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How to make your photos LOOK BETTER FAST! Photoshop Tutorial

– What’s up everybody? Peter McKinnon here, and today, we’re talking about how to make your photos look better. Fast. (intense music) Okay, so you know when you get home from somewhere, you’ve been taking photos, maybe vacation, maybe trip, hanging out with friends, and you load that photo onto your computer and you’re like, (gasps) this looks so good! Throw it up on the socials, Facebook, Instagram, people are double tapping that IG, hearts are flowing, and you’re just feeling good about yourself, right as the sun sets and it’s just so beautiful. And then there’s sometimes you get home, and you open that photo up on your computer and you’re like, (record skips) I remember this being way better when I was there, promise.

So these are some basic editing skills, basic editing skills, that you can do on your photographs at home at any time using Photoshop. I’m using Photoshop CC, so go ahead, head over to Adobe and download the trial of that, or sign up for their subscription based service which is what I do, and you pay a monthly fee to basically own all of their apps, that’s what I recommend. We can take a mundane photo that looks like this, and turn it into something that looks like this, in pretty much like 10 minutes maybe? Even faster if you do this thing on a daily basis like I do.

Okay, so we’ve dragged our photo into Photoshop and here we are, we are hit with the Camera Raw plugin that pops up and says, hey this is a raw file, what do you wanna do? Do you wanna just open the image as is? Do you wanna tweak it a little bit here with Camera Raw and then open it? And this is where you might say to me, Pete, well what’s the difference between editing and doing everything you’re about to show me in Lightroom instead of using Lightroom and Photoshop, or using Camera Raw and Photoshop? Yeah, you can do everything in Lightroom. You can do everything in Photoshop. It’s all about workflow, what programs you like better, I like using them both. Photoshop’s more of like a photo manipulator, where you can, I don’t like that guy’s face! I’m gonna put his face on his face.

Great for that kind of thing. But I like using them both in conjunction with one another, and I’m gonna show you how I do it right here. Doesn’t take long, so don’t be nervous or like, oh, this is intense, it’s intense if you don’t pay attention. But no, we’re gonna rip through this, so Camera Raw, I’m just gonna tweak the exposure, bring up the contrast a little bit, highlights, you’ll see in the mountain there at the top if I drag them all the way to the right, they blow out, if I bring them all the way down, it’s a little too dark, but I’m happy kind of just, just, just a little south of the center there.

Shadows, I’m fine with, you can see it really only affects that T-shirt if we drag ’em all the way up, but I don’t want it to be this bright. It’s just a little bit weird, little bit awkward if you will. I’ll drag ’em up to like 25, we’ll meet in the middle. The whites, I’m happy with the whites, the blacks, that’s good, the clarity I always like to tweak a little bit because it just defines all those edges and really sharpens the image nicely straight into Photoshop.

The vibrance we’re gonna up a little bit, little bit more saturation. And then, because of those clarity adjustments we just did, that sometimes darkens the image, so you might wanna go back and just bring that exposure up slightly, and then we’re gonna hit Open Image. Okay, here we are, the first thing I usually do with a photo is clean up any dust on someone’s shirt or if they have bad skin I usually go over their skin with a brush tool like this spot healing brush, that kinda thing.

And if you watched my tutorial on how to float things in your photos, this is the same brush that I’m using, and I’m just clicking to get rid of any dust or specks, that’s this brush over here on the left side right below the color picker. And it just like, look, you click, it’s gone, so you can kinda clean up any spots that you want to smooth over with this brush. Now sometimes if you were to click something too big, like let’s say I made this brush size huge and clicked, you can actually see the outline of the circle.

So you don’t wanna do that. If you wanted to get rid of this little red mark here, you’d be better off hitting S, which gives you the clone stamp, you hold down Option, select the area you wanna clone, and then you click to clone that area over. And I’m happy with pretty much just that right there. He’s got good skin as it is, so, I am ready to go. Now with Photoshop, you never wanna just edit the bottom layer and just start caking on your layers and layers, an hour goes by, you crushed an entire pizza. And then you realize to yourself, oh, his eyes are a little bit too dark, I’m gonna go back and change that.

And you’re like, woops, sorry, you flattened that image and baked those edits into that photo like 38 minutes ago. There’s no going back. But if you do everything on layers, you can always delete a layer, go back, delete what you did, tweak that layer’s adjustments, change the colors, so you always wanna work in layers. Now, I don’t just duplicate the background, I Shift + Option + Command + N is gonna give you a new layer. And then what I do is stamp visible layer on top of that. This sounds crazy already, right? But hang on, Shift + Option + Command + E pastes that image into the new layer we just made instead of just duplicating a layer.

