How to photoshop site photos to be more dynamic

When you’re proposing an architectural design to a tutor or client you often show photos of the design or the location. These sell the idea and strengthen your work. Sometimes the site visit doesn’t go to plan and the day you take photos it is raining and stormy and horrible. The photos turn out dull and then you present these to your client or tutor and they question why you designed anything at all!

We all edit and curate our photos and what we present to an audience. Social media is an excellent example of how photo editing and curation have taken what we present to a new level. This “how to” guide walks you through the photoshop process to get your final photos looking presentable and gives you a couple of tricks to make photoshop quicker and easier to use.

Open the photoshop application on your Mac/PC.

This requires Adobe Creative Cloud or a copy of Photoshop installed on your computer.

Create a new artboard by clicking on the button that says “Create New…”.

You want to create a artboard which is the biggest size you will need, as photoshop works with raster files, it will inevitably reduce your photo quality if you are reducing the artboard dimensions or the ppi (pixels per inch) value. Recommended settings:

Open the image file you wish to edit.

Navigate to “File” in the top navigation bar, then click “Open…” or use the shortcut “command + O”.

You then get a new window with your image in it. Drag this out from the tab selection at the top and position it somewhere on your screen.

Unlock the image layer by clicking the lock symbol.

This is shown with the red circle below.

Next you want to duplicate the layer by right-clicking on the layer.

This will keep the quality and size of the image when copying it. Select the option “Duplicate Layer..” from the options.

Put the layer onto the artboard document we created earlier.

This is an option under the Destination section, drop down “Document:” You can check the name of your original document by checking the tab list above the artboard.

You can then delete the windowed image as you now have it in your original artboard document as a new layer.

Next, we want to start to edit the image. To begin, it is recommended to use the existing auto image settings.

Find “Image” in the navigation menus, then click “Auto Tone”, then click “Auto Contrast” and finally (optional) click “Auto Color”.

The auto tone and auto contrast settings are usually really useful. However often the auto color can take away from the warm feeling of an image. This is not favoured with this specific image as warmth and welcoming feelings are important. Recommendation: Click it and see how it changes, then “command + Z” to undo.

For further control over the brightness/contrast you can open manual adjustments.

These are useful as they allow you to have full control over the look you desire. In the navigation menu click “Image” then “Adjustments” then “Brightness/Contrast…”.

The “Brightness/Contrast..” button will bring up this text field. Using a higher value for the brightness brings more sunlight into your image. Brightness controls the overall light, changing the image as a whole, this can make the image look washed out if you are not careful. The contrast control makes the image more vibrant, be careful with this setting, too much contrast can make an image look artificial.

For the next step it is suggested you create a new layer for these adjustments so you can turn them off and on.

This is done by clicking the “new fill or adjustment layer” button. It looks like this: 

Then select the “Hue/Saturation...” option to create the layer.

These are the master controls: Play around with these until you have your desired image. Hue is a dangerous one as it completely changes all the colours used in the image. The saturation and lightness controls work similar to brightness and contrast.

If you want to take the image further I suggest fixing it up using the “spot healing brush” tool.

This is shown highlighted in the red circle.

Select the section you want to remove and drag the brush over it. You can click the brush if you want to just remove small spots. Change the brush size by pressing either “[“ or “]”. This increases and decreases the brush size, you want the brush just big enough to cover the desired spot, not too large as it uses the image pixels around it to fill it in.

Finally, you should end up with an image which is presentable and communicates the space confidently. This is ideal for bringing life to your site photos in a presentation and brings up the quality of your work. Before you export, crop the image down using this tool (highlighted in the red circle):

The crop marks should automatically lock to the frame of the photo when you drag them towards the edges of your image. When it looks like the image below, hit the “enter” or “return” key.

Right click on any layer and then “merge visible”.

This will create a complete and flat image, saving space and saving your adjustments to the image layer.

To finalise and export the image click “File” and then “Export” followed by “Export As…”.

This allows you to select PNG or JPEG. Suggest you pick JPEG if you are unsure as it is a dynamic and a commonly used format.

This will bring up this dialog window. Setting should look like this however the image size may differ depending on your existing photograph. Leave this as the default photoshop sets up for you. Make sure you select PNG or JPEG before clicking “Export All…”. Then select the file destination and save.

The image is complete.

To show the process below is the before editing image (left) and an image of the finished product (right).

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