How to Edit Photos in Photoshop in 30 Minutes

Photo editing software expert retouching work at desk

Photoshop is one of the most famous photo editing and manipulation software currently on the market! You don’t have to be a photographer or designer to know what Photoshop is. It uses a range of full-featured editing tools to alter or enhance images, create digital paintings and drawings, and design any type of graphics. This is very versatile editing software that you can utilize to your liking in any way you want. But it could be a little scary at first to start using Photoshop to edit photos. This fear comes from the vast number of editing tools available on Photoshop – there are about 70 tools you can use in the Ps toolbox to edit or create any document. But it also happens to be the most essential necessity for edit or image-processing for every photographer or designer out there looking to do some serious business. It takes a decent amount of time and effort to learn how to edit photographs like a professional! All you need to do is learn how, and put in a little practice. Digital photography is a beautiful way to capture life’s most significant moment, but the post-processing part of photography takes most of the effort. Even when you take a beautiful perfect picture, there’s always room to enhance its features and bring out the best of it – add a little touch of magic. So, here’s how you can learn to edit photos in Photoshop in less than 30 minutes and still seem like it was touched-up by an expert!

Why Edit Photos in Photoshop?

Before we begin with this journey through digital editing, you have to understand why you’re doing this in the first place. Photoshop offers tools that help bring out the features that your digital camera left out. Have you ever felt frustrated when the picture you took looks different on camera than how you see it? Well, that is because the human eye works differently than your camera – even though they’re both types of lenses. The way we see the light varies from how your camera sees it. Light is reflected differently through our eyes! So, don’t feel offset when your picture looks a little darker than reality. That’s where Photoshop comes in to help! 

You can also edit photos in Photoshop to highlight your artistic and creative side – bring yourself in your work and your vision into life! The sky’s the limit when you edit photos in Photoshop. You can go wild and design a whole new world with the tools available. 

Every person sees the world in his or her own way, and you should reflect that in the way you edit photos in Photoshop as well. By the end of this guide, you will have all the necessary knowledge you could ever need to create your very own unique images with a personal style. You can use this guide to discover your style and play around with all the tools and filters available on Ps! You’ll learn to play with compositions and lighting, and you’ll find out how vast the world of photo editing could be. Remember, it’s all about the effort you put into self-evolution! So, it’s time you learn how to edit photos in Photoshop so you can start exploring your editing style in photography!

Photo Editing Vs. Photo-Processing

First, let’s make sure you know the difference between photo editing and photo processing. These are both processes that you have to do whether you’re a professional or you’re just starting to edit photos in Photoshop. This helps you understand the terminology for future reference if you choose to make editing a part of your career.

Photo editing, also known as photo culling, is the prep stage right before you get into your images’ actual ‘editing.’ It’s like a weeding process to choose the perfect image suitable for editing. You remove blurry, out of focus images or duplicates and select the most worthy image of your time and effort. There’s no use trying to salvage a blurry vision. This is something you will especially face when shooting photographs of human beings – people blink, move, and talk. Facial expressions are the easiest way to ruin an image! This is why photographers snap multiple pictures of the same prospect, for culling!

Photo post-processing is the actual editing – it’s the real deal! This is where you add your corrective touches, adjustments, and creative liberties! This is where the magic happens.

Now for the sake of this guide, we will call the photo-processing part ‘editing’; but it’s good that you know the different terminology of the field. Now we can dive into the actual process of editing images!

How to Edit Photographs? 

Creative Vs. Corrective

The number one thing you should think of when you begin editing your photos in Photoshop is which path you’re going to take – is it a corrective or creative edit? It’s not just about making pictures more pretty! Where should you start?

Corrective Adjustments

These are the necessary adjustments you need to edit images. You touch up the parts that your camera failed to pass through the lens and bring out the beauty passed through your eyes. You compose your shot through corrective adjustments like straightening the horizon or perspective, cropping, cleaning up, and proportions. This makes a huge difference right off the bat! Your image will appear to be better already! It takes a little time but has a huge impact. If you feel satisfied with the way your image looks, feel free to stop here – by all means! After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But, if you feel like your image needs more, you have to move on to creative adjustments.

