Drab to Fab {A Quick Fix Photography Tutorial}

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Drab to Fab {A Quick Fix Photography Tutorial}

Father Daughter Before and After PinHobbyist

I am not a professional photographer.  I’ve never claimed to be, never tried to be and never aspire to be.  I am simply a hobbyist and someone who prides herself in knowing a little bit about almost anything.  Usually, I know just enough to be dangerous.  What I do know for certain is that there are quick fixes you can apply to your images to make them look much better in just a few minutes!

While this tutorial is laid out in Photoshop, the same principles apply across any photo editing software, you might just have to spend a little time playing with it until you figure out what works for you.

White Balance

Getting StartedThe first step for editing any photo is adjusting the white balance.  If you’re a great photographer you’re probably getting your white balance correct in camera, but I’m usually in too much of a hurry and rarely ever get that true white SOOC (straight out of camera).

Adjust White BalanceGrab yourself a “Curves” layer and select the white dropper.  Once you’ve picked up your dropper, move it to your image and select any area that should be a nice, bright white.  If you have a lot of white (like I do), pick the brightest, whitest spot you can find.  This will help make sure that you keep some detail in your image and don’t blow out the white parts.  If you find that you don’t like the way your adjusted image looks, just step back and try selecting a different spot.  Play with it until your happy.


Adjust CurvesOnce you make your white balance adjustment, you can grab the curve on the graph and move it up and to the left to brighten the overall image.  Don’t make it so bright that you loose the details in the image, but you just want to move it until the image is a little “pepped” up.

Flatten ImageYou have several layers over on the side now that you just don’t need to keep separate any more, so you can “flatten” your image and clean up your work space.

This is already a huge improvement from where we started!  We could totally stop here and see a huge difference in this and the original image.  If you want to go on, there are a few more things you can do to make this picture look even better.  First and foremost, the grass.  It’s February and our grass is, for the most part, dead.  I’m generally ok with that as it means no mowing the yard (yay!) but it looks terrible in pictures.  It’s ok though… you can fix that much easier than you think.


Hue Saturation LayerTo fix the grass, we need to create a Hue/Saturation layer.  You can do that under the “Layers” menu.  You’ll see some options pop up on the far right, and the first thing you need to do is select the “Colorize” option.  When you do that, you’re going to see your picture in a whole new, very colorful way.  Don’t worry… it won’t look like that for long.

Green GrassAdjust the “Hue” slider to get the right color/shade for your grass.  You can also adjust the saturation and lightness – just play around with it – until you’re happy with the green you’ve picked.  Don’t worry – you can come back and make adjustments to this a little bit later.

Black FillOnce you’ve got the whole image looking green, hit up the “Edit” menu and select the “Fill” option.  You’ll get a box (like above) that pops up.  Choose “Black” from the drop down menu and make sure your opacity is set at %.  When you click “OK”, you should magically see your picture, just as it was before you made it green.

Delete MaskThis is the slightly tedious part… and the part that takes some practice.  What you’re going to do here is grab the “Eraser” tool and erase the area that you want the green to show through.  You can use a larger brush through the big areas and slim your brush down for the finer details around the edges of the subject.

Once you start erasing, you might want to make some adjustments to your color.  I could tell that this green was too bright, so I played with the lightness a little more and darkened it up a bit.  The Princess was not visiting The Emerald City.

The Eyes

Dodge EyesOnce you’re all greened up, you can brighten up your subjects eyes with a quick “Dodge”  See how much brighter the eye on the left is than the eye on the right?  All you need to do is grab the “Dodge” tool, make sure to click down to your background layer, and just do a little dodging on the eyes – especially where the catch lights (shiny light reflections) are/should be.

As far as basic edits that make a HUGE difference go, that’s about it.  You can do a quick sharpen to add a bit of definition and you’re done!

End Results

Father Daughter Before and AfterThat’s a crazy huge difference, right?  I am so lucky to have several friends who are professional photographers and they have taught me so much.  Every time I open Photoshop, it’s still a learning experience though.  Are there any tips and tricks you have up your sleeve when it comes to making your pictures look better?

I hope this has helped some of you feel better about what your pictures look like when they come straight out of the camera!

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22 Responses to Drab to Fab {A Quick Fix Photography Tutorial}

  1. I am in aww of the simple steps to make this photo look amazing! i love the changes. great job to a non-aspiring photographer@

  2. Kelley says:

    This is a “MUST PIN!” Thanks for sharing Jamie. I need to get more savvy with my camera and these are some great tips!

  3. You did an amazing job! White balance is something I struggle with as well (I’m lazy, what can I say) so I do a lot of editing to correct it.

  4. Chelsea says:

    Great tutorial! The after picture looks so great 🙂

  5. Jennifer says:

    if you’ve got a half way decent camera it really doesn’t take much to make a photo pop! Thanks for the tips!

    • mamamommymom says:

      Absolutely! You can even get a pretty decent end result with a camera phone if you practice and know how to shoot the right angles, light, etc!

  6. Melissa says:

    Pinning this for later… Sometimes I get the cutest shots and then they aren’t the right lighting and then I get the right lighting and not the greatest shots. That is the problem with taking pictures of kids, you have to work quick. haha

  7. I really need to brush up my photogrpaphy skills (or photo editing skills)…thanks for the tutorial!

  8. Great tips! I just recently started changing my white balance while shooting! Crazy the difference in photos!

  9. Wow – can you sort all my holiday photos please?! 😉
    Great tutorial. Thanks for sharing at #Pintorials

  10. kendall says:

    Awesome tips! I always wondered how to do this! Thanks!

  11. I love reading hints on improving my photos 🙂 have pinned and tweeted #pintorials

  12. Carly says:

    Love this, totally pinned it!

  13. Wow that’s such a huge difference. You did a great job of making the colors pop in the after image 🙂

  14. Jamie says:

    I am pinning this for future reference! Thank you for the tips!

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