Create a High-Key Photo in Photoshop Elements 12

Sometimes you shoot a picture that shows a great subject but also has many distracting elements or objects surrounding the subject. The result is a mediocre photo. Photoshop Elements has many tools and options for turning your mediocre photos into great photos. One such technique is creating a high-key photo.

High-key photos in classic style are black and white. However, you can also create high-key color photos. A high-key photo is an image in which most of the gray tones are lighter than middle gray with just a touch of black. When you shoot a picture not intended to end up as a high-key photo, you can create a high-key effect in Photoshop Elements.


Open the photo in the Photo Editor.

In this photo, the bride is lovely; however, the harsh shadows and distracting background result in a mediocre photo. You can improve it by diluting the background and blurring it a little.


Convert the photo to black and white.

Choose Enhance→Convert to Black and White. The Convert to Black and White dialog box opens. Move the sliders to adjust intensity for the Red, Green, and Blue channels and the Contrast. The After preview dynamically updates with your adjustments. When the conversion looks good in the preview window, click OK.


Create a selection.

Use the Lasso tool to create a selection around the foreground subject. After selecting the subject, inverse the selection by choosing Select→Inverse. Now the background area is selected.


Lighten the background.

With the background selected, open the Levels dialog box by choosing Enhance→Adjust Lighting→Levels or press Ctrl/Command+L. When the Levels dialog box opens, move the left output slider to the right to lighten the background. You want the background lightened so the grays fall below a 50% medium gray. With the Preview check box selected, you can see the image dynamically update as you move the slider. When the image looks good, click OK.


Adjust the color curves.

With the background selected, choose Enhance→Adjust Color→Adjust Color Curves. In the Color Curves dialog box, move the sliders for Adjust Highlights, Midtone Brightness, Midtone Contrast, and Adjust Shadows to further lighten the background. Click OK after you make the adjustments.


Blur the background.

With the background still selected, choose Filer→Blur→Gaussian Blur. Move the Radius slider to about 8 to 12 to blur the background. Click OK. Repeat these steps for any other object that is too dark in your photo. If some of the detail needs to be further lightened, you can use the Brush tool and paint white with a low opacity setting.


Add color.

You can use the Sepia tone Action in the Actions panel to create a sepia tone effect. You can also choose Filter→Adjustments→Photo Filter to add a tint to the image. Choose a method that looks good to you, and the final image should appear much better than your original.

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