Tutorial: Simple Newbie Photoshop Tricks for Wargamers

I recently co-organized the Dutch wargame convention Poldercon and made a photo gallery for our website afterwards – I’m the web master. I’m an amateur in photography, had almost no time for taking pics, so I experimented with Adobe Photoshop in the Quick aka the Simple or the Beginners Mode to improve the pictures that I got and others that were sent to me. Photoshop has a simple, automated resize tool that helps enormously to improve the pics, plus erasing and filter tools that I applied. No expert knowledge needed.

The Bad and the Ugly

I made 21 pictures myself during the convention and most of them were rubbish. See below. They lack drama, focus, action and a subject, in particular, a human subject.

Players from behind, no action, where’s the fun?
Nice table, but no detail, no players visible, a boring picture.

The Good

Fellow wargamer Peter Schulein sent me a lot of pictures. sharp shots, good lighting, clear, useful, beautiful. I used Adobe Photoshop to enhance them even more.

Good tutorials about wargame photography can be found online, Henry Hyde wrote an an excellent series, (link) and Tangible Day posted a good article, too. A Hyde top tip is how your digital camera can project raster lines that assist in framing and focusing of wargame pictures. See below.

Cropping with Photoshop: Before and After

When I opened Adobe Photoshop in Quick Mode, I discovered the Crop tool.

Even better, the Photoshop AI gives you 4 suggestions for a better frame. The Photoshop crop tool is much better and faster than the WordPress crop tool. Thus, you can quickly focus on the most important facets of the picture.

Resize to Focus More on the Players

We don’t want to see dead pictures, no human in sight. Show the gamers, how they play, show the action and the fun.

Left the original, right the resized picture. Less background, more player and scenery focus.

Picture left, four gamers and a table. right: with a different frame, the focus is more on the table, the game and the players thinking about their next move. The picture has more depth.
Same table, same trick
Poldercon is a demo/participation convention, gamesmasters explain games to players. So I resized this picture to place the gamesmaster in the center of the action.
In the original, the large table and the gamer sitting on the other side distract the view from where the action is, the two gamers enthusiastically throwing dice. With Photoshopped I resized and focused on the gamers.

Peter, above, also made two pictures of players at his table and I made a picture of him. Below how I quickly resized the pictures, with the help of Photoshop.

Resize to Focus More on the Miniatures

Left: blurred tree and background gamer dominate the picture, right: miniature is the center of the action
Left: a standard table. Right: resized to show the best part of it, the river and the bridge.
Left: many miniatures, many dice. Right: same picture, less cluttered.
Left: too many miniatures and dice in sight: Right: Depth, and focus on the gun.
Left: soldiers, a downed plane, a pilot on the right, arrows, bright yellow measurement tape in the background. Right: with a focus on the plane and the soldiers only the picture gets much better.

Smart Erasing and Other Tools

The whole process of cropping was just a matter of minutes, nothing difficult or complex: totally self-explaining. I also experimented with other tools. I liked the ‘healing pencil’, a tool erase distracting foreground elements and artificially intelligently replace/fill it with background structures.

I artificially removed a notebook from a gametable.

And a standard from a helicopter, so now it really flies.

Filters are great. Sometimes an old school filter can be fun. Or a palette knife.

Conclusion: Try It!

I’m sure other software can do the same tricks as Adobe Photoshop, probably with the same ease. I’m just happy with Photoshop. all tools in one kit, and seamless integration with Premiere Elements that I use for my wargame video battle reports. The full gallery, including the 3-meter Minas Tirith model, can be found here.

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