Brighten & enhance dull images

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Brighten & enhance dull images

Post  Sheilsoft on Tue Sep 03, 2013 9:01 pm


This short tutorial shows you how to make adjustments to a dull image using layers and blend modes in Paintshop Pro. This technique can also be used in Photoshop, or any other graphics software which supports layers.

Dull images are usually created when shot in overcast conditions or in shade, or indeed when poorly exposed in camera. They usually display dull, flat light, with low contrast & saturation. If shot in RAW, they can usually be recovered during RAW conversion. This technique however allows non-RAW images to be corrected.

The image I am using was shot indoors on an overcast day, and displays all the characteristics of a dull, badly lit subject...

Fear not... with a few simple adjustments, we can restore brightness, contrast and saturated punch!

1) Open image in PSP and do any initial adjustment tweaks as normal (straighten, clone etc).

2) Click 'Layers' on the top menubar, and Select 'Duplicate'. You should now see, in the bottom right corner, two layers shown. One called 'Background' (your original image), and another on top called 'Copy of Background'.

3) Double-click on the top Copy layer, which will bring up the Layer Properties dialog box. In this dialog box there are a number of values and settings we can change. The two we are interested in is the 'Blend Mode' dropdown menu, and the 'Opacity' slider.

4) Click on the Blend Mode dropdown and select 'Screen'. This will apply a super bright adjustment to our combined layers... great!

5) Unfortunately, in most cases, this will add too much brightness, so we have to tone it down a bit. This will depend on each individual image, and how much added brightness you want to add. You can control this by adjusting the Opacity slider. For this image I set it to 50%.

6) Now merge the two layers together. Click on Layers (top menubar) then select Merge/Merge All (Flatten).

7) Finally, we need to adjust the histogram to re-balance the contrast. Click on 'Adjust' (top menubar), then select Brightness & Contrast/Levels... Click the Reset button, then adjust the left and right sliders underneath the histogram, to bring them along to the left & right edges of the histogram data.

OK, the image is now looking far less dull, having regained some added brightness, and this may be all the adjustment it needs. However, if you want to add a bit of extra soft saturation, you simply do the same as above, creating a duplicate layer... but this time, instead of selecting Screen as the blend mode, select SoftLight, and try a lower Opacity value, say, 20%. When you're happy with how it looks, Merge the layers, but this time you won't need to adjust the histogram afterwards.

You can then finalise the image by doing any final cropping ( I cropped to give a more vertical view, with the eyes on a thirds alignment), and any other tweaks (I sharpened the eyes a bit, and added a depth of field soft focus effect)...

A nifty little technique I hope you'll agree! You can also darken down a light image using a similar technique, by using the 'Multiply' blend mode instead of the 'Screen' mode. It is a stronger blend mode, so you'll probably have to use less opacity to get the correct strength.

Hope you have fun with this one!

Howard Very Happy

Nikon D7100, Windows 7 64bit, Lightroom 5.2, Paint Shop Pro X5/X6

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