Blog #5 DIY: Lightening Your Photos

Have you ever taken an almost *PERFECT* photograph? I mean, your outfit was stellar; your setting was more than ideal. The only downside was that the lighting in the photo was just a tad too dark? Well, this recently happened to me. I decided to check out CMU’s annual carnival with a friend. I happened to be wearing my Despicable Me Minion shirt that day. (I’m obsessed with the movies.) So we’re meandering around, seeing what there is to see, when we stumble upon a Despicable Me Fun House. It. Was. Epic. I took several great photos, but my favorite one came out a little too dark for my liking. See for yourself (below).



Now follow along as you see how I made my picture “picture perfect”! (Pun intended!)

Step 1: Upload your photo in Photoshop. Then click on the fill tool on the bottom write of the screen.



Step 2: Select Curves.



Step 3: Select the Lasso tool and outline the sections of the photo that you would like to either lighten or darken. 

Step 4: Use curves to either increase or decrease to the level of darkness that like. Like so. 


Step 5: Do this as many times as necessary. If you want to create different levels (which you would do to lighten one aspect of the photo while darkening another).

Step 6: Enjoy your newer, brighter photo!



Pleasant Surprise

I’m not going to lie; when I opened the very first email Professor Campbell sent before class started, I was a little apprehensive about this class.  I took this class because I was tired of the normal writing/English classes and this seemed to be like a different approach.  I could never have imagined how much I would learn in such a short time.  Although it seemed very fast paced, it forced us to accomplish things most of us never thought we could.  My favorite project was the sound project.  I was able to take small sounds and clips and make something amazing.  It is a great feeling to have to know I was able to accomplish these projects without any prior knowledge of Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Premier Pro, or Audacity.

A few things I want to remember later on:

  1. Although DJ Spooky seems like an unorganized crazy person, his thoughts are actually pretty amazing.
  2. Basically everything in this world is a remix of something else.
  3. Google is my best friend especially when trying to figure out how to do something in Adobe.
  4. Copyrights can hurt more than help the future.
  5. Don’t just do funny. This generation is all about making something funny or cool.
  6. What is the so what? Of life? Of every project?
  7. Clichés are overrated

These along with a hundred of other things I learned in class will help me in life.  It has definitely been an interesting journey, but I’m glad I got to do it.

Using Levels in Photoshop

Levels is a tool used to adjust brightness, contrast, and tonal values of a photo.  Levels uses a image histogram to adjust the values of these qualities by shifting the range of complete black, complete white, and midtones on the graph.  An understanding of the use of levels will help you to better represent tones in your final image.


Step 1: Opening levels


We will begin by opening the levels window, which is located on the side panel under adjustments.  Upon clicking the levels window will open to the side as shown.



All pictures will have different histogram values but the black, white, and midpoint will already be set to a standard. 

 Step 2: Adjusting Black and White Levels


When adjusting the black and white values of an image, it is important to check if your photo should have completely black or white regions.  If so the image’s histogram should express this.  Most images look best when the full range of dark to light is extended to the size of the histogram.  Images that don’t cover the entire range often look washed out and lacking tone.  As seen in my photo the black end is extended further than the histogram represents so I will pull this range in.






The result shows the new emphasize of the darker tones in the image.  As this step brought out some of the darker tones, the same can be done to bring out highlights of the photo.  I will squeeze the white level inward to bring out these lighter tones.



By using levels I eliminated the washed out look of the original photo and accentuated the darker and lighter tones.

Step 3: Adjusting the Midpoint


The midpoint slider’s main use is to brighten or darken the midtones within an image.  Moving the midpoint to the left will stretch the histogram to the right and squeeze the histogram to the left of the point thus brightening the midpoint tones and vice versa if the midpoint is moved to the right.  The darker midpoints in the shadow and door in my photo are slightly over powering so I will move the midpoint to the left to brighten these regions.




Finally, we are left with a photo with fuller tones simply using the levels tool. 

*This photo may not have been the best to show the changes on*






Blur & Focus

About half of my recovery story will be shots of boys running around in the backyard playing football, and so in order to capture the full of effect, the pictures include a lot of background.  Because of that, I needed to develop a way to focus the viewers’ attention on what I want them to see without losing the effect the background, something more subtle than what the Adobe tutorial has.  The blur tool has thus become my best friend.

