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8 Basic Photoshop Adjustments Beginners Need To Understand

Posted on April 09, 2019 - By Kurt Walker
8 Basic Photoshop Adjustments Beginners Need To Understand
8 Basic Photoshop Adjustments Beginners Need To Understand
For this article, we're going to look at some of the ways you can work on RAW files to make them better. But first, before we get there, let's take a moment to understand what RAW files are and why they need to be adjusted in the first place.

I have a friend who is a HR Software at that has an intense industry in photography and taught himself Photoshop. He feels like there are basics any beginner can understand and work with that can give them a springboard to the rest of Photoshop. According to him, the best place to start is with RAW files.

When you take photos with your camera, it doesn't process everything. RAW files, for example, are not processed by your camera at all. Basically, what you have on your hands is a lot of data which you can work with. The fact that they're called RAW files means you can pretty much think of them as raw materials that you can process by yourself to suit whatever purpose you wish. In the world of technology, it is all about size. The larger the data file you're dealing with, the more choices at your disposal for processing it.

In order to open your RAW files in Photoshop, you will have to use Adobe Camera Raw. Once you're in you should be able to make a number of adjustments to your photo. There are at least 8 easy adjustments you will find under the layers panel that will help you work on the original image.

The Contrast

Your picture will naturally have light areas and dark areas. It is entirely possible to control how these areas relate to each other using the contrast tool. When you use a lower contrast setting the two areas, light and dark, end up having very little distinction between them and tend to look the same. When you use a higher contrast setting, the two areas become very distinct and will be visibly separate. Meanwhile, the ratio between them will be maintained. They have some great articles on how to use contrast to enhance your image.

The Exposure

How bright is the photo? Did you know that it is entirely under your control to adjust the brightness of a picture? This is actually a great place to start as you edit your picture. It sets the overall tone of the picture and gives you a sense of direction as you apply the other edits.

The Highlights

Highlights are a very specific kind of effect in that they only affect the lighter parts of your photo. The darker areas of your photo won't be touched by the editing. This is a useful tool when you want the lighter areas of your photo, in particular, to stand out.

The Shadows

The shadows are the exact opposite of the lights and so this tool does the exact opposite of what the highlighting tool does. It allows you to edit the darker areas of your photo. This is a great tool when you want to make your picture more dynamic by controlling the shadows.

The Whites

The highlighting tool is a great tool for controlling the lighter areas of your photo. However, the main problem with it is that it affects all of the light areas of your picture regardless of their place on the spectrum of colors. You also need finer control over the colors in the highest spectrum. These are known as the whites and they can really add some dynamism and brightness to your photo. That's what this tool allows you to do: edit them with finer control so you control how the brightest portions of your picture look.

The Blacks

This is basically the opposite of the tool that deals with the whites. While the whites tool deals with the lighter colors on the spectrum, the blacks tool deals with only the blacks in your picture. In that sense, at least, it's true to name. It is, in fact, the most true to name tool in this list. This tool allows you to have some fine control over the black aspects of your picture, even going so far as to allow you to add black to a picture that didn't have black to begin with.

The Clarity

We've only been looking at colors so far and how they relate to each other. However, you will also want to control the details of the photo and how clearly they are portrayed. This is where the clarity aspect comes in. With this tool, you can affect the textures of the photo and how they contrast against each other. It's a great tool for experimenting.

The Saturation/Hue

This tool allows you to affect all of the colors in our image on an equal footing. You basically control how rich the colors appear. You should be careful with this tool since it will affect all the colors and colors that are already rich by default will end up seeming unbelievable.


The potential of Photoshop is truly unparalleled. It's all a matter of being curious enough to explore what you can and dedicated enough to follow the rabbit hole wherever it leads. You will find it a rewarding journey with lots of beautiful destinations on the way. You can also learn more about Photoshop from the tutorials on and

Kurt Walker has been the director of research at besttermpaper for 3 years. He writes at and doubles as consultant at EssayMama. Kurt is a well-known journalist whose area of interest covers productivity, education, technologies and inspiration.


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