How to get rich colors and tones when editing

This is a little effect that I love to use on some of my images if I feel they are a little flat.  It is similar to The Orton Effect, but I’ve changed a few of the blending modes to switch it up a little bit.  I like rich colors and tones and this helps me bring my style out more.  It works on some images better than others, but when it works, it’s magical!

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

1. After doing my basic editing (color pop and skin smoothing) I start the process of adding a little more depth to the image by duplicating the layer.  Layer > Duplicate Layer.

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

2. A box will pop up prompting you to name the duplicate layer.  Name this one Soft Light.

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

3. You will repeat step #2 to add a 3rd layer.  Layer > Duplicate Layer.

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

4. Name this layer Multiply/Blur.

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

5. Next, select your ‘Soft Light’ layer and change its blending mode to ‘Soft Light”.  You won’t see any changes take place because you’re working with the middle layer but don’t worry, you will see changes later.

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

6.  You will be doing essentially the same thing as step 5, but this time you will select the ‘Multiply/Blur’ layer and change its blending mode to “Multiply” (see how creative I am!). Here is where you will see the change to your photo.

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

7.  While still working on the ‘Multiply/Blur’ layer you are going to add a Gaussian Blur filter to help give the image more depth.  Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

8. A dialog box will pop up and you will want to increase the radius number to around 15.  Each photo will be different but I find that I stick to 15-20 depending on the details of the image.  Remember, you are still working on the ‘Mulitply/Blur’ layer.

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

9. Now you will add layer masks to both the ‘Multiply/Blur’ and ‘Soft Light’ layers.

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

10. Using a soft, black brush at 100% opacity you are going to select the layer mask of the ‘Multiply/Blur’ layer and mask back in any important details such as skin.  I masked back in the little girl as well as the bucket.

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

11) Now, select the ‘Soft Light’ layer mask, similarly like step 10, and using a soft black brush at 80% opacity I masked out the little girl’s face.  I like the very light contrast left from the soft light layer on her skin (from reducing my brush opacity to 80%).

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

12.  This step is going to depend on your personal preference but I feel like the background is a tad too dark.  So I select the ‘Multiply/Blur’ layer and reduce the overall opacity to 70%.

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

13. I am finished editing my layer so I am going to flatten my image so I can sharpen and save.  Layer > Flatten Image.

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

14. Now to sharpen.  I am a creature of habit and I know there are a million ways to sharpen, but unsharp mask is what works for me.  Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask.

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

15.  Every image is different, so I adjust as needed, but these numbers are where I typically start.  Once I am done sharpening I save and am done!

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

Before:

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

After:

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

Here are a few more examples of some ‘before/after’ images from the same session:

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

how to get rich colors and tones when editing by Lora Swinson

Tips:
  1. Don’t be afraid to mess with the opacity of your layers.  Sometimes you may need the ‘Soft Light’ layer and sometimes you may not.  Experimenting and making it your own is a good thing!
  2. This won’t work for every image.  I always find that I love this effect more on back light images.
  3. Once you feel like you’ve got the hang of it, record it and turn it into an action!

About the Author:

Mother of two young boys, Lora enjoys life in the quiet state of Colorado. As a sophomore in high school, she began her photography journey with a roll of film and a darkroom. She is a Canon girl at heart shooting with a 5d mark II and both 50mm and 135mm lenses. And although she proclaims to spending her days off as being lazy, Lora loves crossfit and running. Reading, music, and coffee are among some of her other favorite things.

23 Comments

  1. Kim Aug 10 2012 at 11:28 am - Reply

    love this post, thanks so much, I just tried it on an image that was pretty flat, and it turned out great! oh, and I bought your breakout session the other day…loved it!

  2. czarina Aug 10 2012 at 11:47 am - Reply

    thanks so much for this lora! awesome tutorial!!!

  3. Jennifer Aug 10 2012 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Thanks… this is wonderful! I love the way that bucket photo turns out after your edts! When you refer to "color pop" in your basic edit, are you referring something like increasing the blacks and lightening the midtones in a curves or levels layer, or playing a bit with the vibrance or saturation, or something else?

  4. LoraLee Aug 10 2012 at 4:00 pm - Reply

    Hi Jennifer! My basic photo pop usually consists of a curves bump, then I pull in the blacks and wil then add some contrast and mask of the skin if needed 🙂

  5. Sarah Aug 10 2012 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    Love this! I've done the Orton technique many times, but not added it on a Multiply layer- great tips. Thanks for sharing.

  6. celestejones Aug 10 2012 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    Beautiful work Lora!

  7. Nicole Aug 10 2012 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    Awesome, thanks so much Lora!

  8. Rachel Aug 10 2012 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    This is an awesome tutorial! Thanks Lora!!!!

  9. Mara Vaughan Aug 10 2012 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Lora, for so generously sharing this tutorial with us! I really appreciate the many pro's here at CM who are open about their post-processing techniques.

  10. Megan Moore Aug 10 2012 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Great post, Lora, I love your style!

  11. Stacey Haslem Aug 10 2012 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    I love learning different processing techniques. I have always love your style. Thanks for sharing your steps with us!!!

  12. Courtney Aug 10 2012 at 5:08 pm - Reply

    Great tutorial! I love learning different ways to make my photos pop! Thanks, Lora 🙂

  13. Sarah Clayton Aug 11 2012 at 6:27 am - Reply

    Love this! Thanks so much for sharing Lora.

  14. Heather Aug 11 2012 at 11:46 am - Reply

    THANK YOU!!!!!! Completely enhanced a photo in a few easy steps!! PERFECT!

  15. Jolyn Veale Aug 11 2012 at 3:26 pm - Reply

    There are some interesting closing dates on this article however I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart. There’s some validity however I will take maintain opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner as well

  16. cgoemans Aug 12 2012 at 7:18 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing! Can't wait to try it 🙂

  17. Hope Aug 13 2012 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    Awesome tutorial!

  18. Justyna Aug 15 2012 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    Hi Lora, thank you ! It's awesome 🙂

  19. Mathilde Garrell Sep 05 2012 at 4:21 am - Reply

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  20. Noma Mendonca Oct 15 2012 at 11:51 pm - Reply

    Very good post. I will be experiencing many of these issues as well..

  21. John Oct 25 2012 at 10:32 am - Reply

    …works great, thank-you kindly….

  22. Aubrey Oct 30 2014 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this! It made a huge difference in my photos!

  23. Toni Pullum Feb 27 2016 at 5:35 am - Reply

    This was excellent. I just love Clickin Moms!!

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