Adjusting Color & Tone in Photoshop

  • Thread starter CaptainDan
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May 9, 2021
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  • #1
It doesn't matter who you are, where you are, or what kind of photographer you are, you'll eventually need to adjust color and tone in your photographs. No photo exits a camera in perfect form. Almost every single picture I print or share has had some sort of correction made to it and oftentimes, if not always, color and tone corrections play a large part in what I do.

In today's post, I'd like to walk through the process of editing the color and tone of a demo photo that I found on a stock photography website (Pexels). I'll discuss the process of correcting a color cast, the color, and the tone. I'll walk through each step that necessary to complete these tasks.

Removing a Color Cast​

To start out, I'll open the photo into Adobe Photoshop and then I'll open the Adjustments panel by visiting the Window > Adjustments menu item.


This is what the Adjustments panel looks like. It'll be in the right column.


Next, I'll click the Curves icon in the Adjustments panel.This is the third button in from the left, first row. I'll click that, which will result in a new layer appearing in the Layers panel. This layer is called an adjustment layer. Adjustment layers are an incredible invention by Adobe that act as shields for mistakes. When you edit photos via adjustment layers in Photoshop and would like to remove those edits, you can simply delete the adjustment layer. This type of layer also allows you to go back and edit what you've already edited. This is the epitome of a non-destructive workflow.

This is what an adjustment layer looks like in the Layers panel. It's the top layer with the white thumbnail.


Also, when I click the Curves button, the Curves Properties panel will open up automatically.


As I mentioned above, pictures don't always come out of a camera in perfect form. Many times you'll need to correct the white balance and the brightness in them. In this next step, I'll do both.

I'll click the third dropper from the top in the Properties panel. This is called the White Point tool. If you hover over this dropper with your mouse for a few seconds, you should see a popup that says Sample in image to set white point (Press ALT to display clipping preview). The trick with this dropper is to click on the brightest and most neutral area of your photo. You don't want to click on an area that's completely blown out by over exposure, but an area that's more naturally bright and neutral. Click around a few times as you'll likely get different results wherever you click.

I'll now click on this uppermost portion of the white shirt in the image. Let's look at a before and after shot.


As you can see, there was a bluish color cast that has been corrected by the White Point tool in Photoshop. That was a very simple correction. The tool also slightly brightened the image. You can actually see how much more natural the girl's hair in the photo looks. It's not blue anymore.

Also, FYI - if you'd like to have a much more detailed view of what you're currently hovering over with your mouse in a photograph, you can easily see the color values themselves by visiting the Window > Info panel. In this panel, you'll find RGB, CMYK, and positional X and Y coordinates. This panel is helpful because colors and brightness aren't always clear when just viewing an image with your eyes. When hunting around for a spot that's both neutral and bright, having the RGB values at your disposal can help a lot.


Correcting the Tone of a Photo​

The next area of the image I'll correct is the tone, meaning the darks and the brights. If I go back up to the Adjustments panel, which should already be open and visible, I'll click the Levels icon. This is one spot to the left of the Curves icon that I selected before. When I click the Levels icon, a new adjustment layer will appear in the Layers panel and a new Properties panel will open up as well. This is the Levels Property panel and it looks like a histogram.


In the histogram above, you'll see the range of dark and light values in the image. Along the bottom axis of the histogram are three triangles. The one on the left (the black one) represents the black point of the image, the one on the right (the white one) represents the white point, and the one in the center (the grey one) represents the midtones. If you're currently following along, go ahead and click and drag these triangles to the left and the right. By experimenting, you'll get all different results; some good, some not so good. No two photos are the same, so it really just takes some practice to see what effect the movement of the triangles make. In my case, I'll move the blacks to the right a bit and the midtones to the left. This will add some contrast while also brightening the picture overall.

Here's the before and after of the photo now.


I'd say that looks pretty good.

