Here are my top 3 Photoshop techniques to make ordinary images look great.
Photoshop Levels filter
Photoshop can be quite overwhelming, with often many ways to achieve the same result.
The ‘Levels’ adjustment is a simple way of changing the light, dark and mid points of an image to boost overall contrast.
By moving the black slider right a small amount, the white slider to the base of the ‘mountain’, and the grey slider in the middle (as below), the effect is immediate and striking.
Comparing the Levels adjustment in Photoshop
Sometimes your image is spoilt by an unwanted object. This can be cloned out. The clone tool involves painting pixels on top of your image to hide items below. It allows you to ‘copy’ or clone sections of your image and place them over other areas. The clone tool is best used with a new layer, so that you can isolate its effect and preserve your original image.
Preparing to use the Photoshop clone tool.
Alt-click (Mac – option-click) an area of the image to set where your clone tool copies from, then start painting with it. Below shows the separate layer containing cloned pixels from the hedge, on their own layer, sitting over the goal post!
After using the Photoshop clone tool.
Comparison using the Photoshop clone tool
3. Unsharp Mask
Photoshop Unsharp Mask filter
The clue to this filter is definitely NOT in the title, since it has nothing obvious to do with unsharping or masking – see Wikipedia for a full explanation. However, it is one of the best ways to take a flat image and perk it up around sections of adjacent contrast.
This filter is particularly good when images have been resized smaller to go on the web.
Photoshop Unsharp Mask settings
You can read the full details here, but my advice is to keep the ‘Amount’ between 50% and 100%, and the ‘Radius’ at 1 pixel (or 2 pixels maximum).
Photoshop Unsharp Mask example