19 Aug 2011

Photoshop Tutorial: Learn Basic Photo Editing to Enhance Colours/Light/Contrast

Hi everyone!

Here is a tutorial I've been working on for anyone that is new to photo editing. I wanted to show you two very easy ways to dramatically enhance the colours, contrast and light balance in your photos. I work in Photoshop, but I think that the methods I show would be fairly similar in other photo editing software.

So, if you look at the image above, you can see how much you can improve photos that come out a bit dull and dark, but this is also a great way to make good shots stand out even more!

I am going to use this photo to show you the technique.

The first thing I always do with a new photo is to adjust the Levels. You can find the levels under Image/Adjustments/Levels, or press ctrl+L, or apple+L on macs.
When you have opened the Levels window you'll see this black "mountain". Drag the little black marker and the little white marker so that they are right at the start and the end of the "mountain". Like this:
Click OK. Now you have adjusted the light/dark balance and contrast of the photo!

Now we are going to enhance the contrast further and make the colours really pop. This will be done in the Layers panel, it's usually situated at the bottom right corner of your screen, if not go to Windows/Layers.
Now you're gonna copy the Background layer, do that by grabbing hold of it and dragging it to the "Create a new layer" icon (bottom right of your layers panel).

When you have your new layer, click on the menu where it says "Normal" and change it to "Screen".

Copy another layer by doing the same thing - drag the Background layer to the same icon again - and change this one to "Soft Light".

Now adjust the opacity of your two layers. I usually set the Screen one to about 30% and the Soft Light to 80%. But this is up to you to decide when the photo looks best. Sometimes if a photo is very dark I put the Screen layer's opacity up.

Lastly, merge all the layers by going to Layers/Flatten Image.

Below you can see the photo before and after editing.

Here are some other before and afters using these techniques:

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!

87 Comments:

Another Diamond Day said...

WOW! Thanks for sharing this! I am a beginner in photoshop so this was very useful! Please post more!!! :-)

Jocee said...

Oh, I loved them!! Especially the fruit picture. So pretty. Thanks a bunch for sharing!! :))
-Jocee <3

Vic said...

ok lovely lady! i think i will be back to stalk this particular post because I've been playing with photoshop a lot and use the curves most the time but this is just great info for even the photoshop pros:) xoxo gorgeous photos all the time....i need to get to a farmers market to take pretty fruit pics...enjoy the weekend

Cas said...

Looveeely.... thanks for sharing these tips. :) Sea Marie

Let It Be Raw said...

That was really helpful! I usually rely on film to do that for me, but whenever I use digital photoshop just confuses the heck out of me.

allenaim photography and design said...

Fabulous tut! It is amazing how much a little wiggle in levels and curves can make, isn't it? You are gorgeous btw!

Rony said...

This tutorial is great, thank you for new idea ;).

Amber Blue Bird said...

good tips. Now I just have to get photoshop.

Indie Thrifter said...

Oh wow, I needed this so bad! Thankyou!!

Ullis said...

Thank you so much! I'm often disappointed with how my photos turn out, and I think this'll help :)

Jamie Pilgrim said...

Nifty! I would have never thought of this! Thanks!

Christianne Teixeira said...

WOW! Thanks for sharing this! I am a beginner in photoshop so this was very useful! My photos are not really good :( Thank you!

Stephanie @ Figments of a Mom said...

That was so easy - thanks for sharing!

Jody Pearl said...

Thankyou you make it look sooooo easy!

Meghan said...

This is so useful! I just did the part with changing the histogram and I am already thrilled with how the picture now looks. Thanks so much!

Katie Bush said...

Hi there! Just a heads up, you can do all of this in Adobe Lightroom a lot easier!

paige said...

Wow, what a great step-by-step tutorial. My pictures already look better!

Cecilia said...

This is a great post! I will use it for sure on my pictures from now on! Thanks for sharing!

Paraskevi said...

Oh my God! I love you! Great tutorial!!! You're perfect!

Light Trigger said...

beautiful blog! we're following you!

Cupcakes and Cutlery said...

OMG! Thank you so much for this tutorial! I've been dying to learn more about photoshop and want my photos to look better without spending a ridiculous amount of time on them. This is amazing and I can't wait to try it out!

Myrill Grace said...

