Quick Photo Boost

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Sometimes, I consider the photos that I take to be good just the way they are, straight out of the camera. In this instance, with this shot of the San Francisco Peaks as viewed from the Arboretum at Flagstaff last weekend, I was almost happy with the way it was, unaltered:

I decided that the photo needed just a tiny bit more oomph, so I performed a VERY quick, VERY easy process in Photoshop CS3. The good thing about this process is that it applies no matter what kind of photo editing software you use, as long as you have layers capability.

In my case, I added a duplicate layer by going to the “Layer” menu and selecting “Duplicate Layer”. Then in the layers palette I changed the layer type from “Normal” to “Overlay”. This basically “doubles” the color of the image. I reduced the opacity of the duplicate layer (also on the layer palette) from 100% to 50%, to dial down the effect a bit. Then I flattened the image, and this was the result:

The entire process took me maybe thirty second to complete, and offered a subtle improvement over the original, without making the image look too “doctored”. What kinds of “quick and dirty” post-processing tricks are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

Photo credits (all): Tiffany Joyce.

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  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/guillebot/ Guillermo

    Hi, and thanks for your tutorial. I was wondering how different this is from using the Saturation tool to increase the color levels.

  • Brett


    I'm assuming you're not actually asking about the calculations involved to get the results… cause I have no idea on that part. But as far as the visual results themselves go, if you use the saturation tool very much (as in more than +7 or so) you'll start getting bizarre coloring effects. Red becomes magenta, green goes neon, all sorts of artificial-looking results. Blend-overlay brightens your light tones and darkens your dark tones without giving any psychedelic color tones. Tiffany mentioned dropping the opacity, which is important if you want a vibrant but realistic result, but even at full strength the resulting colors aren't 'bizarre'.

    I use Overlay all the time for a quick fix.

  • http://andrei-caj.deviantart.com/ caj

    i do the same thing, except i go for 'soft light' instead of 'overlay'.

  • http://quillcards.com Photographworks

    I sometimes add a 'Screen' layer to lighten the image, then I cut back the parts I don't want to lighten using a layer mask.

    Then I might add an Overlay layer to intensify part, varying the opacity, and again I use a layer mask to tweak it.

    I used to vary the color of the brush I used in the layer mask, but almost without thinking about it I have moved to using a black brush but controlling it using the opacity brush and the size of the brush.

    I tend to use a big brush with the hardness set to zero and shade in towards the areas that are on the boundary between what I want to change and what I want to keep.

  • Gail

    I can't see the point at all–the first one is perfectly adequate as far as color is concerned. I'm afraid what people don't get is that composition is about most important aspect of a compelling photograph .

  • http://twitter.com/Snerkology Tiffany

    Hi Gail, I agree that composition is one of the most important aspects of photography. This is merely a tip on how to boost the colors of a photo a little bit.

  • http://twitter.com/Snerkology Tiffany

    Excellent tips!

  • http://twitter.com/Snerkology Tiffany

    Hi caj, I was playing around with soft light as well. Love the layers palette!

  • http://twitter.com/Snerkology Tiffany

    Brett, thanks for the clarification for Guillermo.

  • rachyfication

    Another tip I'd suggest if you're using this technique to boost colours is to sharpen the image beforehand, otherwise some details get lost.

  • Dennis

    The enhancement to the image is very subtle, but the improvement is noticeable. Nicely done! I'll have to remember this technique.

  • http://twitter.com/hangglidded JO

    Think I like the original better. The SFP not as clearly defined in the 2nd version

  • Catalin284

    yeah, soft light is neat, it’s not that harsh as overlay.nnrelated to soft light… i sometimes duplicate the base layer, apply a high pass filter and then set it to soft light… it gives a very nice touch!