One of the differences between a good photograph and a great one is how we handle the details. Check out this image of a beautiful Kuna woman who I photographed at the San Blas Hotel in the San Blas Islands, an archipelago of 365 islands that lies off the Atlantic coast of Panama. Compare it to the second and third photographs in this column, and you'll see that it has stronger colors and more contrast. I'll show you how to easily create a similar effect using Adobe Photoshop Elements. Of course, you can get to the same place using Adobe Photoshop.
After boosting the contrast (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness/Contrast) a bit, from 0 to +9, the image took on a more dramatic look, as you easily see in the woman's face and in her clothes in the opening image. More on that in a moment.
When I was at the San Blas Hotel two years earlier, the painting on the wall was more colorful. The wind and exposure to the sun had faded the original painting.
To re-create those colors, I clicked on the Polygonal Lasso tool on the toolbar and selected the painted part of the wall on which the woman was leaning. (Yes, I directed her to position her hands in that manner, too.)
After I made my selection, I went to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels and darkened that area by moving the Shadow triangle in the Levels dialog box to a position slightly inside the left side of the mountain range.
Next, after selecting the wall area again with the Polygonal Lasso tool, I increased the saturation by going to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation and then by moving the Saturation slider a bit to the right. The result of making those two color enhancements can be seen on the wall in the opening image.
At this point, my two adjustments were on two separate Adjustment Layers. That's the beauty of working with Adjustment Layers. If you don't like an adjustment, you can trash that layer and start over again. And, because a Layer Mask is automatically created when you create an Adjustment Layer in Elements, you can mask out or back in areas of the image to which you've applied an enhancement.
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