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Adding more color to dull images in Photoshop

There are certain scenes that just lack color and "pop". Your basic family shots with bright coloured clothing is not the biggest problem, it's those seaside shots, or landscape shots with little colour other than brown and green. They are just lifeless, you get a feeling that is not how you saw it when you were there, and anyhow, it looks crap.
It is a method that is used by most professionals since they know where and when to use it. So here is a couple of tips when NOT to use this method.
  • Don't use it on bright coloured flower shots.
  • Don't use it where peoples faces are the main feature of the image, such as portraits and group shots.
  • Any image taken late in the evening or early in the morning, be very careful.
  • Any overexposed image or under exposed image can pose a problem
  • Don't use images with a color cast, get the cast our first and then apply color enhancing.
  • Ok, I assume you get the drift.

The best image to use are dull desert landscapes and beach images.  But there are others as well.
Here is the gist of the method.  You open an image, does not matter if it is a jpg or RAW or whatever, In Photoshop you will convert to LAB colour and enhance all the channels and save back to jpg.
Below I have taken an image of a farming landscape.  There are some danger signs in this image, the green fields and shrubs in the background. They look ok, but the gravel road is a disaster. There is no color and depth to it at all. The shrubs also lack a little depth or drama which we will correct.
The green section of the image is not too bad, however, the dirt road is definitely dull and has little color depth.
Here is what we are going to do (I will be working in Windows, sorry Apple fans):
Step 1:  Open the image in Photoshop (CS2 - CC will do)
Step 2:  Make sure you can see the layers palette (press <F7> on your keyboard)
Step 3:  On the main menu bar click <Image><Mode><Lab color>. Not much will change on the image, but don't worry,
Step 4: On your layers palette, highlight the bottom layer and press <CTRL><J>. You will see a duplicate layer appear. Make sure the TOP layer is selected (Usually a blue grey colour compared to the bottom unselected layer)
Step 5:  On the main menu bar click <Layer><New Adjustment Layer><Curves...>. There are other shortcuts to do the same thing but I will show them later.  A new layer dialog box appears and just click <Ok>. Don't worry about the name.
Click on the lines indicated by the yellow circle. It is very small and easy to miss. Open the image to enlarge.
A small menu appears. Click on "Curves Display options...".

Step 6: When you select "Curves Display Options..." the dialog looks like the one below.  We need to make some adjustments which once done you don't have to do again. On the right hand top corner just below the "x" you will see a couple of small lines with a triangle next to it, click on it and a small menu appears. Select <Pigment/Ink %> and just below that click on the finer grid image (they are very small). When done click ok.
Step 7:  Ok, now here comes the sports, you will see the straight line with a finer grid. Move the top end in the right and corner one grid position to the LEFT. Move the bottom left line one grid position to the RIGHT.
Click on the channel selector, Lightness will be the default and we will start there first. But you will select the "a" and "b" in the next steps the same way. You can also use the ALT shortcuts indicated.

Move the diagonal line as follows. Top right: move one grid position to the left and bottom left: one grid position to the right. Just compare your dialogue box with the one above
Adjust the "a" channel just as the L channel
Step 9: You can close the dialogue box and have a look at the image below.  The dull foreground is much better and there is more depth in the green background.  Some might say the greens are too green, but that you can adjust by reducing the angle of the "a" and "b" channels to your liking.
Notice the dirt road has become acceptable with some colour depth. Be careful about green and bright colours. I think a lot of people will say that the green background is slightly oversaturated, but even now it is better than the original image.


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