Thursday, November 1, 2007
Make It Just Right
Turn your good images into your best images by using Photoshop to bring out those details that are too bright or too dark
Do you have that potentially great shot sitting on your hard drive, ready to be made into a beautiful print or sold to some publication that could really use such a brilliant image? Except for one little problem. The photo is too dark or too light to be used in those ways. Maybe it’s not even the whole photo, but just a part of it; but that part is too important and serves as a distraction to the overall image.
We all have images like these. I’ve had images that were too dark because I forgot to reset my auto bracketing, and the camera gave me a dark shot just when I didn’t need it. Or I’ve ended up with big, bright areas of sky because the ground was just so dark that I couldn’t expose properly for both areas and, of course, I forgot to bring my graduated neutral-density filter.
I like the limited depth of field on a wide-angle close-up of these flowers. It gives the photo character and a lot of depth. I used a full-frame fisheye up close to get the dramatic look of the background trees in the photo. Too bad the color and tonalities don’t match that drama. Neither Levels nor Curves can do the optimum job correcting this sort of photo.
You need to add an adjustment layer. Which one doesn’t matter because you’re not using it for its adjustment capabilities, but for its blending-mode possibilities. Choose Levels to start because it’s one you can use for added adjustment if needed (Figure 1). I like to use the adjustment layer icon for selecting such a layer—this is the black-and-white circle at the bottom of the Photoshop Layers palette. You also can get adjustment layers from the Layer menu.
When the Levels dialog box appears, click OK without changing anything. You’ll probably see a big gap in the Levels histogram on the left side, indicating no blacks (Figure 2). You don’t need to make any adjustments for blacks at this point. That will come. You end up with a Levels adjustment layer in your layer stack, but it isn’t doing anything at this point (Figure 3).
Now go to the layer blending modes by clicking on or to the right of the word Normal at the top left of the Layers palette (Normal is the default for blending modes). A drop-down menu appears with a long list of words. It would be nice if you could turn off all except the key modes for photographers, but you have to search the whole list for what you need.
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