How to Make Colors POP in Your Photos

I hear it all the time! So many ask, ‘How do photographers get that color pop WOW in photos?’ …well, there isn’t a clear, straight answer because there are so many ways to get that pop. However, in my attempts to answer and assist those in need, I will share a very basic, quick and simple way to do this in both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements (for illustration I will be using Adobe Photoshop Elements 7).

The very first step is to make sure you get the exposure good in camera first (if you are still having problems with exposure look around the Corner, there are a host of tutorials, articles and posts committed to helping you get there!). In this example I choose a photo that was pretty good on it’s own but could probably benefit from a slight adjustment…


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Open your image and duplicate layer.


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Rename your layer if you want (I kept it as a background copy for simplicity).


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Next, find your Adjust Color Curves and open it up.


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Make adjustments by adjusting your sliders (the side by side comparison is showing a very subtle adjustment). You may stop here if you think your photo only needed this tweek. If not, read on (I will go on for illustration).


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Here I will go one step higher on the adjustment by adding a gradient. Make sure you set your foreground color to black (see illustration, bottom left corner).


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In your layers palette to the right select the black and white circle and then select gradient.


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Change your settings to suit your needs. In this illustration I have changed the Style to radial, Angle to 100.3, Scale to 150 and clicked on reverse (later on, play around with the settings so you can see all the different things they can do).


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After clicking OK, go to your opacity and change it to the degree you like (I used 30% opacity for a slightly deeper adjustment than the Curves I just did).


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Next click on Overlay so the full effect can be realized (again, later on, play with all the different settings to see all the different effects).


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Flatten your image.


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Duplicate your layer again and use your unsharp mask and adjust the settings to your liking (I didn’t go with sharpen because it didn’t need it, it just needed a slight haze/fog reduction. A typical after effect I get from the camera/lens I use).


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Flatten image again and there you go, a color pop WOW! Ideally your outcome should be subtle with just a hint of pop, but everyone has their own preference so play with the levels to how you like them because you are the artist! Enjoy, hope this helps those seeking a little editing help.


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