Image Editing Tutorial

Discussion in 'The Gallery' started by PhilL, Feb 19, 2007.

  1. PhilL


    Oct 1, 1999
    I hope you’ve read my short but sweet tutorial on “How I Photograph Knives”.

    I think you can see how minor angle adjustments can make a big difference in the image. I try to make sure I have a photo where the subject knife is in focus, with no major hotspots or bad reflections. But, no matter how careful you are with your photography you’re still only half way there. All photos can be improved with a little Image Editing. Here’s how I do it.


    I like to compare the photos side by side in Photoshop at a good size. Here is a screen shot of the four photos I took of this knife. The lower right I would say is the best, but it’s not something I would show to anyone. It still needs some work, most photos do.


    These are the steps that I would go through to make this photo acceptable for sharing.

    My Image editing program is Adobe Photoshop CS. The steps that I use here should be available in any image editing program. I won’t however be able to explain the exact placement or names of the tools or any other functions in any program besides Photoshop.

    With the photo open in Photoshop the first thing I would do is to Duplicate the photo and put away (CLOSE) the Original untouched. From the Image menu click on Duplicate. When the Duplicate Image window opens give your photo a name, then click OK.


    With the Duplicate open in Photoshop the next thing I want to do is Copy the Background layer. I do this by pressing Command + J (Windows users Control + J) on my keyboard. I want to make any corrections on the Copy layer, so that I can compare it later to the Original. Now would be a good time to Save this file. Command + S will allow you to save this file.

    Save often.


    Please note that my Layers pallet now has two layers, the original layer named Background and the new copy layer, the one we’ll be working on is highlighted and named Layer 1.

    I hope you remembered to move that reflector out of the frame of your picture. I didn’t so now I’ve got to remove it. If it was smaller I might just paint over it, but in this case I took the Polygonal Lasso tool, selected the corner section of the photo.


    I then took the Eyedropper tool and sampled a color close to where the correction will be added. Please note in the Toolbar I changed the Sample Size form Point Sample to 3 X 3 Average. The color you selected now becomes your Foreground Color. Once the color is selected I go up to the Edit menu and click on Fill. This will fill the area with the photo’s background color.




    If you choose the color sample well then the correction should be nearly invisible. If it isn’t, undo it Command + Z, and try again. When you’ve got it right Command + S.

    The contrast and color for this photo is not bad, but maybe some corrections could help. I’m all for keeping things as simple as possible. Photoshop has a couple of Auto fixes under the Image menu > Adjustments. I click on each one in turn and see if it’s better, click on Command + Z, to Undo if it’s not. In this case Auto Color gave me the best results, but it wasn’t good enough. I knew I could do better.

    Sometimes the Auto fixes will help, sometimes they won’t. Your greatest contrast control tools are Levels and Curves, under Adjustments. The first one listed is Levels and this is a powerful tool. Under the Image menu > Adjustments > Levels, a new window will open. There are three sliders under the histogram, watch the image and see what they do, (make sure the Preview box is checked). The only thing that helped my photo was moving the middle slider to the left to brighten the photo, but I still wasn’t satisfied.

    Continued in Part II
  2. PhilL


    Oct 1, 1999

    I clicked Cancel and decided to try the Curves adjustment. With the Curves window open, by clicking on the diagonal line right in the middle and moving it up and to the left I was able to brighten the image quite a bit without losing detail in the highlights or the shadows.


    This looked a lot better to me. I clicked OK and then, Command + S.

    What about the color? It’s not bad, but it looks a little warm to me, (probably too much Yellow). One way to correct a color imbalance is under the Image menu > Adjustments > Color Balance.


    Watching the photo, I move the slider to more Blue to remove the Yellow. Make small adjustments. Click the Preview button on and off to compare before and after. If it’s better click OK. Command + S.

    My photo is looking a lot better, but it could use a little more punch. I want to bring up the color of the yellow handle. Go the the Image menu again > Adjustments > Hue/ Saturation. [Please note, because I was only trying to increase the color of the Yelloe handle scales, intead of leaving the Edit: set to Master I could have selected Yellow instead and just increased the Saturation for that color alone]. Once again make small adjustments as you watch the image. Don’t overdo it. When you’re satisfied click OK, Command + S.



