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  2. Photo Effects

How to Brighten a Photo in Photoshop

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Read Time:4 minsLanguages:
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you will learn how to lighten a photo in Photoshop, without use of Photoshop actions. I will explain everything in so much detail that anyone can do it, even those who have just opened Photoshop for the first time. So if you've ever wondered how to brighten a photo in Photoshop, here's how to do it.

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What You'll Need

To recreate the design above, you will need the following resources:

1. How to Get Started

First, open the photo that you want to work with. To open your photo, go to File > Open, choose your photo, and click Open. Now, before we get started, just check a couple of things:

  1. Your photo should be in RGB Color mode, 8 Bits/Channel. To check this, go to Image > Mode.
  2. For best results, your photo size should be 2000–3500 px wide/high. To check this, go to Image > Image Size.
  3. Your photo should be the Background layer. If it is not, go to Layer > New > Background from Layer.
Checking image size and modeChecking image size and modeChecking image size and mode

2. How to Make the Adjustments

Step 1

In this section, we are going to make the adjustments. Press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate the Background layer.

Duplicating layerDuplicating layerDuplicating layer

Step 2

Now go to Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlights, and set the Shadows to 100% and the Highlights to 0% as shown below:

Adjusting shadows and highlightsAdjusting shadows and highlightsAdjusting shadows and highlights

Step 3

Now name this layer Reveal Details.

Naming layerNaming layerNaming layer

Step 4

Press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches. Then, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map to create a new gradient map adjustment layer and name it Overall_Contrast_1.

Creating new gradient map adjustment layerCreating new gradient map adjustment layerCreating new gradient map adjustment layer

Step 5

Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Soft Light and set the Opacity to 16%.

Changing blending mode and opacityChanging blending mode and opacityChanging blending mode and opacity

Step 6

Select the Reveal Details layer, and press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches. Then, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map to create a new gradient map adjustment layer and name it Overall_Contrast_2.

Creating new gradient map adjustment layerCreating new gradient map adjustment layerCreating new gradient map adjustment layer

Step 7

Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Luminosity.

Changing blending modeChanging blending modeChanging blending mode

Step 8

Select the Overall_Contrast_1 layer, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels to create a new levels adjustment layer, and name it Overall Brightness.

Creating new levels adjustment layerCreating new levels adjustment layerCreating new levels adjustment layer

Step 9

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and, in the Properties panel, enter the settings below:

Adjusting levelsAdjusting levelsAdjusting levels

Step 10

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Vibrance to create a new vibrance adjustment layer and name it Overall Vibrance/Saturation.

Creating new vibrance and saturation adjustment layerCreating new vibrance and saturation adjustment layerCreating new vibrance and saturation adjustment layer

Step 11

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and, in the Properties panel, set the Vibrance to +38 and Saturation to +20.

Adjusting vibrance and saturationAdjusting vibrance and saturationAdjusting vibrance and saturation

Step 12

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves to create a new curves adjustment layer and name it Color Look.

Creating new curves adjustment layerCreating new curves adjustment layerCreating new curves adjustment layer

Step 13

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and, in the Properties panel, enter the settings below:

Adjusting curvesAdjusting curvesAdjusting curves

Step 14

Press Control-Alt-Shift-E on your keyboard to make a screenshot, and then press Control-Shift-U to desaturate this layer. Then, go to Filter > Other > High Pass and set the Radius to 2 px.

Adding high pass filterAdding high pass filterAdding high pass filter

Step 15

Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Soft Light and name it Overall Sharpening.

Changing blending modeChanging blending modeChanging blending mode

You Made It!

Congratulations, you have succeeded! You have learned how to brighten a picture in Photoshop. Here is our final result:

Final resultFinal resultFinal result

In this way, you can use Photoshop to lighten any image that you like. However, you may need to use slightly different settings of some layers for each photo. Here are a few more final results:

Final resultFinal resultFinal result

Another final result below:

Final resultFinal resultFinal result

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