A Beginner’s Guide to Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop can be difficult to use for beginners photographers. We created a comprehensive guide to explain the basics of Adobe Photoshop, the most popular and powerful post-processing software on the market.

Adobe Photoshop

We have all heard someone say “This image has been photoshopped” at one time or another. Even non-photographers use this phrase all the time when referring to digitally-manipulated images. Photoshop is synonymous with post-processing.

Photoshop’s Complexity

Although there are many ways to process an image, Photoshop is the most powerful and feature-rich. Photoshop is an extremely complex piece of software. There are so many third-party and built-in tools that Photoshop can be used to do all the work. Photoshop’s tools have evolved over time so that you can get similar results with very different tools.

You might find it difficult to find a tutorial on how to use Photoshop. Many photographers show many different methods to achieve the same result. This can make it confusing for beginners.

Photoshop is a complex program that requires a lot of learning. I’ve never met anyone who claims to know all there is about Photoshop. Many of us prefer to focus on the tools we use every day, rather than trying to understand everything. This is the best way to learn Photoshop.

It takes time to master a tool in Photoshop. Although it can be slow, once you are comfortable with the process, you will find that the results are very rewarding.

This article is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to Photoshop. This article is a foundation to help our readers understand the basics of Photoshop.

Photoshop vs Lightroom

Photographers who are serious rarely publish images directly from their cameras. Instead, they use Lightroom and other basic post-processing tools such as Lightroom. When we first open Lightroom, it is important to understand that Photoshop is very different from Lightroom. Lightroom is easy to use. We can quickly get to know the software with a little exploration.

However, opening Photoshop for the first-time feels like we’re in the middle of nowhere. We see only unfamiliar tabs, tools, and windows. Most of us would ask ourselves, “Why would I need Photoshop when I have Lightroom?”

It is possible to use almost all of the Lightroom features in Photoshop. Lightroom can only do 10% of the work that Photoshop can. Lightroom and Photoshop are similar to riding a bicycle versus driving a racing car. It’s vast. It is vast. However, most photographers won’t be interested in the features that aren’t relevant to them.

Lightroom is very simple and offers most of the functionality relevant to photographers. Lightroom has built-in functionality to edit images, but it’s also a powerful tool for organizing photos, which Photoshop doesn’t.

Lightroom is also “non-destructive”. This means that any changes made to images don’t get saved on the image, but are stored in the Lightroom database. The original image remains intact regardless of whether you shoot in RAW, JPEG or both. Photoshop will overwrite or create a new image if it is opened in RAW.

Lightroom is the best tool for simple editing tasks like sharpening, saturation or contrast adjustment, or basic blurring. Photoshop is the best tool for editing and allowing you to access a wide range of amazing tools.

Adobe Creative Cloud Photography subscribers get Lightroom and Photoshop. Both are intended to work together so you can switch between them as needed. If you do some basic editing in Lightroom and then open the image in Photoshop via Lightroom, you’ll see all of the changes made in Lightroom. After saving your changes in Photoshop, Lightroom will automatically import the modified image.

Check out this Lightroom vs Photoshop article to learn more.

Photoshop: Opening an Image

You can either open an Image from Lightroom with all of the adjustments that you made in Photoshop or open it directly in Photoshop. There are many ways to accomplish a task in Photoshop, as I mentioned previously. I will only explain the easiest one that I use. You can open an image in Photoshop by simply dragging it from the browser into the Photoshop window.

Open file in Photoshop

When you open a Photoshop image, you will see a tab at the top left marked in red with the name. Multiple image files can be opened in Photoshop. These tabs will open as separate documents. The crop percentage is shown in orange at the bottom. Zoom in by pressing Control/Command + or out by pressing Control/Command +. To see the whole picture or pixel peep at 100% crop percentage, you can press Control/Command + or -.

The image will be moved to the workspace by pressing Control/Command 0 while the cropping option is available with Control/Command +1. Use Ps to make it easier and quicker.