Flattening the File​

After making corrections to an image, it's typical to save it out as a working document (PSD) to preserve the layers and then save it out again as a final image. For the final version, you may want to flatten the layers so you can make further corrections, such as spot removal and the sort of thing that requires an entire document without layers to have an effect. To flatten an image, simply visit the Layer > Flatten Image menu item. After clicking that, you'll see all of the layers in the Layers panel merge into one. The look of your document inside of Photoshop won't change at all, but the file size will have been reduced and you won't have access to the various adjustment layers anymore. That's why I suggested you save two working documents; one with layers and one without. After you do all this, you may export your image as a JPEG or whatever you want.

Well, that's about it. If you have any questions about what I shared above or if you'd like to add something, please add to this thread down below. I'll help any way I can. Thanks!


May 9, 2021
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  • #2

How to Remove a Color Cast From a Photo Using Adobe Photoshop​

I suppose I should begin this post with a definition of what a “color cast” in a photograph is. Basically, it’s a tint of an unwanted color that affects part of or an entire photo. Generally speaking, certain types of light can cause both film and digital cameras to produce a color cast. Sometimes it’s not that bad and can be ignored while other times it definitely needs correcting.

I take photos almost every day of my life and many of those photos consist of food in a specific setting. I have a table set up with two studio lamps, along with a background. The stage pretty much stays the same every time I photograph with just the subjects differing. I’m constantly facing an issue with many of my photos. The affected photos oftentimes have a yellow color cast to them.

Back in the day, I used to think a yellow color cast wasn’t that bad to look at. I enjoyed “warm” photos and really didn’t mind any excess yellow in my photos. As time went on though, I found that having too much yellow in a photo is just downright ugly. The warmth I was looking for should actually have been stemming from more oranges, reds and purples. Yellows – no. After editing and leaving my photos to sit for a while and then upon my return to review them, I discovered the err of my ways. I appropriately corrected them.

In today’s post, I’m going to talk about some methods I use for removing the yellow from my photos. There are three in all and each one is really easy to take advantage of. I’ll use both Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop, along with two example photos, to demonstrate.

Example Photographs​

Continuing on with this post, I’ll be using these two photos to show you how much better a photo can look if its color is corrected. In my opinion, both of these images have too much yellow in them, which is hindering a few other colors from being revealed.

pier.jpg girl-field.jpg

While both of these photos look good already and may evoke an emotional response, I think they can definitely use some work.

Adjusting Temperature in Adobe Camera Raw​

The first and most obvious way for removing yellow from a photo is to use the Temperature slider in Camera Raw. This slider is a sliding scale that travels between blue and yellow. You can add yellow and remove blue by pushing the slider to the right and remove yellow and add blue by pushing the slider to the left. Here’s a screenshot of it.


I’ve actually gone over how to adjust white balance in a photo on this blog before.

Can You Fix Photo White Balance With Adobe Camera Raw?

In the photo of the pier, I can see that there’s a minor bit of yellow color as well as some extra orange. The way I can see this is by looking at something that’s supposed to be white. Since clouds on a sunny day are always supposed to be white, that’s a good indication.

To correct this anomaly, I can simply push the Temperature slider to the left slightly. I’ll push it until a value of -15 is showing, which seems to have cleared up the issue.


I always feel like after I color correct a photo, it’s sort of like rubbing my eyes and being able to see clearly again. Take a look at the photo now. It just looks more accurate.


If I make the same kind of correction in the other image, I can see a much better looking photo. This time, I pushed the Temperature slider to the left until I hit a value of -25. That seemed to do the trick.


The issue with this method though, as you may have noticed, is if there’s a large amount of yellow in the photo and pushing the Temperature slider greatly to the left is required, we may get some unexpected blue in the result. If you look at the girl’s hair, you can see that blue. I don’t want that, so I’m going to abandon this method and head towards the next.

Adjusting Selective Color in Adobe Camera Raw​

In the case of the girl in the field, all I want is to reduce the yellow. I don’t want to mess with any other colors and I especially don’t want to replace some of the yellow with blue. Even though blue does make whites look whiter and even though some laundry detergents use the addition of this color as a cleansing technique, I don’t want any in this case. So, to deal with this, I’ll push the Temperature slider back to its original state and I’ll head over to the HSL/Grayscale panel in Camera Raw. Once there, I’ll make sure the Saturation tab is active.


