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4 Quick Tips for Photoshop Beginners

With Photoshop you can improve your photos in so many unique ways. If you need a simple adjustment, like exposure, you can do that. Or if you want to do something more advanced, like retouching skin and eyes, you can do that too.

Pretty versatile, don't you think?

The main issue is that Photoshop can be a very time consuming program to use. It is also overwhelming if you're new to it. Here are a few time-saving tricks you can use for Photoshop beginners, to help you get started.

Get really familiar with Photoshop
The most important piece of advice I can give is to learn your way around the core components of Photoshop, make it second nature. As a photographer, you're going to be using a few specific tools and sections:
  • The Adjustments Panel – used for color and tonal adjustments
  • Filters – used to adjust sharpness, blur, and much more
  • Selection and Dodge/Burn Tools – used for masking and finer retouching


There are plenty of other tools that you can and will use, but I recommend getting a solid grasp of these to start. If you are looking for a few great places to get started, I recommend Digital Photography School's Post-Production Photoshop section. It has some of the best tutorials for editing and processing your photography, and of course all the wonderful tutorials here on Digital Photo Mentor.

Use Photoshop Actions and Presets to save time and learn
Nothing will save you more time than Photoshop actions. Using actions, you can record certain effects and styles that you frequently create, and save them for future use.

Another important feature in Photoshop is the preset feature, which is slightly under-looked (not to be confused with Lightroom Presets). With the Curves tool, you can also save presets. These are incredibly useful as the Curves tool is easily one of the most used in Photoshop.


Here are two time-saving recommendations:

  1. Record a few actions with your most used effects. This will save you tons of time in the long run. If you're unfamiliar, learn how to make Photoshop actions here.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the Curves tool and make a few presets there as well. These are as easy as adjusting the curve and then saving that preset.
  3. See what the Presets and Actions are doing and see if you can figure out how they work. That will have you learn about things you may not have tried in Photoshop.
Find the tools you need and focus on those
This advice may be a bit subjective, but I find it works really well for me, and a lot of other photographers and designers. Every photographer has their own style and look, yourself included, so find your flow. Find the right tools for your work, and own them.


Don't go learning every single aspect of Photoshop – you don't need to.

Learn the tools that are necessary and important to your work, and focus on getting good at those. Then you will really start to do well with Photoshop.

Teach in order to learn
When first editing my photos in Photoshop, I was very intrigued by the adjustments panel. I started using it on a daily basis, and became very comfortable with the tools inside. Each having their own, unique responsibility.


Then I wrote about the adjustment layers I use frequently. In doing this, I learned the value of the tools and how to explain them properly. They are:

  1. Curves adjustment: to adjust brightness, add color tone, or a special effect
  2. Gradient maps: to add a color tint effect to your overall image including a vintage look
  3. Photo Filters: which are similar to applying a filter over your camera lens
  4. Hue/Saturation: to adjust color
  5. Exposure adjustment layer: to brighten or darken your image
  6. Brightness and Contrast: similar to Curves and Exposure but simplified in its usage
  7. Solid Color adjustment layer: to apply a stylized tint to your image in conjunction with using layer blend modes
  8. Levels adjustment: adjust whites, blacks and mid-tones on the whole image or per color (RGB)
  9. Gradients: can be used to add an edge vignette or special effect
  10. Vibrance: similar to Hue/Saturation and easy to use when you want a subtle color boost

So here is my suggestion to you: Talk to a friend, or write something down about your favorite tools in Photoshop. This will help you fully understand them. Phil Collins said it best:

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”

Even a brief conversation with another photographer can help you figure out the complexities, benefits, and downsides to each tool and adjustment layer you use. Give it a try!

Do you have any other tips for people getting started with Photoshop? What did you find you learned right off the bat that was really helpful? What do you wish you had known earlier? Please share in the comments below and tell us what else we can write about that would be helpful if you are new to Photoshop.


IconMike Moloney is the person behind Filter Grade, a cool little shop offering Photoshop filters and resources to photographers and creatives. He also shares more photo editing and photography tips/resources on the Filter Grade Blog.

Digital Photo Mentor is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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