Really Fast Fixes for Dull Photos using Photoshop

July 18, 2016

Really Fast Fixes for Dull Photos using Photoshop

Sometimes, a photo comes out dull looking. You know what I mean.

Really Fast Fixes for Dull Photos using Photoshop

Some folks refer to this dullness as 'muddiness'. The image lacks contrast and has a limited tonal range. In other words, it doesn't show the entire range of shades between black and white.

You can see this by looking at the histogram. Remember that the far left side of the histogram represents the blacks in the photo and the far right represents the whites.

Looking at the histogram for image above, we can see that the peaks and valleys that represent its tonal values are clumped in the middle and there's nothing at either end. This means that the photo lacks strong blacks and whites.

Really Fast Fixes for Dull Photos using Photoshop

Dull, muddy photos can be caused by haze or fog, or it can just be the result of lighting conditions.

Whatever the reason, what might otherwise be a perfectly good image looks dull, lifeless, and boring.

Luckily these kinds of images can be brought back to life quickly and easily and in just a few steps using Photoshop. In fact, there are two ways to pep up muddy photos. We'll look at both of them.

Fixing Dull Photos using Photoshop's Camera Raw Filter

First let's look at using the Dehaze feature of Photoshop's Camera Raw.

Note: The Dehaze tool is only available for Creative Cloud users. If you aren't a CC member, see the second method below that uses a Levels adjustment layer.

Step 1 - Convert image layer to a Smart Object

Start by converting the image layer to a Smart Object. This gives you the option to editing the filter settings in the future if you want.

To do this, right-click (or Ctrl-click if you have a one button mouse) on the Background layer in the Layers Panel and choose Convert to Smart Object from the drop down menu.

Really Fast Fixes for Dull Photos using Photoshop

Step 2 - Add the Camera Raw Filter

To add the Camera Raw Filter, choose Filter>Camera Raw Filter from the top menu bar.
Really Fast Fixes for Dull Photos using Photoshop

The Camera Raw Filter will open.

Step 3 - Use Dehaze

The Dehaze tool can be found in the Effects section of the Camera Raw Filter.

Really Fast Fixes for Dull Photos using Photoshop

To use the tool, simply move the slider back and forth until you get a look you like. Move the slider to the right to remove haze; move it to the left to add haze.

Really Fast Fixes for Dull Photos using Photoshop

When you're happy, click OK to close the filter.

Really Fast Fixes for Dull Photos using Photoshop

Fixing Dull Photos using Photoshop's Levels Adjustment

Now, let's look at a different method for cleaning up a dull image using a Levels adjustment layer. This is actually my favorite method because it gives you more control over the process. And it's definitely the way to go if you don't use Creative Cloud.

Step 1 - Add a Levels adjustment layer

To add a Levels adjustment layer, click on the small black and white circle at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Levels from the pop-up menu.

Really Fast Fixes for Dull Photos using Photoshop

The Levels adjustment dialog box will appear. There you will see the histogram for your image and, below that, a set of input sliders. You will also see two boxes for Output Levels at the very bottom of the dialog box, but we won't be using those.

Really Fast Fixes for Dull Photos using Photoshop

Step 2 - Adjust the Levels Input sliders

To correct for the image dullness, first click on the left-most slider just under the histogram and slide it to the right until it gets to the left-most edge of the histogram. Be careful not to move the slider past that left-most edge.

Really Fast Fixes for Dull Photos using Photoshop

Then click on the right slider and slide it to the left until it gets to the right-most edge of the histogram. Again, be careful not to move the slider past that right-most edge.

Really Fast Fixes for Dull Photos using Photoshop

The image should be looking a lot better now.

Finally, move the middle slider back and forth to either lighten (to the left) or darken (to the right) the image to your liking.

Really Fast Fixes for Dull Photos using Photoshop

And we have our fixed photo:

Really Fast Fixes for Dull Photos using Photoshop

For Further Reading…

How To Read A Histogram

How to Use Levels in Photoshop Correct Color and Contrast




Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Our Blog

Creative Exposure Part Three: Shutter Speed
Creative Exposure Part Three: Shutter Speed

May 23, 2017

In our last post, we talked about exposure reciprocity and how there are many combinations of the aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings that can yield a properly exposed photo. And with that, we saw how this idea of equivalent exposures gives us creative flexibility when choosing a combination of these exposure controls.

Continue Reading

Creative Exposure Part Two: Exposure Reciprocity
Creative Exposure Part Two: Exposure Reciprocity

May 13, 2017

In our last post, we talked about the exposure triangle. There we saw that exposure is a function of three components:

Continue Reading

Creative Exposure Part One: The Exposure Triangle
Creative Exposure Part One: The Exposure Triangle

May 03, 2017

f you are just getting started in photography, exposure is one of the first things you need learn.

But even beyond that, getting a good handle on exposure and how the different components of exposure work together is essential if you want to take control of your photography and the images that you are creating.

Continue Reading