If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at this panel in Camera Raw, please visit this post:

Adjusting Hue, Saturation & Luminance in Adobe Camera Raw

When adjusting colors with this panel, I’ll use the same technique I used previously. I’ll look for an object that supposed to be white in the photo and try to determine what kind of color cast I have. In this case, the sun is supposed to be white, which means I’ve got way too much yellow in the photo. To deal with this, I’ll push the Yellow slider to the left until I reach a value of -60.


Making this one small change really cleaned up the photo. Take a look at Camera Raw’s before and after view.


How did I use the before and after view? Well, you can read this post to find out:

How To View Before & After Comparisons in Adobe Camera Raw

And if I really wanted to obtain some pure white in the area of the sun and didn’t want to guess which sliders to push, I could always take advantage of the Targeted Adjustment Tool.


Clicking and dragging in the area of the sun, to the left, would more the Yellow slider even more and the Green slider just a bit.


I would end up with a much better looking and more accurate photo.


Using a Selective Color Adjustment Layer in Adobe Photoshop​

If you’re a lover of Photoshop, by all means, head right into that to do your editing. Photoshop has come a long way from its early days and can now make all sorts of changes to a photo, non-destructively. In this final section, I’m going to show you how to remove some of the yellow from these photos using an adjustment layer.

I’ve already got both images opened up in Photoshop. I’ll work on the one of the pier in this section. To deal with the color cast in this photo, I’ll head down to the bottom of the Layers panel and click the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon. When the menu appears, I’ll click on Selective Color.


This will create and add a Selective Color adjustment layer to the Layers panel. It will also open up the Properties panel for that adjustment layer.


If you take a look inside the Properties panel, you’ll see a drop-down box. Since it’s the whites I’d like to remove any color cast from, I’ll select that – Whites.


Then, from the CMYK sliders below the drop-down, I’ll push the Yellows slider to the left, to remove some of that color.


I just pushed this slider all the way to the left and noticed a small difference. If I wanted to truly remove the yellows from this photo, I’d select Yellows from the drop-down and push the Yellows slider to the left again. The color that you select in the drop-down menu is the one you target and the sliders are what actually adds or removes color from the target. It’s really simple and can be done with any color, not only yellow. If I wanted to add or remove green or orange, I could follow the same instructions to target those colors.

One last thing – I want to talk about the two radio buttons down below the sliders in the Properties panel. These are Relative and Absolute.

When I was editing the colors in this example photo, I kept the Relative setting selected. Basically, a relative adjustment is quite subtle in that it takes the percentage of the specific color tone in a photograph and determines how much of a change should be made based on that percentage of the total. In my case, if there were 30% yellow color tones in this example photo and I removed 20% of them, I wouldn’t be removing 20% overall. I’d merely be removing 20% of the 30%, which is 6%. So, my total yellow color tones after this adjustment would be 24%.

Conversely, adjusting color in absolute terms is much more straightforward. If I make a 20% adjustment, I get a 20% adjustment. Just remember, Relative is much more subtle while Absolute is much more powerful. You can easily flip back and forth between the two to see which setting you prefer.

If you’d like to learn more about adjustment layers in Photoshop, please take a look at these posts:

Using the Levels Adjustment in Adobe Photoshop for Photography

Changing Colors with Some Adjustment Layer Sliders in Adobe Photoshop

Selecting & Adding Saturation to an Object in Adobe Photoshop


Well there you have it. A post about how to add or remove color tones from an image using either Adobe Camera Raw or Photoshop. I hope I gave you some insight into this topic. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!


May 9, 2021
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  • #3

How to Colorize a Stormy Sky in Adobe Photoshop​

I found a pretty cool photo the other day. It’s full of lightening and clouds and it looks really neat. The only parts I don’t like about the photo are the facts that it looks a bit washed out and that parts of it look like they are the wrong color. The original photo has blue lights illuminating the clouds from the lightening and I thought things would look better if they were orange. Is it stands, the photo looks as if it could be the background of Metallica‘s Ride the Lightening album cover when what I was looking for is the background of the same band’s Master of Puppets album cover. I know, I know – little things.