Opened file in Photoshop

The file size display (marked in white) is next to it. The file size can vary depending on what type of file it is. A 24MP full-frame RAW file, for example, would be approximately 30 MB in size. If you add more layers to the same file, it can grow to 1 GB. In a moment, we will get to layers.

Convert it to a JPEG with the same resolution and you may end up with an 8-12 MB file. The file size increases by multiples of the base layer for each layer added to a Photoshop document.

In the upper right corner is a RGB Histogram, marked with green. Below it is the Adjustment Toolbox (marked yellow). The current layer you have selected within the Layers tab is marked below it with blue. You can toggle the eye icon (marked purple). Clicking the eye symbol will bring up the layer corresponding to the click.

Click it again to make the eye symbol disappear, meaning that the layer is now invisible. The lock symbol is marked with indigo on the other end. This indicates that the layer has been locked. This means that certain tweaks can’t be made directly to the layer.

Open a RAW file

If we’re opening a.psd or.tiff file, or any other image format that Photoshop can understand, the above statement applies. This is not the format we want to use in Photoshop. We shoot RAW most of the time. Once we decide that an image needs to be edited, we must shoot RAW. Photoshop adds an extra layer to a RAW file that we open in Photoshop. Instead of opening it directly like it does with a TIFF, JPEG or JPEG file, Photoshop opens the file.

Opening a RAW File in Photoshop

After dragging a RAW file to Photoshop, a new window will appear with the title “Camera Raw”. This is Adobe’s special tool for editing and reading RAW files. ACR’s (Adobe Camera Raw), layout is familiar if you already use Lightroom.

ACR provides some functionality that is very similar to Lightroom’s. You will not be allowed to open RAW files from a camera if the ACR update does not include the model of the camera.

There are two options in such situations. Adobe’s RAW-to-DNG converter is the first choice. It is free. After converting images to DNG format you can open them in older versions Adobe Camera RAW.

Adobe may not have support for your camera yet. In that case, you can use the proprietary software included with your camera to convert the RAW file into something Photoshop can read such as TIFF.

You will also need the maximum amount of data you can work with when editing an image. This is why RAW is so popular. You have 8 bits of data if you convert it into a JPEG. You can still work with the original data if you use TIFF, or prefer DNG.

Adobe Camera RAW

The above-opened image was modified in ACR. Lens Correction is an important ACR fix.

ACR has built-in profiles that can correct lens specific issues such as distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting. A profile from ACR must be created for each lens. You will need to make manual adjustments as the ACRs are no longer compatible with this model. ACR will automatically apply the profile to your image once you have found your lens profile.

Adobe Camera RAW Profile

After clicking on “Open image”, the raw file will open in Photoshop. The adjustments in ACR will be applied.

Recommendations for Saving and File Format

After you’re done editing, like with all other software, go to File->Save As to save the file. You can choose which type of file you would like to save your work as.

One of these file types I recommend: Photoshop (*.PSD or *.PDD), or TIFF (*.TIF and *.TIFF). Photoshop PSD files cannot be opened in Photoshop. TIFF, however, can be used by most image editing and viewing software.

Both formats will increase file size but they can hold the most data. Personally, I prefer TIFF because I use Nikon’s Capture NXD-D rather than ACR. I save RAW files in 16-bit TIFF in NXD, and then open the TIFF file in Photoshop. 8-bit TIFF is sufficient if you don’t plan to print the image and are only using the image for the web.

Adobe JPEG Save

You will generally save two copies of each image. You will save one as a PSD, or as TIFF with all data and another as JPEG to use for web. You can save as JPEG if you’re using Photoshop CC 2015 or higher. The new window will open. You must ensure that the selected image format is JPEG (marked in red).

Next, you will be able to choose the image quality (marked in green), which can range from Low to Maximum depending on how much data is to be preserved in the JPEG image. The file size will increase if the image quality is higher due to lossy compression levels. The file size can be seen in the lower left corner (marked purple).