    If you want to see what you’ve accomplished in you photo corrections, click on the Eye icon on the Copy layer to switch it on and off. Even if you’ve made small corrections the difference may be considerable. I’m really happy with my corrections, but there’s a couple of things that really bother me, there’s scuff marks on both bolsters. If I were selling this knife I would point out any flaws and not correct them, but for display purposes only, I’d like to make those scuffs go away.


    Using the Zoom (magnifier) tool I would enlarge the section I wanted to work on. I select the Eyedropper tool, and click in the area to get an appropriate color. With soft brush selected and the Opacity around 30% I slowly paint over the scuff. That’s better. Command + S.


    I started with a photo that was In-focus, but usually the last thing I want to do with and image is to see if I can sharpen it just a little bit more. The way I do this is to go to the Filter menu > Sharpen > Unsharpen mask and move just the top slider, and watch the image. If you start seeing a clumping of pixels or halos you’re over-sharpening. When you’re happy click OK, Command + S.

    We’ve been working on the photo with the same resolution that it came out of the camera. If you ever want to print this photo, you’re going to want this High Resolution copy saved, but we have to reduce the resolution to 72ppi for use on the Web. We need to Duplicate this photo again. Remember we duplicated the Raw Image and Saved it. So, up to the Image menu > Duplicate. You can rename the file if you want, I would remove the “copy” and add 72ppi to the file name. This is the file we want to continue to work with. Save and put away the High Res. version.

    With the 72ppi version open in Photoshop, go up to the Image menu > Image Size, a new window will open.


    Continued in Part III
  3. PhilL


    Oct 1, 1999
    This image is for the Web, either to include in an email or posted somewhere, so you really don’t want it too big so that it will load fast and the viewer won’t have to scroll to view it. In this case I made the Document Size width 10” that’s plenty big enough. Resolution is 72ppi. Make sure those three boxes are checked and Resample Image is set on Bicubic. Click OK.


    From the File menu > Save for Web, will open another window. This where we do the balancing act between the best image quality with the smallest file size.



    These are my normal settings; JPEG, Medium, Quality 50. I know you’re going to want the image you worked so hard on to look great when you post it, and you’re going to want to increase the Quality, I don’t. Well I told you this was a balancing act, best image vs file size. These settings are a good balance. the File Size is 12.6 k, it will load in 3 seconds with a 56k connection, and it will look great. Provided you started with a good photograph.

    Here’s my Before & After. If you followed my tutorial on how I photograph knives your corrections shouldn’t be any more complicated than my corrections were here.


    That's it folks, from start to finish.
    I hope I've made it easy enough to follow. Keep in mind if your setup is consistent than your image corrections are going to be consistent, they'll soon become second nature. After you get down the routine it should take only a couple of minutes to get your photos looking their best.

    Please remember that your original photos are safely put away, so if you make a total mess of your editing, you can go back and start all over. Remember to Save often, you don't want to lose your work. Command + Z will Undo your last action, but your History palette will allow you to go back several steps if you need to. I encourage you to play with the different settings and Tools in Photoshop. I'd really like to hear how the programs other than Photoshop work with this tutorial, so let me know.
  4. PhilL


    Oct 1, 1999
    I'd certainly like to see results people are getting with image editing programs besides Adobe Photoshop.

    I am planning a tutorial on "How I Do Illustration", but not unless I see a need for something like that.
  5. UnknownVT


    Feb 15, 2003
    Many thanks for this very useful thread -
    I had been following these when they were in the individual separate threads.

    As many know the full Adobe PhotoShop can be very expensive - even the low street price is more like $550-600 - more expensive than many people's digicams (yes, I know I've seen it for below $400 in price searches, but....)

    The top three photo editors in the next lower tier of affordable photo editing software are -

    Adobe PhotoShop Elements (ver 5.0)
    PaintShop Pro (ver XI - now Corel - used to be Jasc)
    Ulead PhotoImpact (ver 12)

    I have all three on my PC but non-current older versions.

    Of the 3 - I recognize that Elements is the most powerful and has the huge advantage of being "compatible" with the de-facto industry standard PhotoShop - so if I was to recommend a photo editor it would definitely be PhotoShop Elements.

    Having said that, I use almost exclusively Ulead's PhotoImpact -
    not only that an older version - 8.0 - I actually got this Free with a UK PC magazine. I had been using versions 4.0 then 5.0. I see from PhotoImpact 8.0 can be had as low as $8.99!