Creative Adjustments

This is where your magic flows through your fingers into your images. The creative adjustment depends on your style of editing; it’s completely subjective! Here are some creative adjustments you can use to edit photos in Photoshop:

Color Adjustment – Creativity starts with colors! You can choose to change your image’s contrast or saturation and enhance it in any way you like. You keep going until your eye is satisfied! Photoshop allows you to do so and adjust according to what you see is fit!

B&W Conversion – Some pictures just seem more dramatic in black and white. Don’t you agree? It sounds extremely simple, but sometimes this smallest conversion could be all you need in your creative adjustment.

Stylization – This is the part where you accentuate and play with lights and shadows, set the mood and general vibe, and allow yourself to show through your images. You can alter highlights, add some shadows, and let the colors bleed! Anything you want. You can even make the skies glow if you like! 

Global Vs. Local Adjustments

In the past, image processing applied to the whole part of your image; you couldn’t edit a part of it – this is called global adjustments. When you edit photos in Photoshop, you get a chance to select the region that needs adjusting and work on that alone! This helps you accentuate different parts of the whole image. This way, you don’t have to apply effects to all aspects of the picture. For example, you can edit the sky alone without touching up other parts of the image! 

Learn About Your Tools, Filters, & Presets

Photoshop is a whole world that has lots of grounds to cover. But, knowing the tools you have really helps you discover your potentials later on. So, these are the basic understandings of the tools, filters, and presets available to edit photos in Photoshop.

Reading the Histograms

If you’ve already played around in Photoshop a bit, then you’ve probably seen a few histograms you don’t know how to read or what to make out of them. Don’t be frightened by the way a histogram looks; this won’t be a math lesson! Histograms help you understand how well your images are exposed. 

A histogram is a graph that gives you an indication of the tonal range of your image so you can analyze and adjust. You can tell how dark (pure black) or bright (pure white) your image is or where it falls on the color scale. It works with any colored image since colors give off different light levels – like yellow being too light compared to blues. A histogram helps you evaluate single photos in ways you can’t do through your computer screen. The brightness or contrast of your own screen plays a significant role in tricking eyesight. This is why you have to depend on accurate tonal data through your histogram – it gives you definite and accurate data. 

Read your histogram from left to right. The taller your mountaintop is at a particular end of the histogram, the more pixels your image has in that area. So, if your mountaintop at the darkest range is the highest, then your image has lots of dark pixels. If your image is all black, you won’t have any mountaintops on the white range, and vice versa. 

If the histogram’s left side starts at pure black and the right side ends at pure white, you know that your tonal range extends to both extremes – this means your image is well-exposed.

To check a histogram reading on Photoshop, press Image > Adjustments > Levels.

Exposure, Highlights, and Shadows Adjustment Tools

The best thing to begin with when you learn how to edit photos in Photoshop is to know about corrective adjustments through exposure, highlights, and shadows. 

Exposure – Editing exposure through Photoshop allows you to fine-tune your editing through 0.01 exposure value increments. It’s more precise than doing it through your digital camera and will enable you to reach the level of exposure you want.

Highlights – This tool adjusts your image’s brightest parts by adding or removing some of its brightness. This helps clear up some shadows to bring out some details lost in the dark!

Shadows – This is the exact opposite of the highlights tool by adding or removing darkness.

To access these editing tools, go to Image > Adjustments.


Curves help you adjust both tonal and color corrections on your images. It enables you to make a dull image appear brighter and more alive. The thing you could do to use curves is to segment the linear line on the diagram into three equal parts – your image will instantly look different! If you also have a huge gap between both sides of the graph at the bottom, you have to move either the white or black inwards towards the beginning of the graph, and you’re set.

To access the curves diagram, go to Image > Adjustments > Curves.

High Pass Adjustments

Clarity uses a play in contrast in the mid-tones to make your image pop. It adds a little something-something to your image and makes it pop! This adjustment is called the high pass filter. You can use this filter to target specific areas on your image that you want to shed light on.

To access the high pass filter, go to Filter > Other > High Pass.

Vibrance and Hue/Saturation

How about some color boosting? Use the vibrance or saturation tools to find a balance of colors that bring out your image’s best parts. You can opt to increase the vibrance of your image and then reduce the saturation – this ultimately creates the right balance!

To access vibrance and saturation adjustments, go to Image > Adjustments > Curves.

Creating Magic!

