Photoshop is an incredible tool for photographers in the digital age. We lighten, brighten, darken, and otherwise change photographs in ways that are only limited by our imagination. We make a dreary day look like a bright day, remove strangers that wandered into the frame of our picture, and add Uncle Larry to the family picture when he couldn’t make the reunion due to illness. And we might even remove Aunt Gladys if she had been especially grumpy and ruined the day.
But with all of its power comes a tremendous learning curve, and to beginners, Photoshop can be intimidating. So we've done the work to find 11 Beginner Tutorials for Learning Photoshop Quickly that you can use to get over the learning curve and be productive and efficient.
When I began my journey in learning Photoshop, I had no hesitation. I made a career out of technology and could write code with the best of them. What was the problem? I quickly became humbled, and I found it wasn’t one of those programs I could just fumble my way through. So what was I to do?
Thankfully, today we have so many online resources that makes learning Photoshop easier than it was. But how to get started? If you go to Google and type “Photoshop Tutorials”, you get just shy of 23 million results (and no, I’m not kidding). If you add the words “for beginners” to that query, you cut it down a bit to just over 10 million. That still isn’t much help.
But we did the searching for you, and also used our general knowledge of photography and what we regularly do to pictures to bring you 11 sites where you can go to get up to speed. In some cases the sites we will be describing might be redundant to one another. We did that deliberately as there are different trainers and different presentation styles and sometimes we might learn better from one trainer or presentation style than another. We provided links to some general Photoshop for Beginners websites that provide a broad view of the product to get you oriented, and then also some very focused sites on topics like Layers or Removing a Person so that if you want to go right to a single topic like that, you can do so without yawning through 40 minutes of stuff that you already know.
So let’s get at it! The title of each tutorial is a hyperlink. You can just click to go to the website.
If you want to go to one spot to get it all, look no further than our own Jim Harmer. Improve Photography Plus members can access this site with five major modules: Camera Raw, Photoshop Tools, Retouching for Stunning Portraits, Photoshop for Jaw-Dropping Landscapes, and Prepping your Photos for the Web or Print. I recommend getting your two weeks free trial of Improve Photography Plus and take this course.
Those of you who listen to the Improve Photography podcasts (and if you don’t, you should), know that Jim has a pleasant-sounding voice, and explains things well. This video series capitalizes on that and also has a few other benefits. To begin with, this is a beginner tutorial but it is also pretty comprehensive. Each of the major modules is broken down into units with a total of 31 units across the five modules. So if you want to tackle a particular topic, you can just go right to a particular module which is focused on what you want to learn. The other thing I like is that every module can be downloaded and viewed offline. So if you are stuck for many hours on a plane to Europe, or Asia or wherever you travel, you can take all your videos with you and watch them. This may be the most complete of the “one stop shop” courses you can find.
This video tutorial is by Terry White, a Principal Worldwide Design & Photography Evangelist at Adobe. Terry has websites, Youtube channels, and presence on many social media sites where he shares his knowledge of Adobe products at no charge. Terry has a smooth voice and a terrific speaking style, and in about 45 minutes, he provides a grand tour to get you started on all of the basics. The topics he covers include:
- Wacom tablets as an input device
- A little bit about Bridge including navigation
- Touching up a photo of a person to eliminate facial blemishes and then using the liquefy tool to add or improve a smile
- Basics about layers
- Adjustment layers
- Camera RAW adjustments for white balance, exposure, saturation, etc.
- Content aware fill to remove objects in a photo
- A couple of selection tools
- Move an object in an image (Content Aware Move Tool) and free transform (powerful)
- Swapping backgrounds and adding text to an image
- Saving photos including some of the more popular options available to you
If you enjoy Terry and his style of teaching, you might want to then look at this next pick..
As a sort of follow-up to Terry White’s introduction (above, #2), he began a learning stream of 10 videos focused on various aspects of Photoshop. I’ve made this first one the main topic, but listed all the additional topics below and linked them for your convenience. The topics are:
- The interface
- The 10 Most Used Tools
- All About Layers
- Adobe Camera Raw Filter
- Swapping Backgrounds
- Working with Type
- Working Non-Destructively
- Cropping & Resizing Images
- Exporting for Web & Print
I think I was drawn to this site because it was by “Vandelay Design.” Those of you that are Seinfeld fans will recognize the fictitious character that George Costanza used to masquerade as an architect.
