One thing most new photographers don’t realize is that no matter how good a photo is when you press the shutter release, you can easily make it better with a few tweaks afterwards. After all, photos taken with a digital camera often lack the vibrancy and color saturation you get with film. Want to get that vibrancy back? I’ll share how I make my photos come alive and “pop” with color — and I’ll do it with just tools available in even the most basic versions of Photoshop and other photo editors.
As an aside, I shoot in RAW. Shooting in your camera’s RAW mode lets you easily make tweaks to exposure and saturation before converting it to JPG. And it makes processing hundreeds of images per session much faster. I love it.
Let’s get started. The image below it isn’t all that bad. It’s a little dark, but… decent, right? It isn’t until you see it as it could be that you realize it could be much better.
Is it too dark? To lighten, I open up levels—press CTRL+L. Under the histogram “mountain,” move the middle arrow right or left to lighten or darken. You can play with all 3 arrows, while keeping an eye on your image, to find the best light levels. Keep ion mind that lightening an underexposed image is easier than darkening an over-exposed one. Blown-out images (ones with too much light) are harder to salvage. After you like it, hit OK.
This puts two identical versions of the image on top of each other. I’ll keep the original (on the bottom) the same.
Make sure the top layer is selected (on the right side of the screen, you’ll see “Background copy” highlighted), and it’s time to add the soft light layer. Click where it says “Normal” and choose Soft Light.
Now tweak the opacity to your liking. Opacity is how transparent the layer is — so decreasing the opacity lets more of the underlying layer shine through.
Depending on the image, I might want to keep the opacity at 100% or I might want to lower it to where I like the look.
Next, I’ll tweak the top layer a bit more to my liking, and eventually merge the two layers into one.
Use it just a little — not too much. But if you want more, up the opacity a bit.
At the end, I always make a copy of the photo and keep my original.
Photo credit: Kristen Duke