Original photo:


I wanted this photo to have both groups of people in focus with the background around them slightly blurred.  Using a selection tool (I prefer the elliptical marquee, but the lasso works as well if you want to select a free form area), select one area that you want to not blur.   Then if you hold the shift button, you can select a second area.  Then inverse the selection (Select>inverse).  It should look something like this:


Now, select the blur tool from the sidebar. 3

At the top of your screen, you can open a drop down menu and select the size, hardness, and type of blur that you want.


Then simply click and drag the blur tool around the picture.  The beauty of selecting an area is that if you accidentally wander into the areas you don’t want to blur, it won’t blur (I think photoshop was made for people like me that do that sort of thing all the time).  It’s a very soft blur, but if you look at the red arrow in the photo below, you can see that the boundary is clear:


At this point, I don’t particularly want to blur the photo and have the background be indiscernible, but I do want to bring the people into focus more than they are.  So inverse your selection again and use the sharpness tool (filter>sharpen>sharpen).  I went back into the filter menu afterwards and chose “sharpen more” just to bring it out a little bit more.


Finally, I recommend playing with the brightness, contrast and vibrance of the areas.  It will bring them into focus without blurring the photo more.  Here’s an example of the brightness super exaggerated:


Because the group of three has more significance in the larger scheme of my project, I actually deselected the areas and reselected them separately to play with the brightness/contrast/vibrance.  This is my final product:


Blurring Sections of Pictures

I went into how to blur certain sections of pictures to make one section pop.

1. Pick your picture

This process will work best when you have a picture with one person you want to emphasis or one thing you want to emphasis. 




2. Use the lasso tool (on the side bar to cut out one section of the picture)

3. Then go to layers and press make new layer from cut.



4. Then Use the blur tool (on side bar looks like a water drop)

In this tool you can change the size of your brush and also change how much the blur is.

I used a larger brush and had my blur at 80.

5.  Brush over the back layer of the picture

6. Your done! Now you have a section of your picture really standing out and contrasting the background.


Color Replacement tool

This DIY instructional post will cover the powerful “recoloring tool” in photoshop. Unlike changing the hue and saturation of an entire photo, or using the recoloring brush, the recoloring tool enables a person to change the color of a selected area.

The example I chose for this post is just a red apple. The reason behind using this specific picture is because while the apple is red, there are many different shades and variations on the color. The color replacement tool enables the user to alter the color of the photograph while still keeping the variations (like shading) and details visible. This differs from just using a regular brush, which just paints over an object.

Step One: Duplicate Layer

Since this is technically a “destructive” technique, it is important to make a duplicate layer of the photo. Destructive techniques change a whole layer and can’t be fixed by simply hitting undo. In order to not mess up an entire photo, the best option is duplicate the layer, so if anything goes awry, the source image remains intact.

Replace Color Step 1

Step Two: Selection

The next step is to select the object that will have its color replaced. I used the quick selection tool for this example because it was the quickest way to get the entire apple. (This method may only be effective if there is no background.)

Replace color step 2

Step Three: Accessing Color Replacement

The color replacement tool is not on the sidebar of photoshop, but rather on the top bar, in the “image” tab. To get to this tool, go into image, scroll to adjustments, then select replace color.

Replace Color Step 3

Step Four Replace Color Selection:

Replace color step 4 Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 6.57.03 PM

When the Replace Color tool opens, there will be a box with a highlighted version of the selected object.  On the top right hand corner is a color box, this is used to select what colors in the selection will be replaced. Whatever colors are selected in this panel will be shown in the box.

Since I wanted to replace the color of the whole apple, instead of using the color box, I utilized the dropper tool option in color replacement. This operates almost like a quick selection tool, in that the user can click on the actual image and select every color that should be replaced.

Step 5: Replace the color

Replacing the color of the selected areas is actually quite simple. Like the color selection mentioned in step four, there is a color destination on the bottom of the Replace Color box. There is a swatch pallet that will pop up, and the user can select what color the selected area should be replaced with.

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 6.57.42 PM

Finished product:

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 6.57.52 PM

The color is different, but the shading, variations and details all remain.