In today’s post, I’ll work on changing the color that illuminates this photograph’s clouds right inside of Adobe Photoshop. To do this, I’ll take advantage of a Gradient Overlay effect. I’ll show you what the inside of this Layer Style panel looks like and how to tweak a few areas of it. I’ll also show you how to apply a gradient and how to change the colors of the gradient itself. Finally, I’ll use an Adjustment Layer to add some sorely needed contrast to the photo. When this project is finished, I should have an entirely new looking image that has much more appealing color and depth.

Original Image​

Here’s a view of the original image. I’m sure you agree with me about what I wrote in the above section. Don’t worry, I’m going to start cleaning this up right now.


By the way, I already launched this photo into Photoshop. I haven’t made any changes to it in Camera Raw or anything like that. Also, the only change I made to it inside of Photoshop so far was to straighten and crop it slightly. The photograph was totally crooked.

Applying a Gradient Overlay​

Because I straightened and cropped the photo, the layer became unlocked. What I’m referring to here is whether or not the small lock icon can be viewed in a background layer. Since the layer has been manipulated, the lock was removed, giving me license to perform further manipulation. If I hadn’t done anything to the layer yet, I’d need to click the small lock icon to unlock the layer. Without doing that, the Fx menu I’ll use in just a moment would be grayed out and wouldn’t be available to me.

To kick things off, I’m going to head down to the bottom of the Layers panel and click on the Fx menu icon. When I do that, the relevant menu will appear.


When I see the menu, I can click the Gradient Overlay option.

The reason I chose to use a gradient overlay is because I don’t want a solid color overlay across the entire image. I’d like to see some distinction between the top of the image and the bottom of the image. If I had chosen the Color Overlay option, I would have no control over any type of color variation inside of the effect layer.

Once I click on the menu item, I few things will happen. First, the Layer Style editor will appear inside of the Photoshop workspace and two new sub-layers will appear in the Layers panel. Because this is a non-destructive change, the Gradient Overlay sub-layer will be situated under the Effects heading, which is under the layer itself.

applying-gradient.jpg effect-layers.jpg

Adjusting the Gradient Overlay​

As you can see, the gradient that has been applied to the photo I’m working on is solid. This may be the case in your situation as well, but may be something else if you had recently been working in Photoshop and had used this tool. Because I was fooling around with different things earlier in the day, Photoshop applied the last known adjustment I used. This makes no difference because I need to make some changes anyway.

The first thing I’m going to do is to apply a blend mode to this gradient overlay so we can see through it. I’ll click the Blend Mode drop-down box and look all the way towards the bottom of the menu that appears. I’ll click on Color, which does this:

Creates a result color with the luminance of the base color and the hue and saturation of the blend color. This preserves the gray levels in the image and is useful for coloring monochrome images and for tinting color images.


When I do this, the image will become visible again. It will also be tinted with the colors of the gradient.

layer-style-editor.jpg monochrome-sky.jpg

This actually brings me to the second task I need to complete, which is to change the colors of the gradient.

Changing Gradient Colors​

It’s very simple to change the default colors of a gradient in Photoshop. All I need to do is to click on the Gradient colors themselves inside of the Layer Style editor. This will launch the Gradient Editor.


I’ll click on the fifth pre-made gradient in the top row, which is orange and purple. Doing this will apply those colors to the image, as opposed to the black and white I started out with.


I chose this selection because it already had orange in it, saving me work. The thing is, although the result looks very colorful and pretty neat, it isn’t what I want. The purple has got to go.

To change the color purple to the color black, I’ll double-click on the small purple tick mark that’s all the way to the left on the gradient scale. When I do that, the Color Picker will open. From there, I can easily either type in the hex value of #000000 (black) or just click down in the black area of the color scale somewhere with my mouse.


Once I do that, I can click OK, OK and OK to apply and close out of all these editors and windows. What I’ll be left with is the photo of the lightening and storm clouds with an orange and black overlay.


I don’t know. I like the colors but the image still looks kind of worn out. It definitely needs some contrast. That’s what I’ll do next.

