Targeted Selections with Color Range

The Color Range command can be an excellent tool for selecting difficult areas of an image. However, if you simply use the Color Range on a problematic image, it may not give you the results you want. Sometimes there is too much information on a single image, and you need to focus on just one area.

To focus the Color Range in only one area, create a selection around the object that you want to select. A simple rectangular selection will be fine.

12 selection - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

Then go into Select > Color Range, and you will see that Color range is now focusing solely on the selected area.

13 color range - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

Select a red color on the shirt using the eyedropper, then use the fuzziness slider to adjust the selection.

Keep in mind that it is going to be next to impossible not to select the hands or the railing that she’s leaning on because the skin tones and the paint on the railing are very similar in color to the red that you are trying to select.

But you can use the Lasso tool to quickly deselect those areas, leaving only the red in the shirt selected.

14 selection only red - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

With a selection active, you can create a Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer that will just target the red in the shirt.
Then use the Hue slider to change the color of the shirt.

15 change color - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

#5 – Use the Lab Color Mode

Most of the time, you will work with RGB or CMYK while in Photoshop. But there is another Color Mode that you can use that can be very useful in certain situations. If you go to Image > Mode > Lab Color, you will change your photo’s color mode to Lab.

16 color mode - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

The Lab color mode has three channels: Lightness, A, and B.

  • The Lightness channel contains the detail of the image – the Luminance values.
  • “A” is the relationship between green and magenta. These are the same colors as the Tint slider in Lightroom and Camera Raw.
  • “B” is the relationship between blue and yellow. These are the same colors as the Temperature slider in Lightroom and Camera Raw.

17 lab graphic

One of the most significant advantages of working with the Lab color mode is that Lab separates detail (luminosity) from color. This separation allows you to work with color without affecting detail and vice versa.

17 red dress - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

For example, you could turn a red dress green by duplicating the layer, and then selecting “A” from the Channel’s panel, and pressing Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the channel.

18 a channel

Notice that the color of the image changed, but the detail was left intact.

19 green layer - 5 Must-Know Photoshop Retouching Tips and Tricks for Photographers

You could then use a Layer Mask to contain the adjustment to only the dress.

20 mask dress

Another advantage of using the Lab color mode is that you can sharpen without affecting the color of a photo. If you apply any sharpening filter to the Lightness channel, you will only target the detail and will leave the color intact.

The example below has the same Sharpening filter applied to both the regular image and the Lightness channel in Lab Color. I’ve made sharpening effect an extreme one for demonstration purposes, to make the results more noticeable.

Notice that when you apply sharpening to the Lightness channel (right), the colors on the edges are not saturated or changed. They only become brighter or darker. While the sharpening on the regular layer increases the saturation of the edge pixels.

21 sharpening

As a side note, Photoshop doesn’t really add detail to an image when you apply sharpening. It creates the illusion of detail by adding contrast to the edges in the photo. You can see that edge contrast in these extreme adjustments.

You can learn more about sharpening in this video on sharpening photos in Photoshop:

One important thing to note is that the Lab color mode does not have access to all the Adjustment Layers, and some Adjustment Layers will work a bit different than their RGB counterparts.

If you are working with Adjustment Layers and you would like to go back to the RGB color mode, you will have to put the image, and the Adjustment Layers in a Smart Object then make the conversion. Otherwise, Photoshop will ask you to delete the Adjustment Layers or flatten the image.

Conclusion

I hope you found these tips helpful for retouching or editing your images in Photoshop. Do you have any other tips or tricks that you use? Please share in the comments below.

Read more from our Post Production category

Jesus Ramirez is a digital graphics expert, speaker, and educator specializing in Adobe Photoshop. He is an Adobe Community Professional, and a content creator for the Adobe Creative Cloud Blog. Jesus is best known as the founder of the Photoshop Training Channel, one of the most popular Photoshop YouTube channels in the world. He has been a speaker at Adobe MAX, Adobe SUMMIT, Adobe MAKE IT, CreativeLive, CreativePro and many other conferences and industry events. You can check some more of his work on his website.

  • David John Fraser

    Whether here or on Youtube, ALWAYS the best and most informative tutorials! Thanks, Jesus!

  • pete guaron

    Jesus – I think this only works for those who are following Adobe into the clouds. PSE doesn’t have all those controls. And like many other former fans of Adobe, I’m drifting elsewhere. Recent “improvements” have no further appeal, for me.

  • This is some good info. Things I can use in my daily work.
    Thank you for having this site.
    http://www.photo-shirts.com

  • Kyle Wagner

    For every complainer, there are 10 others of generation that isn’t resistant to change jumping on board because they prefer a software that always up to date, not outdated the moment it is installed

  • pete guaron

    My comment has nothing to do with “complaining” or “being resistant to change” – and being “always up to date” has no particular merit or interest as far as I’m concerned, because I don’t have some delusional belief that fooling around forever in post processing software will somehow make my photos “better”.

  • Kyle Wagner

    “Jesus, adobe isn’t catering to ME and a couple of my friends so im taking my business elsewhere!”
    If that isn’t complaining, i dont know what is.
    And now you are playing the “post processing is for people that are bad at photography” card. Good job. go back to film then.

  • ops ! what a tutorials ! love it

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