Monday, 2 April 2012

How I Perk Up My Photos.

There's nothing I love more than learning (loser, yes, yes) - especially when it comes to photography and Photoshop.

In college I studied photography to AS Level but never took it any further until I got my very first DSLR for Christmas in 2010 - a very lovely Canon 550d that came with the 18-55mm standard lens. Since then I've been exploring just what my camera can do and what exactly I can change on Photoshop; from actions, curves & all the tips and tricks that exist within (hint: theres alot).

I have received numerous compliments on my pictures since starting and I think it's only right to share how these things are done.

Disclaimer: I'm in no way a Photoshop expert, and it's probably guaranteed there are quicker ways / better terminology / actions that do it for you. But hey - it works for me!
SO! We start with the fact that I am using Photoshop CS4.

I use this to edit everything, from gifs to adding watermarks and making templates. I love it. But I also know there are also a couple of other alternatives for those that don't!

Right now I'm going to show you some of my quick fixes that will brighten up & make your images stand out but essentially in this post I'm going to share my favourite Photoshop combination that I use quite often in my photos! And just to be extra nice - I've made it into an action - meaning all you really have to do is download, install & press play - et voila! Your image is done - you can thank me later :)

(click to view larger images)

*Firstly you need to make sure you have your layers, history and adjustment tabs open. Click 'window' and select as appropriate.*

1. Method One. Levels & Contrast.

A quick fix that I always, always use before further editing any photo are adjusting the levels & brightness/contrast. Seems pretty simple (it is!) but sometimes that can be all an image really needs to just make it that little bit better.

Firstly, in your layers tab click the 'create new fill or adjustment layer' circle icon. Then select 'Levels' - every image is different and so it is just a matter of playing around with the top set of scales ^ first image above.

Secondly, repeat step one and select 'brightness/contrast' and similarly adjust until you find  the combination you prefer!
2. Method Two. Variations.

Carrying on from the previous image, I would next naturally use 'variations' - this is particularly useful if you envisioned your image in a different colour-scheme, so to speak. You can selectively change the midtone, shadows and highlight colours along with saturation.

Select 'image' - 'adjustments' - 'variations'.

You can then adjust the 'fine - course' option : this will change how strong the colour will appear; I generally have it quite low and unselect the 'show clipping' box.

From here you can add/decrease certain colours. Something I do (I'm not sure how accurate this is) is generally opt for whichever colour my eye is most naturally drawn to. ie. with this picture, it is the 'more yellow' box, so I would click that, and then move on to shadows/highlights etc.
3. Method Three.  Vignette. 

I can take or leave a 'vignette' / gradient / the edges of the pictures that are darker than the rest. But I know some people love them. So, here is how (I) you do them.

Select 'Layer' - 'New Fill Layer' - 'Gradient'

Change 'Mode - Normal' to 'Overlay' and 'Opacity' to 45%

Make sure style is 'Radial', angle 90, scale 150% and also that 'reverse' and 'align with layer' are ticked.

If you're unhappy with how dark the vignette is, you can alter it further still in the layers box by clicking the 'vignette' layer and adjusting the opacity up or down!
4. Method Four. Vintage Action.

This is one of my actions that I use fairly often in my images.

Its a pretty extensive layering method and to save you following a million screen shots I'm going to upload the action so all you have to do is download, double click install and then use the 'action' tab in photoshop and click the play button - it will literally do all the work for you :)

There are so many actions online, a lot of them free but some better ones can cost a fair amount! Check out deviantart for some good freebies!

Free, quick & simple. File size 9.85kb.

Enjoy the action and leave some links in the comments if you like!

I'd love to see what you do with it!

Thanks! xo


  1. The dog is super cute:) Great post!

  2. Thanks very much! She is a lovely little pensioner hehe!

  3. Awesome. I love learning new things about Photoshop too (we're not losers!!), and I've never tried the variations tool before. Thanks!

  4. Great! :) Glad it was of some use!

  5. Something I love to do is using the curves feature and adjusting each of the colour channels, when you get the right changes your pictures can look so great! thanks for your tips! x


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