{photography with lei} how to lighten an image

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Hello again!  I want to start a simple “how do you” series.  What do you think?  Possible topics would include popping color, covering blemishes, correcting color, using actions, adding a watermark, cropping, removing objects/swapping heads, etc.  You are welcome to send in your ideas, too!  Just email me at [email protected]
Today’s question is “How do you lighten an image?”
First of all, I always start my workflow with a little sharpening. So open your image in photoshop, click on Filter, then Sharpen, then Unsharp mask:
Then this window will pop up and you will set your settings like so:
Click OK.
Now on to lightening things up a bit.  I don’t need much, but I do err on the side of a brighter image.  It really comes down to preference.
Step 1 – Click on Layer, then New Adjustment Layer (this may be looking familiar to those of you who read the post on brightening eyes), then Levels:
Click OK when this window pops up:
Then go down to this window, select the middle slider, and move it over to the left.  You’ll see the whole image get lighter!  You might also notice that you lose some detail.  Don’t worry about that, just get the image lightened to where you want the skin to be… it’s totally a preference thing!
Flatten your image by clicking on Layer, then Flatten Image.
Now we’re going to bring back some depth to the photo that was lost when we lightened it in levels.  Click on Layer, then New Adjustment Layer, then Curves:
Click OK again!
Back to the same window as where we adjusted levels, we’re going to adjust curves.  I placed 3 dots along my diagonal line and formed an ‘S’ curve.  When you drag the area between the bottom 2 dots downward, you’ll see some of the dark areas darken.  When you raise the area between the top 2 dots upward, you’ll see the highlights pop.  It shouldn’t take much… in fact I went back and lowered the opacity of mine after I placed my curve because it was overdone a tad (see the arrow):
You can play around with this a bit – sliding your curve higher or lower on the line to see how it affects your pictures.  It’s fun to see the dramatic change you can make, but don’t get overzealous!  Remember, less is more. :)
Here’s my before and after (with a quick – and kinda sloppy – removal of a sibling from the background).  Much improved, don’t you think?

Of course I would keep going with a few more things, like bring out the detail in her shirt (it looks a bit blown out now) and run an action or 2 to sweeten it up a bit, but this is a good basic edit that anyone can do!

Have fun with it!!!

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About Simply Kierste Design Co.

Kierste is a blogger who shares her love of all things DIY. She is the mother of six, and focuses on simple ideas and projects to make a house a home! When she's not chasing around two sets of twins, a teenager, and a baby, she's working on a project, training for her next race, reading one of her favorite books, or baking something with chocolate in it.