We all have them… dull, flat, lifeless photos that could be fabulous if only the light were more dynamic or the colors richer or the tones warmer. If only turing our ho-hum, poorly lit images into something fabulous was easy.
Oh wait, it is. Here’s how!
This image was clearly shot backlit, as the sun was setting. There was no reflector or fill light to bounce light back into the subject. What I was left with was a cool, drab photo, begging to be brought to life.
EFIX: Canon 5D Mark 2, 24-70mm lens, shot at 35mm, 1/160, f/4.0, ISO 400.
What I loved about this image:
I loved the light streaming in from behind and I knew I could play that up and make it a feature. The way the sunlight illuminated the side of her hair was a great indication of how I would add in directional light in post editing. I loved the color of her clothing and how it popped (or could pop) from the rich green grass. And I loved her. Her spur of the moment glance at me… her utter cuteness. What’s not to love!
Gloomy and dull with hidden potential to warm, rich and glowing.
Editing time: 5 minutes
1. Light All Over. 65% To increase the overall exposure.
2. Bland to Brilliant. 100%. Using a black brush, I painted over the upper right corner of the trees to bring back detail. They had gone completely black with this action and I like to maintain detail in every area of the image. When areas go completely black and lose all detail, it drives me nuts! Really, it detracts from a photo and makes it look like attention to detail was not paid. Also painted over the window behind the subject to bring back detail.
3. Satin (from the free Monochrome action set). 100% Using a soft black brush, I painted over her eyes to remove the darkening action effects. This action gives the nice creamy rich color to the image. It makes the sunshine glow warmer and the greenery feel lush and colorful.
4. Sun Kissed Skin 100% Using a soft high opacity brush, I painted over the right side of the image, top to bottom and the over the greenery on the bottom left corner. This action adds in a warm creamy light that gives the illusion that hazy sunlight is streaming in. It’s a great way to amp up existing light, play up the directional light, or to add in directional light that’s not even in the original photo. I also lightly masked it in over her cheeks to brighten the face a bit. You can also experiment with the action Opulent Light for a glowing, creamy light source, but without the warmth factor that Sun Kissed Skin has.
5. Beautiful Warmth. 60%. Using a soft 20-30% opacity black brush, I slightly removed the warm tone from her skin and clothes. It’s important to check that your subjects don’t get too warm when using actions like this. Beautiful Warmth is great for warming a cool image and in this particular case, it helped create the necessary warm yellow tones that the streaming in sunset would have created… It helped the intensity of fledgeling sunset out a lot!
6. Rosy Dusk. 100% I inverted the layer mask (cmd or ctrl + I) to hide the entire Rosy Dusk tone action effect from the image. Then, using a medium opacity, soft white brush, I painted the action into areas that I wanted to add in the pinkish/reddish tones (her cheeks, the rusty manhole, the greenery and the sunset. I really like to add warm tones of yellow and red to my greenery. It helps to alter the cool, drab greens due to shooting in the shade by introducing a warmth that again, plays into the feeling of the warm setting sun coming through. I recommend that you tread lightly with this. It’s really easy to overdo adding in warmth and that kills a photo by making it look very forced.
7. Brown Sugar. 80% Using a black brush, I masked it off her face. This is probably one of my favorite tones to use with images that have a lot of green to them. It adds in more of that warm tone like Rosy Dusk, but has a slight hazy feeling to it. I’ve heard this action is a favorite of a lot of photographers.
8. Starbright. 40%. The photo was just a little dull in contrast and she needed a slight pop. Starbright adds in a slight vignette around the edges, while adding exposure to the mid-section of the image. Just what this photo needed.
9. DIY Dark. Her shirt was looking a little too bright and washed out, so I painted some darkening effect over it to bring it down a bit and also over the apples of her cheeks. I often add a little darkening or extra color to cheeks (Rosy Cheeks + Lips) to bring back definition and shape to subject’s faces when they feel flat.
10. Daydream. 40% This is totally optional, but I just wanted to add in a touch of haziness to the image. The slight cool tones of Daydream along with the hazy effects gave the edges of the images (masked off subject) the perfect little finishing touch. Adding a slight haze, colored or clear, over a final edit is a fantastic finishing touch that makes a pretty edit, pretty exceptional.