One of the most common goals of any photographer is, after taking the perfect shot, to edit it so it looks simply marvelous. The thing is, not too many photographers spend all that much time in photo editing applications such as Photoshop to do that editing. After all, their time is much better spent out in the field doing some serious work. So, with this in mind, the question that’s often asked is this. How can a photographer quickly edit a photo to make it look a lot better than the original, easily? I’m here to tell you there is a way. And it only takes a few very quick steps. You’re going to be surprised at this one.
In today’s post, I’m going to walk through the process of using only two adjustment layers (Curves and Color Balance) in Adobe Photoshop to enhance a photo and make it look much warmer, as it should. The warmth of the photo will give it the feel it was supposed to have out of the camera. Oftentimes, photos will come out feeling cooler than they are supposed to and in this post, I’ll show you how to correct that.
The Original Photo
I decided to go with this photo because the original shot definitely has a blue hue to it. On the right side, you can see the light, but unfortunately, that light doesn’t look very appealing. If a warm sunset over the ocean was the goal, it’s simply not there yet.
Do you see what I’m saying? The sunset doesn’t even look orange. It’s almost as if that’s white light that’s showing.
Adding a Curves Adjustment Layer
I already have the photo in question opened up into Photoshop. I used the keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+0 to size the image so it fits completely into my work area. The next thing I’m going to do is to add a Curves adjustment layer. To do this, I’ll head over to the Adjustments panel and click on the Curves icon.
After I do that, I’ll see the new adjustment layer appear in the Layers panel. I’ll also see the Properties panel for this adjustment open up.
I’m going to make two adjustments via this panel. The first one will add contrast and the second one will reduce some of the blue color cast.
To quickly and easily add some contrast, I’m going to click on the Presets drop-down in the Properties panel and choose Medium Contrast. Doing this will allow Photoshop to do the thinking for me and will give the photo some definition.
Second, to reduce some of the blue in the photo, which will begin giving it the warmth I’m after, I’ll click on the drop-down right below the previous one that currently says RGB. From the drop-down, I’ll choose Blue.
Once the blue curve line is showing, I’ll click on the top half of the line itself and drag it up slightly. I’ll also click on the bottom of the line and drag it slightly down. This will give the line a slight “S” shape and will reduce and define the color blue in the photo. Here is a screenshot of the curve.
And here is the photo looking a bit better. In the photo below, you can definitely see the improvement.
Adding a Color Balance Adjustment Layer
The next and final adjustment layer I’m going to add is Color Balance. This adjustment has to do specifically and only with color. It can change blue to yellow, cyan to red and green to magenta. It’s a powerful adjustment layer, to say the least.
To activate this adjustment layer, I’ll head over to the Adjustments panel again and click the Color Balance icon.
Once I do that, the Color Balance Properties panel will open.
By this point in my life, I know that yellow and red make orange. So, to obtain that orange warmth I want from the sunset, I’m going to reduce the blue towards the yellow and reduce the cyan towards the red. Basically, I’ll give the top slider a value of +25 and the bottom slider a value of -25. That reduction of the blues and increases of the reds and yellows will offer a beautiful orange glow. Here’s a screenshot of this adjustment layer panel.
And here’s the final photo.
Let’s now take a look at the before and after shot to see the improvement.
Wow. That’s a huge improvement. You have to admit that the edits were easy and the results are great.
I think I hit the nail on the head with these edits. Of course, you can make any changes you want, but these adjustments will steer you in the right direction. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!