Liam – From Drab to Fab!

Ok, so the title is a little misleading…

This photo of Kari’s son Liam (who holds a special place in my heart because he and Jasper were born on the same day!) was actually pretty fab as is.   In fact, you may not think this photo needs editing at all.. but that’s where photoshop really shines. Taking a good picture and making it GREAT!

This tutorial expands on some skills demonstrated in the Maya Tutorials, so if you haven’t watched those yet, you probably should.

SO here is the before:

And here is the After that we are going for:

Isn’t that just the greatest photo? It was taken by Kari’s friend Heather with a Nikon D50.

Ok so here are the steps:

1. In your layers panel right click on the background layer and click duplicate.   Change the layer mode to “soft light” from normal and set the opacity to your liking (here I used 72% opacity).  This adds some quick contrast.. we went over this in Maya tutorial Part I.

Here’s what it looks like after contrast is added:

2. Get rid of slight yellowish color cast by making an adjustment curves layer. Go to the layer menu, choose new adjustment layer and then curves. Click on the furthermost right eyedropper tool (set whitepoint tool) and select a light point in the bedspread. Click around (control z to “unclick” last choice) until the image looks correctly colored to you. (Make sure the “preview” box is checked so you can see the results of your change on the image!).

Here is what it looks like after the curves adjustment layer:

3. Here is something new: Use the sponge tool to selectively saturate certain areas. I chose to saturate the guitar and Liam’s awesome reddish mohawk. The sponge tool is found docked with the dodge and burn tools in your toolbar:

Once you have selected it, at the top of your workspace where the tool options now appears you must make sure “saturate” is selected rather than “desaturate” and also change the flow to something lowish. I used 29%. Then “paint” the sponge tool over the areas you want to saturate. You can either do this on your original layer (more dangerous) or duplicate that layer first and saturate onto the duplicate in case you do something you don’t like you can always delete it. You can also change the mode to “desaturate” to knock back any oversaturation you do.

4. Create a vignette effect (darkening around the edges) using a 50% grey fill layer set to linear burn mode. (I go over this in the Maya Tutorial Part III, so watch that to learn how.)

Here is the image after the vignetting and with the saturation sponging:

5. Sharpen!!

Sharpening probably is the single most effective tool at making an image pop. Unfortunately it is also one of the hardest to get right.. and I’m no expert at it. Sharpening too much creates image noise (speckles etc) particularly at high resolutions like for printing. But you can be pretty liberal with it when you are using your image for the web. In this case, we are sharpening for web but the values would be different and would need to be more carefully adjusted were you to print this image at full resolution.

Here is one method of sharpening: Duplicate your background layer and name it “Sharp”.  Then under filter go to “convert for smart filters”.  Then go to filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask.  I used the values: Amount: 140% Radius: 1px and Threshold 8. Click OK.

Because you converted for smart filter first, if you think there is too much or too little sharpening you can go back in and play with those amounts. Or, you can just reduce the opacity of the “sharp” layer.

Click on and off the sharp layer and be amazed at how this makes your image POP!

Before sharpening:

After sharpening:

That’s it.. Have fun playing with your own images!

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Jen says:

Thank you so much for all the Photoshop information. It is so helpful and I love having everything on your site to reference. I appreciate you taking the time to do this for all of us! Jasper is an absolute doll by the way.

lisa h says:

that is amazing! he is one beautiful baby…

Nanette says:

Very impressive! Gonna try your tricks out!

kari says:

omg – love it!
you are really amazing – thanks for giving us a shout out on your fab blog, and including us in your tutorials… these are SO helpful!!
kari and liam

ariana says:

I should say that I was talking about on camera flash.. I don’t know how to use an external flash properly!

Jenna says:

Do you ever use an external flash or do you ONLY use natural light?