Many often have a difficult time when color correcting or enhancing images. They generally lose sight of the goal: making the image look better while still being believable. Many users go “too far” in their quest to fix images. If the image starts to look fake or too altered, it will be distracting. Although getting it “right” requires some practice, here’s some general advice to get you started:

  • Identify what’s wrong. Before you can fix a picture, be sure you have decided on what’s wrong. Is it too dark? Is the sky washed out? Has the picture faded over time? Make a list and prioritize the issues you find in each image. It’s easiest to fix one problem at a time, and if you identify those problems, you’ll know when to stop twiddling with the image.
  • Work with a copy of the image. Before you start to color correct an image, you should duplicate it or make a new version. This way you can return to an original version if you make a mistake or go too far in your image touch-up. After opening your file, choose File > Save As and name the duplicate version that will be corrected. Color correction can be a destructive process, meaning that you cannot revert to the original state at a later time. By preserving an original version of the image or employing adjustment layers, you make nondestructive editing possible. Some users also choose to duplicate the Background layer at the bottom of the layer stack.
  • Edit with adjustment layers or live adjustments. Adjustment layers allow you to apply most of the image correction commands as nondestructive effects. They are added as a layer above the actual image; the adjustment layer can be blended, masked, or deleted at any time. Additionally, if you select the adjustment layer, you can modify its properties in the Adjustments panel. The same modifications are available in both the Adjustments menu and Adjustments panel. You should work with an adjustment layer whenever possible because its flexibility will be important for future revisions. Most of the edits you make with Lightroom or Aperture are nondestructive.
  • Get a fresh opinion. It’s not a bad idea to step back and examine your work. Open the backup copy of the original image and compare it to the image you’ve been working on. This before-and-after comparison can be very useful. If you have a fresh set of eyes nearby, ask that person for his or her opinion.

This Post Sponsored by:

The Digital Camera Store At Amazon

Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. Hi,
    Since Lightroom is one of the most used programs for editing photos I think you should have mentioned it !
    It’s totally non destructive and databasedriven.
    Edit anyway you want – you never alter your originals!

    • See bullet 3. If you use a plugin with Lightroom, its no longer nondestructive. Working with Aperture and Lightroom (and even iPhoto) preserves your Raw file, but they’re not truly nondestructive once you use plugins or with all commands.

  2. Reblogged this on sureshotfotoblog and commented:
    A very good post on workflow. I’ll be using some of these in my own workflow. Thanks Photofocus.

  3. what is the best way to burn A Movie to DVD? I use AVI compression none files in After Effects for Compositing, and then Render them in QuickTime H.264 and Import the H.264 files into Premiere Pro, the quality of H.264 looks great although it is compressed dramatically

    • That’s a very backwards workflow. You can render direct to mpeg2 for DVD. If passing through Adobe Premiere Pro then just drop AE comps in timeline or render to something like Avid or ProRes.


Let us know your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.


Technique & Tutorials