There's a lot you can do these days with a photo in Photoshop, or any other photo editing program (Lightroom, Aperture, Etc.) There's HDR processing, textures, cross-processing and tons of other ways to heavily manipulate an image. But sometimes knowing how to tweak an image just a bit, to give it that edge over a straight out of the camera shot is all it takes to impress your viewer. In my daily editing I use a variety of techniques, and listed below are 2 standbys!
Lighten and Brighten!
(It's all about the Curves)
Keyboard Shortcut - Apple+M (Mac) or Control+M (PC)
Menu Selection - Image -> Adjustments -> Curves
Black and White Cookie on Layers Pallette (see below)
First Curves Adjustment
Create a slight 'S' Curve, by bringing up the midlights, and bring down the darks
Second Curves Adjustment
Create an all-over even convex curve, bringing up the entire spectrum from the midtones.
Third Curves Adjustment
Create another 'S' curve, this time more severe, really bringing up the highlights and midtones, and bringing down the dark/shadow tones.
A Dynamic High Key image thats colorful and contrasty!
Another favorite of mine is enhancing eyes on a close up portrait. It really can add the pull that you want in a eye-grabbing portrait. So here you go:
Make those eyes SPARKLE!
(Dodge, Burn and Saturate)
You'll be using your toolbar, specifically the Dodge, Burn and Saturate Brushes :
Dodge the Highlights
Using the Dodge brush, at no more than 15% opacity, dodge the highlights and catch lights of the iris. Make sure not to brush over the whites of the eyes, or the eyelids. You should zoom very closely in to the eye to do this accurately.
*Some MINIMAL dodging of the whites may be appropriate depending on the photo, but be very careful!
Saturate the Color
Using the Saturate Color Brush, paint over the color portion of the iris. Make sure not to brush over the whites of the eyes, or the eyelids. You should zoom very closely in to the eye to do this accurately.
*Watch that you are avoiding getting colors other than the natural color of the eyes (reds, purples etc)
Burn the Shadows
Using the Burn Tool at not more than 10% opacity, brush over the dark edge of the iris, as well as the center pupil. Make sure not to brush over the center color of the eye too much, nor the whites of the eyes or the eyelids. You should zoom very closely in to the eye to do this accurately.
*You can even brush a bit over eyelashes if necessary to increase their visibility. To do this, brush in the same brush width and direction as the lash to create a natural effect.
Eyes that POP and bring YOUR eye directly to the subjects!