How to edit photos with Photoshop

I’m getting better with knowing my camera and taking photos in general but there are some times where the SOOC shot is just really bad.  Take the photo below.

I love this photo because it represents a time in Liam’s life that was so painfully frustrating for him until I discovered frozen fruit in this little net thing.  Liam had such a hard time with teething.  It seems to last forever.  In fact he’s 21 months and still doesn’t have three teeth, although I think they are coming in soon because the drool this week has been crazy.  Back to the photo.  There is so much wrong.  Exposure being the biggest, not to mention the white balance.  Below I’ll do a step by step guide using Photoshop that explains the process I use to edit photos, in particular this one.

First, I work with the exposure.  I click on the curves tool (red circle below) under the adjustment window and pick my black cursor (other red circle below) and click on the spot in the picture that is pure black.  As a note, I usually use the gray cursor and point it to a spot int he picture that is gray but with this photo, there was no clear spot of the photo where it would work.

This adjusted the photo just a little.  Next I use Pioneer Woman’s free Photoshop actions that I downloaded from her website.  These actions are amazing. Easy to use and really were the first thing that got me into exploring Photoshop.  So the first PW action I use is boost.  It just brings out the bold colors of the photo.  I also adjust the opacity (in this case to 88%) of the boost action to make sure that my photo doesn’t come out too unedited.

Already you can see a big difference in the before and after.  Next I lighted the photo a bit with the slight lighten PW action and adjust the opacity of that to 43%.  With Photoshop editing, I’ve really learned over time that you have to train your eye.  When you first start editing photos, at least for me, people tend to over edit because the transformation is so amazing but it does require you to take some steps back and really think about the photo and the edits you just made.

Now with this photo, I find that there are too many blue hue’s for my liking.  PW has a great action called warmer.  Because this photo is so off, I applied the action twice.  Once at 100% and the second time at 79%.  My suggestion with any of these actions is to start with small adjustments and add on additional layers to your photo later.  It will help with the over editing.

Now we are getting somewhere.  The next step that I like to do is to really make those eyes pop.  I use two different PW actions, bring on the eyes! and sharpen THIS.  First starting with bring on the eyes!  Simply click the action and press the play button then adjust the size of your brush. A good rule of thumb for the brush size is the size of the pupil in the picture.  I’ve made my brush size slightly smaller.  Also, I zoomed in on my photo which is a key step when applying the brighten eyes tool as you want to make sure that you are just selecting the eyes to brighten.  Also I want to note here that when brightening eyes, really use your opacity buttons.  Too much brightening will make the subject look alien-like.

I do the same with the sharpen THIS PW action and make my brush size even smaller.  I like to go over the lines of the subjects eyes, nose and mouth or dimples.  You will want to sharpen those areas to help make them pop, like the eyes.  In the next photo I’ve highlighted the areas I sharpened with my brush just so you can see where I went.

Next if I’m ok with everything I’ve done so far I compress my layers by selecting the Layers drop down at the top and selecting Merge Visible.  This is important for the next step which is getting rid of some flaws on the subject.  You can see in the photo above where I zoomed in there are some white flakes on Liam’s face.  I simply use the spot healing tool found on the left of the screen and make my brush size the size of the blemish I’m wanting to remove.  You don’t want your brush size too large because it will take out some of the detail around the blemish when the goal is to just take out the blemish.  So just go around the picture, adjusting your brush size as you go to remove those unwanted marks or blemishes.

There are also some other minor edits I do but nothing that you can really tell. Another step that I sometimes do is the vignette but with the subject of this photo being so up front and center, I decided not to apply it.  So alas, here is the before and after.

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