Skip to main content

147 photography tips, video tutorials and techniques to take photos of anything

Tip 121. Streamline your layers

If you’ve used a lot of layers, you may find yourself scrolling up and down to find the appropriate one. 

To get more of them on-screen and avoid wasting time scrolling, click on the flyout menu at the top right, select Panel Options and reduce Thumbnail Size to the smallest option. 

In cases where you have a lot of layers, you can also pick None to show no thumbnails in the panel at all. Click this and you’ll return to your starting point without having to exit the palette and reopen it.

Tip 122. Fill with colour the quick way

To flood-fill a layer or selection with your foreground colour, press Alt+Backspace. Use Ctrl/Cmd +Backspace to fill with the background colour.

Tip 123. Check your colours will print

Not all colours captured by a camera can be printed, as a mix of CMYK inks can’t reproduce the RGB light that created the image. 

To get a good idea of what will or won’t print, press Ctrl/Cmd+Y to view the image in a CMYK preview. You can work on the image in this mode too, so you’re always aware of the colours that are out of range.

Tip 124. Sharpen in style

To sharpen a pic in Lightroom or Camera Raw, go to the Detail panel and set the Amount that gives a crisp result on a detailed, in-focus area on the preview. (Radius and Detail are often fine on their defaults of 1.0 and 25.) 

Now hold Alt and increase Masking until only the edges show in white. This prevents you sharpening areas that don’t need it.

Tip 125. Switch Lasso tools on the fly

When making a selection with the Polygonal Lasso tool, you can quickly switch to the Freehand Lasso by holding the Alt key. 

Draw around your area, and when you release Alt, you’ll be returned to the Polygonal Lasso.

Tip 126. Make new layers without fuss

To create a new layer above the one that’s currently active, press Ctrl/ Cmd+Shift+N and you can give it a name in the dialog box before clicking OK. 

To do it even quicker without a custom name, press Ctrl/ Cmd+Alt+Shift+N.

Tip 127. Build up grads gradually

After applying a Graduated Filter to darken a sky in Lightroom or Camera Raw, use gentle settings at first, then right-click on the Pin and select Duplicate. 

This gives you a second grad and a stronger effect, which you can drag into position and edit further, This is faster than creating new grads from scratch.

Tip 128. Warm up a shot the fast way

To add a swift warm-up effect on a landscape, press Ctrl/Cmd+L to open the Levels palette, and click RGB. 

Select the Red Channel from the list, and move the middle slider a little to the left. 

Now select the Blue channel and move it a little to the right. This creates an amber colour cast to the whole image, giving an instant warm-up effect.

Tip 129. Balance your colours

Colour temperature isn’t fixed in a raw file, and both Lightroom and Camera Raw make it easy to warm up or cool down your shots. 

The best starting point is to pick the appropriate preset (such as Daylight or Cloudy) from the drop-down menu next to White Balance in the Basic panel. Then, you can fine-tune the results to your liking using the Temperature slider. 

Tip 130. Change your mind on filter settings

If you’ve gone too far with a filter effect and want to dial back the settings, press Ctrl/Cmd+Z to undo the filter. 

You’ll see the image return to its pre-filtered state. If you now press Ctrl/Cmd+Alt+F, you’ll bring up the Filter dialog box without having to reselect it. Change the settings and click OK.

Tip 131. Darker edges

To quickly create a vignette around an multi-layered image, click on the top layer in the stack and press Ctrl/Cmd+Alt+Shift+E. 

This will collapse everything visible into a new layer. Now go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter, and select the FX tab. 

Under Post Crop Vignetting, move Amount to the left for a dark vignette, or right for a bright one, and adjust the look with Feather Roundness.

Tip 132. Stay in control of contrast

Curves is an amazing tool that offers the connoisseur’s route to contrast control. With it, you can create an S-curve that darkens lower midtones and brightens upper midtones at the same time. 

Make a Curves Adjustment Layer, then pull the line down at the bottom and push it up at the top.

Tip 133. Zoom smarter

To zoom and out in a smarter way, assign the zoom function to the scroll wheel of your mouse. Go to Edit > Preferences > Tools and tick the Zoom With Scroll Wheel box to enable it.

