25 Ways to Enhance a Photo

how to enhance a photo

how to enhance a photo

Don't post or show a low-quality picture, follow these easy ways to enhance your photos with only a few clicks and several minutes.

Beginning photographers often face the same challenge ‒ how to enhance a photo. It may be a very cool shot, which has poor lighting, bad color correction, and various defects. But how to enhance it?

25 Easy Tips to Enhance a Photo

If you are not satisfied with the quality of your photos there is no need to address professionals to get enhanced pictures. Look through the article and learn the hacks that will help you improve your images and make them worthy of posting on social networks.

1. Use an Appropriate Program or Editor

Many graphics editors can help you enhance photo quality but not all of them offer a wide range of settings and tools.

To my mind, Photoshop is the best image editing software for PC boasting many useful tools and an intuitive interface. Speaking about free photo editing apps, I recommend using Snapseed which also has broad functionality and free capabilities.

 

If you are interested in online photo editors, pay attention to Pixlr X, which has a mobile version and quite a lot of useful tools in comparison with other online apps.

2. Get Rid of the Tilted Horizon

enhancing picture’s horizon correction enhancing picture’s horizon correction
 

The tilted horizon is a defect when the horizon line in the photo is not straight but tilted to the left or to the right. As a result, the picture is distorted and looks unrealistic.

It is a typical rookie mistake during hand-held shootings or when you are in a hurry. I recommend drawing a line along the horizon and rotate the picture until this line is straight.

However, sometimes shooters deliberately tilt the horizon to achieve the effect called the “Dutch angle”.

3. Frame the Photo Correctly

fix out of focus pictures fix out of focus pictures
 

A good practical rule that should be followed while enhancing a picture is the Rule of Thirds. This technique presupposes the division of the photo by two vertical and two horizontal lines.

Four intersections are considered to be the points where the subject looks more harmonious. Therefore, place them into focus and locate the main objects on these intersections.

4. Blur the Background to Highlight the Main Elements

enhancing a photo blurring the background enhancing a photo blurring the background
 

Modern cameras and the majority of smartphones can qualitatively blur the background and highlight the objects in the foreground.

However, if due to some reasons, the whole frame is in focus, try to get rid of the unnecessary objects in the background using graphics editors. By the way, editors offer different types of blurring but, to my mind, Gaussian Blur at Photoshop is the most realistic one.

5. Remove Unnecessary Objects

enhance photo removing objects enhance photo removing objects
 

Any picture may have some extra objects that spoil the overall look. For example, when you photograph a landscape, you may capture an undesired electric tower. While shooting a portrait, a signboard or some other objects may spoil an ideal frame.

In such a case, use the Stamp tool. It allows carrying the texture from one zone of the photo to another, therefore, hiding an unnecessary object.

6. Flyaway Hair

enhanced portrait before and after enhanced portrait before and after
 

Create a new layer, choose the Stamp Tool, and select All Layers in the upper toolbar in the Sample section. Take a brush with rough edges and 100% opacity and zoom in the image.

Press Alt and choose a sample near the hair and color it. In such a way, you may remove extra locks and hair around the head.

Don’t make the hair too smooth because it looks unrealistic. If you want to remove hair on the face, use the Spot Healing Brush Tool.

7. Get Rid of the Skin Defects

enhancing a picture sample enhancing a picture sample
 
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While learning how to enhance a photo, you need to master various skin retouching techniques to get rid of visible imperfections (pimples, redness, etc.). To cope with this task, make use of the Stamp Tool or the Healing Brush Tool.

8. Make the Skin Smoother

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Some photographers may spend several hours correcting the model’s skin and thoroughly removing all the imperfections. They usually use the Healing Brush and the Stamp Tool.

Not everyone can stand this tiresome and time-consuming process. Fortunately, there are some methods that will help perform this work in several minutes.

One of the most convenient and fast methods of skin smoothing is to use the High Pass Filter. As a result, in the enhanced pictures, the skin will look silky and smooth maintaining important details and the texture.

The portrait will look “lively” and realistic. If you want to control the level of smoothening, use the Gaussian Blur Filter. The bigger the radius value is ‒ the stronger the smoothening effect will be.

9. Remove Bags Under the Eyes

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The most wide-spread problem with portraits is the bags under the model’s eyes. But mind that enhancing a picture, you shouldn’t remove the bags under the eyes at all because the photo won’t look realistic.

