Brighten and Bring Out The Color In Your Photos

After Photo: House in Maine

Enhanced, cropped photo: House in Maine. Copyright Marian Cates
Enhanced, cropped photo: House in Maine. Copyright Marian Cates

Before Photo: House in Maine

Original photo, House in Maine
Original photo, House in Maine | Source

Bring Out The Best In Your Photos

When your photos aren't as bright or colorful as you'd like them to be, there are simple ways you can enhance them to bring out their full potential. All you need is a photo design program and a computer.

As a side benefit, working with photo design programs to improve your photos helps to train your eye to understand the essentials of a good photo. And as a result, you are likely afterwards to take better photos.

In this article, I'll take you through the steps involved in enhancing your photos with two different programs, Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office Picture Manager.

Adobe Photoshop

There are a number of versions of Adobe Photoshop. I use only one, Photoshop Elements. However, I believe that the simple processes described in this article are available in all versions of Photoshop.

Photoshop has a number of automatic enhancement features. However, to get the best results for your individual photos, it is usually better to manually enhance your photos through the very simple steps of brightening them and increasing their color saturation.


Enhance

Screenshot 1. Photoshop Menu
Screenshot 1. Photoshop Menu | Source
Screenshot 2. Photo opened in Photoshop
Screenshot 2. Photo opened in Photoshop | Source
Screenshot 3. Brightening Your Photo in Photoshop
Screenshot 3. Brightening Your Photo in Photoshop | Source

Brighten Your Photos in Photoshop

Here are the simple steps for brightening your photos, using Adobe Photoshop.

  1. Open your photo.
  2. Go to the Enhance menu. See screenshot 1 above and 2 on right.
  3. Drop down and select Adjust Lighting. See screenshot 3 on right.
  4. Select Brightness/Contrast. See screenshot 3 on right.
  5. Move the Brightness arrow over until the photo looks bright enough. See screenshot 3 on right.

Screenshot 4. Saturating Color in Photoshop
Screenshot 4. Saturating Color in Photoshop | Source

Enhance Color, Using Photoshop

To enhance the colors in your photo, follow these simple steps:

  1. From the Enhance menu.
  2. Drop down to Adjust Color.
  3. Select Adjust Hue/Saturation.
  4. On the Saturation Bar, move the arrow over until the color looks right to you.

See screenshots 1 and 4.

Microsoft Office Picture Manager

Most Windows users have a version of Microsoft Office. Picture Manager is part of the Office Suite. This program can be used to enhance and crop your photos by using the Edit Pictures Tool. See screenshot 5.

Microsoft Picture Manager Menu Bar

Screenshot 5. Microsoft Picture Manager Edit Menu
Screenshot 5. Microsoft Picture Manager Edit Menu | Source
Screenshot 6. The Microsoft Picture Manager edit panel opens on the right.
Screenshot 6. The Microsoft Picture Manager edit panel opens on the right. | Source
Screenshot 7. Brighten your photo in Microsoft Picture Manager
Screenshot 7. Brighten your photo in Microsoft Picture Manager | Source

Brighten Your Photos with Picture Manager

To brighten your photos with Picture Manager, follow these steps:

  1. On the Menu bar, click on Edit Pictures. See screenshot 5 above.
  2. A side panel appears that offers you editing options. See screenshot 6 on right.
  3. Click on Brightness and Contrast. See screenshot 7 on right.
  4. Under Brightness, Move the Brightness arrow over until the photo looks bright enough. See screenshot 7 on right.



Screenshot 8. Back arrow for navigation in Microsoft Picture Manager.
Screenshot 8. Back arrow for navigation in Microsoft Picture Manager. | Source

Navigating Within the Edit Picture Panel

To navigate within the Edit Picture Panel, use the back arrow. See screenshot 8.

If you use the back arrow, you don't need to keep opening and closing the Edit Picture panel while you're working with your photo.

Screenshot 9. Saturating the color in your photo in Microsoft Office Picture Manager
Screenshot 9. Saturating the color in your photo in Microsoft Office Picture Manager | Source

Enhance Color Using Picture Manager

To enhance the color in your photos, using Picture Manager, follow these steps:

  1. Click on Edit Pictures in the Menu bar (If you have used the back arrow to navigate back to the Edit Picture Panel, skip this step).
  2. Click on Color.
  3. Under Hue and saturation settings, you'll see Amount.
  4. Move the arrow over until the color looks right to you.

See screenshot 9.


