4.20.2013

The Holy Trinity of Photo Editing: Curve, Color Balance, and Vibrancy



Do you have a dinky camera that shoots terribly in low light situations?
Is the lighting in your home always making indoor photography look like crap?
Do you have a folder full of photos that were taken in bad lighting, that you wish you could do something with besides having it sit there and look ugly, never to be seen by anyone ever again?

I have a solution for you my friends. It's called the "editing-the-shit-out-of-your-photos-until-it-looks-sorta-decent" technique.



Now, let me preface by saying that if you're one of those people who have their nose held up high and are like, "Hmph. I don't believe in editing to oblivion because I like it au naturale, like my face." you should probably get off my blog, run far, far, far away, and never return.



I'm not saying you should always edit your photos, but sometimes you just need to if you have a photo that you can't really do much with. I've been having a lot of issues with night and low light shooting through my compact. It's a great camera when I have good lighting. When I don't have good lighting--oh the horror. That's when I realized that stylistically, I can edit the photos and they aren't so bad. In fact, sometimes the shittiest photograph can turn into one of my favorites if I edit them right. Lighting makes all the difference in the world people. Always remember that. 

Anyway, this isn't a 'real' tutorial, but I wanted to throw out some tips for those who have access to Adobe Photoshop and would like to try and salvage their seemingly 'bad' photographs due to poor lighting.





There is what I like to call the "Holy Trinity of Photo Editing" that I always depend on when I'm prettying up my photos: The Curve tool, Color balance, and Vibrancy. 
These are the kind of tools in PS that you really have to play around with to get a good, solid feel of how you want your photos to look. The more you mess around in it, the better you'll get at editing. 


Generally, I'll start off with my Channel in RGB and mess around with this to brighten up the image a bit. I'm sure you can tell, but as the curve bar goes lower, the image will get darker. 

Start playing around with the different color channels: (Red, blue, green)
BAM.  Dramatic difference already. What makes 'Curve' different from just color balancing, is that it affects the overall image's color.


'Color balance' on the other hand, messes with the image's shadows, midtones, and highlights respectively. So even though it seems that Color Balance is changing your photo's color, it's really only changing the 'hue' of certain aspects of the photo.
The more you play around with Color Balance, the better you can fine tune the style you're going for.

Vibrancy to me is important because I like my photos to have a soft tone. You can also vamp up your image and make it look super dramatic by upping the vibrance. But as a preference, I really like the soft tones.
(I'm really sorry for the stupid captions. It's 3am and I'm still kinda lacking sleep.....)


I usually go back into Curves and mess around a bit more. You'll probably find yourself going back to this tool quite often.
 Just remember, it's all about subtle changes.


The last thing I'll do is go into Exposure (Image > Adjustments) and change up the lighting a bit more. Here is where I like to top off the 'soft tones' I like to use. If you do use Exposure, you really need a light hand for it. A small change makes a huge difference here.
I didn't do anything all that special to get this softer color. Like I said, just mess around with those three coloring tools and eventually you will find something you like.


All I used here was levels, exposure, the 3 colorization tools that I mentioned, and a lot of revisiting. Just keep tweaking those settings until you get something you like. 



Or if you want to be obnoxious and pretentious like me, you can start "designing" your photo and add all kinds of crap to it because YOLO. 



peace.

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