You have downloaded images from your camera to your computer, and now you would like to prepare those images either for monitor display or for printing. The following tutorial is meant to be an introduction for the novice. The actual settings and option vary depending on the photo editing software. The basics described in this tutorial apply however to amu photo editing software.
OPENING THE ORIGINAL FILE
The original file is a JPG image (RAW is for advanced users and will be addressed seperately). Open this JPG file in your photo editing software. Save this file right away as a TIFF or PSD file. Do not edit the JPG file and do not go "SAVE." If you do that, you replace your original JPG file irretrievably. Edit only the TIFF or PSD file.
When you open an image file, your photo editing software may prompt you about the Embedded Profile and the Working Space not matching. When that happens, always choose "Use Embedded Profile." Do not assign profiles and do not convert color spaces. Your photo editing software is clever enough to convert between color profiles, which means you will see the colors properly displayed.
Always use the original PSD file if you have to scale an image (new size). Do not use the already sized JPG files that I may have supplied. Scaling JPG files and saving JPG files repeatedly degrades the image quality.
1. OPTIMIZING THE IMAGE
Learn to use ADJUSTMENT LAYERS. You may edit these layers all you want and the underlying background images will remain intact. Using Adjustment Layers means non-destructive editing. The three basic Adjustment Layers that you will mostly use are:
CURVES: adjust image contrast and tonality (Use LUMINOSITY mode instead of NORMAL mode)
COLOR BALANCE: adjust the color to your liking
SATURATION: adjust color saturation
Adjusting curves means adjusting the tone curve. This is the same as adjusting brightness and contrast, but it allows much finer control, since you can see the tone curve.
First you add a New Adjustment Layer --> Curves. Note the new layer called Curves 1 in the Layers dialog box. Double-click the curves icon and the Curves dialog box will appear. You will see a baseline, which is the diagonal that goes from the left bottoom to the right top in the curves dialog diagram. The left bottom represent the shadows, the right top represent the highlights. You can modify the tone curve by clicking on the baseline and creating anchor points that you may drag. Experiment and find out how to modify brightness and contrast of your image. You can remove anchor points by clicking on them and then dragging them outside the diagram box.
2. COLOR BALANCE
Color balance allows you to adjust the color in your image and to get rid of color hues.
Create a New Adjustment Layer --> Color Balance. Note the new layer called Color Balance 1 in the Layers dialog box. Double-click the color balance icon and the Color Balance dialog box pops up. You will see three color sliders and three buttons that allow you to adjust shadows, midtones, and highlights independantly.
We use RGB (Red Green Blue) to adjust colors. We make an image more or less red, green, or blue.
For example, if the white clouds in your image look red, drag the Cyan-to-Red slider towards cyan. Cyan means "less red." If a shadow is too blue, make it less blue by moving the slider towards "yellow." Yellow means "Less blue.
Create a New Adjustment Layer --> Hue/Saturation. Note the new layer called Hue/Saturation 1 in the Layers dialog box. Double-click the hue/saturation icon and the Hue/Saturationdialog box pops up. You will see three sliders. I suggest you use only the saturation slider. If you have properly adjusted the color balance as outlined in the previous ste, you don't need to mess with the hue setting. You may also ignore the lightness option, because you have already tweaked your images tonality when you were adjusting Curves in the beginning.
If you are editing an ou-of camera JPG image (even though it is now a TIFF ot PSD file), saturation may already be high enough. Most cameras tend to produce fairly saturated images that appeal to many people. If you are working n an image that has been derived from a RAW file, you will likely have to add a little saturation, as RAW files tend to have a bit more muted colors when compared to out-of-camera JPG images.
Image saturation is to a large degree a matter of taste. More does not necessarily mean better.
Once you have adjusted your image to your liking you may "SAVE" the image. All the settings you have changed can be edited. Adjustment Layers can also be deleted. The original image (background layer) remains intact. If you have for any reason edited the original image (Background Layer), you must "SAVE AS" and create a new file and file name.
Next you should read the tutorials that deal with color spaces, sizing (scaling and resampling), sharpening, and how to sace for Web and printing.