Processing an Image in Photoshop

Processing an Image in Photoshop

Raw ImageThe following tutorial on Image Processing was submitted by John Short from and

To get the best out of any image requires processing in an image editing package.

To have the greatest latitude and control of the final picture then it is always best to shoot in raw. In a future tip I will illustrate the difference between raw images and JPEG’s and the increased latitude when processing. In this tip I want to show a raw image and explain the processing I applied in Adobe Photoshop.

Whilst I hear cry’s of ” I don’t have Photoshop ” and it’s alright for him he has professional software at his fingertips ” all of the modifications can just as easily be achieved in Photoshop elements or other image processing applications.

The first image (above) is the original raw file prior to any post processing. The photograph was taken with a Cokin P series Neutral graduated filter but to emphasize the depth of the clouds I selected the sky area ( including the hills )using the quick select tool and made this a separate layer. This layer was then adjusted for levels making the dark clouds blacker and the highlights a little lighter (without blowing the detail).

Sky Levels

Then the sky layer colours were adjusted using the colour balance tool . The mid tones had the red increased by 15, the highlights had the yellow reduced by -17 and the shadows I increased the blue by 19.

Colour Balance

Now select the background layer, once again we need to adjust the levels to maximise the contrast in the image again ensuring you don’t clip the highlights or fill the shadows.

Background Levels

Once you are happy with the levels the background layer also need the colour balance changing. Again increase the red in the mid tones, reduce the yellow in the highlights and increase the blue in the shadows.

Colour Balance

Now flatten the layers and adjust the levels to provide the image you had in your imagination.

Finally ( and this is always the final operation ) sharpen the image. Please note you should never sharpen an image until all processing is complete and you have resized to the final image size. It’s always worth keeping an unsharpened copy in case you want to produce a bigger version at a later date.

Final Tweek

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+.

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    Anybody else notice how the water no longer reflects the sky properly? Looks awful once you notice. Boats look excellent though...

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  • Mattski May 24, 2012 07:08 pm

    Well done John! Ignore the negative comments about grammar...until the US come to an agreement that "aluminium" is not pronounced "alumi-num" then you should not worry about anything.

    A very important note that you have made though was the SHARPEN process at the end - I sometimes forget to do that and then wonder why my image looks too soft post editing. Once again, keep up the good work! :)

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  • John short August 26, 2010 04:59 pm

    What software are you using? If Lightroom simply select file import

  • Justo August 25, 2010 02:02 pm

    Hi Darren,

    I need your help in processing RAW image. I took few pics in RAW settigs in my Kodak Z980. When I copies the images, it is in ".kdc" format. I have no idea how to read it. I tried the Photoshop CS2, but don't know how to do it. I couldn't even see the image in my laptop. Please help me. I didnot even see an option to read the RAW image. and, somewhere i found it...but it was not detecting the .kdc format.

    Please help me.

  • Denver Photographer June 23, 2010 01:07 pm

    hmm interesting, i'm not sure that I would have started off with levels, that's kind of my last thing because you never know how much clipping you're going to end up doing after all your post work.

  • Mindy April 3, 2010 12:24 am

    John, I am sorry that these folks (particularly the Americans!) felt the need to criticize your writing. Thanks for showing us what you did with this very beautiful image. And American guests, please keep in mind that there *are* other countries out there in the big, wide world, and many of us use the English language differently than "y'all."

  • John Short January 26, 2010 12:10 am

    Hi Chandra

    Thanks for the comments and question. I have entered and been successful in competitions several times where it is necessary to provide the original raw file.

    As you will appreciate it is always neccessary to improve the contrast, brilliance, sharpening etc tec in a raw file as the file is as the camera recorded without any intervention. Jpegs have post processing applied automatically in every camera.

    It is perfectly acceptable to work on the raw file as described as this does not modify the content of the image. You must not add or subtract content, for example don't delete telegraph poles or lines etc or add subject matter tot he original file..............this will exlude you from winning.

    Hope this helps



    Maybe I should write another article on Lightroom 2.......

  • Chandra January 25, 2010 07:26 pm

    This is nice!!! We can get a great image using this technique.
    I have a totally different question about this. Is it ethical to do this to achieve a great result? I mean, this technique is fine if we do the manipulation for a picture that I will just take a print for my album or something like that. But if I have to make this as my entry for a photo contest. Will it be disqualified because of "too much of photoshop manipulations" given that most contest requires the contestant to submit the RAW image if the entry is selected?

