How to fix for backlit photos | How About Orange

April 08, 2014

How to fix for backlit photos

A tip for Photoshop users: here's a nice action for brightening bad pictures, especially backlit photos with a blue or gray tint. It's the Sunshine Photoshop Actions set from Charmbox Studios. It contains six different actions for a variety of lighting effects. I bought it for $4.50 and it's been worth the money in time saved.

Kissed by the Sun is the most useful of this set, I think. Above is my fixed up photo.

Here's what it looked like before I ran the action:

Today I edited a few snapshots for a client. Here's the original image:

And here it is, sunnier:

I made a few minor tweaks after running the action to brighten the floor in the foreground, but the action got me pretty far.

If you're not familiar with an "action" in Photoshop, it's a series of pre-recorded steps. Instead of applying each step manually yourself (brighten, adjust levels, increase saturation, etc.), you simply click the "play" button in the Actions palette and they all happen in order instantly. A huge time-saver, and if the action is designed correctly, each adjustment layer is still editable so you can tweak effects as needed. For how to install a new action, see here. There are lots of freebies floating around the web, too. Anybody have some they swear by?

4/14/14 Update: You guys must have purchased a bunch of products, because I just got a note from Charm Box Studios. They'd like to offer a thank you! To get 30% off anything in the Charm Box Studios store, enter the code: CBS-loves-orange now through 4/30/14. One use per customer, no minimum purchase. Sweet.


Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for years and I don't think I have ever commented. Shame on me. I think Pioneer Woman has some nice actions. I only use PS Elements. Personal use only.

I also love the computer wallpaper links. I use a new one every time you post a new source.

Robyn said...

This is great, thank you. I'm always looking for elements actions. I like Paint the Moon's actions. She has some great ones to really make the eyes pop. The Pioneer Woman has some freebies too that are great.

Jessica Jones said...

I've seen the PW's but will check out Paint the Moon's. Thanks!

Nicole said...

I have PW's and one set of Paint the Moon's as well. . Paint the Moon's is especially heavy handed and has LOTS of layers that do different filters, hazes, etc... I don't find the names of the actions to be intuitive.

Natalie Allistone said...

Well what a small world!

I just fell off my chair after opening your post in my inbox & seeing my mate Nick on your wall.

How wonderful that artists travel so widely from their armchairs theses days.

From the other end of the UK


Jessica Jones said...

Hellooooo from Cincinnati! I love that story!

Rachel said...

This might be really obvious, but do you edit your photos in RAW format? I'd always heard that it gave you more control, but I didn't get around to switching for a long time. When I finally did, I was amazed at what a huge difference it made. Now I couldn't go back. That said, after I edit in RAW and save as a jpeg sometimes I'll adjust with preset curves. Julia Trotti has some great free ones: and she has actions, too, though I've never tried those

Jessica Jones said...

Thanks, Rachel! I'll check those out! You're right; I edit in jpg even though I took a class and the instructor told us to use RAW. I should switch, I know! Glad to hear it really makes a difference!

tiffany said...

'The CoffeeShop Blog' has a bunch of great freebies - my favorite go-to's are 20/20 and Vignette. Subtle and beautiful!

Josh said...

editing in RAW will give you so much more flexibility. you could still run an action later on if you want.

in the scene with the chair and the windows. the interior of the after action photo is much better. warmer. inviting, but to get that to lighten up the interior, it blew out the highlights outside, making that building on the lefthand side a huge white focal spot.

with RAW it would have the data to do a better job at correcting problem areas like that. You could correct before and still run the action to improve it.

rather then do all of it in photoshop i recommend going to a photo management tool like lightroom or aperture *i use aperture). you can do so much editing in those that i hardly ever go into photoshop for most editing. Th best part is that they have a non destructive workflow. if you decide to change the photo later, you can turn the edits you made on and off, adjust them more, etc. This is where photoshop falls short. Once you do it, it is done.

Software like that, combined with RAW is very powerful.

Jessica Jones said...

I've considered Lightroom, but since I'm not a photographer I haven't invested in it. Maybe someday! Using adjustment layers in Photoshop is non-destructive keeps the original image intact; they can be turned on and off like you mention.

Sounds like I should switch to RAW!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this link. Your blog is so insanely useful!

Preparing for Peanut said...

LOVE me some action sets and this one could not be more timely, just shot a kid's bday party in total gray sky. Talk about time saver!! Thank you!