Everybody loves colorful fall pictures, but in most cases, the direct output from your camera is not so lovely. That is why we need to edit such images and let us make it in Photoshop.
Here are the most powerful tips on how to edit fall pictures in Photoshop:
- Adjust overall light in the photo, enhance white balance
- Bring back shadows details.
- Decrease highlights in the blown-out fall sky
- Enhance fall colors: reds, yellows, oranges.
- Enhance sky, make dramatic clouds
- Edit details, fix the blemishes
- Sharpen fall picture for print or web
Fall pictures are unique for more reasons. First of all, there is a color explosion. In the combination of a beautiful blue sky or dramatic dark cloud sky, you get the perfect composition. Such colors like red, yellow, or orange will be in our focus while editing autumn photos.
It is also important what will be our final product: wall art print, web, or travel publication? It will influence our editing process. It is essential to choose the correct color space. For printing purposes, select ProPhoto color space. If you want to use your fall image on the web, go ahead with an sRGB color space setting.
You can edit an image in various formats and get a decent result. But for top results, I recommend going with RAW format photos.
So let’s start step by step.
Adjust light parameters in your fall image
The general light setting is the starting point. If your image is strongly underexposed, in other words, too dark, let you start with an exposure adjustment layer. Set the exposure – increase exposure slider. I do not recommend changing the other sliders / setting here.
Levels & Curves adjustments
Create a Levels adjustment layer. As you get the Levels settings, focus on the histogram, and analyze where the information starts to appear. It means to find the point on the left side and the right side of the histogram where the curve begins to rise.
This is a simple method of how to get the right white balance as well.
Now create new curves adjustment layer and increase the contrast. Let’s make an “S-curve” and get more overall contrast to the picture.
Depending on your particular image, you might want to make more contrast create more sharp shaped “S-curve.”
How to bring back the shadows information in the autumn pictures
Many times you get an image that has already very high contrast directly from your camera. In that case, you might need to lower the highlights and to brighten the shadows to not to lose any information here as well.
You can do it by adding another levels adjustment layer. So create a new layer adjustment layer. Now using the middle grey slider move to the left to increase the amount of light in the darkest parts of the image. Of course, it will affect the whole picture. But don’t worry, we will fix it. For now, just focus and look at the dark parts and set them appropriately with the middle grey slider.
The following step will be to fill the layer mask with black. Take a soft brush and set the Flow to 10% or even less if needed. It will assure you will paint in the mask subtly. Don’t forget to set the foreground color to white and start to paint into the layer mask on the darkest places of your fall image.
Fix the blown-out highlights in the sky or other parts of the photo
In high contrast, images containing bright sky and dark parts taken in the direct sun will appear so-called clipping in the highlights. Not always, but in many cases, we can fix it. We will use another levels adjustment layer.
Create new levels adjustment layer and move the middle grey slider to the right until you start to get the blown-out highlights restored. Again the whole image is affected. So after you set the slider, fill the layer mask with black and using a soft brush and white foreground color paint in the layer mask as needed.
Another alternative is to make the sky selection, for example, by using the Quick Selection tool or Magic wand tool. While the selection is active, create the new Levels adjustment layer, and the layer mask of this layer will be generated automatically from the selection. Then you apply the middle slider and move it to the right side, as we already mentioned.
Enhance Autumn colors in your photo
Expressive autumn colors in fall images have the most powerful visual effect. The most striking colors are reds, yellows, and oranges. So let’s enhance them.
Boosting color using adjustment layers
Create a new Vibrance adjustment layer. Increase the overall image vibrance by moving the slider to the right.
Then create a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Change the default Master mode first to the Reds. Increase Saturation. Be careful not to overdo it; try to make a subtle setting. Then change the color mode to Yellows and again increase the Saturation slightly. You can do the same with Magentas if you want to achieve the more magenta look.
After finishing with particular color saturation settings, evaluate the image, and decide where it is good to apply it to the whole image or masking is needed. If you do not want to increase Saturation on the overall photo, click on the layer mask and fill it with black. Then pick a soft brush with a low flow setting: 10% or less. Paint in the parts of the image you want to be affected by color saturation enhancement.
Enhancing colors using Camera Raw filter
Another effective way of how to enhance colors in your image is to use the Camera Raw Filter. Before we can use it, we need to create a new pixel layer containing all information, including the changes we’ve already made. The quickest way is to use “magic” shortcut: Shift-Alt-Ctrl-E on PC ( Command + Option + Shift +E on the Mac).
