Several weeks ago I promised to share a tip with you on how to use blending modes in your photo editing. Today I am going to show you how the Screen Blending Mode can be used effectively to help lighten up those dark photos you may have lurking on your hard drive.

If you are unfamiliar with blending modes, you may find it helpful to read Blending Modes – Just what are they? prior to reading this tutorial.

Okay, so let’s get started!

This is a photograph I took of the interior of a beautiful hotel, when we were vacationing in Ireland.  I wanted to capture the rich colors and textures of this gorgeous room without losing the lovely glow of the candle lights.  I was also in a hurry, so I simply snapped this shot and quickly moved on (before my traveling companions moved on without me!).  I was really disappointed to see how dark it turned out.

By using an Adjustment Layer and making some blending choices, I can easily fix this!  First I duplicated the layer. Remember… blending modes change the way that layers interact with each other, so we have to have 2 layers!

The Screen Mode brightens the lower layer (our original photograph) based on the lightness of the upper layer.  So when we choose Screen as our Blending Mode, the result is always lighter, which makes this an easy quick-fix for those dark photographs.

After duplicating my photograph, and making sure I had the duplicated layer selected (Layer 1 in this preview), I  changed the Blending Mode of the duplicated layer to Screen.

The photograph is lighter now and we are starting to see the true beauty of this room!  But I’m still not happy with it.  So I duplicated the top layer 3 more times (I used Control + J, but you can use whatever method you prefer to simply duplicate a layer.)
Don’t change the Blending Modes again – just duplicate the layer.

This is the result:

As is common in Photoshop, there are multiple ways to do just about everything.  For example, we could play with Levels and Brightness/Contrast to also lighten this photo.  But those methods take a little more experience to use effectively, and also things can get wacky very quickly.  For comparison, I decided to try lightening this photo both ways.

There are slight differences, that could be corrected if I had taken more time (See how the carpet is lighter in the top photo than the bottom photo?)

But, in general, I like the bottom photo better.

So if you have an awesome photo that you really want to take your time correcting, play with Levels, Curves, and other adjustment Layers.  But for a Quick Fix, try duplicating the photo, and changing the blending mode to Screen!  You might find this is all you really need!

After you get your photos exactly as you would like them to be, you might enjoying applying some special effects to them.  If so, you may enjoy my Photo Effects Styles.

Photo Effects Styles is currently on sale for 40% off, and I will extend that sale through December 15th for your convenience!

Happy photo editing!