If I’ve made a bunch of edits to a layer then I duplicate it, it’s gonna duplicate those edits with it, I don’t want that, I just want a clean start so I can manipulate that and then blend everything together. If that doesn’t make sense, rewind, watch it, if you still rewound and watch and it doesn’t make sense, do a shot, come back, it’ll make sense. Okay, I’m gonna start by sharpening the image, and by doing that, I start by blurring the image first.

Sounds counterintuitive, yes, but this is why. You’re gonna go over to Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur, I have it preset to five, so set your radius to five, hit OK, change the blending mode down here in your layers panel to Soft Light. Woo! Look at that, it looks warm, it looks more punchy, it already looks cooler, but, I know, it’s blurry. You’re like, why would I just wreck an image to try and make it better? Sometimes you gotta set something free to, what’s the saying? You gotta let it go to make it come back? Or if you love it set it free? You know what, doesn’t matter, change the opacity to 50%, hit Enter, okay? Now, if we use that little eyeball there, visible and invisible, you can see how it’s warmed his skin up, it’s kind of added this glow, this nice, smooth aspect to it.

Soothing, comforting, if you will. And we can see that by just clicking the eyeball on and off. Now is where we’re going to sharpen it. So again, I’m gonna Shift + Option + Command + N for a new layer, Shift + Option + Command + E to stamp that layer on top. And I’m gonna desaturate this, because I don’t want to affect the colors when I’m sharpening it, I just want to affect the lightness and the darkness while I’m sharpening it. So Shift + Command + U is gonna take all that color away, gone, change that blending mode to Overlay, you’re gonna go, oh my goodness, Pete, what? This looks like a scene from The Crow.

What is this nonsense? Hang on with me here, go up to Filter, Other, we’re gonna run a High Pass on it, what just happened? I know, it’s magic, you’ll see that weird crow-like filter just vanished, and now we have something that looks a little sharper, you’re gonna hit OK. Now let’s zoom in to his face here and take a look at what’s happened. If we hide that, it’s blurry, we unhide it, it’s sharp. Now if we unhide that, and unhide this, you’ll see the colors have not only been pumped up a little bit in saturation, but that skin’s nice and smooth, and now it’s sharp. And we zoom out, and it’s looking pretty good gosh darn it. If you want to double those effects, if you want to say, you know what? I could use a little bit more of that sharpening, Pete. Or, I’d like the skin to look even more dreamy, hold down Command, select both those layers, drag them down to this New Layers tab, and that’s gonna duplicate the layers with all of the effects.

Now that’s too strong for me, so while those two layers are still, while they’re still selected, I couldn’t even think of what to say there, change your opacity to whatever suits your fancy. I’m gonna go down to like 20, I don’t want to really over exaggerate duplicating those effects, but just enough that it gives me a little, little more. Okay, what do we do now Pete? Well, it could use some warmth, it’s not winter time right now in this photo, but it’s looking a little too cold. So we’re gonna warm the photo up, and we’re gonna do that by, you guessed it, Shift + Option + Command + N, new layer, and then we are going to Shift + Delete, that’s gonna bring up the Content Aware box. And you’re gonna hit Color under Contents, which then opens up the Color Picker. I have orange selected, there’s the hexadecimal code if you want to see that, F57900, you can plug that into the same spot and you’ll end up with the same color orange that I’m using.

But, it all depends on the photo you’re editing, so kinda doesn’t matter. Hit OK, hit OK again, and now you have it, looks beautiful. A nice, solid, pumpkin looking photo, completely orange. Change that blending mode down here to Soft Light. And now it looks a little better, it still looks like he has jaundice, and things are going bad, but we’re gonna change that opacity to like, I don’t know, maybe like 15, I’d say 15 is like a good spot. Maybe 13, I wanted to go 10, but then 15, so 13 in the middle sounds like, I’m happy with that. So now that looks warmer, so let’s hide all of these and see what we’ve done, see how it’s looking better already? Let’s, boop, not bad.

Now, what if I wanted to make his eyes brighter, or make the mountains in the background darker? Because they’re a little too washed out, or his eyes now look a little too dark because of all the sharpening and the saturation that we’ve added with the gaussian blur. Well this is how you’re gonna do that. You’re gonna make a new layer, Shift + Option + Command + N, you’re gonna stamp that visible on there, and you’re gonna grab the lasso tool, hold Command down, hit plus on your keyboard, that’s gonna zoom in. If you hold spacebar, you’ll see this little hand pop up, and you can use that hand to move the image around.