Then right-click on the newly created layer and choose Convert to Smart Object. It will make further changes non-destructive, and you can always return to the previous status. Then navigate to Filter->Camera Raw Filter
A new setting window will appear. Locate the HSL settings. It stands for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance.
So we start with the Hue settings. Select a color, for example, Red and change the Hue. If you move the slider more to the left side, you’ll get more magenta tones of the red colors containing in the image.
In the opposite direction – to the right – you will achieve more yellowish tones, and so on. This process is based more on visual control. So let you move the sliders and check the immediate effect on the image. Try to focus on the typical fall colors: reds, oranges, and yellows.
The second part of the process will be to select Saturation and to increase the Saturation of our primary fall colors. Again be careful here and make just subtle changes. Overdoing the Saturation is a widespread mistake in the editing process in general.
The last part is the Luminance. Here you set the brightness or luminance of each selected color. So use sliders in case you want to brighten any particular color tone.
So now, we are done with enhancing the colors in the Camera Raw filter. So click Ok to leave the filter and get back to Photoshop. If needed, use the masking technique to mask out unwanted color effects to any part of the image.
Enhance sky, make dramatic clouds
The sky is always an essential component making the impact on the whole photograph. Our goal is to enhance it in case it is dull or washed-out. Again here we have more possibilities. Let’s use the Camera Raw Filter again.
Select the sky using the quick selection tool. It should be quite easy as there is practically always a good contrast between the sky and the rest of the photo. Use Ctrl-J (command-J on Mac) shortcut to copy the selected sky onto a new layer.
This layer is a pixel layer (not an adjustment one), so we can apply the Camera RAW Filter on it. Firstly convert the layer to the Smart object. Then select Camera Raw Filter. In this case, we will focus on increasing Contrast, decreasing Highlights, and in some cases, also to reduce the Exposure.
Then it is vital to decrease Saturation and also use Dehaze slider to increase the contrast in the sky.
Click Ok to apply the changes and leave Camera RAW Filter. If the effect is too strong, reduce the Opacity of this Sky layer a bit.
Edit details, fix the blemishes
We are in the final phase, and let’s check any unwanted objects, spots, or any other imperfections. Best tools for it is :
- Spot Healing Brush
- Healing Brush
- Patch Tool
- Clone Stamp Tool
So let’s say we see the sensor dust spots on the exposed part of the phot. It is mainly on bright parts of the sky. The ideal tool here is the Spot Healing Brush. Just paint over the spot, and it will disappear. For more complicated imperfection removal, you should use the Clone Stamp tool.
How to sharpen your fall picture for print or web
Our last task is to sharpen the image depending on the final media, where we want to use it. It is essential to apply any sharpening to finished, cropped image.
Sharpening for web
Here we will use the Smart Sharpen tool. Make sure you create a new consolidated pixel layer using our ninja shortcut: Shift-Alt-Ctrl-E on PC ( Command + Option + Shift +E on the Mac). Convert this layer to Smart Object. Go to menu Filter->Sharpen->SmartSharpen.
Before applying the sharpening, we have to have the image cropped to the final size/resolution.
Here we will use three main settings/sliders: Amount, Radius and Reduce noise
The Amount is the main parameter here and defines how much sharpening we want to apply. The Radius is critical as it defines how deep the sharpening filter is taking effect.
And finally, Noise reduction is also essential. When we sharpen an image, we practically increase the contrast on edge between bright and dark pixels. So by sharpening, we automatically increase the noise. It is mainly present in the sky. So by this slider, we have to reduce the noise.
Sharpening for print
Let us use another method here, using the High Pass filter. Create a new consolidated pixel layer using the shortcut: Shift-Alt-Ctrl-E on PC ( Command + Option + Shift +E on the Mac). Convert this layer to Smart Object. Go to menu Filter->Other->High Pass. Then the setting window will appear.
There is the Radius parameter, and we have to choose the right amount of Radius. Try to increase the slider until you will see well-defined edges but not too much. I ended up with 9 pixels.
The last step here is to set the Blending mode to Overlay. Suppose you are not satisfied with the result, no big deal. As we set the layer as the Smart Object, you can any time change the HighPass filter setting.
The general rule here is to make very subtle sharpening and always check the result at 100% zoom. It is because the final large format print
So we have finished the fall image editing. There are more possible steps you could apply to the image. For example, if needed, apply vignetting. For this purpose, you can again use the Camera Raw Filter, for example.