    Anyway the reason I use PhotoImpact - could be partially because I am used to it - but I have also used Elements quite a lot, yet I return to PhotoImpact - the main reason is the quickness and ease of operations (for me) and PhotoImpact does a lot of operations by VISUAL COMPARISON - this is a huge and intuitive advantage to me.

    I'll put up some screen shots of a typical PhotoImpact edit for me -

    First a lot of my knife photos are actually done using a cheapo flatbed scanner - please see -

    some general flatbed Scanners advice

    some immediate advantages -

    Scanners address some very common and frequent problems for knife (small object) photography - focus, exposure and light quality.

    They are substantially cheaper than a good digicam, and are always connected to one's computer which makes taking the photo easy - without any fuss of having to upload.

    Using Ulead PhotoImpact -

    Cropping -
    pretty easy and allows one to adjust the area to be cropped using those small square handle points.

    Resize -
    allows resizing by percentage, pixels, inches and centimeters.

    Brightness and Contrast adjustment -
    current image surrounded by 8 sample adjusted images - by checking the Preview box one can see the effect live on the full image too. I use the samples to get an approximation then use the adjustment boxes to fine tune the image to exactly what I want by looking at the changes on the full image.

    Sharpen -
    again Visually based - I normally just use the lowest amount 1 (the leftmost box).

    There is also Unsharp Mask too that allows the expected radius, amount and threshold - I only use this for finer control -

    Adding Text is pretty easy -
    allows font, size and color selection (there is also anti-aliasing under options tab)

    Save as -
    This is an underestimated and important step - first resizing the image is important to keep both the physical size and the FILE SIZE down.

    Then when saving using an unnecessarily "high quality" compression (ie: large file) can mitigate the effort to keep the image size small. I use 70% JPG on PhotoImpact - which is closer to quality 5 in PhotoShop and Elements.

    However for these screenshot which are larger than my usual image sizes I used only 33% - which may seem like "cr*p" quality - but again the huge advantage I have of being able to see a side by side visual comparison when saving - I found the 33% by using the compression by size then checked the side-by-side image quality - yes, of course there was degradation - BUT I think these screenshots are legible and make their point - yet they are all only about 40-45Kb each - much kinder on bandwidth and a lot of people still on dial-up (remember BladeForums is international and not everyone is fortunate enough to be on broadband).......

    In conclusion I like Ulead's PhotoImpact a lot - the proof is that I use it almost exclusuvely - in spite of having both PhotoShop Elements and PaintShop Pro currently installed on my PC.

    I do a lot of photography - and my main subject are not knives - so I bow to others like Phil's specialization and better experience - the main input I have is laziness and enjoying being able to do things with almost minimal effort - PhotoImpact does that for me visually - YMMV.

    OT- re: my other photography please see links in my sig for literally tens of thousands of photos (mainly live music) - I did all those on PhotoImpact 8.0 - not bad for a free (or about $9) photo editor.

  6. PhilL


    Oct 1, 1999
    Vincent, thank you very much for posting and all of the work that you've put into this. I think it's good for folks to see an alternative from photography to scanner and from Photoshop to PhotoImpact. I would like to see a before and after comparison of your work.
    I think I mentioned in the photography tutorial thread that I used a scanner for years before buying a digicam in '04. Scanners are fast and easy to use, but they do have their limitations. Mirror polished blades can give you headaches and you're limited on the angles you can get on a knife. As well as your limitation of the size of your scanners screen.
  7. UnknownVT


    Feb 15, 2003
    Absolutely agree about the limitations - fortunately for me I only do knife photography to illustrate my reviews so mostly I accept those limitations to gain the convenience and fast working. If I did it more seriously as my primary photo/art form I'd probably do more with the digicam.

    Before -
    Full scanned frame (only resized for the forum) -
    (original scanned at 150dpi = 1641x691 pixels, file size = 269Kb)

    Original - only cropped, rotated, and resized (to about 450x375 pixels)-

    After - the end result after 6 PhotoImpact steps -
    1) crop, 2) resize, 3) rotate 4) brightness/contrast, 5) sharpen, 6) add text -
    saved at 70% JPG (about the same size as quality 5 in PhotoShop or Elements) -
    450x375 pixels, file size = ~21Kb.

