With Fall fast approaching, we will soon be surrounded by beautifully warm-colored leaves and vegetation, filling the air with the sweet scent of Autumn. This is a photographer’s paradise, especially the ones who are also social media mavens following artistic trends. But what if you, like me, are not so lucky to live in a place that actually has seasons?! I live in Southern California, and finding trees that actually change color is…pretty uncommon, to say the least. So what are lonesome Californians to do?! Turn to post-processing, to make your images have fall vibes!
What defines a Fall or Autumn vibe in images?
All there is to portraying specific ideas or ‘vibes’ are color. We associate colors with seasons, inspired by the colors that nature gives us during those times (in locations that actually have seasons. Is my bitterness over Southern California’s lack of seasons showing yet?!). Winter tends to be cold and blue, Spring is rainbow and vibrancy, Summer is warm greens, and Autumn is oranges, reds, and yellows.
Although you can sit there for several hours and recolor every leaf into a different Autumn color, for the most part, Fall vibes can be achieved by playing with and removing colors that are associated with the seasons we are not trying to mimic. Fall is warm and full of reds, oranges, yellows, and more rustic tones.
How to make your images have fall vibes in post-processing
Taken this summer, this is the base image we will be working with to show you how to make your images have fall vibes. I find that images with very shallow depth of field (like the one below) are a bit easier to work with when altering their colors.
For the sake of explanation, the edits shown below are quite extreme. Use your judgment and personal taste to determine how far you take them.
Also, the tutorials I am listing below use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. However, they can easily apply to other editing software too as many feature similar options and sliders. Even the free mobile version of Photoshop and Lightroom have these sliders.
I turn to Lightroom for these kinds of color adjustments because it’s quite quick and simple to do. You can also copy the settings and apply them to an entire batch of images rather than having to do each one by one. Our final image will look like this:
The HSL Panel
The HSL panel is the first panel I go to when I want to create a summer vibe in my photographs. Conveniently, this is one of the first open panels in Lightroom.
HSL stands for “Hue, Saturation, and Luminance,” and is a panel box in Adobe Lightroom (with similar panels in other programs). I like to say that this is the panel that adjusts each of the colors individually. Each slider is divided by colors: red, orange, yellow, green, aqua, blue, purple, and magenta.
Hue is the color. On a technical term, the hue is the wavelength of the light reflected. This describes why an object that is a solid color appears different depending on the amount of light that hits it. On the HSL panel, the Hue slider can change how specific colors look. For example, the reds can be made to be more orange in color or more red.
Saturation determines how intense a color is. Pulling the slider to the left makes the color more gray, pulling the slider to the right makes it more true to pure tone.
Luminance lightens or darkens a specific color. Luminance refers to the reflective brightness of colors. I use this slider to make colors that are a bit too light, much darker in photographs so that they don’t stand out to the eye too much.
With the image above, our primary objective is to change the green to more fall colors. In this case, I will make the green more orange. I can achieve this by adjusting the Green color slider under ‘Hue’ and subsequently adjusting the colors surrounding the green. The awesome thing about sliders is that you have full control.
Next, I drop down to saturation and adjust how true to tone each color is and decreasing the color we want to remove altogether (for example, the green).
Finally, with the Luminance slider, I brighten up all of the warmth we have put into the photograph.
If you find solely using the HSL sliders isn’t enough, you can add more of the color you want using the Split Toning menu. Split Toning is located right below HSL.
Split Toning is just toning applied to different areas of luminance. You can color your shadows with one color, and your highlights with another. In this case, I toned both the highlights and the shadows to bring even more warmth into the image.
When I do Split Toning, to make it easy to see what I am doing, I bring the Saturation up to its maximum 100 value point and then click on the little color rectangle next to Highlights and then next to Shadows. Clicking this rectangle brings up a color selection box. I then select the color I am interested in and proceed to significantly lower the sliders until I achieve the shadow or highlight coloration I desire.
The settings I used for the image above are these:
If you’re following along in your own editing program, you may find that making all of these color adjustments have now impaired parts of our image that you may not want to be colored like that. In my photo, the whites of the dog became far too yellow for my liking. You can use Masks to remedy this by selecting the parts of the image you do not want the effect applied to.
Locate Masks at the very top of the right-hand tabs when clicking “Develop.” I like to use the Adjustment Brush which is the long selectable line directly under “Histogram” in the screenshots below. Then, you paint on the image and can make adjustments on the painted section independent from the overall image. In this case, I removed the warm effect from the dog and brightened the dog a bit. The red haze shows you where you applied the mask.
There are many, many, many different methods of achieving the same end result in Adobe Photoshop.
Photoshop is a large, and at times, complex program. To keep it simple, I’ll explain my favorite color adjustment methods similar to the adjustments in Adobe Lightroom. For another example of a Fall-vibe in a more muted tone than the edit above, we will replicate the image featured below:
Before we even get started, in the Layers panel, duplicate the Background (main) layer and work on that. As a rule of thumb, never work on the original layer and make all adjustments on a new layer. This helps you remedy mistakes, give you the flexibility to change your mind, and use masks to remove the effect from the parts of the image it shouldn’t apply to!
The term ‘saturation’ in general describes the level at which something is absorbed. For example, a sponge heavily saturated with water. In photography, saturation refers to how pure a color is. How red is red? How blue is blue? You can imagine a color “absorbed” in the photograph like a sponge, with a higher saturation resulting in a more significant color.
Hue is a color attribute that explains how discernible a color is to its true color (for example, how green is the green?). Hue is based on color wavelength and is completely independent of a color’s lightness or darkness and intensity.
You can use the Hue/Saturation slider in the Image > Adjustments window!
Where it says “Master” (which will adjust everything simultaneously) you can select individual colors to adjust. This is great to use on images that don’t involve a lot of color variation.
The Selective Color in Photoshop (also located in Image -> Adjustments) is similar to the HSL sliders in Lightroom. Selective Color allows you to modify each color (located in the drop-down menu under “Color”) by either adding or decreasing CMYK colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black). CMYK is the color mode that a printer operates in.
I like using Selective Color with images that feature a lot of white because I don’t necessarily want my whites toned the same as the rest of my image. You can adjust the white itself in Selective Color, which is pretty cool. This allows me to keep the white dog more authentic to the original rather than making the Great Dane orange.
Another way to adjust the colors in the image is by utilizing the Color Balance sliders. This can also be located under Image -> Adjustments. Color balance is the global adjustment of the intensity of the colors. This what I use the most when trying to create some fall vibes in my photographs.
I prefer this method because it’s the fastest slider set to use – but the end result does tend to look a lot like a filter. If that’s the look you’re going for; awesome! But if not, Selective Color may be of better use to you.
Whatever method you implore to make your images more Autumn oriented, enjoy those warm fall vibes and glow up that Instagram feed!
Do you have other tips on giving your images fall vibes? Try these methods and share your images with us in the comments below!