Photo Editing: Turning the Not-So-Great into Acceptable

I took this candid photo a bride and realized later that the background was rather distracting.
{Disclaimer: I was not the wedding photographer, so this photo does not reflect my photography style, I’m using it here merely an example.} 

The bride’s dressing room doubled as one of the church nurseries, so there were brightly colored toys around the room. Additionally, the lighting wasn’t ideal and my photo suffered because of that. So, to fix the problems of this photo, here are the steps I took to correct it in Photoshop Elements: 

1. The photo seemed too orange for my liking, so I adjusted the color slightly, decreasing the red midtones just a little.

2. The photo still needed some lighting help, so I went into Levels and adjusted the white balance by clicking the little white dropper tool, then clicking on one of the whitest spots in her dress. This did bleach out the window, but I was ok with that since it wasn’t my main focus.

3. One of the things that bothered me most was the bright toy on the shelf next to the brides dress. To calm down the color, I duplicated the layer (right click > duplicate layer), then used my Quick Selection Tool to select the toy in that new layer. I then copied my selection and pasted it as a new layer (Layer > New > Layer via Copy). I hid the duplicate layer since I no longer needed it.

4. With this new toy layer selected, I went back to Color Variations, selected the Saturation option, and clicked “Less Saturation” a couple times until I was happy with it. Though, it still didn’t look as good as it would have if it wasn’t there, at least it wasn’t so distracting. 

5. Next, I felt that my photo could use a little sharpening, not much, but just a little. I like to utilize actions occasionally when working on a project. One of my favorites is Pioneer Woman’s Define and Sharpen action {link}. Before using this action on the photo, I made sure to go back and select the Background Layer before applying the action, otherwise, I would be sharpening the layer with the toy. 

Once the Background Layer was selected, I decreased the opacity of the Define and Sharpen layer to 65%. I wanted to sharpen the photo, but not take away from the softness of it. I then flattened the layers before beginning my next step.

6. My next step was to take care of the strange bleached out blue section in the window. 

The easiest way to do this is to use the Spot Healing Brush. {I love that tool!!} I like to use a smaller brush and cover smaller selections to get the best result. I was ok with having some color in the window, I just didn’t want the large neon blue splotch!

7. To finish up, I used my Spot Healing Brush again to clean up the toy a little and make it a little less noticeable.

Having finished these steps, I felt my photo was as good as it was going to get, despite it being taken in a nursery with colorful toys and a bright window in the background. While it is not the best photo, it does capture a few details about the bride’s wedding day and has moved this not-so-great photo to the point of being an acceptable photo.


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