Command + Plus again to zoom in, and we’re just gonna select the iris, I don’t wanna make the whites of his eyes too bright because then he’ll look like someone from The Walking Dead. So once we’ve selected that, you’ll see that little selection of what’s called marching ants, that means this area is selected. You hold Shift, you’ll see a little plus pop up beside the lasso, lasso, lasso, lasso? Whatever. Select the other eye, be very careful not to go too much into the skin, but it’s okay, and now we’ve got both eyes selected. Now you’re gonna come down here and make a new adjustment layer with brightness and contrast. Click on that, now if we up that brightness you’ll see just the eyeballs are getting brighter. Now that’s terrifying, that straight up looks like a zombie, if we zoom out there, unless, if that’s what you’re going for, you’re done. But not here, we’re just gonna up that just a little bit, I don’t want it to be too obvious. If you brighten someone’s eyes up way too much, people know and it looks bad and it’s like, oh that guy had some fun in Photoshop.

We don’t want that, we want it to be subtle. The more subtle edits that we apply to this, just the more pleasing it’s gonna end up in the end. So I’m just bumping that a little, right there is fine, 24 for me, I am good to go with that. Now we’re gonna make another layer again, and what I’m gonna do with this layer is darken those mounds in the background.

Same thing, Shift + Option + Command + N, Shift + Option + Command + E, I feel like I have to keep saying that in case people are tuning in or zoning in and out, so I’m sorry, and I just apologized, half because I’m Canadian, and half because I am sorry. But anyway, let’s get back to this. What you’re gonna do, is again, with that lasso tool, you’re just gonna draw a line along the water line, over his head, over the trees, just like this, up that border of the photo, across the top, and across the left side, back down, right there. Happy with that, now we’ve got our selection here. Same thing, adjustment layer, Curves this time. Now we’re gonna use this curve, and we’re going to bring down that brightness. And we’re gonna crush it here even more too. We’ve talked about making that S curve when using curves, but right now, I just wanna make it darker.

But in doing so, it just made it really blue. And like I said, we’re trying to get rid of it feeling like it’s winter, ’cause it’s the middle of summer in this photo, so we can change from RGB to red channel, and then we can push more reds onto that. Now we don’t want it to look like Mars. So we’re just gonna tweak that slightly, just a little bit. I’m happy with that, it’s a little too purple, it’s good right about there. Again, I’m trying to be subtle with this, and then we’re gonna close that. Now because it’s an adjustment layer, we can hit B for our brush tool, closed bracket to make that a little bit smaller, and then we can paint away that harsh line right there. So we’re just gonna paint over that edge, and get rid of that harsh line because that does not look good. And then I’m gonna drop the opacity of this whole thing to like, 60. Now if we hide that layer, you’ll see what’s happened, it just basically dropped the brightness and the contrast in the top of the mountains, and just kind of defined them a little more, they got lost, and I wanted to bring them back into focus, and that’s basically accomplished by doing that.

Now the last thing you can do is Shift + Option + Command + N, Shift + Option + Command + E, and then you can desaturate this again, and this is just if you want a little more contrast and mood in this photo, which I like to do in my shots. But, we’ll desaturate it with Shift + Command + U, and then I’m gonna change that blending mode to Overlay, like we did right before we added the high pass filter, but now I’m just gonna drop that opacity to like, I don’t know, 15, I’m gonna preview, see what that does for me.

It just adds a little more attitude, I’m happy with this. It could just use a slight overall bump in brightness. So the last thing, this is the last layer we’re gonna add here, I’m gonna add an adjustment layer for Curves, and I’m just gonna take the bottom here, and bump those curves up just a little bit. Just ever so slightly, not making a big deal of it, that’s it. I’m gonna select that top layer, I’m gonna hold down Shift, and I’m gonna click the bottom layer right above the background, and then I’m gonna hit Command + G, that’s gonna group all of our edits together, and we can double click on that and name it edits. And now when we look at this photo, if we just hide this layer, that’s what we started with after we adjusted it in the Camera Raw plugin at the beginning, now it looks like this. So I’m gonna flatten this image just for example’s sake, and then I’m gonna bring in this camera edit again so you can see it, but I’m gonna reset, we’re gonna go back to defaults, to what it looked like, and I’m gonna open that image.

I’m going to copy it, close that window, and I’m gonna paste it onto this. And that is a pretty accurate representation of what the photo looked like coming out of the camera, and what it looks like now after we’ve applied our edits. Again, this is all personal preference. You might not like your photos as contrasty and as punchy, or to pop as much as this, and that’s the beauty of being photographers and artists and editing is that you can make it look however you want it to look. And the more that you stay consistent with that style, the more it becomes your style, and people start to pick up on shots that you take without even knowing you took them because they say, hey, that looks a lot like how Pete’s photos look.

That’s very Peter McKinnon. And it’s really cool to start seeing your own style develop, so, if this isn’t your cup of tea, there’s no worries with that, you can play around with all those settings, kind of follow the same basic steps, and come up with something yourself that looks pretty similar or looks completely different. Everything’s okay. But we went from this, to this, and I’d say that’s a pretty nifty little edit in not much time. So that’s it guys, thank you so much for watching, I really appreciate it.

As found on Youtube

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