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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Target Fixes

Think—and work—selectively, not globally

Labels: Quick FixHow To

This Article Features Photo Zoom


1 The opening image (original) for this column started out as an okay image. For more impact, however, I wanted to boost the color and contrast of the image using Levels. Doing that globally, which I knew would be a mistake, resulted in this image. Yuck! Look at how the detail in most of the beautiful clouds in the sky (not the water) is lost.

In the digital darkroom, it’s important to think and work selectively, rather than thinking and working globally. In other words, you usually want to work on only part of an image, rather than on the entire image. In this column, I’ll share a few examples of this thinking and working process. I’ll use Photoshop CS5, but you can use these basic ideas and concepts in other digital imaging-editing programs.


2 The solution, of course, was to work selectively, using an Adjustment Layer. After creating a Levels Adjustment Layer and setting the Foreground color to black, I used the Brush tool (soft edge) and painted out (masked out) the Levels adjustment only in the sky area in the Layer Mask on the top layer. The result was a selective adjustment that attained my goal.

3 Thinking and working selectively is especially important when it comes to sharpening an image. In most cases, you don’t want to sharpen the entire image, for two reasons. If you sharpen only the main subject (monkeys, in this case), the viewer’s eye will go more toward the subject than if you sharpen the entire image area. Additionally, when you sharpen the dark and out-of-focus areas in a scene as well as the main subject, you’ll increase the noise more so in those areas than in the sharp and brightly illuminated areas because darker areas are where noise is more visible.


4 So it’s always important to think selectively when applying adjustments. This goes for Saturation, too. In my photograph of a monk, I saturated only his head.

5 Had I applied Saturation globally and oversaturated the monk’s robe, I would have lost the details in the folds of the robe. Be very careful not to oversaturate an image. (Note: The Vibrance adjustment can help you avoid oversaturating parts of an image because it only applies saturation to the parts of an image that aren’t already saturated.)


6 Finally, it’s important to remember that you’re in control of every area—and even every pixel—in an image. For example, here you see a processed HDR image. I did as much work as I could in Photomatix (www.hdrsoft.com), a popular HDR program. In Photo-matix, I made all the adjustments that were available.

7 I wanted more detail in the scene outside the window, however, so I used the Marquee tool, selected the windows and boosted the Contrast and Saturation of only those areas. I also boosted the Contrast and Brightness of the Pepsi sign, just to illustrate, for you, a selected adjustment.

Explore the light—and think and work selectively!

Rick Sammon enjoys sharing his digital photography and digital darkroom know-how. For more info, check out www.ricksammon.info.
(formerly ricksammon.com).

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