  • John Short November 16, 2009 06:47 am


    Thanks for the support and positive comments. I was annoyed at first when I thought I was only trying to help but then thought does it really matter?

    I'm selling lots of images through ( just try my name in the search engine ) came 2nd in photographer of the year ( digital SLR magazine ) have been published in the countryfile calendar, twice in the children in need calendar and won £2,500 for one image. I cannot be that poor a photographer. Love to know the successs of those that feel snide comments are justified.

    Thanks again for the positive comments.


  • Michael Padnos November 16, 2009 01:41 am

    I thought your article was excellent:: a really helpful discussion by a professional photographer about how to use Photoshop to improve an altready-excellent image. Many thanks.

    BTW, I share Darren's view about the snide comments. i don't come to this site to search for literary elegance: I come to find ideas like those you generously gave us on post=processsing technology. The substance of your work was excellent: if I were you, I'd tell the Litr'y Critiics to take along walk off a short pier.

    In other words, Go Jump in the Lake.

    Thanks again for your excellent posting. I'd love to hear more about how you work.

  • Sime November 15, 2009 08:28 am

    Marzie - How are you developing your RAW images?

  • marzie November 15, 2009 06:40 am

    i have just started to capture whit raw format and i had a problem when i printe the image. the picture in photoshop had a good color and light without processing but when i print it it's too bad in color and light and i dont know why.

  • Bob July 31, 2009 06:12 am

    Boy, here I was going to send in an opinion on the negativity of certain posters to what I consider to be some very interesting PS techniques when I realized that this blog is almost 2 years old! That has to tell you something about the relevance and timeless usability of his techniques that we all can learn from.

    I am hoping those that jumped to critique versus learn and go on have learned to be more thankfull of the post versus what they so imaturely responded with.

    I am new to DSLR photography but have been involved with astrophotography for almost 8 years and that in it's self is a challenging hobby.

    Good post John and am now actively looking for more of your hard earned and well communicated techniques.

  • Aleeya July 24, 2009 11:39 am

    I have spent most of my photography life using point and shoots and being strictly a hobby. I recently upgraded to a DSLR to take it to a new level. I have no references or education other than the information I find online. Needless to say, I read this site daily and pour over the articles to learn everything I can. I am grateful to the people who are so passionate about photography that they take time to write these articles. Spelling problems, grammar issues...this is not a website dedicated to writing skills. In the very short time I have been reading the articles on this site I have read more negative comments that are not only discouraging to the authors but also to the newbies who come here (like me) to gain some knowledge and be a part of this community. I'm surprised this is how we treat each other.

    If you're reading an article and feel it's a waste of time stop reading and write your own article.

  • Kris June 14, 2008 11:25 pm

    John, thank you for the tutorial, it was very helpful.

    I'm just curious, alot of people either didn't read the article right or I didn't, but I thought the title was 'Processing an image in PhotoShop'? How is that misleading?
    Alot of you are going on about RAW and jpg files. The tutorial only states that it's better to process a RAW photo and that this is what he was focusing on in this article.
    If I remember right, the difference between RAW and jpg is compression. Files that are in jpg form are compressed and pixels in the photo are damaged everytime you edit. Hence why RAW photos are better when it comes to processing. Either way, you should always keep an unedited copy of the original photo.

  • Gerry Vrbensky March 28, 2008 08:02 am

    Hi, there has been a lot of talk about the advantages of RAW vs JPG. Why not prove the point by processing the same picture in both formats. As they say, a picture is worth 1000 words.

  • John Chan March 27, 2008 12:49 pm

    Hi, what is the different between raw image processing and jpg image processing? In this tutorial i did not see what is the advantage of processing image in raw format?
    Thanks u
    John Chan

  • denmuel September 26, 2007 01:13 pm


    I just want to share my photoshop experience with you :)
    on of my best video tutorial is how do you crop a curly hair woman, if you intested to find out more, here is the video :


  • Jamie September 25, 2007 08:54 pm

    Hi John,

    I discovered that I have a picture of yours on my kitchen wall, although it won't be displayed until January '08! ;)


  • Richard B September 25, 2007 03:06 pm

    I would also very much like to read your next tutorial John - I don't mind an occasional spelling mistake - if the content is good and I learn something - which I did in this post.

