Before and after: Behind the Scenes

23 Jan

Photoshop. It’s a tricky beast.

One of the reasons I love to blog is because it forces me to learn more about photography and Photoshop. But boy these guys are time-consuming. When I was prepping my quilting kit post, I tried three separate times to get a decent photo of my supplies. The first two times, I thought I had good photos until I looked them on my computer to find that the lighting was too weird, the items weren’t lined up quite right, or they were out of focus (my perpetual problem). I’m the type who likes to get photos right in-camera (as opposed to doing a lot of editing later), but they will never be so good that they won’t need a good clean-up.

Since every photo shoot has different subjects (people, landscapes, objects) and lighting situations (indoor, outdoor, shade, full sunlight, night), each set of photos you take will require different edits. Two great resources for me are the Clickin’ Moms blog and the Scott Kelby Photoshop books (I have this one).

Even with these resources and three photo sessions, I still struggled to get a decent final photo. I’m pleased with the final results (even though they aren’t perfect at all), and thought I’d share my process if it would help anyone out there.

The process is specific to a photo that:

  1. is indoors
  2. has good natural light that isn’t too harsh (not shining directly on the subject)
  3. is of objects, not people


This was done in Photoshop CS6 for Windows, so if you have an earlier version, things could be a little different for you.

The first thing I needed to do, was get rid of the glare from the flash on the ruler. This is a bit persnickety, because it requires you to merge parts of two photos (with and without flash) so it isn’t included here. I’m happy to add the process if anyone needs it, though!

Next, I had to  straighten the photo. To straighten:

  1. Right click on the eyedropper tool in your sidebar.
  2. A box of options should pop up. Click on the ruler tool.
  3. Draw a line across an area that should be straight, but isn’t.
  4. At the very top of the page, click “Image.”
  5. Go down to Image Rotation.
  6. Click Arbitrary.
  7. When the box pops up, click okay.  (A number will be pre-filled in the box, based on the line you drew earlier.)
  8. Your photo should be straight now, but if it still looks a little off, feel free to undo and try again!

Since parts of the image were a still a bit out of focus, I sharpened the image. To sharpen:

  1. Click “Filter” at the very top of the page.
  2. In the drop-down, click “Sharpen” and then “Unsharp Mask.”
  3. In the box that pops up, you have three settings you can adjust. Mine are set to: Amount: 60%, Radius: 3.5 pixels, Threshold: 3 levels. Make sure the Preview box is checked so you can see how this affects the photo.  I chose these settings because I’m sharpening objects that have a good amount of fine detail. [These settings would be really harsh on a photo of a person.]
  4. After you’ve adjusted the settings to your liking, click okay and the settings will be applied!

My original photo was a tad on the dark side, so I increased the brightness. To do this:

  1. Click “Layer” at the top of the page.
  2. In the drop-down menu, click “New Adjustment Layer” and select “Brightness/Contrast.”
  3. In the box that pops up, click “okay. “
  4. In the box that pops up, increase the brightness to suit your taste. Here, mine is set at 7.

The final step I took was to bring out the colors in the photo by

  1. Click “Layer” at the top of the page.
  2. In the drop-down menu, click “New Adjustment Layer” and select “Saturation.”
  3. In the box that pops up, just click “okay.”
  4. In the next box, increase the saturation to your taste. Mine is set at 13. You can go up to 25 or 30 in most photos without overdoing it.

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Dr Rachel Reed

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