I'm the photo editor over here at PBS Interactive and I also am a Photographer myself, so you can imagine that over the course of time I have learned and utilized a variety of Photoshop tricks and techniques.
With Photoshop and all of the other editing tools available to the masses these days, there's no limit to the manipulations you can add to any given photo. Aside from the fact that you can flat out change an image entirely (ya know, add a building to the ocean, turning a person into an alien, etc.) there are some tricks that many photo editors and photographers alike use to 'enhance' an image.
But there's a fine line between 'enhancing' and RUINING a photo. Now of course this is all arbitrary...and, I should admit, I wouldn't be able to get up on my little soapbox if I hadn't already made virtually EVERY ONE of these mistakes. So because of that, I have decided to help you all out and try to steer you all clear of the photo faux pas.
So for the bad and the good... Let's get started.
To illustrate some of the techniques I will be using 2 images, so here's both images unedited, as a reference point:
1. Vingetting. In photography, vingetting can be described as any process by which there is loss in clarity towards the corners and sides of an image, and most commonly this translates into the darkening of the corners and edges around a photo to draw your eye into the center or focal point of the image.
That's all well and good until you do this:
Instead, try using the vingette at a very low opacity, not full strength, just to emphasize the depth of your image:
2. Cross Processing. Cross processing is a term and concept that started back in the film days when whether by purpose or accident one would process film in chemicals meant for a different type of film, resulting in some interesting color results.
Today you can simulate this look in a variety of different ways and with some great results, but please, just don't turn your subjects into radioactive aliens:
Instead, try adding just a touch of cross processing to pull out the areas of the photos that can be highlighted with stronger blues and saturated pinks:
3. On to Selective coloring. The name is self explanatory- this is when you selectively keep certain areas of a photo in color, while the rest remains black and white. Very commonly found in wedding photography (envision the bride in black and white, with the bouquet of flowers in color- agh!)
I am just going to go ahead and say DON'T DO THIS. It's just not cool. I am not even going to show you a good example because there IS NONE. Selective coloring on a photograph is like using the font Papyrus in your logo. Its just BAD.
So here you go:
4. Fake Blur: Isn't it cool that with Photoshop we can fake that motion shot that we wish we got, but instead we just have a plain old boring all in focus shot? NO it's NOT cool.
This just isn't possible:
Yet again I don't have a good example to show you, because I think its rather rare to be able to fake a blur or depth of field when it didn't come out of the camera like that.
5. Textures. Textures are pretty cool, and there's hundreds and thousands available for free and for sale. It's a pretty popular trend, but if you do it poorly it just turns into a fad. Like crimping your hair.
So use your textures judiciously. Don't mar some poor girls face:
Try reducing opacity on your texture layer, and layer masking it so that you can paint all texture of of important parts of a photo like faces and skin!
6. Enhancing the eyes. There are many different way to make a persons eyes pop out from a photo - dodging and burning is my favorite, and why not enhance? After all, in any photo with a person in it, the eyes are always the first thing we see! I love make my subjects eyes stand out a bit, but its pretty easy to go overboard and turn your subject into some sort of reptilian creature. So be kind to their eyes!
The Lizard look:
The Pretty Look:
7. Last but not least we have Over-softening. Yuck. Why? Good question, I don't know.. I guess for that dreamy look? All I know is people do it! And its not good. Take a look:
As you might have guessed, I am not going to show a good example because, say it with me, there IS NONE! :)
So what have we learned?
Everything in moderation. There's a lot you can do in Photoshop, but rarely does anything need to be 100% full blast. Turn the opacity level down, that slider is your friend, as are layer masks for keep those key part of the photo true to form. Always remember that you are trying to bring out the best in a photo, not the worst!