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Enhancing Digital Photographs

Photoshop Tutorial by Björgvin Guðmundsson


This tutorial is about enhancing your digital photographs.
I will show you how you can sharpen them, smooth them and change their color.


You've just taken some good photos on your digital camera and transferred them into your computer.

Let's open one of my images in Photoshop and take a look at it.

The image is pretty good, it's a bit dark but we will fix that later.

Make a duplicate your original layer, it always good to have the original image if things get out of hand. Name the duplicate 'sharpen' and lock the original layer, so you can't ruin it by mistake.

Select the 'sharpen' layer you just made and apply the 'unsharp mask' filter from the filter menu.

Set the following to:

- Amount: 20%
- Radius: 60 pixels
- Threshold: 0 levels

You should now see a difference in your image. It has become more sharper and detailed.

By moving your mouse over the image you can see the original one appear.


Now we are going to make the image a little brighter by making a 'brightness/contrast' adjustment layer.

Use these settings (feel free to experiment on this part)

- Brightness: +15
- Contrast: +5

The reason for making the adjustment layer instead of applying the effect directly to the image is so I can remove it or modify the values at any time. Get used to it, because it will pay off in the future.

Now the face looks a lot better, and we go on to the next step.

Smoothing the image

Ok, our image is now sharper and brighter... but the face could use a little smoothing.

Make a duplicate of the 'sharpen' layer and name it 'smooth'

Apply a Gaussian blur (Filters - Blur - Gaussian Blur) of 3.5 pixels to the image and set the layer to 'overlay' and the Opacity to 40%

Now add a layer mask to your 'smooth' layer. Select a medium soft brush with 100% opacity, make sure your foreground color is black and erase the background, eyes and her hair.

Layer Mask

This is how the image looks now.

Adjusting colors

Some of you might be pleased with the image as it is right now.
The next step is optional and you can experiment with different colors, overlays and layer opacity.

Add a new adjustment layer and select 'hue and saturation'. Make sure you check the 'colorize' option and find a color you like.

Now set the hue/saturation layer to 'color' and set the opacity to 90%.

The final image looks like this.

By moving your mouse over the image you can see the original one appear.

I hope this tutorial helped you to understand some of the endless possibilities of Photoshop.
Good luck!