Thanks to digital, I have total control over my images—and so do you. If I couldn’t see the effect of exposure settings on the LCD and make adjustments on the spot, I’d have a lower percentage of keepers. What’s more, I couldn’t make enhancements—creative decisions would be left to a photo lab, as it was when I first got into photography. And don’t forget the power of a RAW file, from which you can recover up to one stop of an overexposed area! Here, I’ll share a few enhancements made using Adobe Photoshop Elements.
Here’s my straight-out-of-the-camera shot of a marine iguana in the Galapagos (left). I used a full-frame 15mm lens set at ƒ/8 on my Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II. The ultra-wide lens got the animal, which was only a few inches from my lens, in focus, as well as the background.
To warm up the picture (color temperature), I created a Saturation layer, rather than working on the background layer. Creating an adjustment layer is easy. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer and select the desired adjustment layer, Hue/Saturation in this case. The Hue/Saturation dialog box opened and I increased the saturation by moving the Saturation slider to the right.
The next step—sharpen the image. But wait just a second! Usually, there’s no reason to sharpen the entire image. Rather, you want to sharpen selectively. Think local, not global. That’s the key when it comes to sharpening. That philosophy also applies to using Levels and Contrast.
I went to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. I used the + key in the Unsharp Mask dialog box to zoom in to the image so that the most important part of the scene, the iguana’s face, filled the Preview window.
Because my shot was a RAW file, I sharpened it slightly over 100 percent. All RAW files need sharpening; JPEG files are already sharpened when they come out of your camera. When you sharpen, keep both the Radius and Threshold low, and adjust the Amount to your liking.
Step Five (C)
Next, I used the Eraser tool to erase those areas in the top layer that I didn’t want sharp—the sky, the water and the islands in the background. That revealed the parts of the lower layer in their original state—not sharpened!
This screenshot shows the result of my erasing. You’ll see the effect of your erasing by clicking the Eye icon on the Background layer in the Layers palette. It’s a good idea to check out your handiwork—to see whether you did a good job. My erasing wasn’t perfect, so I started again and did a better job!
If you’re a Photoshop CS user, you’d use a Layer Mask for this enhancement. You can’t create a Layer Mask in Elements, however, so you need to use this technique.
I often like to add a black border to an image, so it stands out more when it’s printed on a white page—in PCPhoto and in my books. Adding a border is especially useful when you have a lot of sky (or snow, sand or other light-colored areas) in a picture. You also might want to do this when you make a print. Go to Select > All, then Edit > Stroke.
When the Stroke dialog box comes up, select the width of the border by choosing the Width and the color by choosing the Color, with the Location set to Center, the Mode set to Normal and the Opacity set to 100%. Note that the Width depends on the resolution of your file. As the resolution increases, the Width needs to be increased to keep the border the same size.
Speaking of standing out more on a page, add a drop shadow. Again, it’s easy to do in Elements by applying the drop shadow to a layer. Go to Select > All, then Edit > Copy and then to Edit > Paste. That creates a two-layer document with the identical image. Next, increase the Canvas size of your document because the drop shadow takes up additional space, under and to the left of the picture. Go to Image > Resize > Canvas Size and, to make it easy for now, simply type in an additional inch in the Width and Height boxes. That increases the working area all around your picture.
Before I go, I’d like to share a joke with you: How many Photoshop/Photoshop Elements instructors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
The answer: 100! One to screw in the light bulb, and 99 to show that person 99 different techniques.
The point: There’s more than one way to create these effects.
Rick Sammon has published 27 books, including his latest: Idea to Image, Rick Sammon’s Complete Guide to Digital Photography, Rick Sammon’s Travel and Nature Photography and Rick Sammon’s Digital Imaging Workshops. See www.ricksammon.com for more information.