  • Tizer2 September 25, 2007 08:44 am

    Hi John

    Yes, please lets have an article about Adobe Lightroom and processing RAW - in fact let's have an article about ANYTHING because it's people like you sharing your knowledge and skills who inspire people like me to improve on my own photography. And I don't even care how it's spelt (or even if you start a sentence with a preposition)!

  • Darren September 25, 2007 08:33 am

    John - hehe - glad to see you're not scarred and have a sense of humor about it. Your writing is fine - my editing needs some brushing up :-)

    I'd love to see a workflow article on how you use RAW and I'm certain others would too!

  • John Short September 25, 2007 07:45 am

    Don't worry Darren, I'm not permanently scarred and yes I do appreciate the majority of comments were positive. I thought it best to reply to try and make those that make all the negative noises appreciate the work and effort that goes into putting together what is hoped to be a helpful couple of tips and examples.

    hey so I'm no great is my love not writing.

    Now who would be interested in an article about Adobe Lightroom and processing Raw ??

    If you have enough interest I'll document my workflow and why I always use where did I put that dictionary ??????

  • Darren September 25, 2007 07:33 am

    John - apologies for the negativity and for my part in it having put up the wrong title initially. However I'd encourage you to not get too down about the negative remarks and remember that there are as many people saying that they enjoyed the post too :-)

    One of the differences between publishing in blogging and magazines is the immediate feedback that one gets - often it's a full range of responses too. It used to get to me - but one gets used to it eventually.

    I do appreciate your post and thank you for helping improve DPS.

  • John Short September 25, 2007 06:13 am

    Well I didn't expect such a small article written to try and help those that may appreciate it cause so much discussion.

    I have to say that yes it has put me off bothering to write anything about raw processing. It's ironic that someone ( presumably from the US that is so well educated to criticize my grammar and spelling ) doesn't know the Brits use an 'S' not a 'Z'. i think I'll duck the any articles referring to colour..............I'd be in deep trouble as soon as I spelt it incorrectly.

    I have to say that Digital SLR User didn't correct or complain about the 4 page article I had published in last months issue, they also seemed pleased when the awarded me 2nd prize throughout the UK for the standard of my photography, the WWT also awarded me first prize last month ( locally ) for a picture a bird. I also won Digital SLR User magazine photographer of the month last month , then Country File used one of my images for their calendar for 2007. I'm really sorry my work is not to the standard for this blog.

    Maybe Stassi would like to share some of his ( or her ) successes.

    Thanks to those that made positive comments. I was only trying to be helpful !

  • NikonnooB September 24, 2007 10:06 am

    Oooohhhhh.... that's asking for trouble! ;D

  • Darren September 23, 2007 06:59 am

    ooh - the mac pc debate.... lets have one of those NikonnooB!

    I'll set up a poll in the next day or two here on the blog!

  • Jesper September 23, 2007 06:44 am

    John, thanks for the tutorial. Personally I couldn't care less about a few spelling errors. Thanks for taking the time to create some content for this site. Keep it up and don't let the negative comments scare you away (anyone complaining should go ahead and write their own post for this blog). Looking forward to the next piece about raw vs. jpegs (although I already know how much more powerful it is to work with raw's :-)

  • Digisniper September 23, 2007 05:23 am

    Glad you changed the title, it's a nice article but has nothing to with RAW :)

  • NikonnooB September 23, 2007 03:52 am

    And, don't forget the never-ending Mac vs PC debate..... =)

  • PRH September 22, 2007 10:34 pm

    Wow, I couldn't understand what all the RAW vs JPEG fuss was about until I read the last three comments.

    I thought it was a nice little article on the processing work flow of this particular image. Looking forward to the next article.

    My two cents: Both RAW and JPEG have their advantages and disadvantages. Trying to argue the virtues of (insert preferred format here) to someone who clearly prefers (insert opposing format here) is like trying to argue the superiority of Strawberry icecream to someone who clearly prefers Pistachio. You can use the same argument for Nikon vs Canon, m&m's vs smarties ...see if you don't understand that last one ;-)

  • Darren September 22, 2007 08:49 pm

    Darren editor of DPS here - the title mistake was my fault.

    I misread John's title when he sent it to me and wrote it up wrong when I posted it. I've changed the title - sorry to cause confusion.

  • Wilfrank Paypa September 22, 2007 07:22 pm

    Thanks for the tips John. This will be helpful in some of my photos.

