Adobe Camera Raw:
Easy Color Pop Tutorial
Really, I'm almost mad I didn't figure this out a long time ago. It is so simple and was right in front of my face this entire time. If you frequently use more than just the main screen in Camera Raw, you might feel the same way.
To illustrate this, I decided to use a photo I snapped of a friend of mine after we participated in the Color Run this year. I chose this because 1) there are lots of colors; and 2) the colors are in such a way that trying to do a color pop in photoshop with layers and masks would be extremely difficult because there are no predictable patterns and few clearly defined edges of the color areas. Seriously, I don't think I'd even attempt doing this with masks and layers.
So to start, open Bridge and then open your photo in Camera Raw. You don't have to use Raw files to do this. I didn't hunt down the raw file for this tutorial. I used the JPEG image. When you double click a Raw file in Bridge, it automatically opens in Camera Raw. When you double click a JPEG in Bridge, it automatically opens in Photoshop. So, if you're working with a JPEG, instead of double clicking it, select it and then do one of the following: Click the Camera Raw icon at the top (looks like a shutter), go to File and select Open in Camera Raw, or press Ctrl + R. Sorry, I don't know if any of this is the same on a Mac. If someone knows and wants to clue me in, I'll update this section.
Okay so now you have your image open in Camera Raw. This is what you see. If you want to make some tweaks, go ahead. Then click the HSL/Grayscale tab (4th over).
Choose the Saturation tab, then slide all the sliders all the way to the left so they are all at -100. I ended up with a fairly flat grayscale image. After doing this, switch over to the Tone Curve tab (2nd one).
Now we're going to play with the curves to give us a more dynamic black and white base image to work with. I usually like to set Darks first, then Shadows, then Lights, then Highlights. I find if I start with one of the extremes (Lights or Shadows), it's harder to make it look good. Once your happy with the contrast and tone variations in your black and white image, go back to the HSL/Grayscale tab.
For example's sake, I took screen shots of how each color looked on this image when it was the only color with any saturation. Here's red.
I decided on a combination of colors for my final image.
Click "Save Image..." to save it and be done or "Open Image" to open it in Photoshop if you have more work you want to do.
That's it! The end!