Simple Photo Editing Tutorial in iPhoto and Photoshop: Learn Color Balance, Levels and Curves in 3 Steps!

Photo above is from this post.

Besides the fun questions asking for makeup tips and tricks, I get a lot of inquiries on what camera I use, and what apps I use to edit my photos. I’ve wanted to tackle this for a very long time now because I know it will help a lot of you who are struggling to get accurate, properly white-balanced photos on your blogs. After all, what good is a swatch if it the lighting is too blue or too yellow? It is really frustrating, isn’t it?

I also realized that Photoshop is a beast, and that some of you don’t even know where to begin. This is a way to get your feet wet with post-processing in Photoshop, but note that there are a lot of ways you can edit your photos. This is just one of them.

This tutorial will mainly focus on product photos, but you can apply the same techniques for portrait shots with white backgrounds. First, let’s get the important information out of the way:

  1. My camera is a Canon PowerShot G11 (the newer version is a Canon PowerShot G12). It’s a simple, high end point-and-shoot camera. It shoots in RAW mode, which is what you should look for when shopping for a new camera. Shooting in RAW means that your photos are not compressed into JPEG. When images are compressed, you are losing some information on colours and tones, so what you are getting isn’t an accurate representation of your object. So, shoot in RAW.
  2. I shoot on a white background (just a regular, shiny folder). This is the easiest thing you can do to help you white balance photos, but more on that later.
  3. I use two photo editing programs: iPhoto and Adobe Photoshop. I’m hoping that when I get my new MacBook Pro very soon, then I would only need Aperture to do what I need to do now.

So, on to the tutorial!

  1. Open the photo in iPhoto in Edit mode. Switch to the Adjust tab and click on the dropper icon beside theΒ TintΒ slider. Now, click on any space in your photo that you’d like to be white (e.g., your background). Play around and click on different spots to see which works best to balance your photo. Save the photo on your computer. At this point, I usually move the photo to my desktop.
  2. Open the photo in Photoshop. Click on Image > Adjustments > Levels... Because almost all my photos are underexposed, there is a long flat segment on the right side of my histogram. Slide the right indicator down to the point where the histogram isn’t flat anymore. This will brighten up the photo enough before the last step. Click OK.
  3. Click on Image > Adjustments > Curves. You can increase the exposure further by dragging the curve above the diagonal line. A slight S-curve will brighten and increase contrast. I just usually play with this until it looks good to me. No scientific explanations. πŸ˜› Click OK.

Click to enlarge

And you’re done! That was easy. πŸ™‚

Edit: I swear we didn’t do this on purpose, but Heather also just posted a fantastic in-depth post on how she takes self-portraits. It’s so good, so make sure to check it out!

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  • Thank you! This is an amazing post. Now I just need to figure out what you’re talking about…oh ya…and get Photoshop! So do you mentioned just using Aperture and skipping iPhoto and Photoshop. Should I just look into Aperture as well and forget about PS?

    • Thanks Christa. πŸ™‚ Probably just get Aperture! It’ll be easier.

  • Amazing, Geekz. I use curves but I think…I need a white folder. hahaha. What kind of light do you shoot in? Mostly sunlight? We don’t get a lot of that here ._.

    • Thanks Larie! Most of the time it’s natural light (on a cloudy day is best). But this photo was actually under awful yellow light in my living room. πŸ™‚

      • That gives me hope!!! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ Thanks.

  • TOBeautyReviews

    Yay! But I still think you’ll need to show me LOL! I don’t have a MAC so I wont’ have iphoto. What program would I open my pics in in that case?

    • I don’t really know what you’d use on Windows. You can just try the Color Balance on Photoshop. It’s more tricky, but it will work. I can show you sometime.

  • TOBeautyReviews

    Oh and YAY for getting disqus πŸ˜›

  • JessicaGettingCheeky

    Oh my gosh this post is incredible! Some of it is a helpful review for me and some of it is all new tips and tricks. Thank you for sharing your expertise!

    β™₯ Jessica

    • You’re welcome, Jessica. πŸ™‚

  • dowantmakeup

    Thanks for posting this! I never realized you didn’t have a DSLR o__o Since my camera is total crap, I’ve figured out how to make my pictures look half-decent, but the curvy lines for Curves always scared me.
    Photoshop Elements has a white balance adjustment setting too :>

    • Ohh cool thanks for letting me know Angela. πŸ™‚ Glad to be help with Curves. πŸ˜‰

  • This is such a great first step to editing photos! When I got my Mac I started out on iPhoto but found that the quality of my photos goes down immensely while I edit. Have you ever noticed that happening to yours? I actually switched to editing in Picasa because of this (and to add a watermark).

  • i think i just figured out how to do the white balance in aperture a few days ago… LOL. my boyfriend was editing photos for me most of the time before, so that’s my excuse.. but he was at work and i figured I ought to try it myself lol! Yikes, I sound very lazy! Anyway, this is a great post! I’ll have to play around with curves next! πŸ™‚ Definitely bookmarking this πŸ™‚

  • Clipping Path

    Great post I hope you’ll get all updates you’re looking for Smile