After you have selected the quality, ensure that “Convert to RGB” is checked. Next, you will need to enter the desired resolution (marked with yellow). A resolution of 2048 is enough for the longest side of an image. Check the link icon, which automatically adjusts the image’s other side to match the specified aspect ratio. Click on “Save …”” to save a JPEG of the edited image.

Transparent Layer

PNG is a format worth learning, along with TIFF, PSD and JPEG. PNG is transparent, which is the main difference between JPEG and PNG. JPEG is unable to do this. PNG can. If you plan to create a transparent logo that can then be placed on top of other images it is better to save it as a PNG file than JPEG.

Remember that if you see a layer or image that appears checkered it means that it is transparent.

You can save an image in Lightroom by clicking on it and selecting “Edit in Photoshop”. After you have done that, the image will automatically be imported into Lightroom using Photoshop.

Photoshop Toolbox

After you close Photoshop, you’ll see the illustration screen below. Let’s first set up our work area before we move on to other things. Photoshop’s applications go beyond just editing photos. The first step in using Photoshop to edit photos is to inform it.

Click on the menu Window -> Workspace > Photography. This will open a workspace that contains the specific tools for photography.

You will now see the toolbar to the left (marked in red).

Photoshop Toolbox

Most of the tools you will see on the toolbar are made up of a variety of tools. This is usually indicated by a small arrow in the lower right corner. This indicates that the tool is equipped with a number of tools that appear when you right-click on it (marked orange). These tools perform various operations.

The properties and options of the selected tool are displayed at the top of the toolbar just below the menu bar (marked with yellow).

In the above illustration, we have chosen the “brush tool”. The properties of the brush tools, such as the size, blend mode and opacity, are shown above. You can arrange the tools and pallets to meet your needs. Let’s look at four of most commonly used tools.

Crop Tool

The first step in post-processing is usually cropping an image. The crop rulers can be accessed by clicking on the crop tool in the tool palette (marked in green in the image below). Drag the placeholders at each corner to resize. Drag any of the four corners to rotate the image. The mouse pointer transforms into the resize icon when it is moved to the rightmost corner (top left. top right. bottom left. & bottom right). The rotate mouse icon appears when you move the mouse a little further out from the corners. You can tilt the image clockwise and anti-clockwise.

Crop Tool in Photoshop

You can alter the aspect ratio of an image while cropping. It refers to the ratio of the image’s length and height. Photoshop defaults to preserve the original image ratio. You can alter the aspect ratio by choosing one of the ratios in the drop-down menu (marked red). It is also possible to change the aspect ratio by entering the length or breadth directly in the columns beside the drop-down menu (marked orange). You can click the clear button to change your mind and get a custom rate.

The Overlay (marked yellow) is the next option when cropping. We are all familiar with rules such as the rule to thirds and the golden ratio. Other complex overlays are also available. You can choose from one of the available overlays. For overlays such as the Golden spiral, you can rotate the orientation by pressing the ‘O’ key. Click on the checkbox to confirm and Photoshop will remove all pixels beyond the crop.

Spot Healing Tool

Sometimes dust settles on the camera sensors. It will not usually show up much if it lands on a spot with lots of details. It will show up as a dark spot if it lands in a spot with no details, such as the sky or bright background. Other times, we may need to remove distracting items from the frame. These problems can be handled with the help of the spot healing brush.

Spot Healing tool in Photoshop

The red warning flag in the above image is a distraction. It can’t and shouldn’t be removed. The spot healing brush is a great tool to do the job.

Spot Healing Tool Photoshop

Click on the red spot removal tool to activate it. Next, in the properties, select Content Aware (marked red). This will work in almost 90% of cases. Click on the size dropdown (marked purple) to get the size/hardness properties palette (marked orange).

