“wanging”is a term used to describe the practice of many Photoshoppers, one that involves moving toggles back and forth to achieve a desired effect. Most of the different controls in Photoshop allow one to make finer adjustments by using such toggles yet, according to Guy Cowan, this is not a sensible way to approach Photoshop!

One of the functions of Photoshop not found in its’ baby brother Elements, is the ability to create Actions which are programmed scripts that can do a variety of things depending on what you want. These are scientific in their approach and can help achieve artistic results at one’s discretion rather than the often hit and miss approach of wanging.

Black and White conversion in Photoshop

Thanks to Guy Gowan, I recently learnt THE way to convert digital RAW images from colour to black and white in Photoshop. This method has actually been around since Photoshop 3 in the mid-1990’s and yet I had not heard of it in spite of having been to numerous Photoshop seminars over the years and studied more than one manual.

The definitive conversion technique is simply to add a Solid Color adjustment layer which needs to sit above any colour layer in the Layers palette and be set to black where R=0, G=0, B=0. The blend of the layer is set to Color.

This method is said to accurately represent the pixel conversion rather than apply some kind of interpretation as with the Black and White colour adjustment layer and the others like the Greyscale and Desaturate methods.

selecting in Photoshop

Here is a link to a site with details about selection in Photoshop …

First there is the Marquee tool (M) which comes in 4 different varieties.
Add “shift” to make the shape drawn proportionate, “Alt” to create it from the centre …

In the Options Bar at the top of the window, one can control the selection in various ways such as Feather, Style and Size. There is also a “Refine Edge” tab.

The “M” tool though is rather basic.
The “L” or Lasso tool is slightly more complex; there are 3 forms.

The basic form allows one to draw the selection while the “polygonal” form works by creating points – they can work as one tool with Alt

The Magnetic Lasso tool is more automatic and can be refined via the Options bar.

The “L” tool is not that accurate unless the edge is well defined.

The “W” or magic wand tool is a bit cumbersome; however, with Refine Edge it can do a decent job. Controls with W are …
Tolerance – relates to the sensitivity of the colour selection
Contiguous – ticked it will only select pixels in one group; un-ticked it will select all areas of similar colour
Sample All Layers – clicked, the selection relates to all possible areas on all layers rather than just the one selected.

W is rough but ready; other tools can make finer selections.

The Quick Selection tool, also W, is however much better at quick selections that can be drawn with a brush. Combine with Refine Edge for accuracy!

“Color Range” is like a non-contiguous Magic Wand; it’s accuracy can be altered via the Fuzziness slider. There is a black and white preview of the selection. Not a very effective tool.

“P” is the Pen tool and requires a certain amount of skill; good for accurate selections where there is a clearly defined edge. Can be saved as a selection.

For fine tuning a selection, a mask is a valuable method. These can be altered with the brush tool (a mid-grey selection will help to make the brush an easier tool to work with). The brush can be either hard for well defined selections or soft for less well defined edges.

Working with channels can also help to make selections more accurate; using other controls such as Levels adjustments, dodging and burning etc One looks for a channel with higher contrast around the object one wants to select and works to increase that contrast for selection purposes; one is likely to have to increase that contrast which means copying the channel. Inverting selections is often necessary.


This is a large application although there is a slimmer version, Photoshop Elements.

There is a saying, “if you don’t know Levels, you don’t know Photoshop!”
(Levels is an adjustment that allows one to alter brightness and contrast while it can also be used for colour correction particularly if one works in the individual channels)

I would like to add another saying, “If you don’t know Actions, you don’t need Photoshop!” since Elements will handle most controls other than automation.

Photoshop is about as important as the camera in professional photography these days.

It is a place where one can be truly creative not necessarily by creating clever montages and filter effects rather by allowing one to choose the exact colouration required.