My Top 10 Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts

An important part of running a successful commercial photography business is maximising your time and using it optimally. Reducing even just a small amount of time spent on repetitive tasks will soon add up and make a big difference to your business. When I first left university I temped in a banking call centre and we had to use a rather archaic software system (at least feels it now, was probably cutting edge 15 years ago!) where everything was navigated by keystrokes (no mouse interface) and so I got pretty good at remembering the combinations.


With modern software it is very often easy to forget that you can navigate and select things very quickly using the keyboard and many people rely solely on their mouse/pen tablet but using a combination of the two can often speed things up immensely. I have always been a fan of keyboard shortcuts and try to use them as much as possible when ascending the learning curve with new software. As such, I have always used photoshop keyboard shortcuts when editing my images and I thought it might be useful to share my top 10 photoshop keyboard shortcuts that I use on a regular basis. These are the shortcuts that I use most regularly and that I personally find most useful (btw I use a PC so I’ll be quoting PC shortcuts, they’re the same with a MAC just with different modifier key names – I’m not going to list them as everyone should know the equivalents by now!), hopefully there’ll be a few in there that you were not aware of and this list will help one or two people out in optimising their workflow. I highly recommend you spend some time assessing which tasks you repeat most regularly and see if you can save some time by learning the appropriate photoshop keyboard shortcuts.

Top 10 Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts

  1. Tool Shortcuts

    So right away I’m cheating with this whole list thing and giving you a bunch of shortcuts wrapped up in one!  Rather than going over to the photoshop toolbar to select which tool I am going to use, for common tools I just use the relevant shortcut.  The ones that I use on a regular basis include B – Brush, Z – Zoom, J – Healing Brush, S – Clone Stamp, L– Lasso

  2. Layer Via Copy

    Hitting Ctrl & j creates a copy of the current selected layer as a new layer

  3. Zoom

    Holding Ctrl and using + (zoom in) or (zoom out) allows you to quickly adjust the view to zoom in and out without having to select the zoom tool. Ctrl and 0 (zero) sets the view to ‘fit on screen’ so you can quickly reset to see your full image

  4. Brush Size

    You can use the square bracket keys: [ & ]  to increase or decrease your brush size quickly while you are working.  Another bonus; if you hold Shift you can use the brackets to adjust the hardness/softness of the brush

  5. Opacity

    When you have the brush tool selected (press b!), you can use the top numeric keys (not the keypad keys) to set the opacity of the brush. If can press two digits for accuracy (e.g. 75) or just hit a single digit to jump to a multiple of ten (1=10, 2=20, 3=30 etc) – zero sets the opacity to 100%

  6. Save

    This one is a great one to get into the habit of using often and can save you a lot of headaches with lost work. By hitting Ctrl & s you can save the file you are working on, doing this regularly as you work will protect you from losing precious work should your computer crash (or you have a powercut!). As a bonus when you are finished working on an image hit Ctrl & s (save) followed by Ctrl & w (close), doesn’t seem like much but it’s a good habit to ensure you’ve saved your work and saves a few seconds (which all add up!) over clicking to close the file.

  7. Default colours

    I tend to use a lo of masking when editing, either as part of composite work or applying effects/filters to specific parts of an image and so setting the brush to black or white is a common task. When you have the brush (b) tool selected, pressing d sets your foreground (brush) colour to black and your background colour to white (default). If you want to quickly switch your brush colour between the foreground and background colours just hit x

  8. Fill

    I use the fill function fairly regularly (either for adding large areas to masks or for using content aware fill) and using Shift & Backspace is a really quick way to get get to the fill menu

  9. Inverted Mask

    When adding a mask to a layer, if you hold Alt as you click on the mask icon, the mask is applied inverted (black), this is really useful if you are wanting to only add (by painting with white) the effect/filter to a small part of an image. If you apply a mask and forget to hold down alt, just press Ctrl & i (while the mask is selected in the layers panel) to invert it from white to black

  10. Free Transform

    Pressing Ctrl & t activates the free transform function allowing you to resize, rotate and stretch your current layer/selection. As a little bonus, once you have free transform activated, if you right click within the free transform box you get a transform menu from which you can jump to the other transform tools.

Hopefully I have highlighted some useful Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts that some people will have found useful. One last tip before I sign off is that if you use a pen & tablet (such as a Wacom) you can customise the function buttons on the tablet and set your most used shortcuts (including multi-key shortcuts such as Ctrl & j) so you don’t even have to reach for your keyboard!

Another levitation image tutorial

Since I put together a ‘how to’ blog entry on a previous levitation image I thought it might be interesting (to someone at least) to put one together for the levitation image that we produced for Jeramiah Ferrari during their recent band photography shoot.

The approach I followed for this shot was very similar to previous levitation images with the addition of needing to take many more images (basically one image for each object/person that would be floating in the final image). This obviously makes things a little more complex in terms of the shooting and in during the editing process. If you are new to levitation images you may want to read up on how to do a simple levitation image before proceeding with this one.

The Set-up

We had decided to set the band up in a corner of the studio with the band lit with some large softboxes for fill and a beauty dish as a key light (directly above the camera at about 8ft up on a boom). Once I had rough idea as to where the band members would be in the final photo and where the camera would be mounted we moved everything out of the frame that would not be constant in all the images.

As always with these kinds of shots (especially ones where there will be many images to take) it is essential that the camera is kept in exactly the same location, position and settings for all the images. So for this image I got all my settings in order, locked in the focus and then triggered the camera remotely to make sure I didn’t accidentally nudge it, knock it or change a setting.

