5 Essential Photo Enhancements

In other programs, too, highlight-recovery sliders are the ideal first stop, but additional adjustments for localized control can be made with basic burning in of the blown-out bright areas. Setting Photoshop’s Burn tool to focus on highlights, for instance, can add faux density to otherwise detail-free areas of a scene that may be distractingly bright. While upping Lightroom’s Recovery slider can bring down overexposed highlights, a heavy-handed approach makes images appear flat and muddy. A gentle touch will rein in contrast and detail in the shadows and highlights, crucial for a great photograph.

3 White balance and color correction


If you shoot RAW, adjustments to color balance made after the fact are literally just as easy as if you made them before you clicked the shutter. This is one of the reasons why I so strongly advocate for RAW. But even if you shoot JPEGs, you can adjust the white balance after capture, as well.

For this, you have two options: deliberately set the white balance incorrectly to achieve a specific color effect or try to make the white balance spot-on perfectly neutral. The latter is fairly easy, as you can do it by the book. Simply photograph something that you know is neutral white or gray (such as a color chart or gray card) within the scene and use Lightroom’s Eyedropper tool for a one-click perfect color balance in post.

Alternatively, most processing programs provide white balance presets and color temperature settings for dialing in white balance without the benefit of a gray card. Shooting outdoors in sunlight? The sunlight preset will look great. Adjust the color temperature slider to fine-tune just how warm or cool that daylight image looks, and you’ve pretty easily ensured an ideal white balance.

The tricky part comes when you want to make a dramatic shift from neutral, say, to enhance the feeling of warmth in an image with a warm orange overall glow or to make an image appear cool with blue hues. Luckily, you use the same tools for this type of white balance adjustment, but there’s no "right" way to achieve the effects. If it looks right to you, it probably is. I find the color temperature slider, no matter the program I’m using, to be a great way to skew color balance to fine-tune the mood.

4 Noise reduction

4 Noise reduction


One of the best technological developments in the digital era has been the ability to produce relatively low-noise images even when shooting at very high ISOs. This has freed photographers to work in extremely low light and reduced the need for augmented light (from a handheld flash or other light source) that can change the mood of a scene dramatically.

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