LESSON 2 – Basic Corrections

CIOS F255 - University of Alaska Fairbanks


Scanned photographs, or photos from a digital camera, often have a color cast and other minor imperfections. Sometimes you’ll be able to recognize the cast:

  • photos taken outdoors in low light (i.e., near dusk) often have a blue tint
  • photos taken indoors in low light often display yellow overtones

Sometimes you won’t recognize any particular color cast, but the entire image will look dull and flat, as if you’re looking through a dirty window. There may be scratches or dust spots or red-eyes that need removal. In this lesson we’ll examine some basic ways to improve the overall quality of your images.

Sometimes the photos we work with have less-than-perfect compositions. Here are some of the common problems that we encounter:

  • background clutter detracts from the main subject of the image
  • image is crooked (tilted camera)
  • subject isn’t framed well

Other times the photography is fine, but life isn’t as perfect as we’d like it to be:

  • blemishes, wrinkles, and other flaws seem so evident in photos
  • messy kitchen counters or unwanted items in the photo reveal the photographer’s poor housekeeping habits

And finally, time is sometimes unkind to photos and we find it necessary to patch or repair old photographs.  Photoshop is loaded with tools for repairing these problems. In fact, photo retouching is one of the things Photoshop is best known for.


At the end of this lesson you should be  able to:

  1. Correct photos using the most common corrective tools and methods for specific repairs
  2. Describe the strengths and limitations of various retouching strategies used in the lesson
  3. Remove unwanted artifacts from an image.
  4. Use the Spot Healing Brush tool to repair part of an image.
  5. Use the content-aware Patch tool to remove or replace objects.
  6. Use the Red Eye Reduction tool to fix eyes.
  7. Use the Clone Stamp tool to touch up areas.
  8. Apply the Smart Sharpen filter to finish retouching photos.
  9. Use Levels Adjustment Layer to brighten an image
  10. Use Curves Adjustment Layer to fix color cast.



The chickenhouse photo is a good example of an image with dull, flat colors, artifacts from bright light source, and red-eye. If you view the histogram for this image (Top Menu -> Window -> Histogram), you’ll see a large concentration in the midtones, without any data recorded at the left or right sides of the histogram.  A great tutorial for delving into understanding levels is available here:  https://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/levels.htm.


Understanding histograms is an important component to adjusting images professionally. In this class, we will just touch on the importance but I encourage you to read more.

As you study the material for this lesson, keep in mind that your assignment will be to correct images like the chicken house image above. We will also be touching up images in this lesson to get rid of distracting elements.

In this image of a baby fawn, the brown spots in the lawn draw attention away from the subject. We can fix this using tools such as content-aware fill, clone stamp tool, and the patch tool.

fawnfawn selection



Levels & Curves

Auto Correct Tools

Note – the video on auto correct is from CS6 but is still relevant!

The Crop Tool

Basic Photo Restoration

Red Eye Reduction Tool

Clone Stamp Tool

This video is the best I’ve found so far on using the Clone Stamp tool. It shows how important it is to zoom in and out and to continuously sample from different areas on the image.


Problem – The area that you’ve sampled does not stay aligned with the area you are cloning it on to.
Solution – Click the ‘Aligned Sample’ button in the tools option panel.

Problem – The brush edges seem too hard or soft.
Solution – Click on the Brush Options in the Clone Stamp Tool Options Panel

Problem – You have adjustment layers that seem to be affecting the cloned area of a lower layer more than the area that is being sampled.
Solution – Click on the Ignore Adjustment Layers button on the Clone Stamp Tool Options Panel.

Problem – You are working on a complex image and want to be able to select multiple areas of the image to source for the Clone Stamp Tool and go back and forth between them.
Solution – Use the Clone Source panel to set (alt/option – click) on the source for each different area. You can set up to 5 different sample points and go between them as you like.

* * *
Huge Time Saver – Use the [  or  ] keys on your keyboard to increase/decrease the brush size when working with the Clone Stamp Tool.




Photoshop has auto correct features, however we will be focusing on doing these corrections ‘by hand’ to better understand how to do specific improvements play a part in the image correction. Play around with the auto-correct features if you like and talk about them in your post on the blog but make sure you also try starting from scratch on another version and do your best to either replicate the auto corrected image or surpass the quality of choices it made!  If you try the auto correct features, how did they work for you?

Download  one of the following images – ‘Chicken House’ or  ‘Driving’ (click on the image to get the full size to work with):

Chicken House  [Clive Birtles at the wheel of the car with the dog, Wowser]

  1. Open the file in Photoshop.
  2. Use the tools and techniques you learned in this lesson to remove the color cast, imperfections, and to make any other adjustments to the image that you feel improve it.
  3. Save your file. The extension should be .psd.
  4. Save another copy as jpg using the Top Menu -> Export -> Save for Web (Legacy) option.


Sometimes we need to fix photos  because there are distracting elements that need to be removed using the Clone Stamp tool and patch tools.  The Clone Stamp tool is an important tool to master and we will use it again in later exercises, for instance it can be used for great affect when combining two images seamlessly. It is tricky to perfect – just remember to zoom in and out and to keep sampling  different areas. Also, try reducing the opacity.

Download  one of  the following images  (Click on image to get the full resolution to download):

Ducks Meetingdsc02745  p1080192

  1. Open in Photoshop and create a new layer. With the new layer selected, use the Clone Stamp tool  to remove the distracting elements. Remember to choose ‘Sample from all Layers’ in the Clone Stamp tool options (see video).
  2. Save your file. The extension should be .psd.
  3. Save another copy as jpg using the Top Menu -> Export -> Save for Web (Legacy) option.


  • Post your .jpg images for Assignment 2 a and b to this website (include both exercises in one post) and tell us which aspects of the images you felt needed improvement and what steps you took to get your results as well as  any challenges you encountered.
  • Remember,  grammar,  punctuation, and capitalization count towards your grade.


Log into Blackboard and take QUIZ #2  located in the Quizzes section.


Comments on other student’s work is encouraged.