How to Wash That Gray Right Outta Your Photos (with Photoshop Elements)

Let's talk about a super simple way to fix those gray overcast photos with just a few clicks in Photoshop Elements (I'm using PSE 9 for those following along).

But first...I may be dating myself here, but I remember watching this Clairol Loving Care hair color commercial when I was a kid where the woman was singing about "I'm gonna wash that gray right outta my hair!" (a takeoff on the song "I'm Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair" from the musical South Pacific). Now, every time I fix one of my photos from gray to white, I think of that song. And now you will too.

But, I digress. On to the tutorial!
Disclaimer: I am not a Photoshop "expert"! I am, just like most of you out there, always looking for quick and easy ways to edit my photos without spending a lot of time and money on it. So...as with every post on my blog, this is just an account of my way of doing things. I hope it helps you too!

Here's my original photo of one of my Tote2Go ID Wallets. I love the wallet, but the photo...it's okay - nice and clear, but gray as a Seattle winter's day...

Yuck. Gray, gray, go away...don't come back another day...
If you find your should-be-white-background type photos have this sort of gray overcast to them, give this quick fix a try - it may save you tons of time messing with sliders and numbers! Here's what to do:


Open up your image in Photoshop Elements make sure that layer is selected and then click "Ctrl + L" to bring up the layer adjustment menu like this:


When you have that menu up, click on the little eyedropper symbol that has the white color in it - this is called the "set white point" tool (at least that's what it says when you hover over it ;) shown here:

The white dropper is what we're using today. Experiment with the black and gray one if you're feeling adventurous too!
Then, comes the fun part! Make sure the "preview" box is checked and then using your now eyedropper-shaped cursor, click around on a part of your photo that you want to look as white as possible. Go ahead...click away! Each click will change the tone of the photo depending on what you click on.

For instance, clicking on a dark gray area of the photo will cause the photo to brighten up TOO much because you are essentially telling the program that that gray area is what you want to be white - yikes!

Ouch! My eyes! My eyes! Too bright!!!
However...if you click on a place that you actually want to show up as white then be prepared to be amazed:

So pretty! A clean, white background with shadows and highlights to show some depth. YES!!!
See? What did I tell you? Easy peasy, right? Here are the before and after photos:

Before and After: No other adjustments...just the magic "set white point" eyedropper!
From drab to FAB in just a few clicks! WooHoo!!! 
 
Now, be sure to save your new and improved photo so you can list it in your shop then send me some before and after photos for a chance to be featured on the blog!

Tell me...
How do you usually brighten up your photos? I'd love to know!
Leave me a comment below and let's talk! :)

9 Response to "How to Wash That Gray Right Outta Your Photos (with Photoshop Elements)"

Marja/Glass Elements said...

Sweet trick! I usually manually adjusted the brightness/contrast but this is so much easier! Thanks!

IMakeCuteStuff (aka Marlo M.) said...

Me too! I used to spend so much time messing with brightness/ contrast and custom levels until I found this little trick. So glad it helped you too!

Sara Chapman said...

I think you can easily use Levels or Curves in regular Photoshop to achieve this also. Not sure if it is in Elements.

IMakeCuteStuff (aka Marlo M.) said...

Yes Sara, you are correct, although there is much more finesse involved in using Levels and Curves that a beginner might not want to tackle when adjusting tons of photos for an online shop. This little "set white point" tutorial is just an example of using one of the many (and perhaps lesser known) tools that Photoshop gives us to achieve our white balance goals! Thanks for your comment!

Heidi Kappes Belinsky said...

Oh my, I never even realized that those eyedroppers were there - I just always try to adjust the graph by eye. That is so much easier! [happy dance!!!]

IMakeCuteStuff (aka Marlo M.) said...

Yay! I'm so glad this helped! Here's to fixing photos faster! :D

TheLight said...

Thank you so much. Thank you Thank you Thank you . I am new to dslr photography and had no clue how to get those super bright pictures that we see in most websites. You are such a sweetheart , kudos to you for sharing such an important tip. I am using a gimp editor but it has something similar under color --> levels--> and then you pick up the white dropper. But wow , even I am doing a Happy Dance right now. And I guess knowledge sharing is a very important , so thanks again.

IMakeCuteStuff (aka Marlo M.) said...

You are so welcome! So glad the info was helpful. Thanks for your kind words :)

The Jigsaw said...

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