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Color Correcting/ Photos in PSE

As a photographer, I have spent many hours behind the camera trying to learn how to get the settings in my camera just right so I don’t have to spend hours in front of the computer. Sometimes I get all those settings right and I get a beautiful photo in seconds…and sometimes I forget one little setting and I end up with a dark photo or a yellow photo or even a very faded looking photo.  Many years ago, I would have thrown the photos in the trash, but now, with a few adjustments in Photoshop Elements I can save those photos!!

I showed you on a previous tutorial the way to fix a color cast in Photoshop using curves. Today, I am going to show those of you using Photoshop Elements a quick and EASY way to fix the color and exposure on YOUR photos!

One of the first places I look when I am trying to correct a color cast is the skin. The skin will show all types of color casts; yellow, gray, blue, green, and red are just a few of the more common ones. When that happens, we need to fix the color cast in our photos before we can scrap them!

Open the photo that you want to correct. You can see that my photo below has a blue cast to it because it was taken in the shade of a tree. We need to fix the color of the photo first before we do any other adjustments.

 There are several different ways to adjust the color on your photo. The easiest way is by adjusting the colors for the skin tones. Go Go to Enhance Menu>Adjust Color>Adjust Color for Skin Tone.

This will bring up a dialog box  and the Eyedropper tool.

Click on a portion of the skin that has the best lighting and tone possible on the photo. Photoshop Elements will then adjust the color on your whole image based on your selection. You can refine the color by dragging the Skin sliders to adjust the amount of tan or blush. The Temperature slider can be adjusted to make the colors warmer(red) or cooler (blue). Once you have a skin tone that is pleasing to you, click OK.

 Even though the photo is too dark still, you can see that it corrected the blue color cast by adding some yellow into the photo.

Once the image is color corrected, you will need to fix the exposure so that your photo will show its full tonal range.  By correcting the tone you are adjusting the light and dark areas of your image; meaning you will adjust the shadows, highlights, mid tones, brightness and contrast of the image.

Begin by duplicating your layer (CTRL J). Then, go to Enhance>Adjust Lighting. You will have three options when it comes to adjusting the tones in your image; Shadows/Highlights, Brightness/Contrast and Levels.

The Levels option is my favorite option for lighting as it allows you to use the sliders on a histogram to adjust the shadows, highlights and midtones.

 When you click on this option, a histogram pops up in the dialogue box.  The graph represents the number of pixels in the image and and is a measurement of the shadows (black) highlights (white) and midtones (grays)

If a picture is perfectly exposed, the bars on each side of  the histogram would extend all the way to the edges of the graph. In the histogram above, you can see that  the bars on the right , which represent the light areas of the photo) are non existent. You do not see them spike until midway through the histogram, This means that my photo is too dark. To correct the brightness, we will need to drag the slider on the right all the way over to where the histogram begins to spike. (see white slider above) Then, adjust your gray slider to sit in the middle of  the black and white sliders. Click OK.

Sometimes you will need to make adjustments to certain areas of your photo. For instance, in my photo above, after we made all of our adjustments, Rachael’s face was still a little too dark for my liking. The picture is perfectly exposed, but I want her to appear lighter, so I will make a quick adjustment to the photo to lighten her face and add some contrast to the photo to make it pop.

Flatten your image after all of your adjustments and then make a copy of your photo (CTRL J) Set the blending mode of that layer to Screen. You will see your entire photo get lighter. Adjust the opacity of the level to make your target areas the brightness that you want then to appear. Do not worry about what the rest of the photo looks like at this point.

Because we are wanting to target certain areas of the photo and not the WHOLE photo, we need to add a layer mask to the the Screen layer.  You can add a Layers Mask by clicking on the Create Adjustment Level icon (black and white circle) and selecting LEVELS. When the dialogue box pops up, click OK.  Drag your new adjustment layer UNDERNEATH the new Screen Layer that we made and clip them together.

Since we only want the screen layer to show on certain areas of  the photo, we need to change the mask from white (reveal) to black (hide). Click on the white box on your levels layer and hit CTRL+I this will inverse the colors and your mask will now be black. Your photo will go back to being darker again.

Now select your brush tool, set opacity to about 30%, and make sure that white is your foreground color. Now “Paint” the lightness onto the areas that you want to lighten. You can go over them as many times as it takes to lighten it to your liking.

You can use the same method to darken areas of your photo by duplicating your layer and changing the blending mode to “Multiply”,  changing the opacity to your liking , adding and inversing your  layer mask,  and painting on the areas that you want to darken.

Here is the before photo:

and here is the after photo:

The whole process took me less than 10 minutes and it changed a boring and lifeless photo into a photo worthy of scrapping!!

Hope you like the tutorial this week and I will see you back here next Monday!


comments +

  1. Suzanne says:

    Thanks so much for this tutorial! This was so easy to follow and is soooo useful to me. I really appreciate it!

  2. […] Color Correcting/ Photos in PSE – 1 freebie(s)? […]

  3. Paula N. says:

    Found your site via Craft Crave — thanks so much! I have PSE and have struggled with color-correcting photos. This will help SO much!!

  4. Peggy says:

    Wondrful tutorial! Thanks so much for the tips!

  5. Christy says:

    This is the best tutorial I have seen in a while- very detailed and exactly what I have been needing. Can’t wait to try it out. Thank you!!

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I'm Mye De Leon

I'm a mom with a desire to give the best for her family and turned a lettering hobby into a multi6-figure business. These days, I eat strategy for breakfast and turn other businesses into successful empires.

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I'm Mye


My business is to help your business generate more revenue so you can be who you want to be.

I'm Mye


My business is to help your business generate more revenue so you can be who you want to be.