This site takes a little bit of a different approach in that as you scroll down the page, there are introductions to all sorts of topics, and then links to either videos or text (illustrated with pictures or screenshots) that have a tutorial. In some topics, such as layers or masking, the primary link takes you to a page that has a plethora of links to tutorials on the topic, not necessarily by the same author.
While not all of these tutorials are by the same author, in my sampling they were all quite professional and well done with good production values. On the main page you would find links to most of the major topics you would want to cover, and some topics not often seen elsewhere in a beginner tutorial. The topics are too numerous to list, but some of the topics they have that some other beginner sites don’t have are tutorials on Customizing Photoshop, Photoshop Styles, installing and using Brushes, the Pen tool, Transform, and on and on. Lots there and it is pretty good quality, though the lack of a consistent presenter or style may not fit some people well.
Of course, Adobe itself has loads of tutorials and there are a few I will point out as very important for beginners. Layers in particular is one of the most fundamental of Photoshop’s capabilities and also the key to its power and flexibility. It is a topic that many have trouble grasping when they first get started. This set of tutorials does an excellent job at giving you a foundation on layers in about 20 minutes, and also provides sample files you can use to practice yourself. The tutorials are broken into a series of lessons at less than 5 minutes each.
Adjusting the image quality is something we all do on any image of importance and this 16 minutes of video tutorials from Adobe takes you through many key topics including:
- Adjusting brightness and contrast
- Adjust color vibrance
- Adjust hue and saturation
- Learn about adjustment layers
As with the prior Adobe tutorials, each of these topics is covered in less than five minutes each.
This is also an Adobe set of tutorials and it takes about 14 minutes to get through the three modules on selections. Unless you only want to adjust an overall image, selections will become very important to you in terms of deleting an object or person, replacing a background or sky, selectively adjusting image color, brightness, etc. This site will take you through all of the basics.
This article by Nathan Goldberg on improvephotography.com does not require an Improve Photography Plus membership and is a must for anyone that wants to remove a lot of people from a picture of a tourist attraction. And who among us has not arrived at a famous landmark only to find dozens of people swarming around in that
picture we were so hoping to take. Nathan neatly describes how to take multiple pictures of a site at different times and then use image stacking and Photoshop capabilities to remove all of the people in one step. There are other ways to remove people, but if there are a lot of people, this is very neat. His article is well written with screen shots and sample pictures to make it easy to follow.
For those of you with an IP+ subscription, this is a REAL treat. I was at my first airshow this past summer (don’t know why it took me so long to get to an airshow) and the famed Blue Angels were flying. I was ready with my D500 and a 300mm lens. I had extra cards, extra batteries, and my camera set to do about 6 fps. I got home and raced to my computer to find I had taken great pictures with one of the ugliest skies I could have imagined. The sky was just white in the background and it sure took away from the pictures. Everything looked flat and dull – until I replaced the sky!
In this tutorial, Nick Page not only explains how to replace a sky, but he provides 20 RAW files of sky backgrounds that you can download and use. Now that might sound trivial until you actually go to replace a sky. Each scene calls for a certain type of sky. It isn’t one size fits all. So Nick gives you a whole bunch of skies, and also even talks about how to adjust the skies. All in all, there are seven videos. And those of you who listen to Nick on the podcast know that he has a wealth of knowledge to share.
This article might not normally be listed among the beginner tutorials, but filters are not complex and a little can go a long way. This is an article that isn’t long, but very effectively, professionally and simply explains filters with photos showing the impact of a filter. If you haven’t discovered filters yet, a few minutes with the piece will be worth your while.
I have to confess that this last article I'm listing isn’t at all a beginner tutorial. In fact, it isn’t even a tutorial, but I think it is a good thing for beginners to read. In this article, Kirk Nelson explains more about WHAT you need to pay attention to as opposed to HOW you do it. He talks about resolution, light and shadow, perspective, texture, and so on. I liken it in photography to the difference between how to take a correctly exposed shot and describing the importance of good composition. We can learn a lot about our cameras, but if we don’t know what picture to take, what good is it.
So as you spend a lot of time learning the ins and outs of Photoshop, and adjusting your photos, think about this last article as one that will help you take better pictures, and perhaps even turn them into art!!