  • Klaidas September 22, 2007 05:37 pm

    Well, it's renamed now. Nice to see the author reading the comments and reacting to them ;)

  • NikonnooB September 22, 2007 04:07 pm


    According to Adobe's website, regarding Camera Raw support (, the K10D's DNG file format is supported as far back as their version 2.4 of Camera Raw (which will work with Photoshop CS and CS2. Version 4.1 (recently updated to v4.2 of Camera Raw will support the PEF format, and works in CS2 and CS3.

    Version 2.4 can be downloaded at (

    Version 4.2 can be downloaded at (

    Versions of Photoshop prior to CS will probably not be able to handle your RAW files.

    Hope this helps

  • Michael Padnos September 22, 2007 01:51 pm

    I am one of those people mentioned by Jill who does not even know how to open a RAW image in Photoshop. I recently bought a Pentax K10D SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE it allows me to shoot in RAW (I need RAW because I print some of my images in a very large format) and imagine my amazement when I discovered that I can't even open them in Photoshop!
    I crave and yearn for some help on this question, and unfortunately the article, which was perfectly fine on the subject which it addressed, was totally uninformative on the subject of how to process a RAW image in Photoshop!

    Anyone who can (if you'll forgive me) shed some light on this subject would make this confused photographer a very happy man.

  • Gerry September 22, 2007 12:39 pm

    Having read all of the comments and critisism, I'm under the impression that everybody's Monitor does not display the picture in all it's glory as John would like us all to see it.

    In the very near future (unless I missed it), I would like to see an article on calibrating a monitor and then browsing to a websie that would have a color pattern including footnotes describing the colors as we are suppose to see them. Plus I'm not sure how Adobe Gamma Calibration works in all of this? I would like to tell the difference between when it's On or Off when viewing a picture.

    I personally calibrated a few monitors and I have had a difficult time getting two monitors to matched exactly especially between CRTs and LCDs.

    Lastly, I've learned a lot from the author's article and I thank John for the publication.

  • Michael Seljos September 22, 2007 11:16 am

    I thought it was a great article, albeit it could have had a better title. Personally I don't mind slips in proper grammar or spelling (except when I'm reading a book)as long as I can understand what the writer is trying to convey. I think the purpose of the article was to share some tips on how to improve an image with post processing. That's what the title probably should have been.

    For those who require a more technical discussion, a photography blog is probably not the best place to find it. Blogs by their very nature are an unstructured, free forum for sharing ideas.

    Great job John. Please continue sharing your good ideas.

  • Sko September 22, 2007 09:52 am

    More on RAW may be on the way but this article, at the very least, is titled incorrectly. Nothing was done to the RAW image that couldn't be done to a JPEG image.

    IMHO- the article on the difference between RAW and JPEG images should have come first...then the processing article.

    Your efforts are still appreciated!

  • Roger September 22, 2007 07:55 am

    chill out Stassi - it's just a blog and while it has great information for all it is run by volunteers who are passionate about photography but may night be professional writers.

    If you want something that is highly edited go buy a magazine or a book.

    I think that this is a very helpful post that taught me a lot. Thanks to John who wrote it.

  • Stassi September 22, 2007 03:09 am


    Thank you, for the clarification on the use of "ise" in the UK. I was unaware of that difference. Before I posted my response, I'd actually looked it up, to ensure my interpretation was correct (tried a couple of dictionary websites), and the alternate spelling did not come up. Now that I'm aware of this difference between the usage in the US and the UK, I apologize for my confusion.

    However, a large part of my point was that in a published article, it seems to me to indicate a lack of care, when proofreading is skipped. I know the writer intended to write "emphasize" (or emphasise). I understand that kind of mistake in any of these responses, or anywhere else on any board. However, when one is creating for *publication*, I believe that it is their responsibility to ensure that they've proofread their text. In my opinion, the abdication of that responsibility indicates a lack of respect for the reader. This issue is becoming more and more prevalent in written material, and I believe it is a valid issue, which requires some attention.

    This same inattention to detail was the reason for so many questions regarding this article's lack of relativity to the difference between RAW and JPEG. Had the writer simply changed the title to suit the contents of this article, there would have been fewer questions, despite the quote from the second paragraph. The actual content of the article would have been able to come through, and credit would have been more easily given for it's validity.

    I did not intend to be overly harsh. In fact, I thought it was a good article, as far as the content was concerned. The use of adjustments for various areas provides a great learning opportunity, and will help to unleash additional creativity among the readers of this article.