This tutorial really opened the world of photoshop to me. It's not as intimidating as it seems now, and I was even able to experiment a little on my own. I tried your instructions on a couple of pictures today and they turned out great! Thank you! And I will definitely be on the lookout for more tutorials you have in the future!

eudaimoniac said...

Ahh cool, thanks so much for this. Am in need of some good photoshop tips.

Gayatri said...

This is a really great tutorial. I've only been getting around with trial and error mostly :D .. but this is a really simple and informative tutorial! Thanks!

---------
Gayatri
Look who's Wearing (LwW)

kathy b said...

I just tried adjusting levels and voila! You explained it so well. Thanks...

how do I get the dreamy look of your image on the top left?

Lisa {A Piece of Lisa} said...

@kathy b
That photo looks like that because it was taken in Photo Booth on the mac, they tend to be grainy. But I will soon post about a program that can easily achieve vintage effects :)

tanygina said...

Thank you so so much for your tutorial! its quick and easy! Love it :)

Merissa Cherie said...

Nice tutorial! So nice of you to share your technique :) Happened to come across your blog via Pinterest and I have to say it is such a lovely blog! xo

Jamie said...

Thank you for this, I used it tonight and it was super simple and my picture looks awesome. :)

Jacqueline said...

Saw this on Pinterest! Thanks, the photos are beautiful.

The Virgin Rose said...

Thanks so much for the tips Lisa. I sell things on etsy and this is so helpful to make the photos much more effective! x!

Anonymous said...

My first thing I learned on photoshop! Thank you !

Jolie said...

Thank you - this is so helpful! I will often use an action to try to improve a pic, but all too often that then looks forced and overdone...this is perfect!

MichaelaRae said...

Great tutorial & I love your blog!

homeschoolceo said...

Wonderful info. Thanks so much!

Mt. Baldy Glassworks said...

fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Thanks I am a beginner in PS5...you can post more like this
Sandi

MissElle said...

Thank you for your posts. I am just starting out and your posts are very helpful :)

Kelsey K. Anderson said...

caught this on pinterest - awesome post, thanks for sharing your tips!

Image Masking said...

You've done really awesome job! Great tutorial it is, thanks a lot for sharing this nice post with us :)

cathhasablog@gmail.com said...

I find photoshop so confusing...thanks for the tutorial, the pictures help so much! Definitely pinning this! Really enjoying reading your blog and look forward to all your future posts! I am one of your new loyal followers! When you have a chance come on by and check out my blog (and make sure to say hi!). If you like my blog, I would love it if you would follow me back! Cath @ Home is Where my Heart is: http://cathhasablog.blogspot.com/

Liz said...

Thank you so much for posting the tutorial, its genius !

Jeanie (Inspired Wish) said...

I use photoshop & always use layers first. I hadn't used the layers like you do. Can't wait to try this. Thanks =)

Jeanie (Inspired Wish) said...

whoops, meant I use levels first.

Kristine said...

What version of photoshop are you using?

Lisa {A Piece of Lisa} said...

@Kristine:
I use Photoshop CS5.

Cheryl said...

Great tutorial! I just used it on a photo I was trying to edit for scrapbooking. Thank you!

aquarium supplies said...

Awesome tutorial Lisa! please post more stuff like this as soon as possible sweetheart!!

Michele said...

What about photos that are to bright?

renee @ Singing With Birds said...

B O O M ! Thanks for your awesome tutorial. Loving your fabulous blog too.

we {Heart} Scrap said...

YESS! Thank you <3 I have been looking for good simple edits for photo like this :)

Maranda said...

You are awesome! Thank you so much for posting this. :)

Nonnie said...

Looking forward to more instructions on adjusting photographs. I use PAINT SHOP PRO (x5yrs)and have never used LAYERS but I think I can do the same on my program.

I look forward to learning more tricks to improve my photographs as I am getting a new point and shoot camera. I often end up shooting pictures in no flash situations and this will help.

Thank you
NOnnie

Did you ever think of doing a podcast.. this would be an interesting topic.

Anonymous said...

ciao io ho paint shop pro, se clicco CTRL+L mi compare un altra cosa, mi puoi aiutare?

ITALIANO

grazie!!!!

Lisa {A Piece of Lisa} said...

@Nonnie:
Thank you for the podcast idea! :)

@Anonymous:
I don't speak Italian.

Jessica said...

