San Gregorio State Park, California (CA), USA

Quick Tips: Targeted Adjustments in Photoshop

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In many cases, a photograph will require small adjustments to specific areas to bring out the details and colors throughout the image. We refer to these area-specific changes as “targeted adjustments.”


Here’s a shot from San Gregorio Beach in California. In this finished image, each area of the image looks correctly exposed…but the camera didn’t capture it this way. Because the light over the entire scene was somewhat uneven, the camera underexposed some areas and overexposed others. This is a typical problem for nature photographers who can’t control the light over a large area. The image below shows what I mean.

To restore details, colors, and contrast in each part of the image, I used layers and masks in Photoshop. You can see all the layers and masks I used to make targeted adjustments below. I also used the clone tool to remove the distracting elements in the scene. Varina and I both use Wacom Intuos tablets to draw masks, for cloning, and to make adjustments. (Actually – neither of us uses a mouse anymore. A graphics tablet can do anything a mouse can do – and much more.) A stylus gives us far more control over minute details… which means we can work faster and more precisely.

Once I’m finished making changes, I flatten the layers and save the file. Targeted adjustments allow me to bring out rich details and colors in my photographs, and to produce a more appealing finished product.

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