Spot Healing an image
Spot Healing

Choose the size of the brush (in pixels). You can then adjust the bristles’ hardness. As shown in the image, a hard brush will have sharp corners while a soft brush will smoothen out corners. Once you have selected the appropriate options, move the mouse over the area that you wish to remove.

You now have an image that has no trace of the flag. Since the background is level, I used a hard brush in this example. A soft brush is best for uneven patches.

Every photograph is different and will dictate the hardness and softness of the brush. If the brush touches an image with a lot of detail, it will leave blurry corners. Make sure you adjust the size of your brush and the hardness to suit the particular area of the image.

Clone Stamp Tool

This advanced version of spot healing is available. Spot healing automatically repairs the damaged pixels by scanning all surrounding pixels. This tool works well when there is an even background. Spot healing might not work well if there are distracting objects in a background.

The clone tool allows us to sample the source and replace the target, instead of automatically taking the reference context. Clicking on a source spot and pressing the Alt/Option key will allow you to select a sample. All you need to do now is to paint the sample over the target. Photoshop replaces the target pixels by the sample pixels. A soft brush is most effective for the clone tool.

The majority of the options available in the properties window within the clone tool look similar to the spot-healing tool. We have the option to choose Sample (marked orange). Photoshop can be told which layer it should consider when taking samples The current layer is default.

Clone Stamp Tool
Clone Stamp Used in Photoshop

The tool copies the sample and replaces it with the target in the example. Click on the desired area and hold the Alt/Option key. You can observe that the sample moves in parallel with the brush’s movement as you paint the target. It is common to take multiple samples in order to create a seamless stamp.

Brush Tool

The brush tool is one the most versatile tools in the tool arsenal. The brush tool does exactly the same thing as a brush in real life.

Next, select the brush tool (marked in red in the photo below), then select the foreground color. Finally, choose the same size brush as the Spot healing tool. Then choose the opacity. Opacity can be described as the same thing as hardness when using the spot healing tool. Opacity is the opposite of hardness in the spot healing tool. For that specific opacity, it simply paints the background color.

Why would you want to paint a photo with a single color? You can use a brush tool to paint a picture with a solid color. We’ll be back when we look at layer masks, as this is where the brush tool becomes even more useful in editing photos.

Brush Tool in Photoshop

Dodge and Burn Tool

Most of us would like to avoid or burn our images. What is dodge and what does it mean? Simply put, dodge is brighter than burn.

There is also dodge and burn. Instead of changing the brightness or depth of the pixels, the sponge tool changes their saturation. After selecting Dodge / burn or sponge tools, the properties will allow you to select the area of the image that will be affected. (Highlights, Mid-tones, Shadows). Rest (brush size and opacity), is the same as what we did using the brush tool.

The next step is to simply brush the tool over the areas you want to burn/disable. If we choose the burn tool and select Highlights within the Range, it will only burn the highlights of the area that has been brushed. The shadows and mid-tones will remain untouched.

Similar to the above, if you use the dodge tool and choose Shadows from Range, only shadows will be brightened. Highlights and mid-tones will not be affected. Instead of the range dropdown, select the sponge tool to get the Saturate or Desaturate option.

Dodge and Burn Tool

Global vs. Local Adjustments

Let’s say that we want to increase the brightness in an image. There are many options. One way is to go to Image -> Adjustments-> Brightness/Contrast. There are two sliders that allow you to adjust the brightness and contrast.

This method increases the brightness of the image. This allows for a global adjustment. This is similar to the dodging we discussed in the previous paragraph. We did not cover the entire image with the brush, but only a few areas. We also applied it to only a certain area of the image, namely highlights, shadows, and mid-tones. Local adjustment is a method of applying an effect only to a particular area of the image.

Another criteria we may want to consider is whether local adjustments are more effective than global ones. Let’s say that there are certain areas in the image that need more transparency and others where it needs to be less. Local adjustments are best in such cases. In short, if you want to restore shadow details in an image, it is possible to make local adjustments. However, if you are trying to increase exposure for an image that is completely underexposed, global adjustment is required.

