5 ways bad Photoshop can ruin your photography

Even the best photographs need a little re-touching here and there, the real trick is doing it without it looking like you have. So how do you avoid those common and unsightly Photoshop errors that leave your shot looking like a shadow of its former self? Read on as we uncover the most common mistakes and ways you can dodge them for good.

Defaulting to CMYK
Now don’t get us wrong—when crafting up designs for print, CMYK is the best colour space to use, but for photography, we’d recommend RGB every time. To avoid the disappointment that CMYK printed photographs bring, save your shots using an sRGB or Adobe RGB colour space after you’ve finished editing them.

Retouch overload

Keep it natural 

We don’t need to tell you that it’s sometimes the flaws in an image that make it interesting. Whether you’re retouching a model’s face or neatening up a landscape, it’s important to remember that making an image too ‘perfect’ can be counterproductive.

‘Desaturate’ to convert black and white images

Keep the lustre 

This is one of the oldest quick fixes in the book: using the Desaturate tool to drain all the colour from an image until only black and white remain. Although this is one way to achieve the look, it can leave your images flat and lifeless.

Instead of using Desaturate, try selecting monochrome in Channel Mixer (Image > Adjustments > Channel Mixer). You’ll be able to adjust the levels of red, green and blue until you get the look you want, without losing any of the lustre.

Sharpening to correct the focus


Keep it sharp 

Tempting as it may be to use sharpening to fix an out of focus image; you’re more likely to create new anomalies that will ruin the quality of the shot. There’s only one real fix for an image that appears out of focus: go back to basics. Check your camera settings and assess how you hold it when you take shots.


Keep it wide 

If there’s one fast road to limiting yourself and your photography, excessive cropping is it. We recommend not cropping your image until you know how it’s going to be displayed, so you’ve got ultimate artistic control.

Have you ever committed one of these Photoshop sins or have any tips for those who have? Leave a comment in the box below and share your story.


Simon Gosney
03 Dec 2014 12:59
Re "defaulting to CMYK", this is of particular interest to me as I'm just about to order some cards! Normally I use ProPhoto RGB as my colour space, but understand that I need to convert the image to CMYK in PS before exporting and importing into Illustrator.

Presumably best practice is for me to do that as the last step in my PS workflow, then move on to Illustrator? Or would you leave Illustrator set to CMYK but the imported images in, say, sRGB?
Abi Bousfield
03 Dec 2014 14:06
We would recommend converting to CMYK in Photoshop before exporting or importing into another program.
At least this way they will see the difference the colour conversion has made on their screen themselves before anything else happens, and make any adjustments if necessary.

CMYK images will generally look more ‘muted’ than RGB images because of the differences in their colour ranges, so expect this after converting.
RGB is generally for displays or screens which emit light so will look much brighter.
CMYK is used for print on paper which absorbs light so it will not be as bright and colourful.

If an RGB image is imported into Illustrator, even though the Illustrator program may be using a CMYK workspace, that image will still retain its native colour space (RGB)
The entire file would then be converted to CMYK when it hits our file processing system.
This means the image printed would look different from what they were viewing in Photoshop and Illustrator and could give an unexpected result.
Simon Gosney
03 Dec 2014 14:17
That's really helpful, thanks for confirming my understanding.
Chris Gibson
08 Dec 2014 11:41
I have only recently started using CMYK mode for printed goods. So any hints and tips especially from the point of view of a printer are always of interest. I am eagerly awaiting my first test batch of postcards from you this week.
08 Dec 2014 16:22
so true..
Daisy Gilmour
10 Dec 2014 11:44
Some great tips!
Alex Wilkie
17 Dec 2014 11:04
great advice thanks
22 Apr 2016 20:40
Useful what you say about RGB/CMYK images, info I have to keep reminding myself about when sending things for print.
Bryony Bishop
24 Apr 2017 14:00
There's also the people that try to photoshop elements out but haven't quite got the finesse yet and it just ends up looking very peculiar!

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