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Try This Simple Photoshop Trick to Make Colors Pop

Make your portraits look 3D with color grading effects
Photo of Photoshop trick

If you want to make your portrait “pop” and look more 3D, one of the best places to start is by getting the color right in your image. And we all must admit, sometimes colors can look dull straight out of the camera, particularly when shooting RAW photos.

But have no fear, this is precisely what the power of Photoshop is all about. In the below tutorial, portrait photographer and software expert Justin Laurens shows you a simple color grading trick to make your photos jump off the screen or page.

The secret is knowing how to use some “subject separation” color grading effects, Laurens says.

“We are going to be using some of Photoshops simple automation tools to apply separate color grading effects to both the background and the model,” he explains. “In doing so it will help to make the model stand out or ‘pop’ from the background and look more 3D. You will also learn a ton of tips and tricks along the way including the four subject separation techniques, which you can use to transform any photo from flat and boring to 3D and engaging.”

In the tutorial, Laurens works on a portrait he shot of model Franceska Fournier during a recent indoor natural light photo shoot and demonstrates the following five steps to make her stand out during post-processing. We’ve included time-stamps on where you can find them in the video.


#1 Initial Adjustments (0:43)

“The first thing I’m going to do is remove a bit of this green tint coming through by shifting the tint away from green and towards magenta,” he says. “And then coming down to the green channel on the curves tab and using the target selector to click onto our subject’s skin and using the downward arrow key to reduce greens in our photo by a couple notches.”

#2 Subject Separation Overview (1:38)

“We’re going to be using some powerful subject separation effects to separate the model from the background. Subject separation simply means to create visual difference in color and tone between the model and the background so that they both stand out from one another. This will create the illusion that the model is popping out from the background, thus making our photo look much more 3D.”

#3 Background Depth (2:07)

“Now when it comes to subject separation, my preference is to begin with the background. So, let’s go ahead and do that now by clicking into Select > Subject to make a selection of our model. From here let’s create a brightness/contrast adjustment layer and automatically our selection will be loaded into the layer mask.”


#4 Subject Separation (4:15)

“Before we make any color grading changes to the model, we’ve got to make sure the model’s skin is properly cleaned and retouched. Then create a new blank layer and then press Shift plus Command plus Option plus E to create a stamp of all visible underlying layers. ”

#5 Final 3D Effects (6:34)

“Now it’s time to make some crucial and specific color adjustments to our image to really make the model pop and boost our photo’s depth. The first thing we’re going to do is target this shadowy region on Franceska’s body. So let’s go ahead and create a Curves adjustment layer.”

After you watch the below video, you should also check out another excellent tutorial from Laurens with eight easy Photoshop hacks to help you create stunning portraits.


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