Photoshop Friday! Photo ShaZAM.

Man, has it ever been a long time since the last Photoshop Friday or what? Hopefully today’s issue will make up for it! :D It’s one you’ll be able to use on everything, because this is the way I process many of my photos, and it’s a nearly UNIVERSAL method for improving the brightness and contrast of your pics, and helping your colors simply POP right out.

Let’s just call it PHOTO ShaZAM. I’m feeling a little retro today. :) But seriously. I took this pic of Ellliott playing in their “Sharkey Pool” today, and made it kinda sing. Like so:


AND, just to up the deliciousness factor a bit, how about we have a little giveaway? My I’m-related-to-her-I-promise relative, Natalie Putnam, is generously giving away one of her sweet handmade Camera Straps to one lucky winner! Keep readin’!

First, though, the tutorial. Learning first. Free stuff later.

Photo ShaZAM. 

My pic looks like this sooc (straight out of camera):


It’s ok, right? He’s a sweet fella, and this pic pretty much puts my heart in my throat. But really DECENT pics are the perfect candidates for just a little extra somethin’ somethin’ - which is why this is the ShaZAM.

Ready to see some shaZAM on your own pics?

Photoshop Friday: Photo ShaZAM


1. Okay, the first step in the Shazam is to open that pic. If you’re shooting in RAW (like I do), go ahead and correct your white balance and make the changes you need to, and then bring it in to Photoshop. If you’re shooting in JPG, just open the file. :)

It should be your background layer. Thusly:

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2. Now right-click on the photo (Background) layer in the Layers palette, and choose Duplicate Layer from the flyout menu. In the little box that comes up, go ahead and rename this layer to Overlay. Click OK.

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3. And now you’ll go ahead and right-click on the Overlay layer and choose Duplicate Layer again from the flyout menu. In THIS little naming box, go ahead and rename this layer to Screen. Click OK.

Now you have a stack of three perfectly ordinary layers. And here’s where the shaZAM happens. :)

4. Click on the Screen layer in the Layers palette. In the blending mode dropdown at the top of the Layers palette, set the blending mode of the Screen layer to Screen.

5. Click on the Overlay layer in the Layers palette. In the blending mode dropdown, set the blending mode for the Overlay layer to (wait for it..) Overlay.

Here’s what I get at full strength. Whoa. Talk about overblown.

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But now! Now come the subtle machinations of a true Photoshop Wizard: playing with the opacity of crazy overblown layers.

6. Play with the opacity of both of these layers until you get a flavor you really like. The interaction between these two blending modes is where the shaZAM happens. The screen layer acts as a brightening agent, and the Overlay layer boosts contrast. Depending on your particular photo and how well it’s exposed, what colors are in it, tonal range, that kind of thing, you’ll need to increase or decrease the blends for both of these.

I ended up with Screen set to 44%, and Overlay set to 65%. And it looks awesome.


Now, one thing I noticed in my particular photo, and something that you might notice in yours as well, is that Overlay tends to boost redness in skintones. So suddenly Elliott looks a bit like he’s been diving in heavily chlorinated water.

A quick fix? Take a soft-edged Eraser tool to the Overlay layer on parts that turn out too red or too contrasty (or if you’re advanced, create a layer mask and mask out these parts). This will show the original photo through.

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After a quick touch on my background layer with the Burn tool to darken up the edges just a hair, and a little Smart Sharpen, I came out with this:



This technique will improve almost any photo you work it on, which is pretty amazing, considering the variety of photos it’s possible to take. :)  So the workflow here:

  1. Open the photo.
  2. Duplicate the layer twice.
  3. Set the top layer to Screen, and the second layer to Overlay.
  4. Adjust the opacity of this two-layer combination.
  5. Erase out any too-dark or too-red parts of the Overlay layer.
  6. Burn the edges of the background layer just a titch.
  7. Resize as needed, and THEN run Smart Sharpen (sharpening should always be done last, and always on the photo when it’s at its final size). I recommend a strength of 85%, and then adjust the radius to taste.

Weekend Assignment: Show me YOUR Photo ShaZAM! :D

Okay, now for your assignment, are you ready?

1. Go take a picture. Or I GUESS you could use one you already have. GOSH. (But seriously. The sun is shining. Go take some pics!)

2. Work some SHAZAM on it, as explained above.

3. Post the shazam, or a layout made with the aforementioned shazam, somewhere online, such as a your favorite gallery, your blog, mayhaps the General gallery at You know, anywhere. Even Photobucket. Even Flickr. Go for it! :D And mentioning where you learned about the Shazam would be really cool as well, of course.

4. Come back over here, right here to this post, and leave a comment. Perhaps even paste in the link where you posted your shazam.

And the reward! Win a new camera strap!

I’ll draw a random name at 9:00 p.m. on Monday night, July 14, at 9:00 EDT, and the winner will receive a brand-new camera strap created with love by my I’m-related-to-her-somehow relative, Ms. Natalie Putnam! How cute is this?!


You can pick out any of the straps in her store for your very own, IF you practice the ShaZAM, post it, and then comment RIGHT HERE before Monday (oh, and if your post # is drawn, of course).  And the relative part? Okay, we worked this out at one point. Natalie is ny brother’s wife’s sister’s mother-in-law’s daughter. Or my brother’s wife’s sister’s sister-in-law. Right? Right. And get this other craz-i-ness. Natalie is ALSO my mom’s brother’s wife’s sister-in-law’s daughter.. okay, now I’m just making this up. But I’m SERIOUS about the first part.

Okay, friends! Let’s see some ShaZAM!

Can’t wait!

p.s. I’ll only count links in the randomness, so if you have other comments/questions feel free to post ‘em!