    I'd never posted here before, but I found these issues important.

  • Sime September 22, 2007 02:39 am

    Bill, you need to have a camera that can produce a RAW image, the Z7590 is not one of these.

    Um, the title of the article was "Processing a RAW Image in Photoshop" and John appears to have done just that... Not sure what you guys are feeling misguided about?..

    This article was contributed to DPS buy somebody that had a point to share, I think he's done OK... If you think you can do better, feel free to submit a pice of work HERE? as was requested HERE

    John, thanks for the article.


  • Jill September 21, 2007 11:35 pm

    I agree that this article really has nothing to do with RAW at all. It is about processing an image in Photoshop, and has some good tips, but from the title of the article one would expect to be getting tips about working in Camera Raw, not Photoshop. Yes it is better to work with a Raw image, but the writer failed to emphasize that to get the best image to work on in Photoshop you need to adjust settings in Camera Raw. By adjusting settings, including your white balance, exposure, saturation, noise, lens correction, etc. in Camera Raw you start out with the best picture you can start with in Photoshop. People who are unaware of this would soon find out that they can't even open a Raw image in Photoshop, and be lost with this tutorial.

  • Bill Turley September 21, 2007 11:26 pm

    My question is how do you get the RAW image. I have a Kodak Z7590. I think I can only store the images as jpeg

  • Jamie September 21, 2007 10:42 pm

    To those complaining that the article doesn't describe the differences between RAW and Jpeg, you may have missed this, quoted from the second paragraph:

    "In a future tip I will illustrate the difference between raw images and JPEG’s and the increased latitude when processing. In this tip I want to show a raw image and explain the processing I applied in Adobe Photoshop."

    I'm sure all will be explained!

  • Jamie September 21, 2007 09:45 pm


    I'm sure he meant to say "emphasise" instead of "empathise" but even so he hasn't spelt anything incorrectly. In the UK we mostly use 'ise' instead of 'ize' even though both are accepted as correct.

    Just thought you were being overly harsh.

  • Stassi September 21, 2007 03:17 pm

    Do you want to feel the same feelings as the depth of the clouds? If so, then you DID want to "empathise the depth of the clouds" (although, you may have wanted to spell empathize correctly). However, I believe what you really wanted to do, was make the depth of the clouds stand out. In that case, you would have emphasized that depth.

    Your article had some good post-processing ideas. It had no information as to the benefit of Raw over Jpeg, although, I have a feeling you intend that information for a future article, and failed to change the name of this one.

    But, you must know that a certain amount of credibility is lost, when you don't proofread, or spell-check.

  • smc1377 September 21, 2007 11:59 am

    In the forum area, this is often discussed and I have often came down on the side of JPEG because I have yet to find a practical advantage of using RAW. And it's not cause I have anything against RAW either. So I read this entire story with zeal only to wonder what lots of others are left wondering--what does this have to do with RAW over JPG?

    And I hesitate to say that cause nay-sayers (is that a word?) tend to annoy me, but geesh. The article swung and missed and I gotta call a strike on that.

  • Ryan September 21, 2007 10:50 am

    What's the difference between doing this to a RAW image that I can't just do to a JPEG? And isn't this more about processing an image of three boats on a beach more than anything?

  • Sean September 21, 2007 09:54 am

    Jeez lay off him a bit. At least he has made an effort. I'm sure you can get something out of the article

  • Tasha September 21, 2007 07:26 am

    And more than that, it's a poorly edited article about processing an image of a boat. Paying as much attention to detail in your writing is as important as paying attention to details in processing images.

  • David September 21, 2007 04:23 am

    What's this got to do with RAW images? It's all abbout processing a boat picture in Photoshop. Some cool things, but nothing about the advantages of working in RAW.

  • Klaidas September 21, 2007 01:56 am

    Cool, but the article's not too specific about RAW. It's more about processing an image of a boat :)

  • Markus September 21, 2007 01:45 am

    I'm so horrible in photoshop Elements 5.0 but this little tutorial has shed some light. I can't wait 'til I have another photo with potential like that of the subject this tutorial has shown. I should really play around with ps some more!


  • Terry Pearson September 21, 2007 01:36 am

    This is a good tip for me as I went off raw and into jpeg's following advise from a seminar. However, how do you get to know how much red, blue etc. to alter and do I do it in highlights, mid tones or what? Photoshop is realy good and it can make a difference in photographs but how do you learn quickly?