Photoshop will allow you to apply all kinds of effects to your photos if you understand how to use the various tools, but sometimes the most useful techniques will be the subtle edits and changes. In situations where you photo is lacking a little color you can give it some extra life by making the colors pop.
This is a useful technique with a lot of photos and there are several different ways to bring a photo’s colors to life. You can adjust vibrance and saturation, add contrast, use levels or curves, adjust the exposure, among other approaches.
In this quick tutorial we’ll look at one versatile approach and we’ll show the results with two different photos. This is the same approach that is used by the color pop actions in our set of Boosters Photoshop Actions.
Here is the first sample photo that we’ll be working with:
The first step is to create a levels adjustment layer. You don’t actually need to change the settings of the levels with this technique, but you will change the levels adjustment layer’s blend mode to “soft light” and change the opacity to “60”. You can also go with a higher or lower opacity if you’d like. The higher the opacity the stronger the effect.
The next step is to add a brightness/contrast adjustment layer and set the contrast to “10”. This adds a small amount of contrast without going overboard.
The last step is to add a vibrance adjustment layer and set the vibrance to 15. You could set the vibrance higher or lower for a stronger or softer effect, and you can even add a little bit of saturation if you’d like, although I am leaving it set at 0 for this photo.
And the end result is shown below:
You can see the before and after below. It is a fairly subtle effect, but it does improve the colors.
One of the challenges with making colors pop is avoiding unnatural skin tones. If you simply add saturation to boost the colors you’ll get very unnatural skin tones whenever the photos include people. This approach tends to work pretty well with skin tones, and you can always adjust the settings to make it stronger or softer (our set of Boosters Actions includes 3 different color pop actions, Light, Medium, and Strong – the effect shown here is Medium).
Let’s take a look at the before and after of a photo that includes skin.
You can see that it gives the colors a boost without doing too much to the skin tone.
You can certainly follow the steps shown here to make colors pop in your own photos, or if you would like to get some actions to do the work for you please see our Boosters Photoshop Actions.