Improve Your Photos: Photoshop


Wished your photos could look more like the ones in the magazines?  Like the models in your girlfriends fashion magazine, most of the photos that make it into the our fishing publications get some sort of tweaking and altering to bring out the best in the shot before they are published. You don’t need years of experience working as photographer or graphic designer to be able to alter your image like the pros. With all the tutorials available online these days, its quite easy to teach yourself. With that in mind here’s my top 5 Photoshop Tools for improving your fishing photos.



The Levels tool is one of the easiest-to-use and most valuable tools for editing your photos. The levels tool allows you to control contrast and adjust tones/colours.

WHEN TO USE: Pretty much always! There is not many photos that aren’t enhanced in someway by using the Levels tool. If you find that your photos are a little dark or lacking a little colour or contrast, the Levels tool would be best best place to start.


This image shows side-by-side what a difference the levels tool can make. Using this tool will drastically improve your photos.

HOW TO USE: For those not too familiar with Photoshop, the quickest and easiest method of using the Levels tool is to opens up levels and hit the auto button. This will do all the work for you and will usually do all the adjusting needed to bring some extra life to your photos.

For those that want a little more control, in the Levels window you will see three little sliders located underneath the histogram. The slider on the left controls the back point, the slider on the right controls the white point and the slider in the middle controls the mid tones. You can play around sliding these back and forth until you find what works best for your image.

I find I achieve the best results by sliding the left and right sliders along until they reach the point at which the histogram starts and then moving the midtones slider back and forth until the desired look is achieved.


Here is the levels window. The slider on the left and right are moved to where the histogram starts.



Similar to Levels, Shadow/Highlight is a great tool that allows you to quickly and easily correct the lighting in your photos. It allows you to fix over and under exposed areas independently.

When you open up the Shadow/Highlight tool, your greeted by a couple of sliders, one for shadows and one for highlights. There is a little check box at the bottom of this window “show more options”, to get the most of of this tool, i believe that its essential to have this boxed checked, so you can really fine tune the adjustments.

WHEN TO USE: The tool is broken into three main sections, Shadows, Highlights & Adjustments.

SHADOWS: The shadow sliders allow you to lighten under exposed or “dark” areas of your photo, this is very useful when you have an unwanted shadow for example: a shadow cast across someones face have from their hat.

HIGHLIGHTS: I find this tool to be particularly effective when you want to adjust the lighting in skies, particularly around sunset and sun rise where you might loose some detail directly around the sun where it becomes over exposed. It is also quite useful for bringing back detail & colour to fish which may become over exposed due to direct light reflecting off their scales.

ADJUSTMENTS: Adjustments allow you to change the amount of color and the contrast in your changes.


Before: Here we can see a very dark shadow cast across the anglers face from his hat.


After: With a few tweaks with the Shadow/Highlight tool, the darker areas of the photo are lightened, showing more detail in the photo.

HOW TO USE: I usually start by making sure both the shadows and highlights amount is set to 0% (by default Photoshop will adjust the shadow level to 50%). Then slowly move the sliders by moving them left to right with the mouse.

There is not really any set rules as to how much to apply of each setting, as each photo is different. With frequent use of this tool you will get an idea of how much to apply.


The Clone Stamp tool works by sampling a selected section of your image and “drawing” it onto of another section.

WHEN TO USE: The clone stamp tool is best used to remove small unwanted details of your photos, this can be anything from a bit of dirt on a fish, some blood, or even an entire person.

clone_stamp_before Before: You can see all the particles in the water and the few bubbles on the surface.


After: Using the clone stamp tool with a small brush size, allows you to remove all the unwanted artifacts in your image.

HOW TO USE: Start by selecting the size of the brush you want to work with. This can be done by selecting the clone stamp tool and then right clicking anywhere on the image, for small intricate areas change the master diameter to a small size <10 , for larger less detailed areas use a larger size. In both situations you want to keep the hardness to a relatively low amount, this will allow the the edges to better blend in with the background and will prevent sharp edges which make the clone obvious.

Once your stamp size is selected, Hold down “Alt”  and left click to define the area you want to clone. Its best to select an area very close to the location you want to clone in order to maintain the same lighting and shading in the image.  Once your clone area has been selected, work over the section of photo in which you want to replace by left clicking and dragging the mouse over the desired area.



Filters>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask

The Unsharp Mask tool is used to sharpen up your photos. Sharpening your photos will bring more detail into your photos by refining the edges. When used in conjunction with layer mask, you can selectively sharpen sections of your image to make certain elements stand out more than others.

WHEN TO USE: The Unsharp Mask tool is best used on images which may be a little blurry from low light/camera shake or underwater images where the focus might have been a little off due to the water.

unsharpen_mask_beforeBefore: Here you can see the shot is a little blury

unsharpen_mask_afterAfter: with the application of the Unsharp Mask we increase the sharpness of the image particularity around the head, body and fins of the fish.

HOW TO USE:  Click on Filters>Sharpen<Unsharp Mask. The Unsharp Mask window will open up and you will have three sliders, like with most of the other tools, there is no set amount to use. I find as a rule however, keep the “radius” and “threshold” to a relatively low setting and make your adjustments with “amount”. This will result in the most natural looking changes.


It may be a simple one but cropping your photos can have a big impact on how they look. The purpose of the crop tool is to removing portions of an image

WHEN TO USE: The crop tool can be used for a number of different purposes. While the obvious would be to remove an unwanted section of the image, you can also use it to change the focus point of the image or strengthen the composition. The crop tool is also very useful for straightening out uneven horizon lines.

crop_before Before: This photo was taken a little too wide, and the main focus of the photo (the fish) gets lost with all the other elements of the photo.

crop_afterAFTER: You can see that now the image is completely different, although the same image, the focus is now solely on the fish. We have also rotated the image slightly to correct the horizon.

HOW TO USE: The crop tool is very simple to use, select the crop tool from the side bar and then click and select the area you want to keep by clicking and dragging to make a box. Once the initial box has been selected  it can be made smaller/larger or rotated by hovering the mouse over the corners of the image, you will get a little arrow which tells you the direction in which the selection will go when you click and drag.


A little goes a long way  – Don’t over do it with the adjustments, your aim should be to enhance the picture you have taken not ruin it. Over adjusted images are very easy to spot, and in most cases look terrible.

Live Preview – With most of the tools a live preview is available so you can see the changes without having to apply them. In most adjustment windows there is a little checkbox which should be ticked to enable the live preiew. Ticking and unticking the box as you go will allow you to see the before and after effects of your changes.

Make a copy – When playing around with your images its a good idea to make a copy of the image your working on so that should you make a mistake and need to revert back to the original. A copy can be made by selecting the layer in the layers window and pressing “ctrl” + J.

Save a copy – When you have finished making the changes to your image, save it as  a different name to the original file. I usually add an “e” to the end of the file name. As above this allows you to keep the original should you want to redo  the changes at a later date.

This is just a brief rundown on some of the tools that you can use to enhance your images. For those who want to give it a go, more extensive tutorials on each of these tools can be found with a simple google search.

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Published on: June 23, 2013

Filled Under: GUIDE

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