Editing product photos in Photoshop can be a total pain! Wouldn’t we all like to be the Picasso of product photography? I know I would. Some of us know what it takes to get a great photo but place, time, or equipment don’t permit and others are still novice photographers learning about the camera settings, studio lighting, backdrops, angles, etc…. The list could go on and on. If you want your store to look professional and your products to stand out against competitors, editing your product photos is a necessary evil.
The Photoshop tutorial below includes 3 quick and simple techniques for product photography – editing your levels, hue/saturation, and brightness for light, bright, eye-catching and true to color product images so your items stand out to shoppers.
For this tutorial, I am using Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 (Windows version). I highly recommend Photoshop. If you don’t have access to Photoshop, there is a 30 day free trial available from Adobe. Adobe Photoshop CC including Lightroom is only $9.99 a month – well worth it.
Editing Product Photos in Photoshop
Skill Level: Beginner
I also recorded a video tutorial in addition to the written tutorial below in case you learn better by seeing it in action.
Let me first start off by saying NOTHING will fix an out of focus, super grainy, horrible picture. If this describes your product photos, STOP right here and start again. Change it up and see if you can fix the issues. Starting out with the a decent picture will save you loads of time. Time is money!
Editing Product Photos in Photoshop Step 1: Adjusting Photoshop Levels
Open Photoshop. Then open the image file by going to File > Open (or Ctrl/Cmd+O). Once open, the first thing to do is to adjust Levels. To keep it simple and quick, we use the Levels adjustment in Photoshop to brighten up dark product images or darken bright product images.
Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels. Make sure the Preview checkbox is clicked so changes to the image can be monitored. Under the Input Levels Histogram, there are three triangle sliders. The three sliders control the shadows, midtones, and highlights. Making an educated guess, most product images will be underexposed rather than overexposed. Low light issues definitely are more common.
For this, use the far right slider (for too bright photos, use the far left). Left click and drag it back on the histogram as far as you wish looking at the preview image. Personally, I normally move it back to where the histogram levels start rising. When happy with the level adjustment, left click Ok.
Depending on the product image, you may be able to stop here. If the colors aren’t quite right or they still needs some brightness, move on to step 2 & 3.
Editing Product Photos in Photoshop Step 2: Adjusting Hue and Saturation
Sometimes colors just will not photograph correctly. As I had mentioned in another blog post, I have real problems getting purples and some blues to photograph true to color which is definitely a problem. If the light isn’t quite right, colors can look washed out or a different shade compared to real life. Product images should look as true to the actual product as possible. A quick & basic color correction tool in Photoshop is to adjust hue and saturation.
With the product photo still open, click Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. On the pop-up menu, make sure the preview checkbox is checked. There is a drop-down box to select either Master(the entire array of colors) or you can choose a single shade to isolate and make changes. With a selection made from the drop-down, start with the triangle slider under Hue and move it either right or left to the desired hue change.
In this same menu, the saturation (or desaturation) of the product image is done. Use the triangle slider again to make the desired change. I would caution about taking the saturation too high as the colors can begin to look really fake.
If that hasn’t corrected color and a single color needs to be isolated for changes, this can be done now without leaving the menu by changing the drop-down selection. The previous hue/saturation adjustments will not be lost. Once you’re happy with the color correction, click Ok.
Editing Product Photos in Photoshop Step 3: Brightness
One last thing might be necessary especially if the product photo was too dark, the brightness may still need to be adjusted. Bright images garner much greater attention to shoppers than dark ones – they pop off the page. In the video, I gave an example of a set of paint brushes I sell.
I had just gotten in a new order of some paint brushes but the barrel color was slightly different so I had to take new photos. Updated the Etsy listing with new pictures and there they sat with NO SALES! This had been one of my best sellers but I had a decent amount of competition and chalked it up to that. When a month went by still without sales, I did some investigating and noticed that my original product image was really bright and popped and the new one just looked “normal”. I then took the new photo I had listed and all I did was adjust brightness, updated the listing, and waited. The sales started rolling in quickly after that. In a sea of other like items, the product image was more eye-catching.
To adjust Brightness with the same product photo open, click Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast. Here is a similar menu to the previous ones. Again, make sure the preview checkbox is selected and move the triangle slider right (or left) on the Brightness bar to a level where the product image looks best and then take it just a bit further. Don’t wash out your image – just give it a POP!
Editing Product Photos in Photoshop Alternative: Adjustment Layers
Above was the simplest way to accomplish editing product photos – It’s the way I do them. The changes are made directly to the photo. I keep backup picture files of all the raw images, so editing directly on the photo isn’t an issue for me. Often there are times keeping the original photo intact is required. Adjustment layers are the easy answer.
When creating an adjustment layer, it adds a layer in the layers panel with the change made. If five adjustment layers are there but one adjustment is no longer needed – it can be deleted by removing the layer from the layers panel without deleting or messing up any of the other adjusted items.
To create an adjustment layer, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Select the Desired Adjustment. A menu will pop up asking for a name and other pertinent choices depending on the adjustment selected. Click Ok. A second menu will show most likely on the right side of Photoshop where the selected adjustment can be made. Make the necessary changes.
On the Layers panel, the new adjustment layer is listed. To continue to make changes to that layer, double-click the layer thumbnail. To delete the layer, with the layer selected click the trash can icon in the bottom right corner of the Layers panel or drag the layer to the trash can. Continue adding adjustment layers until the product image is perfecto!
It takes a bit of practice but literally will only take a minute or less to edit a product photo in Photoshop. To see it in action, consider checking out the video above or you can watch directly on Youtube.
Interested in making the process go quicker? Click the box below the video to get a Photoshop keyboard shortcut cheat sheet and find out how to customize Photoshop keyboard shortcuts yourself.