It’s one of the most satisfying feelings in the world to take a beautiful picture, but it feels even better when you’re able to bring out and enhance its most remarkable features. It could be a little bit frustrating to see that on-cam pictures look different from how you see them. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to edit photos in Photoshop once you get the hang of basic fundamental editing techniques. It’s simple and easy to use, but you have to know where and how to start. You’ve got a wide range of tools to create stunning imagery and let all your creative juices flow freely!

Crop & Resize

The best thing you can do to save some time and effort is to crop and resize your image before you do anything else. This just means you’ll have fewer areas to cover in the photo. Some parts of your image are not worth trying to salvage, and it’s better if you cut them out altogether. So, trim out the parts you don’t need and remove those that just don’t work. Cropping removes insufficient details, gives a new perspective, and improves your image’s overall look and feel. You might have a little random detail in the corner that wasn’t supposed to be a part of your image! Just press the crop tool in the toolbox or (C) on your keyboard to crop! You can also refer to the position of your shot and your composition. Your picture’s subject should be the main focus of your image, and it should be evident through composition. You can also instantly change the aspect ratio to adjust your proportions through the drop-down menu that says ‘unconstrained’ at the start. Just use the presets if you have specific dimensions in mind!

Resize Image

Sometimes when you edit photos in Photoshop, you might have to resize your image. This is one of the best tools in Photoshop! It’s amazing. This is especially useful if you want to reduce your file size to send it online without compromising your photos’ resolution and quality. Be aware, this isn’t the same as cropping. All the parts of your image remain intact; nothing gets removed! With resizing, you’re just putting in different dimensions or pixels to alter the size of it. You can go for as small as a pocket-sized image or as large as a poster! It all depends on your print size, platform, or general need. The best way to resize your image using exact numbers is to go to Image > Image Size > Pixel Dimensions. It’s better to input direct numbers through the image size editor rather than manual resize, or else you’ll have a skewed or distorted image. Alternatively, you can even change your canvas size to work with backgrounds, framing, and other things you might need just by going to Image > Canvas Size.

Save Your Image! Go For Non-Destructive Edits

The best feature you can depend on when you edit photos in Photoshop is editing through layers. Layers are like translucent papers stacked on top of each other. Everything you put on each top layer masks whatever is on the layer below it. You can find all your layers in the layer panel on your left. If you can’t see it, just press fn + f7 or press Window > Layers. Your background layer is your original photo. Keep that as a backup.

Create new layers to do your editing on. You can even duplicate your original and edit the duplicate. Just right-click the layer you want to duplicate and press Duplicate. You can even select the part of your image through the selection tools (like the Marquee and Lasso Tools)  in the toolbox and then create a new layer containing that part of the picture. Select the part you want to edit on its own, right-click it, and cut/copy via a new layer! Now you’ll have a new layer in your layers panel containing just the part you want to edit. There are no limits to the number of layers you can stack! You can even merge different layers together to create one. 

Layers are an excellent way to go because you can’t undo every edit through Photoshop; so, edit in a non-destructive way – always leave a possibility to go back. You can move them up and down to bring things backward and forward, create a creative and corrective adjustment to each layer alone, hide or reveal them by pressing the eye next to each layer, and delete them. You won’t regret it, so layer up!

Adjustment Layers

The bottom part of your layer panel has many options you can use to edit photos in Photoshop, including adjustment layers. The round icon cut in half is the adjustment layer you need, or you can go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer.  This layer will sit on top of the other layer like a mask you can modify and adjust; everything you do on this layer will appear on the layer below. It just makes it easier to delete/hide the adjustment layer if you want to remove the edits you made. It’s also perfect for practicing and experimenting.

Use Masks

Masks are a way to adjust sections of your photo while protecting other selected pixels from your edits. The white square in the bottom of the layer panel is the mask layer, or go to Layer > Mask Layer. The black part appears as the inactive pixels that can not be affected by adjustment layer modifications. White is the active pixels you can adjust.

Dodge & Burn Portions

The dodge and burn tools are the best tools you can use to make certain parts of your images lighter or darker without playing with exposure, highlights, or shadows. You just select the toolbar’s icon (it looks like a filled-out magnifying glass) and aim for the shadows or highlight. This way, you can spot-modify! To access the burn tool, right-click the dodge tool, and select burn. Many tools are hidden under the devices in the toolbox, so it’s great to discover on your own too!