Applying Contrast with an Adjustment Layer​

This last section will be quick because it’s really easy to apply an adjustment layer. I’ve actually discussed how to do this task on this site a few times. If you’re interested in reading about this topic, please take a look at these posts:

Changing Colors with Some Adjustment Layer Sliders in Adobe Photoshop

How to Use the Gradient Tool with Adjustment Layers in Adobe Photoshop

Brightening Eyes with the Levels Adjustment in Adobe Photoshop

Using the Levels Adjustment in Adobe Photoshop for Photography

To add some contrast to the photo, I’ll head up to the Adjustments panel and click the Brightness/Contrast icon.


When I do that, the Properties panel for this adjustment will appear. I’ll click and drag the Contrast slider all the way to the right, so I get as much contrast as possible.


This will surely set the storm clouds ablaze. It will also darken a lot of those washed out looking blacks and will make the photo look a lot better.

The Final Photo​

Okay, let’s take a look at this photo now. I’d like to see what my changes look like.


Now that’s what I’m talking about. I think that looks great, especially because I hardly put any effort into changing this image. If I wanted to, I could follow the same steps again, but this time everything would only take about 30 seconds because I just went through the process.

Boy, the depth of those clouds look good, don’t they?


I think this was a pretty informative little project. I enjoy making simple changes like this every once in a while. The original blue would have looked fine if I just added some contrast to it, but changing the storm clouds to orange made things really come alive.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!


May 9, 2021
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  • #4

Quickly Creating Better Photo Color & Richness in Adobe Photoshop​

Making a photo pop isn’t all that difficult to achieve. Oftentimes, all it takes is a bit of tweaking in your favorite photo editor. While I’m very partial to the Adobe Camera Raw engine, which is used in Camera Raw as well as Lightroom, I’m also fond of Photoshop’s capabilities. With the introduction of adjustment layers in Photoshop, editing photos so they tell a story is so much easier than it’s ever been.

In today’s post, I’m going to show you how to make multiple enhancements to a photograph inside of Photoshop using adjustment layers. While I’m sure you already know all about this technique from reading my previous posts on the topic, I may just throw in a new tip or two here. Also, if you’re not well versed in adjustment layer usage, please take a look at these posts to get caught up.

Changing Colors with Some Adjustment Layer Sliders in Adobe Photoshop

How to Use the Gradient Tool with Adjustment Layers in Adobe Photoshop

Brightening Eyes with the Levels Adjustment in Adobe Photoshop

Demo Photo​

From what I can gather, tattoos are becoming quite popular. I’m guessing that their popularity doesn’t only stem from their abilities to express, but because some of them look really cool. As far as I’ve seen, the better tattoos have depth to them. That, and vivid color that stands out and creates conversation. With this in mind, I though the following image would be perfect to use for this post.


Right off the bat, I think the picture looks pretty good. Of course, I think I can make it look a bit better. So, for the rest of this post, I’ll be doing just that – making it look better with adjustment layers.

Adding Vibrance & Saturation​

Before I begin working on this photo, I want to tell you that any change I make is subject to further tweaking later on as more changes are made. Vibrance and Saturation values are notorious for further edits down the line, as contrast and lighting is altered. Just letting you know that.

Okay, the photo has already been launched into Photoshop and sized on my screen so it fills the entire work area (keyboard shortcut Ctrl+0). To kick things off, I’ll click the Vibrance adjustment layer icon in the Adjustments panel.


My goal here is to add some life to the colors in the skin and the tattoos. If there’s any over saturation in the reds of the shirt, I’ll deal with that later on. In the screenshot below, you’ll see the changes I made to the Vibrance and Saturation sliders. I set the Saturation value to +25 and the Vibrance value to +60.


Are you interested in what the difference between Vibrance and Saturation is when it comes to Adobe Photoshop? Well, if you are, you can check out this post I wrote on the topic:

What’s the Difference Between Vibrance & Saturation in Adobe Photoshop?

Adding Conrast Via Curves​

The next goal I have for this photo is to add some depth to it. I would like to contrast the arms and hands from the rest of the photo. I want to bring them to the forefront.

One method for doing this is to add contrast to the image. While I could easily use the Contrast slider in the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer, I’m opting to use the Curves adjustment because there’s a simple to use preset in there.


If I click the Preset drop-down box and then select the Increase Contrast option, I’ll get the depth I’m looking for.


