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Photoshop Tips for Great Tropical Photos

Hawaii is known for idyllic landscapes and pristine beaches, but sometimes your photos don’t capture what’s right in front of you.  This photo was taken with a less than desirable camera (an iPhone and a Panoramic app), so it obviously needs a little help.

Ideally, you’ll take the perfect photo and not need any post-production work, but for those of you that didn’t quite get that shot, here are some tips.


– Clear up any dust particles or marks you may have on your sensor or lens.  I use the clone stamp or healing brush to quickly get rid of those spots.


– Up the saturation of the cyan just a touch.  Do this only if there’s some ocean in the shot.  If you have a polarizer, you won’t need to do this.  Be careful not to make the ocean look radioactive.  The color of the water seen in the following images accurately shows the true color of our ocean in Maui, which the crap camera missed out on.

– Crop and straighten the horizon.  If you need to crop outside of the photo in order to do this, do it anyway.  With the content-aware fill, you can usually add the missing slivers at the edge back into the newly cropped image.


– Get rid of the crowd!  This image really isn’t that crowded, but we’re looking for the most desirable scenario.  I use the lasso tool (with 0 feather) along with the content-aware fill to get rid of people.  Sometimes it doesn’t work perfectly, and I’ll have to go back in to clean things up with the clone stamp.


– Clean up the very last bits and pieces.  Here I’ve smoothed some of the sand out, gotten rid of some of the whitewater chop out further in the ocean, and of course branded it with our URL for web use.

If you’re smart, you’ll do all of your work with masks and effect layers in order to make changes later.  You can see more examples of finished Maui photos at Maui Maps.

Chris Norberg is project manager at Hawaii Web Group working to promote the island of Maui, Hawaii via intriguing websites and interacting heavily with visitors on social networks.  He can be found on Twitter at @Maui.

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