I have been looking on this site for about two years now and finally said, I am going to publish something! This is my very simple instructable on how to make an image look a little to allot better using photoshop or a similar program.
Anyone can do this with photoshop or similar image editor to make a not so great photo better, and in some cases much better! Open up photoshop and you should have the oh so familiar screen here. If you don't have photoshop there is a very similar program called GIMP you can download for free. Here is a link for downloading GIMP. GIMP
Step 1: Getting Started With an Image
Now open the image you want to make better. I chose to use this photo of Alton Brown from the food network. Why did i choose it? Well i just like Alton Brown!
If you want to use this photo feel free to right click it and save and open it up, if you have another photo to try this simple process out on then load it up and lets get started.
Step 2: Starting Your Image Editing
Alright, after you have your image up ( I am just going to say PS since its much easier) in PS click on Image>adjustments>levels
After that you will have a screen like this.
You will have the levels adjustment box open and ready for tweaking.
Step 3: Ajusting the Levels
The basic rule of thumb I use with levels adjustment is to start with the highlights slider (the white slider) and move it where the highlights first start to peak as in this photo.
As you see I have moved the highlights slider right to where the highlights start there. After you do that you can adjust the blacks ( far left slider) if needed. Here in this photo thats not needed so i don't touch it. After you have done that adjust the mid tones slider ( the middle slider) where its the best looking for you personally. You can't go wrong if it looks good to you because thats what matters. There is no right or wrong on this, its all personal preference. I like mine here so now i click ok in the dialog box to confirm my changes and it saves the image as so.
Step 4: Adjusting Hue and Saturation
After you have done the levels adjustments needed you can turn your attention to the colors. This is all personal preference also. I prefer my photos to have a little more saturation, but not over saturated so i adjust it to about plus 10 and click ok and save. The hue and saturation is under image>adjustments>hue/saturation. You can also go negative and give it a half toned look if you like, its all up to how you want it to look. If you don't have PS the only thing i can tell you is you will have to look for the adjustments for these in the menus.
Step 5: Your Finished Product
After you have done the levels (lighting) adjustments and the color adjustments that you wanted you can look at your image and say, wow it looks great now! Some images see zero from adjusting anything and some need allot of adjustments to make them look decent. When your done you can leave the image alone or crop it to look better if needed. On this image I didn't like the way it was cropped so i cropped it in a way that fit my tastes. And here is what i ended up with, and remember there is no right or wrong, just what you like to see.
I hope this helped some people with simple adjustments in PS because that was my goal, to give a very entry level Instructable on PS to make images better.