After doing this, I’ll also notice that the line on the Curves graph has been automatically altered. I could continue to modify the points on this line by clicking and dragging them if I wanted to, but I’m happy with the way they are, so I won’t touch them.


Reducing Oversaturation​

In a previous section, I mentioned that the reds in the shirt may be slightly oversaturated. In all honesty, they really aren’t too bad, but for the sake of showing you how to deal with this type of thing, I’m going to say they are.

To make the reds in the shirt slightly less red, I’ll first click on the Hue/Saturation icon in the Adjustments panel.


Then, I’ll click on the Targeted Adjustment Tool inside of the Hue/Saturation Properties panel.


Once that tool is activated, I can go to any red section of the shirt, click and drag to the left to reduce the saturation level for that particular color.


If you take a look at the Properties panel in the screenshot above, you’ll see that, after I clicked on the oversaturated reds, Photoshop has automatically chosen Reds from the drop-down that sits to the right of the tool I just used, as well as selected the reds in the color slider down at the bottom of this panel. No matter what color I chose, Photoshop would have done the same thing for that specific color.

Also, if I drag left when using this tool, I reduce saturation. If I drag right, it increases it. This is a fast and effective tool to use.

Adding a Soft Light Blend Mode​

Don’t worry, this is the second to last adjustment layer I’ll be adding and it’s one of the coolest. For this section, I’ll be using a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer that will be colorized. To start, I’ll click on the Hue/Saturation icon once again in the Adjustments panel. Then, once the new Properties panel opens up, I’ll check the Colorize check box and I’ll move the Hue slider over to the area of the blues.


Just a word of warning. When I do this, the colors of the image will drastically change. You might like this look and want to keep it, but since I’m going for a more somber and down to earth appearance, I’m going to continue on with modifying this adjustment layer.


To make things look more normal again, I’ll change the blend mode for this adjustment layer from Normal to Soft Light.


If you remember back to one of my earlier posts, you’ll remember that the Soft Light blend mode is defined as this:

Darkens or lightens the colors, depending on the blend color. The effect is similar to shining a diffused spotlight on the image. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened as if it were dodged. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened as if it were burned in. Painting with pure black or white produces a distinctly darker or lighter area, but does not result in pure black or white.

Once I choose this mode, the image will look somewhat normal again.


Again, you may like this look and want to keep it. I’d like to make this latest effect just a tad less noticeable, so I’ll lower the opacity of this adjustment layer to 50%. I’ll use the Opacity slider in the Layers panel to accomplish this.


Adding Some Brightness​

Sometimes, after making a bunch of changes like I did in this post, the photo becomes somewhat dark. Also, images can become more dynamic in some areas and less dynamic in others. I’ve found that adding just a tinge of brightness to a photo can help out with this sort of issue, so that’s what I’ll do in this final section.

To add brightness to this image, I’ll click the Brightness/Contrast icon in the Adjustments panel.


Then, once the Properties panel opens up for this adjustment, I’ll slightly nudge the Brightness slider to the right, so the photo is just a bit brighter.


I want to warn you about this slider. It’s nowhere near as good as the Shadows and Blacks sliders in Camera Raw or Lightroom, so don’t get your hopes up. When it says Brightness, it means just that. It’s a blunt instrument, so if you have more detailed changes to make, be sure you make them in one of those other applications.

Want a really neat solution to this little issue?

Using Camera Raw as a Filter Inside Adobe Photoshop

When I’m finished here, things should be a little more bright.

The Final Photo​

As it turns out, I get exactly the look I was going for.


There’s some really nice contrast and depth in this photo and none of the colors are overwhelming. I’d say it looks great. The photo now has some punch.


As you may have guessed, you can make some seriously drastic changes to photographs by taking advantage of adjustment layers. While mine were mild, I’m sure you’ve seen some that were much more bold. Think about music magazines and some of the more edgy areas of our cultures. Personally, I like bold photos, but I keep most of them mild for this site.

Anyway, I hope I clearly explained how you can add contrast, color and depth to a photo using a variety of different adjustment layers in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!


