Tutorial : 4 simple steps to colour-correct your photos!
I am glad that a lot of you found my previous tutorial on how to create your own clones helpful! And I saw several attempts based on the tutorial which looked so good that I felt like a parent watching his kid graduate from school! You guys rock!
This next tutorial, we’ll take it slow and easy, and touch on colour-correcting photographs for beginners. It’s nothing difficult and by the end of it, you might probably wonder why I even bothered to post something so simple. It’s just something that I figured most hobbyist-photographers (like myself) would find useful if they had only just started out.
Alright, the image in the screenshot below is what I’ll be using for this tutorial. You can pick out any image from your own collection to play with. If you’ve never colour-corrected your images before, I think you’d be amazed at what the outcome will be.
Bring the photograph you want to colour-correct into Photoshop. What do you think of the image above? It looks pretty alright, yah? But, let’s get on to Step 2.
Click on Image > Adjustments. In the menu that follows lies the 3 automatic commands that would do your photographs a world of good.
- Auto Contrast – Improves the contrast of your photographs by making the highlights of the photo appear lighter and shadows appear darker.
- Auto Color – Improves the colour cast of your photographs. If your photograph has a sickly green tinge to it, this command will remove it.
- Auto Levels – The Auto Levels command automatically adjusts the black point and white point in an image.
Personally, when colour-correcting my photos, I’d run them through the first 2 commands and leave out the Auto Levels. I’d correct the Levels manually (we’ll get to that later) instead. Since Auto Levels gives slightly different results, depending on the image, I had out-grown using it, but you can try it by all means.
As I mentioned above, trust your eyes. If it looks good to you, keep it.
That is… If you’re not colour-blind. 😀
At this point, your image should look much better compared to the original. If it doesn’t, your photograph must’ve looked perfect to begin with and you don’t need this tutorial. 😀
But if your image is looking drastically better, here’s how to make it pop out even more.
Click on Image > Adjustments > Levels.
Here you will see a histogram and 3 arrows at the bottom of it. Here’s a condensed explanation of what the arrows do.
- Shadows Level
Sliding this arrow to the right, nearer to the center of the histogram, makes the dark parts of your photograph darker: shadows, dark clothes, included.
- Midtones Level
Sliding this arrow to the left makes the midtones of your photographs darker, while sliding it to the right makes the midtones brighter.
- Highlights Level
Sliding this arrow to the left makes the highlights of your photograph brighter, and at a certain point, blown out. I rarely move this slider more than a few points to the left.
As this is a beginner’s guide, we shall ignore the rest of the options for now and just focus on these 3 arrows.
Once again, I would tell you to trust your eyes and play around with the sliders to see what looks good to you. I recommend playing with the Shadows Level and Highlights Level sliders first as these two will give the best effects to your photograph.
For the photograph I used in this tutorial, I moved the Shadows Level slider to the right quite a lot to get the shadows to a darker shade and to give the overall image a deeper red/orange cast than it originally was. I didn’t touch the other 2 sliders at all.
Regarding the Levels command, from Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended’s Help : “You use the Levels dialog box to correct the tonal range and color balance of an image by adjusting intensity levels of image shadows, midtones, and highlights.”
I like my explanation better. 😛
Actually, that’s it! No step 4. Hahaha. This is quite a long tutorial and I didn’t think people would believe me if I typed that there were only 3 steps. 😛
So this is the final image after the colour-correcting.
Colour-correcting is quite a subjective thing and what looks good to one person might not look quite right to another. I chose to make the image above to be a deeper red/orange cast to further emphasise the setting of sun and, more than any other reason, because I like how it looks.
There are many other ways to colour-correct your photographs, including using Curves and Hue/Saturation commands. The ones in this tutorial are those I personally use, and I use them all the time. They’re almost enough that you don’t have to even bother with the rest. 🙂
What do you think? Better? 😀
With the advent of digital cameras, and their drastic fall in prices in the past decade, you can’t take one step without bumping into a photographer. Heck, there’s not a lot of handphones nowadays that doesn’t come equipped with a built-in camera. So this tutorial is meant to help even better your already-great photographs.
Even the best photos would benefit from a pass in Photoshop, and professional digital photographers heavily depend on the program to post-process their shots. You’d be amazed at the number of photographs that look awful in the beginning, but can be saved by Photoshop.
So go forth and try this tutorial out on some of your photographs. Don’t forget to show us your before and after pictures if you used this tip and found it useful, yah? 🙂
And remember… Trust your eyes!
This entry was published by mr malique’s co-author, Zul. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect mr malique’s opinions. Zul is a hobbyist-photographer, an engineer by education, but a web designer by profession. He can be found roaming the streets begging people to accept HTML into their hearts. Other times, he can be found not making much sense at zuldevil.com