Three Photoshop gems photographers will love

I can’t believe a year has passed since I was speaking about some of my favourite Photoshop features at the 2015 Photography Show. As well as the headline grabbing features I also showed a few of Photoshop’s lesser known tweaks and enhancements, in other words, things that photographers may have overlooked.

With this year’s Photography Show right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to see what’s new. So here are three of my favourite Photoshop hidden gems from the past year that I’ll be demoing at the Adobe Theatre during The Photography Show 2016.

Perfect Panoramas

I love shooting multi image panoramic images and I guess I’m not alone because there’s been a couple of new features in Photoshop that make creating panos a whole lot easier. The headline feature is the ability to create panoramas inside Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom and great as that is, it’s not the feature I’m pointing you towards.

Most of my panoramas are shot handheld which is very convenient but almost always leads to transparent gaps around the edges. Some years back we got a great fix for that in the shape of Content Aware Fill but it’s a bit fiddly to use and often got ignored. Now I can choose to automatically fill in the transparent edges BEFORE the images are even stitched and it’s as easy as ticking a box.

Transparent edges on the panorama shot before stitching

The process is really simple, click File – Automate – Photomerge as usual. After taking a moment to admire the new blue and grey design, take a closer look at the check boxes at the bottom. You’ll spot a new option to Content Aware Fill Transparent Areas, tick it and create your pano as normal. At the end of the stitching you’ll get the usual layers and masks but now the top layer will be a merged pano with content aware fill already applied.

The Photomerge tool, with the Content Aware Fill Transparent Areas option

The final panorama image

Customise the tool bar
I’m a photographer and I use Photoshop to create and adjust my photos. Much as I’d love to say otherwise, I’m really not a graphic designer, 3D artist or a typographer and as such I’ve removed the panels that relate to those areas from my workspace. That really tidies up the right side of my screen but the Tool Bar on the left has always been untouchable… until now.

At long last I can customise my tool bar and all I had to do was click Edit – Toolbar. So it’s bye bye to the Path Selection tools, so long Type Mask tools and the Paint Bucket tool can really kick the bucket.

Customised Toolbar editing

However I can also promote some tools that are hidden in groups such as the Patch Tool and Magic Wand Tool which can now have their own place on my custom toolbar. Of course the day might come when I might actually need the single column marquee tool and when it does all I have to do is click on last tool bar on the list (or the three little dots) and I’ll can find all the extra tools there.

Oil paint

As well as not being a graphic designer or 3D artist I can add painter to that list. Unlike the others, I’m not a painter for the simple reason that I really can’t paint or even draw anything that looks even vaguely like I hoped. Trust me, I’ve tried.

That’s why I was really sad to see the oil paint filter disappear from Photoshop a while back and even happier to see it return very recently.

Like most filters the result you get from Oil Paint depends on a number of factors but the best images to use tend to have plenty of detail. You can use the filter on any image and you can run it as a smart filter but I find the best way to use the Oil Paint Filter is to start by making a duplicate layer and applying the filter by clicking Filter – Stylise – Oil Paint.

The Oil Paint filter tool in action

Before Oil Paint editing

I like to make it obvious that I’ve applied an effect so I set both the Stylisation and Cleanliness to their maximum and switched off Lighting. I then go back to the original layer and apply the Oil Paint filter a second time but with much lower settings. The final effect comes together by using a layer mask on the upper layer to reveal finer detail such as the face from the less filtered layer below.

After Oil Paint editing – the final image

And there’s more…
These are just three of the hidden gems in Photoshop CC for photographers and there’s plenty more I could and will talk about. If you’re coming along to The Photography Show 2016, make sure a visit to the Adobe Theatre is on your list.
The Photography Show 2016 is taking place from March 19-22, so if you haven’t already, register here. You can get £3 adult tickets using the code ADOTPS16 until 16 March.