May 9, 2021
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  • #5

Two Quick Tool Tips For Warming Up Photos in Adobe Photoshop​

One of the most common goals of any photographer is, after taking the perfect shot, to edit it so it looks simply marvelous. The thing is, not too many photographers spend all that much time in photo editing applications such as Photoshop to do that editing. After all, their time is much better spent out in the field doing some serious work. So, with this in mind, the question that’s often asked is this. How can a photographer quickly edit a photo to make it look a lot better than the original, easily? I’m here to tell you there is a way. And it only takes a few very quick steps. You’re going to be surprised at this one.

In today’s post, I’m going to walk through the process of using only two adjustment layers (Curves and Color Balance) in Adobe Photoshop to enhance a photo and make it look much warmer, as it should. The warmth of the photo will give it the feel it was supposed to have out of the camera. Oftentimes, photos will come out feeling cooler than they are supposed to and in this post, I’ll show you how to correct that.

The Original Photo​

I decided to go with this photo because the original shot definitely has a blue hue to it. On the right side, you can see the light, but unfortunately, that light doesn’t look very appealing. If a warm sunset over the ocean was the goal, it’s simply not there yet.


Do you see what I’m saying? The sunset doesn’t even look orange. It’s almost as if that’s white light that’s showing.

Adding a Curves Adjustment Layer​

I already have the photo in question opened up into Photoshop. I used the keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+0 to size the image so it fits completely into my work area. The next thing I’m going to do is to add a Curves adjustment layer. To do this, I’ll head over to the Adjustments panel and click on the Curves icon.


After I do that, I’ll see the new adjustment layer appear in the Layers panel. I’ll also see the Properties panel for this adjustment open up.


I’m going to make two adjustments via this panel. The first one will add contrast and the second one will reduce some of the blue color cast.

To quickly and easily add some contrast, I’m going to click on the Presets drop-down in the Properties panel and choose Medium Contrast. Doing this will allow Photoshop to do the thinking for me and will give the photo some definition.


Second, to reduce some of the blue in the photo, which will begin giving it the warmth I’m after, I’ll click on the drop-down right below the previous one that currently says RGB. From the drop-down, I’ll choose Blue.


Once the blue curve line is showing, I’ll click on the top half of the line itself and drag it up slightly. I’ll also click on the bottom of the line and drag it slightly down. This will give the line a slight “S” shape and will reduce and define the color blue in the photo. Here is a screenshot of the curve.


And here is the photo looking a bit better. In the photo below, you can definitely see the improvement.


Adding a Color Balance Adjustment Layer​

The next and final adjustment layer I’m going to add is Color Balance. This adjustment has to do specifically and only with color. It can change blue to yellow, cyan to red and green to magenta. It’s a powerful adjustment layer, to say the least.

To activate this adjustment layer, I’ll head over to the Adjustments panel again and click the Color Balance icon.


Once I do that, the Color Balance Properties panel will open.


By this point in my life, I know that yellow and red make orange. So, to obtain that orange warmth I want from the sunset, I’m going to reduce the blue towards the yellow and reduce the cyan towards the red. Basically, I’ll give the top slider a value of +25 and the bottom slider a value of -25. That reduction of the blues and increases of the reds and yellows will offer a beautiful orange glow. Here’s a screenshot of this adjustment layer panel.


And here’s the final photo.


Let’s now take a look at the before and after shot to see the improvement.


Wow. That’s a huge improvement. You have to admit that the edits were easy and the results are great.

I think I hit the nail on the head with these edits. Of course, you can make any changes you want, but these adjustments will steer you in the right direction. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!

COMMENT: Good ideas and well explained, thank you for taking time to record and share!


May 7, 2021
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Applying Photographic Toning to an Image in Adobe Photoshop​

With traditional photography, there’s a technique called Toning that aims to change the color of black and white photos. I’m sure you’ve seen these types of images around. Basically, they are colorless photographs with a light hint of a color. Usually, from what I’ve seen, the hint of color is brown or gold. Many photographers like giving their shots an antique style. I find this style appealing, personally speaking.

In today’s post, I’m going to show you the steps necessary to apply a toning effect to photos using Adobe Photoshop. First, we’ll strip away any existing color and then we’ll apply a toning filter. We’ll adjust the opacity of that filter and then finally, we’ll use Camera Raw to go one step further and apply some additional filters to the image. When I’m finished with this post, you should know how to give any digital photo you have an antique or “toned” appearance.

