Easy photo editing: How to color correct using free software

Learn how to color correct your indoor and outdoor photos in 3 quick steps using free photo editing software!

Last week, I shared a quick tutorial on how to save a dark photo, and today I wanted to show you easy photo editing tips to correct color problems.

As I mentioned in the dark photo tutorial, two of the most common problems are that outdoor photos look too cool (have a blue-ish tint) and indoor photos look too warm (yellow tint). With 3 easy steps, I was able to correct the color in my photos and have them looking great in no time!

I made all my edits using iPiccy, but there are also a handful of other free programs available with similar features, and they’re listed at the bottom of this post.

First up: a photo with a blue-ish tint.

Learn how to color correct your indoor and outdoor photos in 3 quick steps using free photo editing software!

This was such a great shot of Emily and her husband, but the snow and the shade of this covered bridge created a blue cast over this photo . There may have been snow on the ground, but that didn’t mean they had to look cold too!

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Learn how to color correct your indoor and outdoor photos in 3 quick steps using free photo editing software!

1. Color/Temperature

To start, I went to the Colors tab and moved the slider on the Temperature bar until I was happy with the amount of warmth in the wood bridge and skin tones (they usually should have more yellow in them than you would think!). The photo had a very cool tone to start, so I had to move the slider pretty far to the right.

I adjusted the temperature to 40, but you’ll want to play around with the temperature in your photo until it looks right to you. And remember, it takes practice to train your eye to see the colors more as they would appear in person, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t get it right away. It took me awhile to get the hang of it too!

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Learn how to color correct your indoor and outdoor photos in 3 quick steps using free photo editing software!

2. Curves

Next up, I wanted to brighten up the photo overall, and the Curves tab is a great, quick way to adjust the light and dark in your photo. (For more advanced editing with curves, see my post on how to save a dark photo). The dropdown menu is automatically set for ‘custom’ in iPiccy, so you can just move the graph and adjust as you like.

In my case, I picked a point in the middle of the line to lighten up the midtones of my picture (if the photo was black and white, these would be the gray areas). A slight adjustment was all it took to get the job done here.

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Learn how to color correct your indoor and outdoor photos in 3 quick steps using free photo editing software!

3. Vibrance

Along the way, I noticed that I’d lost some richness to my colors as I adjusted the light and temperature. Using the Vibrance tab is a great way to adjust the… well, vibrance of your photo and bring some of that richness back!

The slider was automatically set to 50 (it took a few seconds for the effect to preview), but I found it was a little too much at that level, so I moved it down a just a little to 35. After that, I used the spot brush to remove the effect from Emily’s shirt since it was already bright enough before adding this effect.

Done!

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Now for my indoor photo that started off really yellow:

Learn how to color correct your indoor and outdoor photos in 3 quick steps using free photo editing software!

My little sister’s wedding reception was held in a hotel suite, and let’s just say the lighting was not all that flattering! Just about all of my pictures came out pretty yellow (and a little dark), so I wanted to edit them before sharing with friends and family.

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Learn how to color correct your indoor and outdoor photos in 3 quick steps using free photo editing software!

1. Color/Neutral picker

Any time I have a photo with the color/temperature really off, I usually start with the temperature slider. Instead of adjusting the temperature myself, I decided to try out the the neutral picker to see my results.

The neutral picker is a tool you can use to allow the program to automatically adjust your photo’s temperature using a gray or white area as the neutral color. In this case, I selected a white area from my sister’s dress and was pretty happy with the results! The temperature slider was automatically adjusted to -35.

You might have to play around selecting different areas of your photo with the neutral picker to get the right temperature, but if it’s easier, don’t forget that you can always manually shift the Temperature slider until you get the desired result. A lot of times I end up manually moving the slider myself, but this time around the neutral picker worked pretty well on its own.

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Learn how to color correct your indoor and outdoor photos in 3 quick steps using free photo editing software!

2. Curves

More often then not, when I’m editing my photos I usually want to brighten them up, so as you can see with this photo edit, adjusting the curves is a step yet again. My photo wasn’t too dark, so I only did a minor adjustment. I also didn’t want to go too far because of my next step…

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Learn how to color correct your indoor and outdoor photos in 3 quick steps using free photo editing software!

3. Spot brightness

My last step was to edit my focal point.

Under the Light & Contrast tab, I used the brightness slider to brighten my photo. Then, using the spot brush, I erased the effect from everything except my sister and me.

Now I can share this photo with friends and family because we no longer look jaundiced! :)

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Now that my photos are edited, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t be afraid to play around with the adjustments.
  • Feel free to skip any steps if you’re happy with your photo—you never want to OVER-edit.
  • If you don’t like the way your photo looks, you can always undo or start over—practice makes perfect.
  • Once you’re finished editing, don’t forget to save your beautifully edited new photo and enjoy :)

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a comment below!

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Additional free photo editing programs: Picasa, PicMonkey, Fotor, PhotoCat, BeFunky.

About Gwen Bucknell

5 Responses to “Easy photo editing: How to color correct using free software”

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  1. Awesome, after adjusting temperature and curves the pictures looks like living. Spot brightness gives the picture freshness looks. Very helpful post. Thanks.

  2. It’s amazing Gwen Bucknell, perfect color concept and spot brightness. Never forget to say thanks for the great one tutorial. :)

  3. Great post . I’m inspire to see this post .

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