You must decrease their intensity a little. Zoom in the image to clearly see the eyes. Create a new layer; choose the Stamp Tool and open the settings in the upper toolbar. Adjust the Lighten Mode (to display light pixels), 20 % opacity, Sample > All Layers. Press Alt and take the skin sample from the cheek under the dark zone, then click several times under the eye to lighten the bag.

10. Get Rid of the Red Eye Effect

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Red eye effect appears when the flash is located next to the lens and reflected off the back of the eye. Zoom in the image and color the red pixels with black or dark grey.

If this process is too difficult for you, use a red-eye reduction tool available in the majority of graphic editors. It will remove the defect automatically.

11. Make Eyes Expressive

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In Photoshop, you may enhance them a bit, adding some extra shine. Moreover, you may change the color, add some make-up or enlarge them.

Divide the eye into four elements: apple of the eye, iris, white of the eye, and eyelashes. Each element requires a different toolset.

Here you may increase the number of tints inside the iris, darken the apples and eyes on the edge, lighten the whites and increase the sharpness of the lashes.

12. Correct the Nose Shape

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The easiest way is to use the Lasso Tool, free transformation and the Healing Brush Tool. Having selected the nose, move it to the new layer and change its shape, shifting the selection box in or out.

Then, use the capabilities of the Healing Brush Tool to correct the newly formed defects. In case you need to correct the dorsal hump or something like this I recommend using a special Plastics Mode.

In it, you may change the size and some other parameters of the objects using distortion and deformation.

13. Add Light Make-up

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Do it only if there is no make-up at all or it is pale. You need to move, for instance, the lips to the new layer and choose a special Toning Mode; then pick up the necessary lipstick color, after this, you may unite the layers and admire the effect you got.

If you want to add shadows, you should simply draw them in the necessary zone with a simple pencil on the new layer, then apply the Gaussian Blur and make them more realistic.

To increase the lash volume, on the new layer, use the Contours Tool and trace them. Then, in the tool settings, choose “trace along the contour” and unite all the layers.

14. Make the Teeth Whiter

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I believe that the easiest way to do this is to use the Mask Mode in Photoshop. Choose the “selection of the area” option, then select the necessary zone with a brush.

When you leave the Mask Mode, the area will be selected and you can easily whiten the teeth. To do this, choose the “Color Layer” in the correction toolbar and change the brightness and saturation using sliders.

But such changes will be applied not only to the teeth but also the areas which were also selected, in particular, lips and gums.

To avoid this, you may indicate in the program that all the changes should be applied only to the yellow color and its tints since we need to improve the teeth shade. Since gums and lips are not yellow, they will not be affected.

15. Improve the Body Shape

enhancing a photo example enhancing a photo example
 

I know that it is a delicate topic, but still, enhancing picture in Ps, you shouldn’t forget about the body shape correction. It is a great way to make a model look better.

I don’t mean a full body reshaping, but you can remove body folds and the second chin. The best tool for such operations is the Plastics Filter.

It is very easy to use. Go to the Filter tab > Liquify (Filter > Plastics), choose the Deformation Tool (W) and start moving the pixels, everything depends on your image. This tool can make a stomach flat and correct the waist; in short, it can do everything you need.

16. Remove the Clothes Defects

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These are stains, folds, etc. To correct such tiny flaws, I recommend using the Stamp and the Healing Brush Tools. They allow shifting a clean and smooth piece of the clothes to the necessary place.

You may also change the color and make it more saturated. To do this, select the necessary zone, move it to the new layer and use the Hue/Saturation setting to change brightness or the shade of the layer.

17. Adjust the Saturation

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Color saturation is directly connected with its intensity. For example, if the color is more saturated, then it is brighter and simpler; and vice versa ‒ if the colors are less saturated, they seem poor and pale.

If you adjust a slider to -100, you will get a b&w photo.

Since any picture correction requires moderation, you should remember that too saturated colors will look ridiculous and unrealistic. Therefore, if you are not deliberately working to get these effects, stop before your photo will ooze neon colors.

18. Work with Contrast

enhancing picture sample enhancing picture sample
 

If you want to professionally enhance photo quality, don’t forget about contrast. Increasing contrast is a great way to add a dramatic effect to the image.

