How To Make Your Images Pop in 3 Easy Steps

Vancouver Family Portrait Photographer

Here’s an edited picture from my recent family portrait session at a pumpkin patch. I wanted to use this image as an example of how a perfectly good picture taken on an overcast day can be enhanced in 3 easy steps, to give it that extra pop of eye-catching vivid colour.

This is the before:

Pumpkin Patch by Jenn Lin Photography_5300

Things I did to get the “after” shot:

  1. Applied a brightness adjustment layer, set to 15
  2. Added contrast
  3. Added a vignette (darkening the edges of the photo)
  4. *Extra step: Cloned a pumpkin to remove distracting plastic bag

While getting rid of distractions in your photo may help focus your viewer’s attention on the subject(s), what really makes this image pop is its range in tonality and vivid colour. The first image looks a bit flat—it’s all one greyish kind of middle tone. In the second image, we can see that there are brighter parts (centre, where the subject is) and darker parts (edges). The colours are also more noticeably saturated in the second image than in the first image.

That’s it for this how-to post. Keep an eye out for images that pop out at you, and see if they include a (subtle) vignette, bright and vibrant colours, and a range in tone. Thanks for reading!


Fall Fast Forward: Selective Colour Adjustment

Ever wanted to know how to get from this:

Fall Foliage © 2013 Jenn Lin Photography_4037_Green Version_1800px_WM

To this in photoshop?

Fall Foliage © 2013 Jenn Lin Photography_4037_Red_Green Grass_1800px_WM

Read More

What You Can Do with a 115cm-wide Reflector

A photo of Melody Tymm taken during the 11th annual Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival at Slocan Park, Vancouver, BC.

Shown here in costume is Melody. One of the entertainers I met at the Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival last month, she agreed to let me do a little experiment! Below is a comparison I made to illustrate the difference between natural light portraiture (without any modifiers) and natural light portraiture using a modifier (a 115cm-wide silver-sided reflector to be exact).

Melody Tymm at the 11th annual Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival © 2013 Jenn Lin Photography

Natural light alone vs. natural light with a silver-sided reflector

With the sun shining to the west at around 5:30pm, I had my assistant for the day stand south-east of Melody and hold the reflector in the direction of the sun, tilting it until the light was bounced onto Melody. Had we had spent more time playing with the angle, we probably could have eliminated the shadow which is appearing between Melody’s right cheek and nose. Yet it’s the shadow which gives her so much dimension. IMO, the silver side of the reflector gave Melody a nice glow and made her really pop out from the background. (I would advise using the golden side unless you want to give your subject an orange tan.)

Reflectors are relatively cheap, they’re effective, they keep working until the sun sets, and they can make your photos/subjects look more interesting. (See “Working with Thomas” and “Darren’s Headshots” for more examples of photos I’ve created with a reflector.) The only thing is that they take a bit of work to get them back into the little circular pouch they come in—but other than that, they’re an awesome tool to use (if you’re not in a hurry).

Hope you enjoyed reading! Until next time,


Your Back-up Light: the Screen Blend Mode in Photoshop

"Bride's Wedding Bouquet", © 2013 Jenn Lin Photography

Pictured here is a before and after shot of an image of mine. Although I like the first image just as well, the second image provides a clear illustration of what you can do in photoshop with a few adjustments; the second image looks as if I had more than one light source (the window).

© 2013 Jenn Lin Photography

The photo was taken at my cousin’s house on the morning of her wedding. I placed the bouquet on the window seat knowing that the window would provide a nice side light. Since I didn’t quite like how short the ledge was, I extended it in post-production using the Patch tool, then I quickly used the Dodge tool to lighten the areas that were noticeably darker than the rest of the ledge.

Next, I added a new curves adjustment layer and selected “screen” for the blend mode. You’ll notice that it’s a bit overpowering at 100% opacity, but you can scale this down to your liking. In this photo, because of the difference of light and dark areas, I also used a Mask to hide the areas I didn’t want to be affected by the Screen adjustment layer. Using the colour black at 50% opacity, I painted over the left side of the image while leaving the right side affected by the Screen.

I then added another adjustment layer to increase the overall highlights a tiny bit, as well as an “S” curve adjustment layer at 50% opacity to quickly add some contrast back into the image.

Finally, since I wanted the eye to focus on the bouquet and not other parts of the image, I created a new layer, which merged all my visible work up to that point, and added a Smart Sharpen filter, using the Masking tool to make it apply only to the bouquet. I was careful not to exceed 0.3 pixels so as to avoid over-sharpening this particular image, but if you ever overdo it you can always scale down the effect by adjusting the layer’s opacity, or, just simply undo the effect and do it again.

The key to pulling off this technique is being careful not to overexpose the image; this means leaving detail in the areas with the strongest highlights; this prevents the image from looking excessively photoshopped. One thing to also keep in mind is that this technique will not work for images with shadow areas that are too extreme in comparison to the highlights you’re trying to bring them up to.

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Until next time,