Programs: Photoshop and Affinity.
I discovered this little trick many years ago in a photography magazine (I can’t remember which one, but if someone knows it I’ll reference it directly), but have found it hugely useful in giving my photography that little extra boost in how it looks. Especially if I’m just wanting a quick edit for social media or in a blog post.
I’ve found a lot of the time my photos seem to come out of the camera looking ‘flat’, like there’s a fair bit of grey through the image. I didn’t really notice until I tried this edit and I could see the difference, and I definitely like the outcome a lot better.
So here’s how to do it.
1. Open your photo in Photoshop or Affinity.
2. Duplicate the photo so you have two layers the same.
3. Select the top layer and change the blending mode to ‘Soft Light’.
The blending mode can be found in the layers tab.
Here is the before/after effect.
4. I find that Soft Light at 100% usually makes the image a lot darker than I like and sometimes makes it look heavily edited, which I want to stay away from. So I usually reduce the opacity of the Soft Light layer between 15-40%. This one I went with 38%,
5. – An optional last step: Select the background layer and edit the brightness/contrast settings.
6. – Another optional step: For darker photos using Soft Light can make it way too dark, but it still helps getting rid of the flat look. To combat this, I’ve found adding a third layer in between the Background layer and Soft Light layer with a copy of the original photo, then changing the blending mode to Screen and lowered opacity works well. Seen below with a darker photo of a Kookaburra.
Now I do end up using my auto setting a lot which could be part of the initial problem. If I have time I’ll experiment with manual settings, but when you have a dog, toddler, and like taking photos of fauna, you don’t always have time to change settings before the photo you want is gone.
And really, there’s nothing wrong with auto (yes I said it, photographers can go start a debate in the comments now).
In the mean time, this is a nice little edit I’ve been using for years and found it to be quite beneficial when getting my photos ready to post.