5 Crucial Photoshop Tools For All Photographers

Photography is a technical and practiced form of art. It’s not an easy form of fascination, since several aspects are at play in a photograph: lighting, focus, composition, subject and more.

Post processing is just as important as the photo shoot. No matter how good a photographer is, everyone needs to tweak a few flaws and emphasize details. Glamour, landscape, events, micro and portrait photographers need a handy photo editing software to improve their photos. Adobe Photoshop is a must have program for designers, artists, art students and now photographers as well.

After the birth of digital photography, photo processing is no longer done in a lab, but in a computer. As a photographer, you don’t need to learn Photoshop inside and out; you just need to know a few Photoshop tools that will help greatly in your picture taking hobby or profession.


Cropping is an essential Photoshop tool for all digital photographers. You can improve your picture by leaving out unnecessary or bothersome elements through cropping.  With the right cropping skills, you can make any ordinary shot into a noteworthy, interesting photograph.

Photo by Rachel Arandilla

Photo by Rachel Arandilla

Cropping can be used to increase focus of the subject. It can improve the composition of the picture. During a shoot, you may not have the right lens, the time or the position that allows you to take photos with perfect framing all the time. Cropping through Photoshop will later save you from that.

Dodge and Burn

Dodge and burn are common techniques used in the traditional film dark room, and now you can manipulate photos by dodging and burning through Photoshop.

The Dodge and Burn tool is found on the Photoshop tool box. The burn tool is used to make an area of the photo darker, while dodge tool blocks the light to make the area of the photo lighter. The Dodge tool can even create the photographers’ favorite ‘Glassy Eyes’ effect in photos.

Photo by Rachel Arandilla

See how different and beautiful it looks when dodging and burning is applied? Dodge and burn is used to improve photos by:

  1. Improving the exposure
  2. Bringing out details
  3. Directing your viewer’s eye movement and
  4. Adding drama and impact through the use of highlights and shadows

Clone Stamp

Repairing photos and hiding flaws are now made easier through Photoshop’s Clone Stamp tool. Clone Stamp could remove annoying phone wires, leaves, freckles, people, and other unwanted elements. You can even clone other items to make the photograph more interesting–maybe add books, fill in background with people or add more flowers–these are all possible through the Clone Stamp Tool.

Photo by Rachel Arandilla

As you can see in the picture above, the rock and leaf are removed by cloning the grass into the area.

Blur / Sharpen tool

The Sharpen tool in Photoshop increases contrast in areas you want to emphasize. You can sharpen edges, or pop highlights on shiny objects for effect. It can save a blurred photograph, but don’t use the sharpen tool too much or it will end up overdone.

Blurring can also create creative effects to a photo. It sounds ironic, but too much sharpness can be too much of a good thing. This is true especially if a sharp background distracts viewers from your real, intended subject. When you blur unneccessary details, your subject pops, creating focus. Gaussian blur creates the soft, blurry look while Motion blur creates the impression of movement.

Photo by Rachel Arandilla

Black & White Tool

Black and White provides a dramatic and gritty effect that cannot be found in colored photos.

Photo by Rachel Arandilla

Unlike other editing softwares where they simply desaturate the image and throw away valuable color information, Photoshop provides you full control of how your final output will look like. It separates lightness values per color through the Black & White adjustment. The tools allows you to emphasize and de-emphasize areas of your whim.

Have full control of the black and white tones of your image. Light is separated by color: reds, yellows, greens, cyans, blues and magentas.

If black and white is too extreme for you, you can also try Photoshop’s Photo filter tool and adding color tints. You can see how a tint can change the overall mood and feel of an image: Sepia tones make it look nostalgic, blue tones make it look cold and unwelcome, and so forth.

These are not the only tools for photographs to utilize, but in my opinion, they are the five crucial tools to master – they’re easy to learn and very important. If you feel confident on learning more Photoshop skills to use for your photographs, try to experiment which you can use for your hobby or profession. However, don’t overdo post processing – your main objective is to improve or enhance your photo, and not to digitally alter the whole photograph from scratch.

Rachel Arandilla

Rachel Arandilla is a curious subject -- she appreciates things that are quirky & clever. She loves spontaneity and adventure. She is a carefree soul, has a deep love for travel, culture and languages. And she's beginning to wonder she keeps on referring to herself in third person perspective.

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  1. Ank Kaul says

    Great Post I loved this article and moreover I am a photoshop fan and I have learned a lot from this article especially the Dodge and Burn effect. If used properly I believe it can yield beautiful results.
    I am surely gonna try the others too. Thanks for sharing the article. Thumbs Up!!

  2. Kristi says

    Sorry, but I have to agree with previous comments. The blur and clone examples are pretty terrible. I would have liked to see masks on the list. Layer/adjustment masks completely transformed the way I use Photoshop.

  3. says

    Well, I am not photographer but I don’t think that dodge and burn is a crucial for photographers.
    You forgot other amazing tools that really are important, as a designer i always use them on photos and i think that photographers do too! And these tools are: Levels, Curves and Hue & Saturation ! Sometimes masks too…

  4. Alex says

    That’s not how you dodge/burn. Whoever wrote this needs to learn a LOT more about retouching before writing about it…

  5. Adam P. says

    the photoshop tools are carefully explained. great read, but i think this only applies to beginner photographers.

  6. JoeQ says

    If your photo needs to be cropped to make it work, you shot it wrong. Deal with it and do better next time.

    • Jason says

      Totally agree!!

      Sorry but this post’s writer doesn’t know anything photograhy or photoshop or what tools you have to or not have to use while photo retouching

      Becoming a low quality and high quantity blog day by day

      If i were you Dainis, i would pay 3-4 posts’ amount for 1 post to gain the quality

      • says

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        We also have proofreader finally working with us and he’s very very good, from the next week you should seriously feel quality changes and improvements..if not from this same week. I really apologize for bad experience you’re having here, it’s my own fault I admit it and working hard to change.

        All is ask is a little bit more trust in us and we’ll handle quality and article originality better and better by time..we have several other improvements too in mind to become more unique in niche..by the way hope you noticed our first art directed post here too (will make this type of articles more frequent from now on) – http://www.1stwebdesigner.com/design/art-direction-1/

        Thank you all for comments and critiques, you’re helping a lot out here to us by showing what we really need to work on.

  7. Steve Jacyjc says

    Unfortunately most of those examples aren’t very attractive examples of the tools you have mentioned, especially the blur!

  8. says

    I agree with Joel — there are a lot of useful things Photoshop can do that aren’t on this list… and there are a few ‘tools’ on this list I’d never touch.

    How could you possibly make a list like this and not mention masking?

  9. Joel Santos says

    Well, i’m no photographer but i don’t think that dodge and burn is a crucial for photographers, i think it destroys too much of the image without any improvement.
    You forgot other amazing tools that really are important, as a designer i always use them on photos and i think that photographers do too! And these tools are: Levels, Curves and Hue & Saturation ! Sometimes masks too…

    • says

      Traditional photography has always made good use of dodging and burning in the dark room. I have found invaluable this techniques emulated in photoshop.

    • says

      As a photographer, I disagree. Dodging and burning are timeless tools necessary for good post-processing. They can be used for dramatic or subtle results. It’s a part of the basic darkroom set – prior to Photoshop – and of good use today. Selective leveling is also useful.

      I would add, though, the examples for Clone Stamp and the Blur / Sharpen tool are very poorly done.