Global Adjustment


Many Photoshop users are loyal to layers. You’ve probably heard of layers and wondered what all the fuss is about. Let’s look back at what we did above with all that editing. We chose a tool to apply directly to the image.

What if we make a mistake and want to correct it? Yes, we have the history tool for that. Unfortunately, any editing done after an undo point is lost. The history tool acts as a temporary buffer.

Photoshop closes and the history disappears unless you save it to an action. It can be very frustrating if it takes too long. Another scenario is when I feel the need to alter or increase the impact of an earlier edit.

Let’s say, for example, I increase the overall exposure. The same file is opened a few days later. I find that I have done too much and need to reduce it. Here are non-destructive editing options such as layers.

Let’s look at the differences between a destructive and non-destructive editing approach. Let’s say that I choose the eraser tool to remove a portion of the image. After a few days, I cannot get those pixels back if I have not made multiple copies of my image. This is destructive editing. All of the examples we have seen so far are in destructive editing.

Let’s suppose we open an image file, increase the exposure, contrast, and saturation. It would be much more convenient to layer all edits one-by-one instead of doing it all on the original image. The base layer will serve as the base, and the rest of the edits will be stacked on top. The base layer will not be changed.

Layer Added in Photoshop

Let’s say that I also add exposure. Next, I add contrast to both the original image and the exposure. The saturation is the final step. At any time, I can turn off the exposure. We will still have the original, but it will be enhanced with contrast and saturation. It’s like a facial makeup. You can apply any type of make-up to the face and it will show. The face will remain the same. We can remove any make-up that we don’t want.

Above, I have created a background layer by opening an image. I made a duplicate of the layer and put it above the original layer. To copy a layer, select the layer and right-click on it. Click on ‘Duplicate Layer’. Or use the keyboard shortcut Control/Command + J.


A dialog appears asking you to name the layer. You can also copy a layer from an image and place it in another document by selecting it via the Destination. As we have seen, Photoshop allows you to open multiple images in one tab. All tabs currently open will be shown in the Documents.

The foreground layer is always the one that is visible at the top. Backgrounds are layers that are located at the bottom. What does a foreground in photography do to a background? It conceals part of the background or the entire background depending on its location relative to the background.

Layers Brights Turned off in Photoshop

This is what layers do with foregrounds. Layers are placed on top of one another, concealing the layers below. You can have a portion of the background layers that you will cover with layer masks.

As we have seen, the eye icon in front of a layer allows you to toggle between Hide / Show the selected layer. Selecting it makes it visible. We now have two layers. There are two layers: the background layer (which is the original) and the BrightenedLayer layer which sits on top. Select the BrightenedLayer, then go to Image -> Adjustments-> Brightness/Contrast and adjust the brightness slider until it reaches +10.

You can now see that the BrightenedLayer has had the brightness applied, but the Background layer is unaffected. You can still see the layer below if you turn off your eye icon. If you turn it on, you will see the one with the increased brightness.

This should give you some information about layers and their workings. We will be able to better understand layers when we move on to Opacity, layer masks and Layering.


We will look at another example of people overdoing it, as that is a common mistake for beginners. Look at the image below. I deliberately increased the brightness to the maximum extent, overexposing the image. It is obvious that it is too bright. It is now up to me to either undo the mistake or delete the layer. There are many ways to get the desired result in Photoshop, as I mentioned earlier.

Opacity in Photoshop

The opacity slider allows us to control how much the top layer is visible above the layers below. All layers have the same default opacity of 100%. Ps shows 40% of the top layer, and 60% of the layers below, if we reduce the opacity to 40%. It’s seamless and doesn’t look artificial. That is the beauty of Photoshop.

Opacity Tool in Photoshop

The bottom line is that if we feel like we are doing too much, we can drag the Opacity slider down until it feels just right. You also have the option to fill. Except for special blends, fill and opacity behave almost exactly the same in most cases.