Tip 134. Control your adjustment layers

If you add an Adjustment Layer, it will affect all the layers beneath it in the Layers stack. 

To make it only affect the layer immediately beneath it, hold Alt and click on the line between the Adjustment Layer and the layer beneath. This ‘clips’ the layer and restricts its effect.

Tip 135. Get help with composition

Call up a little assistance in framing by choosing the right Crop Overlay. Click on the dropdown menu in the Crop tool’s option bar, and you can choose from six different options to get you composing like a pro.

Tip 136. Spot-on selections

When you’re making a selection with a Marquee tool, it can be tricky to be precise with your starting point. 

Start to drag out the selection then immediately hold the spacebar without releasing the mouse. You can now move the starting point  around to get it exactly right before continuing.

Tip 137. Sample a colour - fast!

When you’re painting with the Brush tool and want to switch to a different colour within the image, hold down Alt, click anywhere on the image and the colour will be imported into the foreground colour swatch.

Tip 138. Check your masks

When masking, it’s easy to miss out areas when you’re absorbed in the imaging process. 

To check your mask is well-made and complete, hold Alt and click on the mask thumbnail in the Layers panel. This will show the mask alone, and allow you to paint in any gaps. 

To revert, just Alt-click on it again.

Tip 139. Reset if you fluff it!

If things go wrong when you’re adjusting the settings in a palette and you mess up the image, the obvious bail-out is the Cancel button. This will exit the palette and restore your original pic. 

Instead of doing this, hold Alt and the Cancel will become a Reset button. Click this and you’ll return to your starting point without having to exit the palette and reopen it.

Tip 140. Boost or cut specific colours

Within the HSL panel in Lightroom and Camera Raw, you can radically enhance the colours in a scene by adjusting any of eight individual hues. 

To ramp up the blue in a sky, click on the Saturation tab and increase Blues, then click on Lightness and decrease Blues. To adjust the colour of the sky, use the same slider under the Hue tab.

Tip 141. Benefit from adjustment layers

Because they change data rather than alter pixels, Adjustment Layers are more flexible than pixel-based layers. 

Instead of copying a layer and making changes to it, click the Adjustment Layer icon and select the type you want from the list. You’ll get the same palette, but the changes you make are not permanent. 

To change the settings later, double-click the Adjustment Layer’s thumbnail.

Tip 142. Add mono toning treatments

To apply a single colour tint such as sepia or blue toning to a shot, click on the Adjustment Layer icon in the Layers panel and select Hue/Saturation from the list. 

In the dialog box, tick the Colorize box, then adjust the Hue and Saturation sliders to get the colour and intensity you want.

Tip 143. Copy and move layers quickly

If you’ve placed a cutout on a separate layer and want to use it elsewhere in an image, select the Move tool by pressing V, then hold Alt and drag the mouse. 

This copies the selection to a new layer and positions it wherever you drag it.

Tip 144. Invert your masking errors

When you use layer masks, it’s easy to hide or reveal the wrong part of the image by getting black where you should have white. If this happens, simply click on the mask to make it active, and press Ctrl+I to invert the colours. 

This is much quicker than making the mask correctly from scratch.

Tip 145. Flatten the smart way

To crunch all your visible layers into a single layer, click on the top layer in the stack then press Ctrl/ Cmd+Alt+Shift+E. This merges the image into a new layer. 

Tip 146. See sensor dirt

Smudges of sensor dirt are easy to miss, but if you select the Spot Removal tool in Lightroom or Camera Raw, there’s a great way to see them much more clearly. 

Tick the Visualize Spots box and adjust the slider alongside to see blemishes in low-detail areas like skies. Click on them to clean up.

Tip 147. Split-tone a shot

To split-tone a shot and get highlights and shadows in contrasting colours, go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter and in the HSL/ Greyscale tab, tick the Convert to Grayscale box. 

Now select the Split Toning tab, and adjust the Hue and Saturation sliders for the Highlights and the Shadows to get the colours you want. Use the Balance slider to mix them together. 

Read more: