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Jill Welch Photography/Historic St. Augustine Sites/Columbus GA Photographer//Photoshop Techniques Improve Color and Sharpness

July 4, 2011

Someone recently asked me how to juice the color and clarity of pictures using Photoshop and I thought of the perfect image.  In this post, you will learn to increase saturation of specific colors, brighten and darken areas of an image, and sharpen edges for a slam dunk presentation of your favorite vacation pic.

And since I’m all about American history (have to be -I was born on the 4th of July!)  a post befitting this glorious day of celebration deserves a few good pictures of the historical treasures located within one of our oldest cities, St. Augustine, FL.

First, we’ll take a look at the “before” of our image.  Please note, the actual image, taken by my son, Neal, was a slam dunk.  It looks like a postcard…really.  I have it on my refrigerator and visitors swear I’m over inflating my child’s ability to use a camera.  But for the sake of instruction, let’s use this version that I have destructively tweaked so it screams for attention from the Photoshop fairy.

 

 

 


The image is flat, lifeless, and not in the least bit interesting.  But it’s attributes are lovely shades of blue and green, a really cool stone building with lots of texture, and it’s a historical site in St. Augustine, Castillo de San Marcos.  If we’re going to frame this baby and hang it in the study, we need to wake it up.

First, save the image in a tiff format:  file> save as >type in file name and location> save as tiff.  If you shoot in jpeg, as most people do, save as a tiff anyway.  Every time you make changes to a jpeg the image loses quality – not so with a tiff.

Next, make an adjustment layer by choosing control>j.  You will make every adjustment described below in one of these new layers,  then flatten the image by choosing layer>flatten image when you are completely done.  Why?  If you make a big mess, you can select the layer with your cursor,  press delete, and start all over.

To enhance color, choose image>adjustment> hue saturation.  In the window that opens, choose the color you want to enhance by selecting  it under the “master” slider.  We’ll choose blue to brighten the water.  Move the saturation slider to the right until you like the look.  Go easy on this- make sure the image looks realistic and believable.  Repeat this technique for all of the colors you wish to tweak.  Flatten image when you are happy with the results.

Let’s now take a look at the light and dark areas of the picture.  The white areas of the stonework could be brightened a bit, and the gray in the stones and tree trunk could be darkened.  The image lacks definition.  Choose image>adjustment>levels.  If the images needs brightening, slide the triangle at far right to the left a bit until it looks good.  Be careful not to” blow out” your light tones, which means to take the color out completely.  Darks can be intensified by moving the triangle on the left slightly to the right.  Ditto for the triangle in the center.  Remember to flatten the image.

To sharpen an image, choose filters>sharpen>unsharp mask.  Play with the sliders until your image is crisper, yet still believable.  Take a close look at the edges of items in the image and make sure they are not too defined.  Flatten image again.

You may now save your image as a level 10 jpeg.

Jill Welch Photography, Columbus GA photographer

The result should look like this.  Again, this image is straight off the camera (a very expensive professional camera with a phenomenal lense and a polarized lense  filter) but you get the idea.  Take some time to play with your own images and you will quickly learn to master these techniques.  Can’t swing the cost of Photoshop?  Try out Gimp – a freeware program that is very similar to Photoshop.

More pics from St. Augustine, take a few summers ago when I home schooled Neal and we traveled to many historical sites.  Any questions?   Shoot me an email or leave a comment. 

Columbus GA photographer

Columbus GA photographer

Columbus GA photographer

Columbus GA photographer

Columbus GA photographer

Columbus GA photographerColumbus GA photographer

Columbus GA photographer

Check out the Columbus GA River Center for the Performing Arts new season line up in my previous post.

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