    Before (original scanned at 150dpi - 1147x970 pixels image) -

    After - 2 resultant photos from same photo above
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Both 1) rotate, 2) crop, 3) resize, 4) Brightness/Contrast, 5) sharpen, 6) text
    Because of the size of the scanned image (and 150dpi is very modest) I can crop and show more detailed area to get the second photo of the marks/etches on the knife

    Slightly OT -
    Non-Knife photo -

    Before ... then ... After
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    deliberate long shutter speed to capture movement - but VERY simple photo editing to bring out the image - 4 steps in PhotoImpact - 1) Resize, 2) Brightness/Contrast, 3) Sharpen, 4) Text. This shot shows how dramatic a little editing can bring out the image.
    Please see this album (link) to see other photos in this series.

  8. j22knife


    Nov 18, 2006
    Another thing that people should be careful about - when they shoot the picture - is to use the appropriate focal length. For 35mm cameras that's about 55mm. This captures a photo that's neither wide angle or telephoto.

    This means that the knive's proportions in the photo will match the real thing. I've seen many knives posted that don't seem to match their documented dimensions. Probably because the knife was shot with a wide-angle lens.

    One recent photo include a straight-edge ruler that was radically bowed! A sure sign that the picture is being distorted by a wide angle lens.
  9. vic2367


    Sep 15, 2006
    great thread,,,thanks for all the great info everyone,,,
  10. crimin

    crimin Gold Member Gold Member

    May 21, 2007
    When doing your curves etc in Photoshop, do them in adjustment layers. That way you can go back and change the amount of the effect you accomplished. You can also change the opacity of the layer which really fine tunes the effect.

    Here's a method I use when I only want to change a part of a photo. I use Photoshop on a PC, so you'll have to substitute the Mac keystrokes since I don't know them. I use CS3, but I've used it as far back as Photoshop 7. I don't know about earlier versions. I'll use your knife handle as an example:

    1 Press D then X to get your default colors, making sure that white is the foreground.
    2 Open a Curves adjustment layer, the one with the black/white circle.
    3 Put the eyedropper on the part you want to modify, like the handle. No need to make a selection first
    4 Adjust the color under the eydropper darker or lighter using the up and down arrows on the keyboard. Don't look at the rest of the picture, just the part you want to modify. Make it a little darker or lighter than you really want. You can change it with opacity later.
    5 Press Enter or click OK
    6 Press Control-Back arrow, the one above the enter key - NOT on the numeric keyboard
    7 Chose the Brush tool and select a size that will fit the smallest area in your modified area.
    8 With white as your foreground color, hold you left mouse button down and paint over the area you are changing. I start with the outer edges and work my way in to the middle.
    9 If you go outside the area you want, switch the foreground color to black and "erase" the part you don't want.
    10 If the effect is stronger than you wanted, change the layer's opacity. I like to move the opacity slider all the way to zero and bring it up slowly. You'll usually see workable results starting about 75% opacity.

    You can do this as many times as you want in the same photo. You might want to darken or lighten a rivet in the handle. Just open another curves adjustment layer and do it again. You can click the layer's "eye" to turn it off and on to see the effect very well. If you don't like what you did, just drag the layer to the trash can. That's the beauty of using adjustment layers, they don't change your image until you flatten it. It's called non-destructive editing. If it is something I want to keep, I'll save it as a .psd file with all the layer info stored with the file. That way I can come back and change anything I want later. Then I'll flatten the image and save it again as a .jpg at the resolution I want for the web. Now I've got both versions saved. If I ever change the .psd version, I can save it again as a new .jpg.

    Try it, you'll like it.
  11. PhilL


    Oct 1, 1999
    Crimin, first of all welcome to BFC.
    Second, I agree using adjustment layers is often the better way to go because it is independent of the image layer. Please understand this tutorial was a very basic introduction to Image Editing and I decided to not get into adjustment layers.

    I have to admit you lost me at Step 6, I have no idea what you're doing from there on.
  12. crimin