As a result of such improvements, light areas become lighter and dark ones ‒ darker. On the other hand, if you decrease the level of contrast, the image will become more homogenous and softer.

Here, you shouldn’t go overboard. Light pictures, as well as dark ones, may become almost indistinguishable and you will lose all the details.

19. Lighting

enhance photo example enhance photo example
 

Of course, it’s better to work with pictures having the correct exposure level, but sometimes the picture appears to be darker than you wanted it to be. In such a case, you may always enhance photo quality tweaking brightness.

Remember that correcting brightness, you make the whole image lighter or darker. It’s better to do it gradually in order not to overdo, making some parts of the image too light. In order to balance the result, you may again adjust the contrast.

20. Remove Unnecessary Shadows

enhancing a photo enhancing a photo
 

Use such parameters as “Shadow/Lighting” to remove too light or too dark areas from your images. Usually, they appear when the shooting takes place on a sunny day.

The sun may create white colorless areas in the corners or add rough shadows to the portraits, which significantly distorts them.

21. Make It Sharper

enhance blurry photos enhance blurry photos
 

If there is a need to make the image look crisper and better focused, photographers and image retouchers usually resort to sharpening settings. To my mind, Unsharp Mask (USM) is the best tool to sharpen the image.

Although a technique itself is named “Unsharp Mask”, it is used to make the photos sharper. Mind that when you start enhancing a photo using USP, again, don’t overdo it.

22. Remove Noise

enhance image quality sample enhance image quality sample
 

Almost all shooters face this problem especially when it comes to night pics and while shooting with high ISO values or with long exposure. There are many methods to remove noise but the easiest one, to my mind, is to work with apps that are focused on removing this defect.

23. B&W

black and white photo after enhancement black and white photo after enhancement
 

Apply the Black/White Filter. It is the most convenient and easiest method to create a b&w picture which often provides optimal results.

Using the Black/White dialogue window, you may define the brightness of the color shades. If you are not sure how to enhance a photo using this or that shade in a particular area, you may just click on the photo without closing the Black/White window, and the color will be chosen in the dialogue window.

If you move the cursor horizontally when the dialogue window is still open, corresponding shades will become lighter or darker. The results of applying black and white settings are seen when you experiment with color shades.

24. Try to Decrease the Photo Size

enhanced photo enhanced photo
 

If your photos are slightly blurred or not of good quality, try to decrease their size. The bigger the size of the picture ‒ the more visible the defects are.

The smaller size will allow increasing sharpness since the pixels will be situated more compact and our eyes will correct the blurred and noisy areas themselves.

25. Apply Creative Filters

enhanced photo with filters enhanced photo with filters
 

Thanks to Instagram and other apps, filters have become a very popular way of enhancing pictures. They are used not only to create some artistic effect but also to hide drawbacks in an easy and convenient way.

Freebies for Enhancing Photos

In this article, I tried to describe the most frequent problems that may occur while enhancing images. But if you are a beginner in it and think that you may spoil the shot, pay attention to these free tools that will enhance photo quality automatically.

Bright Colors

bright colors for enhancing photobright colors for enhancing photo
 

This action will help you quickly and easily adjust the white balance and the contrast in the photographs. In general, the shot will become lighter and the color in it ‒ more saturated. This action is ideal for outdoor pics.

Smooth Skin

smooth skin for enhanced picturessmooth skin for enhanced pictures
 

This is a great tool for portrait shots. This action will remove little skin defects, make the skin more natural, shiny and velvet. However, the tool doesn’t change the skin texture and only removes the spots, pimples, dark circles, etc.

Contrast

perfect contrast for enhancing photo qualityperfect contrast for enhancing photo quality
 

This free preset will significantly improve the contrast in the images and make the photo brighter, more saturated and “lively”. This effect also helps remove unnecessary mist which often spoils a photo.

Sharpening

sharpening for enhancing photo sharpening for enhancing photo
 

This preset improves the white balance and contrast in your photos, in such a way, providing better detailing. I recommend this preset for portraits that don’t have many details.

Color POP

color pop for enhancing photo color pop for enhancing photo
 

This preset allows adding more saturated colors to the photographs and removing too cold shades. The “Color POP” plug-in is suitable for portraits taken in the street or on the beach.


Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a professional blogger, read more

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