Thanks so much for this awesome tutorial! I'm new to Photoshop, but I love using this technique now :D

Angela Mahler said...

Thanks for that! I never knew and I'm sure my jewelry will look better thanks to you!!

Lisa {A Piece of Lisa} said...

Thank you so much everyone for your kind words, I'm so happy my tutorial has helped you!

xo Lisa

fotoclipping said...

lovely post..Thank you so much...

clippingimages said...

Nice. This is an excellent source of information. I like your blog. Thanks for sharing this blog.

Jess from Coxs Corner said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! SO helpful!

Rachel R. said...

Thanks! I use Photoscape (very basic editing program - fewer options than Photoshop, but quicker and less complicated when you don't need to do much) when editing most of the photos I take for my blog. I don't have a nice camera or anything (our digital is 10 years old!) so I'm not worried about making them artist-quality, y'know?

But the same basic concept works even in that, by clicking the auto-contrast and auto-level buttons. Sometimes just that can make a huge improvement!

Lauren said...

This is really fantastic. I have already learned some Photoshop techniques on my own from messing around, but this is a tool I'll add to all of my editing! Thanks so much!

free word counting tool said...

Great tutorial! I love how you’ve packed a lot of helpful information into a short list! Thanks a lot

fotoclipping said...

WOW!! lovely done.Specially the cottage picture.

wan saiyidatina aisyah said...

hi,just want to ask if you're doing your illustration by hand or computer? :D

AUBREY @ Project Lovegood said...

I really love your Photoshop tutorials. I'm slowly learning Photoshop, so all the tips and tutorials the better! Thanks!

Lisa {A Piece of Lisa} said...

@wan saiyidatina aisyah:

Hi there, I draw most of my illustrations by hand, then I scan them in and put them together with text or whatever the design might be in the computer. Sometimes I draw with the pen tool in Adobe Illustrator.

Best wishes,
Lisa

Photoshop tutorials said...

Wow! Awesome. I release that in movies every picture is comes from Photoshop. Thanks for sharing these great photoshop tutorials
.

izdelava spletnih strani said...

Verry usefull for making average pictures awsome. thank you Lisa ... I will put this post to my favorites :)

ammar said...

Nice post. Thank you for sharing.
Softwares

Groupdmt said...

Great to know the -- in depth from this blog.This will really help for my forward steps to be taken.
digital image editing in groupdmt

Deb Thaxton said...

-->Clicked through from Pinterest and this was VERY helpful. Thank you!

Deb
www.websavvymom.com

bluetulip21 said...

Thank you for your blog! My wedding photos weren't edited at all and I am very new to photoshop. I was wondering is there a way to process all my wedding photos with this method at once? I'm using elements 10. Thank you for your post, you've made my wedding photos truly pop!

Nahin said...

I am newbie in Photoshop and designing world. But my company has 30 years of experience. So i feel so lucky as a new comer i have found your stunning creation, tutorial by which i can able to explore me. Admittedly it helps ma a lot. Plenty Amazing !!! :)

Anonymous said...

Just came across your informative tutorial on Pinterest and tried working through the steps. As I am a total newbie to Photoshop Elements--and in spite of your great directions--I found myself a bit befuddled. Any chance you'll do some video tutorials for the more inept among us?

Thanks for freely sharing your expertise.

Anonymous said...

I should add that I successfully managed the first step; it's the layers that got me.

Debra

Sarah von "How I met your Papi" said...

Thank you SO much for this Tutorial!!!!! I´m a bloddy newbie with Photoshot and honestly this is my first trial wich turned out great! Thank you!!!

Diana Miller said...

This is such a great tutorial. :) I pinned this awhile ago and came across it again today and it really helped with some photos I recently took. Thanks so much!!

Jonathan D said...

Great tutorial. It'll really help me with my photography editing. Thanks. =)

arun said...

Great tutorial !! Thank you lisa!!

Anindyaksha said...

Very good tutorial. Learned a lot. Thank you.

Rebekah Baier said...

Fabulous! Thank you for sharing :)

fertan said...

It'll really help me with my photography editing.

Faruk iqbal said...

Awesome photography……..the only thing I don’t like about them is that I didn’t shoot them.

Tiyang said...

Awesome tutorial

Zelna Smith said...

Awesome!!!!!!

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Thanks for your thoughts!
xo Lisa

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