    crimin Gold Member Gold Member

    May 21, 2007
    Make sure your toolbar colors are white foreground and black background. When you open your curves adjustment layer, you'll have your grid with your diagonal line for "contrast." When you move your cursor over your image, it will turn into an eye dropper. Put the tip on the color you want to modify. This is where I wasn't clear in my original post: do a "control-left mouse click" with the eye dropper where you want it. You'll see a dot on your curves line. Using the up or down arrow, lighten or darken the color under the eye dropper. You'll see the curve (and the histogram in CS3) change just as you would any time you use curves. Once your color is the shade you want, again don't worry about the rest of the picture-it's not going to stay that way, click OK in the curves box. NOW do the control-backspace thing and you'll see the whole image go back to what it was before you did the adjustment. Your modified image is there, you just can't see it. That's why we didn't worry about what was happening to the rest of the image as we changed our color. When you size and use the brush tool, you'll be able to "paint" through to the new color you created in the areas where you want that to come through. Make corrections by switching black to the foreground tool bar color and erase any areas you didn't want to change. This is just the "masking" method that you use for many other things. You can see the mask in your curves adjustment layer. Click the "eye" in the curves layer to see the "before" and "after" effect. If you don't like it, change the layer's opacity or drag the layer to the trash can.

    What I really like about this is you can use it as many times as you want by creating another curves adjustment layer. You might adjust the color in the handle, a rivet, and the background in a picture by creating an adjustment layer for each one. It works great in landscape photos shot in the middle of the day lighting. You can make the sky darker, the clouds lighter, the mountains greener individually instead of an exposure adjustment that adjusts everything at the same time. It also helps to shoot RAW if you can.
  13. PhilL


    Oct 1, 1999
    Crimin, you obviously know what you're doing and like this technique.
    I have to admit I still find it hard to follow and not really helpful for the basic image editing tutorial here.

    Thanks anyway.
  14. sreeja


    Nov 15, 2007
    Nice tutorial.The pictures are so helpful.
  15. Kyp Degal

    Kyp Degal

    Sep 25, 2005
    Yes indeed! Very helpful, Phil. I appreciate you taking the time to put this up for us! I've gotten some good results using Photoshop CS3 lately.
  16. Haley Bell

    Haley Bell

    Mar 10, 2008
    Thanks for the usefull facts, my knife pics usually look dreadfull, I'm sure this will help a great deal.
  17. LeeThompsonsr


    Sep 27, 2008
    Hey Phil,

    I have photo shop and never really knew the potential. Thanks for the lesson:thumbup:

    Lee T.


  18. PhilL


    Oct 1, 1999
    Glad you found it helpful.
    If you have any questions you can ask them here.
  19. nativecajun57


    Jan 28, 2010
    Good info. I would have added a little more contrast to the blade only in your favorite in the first photo of the yellow scaled knife by using the selection tool and feathering it out quite a bit so it looks natural.

    On my screen "I know it is just a screen shot" but the scales look a little flat still. And without the knife in hand to compare I would make sure the selective color section be used to fine tweek the color till it looks like what you have in your hand. Of course problem is it will look different from computer to computer.

    I always bring down the res. at about 76 dpi because that is what most monitors show no matter how much res. you have in the finished product. Finishiing for puter or printing of course you probably know all this but I have to gab. But some go overboard with all these stupid 12 mgp files. I bring my digital images to a proffesional lab for printing. The first thing they do is cut the res to around 300 dpi cause that is what the machine prints at. And all this you need at least 8 mp for an 8 x10. In that lab my friend there has an 20 by thirty print from a 5mp camera. And as I was comenting on that photo one day and saying that I was still amazed at how good a 20x30 looked with only 5mp he pointed me to one much larger in the back and it was taken with the same camera 5mp. Just a fad. I wished they would tone down on all those pixels myself. To many crowed on a 1.5 ratio sensor will actually make the photo look worse not better. The larger each photodiode is on the sensor the cleaner the image will be. Some day I may graduate from my Pro 5mp but the problem is you cannot find anything better anymore. A seven for me would almost be to much. Ah my camera will outlast me 5mp is plenty. By the way Olan Mills uses the exact same camera I have for the majority of their work. I guess I will spill it out. Olympus E-1. Love it. There is no better geometry for a camera out there. Why add junk to your left hand there is no film canister that has to sit there. With the large grip for the right hand and for the left to nestle right on the camera bottom and the lens. Oh what a feelin.

    Oppssss sorry. I like photography, knives, and lights, not necesisarly in that order. I tend to go to prechin to somone who don't needs it.

    To put my reply shorter. "Thanks for the good info" And I am still in 7.0>> no mun no fun.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2011
  20. smcjoecohen@yahoo

    [email protected]

    Nov 22, 2011
    I joined this forum about a month ago. I'm not sure how to post pictures, there is a message at the bottom of the page reading that I may not post any attachments. Can you tell me what he deal is? How can I start posting pics?

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