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5 Photoshop Tools to Take Your Images from Good to Great

This tutorial is contributed by Lilian Chifley. She’s an IT specialist, teacher, and blogger from Sydney. She loves to talk about artificial intelligence and modern education. You can find Lilian on Facebook and Twitter.

Even the most skilled photographers don’t always get the result they wanted. To fix up images, both professionals and beginners use the single best tool available – Adobe Photoshop.

What people love about the program the most is its versatility and the vast number of tools available. But what are the most essential ones that everyone needs?

To answer this question, we’ve analyzed views of various photographers and come up with the 5 tools that will transform your images. Let’s take a look…

Shadow and Highlights Tool

The purpose of this tool is to make the details more visible in the shadowed areas of the image. In some cases, you want your photos to be as realistic as possible, but a lack of light might prevent you from doing so. If your photo contains dark shadows, the shadows and highlights tool is the perfect solution for restoring clarity.

To access it in Photoshop, follow the route: image > adjustments > shadows and highlights

The highlights part of the tool might seem a bit too unnatural to some, so you can use the shadows part. To determine the best way to use the shadows tool, Tabitha Marsh, designer at Aussie Writings Service suggests that the Amount slider should be at about 30-30%. She has used the feature for the company’s website. She’s of the view that more than 35% will make your image seem artificial. Once you start seeing a strange glow, don’t go further.

Levels Tool

Now that you’ve set your shadows to increase the detail, you will want to focus on the exposure. Follow the path: image > adjustments > levels, to reach the levels tool.

Once you’ve clicked it, you will see something that’s called a histogram appear. This graphic is merely a representation of all the pixels in the image.

How can you analyze the graphic? Well, if the graph is more oriented towards the left, your image has darker tones. If the pixels are concentrated to the right, it means that you are dealing with light colors mostly.

Adjusting the contrast is possible by using the output slider. Calibrate it any way you want, but stop when the color contrast seems unnatural. The point of fixing images is adding details that are possible in reality, not crossing the line.

Color Balance

Many photographers love the color balance tool due to its influence on the atmosphere of the image. Sometimes, when you snap in an environment, you can’t capture the right color composition. To make your image seem more realistic, you can calibrate the color balance using this tool. The path is image > adjustments > color balance.

Once you’ve opened the tool, you will see three sliders dedicated to colors. By default, they’re set in the middle. The sliders balance between cyan/red, magenta/green and yellow/blue, respectively. Move the slider to see how your image is affected.

For daytime photography, we would suggest striving towards red, magenta and yellow. In spite of the general consensus about Photoshop, it’s easy to use, and color balance is an example.

All you have to do is observe the image and see which hues should be added. Be sure not to overdo the balance, as your image will see oversaturated and artificial.

Hue and saturation

Here, we encounter perhaps one of the most underrated tools in all of Photoshop. Opening it is done by following the path: image > adjustments > hue/saturation.

Upon opening the tool, you will see that there are three sliders here as well. They are dedicated to Hue, Saturation, and Lightness. The hue-dedicated slider calibrates the shade of color, but don’t overuse it, as it rearranges the color scheme.

Our main focus is on the saturation and lightness sliders. How dark you want your image to be? Adjust the lightness slider to see which amount of light fits you best. Additionally, saturate the image if you feel like it’s too “cold” or that the colors aren’t warm enough. For more complex settings, you can manually calibrate each color, instead of the same image.


Once you’re done with the other tools, you would want to put the finishing touch on the image. The truth is that not even the above 4 tools are enough to make the image perfect.

Some people want every detail to be perfect, and there is no better finishing tool than the vibrance one. There is not much science to it. It’s an AI-governed tool that fixes colors that aren’t properly saturated.

Containing two sliders, one for saturation and one for vibrance, this tool allows you to fix any mistakes. Oftentimes, photographers use it to restore the image to a more natural state.

Vibrance will give you more pronounced colors individually, but they will seem to be in harmony rather than in contrast. The amount you move the sliders is entirely up to you, and you should stop once the image seems unnatural.

Concluding thoughts

These five tools can make significant changes to your images. What makes them so spectacular is the fact that applying them won’t make your image seem unnatural. To the naked eye, it will be impossible to spot the changes that the image had undergone. In Photoshop, it’s best to go slow and not overdo it. These five simple tools are enough to take your photography to the next level.

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