The Demo Photograph​

For this post, I thought I’d go the route of finding a nice photo of some antiques. Either that, or a photo that looks like the item(s) in it are antique. I believe I did just that and I think I found an image that will do well for this post. Check it out.


I bet you haven’t seen a telephone like this in real life. They’re becoming more and more difficult to find.

Adding a Black & White Adjustment Layer​

As you can see, the photo of the phone doesn’t look antique beyond the fact that the phone itself is antique. Since I already have the photo launched into Photoshop, I’m going to remove the color that’s making the photo look more modern. The way I’ll do this is by adding a Black & White adjustment layer. I’ll head up to the Adjustments panel and click the Black & White icon.


After I do this, I’ll see the color in the photo be stripped out and the Properties panel for this adjustment appear. I’ll also see the new adjustment layer appear in the Layers panel.

If I would like to add or remove any contrast in the photo, I can use the Black & White adjustment sliders to do so. Or, I could choose one of the presets from the Preset drop-down box.

To learn more about how to make the perfect black and white photo, please read the post below.

Killer Tips to Create Perfect Black & White Photos in Adobe Photoshop

If you leave things the way they are, don’t sweat it because you can always go back and modify the look of the black and white image later on.

Adding a Gradient Map​

In this section, I’ll explain how to acquire the colored overlay.

To add some color to the photo, I’ll head back up to the Adjustments panel and click on the Gradient Map icon. Once I do that, I’ll notice a new adjustment layer appear in the Layers panel as well as the Properties panel for this adjustment open up.


If you do this in your own version of Photoshop, you’ll likely notice that you don’t have all that many gradients to choose from. To add more gradients, please read through the post below.

How to Load Additional Gradients into Adobe Photoshop

In this case, I clicked through a few preset gradients and found something that appealed to me. After I did that, I minimized the Properties panel to get it out of the way. At this point, if I feel that the gradient is too strong, I could always adjust the opacity of the adjustment layer. I’d make sure the layer is selected in the Layers panel by clicking on it once and then I’d click and drag the Opacity slider directly above the layer.


Creating a Smart Object​

Although the photo is looking pretty good, it doesn’t have the effects I’d like to see in it. To get those effects, I’m going to have to jump from Photoshop over to Camera Raw for a bit. But, in order to do that, I’ll first need to convert the original photo layer to a Smart Object.

What are Smart Objects in Adobe Photoshop?

To convert the layer, I’ll select it in the Layers panel by clicking on it and then I’ll right-click on the layer. When the menu appears, I’ll click on Convert to Smart Object. This will immediately make the conversion and I’ll see the distinctive icon appear in the lower right corner of the layer thumbnail.


Now that the layer is a Smart Object, I can move onto the next step.

Applying a Camera Raw Filter​

As I mentioned above, I’ll need to jump into Camera Raw for a moment to apply a few filters that this application executes extraordinarily well. To access Camera Raw from Photoshop, I’ll head up to the Filter > Camera Raw Filter menu item and click.


After I do that, Camera Raw will open in its own window. The image I’ll see inside of Camera Raw is the original image I had in Photoshop. I won’t be able to see any modifications I made to it by way of adjustment layers.

Once in Camera Raw, I’ll click on the Effects tab and push the sliders around that are situated under the Grain heading. I’ll also reduce the value of the Amount slider under the Post-Crop Vignetting heading. I’m looking for some additional grain in the photo along with some darker corners.


When finished, I’ll click on the OK button down below to return to Photoshop with those effects applied to the photo. Again, if I need to make any adjustments in Camera Raw, since I edited a Smart Object, all I need to do is double-click on the Camera Raw Filter layer to return to Camera Raw and make those changes. All the changes I make in this post are non-destructive.

The Final Image​

That’s it. That’s all I need to do to alter this image to give it a photographic toning and antiquing effect. Let’s take a look at the final product.


Now, let’s liven things up by taking a look at a before and after shot.


That looks awesome.


I hope I clearly explained how to apply a photographic toning effect to a photograph using Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!