Making Grass Green

I was just preparing a few images of this adorable girl’s shoot to post on my photography blog and I thought I would do a quick tutorial on something that I had to do in almost every image from this shoot: adjust the grass color to be green and not yellow.

All it takes is one tiny hue/sat adjustment layer to go from blah yellow grass:


to this:


It’s a subtle change, but just by adding some blue the grass looks less dead and much more vibrant! (click on the images for a larger version on flicker where the change is more obvious.)

The trick is to use a hue/saturation adjustment layer and then from the drop down choose “yellows” and then bring your hue slider over to the right. This was the adjustment I used for this image:

Here’s one more  less subtle example:

Before Hue sat adjustment for grass


After hue/sat adjustment for grass

You may wonder why I choose yellow instead of greens which seems more intuitive.  Well, the answer to that riddle lies in this excellent post by  my friend Damien!

Now, the catch is that because we are adjusting yellows which are very prominent in skintones, we also have to mask back any skin areas by painting with a black brush on our hue/sat layer.  It takes me about 3 seconds to do this type of adjustment, but it really makes the color sing.   The trick is to use the same adjustment for all of your images in the shoot, you don’t want the grass to look a different shade of green in every shot!

I realize that this post probably would have been more useful during summer when there actually was still green grass, but that would just make too much sense ;)

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Caroline says:

thank you so much! Yes, I have noticed that having them look up a bit into the sky helps a bit. (But, they aren’t always posing in that direction). Thx for your thoughts. I’ll keep working on it!

ariana says:

Hi Caroline, I actually haven’t noticed ANY difference in getting catchlights in Asian vs. Caucasian eyes! If anything, I find dark eyes to reflect catchlights really well.. I think the same principle applies for any catchlights, which is that you HAVE to have light reflecting in them.

If it is a cloudy day, having the child look up a bit will help get the sky reflected in their eyes!

Caroline says:

Hi Ariana,
do you have any tips on how you capture catchlights in Asian eyes, particularly in this example from your 10/6/10 post? I have the hardest time getting catchlights in my kids’ (who are Asian) eyes. I am not sure if it’s because Asian eyes reflect less because their pupils are so dark (brown vs. someone who has blue eyes)? Or, coudl it be because Asian eyes tend to squint more (almond shaped vs. round)? Do you photoshop catchlights in? Would appreciate your feedback. thanks so much. I enjoy your blog very much. you are so gifted.

Ashley says:

I have always wanted to know how to do that! So thank you thank you!!! :)

ariana says:

Karen, you’re welcome! :)

Carol, I usually use a digital grey kard to ensure that I’m in the ballpark with my WB. I almost always check the cmyk values of my skintones using the info palette and use that information to assist me in deciding if I need to adjust the skintones even further! It’s definitely an art more than a science and something that I still work hard at!

carol says:

hi! just wondering if how you gauge that the colours on your pictures are accurate? do you do skin tone corrections like the clickinmoms tutorials? or you just adjust by eye?

Karen says:

Thank you Ariana for this tutorial (green grass)! Very helpful!

ariana says:

Heidi, that’s a little beyond the scope of what I can put in a comment, but I have several tutorials that go over layer masking.. Just look for anything that says layer masking! It’s an extremely powerful tool, you’ll definitely want to try it :)

Heidi says:

“Now, the catch is that because we are adjusting yellows which are very prominent in skintones, we also have to mask back any skin areas by painting with a black brush on our hue/sat layer”

How does one go about doing that?