Thursday, February 5, 2009

Quality Of Light

By Rick Sammon Published in Quick Fix
quick fix

You may not believe it at first, but all the photographs in this issue of PCPhoto have something in common. That something in common is, of course, light.

Before we take a picture, seeing the light—the contrast range in a scene, the color of light and the direction of light—and then making camera adjustments and/or using accessories to control the light is the key to getting a good in-camera exposure. On site, knowing how to control light is an essential part of being a skilled photographer.

In the digital darkroom, knowing how to control light is important, too. Basic adjustments such as Shadows/Highlights and Levels, found in most popular imaging programs, are good starting points in taking control of the light.

We also can “play” with light in the digital darkroom, which is exactly what I did to create the opening image for this column. Software plug-ins add even more creative options.


Compare my original photograph, which has flat lighting, to that opening image—an image in which a shadow behind the cowboy magically appears, with the cowboy illuminated by top/side lighting and with richer colors than the original.



All those effects are easily created in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements using some basic adjustments, with a little help added from the Sunshine filter found in Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 3.

Here’s the technique. In digesting the process, think about the photographs that you have in your image library that can benefit from it.


The first step is to cut out (mask out) the subject from the background. There are many ways to do that, but in this case, I used Photoshop’s Quick Selection tool to select the background and then used Refine Edges to, that’s right, refine the edges of my selection.

Other options for extracting a subject include using Photoshop’s Extract tool, the Background Eraser tool or a masking plug-in, such as Mask Pro 4 from onOne Software.

After you’ve made a very clean selection of your subject, save it as a file called “Subject” and leave it open on your monitor.

Prev 1/2 Next »

Login to post comments

Popular How-To

Popular Gear

Subscribe & Save!
International residents, click here.