ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop

ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop

Selective Color

Holi is a Hindu spring festival in India also known as the festival of colours. The festival signifies the arrival of spring. It’s a carnival of colors where people spray dry and wet colors on each other and at times use water guns for the same. While there is a fixed date of Holi as per Hindu calendar, in Brij Bhoomi (land of Lord Krishna) the celebrations start one week in advance and two main cities where its played with great spirit is Barsana and Nandgaon.

From photographer’s standpoint, its certainly not an easy festival to shoot. Color is everywhere and that too in abundance. You have to use special covers to wrap up your camera to ensure it stays safe during the celebrations. During main color play events you can’t even see in your viewfinder to check your composition. You are mostly shooting blind. Here are a couple of images – one me with my camera gear after the shoot and one to show the location where you can spot photographers.

IMG_20190316_180806-241x300 ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop
MG_2810-3 ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop

Its literally wet and wild out there and one does require special skills to click good images.

Let me show you simple easy to understand steps to enhance Holi images using photoshop.

There is one most important aspect of all these images and that is COLORS. And if you are not careful or adopt a wrong workflow, you may end up ruining your images very fast.

I will share how to use “Selective Color” in photoshop to enhance colors here. Unfortunately not many photographers use it but actually its one of the most powerful tools available.

Before I get into working on an image here, its important to understand what Selective Color is all about.

What is Selective Color Tool

Selective Color is a tool used in Photoshop that allows you to cross blend your individual color channels using sliders within Photoshop. This allows you to add different color hues to your shadows and/or to your highlights to help make your photo look great. The dialog for Selective Color can be found in Adjustment panels within Photoshop. The panel itself is broken into 9 different color channels (Reds, Yellows, Greens, Cyans, Blues, Magentas, Whites, Neutrals & Blacks), each with their own color channel adjustments (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black).  Hey don’t get scared; its easier than it sounds.

Selective-Color-1 ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop

How Selective Color Works?

The color channels (Reds, Yellows, Greens, Cyans, Blues, Magentas, Whites, Neutrals & Blacks) will help you select the colors within your image. For example, if you have a blue sky that you want to enhance slightly, you will have to work and make adjustments to the color within the Cyan and Blue color channels. When you’ve selected your color channel, you’re then able to make adjustments to it by adding and subtracting the various Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Blacks.

These sliders work on the principle of Color Wheel.

Color-Wheel-228x300 ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop

The above diagram clarifies which color will get added when you move a particular channel. E.g. if you move a Cyan channel to left, you will add Reds and reduce Cyan and vice versa.

Black channel is to change the overall luminosity of the chosen color channel. Negative values on the Black will make the image brighter (you remove black) and positive values make the color darker (you add darks).

Absolute or Relative?

The difference between Absolute and Relative (two options that are seen at the bottom of panel) is:

Relative is when you want changes to be subtle and Absolute is for much stronger changes. Relative takes the value of the color tone in the image, and then changes it by a percentage of the total. So if your image is 50% red tones, adding 10% to the red slider is actually going to add 50% of the 10% eventually bringing the total to 55%.

Absolute is going to work in absolute values, meaning the 10% adjustment is going to adjust that color by 10%. Confused? Don’t bother. Just think of Relative being a much more subtle option to use, and Absolute being far more stronger in it’s adjustments. I prefer Relative option to fine tune my image.

Now let me start working on this image. This is the base image, which is direct conversion of RAW to JPEG without making any adjustments.

MG_1176-1 ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop

Step 1:

Since Yellow is the dominating color here, the first channel I will use is Yellow, followed by Red, Green and Black channels respectively. Pls. check the following image to see my adjustment values.

Its important to understand that these values are not the only possible values, you can choose these values as per your specific requirement based on the image you are processing.

YRGB-1024x335 ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop

Here is the resulting image after making above adjustments:

MG_1176-2-1024x682 ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop
After Step 1

Step 2:

As a Next Step I will need to add some contrast here.

Use a shortcut Commant+Option+Shift+e or Ctrl+Alt+Shift+e in windows to merge all active layers and create a merged copy on top of them.

Go to Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur

Gaussian-Blur ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop

A Gaussian Blur dialog box will open. As a next step, I have moved the Radius slider to 19. Its again very subjective. More the value, more dreamy the effect.

Gaussian-Blur1 ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop

Press OK and Select Blending Mode as “Soft Light”

Now add Curves Adjustment layer and create an S Shaped Curve as shown below.

Curves ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop

Here is the resulting image:

MG_1176-3 ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop

We are almost done. In fact we have achieved our objective of selective color enhancement. Now as a last step, we will sharpen the image before saving.


There are many methods available in Photoshop for the same. I will choose “High Pass Filter” method to sharpen the image.

Step 1:

Use a shortcut Command+Option+Shift+e or Ctrl+Alt+Shift+e in windows to merge all active layers and create a merged copy on top of them.

Go to Filter – Other – High Pass

Screen-Shot-2017-02-10-at-4.39.30-PM-1024x905 ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop

High Pass dialog box will open and the entire image will look grayed out. Move the Radius slider towards right till you start seeing the edges of people in the image.

Screen-Shot-2017-02-10-at-4.41.37-PM ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop

Step 2:

Press OK and choose Soft Light as blending option. You can reduce the effect (just in case you find the image over sharpened) by reducing the opacity of layer to a lesser value.

Viola your image is done and ready to be saved and shared.

Final-Image ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop
Final Image

Here are few more images from the festival which have been processed using the same technique:

MG_1232HR1 ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop
W6A8141 ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop
MG_072211 ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop

As you can see editing Holi Images or Enhancing Colors is fairly easy process and when you use “Selective Color” tool in Adobe Photoshop, you take complete control on the process. Do comment in case you have any query. You can also watch a video on this here: Enhance Colors

Post By: Jassi Oberai

jassi ENHANCE COLORS using Adobe Photoshop

Jassi Oberai has taken the art of photography to sophisticated levels through his constant quest for images that stay long after they have been shot. He has journeyed with his camera across the country and beyond always looking for the magical light that shines on nature, on everyday life of the human spectrum and capturing them. From capturing brilliant landscapes, shooting portraiture and various other genres Jassi does it all effortlessly with his great use of colors in everything that he shoots. In his own words, “Colors can give a whole new look to something rather mundane or something we are used to. To me that’s what I like the most about photography- looking at the world in new ways.” He is Lumix Luminary and Global Brand Ambassador with H&Y Filters & Sirui.


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