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January 22, 2009 by
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Five Fast Photo Effects
Five Fast Photo Effects

Fixing your photos, or giving them a shot of creativity, doesn't have to take hours. Below you'll find five of my favorite photo effects that take mere minutes!

Quick black-and-white with color tint. Photoshop lets you easily convert a color image to black-and-white without harming the original image. To do it, create a Black & White adjustment layer by clicking the half black/half white circle at the bottom of your Layers panel and then choose Black & White. Tweak the various sliders in the resulting Adjustments panel for maximum contrast, and then add a color overlay by clicking the Tint checkbox at the top of the panel. Photoshop assumes you want to give your image a brown (sepia) tint, though if you want to use another color, just click the little brown color swatch to the right of the Tint checkbox and pick a new color from the resulting Color Picker.

Partial color effect. A great way to draw a viewer’s eye to the focal point of your image is to make that part of your image color and the rest of it black-and-white. By using the layer mask that tags along with each Adjustment layer (think of a layer mask as digital masking tape), you can hide the effects of a Black & White adjustment layer in order to bring back the original color. To create the effect, add an adjustment layer by clicking the half black/half white circle at the bottom of the Layers palette, and choose Black & White. Tweak the sliders for maximum contrast and then mouse over to your Layers panel. Click once to select the adjustment layer’s mask (the white thumbnail to the right of the layer thumbnail) and then press B to grab the Brush tool. Take a peek at the bottom of your Tools panel and set your foreground color chip to black (in the realm of the layer mask, painting with black conceals and white reveals). Next, mouse over to your document and paint any area to bring back its original color. If you bring back too much color, press X to flip-flop your color chips so that you’re painting with white, and then paint that area to make it black-and-white once more.

Portrait popper. You can make Photoshop add a soft, darkened edge around any photo in mere seconds… that is, if you know which filter to reach for. Choose Filter > Distort > Lens Correction, then grab the Vignette slider and drag it all the way to the left. To darken the edge color even more, grab the Midpoint slider and drag it slightly to the left. Click OK and you’re finished! Who knew such a little adjustment would make such a big difference!

Background swap. If you want to add a colorful background to a photo that has a white background, don't waste time creating a selection in order to delete it or hide it with a layer mask. Instead, you can swap backgrounds with the flick of a layer blend mode (blend modes change the way color on one layer interacts with the color on other layers). Simply place the colorful background at top of your layers stack and use the pop-up menu at the top of the Layers panel to change the colorful background layer’s blend mode to Darken. Just like magic, wherever the two layers intersect, only the darkest colors will remain. Who knew?! If necessary, you can always use a layer mask to hide parts of the new background, as shown in the figure that accompanies this tip.

Quick color boost. Photoshop CS4 includes a quick new way to make the colors in your image pop without harming your original image. It’s called the Vibrance Adjustment layer and you can find it in the new Adjustments panel on the right side of your screen or by clicking the half black/half white circle at the bottom of your Layers panel. Once you’ve created the Vibrance adjustment layer, drag the Vibrance slider all the way to the right and it’ll intensify the colors in your image. Happily, it has less of an effect on bright colors (because they're already highly saturated) than on lighter tones yet it somehow manages to leave skin tones relatively unchanged. Sweet!

Fast and efficient photo tips. That's the way I like 'em! See you back here next week :)