Thursday, January 18, 2007
Build your image corrections, step by step, using layers
I like to keep a master file that's finished at its native size, meaning sized and sharpened but still keeping the layers. I sized this for reproduction in a magazine (Image > Image Size—300 ppi, with Resample unchecked), then created a new layer for sharpening. What I needed was a layer that combined all of the adjusted layers into one and put it on top of the layer stack in the Layers palette. Photoshop CS2 allows this to be done easily. Select the top layer, then hold down all the modifiers plus E-Alt/Option + Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + E. This combines all the layers and puts the result into a layer above your selected layer. In earlier versions of Photoshop, you have to hold down these modifiers, then hit N, followed by E.
This new layer allowed me to sharpen the photo without affecting any underlying layer, which was a plus because I had to go back and fix a problem I had missed earlier before using the photo on the cover of Plane & Pilot. I used nik Multimedia Sharpener Pro 2.0 to sharpen this layer. Sharpener Pro is a very intuitive way of sharpening (it's set to Halftone in this example, but it can be set to specific printers as needed), plus it has an advanced mode that helps solve noise problems in a photograph.
13. Before and After
Compare the "before" and "after" images and you can see quite a difference. Notice that the adjustments resulted in an image truer to how you would actually see the plane, rather than a limited interpretation of the arbitrary technology of the camera under difficult light and underexposure.
If you look at all the adjustments done to the image, the process may seem a little intimidating. But if you take it step by step and understand that each step, each layer, has a specific purpose, you'll figure it out. Try these ideas on your photographs and see where they can take you!
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Rob Sheppard's latest book, Adobe Camera Raw for Digital Photographers Only, includes a chapter on using layers effectively.
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