Adjustment Layers

We have seen how to adjust a layer in the previous section. This method was not without problems. To reduce the effects of the edit, we were able use the opacity slider. We also copied the layer, and added it to the original. Problem was when we had to adjust the slider values again.

If we need to make changes in the past method, we can either delete it or redo it. Let’s say that we have increased the brightness by +25. If we want to increase the brightness even more, we will need to add another layer. This makes it even more destructive.

Imagine instead that Photoshop can do it all and that we can edit the values whenever we like, even without touching the opacity slider. Photoshop’s Adjustment layers are a great example of this.

Adjustment Layers in Photoshop

You can compare the Image -> Adjustments and Add an adjustment menus. They do almost the same thing. One difference is there.

Adjustment Layer Photoshop

Instead of selecting adjustments from the menu, click on the icon in the Add an Adjust palette to add a new layer.

Click on the Contrast / Brightness icon (marked green). A new layer will be displayed (marked yellow). We used the menu to do the same thing, but there was a dialog box that allowed us to adjust the brightness directly on the layer we selected.

The benefit of the adjustment layer is that you can save the document and then close it again. Double-clicking on the layer icon (marked purple) will allow you to see the brightness slider value and you can adjust it at any time. It is completely non-destructive.

There is one basic difference between an adjustment layer and any other layer. As we have seen, the bottom layer was completely hidden when we copied it. An adjustment layer, on the other hand, applies the adjustment to the layers below.

Photography Life offers extensive articles on Levels adjustment layer and Curves Adjustment layers. There is also an article on saturation which is one of the most popular and powerful adjustments.

Layer Masks

Now we have an understanding of layers. They are even more powerful when they have layer masks. What is a layer mask, you ask? As we saw, the background can be layered on top of the foreground. In some cases, we may need to make visible a portion of the background layer (top) and part of its background layer (bottom).

Also, you might want one part of the foreground transparent and another part opaque. The layers below can be seen in the transparent areas. As the name suggests, layer masks are used to “mask out” certain areas of selected layers.

Layer masks must be understood in one aspect. White is transparent, while Black hides. 50% Grey is opaque.

Layer Masks in Photoshop

Let’s look at an example to better understand the concept. I added an Exposure adjustment layer to the illustration above by clicking on the icon marked red. In the properties, I increased the exposure by one stop. The icon marked green is the layer mask icon. This is the layer mask icon.

In Photoshop’s latest versions, every adjustment layer is linked by default with a layer mask. As we have seen, an adjustment layer applies the adjustment to the layers below. Because it applies the adjustment as an mask, it does this. By selecting the yellow add new layer mask icon, you can add a layer-mask to any layer. The default setting is now white. This means that the layer above is visible because white shows and black hides. This means that the exposure is completely applied on top of the original image.

The exposure was not applied evenly to the entire layer, so some areas were marked blue. We will mask everything and only paint white the areas that need more exposure. First, select the layer mask by pressing Ctrl/Command+I. Next, invert it using Ctrl/Command+I. The color of the layer mask will turn black, which indicates that the current layer is transparent due to the black hides. This makes the layers below visible.

Select the brush (marked in red), adjust the diameter and soften the brush by making it close to zero. Then, paint over any dark areas. Two things are important. We must first ensure that the foreground (marked green) is white. We must also ensure that the layer mask and not the adjustment layers are selected.


The Exposure layer layer mask is linked. As you can see, only those areas where we have painted the layer mask white are visible. The exposure adjustment is not applied to the black areas. To toggle the mask view, click on the layer mask and press Alt/Option.

Layer Mask Visible Photoshop

The area marked red is highlighted. To control the amount it shows, I chose a 56% opacity instead of going 100% white. It can be seen reflected in grey in the layer mask view.

Let’s look at another example where layer masks could prove to be very helpful. The picture above shows that the sky is too bright. It would look much better if you gradually darkened it.

