New to Photoshop? Need a “Lesson Plan”? Read this Post!




•  Are you brand new to Photoshop?  A total beginner?  Or, are you just digging into the program, and not sure what to do next?  Or, are you having challenges with the “basics”?


•  Do you need guidance – a “Lesson Plan”, if you will – on how to learn Photoshop for Photographers?

If so, read on …

•  Photoshop is indeed a complex program – but as a photographer, you’re only going to need to use 10-15% of the programs’ functionality to achieve your best results, and the rest can pretty much be ignored.


•  Why listen to me?  Here’s a brief bio: –   Bottom line:  if you want the ABSOLUTE BEST output from your files, especially for high-quality digital photographic printing, then I’m your guy.


•  This post is the result of a powerfully simple question from Helen C., shown below.  In my answer, I’ll show you the 3 points integral to the suggested “Lesson Plan”.  If you follow these in the order shown, it’ll greatly assist you in developing a strong foundation in (and working knowledge of) Photoshop.



So, here is the original question:


Hi John,


I’m almost a total beginner at Photoshop, with almost no experience at all.  Where do I start?  Do you have any classes for that ailment ?




Helen C.





And my answer (the 3-point “Lesson Plan”):

Howdy Helen,


Well, hey – – you’ve come to the right place – this is right up my alley – consider this a Photoshop “Lesson Plan” for beginners  🙂



1)  The first thing I’d suggest is to attend my FREE live & online “Photoshop 101” Meetup webinars there are 5 of them total, 1.5 hours each, and we have them every 2 to 3 weeks copious notes are always included. We have photographers attending from all over the nation!


You’ll find even more information about them here: – they’re a systematic plan to help you learn PS properly. Think of these as the “I-just-got-Photoshop-now-what?” seminars – even if you don’t attend them sequentially.


2)  If attending “live” is an issue (OR if you want to watch recordings of past Meetups that you’ve attended), I’ve archived a boatload of free recordings of recent “Photoshop 101” Meetups here (all 5 classes, with links to downloadable notes):


3)  In addition, I also have my blog (which is where you’re reading this).  This is the “educational” website for my business – here, you’ll find answers on specific subjects to “fine-tune” the learning process, learn some of my “philosophies”, and more:




Note that the 3 items mentioned above are ALL “free” …


•  As far as the learning process is concerned, they require effort on YOUR part (hey, nothing worth doing properly is easy, right?)  …


•  BUT, I can still steer you in the right direction (via the Meetups / recordings / blog / email) with suggested “homework”, and so on.  I can keep you focused on the goals of learning this crazy program – think of me as a “Photoshop  Coach” …




Once you’ve explored the “free” side of the educational tools …


•  I’ll show you other ways you can learn Photoshop that involve “greenbacks” (hey, a guy’s gotta eat, lol!), such as my Photoshop Book (available on Amazon), online Small Group Workshops, online One-on-one Instruction, and so much more – – all are more than reasonably priced.




In closing:  If you follow these 3 points in the “Lesson Plan” to assist you in learning Photoshop, I strongly believe that you’re setting yourself up for success!




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•  By the way, this is all based on my Photoshop book designed for photographers, “Not just another Photoshop Book”available exclusively on Amazon:


Questions? Please contact me – also, feel free to comment and tell your photography friends!


Thx again, and cheers,


John Watts 🙂


How to Crop your Image in Photoshop CC …


The Crop Tool allows you to crop to a portion of an image to enhance the subject matter, remove an unwanted object, and/or improve your composition.


Cropping your image in Photoshop is one of those rare functions that has both creative AND procedural aspects to it.  This blogpost is about the procedural – the “How-to”.   Once you fully understand the “How-to”, the creative aspect is yours to discover & explore as a photographer.


Where to Find:


The Crop Tool can be found in the Tools Panel, or by pressing its Speed Key, which is “C”.


Crop Handles / Crop Box / Aspect Ratio:


Click to Zoom in & Pan

•  When the Crop Tool is chosen: notice the ”Crop Handles” at
the four corners of the image, as well as one on each side, creating a “Crop Box”(the area being cropped). If there’s no defined crop size, then the “Crop Box” starts on the outside edge of the image – see diagram.


