Thursday, January 18, 2007
Build your image corrections, step by step, using layers
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1. Exposure And Light For Better Processing
Good, efficient processing in Photoshop needs the best image possible from the start; you can't just fix it in Photoshop. This photo was originally shot in harsh midday light, a light that photography often makes look worse than it actually is.
Another challenge is exposure. The photographer underexposed so he wouldn't lose highlights in the wings. Underexposure causes distinct color problems in the dark areas, however. The photo probably could have used about a half-stop of added exposure, plus it would have helped to shoot in RAW. JPEG is an excellent format, but it places some distinct limitations on an image that has lots of bright highlights.
2. Setting Blacks And Whites
The first step I always take with a photo is to check its black and white areas (simply called the blacks and whites). In this photo, I've adjusted the blacks and whites using a Levels adjustment layer. Adjustment layers are easily accessed at the bottom of the Layers palette by clicking on the adjustment layer icon that's a half-black/half-white circle. I made the adjustments using the threshold screen that appears by holding down Alt/Option while moving the left and right sliders. What you see here is the white threshold screen (Alt/Option right slider); it shows where highlights are clipping or losing detail. You can see that the white is just barely starting to clip, meaning there's good detail in the white, but not enough to wash it out. The left, black slider was used similarly to deal with the darkest areas. A photo often gains needed contrast from these adjustments alone.
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