Photoshop tutorial: How to brighten a photo in Photoshop

Use Photoshop to bring life back to a dull photo in a way that looks perfectly natural, turning a gray afternoon into a summer's day.

Intro


The weather can be pretty unpredictable at times, especially in the UK, where we often leave the house in the morning prepared for all types of weather. This particular image of model Jess for Angela Stringer Corsetry was taken on the August bank holiday weekend, between downpours.

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Here's an in-depth tutorial by photographer Tigz Rice describing how she brightened up this photo in Photoshop to make it feel more summery – using a mix of subtle adjustments to affect the overall tone of the photo and precise edits to particular areas and colours to add a real sense of warmth.

The end result is beautiful, vibrant and has the real feel of a perfect summer's day without the fakeness of a poorly brightened photo.

Step 1

STEP 1

Open your chosen image in Photoshop and duplicate the background layer twice by pressing Cmd/Ctrl + J twice.

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Step 2

STEP 2

Rename the top layer 'Vibrance' and the middle layer 'Lighten'. Your Layers panel should now look like this.

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Step 3

STEP 3

First, let's have a look at lightening the image. Click on the 'Lighten' layer and select Screen in the dropdown Blending Modes menu. This will most likely be too light at first, so reduce the Opacity of the layer to around 40%.

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Step 4

STEP 4

Create a new Layer Mask on the 'Lighten' layer by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. With a soft, black brush (B), paint over any sections of your image that you don’t want lightened to remove the effect.

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Step 5

STEP 5

Next, let's have a look at adding a bit more vibrance to the image. Click on the 'Vibrance' layer and select Soft Light in the dropdown Blending Modes menu. Again, reduce the Opacity of the layer to around 40%.

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Step 6

STEP 6

Create a new Layer Mask on the 'Vibrance' layer and repeat the method in Step 4 to remove some of the colour in areas of the images as needed.

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Step 7

STEP 7

Now let's package everything up into a Smart Object. These are handy for putting a series of layers into a neat package that you can add further effects on top of as if was a single layer – but you can double-click on to access or tweak your original editing at a later date.

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To do this, highlight all of your layers, right-click on them and choose Convert to Smart Object.


Step 8

STEP 8

You should now only have one layer visible in the Layers panel.

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Step 9

STEP 9

With the bulk of our editing done, lets do some minor tweaks in using the Camera Raw filter. To access this, go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter…

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Step 10

STEP 10

When the Camera Raw dialog opens, adjust the Exposure as necessary for your image. Here I’ve brought the Exposure down just a fraction.

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Step 11

STEP 11

Just above Exposure, you will also find the White Balance controls. This image was just slightly leaning toward the blue spectrum, so I’ve increased the Temperature.

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Note that A little goes a long way with White Balance. Use the arrow keys to nudge by one increment at a time.

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Step 12

STEP 12

Now, click on the Effects icon just under the Histogram and use the Dehaze slider to bring a little punch back into the image.

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Step 13

STEP 13

You can also warm up the image by using Split Toning, which can also be found underneath the Histogram. Starting with Highlights, slide the Hue into the yellow region of the provided spectrum and set a Saturation of around 3.

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Step 14

STEP 14

Then, with Shadows, slide the Hue into the yellow region of the provided spectrum and set a Saturation of around 8.

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Step 15

STEP 15

Using the Balance Slider, shift the slider left and right until you find the right balance of warmth between the Highlights and Shadows. Sliding left will include more tones within the Shadow spectrum, while slider right will include more tones within the Highlight spectrum.

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Once you're happy, press OK to commit the changes and return to the rest of Photoshop. Continue editing as normal.