Sometimes the sunset you photographed didn’t cooperate. Rather than the vibrant oranges and reds you were hoping for, your sunset image looks dull, gray, and flat.
There are many ways, of course, to boost colors in your photos during post processing. In the below tutorial, software guru Christian Möhrle of The Phlog Photography, shows you his method for creating “epic” colors in Photoshop.
“Just captured one of my best sunrise photos of the year, but since RAW files tend to be very flat, the colors aren’t really showing,” Möhrle explains. “So, my goal for this photo was to bring back colors and make the very vibrant. I’m aware this is some heavier editing and not everybody is a fan, but I’m super happy with the end result. For the editing, I did the rough adjustments in the Camera Raw editor while using a bit of Photoshop to enhance the colors some more and do a bit of dodging and burning.”
Watch the video at the bottom of this post where he takes you through these four steps.
#1 Basic Raw Adjustments
“I started by changing the camera profile to Adobe Landscape for more saturation and a bit more brightness in the darkest parts,” he says. “Next, I adjusted the white balance to get a more natural looking base image to begin with. As the overall image was rather dark, I brought up the exposure. At the same time, I dropped the highlights to restore details from the sky. Of course, the brightest part is still overexposed which I could have fixed using HDR / Exposure blending, but in this case, I don’t think a bit of overexposure in that area is bad. Finally, I added texture, dropped the clarity and the dehaze for a dreamy look.”
“I started with a linear gradient over the top left part of the sky. Here, I dropped the exposure. I used another linear gradient on the foreground and brought down the exposure while increasing the temperature to add contrast and a bit of warmth to the foreground. To add glow, I used a radial gradient over the bright spot in the sky and brought up the blacks while dropping the dehaze. Finally, I used one more radial gradient over the village itself. Here, I increased the whites and the texture.”
#3 Color Grading
“In the hue panel, I dropped the orange and yellow tones to give the sky some more of a red color cast. I also dropped the purple hue to reduce the purples in the sky. For the split toning I went with a very saturated warm color for the highlights, a warm color for the mid-tones and a cold color for the shadow.”
“First, I wanted to add some dodging and burning using the TK panel plug in (to target specific luminance ranges). I started by burning the sky and dodging the highlights in the foreground. Then, to add some more glow I added a soft light layer and painted over the bright spot with a warm brush for a subtle glow effect. To make the colors warmer, I used a photo filter adjustment layer, and played around with the curves (red channel is super helpful here).”