Screenshot 10. Cropping in Photoshop. Note the cropping tool icon in the panel of tools on the left side of the screen.
Screenshot 10. Cropping in Photoshop. Note the cropping tool icon in the panel of tools on the left side of the screen. | Source
Screenshot 11. Cropping your photo in Microsoft Office Picture Manager
Screenshot 11. Cropping your photo in Microsoft Office Picture Manager | Source

Cropping Photos

As a general rule, it's best to crop your photos so as to emphasize their subject. You want to eliminate any part of the photo that is not essential to the subject matter. This is done by tightening your focus.

In Photoshop, you select the cropping tool on the left-hand side of the screen and drag it across your photo to set the dimensions to which the photo is to be cropped. You can adjust the crop tool until the photo seems properly focused to you. If you're not pleased with your results, you can undo the crop and try again until the photo looks right to you. See screenshot 10.


In Microsoft Picture Manager, Crop is one of the Editing Options that appear in the Editing Panel when you select Edit Picture from the Menu bar. As with Photoshop you make adjustments until the photo looks properly focused and experiment until you get the photo cropped to your liking. See screenshot 11.

Showing Your Photos Online to the Public

When you're showing your photos online to a public audience, you will probably need to increase the brightness slightly more than you do for the photos you share with friends and family.

Excellent photos are vital to those who are selling their products online. Photo enhancement can greatly increase the probability of sales.

Product Photo 1. Original product photo of rose quartz pyramid...
Product Photo 1. Original product photo of rose quartz pyramid...

Handmade Rose Quartz Pyramid

Product Photo 2.  Enhanced & cropped product photo of rose quartz pyramid,
Product Photo 2. Enhanced & cropped product photo of rose quartz pyramid,

Before Photo: Meow Store Folded Apron with Yin & Yang Cats

Product Photo 3. Original photo of folded apron.
Product Photo 3. Original photo of folded apron. | Source

After Photo: Meow Store Folded Apron with Yin & Yang Cats

Product photo 4. Enhanced photo of folded apron. The original photo was so poor that I had to do some painting in addition to simple enhancement.
Product photo 4. Enhanced photo of folded apron. The original photo was so poor that I had to do some painting in addition to simple enhancement. | Source

Enhancing Product Photos

If you have an online shop in which you sell products, you will have to provide product photos for your shop. This can be quite a challenging prospect for sellers who are not professional photographers. Photos that do not faithfully represent the products can undermine sales.

Rather than re-shooting photos, hoping for better results, sellers can simply enhance their photos.

I did photo enhancement for some of the products in a handmade shop, using brightening, color saturation and cropping in Photoshop. (See Product Photos 1 and 2.)

I sold a set of aprons featuring my Yin and Yang Cats painting to an online shop. When I saw the product photo of the folded apron on her home page and the photo of the apron on a model, I was horrified at the distortion of my painting in the photos. I offered to enhance the photos but the seller was happy with the photos she'd taken, so my enhanced versions were never used. (See Product Photos 3 and 4.)

Training Your Eye

While enhancing your photos, you're also learning how a good product photo should look. When you take your next photos, you'll probably get better results. In photography, this is sometimes referred to as "training your eye" to see what you are capturing through the camera.

Product Photo Taken Outdoors

Product Photo 5. Handmade product photo taken outdoors
Product Photo 5. Handmade product photo taken outdoors

Taking Product Photos Outdoors

Some online sellers have gotten excellent results taking product photos outdoors. There is something about natural light that brings out the beauty of your products in a way that artificial light cannot.

Even with small products, you can get excellent results taking outdoor photos, as you can see in the product photos to the right from a handmade shop. (See Product Photo 5.)

And you can always take your outdoor shots into your photo design program to enhance and crop the photos to achieve the best result. One of the hazards of a close focus in natural light is that any slight inconsistency in the product, as you will quite often find in handmade or vintage products, will be magnified in your photos. These inconsistencies or slight scratches may be polished through photo enhancement without misrepresenting the product.

Product Photo Taken Indoors

Product Photo 7. Product photo taken indoors
Product Photo 7. Product photo taken indoors

Taking Product Photos Indoors

You can also achieve great product photo indoors. However, unless you're a professional or very experienced photographer, you will probably want to take advantage of all the natural light that you can, rather than rely on using a flash on your camera.

As with photos taken outdoors, by focusing in tightly on the products, you can accomplish some very effective product photos. (See Product Photo 7.)

You can still use enhancement and cropping to achieve an even better representation of your product.

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Bringing Out The Best In Your Photos.

Enhancement brings out the best in your photos. After all, photography is not merely a record of an object or an event, but a creative interpretation. Your goal is always to capture the essence of your subject.

Photo enhancement can be thought of as a second chance with your photos. Using it, you can make your photos shine, so that you present the best in your photos to the world.

© 2011 Marian Cates

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