I bought a DSLR from Emily of Spatialdrift last year, and though it’s been fabulous for my photography skills, my knowledge on how to use it and then properly edit the pictures is still incredibly limited. That means that while I have a lot of higher-definition photos now, and while I attempt to take more care in my basic composition, I still end up with a lot of photos that are too dark, too light, or just the wrong color. So this month I’m hoping to spend a little time learning to fix up my existing photos and to take better ones.
To start I have a big batch of photos from my sister-in-law’s recent bachelorette party that, while adorable, were overwhelmingly blue and washed out, and I’m learning to use some easy color corrections methods in Photoshop CS2 (because that’s the version I have, thank you).
Here’s the photo we’ll be looking at today:
Adorable, right? But not unlike all the others in the photoset, tinted unfortunately blue. Her skin and shirt in particular aren’t the proper color. So what to do about this?
Some basic Googling introduced me to multiple methods of color correction in Photoshop, so I started with the single-click methods, in particular Auto Color (Image > Adjustments > Auto Color). Here’s what this first try gave me:
A subtle, but pretty big difference, and to my untrained eye this looked pretty great. The blues were compensated for with what looks like touches of yellow which gave both her skin and her shirt more proper coloring.
Next I opened the original image again and tinkered with the Match Color method (Image > Adjustments > Match Color). In the Match Color dialogue I simply checked the “Neutralize” box. Neutralizing a photo removes its color cast (that is, the tints added to evenly to an entire photo, blue in my case) making your whites more white and blacks more black. Here’s how it corrected the photo:
Match Color – Neutralize
Again, another improved upon photo, but this time with slightly different color corrections (ones I liked better, in fact). This one seems to have more yellows and red added to it. This version makes her skin tone the best of the 3 so far, I think, and the Neutralize definitely made the whites (that is, the whites that should be white like her teeth and the text on her sash) look more white.
Manual Color Balance
After getting an idea for what the computer thought were the “right” corrections to make I tried my hand at balancing the colors manually, watching the preview to see the effects each of my tweaks were having on the photo (Image > Adjustments > Color Balance). In the end I was satisfied with this:
Manual Color Balance
In my final color balance I decided to add a little more yellow than the Neutralize did on its own because I like the way it warmed up the photograph and made it feel like it was taken during a beautiful sunny afternoon (it was). Bringing up the red a bit also gave her skin the right shade and kept things warm. All in all, I was happy with my tiny bits of tinkering; this is the photo I’ve decided to consider my “final draft” for now.
What this came down to was not being afraid to play around with the tools at hand. Auto Color only did a mediocre job for my photos, and the Color Match was a step up from that. Luckily Photoshop also gives you manual tools that include the ability to preview everything you change in real time, and if you end up hating what you’ve done or royally screwing anything up, you can simply cancel out of the dialog and return to your original state. It’s all patience and the willingness to play.
And for any ‘real’ photographers in the audience, what are your thoughts and suggestions on basic color correction? I had a lot of fun reading some tutorials and tinkering with my pictures, but in the end it all came down to what I thought looked the best. What do you think about these photo colors?