3 Ways to Quick "Happy" Your Images

Photo Editing Before & After Photo-editing is always a matter of preference, but I think just a few small edits can make photos so much more eye-catching for a blog, website or family album. Looking at the before & after above may seem like a subtle difference but if you look closely the colors are richer, hair shinier, eyes pop, skin glows and blurred edges are sharpened with very minimal work. (I use Photoshop CS4 so your tools may be in a different spot if you use another version.)

Here are my top 3 go-to Photoshop edits:

Before Photo

1. Adjust Levels

I always start with light because it has such an effect on the color and contrast of an image. Instead of messing with the brightness or exposure settings, I go straight to my levels. (Curves work too, but I'm not the best at gauging these).


To find them, go to Image>Adjustments>Levels

Do you see the little black, gray & white arrows under the histogram for input levels? My rule of thumb is to slide the black and white one toward the middle just to the edge of where the "mountain range" begins. Don't slide them too far in or your image will start to look pixely or overexposed. The gray arrow can be moved around, but it should usually stay evenly between the other two for good contrast.

Levels Photo Editing

After Levels


2. Use Blend Modes

Before getting started with this step, you should create a duplicate layer of your photo by going to Layers>Duplicate Layer. I like my photos to pop colorwise and have a good amount of contrast. In order to do this all in one step, I use blend modes such as soft light or overlay. You can find these by opening your Layers Palette (Window>Layers) and finding the drop-down menu at the top of this window. Change "Normal" to "Soft Light."

Soft Light Edit

Soft Light Edit 2

The result is quite extreme so I usually change the Opacity of the Duplicate layer to around 35% in the Layer's Palette.

After Soft Light

3. Finish with an Unsharp Mask

Sometimes an otherwise perfect image can have some blurred edges, either from camera shake or just focus issues. I like to add a slight sharpening to fix this problem. I do this by going to Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask.

Unsharp Mask Photo Edit

Now for the settings, I adjust the Amount to 10%, Radius to 250 pixels, and Threshold at 0 levels.

This gives an overall even sharpness to the photo without going overboard.

Unsharp Mask Photo Edit

Finished! Thanks for letting me share!

XO, Laurie

(P.S. Thanks so much to my foxy sister for letting me use her portrait:))