•  Click on a ”Crop Handle”, hold the mouse button down and drag the handles to the desired shape. A “grid” will appear. When a constrained crop size is chosen, such as an 8×10, the Aspect Ratio remains the same, no matter which handle you drag and move.


•  Notice that the mouse cursor changes to a double-headed arrow as it’s hovered over any handle – you’re now ready to click, hold and drag to create the “Crop Box” – see diagram.


•  In addition, hovering anywhere slightly outside the “Crop Box” will change the cursor to a 90-degree double-sided arrow – now you can easily rotate the cropped area by clicking and dragging – see diagram.


•  To create a “free-from” crop, click and hold inside the current “Crop Box”.  Drag up or down to a diagonal opposite from where you started, such as Top Left to Bottom Right, and so on. Release the mouse button. This creates a new “Crop Box”.   Be careful with this – the final cropped version may be a different “ppi” than the Master File!


Moving the Image in the Crop Box:


To move the image inside the “Crop Box”:

Click to Zoom in & Pan


•  Click in the “Crop Box”, then quickly release the mouse button – a “grid” will appear – see diagram.


•  Click again & hold this time. Move to the desired location.  Notice that the image moves, not the “Crop Box”.


•  For “fine-tuning” (with the “grid” still showing), hold down the “Option” key (“Alt” on a PC), then use the “Arrow” Keys on the keyboard for minute movements.


What’s in the Options Bar?


Click to Zoom in & Pan


•  “Presets” Drop-down Menu: this gives you a series of preset crop sizes.  In the spirit of K.IS.S., I rarely use this menu – but it would be handy if you need to create your own custom crop presets.


Click to Zoom in & Pan

•  “Aspect Ratio” Drop-down Menu: These are presets for some popular aspect ratios in photography. The aspect ratio of an image is the ratio of its width to its height – for instance, a typical DSLR camera has an aspect ratio of 3:2, an 8×10 print is 4:5, and so on.


Again, in the spirit of K.IS.S., I rarely use these presets – preferring to manually enter the values for “Width”, “Height”, & “Resolution”.  For ultimate creativity in cropping, I prefer not to be limited by a fixed aspect ratio – unless a particular final print size calls for it.


To enter the values manually, select “W x H x Resolution”  in the menu (as shown) – this is my preferred method.


•  Swap Height & Width: switch the width and height values by clicking here – this is handy if you’re deciding between a horizontal and a vertical crop, or you entered the values in the incorrect order (guilty!).


•  Clear: when clicked, this clears the “Width”, “Height”, & “Resolution” values – it’s rarely used.


•  Straighten: See Chapter 39 in my Photoshop book (or Photoshop Help) on how to straighten the horizon (or a vertical!) easily.


Click to Zoom in & Pan

•  “View / Overlay” Drop-down Menu:  Here’s an easy way to judge the crop properly with an overlay.  By default, the overlay is the “Rule of Thirds” (see sample image below) – check out the other views.  If you need to remove the overlay, just click on “Never Show Overlay”.


•  “Options / Crop Shield” Drop-down Menu: I never check the “Use Classic Mode” – it’s outdated and slow. But I do use the “Crop Shield” quite a bit.  It helps to visualize what the final crop will look like before committing to it (see below).  See the image sample below for an example of the “Crop Shield” enabled with “50% Opacity”.  Feel free to play with the “Color” and “Opacity” options – I typically use “Match Canvas” at “75% Opacity”.


Click to Zoom in & Pan

•  Pixel Data: This determines if pixel data outside of the “Crop Box” is retained or deleted.  I’d leave this button “on”, as shown, which deletes the pixel data (it’s still in the Master File, if needed).


•  Reset:  Pressing this clears the “Crop Box”, “Image Rotation”, and “Aspect Ratio” settings – it’s rarely used.


•  Cancel: This COMPLETELY cancels the current crop operation, and you’ll lose all settings (the “ESC” Key does the same thing).


Commit:  Once you have EVERYTHING set the way you want it, pressing the “check” symbol commits to the current crop operation.


Click to Zoom in & Pan




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•  By the way, this is just one chapter from my Photoshop book designed for photographers, “Not just another Photoshop Book”available exclusively on Amazon:


Questions? Please contact me – also, feel free to comment and tell your photography friends!


Thx again, and cheers,


John Watts 🙂
























March 2021
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