Controlling the colour in your photos starts when you select the scene and continues with careful capture control, but comes into its own when you get back to the desktop. Never before has the photographer had so much control over the hues in their images, with the latest versions of Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom and Camera Raw containing a host of features that excel in colour enhancing. Over the next few pages we’ll look at some techniques you can use.

Revealing hidden hues
The colour of the light falling on a subject plays a crucial role in the type of colour that is reflected from its surface. It might be true enough for us to say that the leaves are a golden colour but these orangey hues may be less than vibrant in the photo as the picture was taken in the shade, or on a cloudy day, when the ambient light was quite blue. Adjusting white balance settings can reveal the colours that your own eyes saw but the camera failed to record.

Shoot in Raw for the best options for altering white balance. Adobe Camera Raw (in Photoshop and Elements) and Lightroom both contain dedicated white balance controls in the Basic panel of their development settings. If you haven’t captured the file in Raw and you have Photoshop CS3, you can open TIFFs and JPEGs into Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).

There are three ways to adjust white balance in ACR. The first involves selecting from the preset WB modes listed in the drop-down menu at the top of the Basic panel. Revealing the autumn colours might be as easy as selecting a different mode than the one used at capture. Selecting Cloudy or Shade will reduce the blue and boost the golden hues.
For more manual control, select the WB tool from the ACR toolbar at the top of the dialog. Locate a picture part that is meant to be neutral light grey, but is depicted as light blue, and click on it with the eye-dropper. Automatically, ACR measures the colours of the picture part, calculates how far from neutral they are, then corrects the whole image.

The last technique involves the Temperature and Tint sliders in the Basic panel. The Temperature control works in the blue-yellow range; the blue cast in the photo can be removed by dragging the slider to the right. The Tint slider adjusts magenta and green tones and is most often used for neutralising photos taken under fluorescent light.   


Photoshop: Autumn Images: Page 2

Vibrant hues are what we have come to expect from photos captured in autumn, but sometimes the strength of the colours in our photos do not live up to our expectations. Fortunately, there are several controls in Photoshop, Elements and ACR that can help boost the colour in pictures.

The Saturation slider found in the Basic panel of Adobe Camera Raw or the Hue/Saturation control in both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements is used to control the strength of the colours in the photo. Dragging the slider to the right boosts all the colours, increasing their vividness. This control needs to be used carefully, as all hues are affected.

You can increase the strength of your picture’s colours with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, before masking associated areas to modify how the saturation changes affect specific picture parts. Select the mask thumbnail and choose a soft-edged black brush with a low opacity. Paint over the areas where you want to reduce the saturation.

The key to successful saturation-based colour-boosting is about customising the changes with a layer mask.

The Vibrance slider is a new feature in ACR for Photoshop and Elements. Vibrance also boosts colours, but unlike the Saturation control, it concentrates its changes on the desaturated hues in the photo and offers some protection for skin tones.

If you are working with Raw files then using the Vibrance control can be more successful due to its selectivity than simple saturation changes.

Alternatively, you can select which colours to boost individually with the sliders in the HSL/Grayscale panel of ACR. Here, the colour in our photo is broken into eight categories rather than three (red, green and blue). After selecting the Saturation tab from the top of the panel you can selectively control the strength of any of these colours, providing the opportunity to boost some hues while protecting others.  

Photoshop: Autumn Images: Page 3

Creating Printable Colour
It is easy to assume that the best way to ensure the colours of autumn shine through your pictures is to grab the Saturation slider, in the Hue/Saturation control, and drag it all the way to the right. This is quick and easy but you may get a few surprises when you come to print, as the vibrant hues you see on screen, print out as flat poster-colours lacking the rich details of the original photo (see pic right, where the gamut warning highlights problem areas). Here are some ways to ensure that you retain the colour details in your images.



For those who prefer to capture in Raw mode, retaining details starts in the conversion process. Before adjusting the colours in your photo make sure that the Preview option, at the top of the dialogue, is selected. Next, click onto the black and white clipping warnings (top right and left of the histogram in the latest version of ACR – Adobe Camera Raw). Now when you use the tone and colour sliders to enhance your image you will be able to preview any clipping that occurs. Red or blue areas appearing in your photo indicate that detail is being lost so you should adjust the slider settings until they disappear.

Once the file has been converted, and passed to Photoshop for further enhancement, you can still ensure that any colour changes are not causing printable details to disappear by soft-proofing the photo with the colour characteristics of your printer. The technique requires several steps; start by selecting View > Proof Setup > Custom and then choose your printer’s profile – and maybe media as well – from the menu. Your photo is now being simulated on screen as it will be printed.

Now return to the View menu and select the Gamut Warning option. This feature previews the areas of the colours that are outside of the printable range (the gamut), displaying them as a grey mask. It is an indication that unless rectified, these areas will be printed as flat colours with no details. The amount of grey previewed in the photo will depend on the range of colours that can be printed by your printer/paper combination and how saturated the colours are in the photo itself.

To alter the colour in the photo to suit your printer, make sure that the Gamut preview is still active and then add a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer. Dragging the Saturation slider to the left will reduce the out-of-gamut problems but will also reduce the strength of colours that are within gamut, so select the range of colours from the Edit menu that are most affected – here, it is the reds. Reduce the saturation of the reds, adjusting the colour range if needed using the sliders at the bottom of the dialogue until they are more within the gamut.


When it comes to print, there are some more adjustments that need to be made. Firstly, the same print profile used for soft-proofing needs to be selected in the print dialogue. Next, the Rendering Intent should be set to Perceptual or Relative Colorimetric. Perceptual aims to recreate the visual appearance of the original photo while manipulating any colours that still remain out-of-gamut into the range that can be output by the printer. Relative Colorimetric also accounts for out-of-gamut colours but with less adjustment of hues that are within the gamut to begin with. 

Lightroom has the same clipping warnings in the Histogram (in the Develop module), and can adjust the rendering intent used for output in the Print module. Elements also has clipping warning options via ACR and rendering intent settings in the Print dialogue. But neither Lightroom nor Elements has a gamut warning feature like Photoshop’s.


  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Photoshop: Autumn Images: Page 2
  3. 3. Photoshop: Autumn Images: Page 3
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