Content-Aware for Unwanted Objects

It’s not out of the ordinary to find lots of unwanted objects in your photos! The best way to do that is by using the content-aware option in Photoshop. Select the area that includes the unwanted item, right-click, and press Fill. Now you’re in the content-aware panel that fills up this area with the content it finds most appropriate. 

More Tips to Help Edit Photos in Photoshop

So, what makes your picture stand out from all the other images that are shared every day? This is why you have to figure out what would attract people most to your pictures. This is what you could do to edit photos in Photoshop in a way that attracts people to your work. A perfect picture is the most incredible balance between composition, lighting, colors, and tones. 

Light it up!

When you decide to post a picture on social media platforms, edit photos for a client, or some personal self-development, you have to make sure that your image is perfectly lit! Lighting is the most essential aspect to bring out the critical features in any photograph. If your image has low lighting from the start, it’s pretty tricky to fix it. Natural or artificial lighting in photoshoots is always advised to come up with beautiful photos and make editing a lot easier.

Use Defined Shapes and Colors

Always go for focused elements that appear to be defined in your images to draw your audience’s attention to your photos. We are human beings, and we are naturally attracted to defined shapes and colors. Anything that seems blurry or dull will just blend with the background. Play with your photo’s colors to bring out your image’s emotional aspect, let yourself and your identity show through, and, most importantly, always focus on your image’s main element.

Align All Elements

To enhance your pictures’ composition, you have to make sure all your elements are aligned and find your photo’s perfect midpoint. This makes sure that all the aspects of your photograph receive the amount of attention they deserve. The composition enhances your image’s overall message and perspective and highlights everything you want people to see. 

Focus on the Details

If you’re diving into the editing details without taking a step back every now and then, you won’t be able to see the big picture. If you don’t do this, you might risk over-editing and making your image extremely unauthentic. When you edit photos in Photoshop, you should aim to enhance them. But, of course, this depends on your personal preference and editing style. Just make sure you go over the minor details, and use necessary adjustments that could make all the difference. Always compare to the original picture by turning off the layer you are adjusting. This way you can see the difference and decide which you like best.

Filters Are Your Friends!

Photoshop has ways to make your life a little bit easier and help you out with your work – even if you don’t know how to edit photos in Photoshop all that well. There are different preset effects and filters that you can use to attract viewers to your work. You can use creative effects and filters to light-up, enhance, or give your pictures a whole new vibe! Just go to Filter and choose whichever one you like. Go wild with it! You can experiment until you are satisfied.

Quality Over Quantity

It’s not about just getting things over with and finishing editing an image. Edit photos in Photoshop with quality control in mind. Check your lighting, composition, and all the other aspects we mentioned in this guide. That way, you have perfectly edited pictures of the highest quality.

Practice Makes Perfect!

Rome was not built in a day, and being an expert in how you edit photos in Photoshop doesn’t happen overnight! But, with the right amount of practice, you can certainly get there in no time. Keep watching online tutorials about any editing process you feel curious about! Explore all the tools in the toolbox – even the hidden ones. And try out different filters, effects, and presets to edit photos in Photoshop. Choose a picture and compose it in many different ways and see it from a whole new perspective. After you’ve done it a few times, you’ll start to notice that your images are a little cleaner, your lines a little sharper, and your colors a little more vibrant. 

Figuring Your Editing Style

After you’ve developed a deep understanding of image culling and how to edit photos in Photoshop, you can now basically edit your pictures just like a professional. Remember to always keep a copy of your original image before you start editing if you want to start over or make a mistake you can’t undo! You can also start figuring out your editing style that shows through your images. Every image you edit should have a certain vibe or mood representing your own personal brand or identity. It doesn’t show up right at the start, but you can bring yourself into the picture with time. 

When you start experimenting and edit photos in Photoshop, you figure out your style. Let your creativity run wild and see what you come up with; if you don’t like it, you just start again! You do this until you find out what works best for you and what feels right. 

Just make sure you save your work in the format you need, send it out, and start again! Have fun with it! When you edit photos in Photoshop, it’s all about having fun with what you do. Put in your touches in every part of your work, and make sure you feel satisfied with what you come up with! 

More To Explore