Image with Layer Masks Applied in Photoshop

Add Exposure 1 as an Exposure adjustment layer. Select the layer mask for the exposure adjustment layer. Next, select the gradient map tool (marked in green). Place the mouse in the middle and drag it down (marked in yellow).

The layer mask shows a gradient that runs from black at the top to white at the bottom. This creates a similar effect to a graduated neutral density filter. There are many ways to select an area of the image, such as Blend-if or Luminosity Masks. Layer masks can be used in a variety of ways.

Layer Mask applied to image in Photoshop

Mix Modes

We have already covered what layers are, and how powerful Photoshop layer masks can make them. We can also control the way a layer blends to the layers below.

Blend Modes in Photoshop

Look at the image above. I created an Exposure adjustment tool and reduced the exposure by one stop (-1) before masking out the right side of the image. The exposure adjustment layer will only be visible on the left. Next, I made a duplicate of the Exposure adjustment layers. It has the same setting as the original. To mask the left half, I created a copy of the Exposure adjustment layer. Both sides must be identical. In the Blend Mode dropdown of the ‘Exposure1 copy’ layer, I changed blend mode from “Normal”, the default blend mode, to “Overlay” (marked in red).

The difference is quite dramatic. Despite the fact that the adjustment layer and value we have punched into it are the same, the results of two different blend modes will give you completely different results.

Blend modes are the ways in which layers show up above the ones below them. The normal blend mode reduces exposure by one stop. While the overlay blend mode increases contrast, it does the opposite.

Blend Mode Applied to Image in Photoshop

Let’s take another look at the image. Similar to the last one, I also underexposed the left half by a stop and blended it into “Normal”. The right half was the same except that I blended it with “Luminosity”. Although the left half of the image is not as saturated, it can be seen that it has been reduced.

The “Luminosity blend mode” was selected for the right-hand half. It affects only the exposure attribute and leaves the other attributes, such as saturation, unaffected. Photoshop has separated blend modes by type, as illustrated in the illustration below.

Blend Modes Segregation in Photoshop

Understanding the Blend modes requires an in-depth article, which I will write in future.


What happens if we put a filter such as a CPL filter or an ND filter over our lens? Photoshop filters work in a similar way. There are only a few filters available in Photoshop’s Filters menu. These include blurring, sharpening, noise removal, and adding/removing noise. There are also tons of plug-ins from third-party vendors. Most of these can be found in the filters menu. You can apply any filter to the layer you select. Some menus may not work when an adjustment layers is selected. Make sure you choose the layer to which you wish to apply the filter. It is a good practice to copy the layer to which you wish to apply the filter.

Filters in Photoshop

Adobe Camera Raw, which we have seen previously can be applied as a layer like any other filter.

Smart Objects

Smart objects, just like layers and masks in Photoshop, are one of the most popular features. We learned that layers can be damaged by filters and other adjustments, and that we are often unable to change the settings again. Smart objects on the other side offer a solution. Photoshop uses all adjustments and filters to convert layers into smart objects, as illustrated in the image below.

Smart Objects in Photoshop

Any layer can be converted to a smart object by selecting it first, then clicking on the right-click icon and choosing “Convert To Smart Object”. The smart object icon will appear on the layer (marked in red).

Two adjustments were made to the example above. First, I used Camera Raw filter. Then, I used the Camera RAW filter to increase brightness. Next, I used the Brightness/Contrast adjustment to increase brightness. Both were applied as smart filters to the same layer.

To change the value of any smart filter, I just need to double-click on it. The dialog box that corresponds to the adjustment layers opens, and the values I have selected are already displayed. These values can be modified as I wish. You can even change the blend mode by double-clicking the blue icon.

Smart objects have many other applications than what has been mentioned. We will discuss these in future articles.


This article explains the basics and provides tools for post-processing photos for beginners. This article was meant to provide a foundation for all future Photoshop articles we plan to publish at Photography Life.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if I missed something important.