1. Levels - Check your levels. There are a couple ways to do this here is one of them. Click on "Add new adjustment layer" in the layers window and find "Levels." Levels is a tool for moving and stretching the brightness in a histogram. There are three points you can adjust on a slider, on the left the black point, on the right the white and in the middle the midtones. Generally you want to grab the two point on either end of the slider and slide them toward the middle in order to reduce areas of absolute black and absolute white. Then you can adjust the midtone slider to adjust the brightness.
2. Level Horizons - Nothing screams SNAPSHOT like a crooked horizon line (unless it was done purposefully). Luckily crooked horizon lines are easy to fix. Open your photo in Photoshop, make a copy of your layer to work with (like one of my teachers told me about a million times "If you pervert the original that makes you a ...?" lol. Make sure you have guides turned on (View menu - Show - check "Guides") click on the ruler at the top of the widow and drag a guide to where the horizon line should be in your photo. If that horizon line isnt straight hit Ctrl+T and grab one of the corners and rotate it until its where you want it. Presto your done.
Also a quick note if your horizon line curves as a result of using a wide angle lens you can straighten it out by going to the Filter menu - Distort - Lens Correction and tweak the Remove Distortion.
3. Great Skies - Want great looking skies but, dont want to mess with Polarizing filters? Its easy, this works best on photos with a good chunk of sky with no trees, mountains, etc intruding into them. Open your photo in Photoshop and create a new layer, select the Gradient tool and set it to foreground to transparent, make sure your foreground is set to black and create a gradient in the sky. What...you dont want a black sky? Now head over to the layer option and select Soft Light this should give you a nice blue gradient in your sky. You can play with opacity settings and even duplicate the layer for a darker sky as well as trying other layer options.
4. Clone Stamp and Patch Tool - Both of these tools are a "must use" for us stock photographers. Whether its cloning out those pesky sensor spots in your skies, editing out logos or covering up unsightly blemishes etc. I use both these tools on a daily basis. To use the Clone Stamp tool select it from the tool bar and hold down Alt+left click to take a sample of an area to stamp over the area you want to cover up, with that done paint out the unwanted areas. You might have to do this a couple times sampling from different areas to get it right. To use the Patch tool select it from the tool bar and draw a line around the area you want to cover up, with that done click and drag the selection over a similar area to replace the selection. The Patch tool will then combine the two areas.
5. Contrast - Want to make those dull photos pop? Here is an easy one, open your image in Photoshop, duplicate the layer and select overlay as the layer mode then adjust the opacity to your liking.
Hope these quick tips help
Any questions hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org
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