6 steps to enhance autumn colours in Photoshop

Boost autumn colours in your landscape photos without oversaturating the whole picture. Follow this quick Photoshop tutorial for great results

Autumn provides plenty of inspiring photo opportunities, as landscapes are ablaze with oranges, yellows and reds. The quality of autumn light is special at this time of year, too.

The sun’s golden glow enhances the landscape’s warm palette; and its low position adds raking shadows to your landscapes, bringing out the shape and texture of the terrain. One downside is that low sun can cause exposure problems. When enhancing a shot in Photoshop, it’s easy to overdo the adjustments and create oversaturated, unprintable images. In this tutorial, we’re going to show you how to target and tweak specific colours using adjustment layers as well as restoring detail to clipped highlights using the Clone Stamp tool and using masks to reveal hidden textures.

Step 1 – Prepare your RAW file

Open Color_Before.dng in the Adobe Camera Raw editor. Slide Fill Light up to 40 – this restores some detail to the backlit tree but begins to blow out (clip) highlight detail in the sunlit areas. Click Open Image to edit the shot using the standard Photoshop editor’s tools.

Step 2 – Lighten the shadows

In the Layers palette, click the Create Adjustment Layer icon and choose Levels. Drag the grey midtone input level slider left to 2.40 to brighten (dodge) the midtones. Push the black shadow input level slider up to 16 to darken the blackest shadows. Click OK to apply the changes.

Step 3 – Darken the background

We can see more detail in the backlit tree, but the rest of the shot is too bright. Grab the Brush tool [B], and set Foreground colour to Black. Set Size to 900 pixels. Click on the levels adjustment layer’s mask to target it. Now spray over the overexposed background to darken (burn) it.

Step 4 – Rescue clipped highlights

To add detail to blown-out (clipped) highlights on the forest fl oor, select the Clone Stamp tool (S). Click on the background layer. Alt-click to sample an area with grass texture and spray it over clipped areas of pure white to fill them with detail.

Step 5 – Enhance the colour

Click Create Adjustment Layer and choose Hue/Saturation. Drag the Master Hue to +9 to warm things up and push saturation up to +25. The foreground tree’s colour is too saturated, so change Edit to Yellows and set Saturation to -50 and Reds to + 21. Click OK.

Step 6 – Add a border

Double-click on background layer to unlock it. Choose Select>All and then Edit>Stroke (Outline) Selection. Set Width to 120 pixels, Color to White and Location to Inside. To fi nish, click OK to add a classic white border to your autumnal print.

Image credits: Ali Jennings/Future