To start with I took the base image which contains only the background and objects that would not be levitating in the final image.

The first set of objects to shoot (and the most complex) was the drums and drummer. We worked out where each part of the kit would be and then shot each part individually being held up (in hindsight it would have been much easier in post if we have used wire or something to hold the kit parts up rather than hand holding them as it was considerable extra work removing stray fingers, clothes and reflections from the shiny kit!). We then perched Stu up on a stand (supported by Josh) and shot him as if he were playing the floating kit.

After that we shot each member in turn in their pre-determined spots and ended up with about 30 individual images (I shots multiples of each band member in slightly different poses so that I could choose which looked best in relation to the others once I had them all on screen).


I imported the files into lightroom and after a play about I chose which shots would make it into the final composite.

I then started roughly masking in the various parts of the image, starting with the most complex (the drum kit again). At this stage I didn’t spend too long on the masking as I wanted to get a feel for how everything came together before I spent hours fine tuning the masking and tweaking etc.

I then worked my way through each band member in turn (often turning on/off previously edited layers to concentrate on certain parts but still checking the final image was coming together.

I found that some parts of the drum kit were not quite in the right place so I cut these out and moved them to where they fit better (which meant more accurate masking etc for those pieces). In a couple of places I also found that some of the areas where body parts were in contact with the supporting stools/stands etc looked a little off so I dipped back into lightroom and brought in shots where I could cut out replacement bits of clothes and lay them over the offending parts.


Once I was happy with the composition I worked through the image tidying up the masking and cut outs and added some dodging and burning to try and make all the shadows and lighting look as realistic as possible. Once this was done I added some styling to bring the image together.

I hope this post has been information and given you some insight as to how I achieved the Jeramiah Ferrari levitation image, if you have any questions or general comments please contact us.

How to do a levitation photo

After posting the final images of our creative fashion photography shoot at Peckforton Castle I received a number of questions about how the final levitation images were taken so I thought it would be a good idea to post a tutorial on how to do a levitation photo.

To start with here are the two images that we did on the fashion shoot that sparked the “how did you do that” questions.

These two images were actually not planned as part of the shoot, we had got all the shots that had been planned (and a few more) and we decided that as we had some time left in the location, we’d experiment a little. Levitation images are not a particularly new idea and have been made very popular over the years by photographers such as Miss Aniela, Rosie Hardy and Brook Shaden but I fancied having a go at doing one myself in a fashion shoot environment.

Although the final images are impressive, the actual technique is fairly simple and could be done on any basic camera (or even camera phone if you really had to!). The basic concept of these kinds of shots is to take a number of images and composite them together using certain parts of the different shots to bring together the illusion of someone levitating.


  • Camera
  • Tripod (or other means to keep your camera in exactly the same place over a number of shots)
  • Computer with appropriate editing software (e.g. photoshop, photoshop elements, GIMP etc)
  • Remote – wired or wireless (this is optional but will ensure your camera is not accidentally moved by pressing the shutter button).


Once you have decided on the location and position of your subject set up the camera and have your subject stand where they will be ‘levitating’ and focus the camera and then switch it to manual focus so that it does not shift focus during the different shots you will be taking (this is not 100% essential, if your camera doesn’t have a manual focus you can still do this technique, it might just make it more difficult to composite the final image).

As I was shooting indoors at night for these particular images I also had to position my lights and get them set but I would recommend trying something with adequate natural light on your first attempt at this as lighting (and related shadows) adds further complexity.

Once the camera is all in place and set up correctly, you need to take your base image (this is the image that generally contributes most of the background to your final image. It is absolutely essential that the camera does not move after this image is taken. If it does it is easier to start again here (and reset etc) than strive on and try and ‘make do’ and fix it all in post (this can be done but it will take you three times as long!).

Once your base image has been taken you move your subject into place, in these particular images we asked the models to lean back (supported by the MUA) and I took a number of images with the models holding alternate legs up in the air. It is important to try and get your subject to keep as much of their upper body as still as possible while alternating legs for these shots so that the images match up better (which is easier to edit). As such I ended up with 3 final images for each model; one base image, one with the left foot in the air and one with the right foot in the air.

If you have a stool or other suitable platform you can get your subject to lie or sit and lean holding both feet in the air which will probably allow you to take less shots and make for easier compositing (just make sure that there is some clothing hanging over where their body is touching the stool or it will look unnatural when you remove it is post).


Once you have the images it’s time to load them onto your computer and into your editing software. As I use Photoshop for this kind of work I’ll be using that as a reference to describe the process but most editing software packages will allow you to do this in a similar way.

I loaded all 3 images (for one model) into a single workspace as separate layers with the base image at the bottom of the stack. I then decided which of the 2 model images I preferred for the body and face (in this example I chose the image with the model’s left leg in the air) and worked with a layer mask to hide the MUA from the image and the right leg (that was supporting the model).

Once this was completed I moved to the final layer and masked the bulk of the image except for the right leg in the air. If the subject has kept their upper body very still across the images you may be lucky enough that the resulting image matches up and looks natural.

As you can see in this example we were not so lucky (mainly due to the very high heels making it very difficult for the Maz to balance!) so I had to do some further tweaks using the move tool and a bit of the warp tool to line things up.

After I was happy with the parts of the image all looked in line and as realistic as possible I added some shadows and some overall styling to finish the image off. The other levitation image from this shoot was done in exactly the same way.

I hope this helps explain the process and gives you an idea of how to do a levitation photo. If you have any questions or want anything clarifying, please contact us.