Editing isn't as hard as some people would have you believe. Sure there are insanely talented folks out there who can make cities fall into the sea or turn fruit n' veg into wondrous landscapes, but for most people starting out a few little tricks and tips will suffice to get your editing on another level. Many people are put off editing by the complexity of it all and the fact that not unlike ironing, it is seemingly a never ending task. I'm going to walk you through how I edited the image above in a few simple steps and explain why I did everything I did. If you've any questions, don't hesitate to ask them in the comments. If you like the tutorial, you can buy me a cup of tea!
This is not a definitive guide - there is no such thing as one in Photoshop. Every look and feel can be achieved in numerous ways. Some are more simple, some give the user more control. Everyone will have their own approach, but hopefully this walkthrough will show you something that you can add to your editing. This is a tutorial geared toward beginners, aimed at getting them to know certain tools and when to use them rather than how they're made or the scientific backstory behind each one!
Balance the Colour
First thing I'm looking to do is balance the colours overall - I try and keep as simple a platte as possible. If colours are similar but not similar enough, I'll fix that. Like graphic designers will know, a strong piece has a select few colours - get rid of the rest.
The element that stands out for me most of all is the difference between Rebecca's skirt and her hair. They look great in real life, but I'm a pedant. Looking at the colours in the skirt in this still, I felt that the colours were close to her hair, but not close enough. To change this up, I select the Marquee Tool (M) and create an area over it.
Go to Image > Adjustments > Replace Colour.
This will open up a new window and your cursor will magically transform into an eye-dropper tool. Use the eye dropper to select the colour you want to change on the image by clicking on it. By adding the marquee earlier, it will only select the colours in this area, so it won't affect the whole scene.
Use the sliders to change the colour to what you want it to be. This might take a bit of getting used to, but it all makes sense - the hue will change the colour, saturation is obvious enough and lightness affects the brightness. You can see the adjustments I made to achieve the look I wanted, but you may want something different. Play around until you're happy.
Here is a before and after with the dominant colours of each underlining the images. It's very subtle, but it goes a long way to balancing the image.
Are we all still on board? I hope so, because I wrote this way in the past to when you're reading it. We can't stop now (but you can ask questions in the comments!)
This is the step that will essentially create the tone for the image and make the most obvious change to the entire scene. To find it, you'll need to click the New Fill/Adjustment layer - which I've highlighted below (the one that looks like the Ying/Yang symbol), Choose Selective Colour from the list (it's the bottom one). I am so helpful.
Before we do anything, lets take a look at the original image again, to see what we can/need to change:
Right, there's lots of green in the scene, so lets start with that - especially since it's a horrible type of green. It's like kermit was hit by a tractor and dragged for miles. Eugh.
The aim with the green is to blend it into the colours we have already established in the scene - the rusty, warm palette we've identified when we adjusted the skirt earlier. The other colours will all be made slightly warmer, too. As you'll see below, every slider on the Green got a nudge until I was happy with it. The grass has become muted and golden-brown, and it compliments the highlights of the hair moreso now. There's no quick solution to this for every image, but if you get it right the first time and your background doesn't change all that much, you can apply these settings to other photos later. Until then, check out the semi-fancy gif to show you the changes in real-time, so to speak.
For the rest of the colours, I moved around until happy. The idea was to create warmth, so every colour was nudged to that effect. The blacks and the whites are ones I'll suggest to go easy with initially, as you'll see when you play with them. It's very easy to get carried away and go mad with them at the start - but good photoshop is subtle photoshop.
Here's the changes I made - bear in mind that like I said earlier, your image may require a wholly different change to each colour, but the principal should remain the same - start with the most obvious colours and work your way down.
The result puts us so close to home. The colours are all in a good range, nothing is sticking out like a sore thumb and the model is still the focus. Result. Lets look at the next step.
I'm looking at this scene now and thinking, it'd be nice to have a spill of light coming down that hill, from that bright area in the distance. It looks good as is, but this'll make it pop. Time for another adjustment layer. Remember the Ying/Yang looking symbol from earlier - give it a click and select Gradient (second from the top - not Gradient Map, near the bottom).
It'll open up the gradient fill dialogue box. We want to add a light golden-beige colour to mimic the light of the sun, but we too want to have it fade to nothing, so click the box with the visual gradient in it and select a nice gold on the left and the transparent option for the other colour in the slider. Click OK.
Make sure you've got linear light selected, so that the 'light' travels in one direction. Lovely. We'll want to make it appear like it's coming down too, so we'll adjust the angle to -30 degrees or so, so it appears to be peeping down from the top left of the frame. Perfect.
When you click OK, you probably won't get an image that looks like the above, you'll more than likely get an image that looks like this:
It's because the blending style is most likely set to Normal like so:
We'll want to set it to Overlay. Overlay is one of the contrast blend modes. It might look a bit of an overkill when instantly applied, so bring down the opacity to about 60% or so (the opacity slider is right beside the blending style option highlighted above!). End result:
Last thing now is levels. Levels are something that can give an instant impact to any photo, but if not used delicately, will make the picture pretty gruff.
Again, it's a new adjustment layer, this time selecting Levels.
You'll see a little white mountain in the image above, with three tag-looking sliders below. The Left/Black one affects the Blacks in the image. A nudge to the right, will boost the blacks and give a contrast boost. I would move this on occasion, most notably in my concert photography shots, but here it needs very little. The Middle/Grey controls the mid-tones. As you might've noticed, I pulled it to the left (1.09) to brighten the scene a little bit. I never touch the Right/White one. Move it around yourself there, and you'll see why. It makes things butt-ugly.
And that's the basics. You;d be surprised how many photographers jump straight into learning about advanced air-brushing, but using this tutorial will help you not only understand your photo in regards to colour, but give you an insight into adjustment layers and blending modes. It's all hopefully simple and accessible to all!
If you enjoyed it, how about getting me that cup of tea!