Howdy Y’all, I’ve Got Some Post Processing Tips!

Sunday I finally, FINALLY got Jasper to put on his Halloween Costume! I have the whole story up on my photography site, but let’s just say it wasn’t easy. So once he was in it, I couldn’t let him take it off until I took some pictures in case he never put it on again..

So, here’s my little cowboy – (these look MUCH better big on my photo website!)

I posted these on ILP and someone asked about my processing and if they could see the SOOC, so I thought I’d do a little step by step in case anyone finds it useful.

OK, first the SOOC:

Yucko! You can see that my WB was waaaay off, I probably had it on the “shady” settting which adds a ton of yellow/warmth.

So in LR, I adjusted the tint and temperature sliders and raised the exposure up JUST a tad:

This is a much better starting point and so I opened it up in Photoshop.  The first thing I did was lift the midtones by doing a curves adjustment layer and pulling up the center of the curve so the image then looked like this:

That opened up the image nicely, particularly under his hat you can see his hair much better.  I then ran an action that I run on almost ALL my images to give them a little contrast kick. It’s called AMP Simply B&W, it’s a freebie and I highly recommend it. Up until recently I haven’t been a HUGE fan of actions because I have a major DIY complex, but lately I’ve been using them more and more to speedup my workflow. I don’t recommend that beginners to photoshop get too caught up in actions because then they don’t learn how to DIY, but once you know what each action is doing and even how to recreate it yourself, that’s a whole other story.

The reason I use this particular action so often is that it does three basic things for me:  1) It adds a contrast pop via a levels adjustment. That adjustment is just bringing the black slider in from the left to the right and the middle slider over to brighten the midtones a bit  like this:

I find that this kick is all the contrast I usually need/want in my images.  2) It has a B&W via gradient layer that I just turn off for color images, but it’s convenient to have it there for a one-click conversion.  3) It has a layer called “eye lift” which is just like the midtones curve adjustment we did in the second step. I often paint this layer on with a soft white brush at a very low opacity around the eyes (which is what it is meant for) and also ANYWHERE else in my image that needs a bit of lightening.  It also has a “darker darks” layer for images that need more blacks and an “oops too bright” layer in case that contrast layer brightened up the image too much. I don’t use these most of the time, but they are convenient to have. So this is my image after I ran the APM Simply B&W action and clicked OFF the b&w layer:

Notice that the background particularly got a nice pop.  At this point, I will often take my sponge tool set to “saturate” at about 5% and go over any areas that I want to give a color pop.  I will also use the burn tool to go around the edges of the image to give it a slight vignette. I don’t do that on all my images, but I thought it fit well with the western theme.

Then, I resized and sharpened for web using an USM set to 500% and radius at .2 and added my watermark. And,  the final version:

From this:

to this:

You’ll notice that the original looks god awful, which is MOSTLY due to the incorrect WB. That one fix alone is huge. B ut also it looks almost blurry which is partly because I exported it straight out of LR and it only has LR sharpening applied to it.  I LOVE LR but the web sharpening sucks – you just can’t get that same crispness that you can with photoshop USM -which is really unfortunate because it means I have to open every image in PS at some point.  Hopefully this is something they will address in future versions.

Anyway, hope that was useful!

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Very helpful tips! Thanks for steering me over here :D


Tracie says:

:::tips my hat::::

thank you ma’mam. ;-)

Kristen says:

Thanks Ariana! I love AMP actions, one of the few I use. I had no idea how high USM is usable to, I’ve been at around 200%, thank you!

Lisa says:

Great tutorial – thanks for sharing!

What an adorable little cowboy :)

Stacey says:

Thank you so much for the step-by-step process. I have been trying very hard to capture some beautiful fall pics of my 19 month old. It is nearly impossible – mostly because I can not get eye contact and he continually runs toward me for a hug! But also because my photographs are so yellow from the leaves (even though the trees are in the distant background). I think I need to keep adjusting the temp and tint sliders until I get a better WB. I am going to go through my photographs again this weekend and try some of your tips in this post. Have to add – so jealous of your amazing fall and Halloween photographs. They are stunning, beautiful, and full of personality. Your photography is inspiring, as always!!!

Mrsxoxo1598 says:

I love you Ariana! You’re so sweet for sharing your secrets :) and I completely agree with the LR web sharpening being soft, sharpening individually in PSE is a necessary pita :/ thanks for the tips!!

Karli says:

I really, REALLY appreciate you taking the time to share your processing tips! It speaks to the kind of person you are that you would be so helpful – thank you! I stumbled across your site recently, and added it to my RSS feed. Can’t wait to see more. Your son is precious! Thanks again for sharing. :-)

kari says:

wow. thanks! so helpful!

Lisa says:

Thanks for sharing! Very helpful!

Jonni says:


Beautiful and thanks for the step-by-step.

Sheri says:

What darling shots and wonderful edits!