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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

 

Layer MasksThis Article Features Photo Zoom

 

Make It  Just Right

Figure 6

At this point, the image is close, but maybe a little two dark. This is easy to correct. Go to Opacity and change the density of the layer (Figure 6). In recent versions of Photoshop, you only have to click on the word Opacity and drag your cursor left or right to change opacity. When your cursor hovers over Opacity, it changes to a hand with an arrow, indicating this control.

 

Make It Just Right

Make It  Just Right

Figure 7

Make It  Just Right

Figure 8

Another option is to use the layer mask. Layer masks aren’t the easiest to learn, but try this, and you may find it helps you master a great feature. Be sure you’re on the layer mask by clicking the white box in the adjustment layer. Then pick a large, soft, black brush with a low opacity (Figure 7).

When you paint black into a layer mask, it blocks the effect of the adjustment layer—a low opacity gives less blocking. White allows the effect, black blocks. You can change the color (using the foreground color), painting effects in and out as needed.

Make It Just Right

In this photo, I painted a low-opacity black over the flower and the lower part of the image. I also did a little on some shadows and painted back white on a hot spot (Figure 8). The result is a more dramatic photo because I haven’t tried to reduce the multiply effect from the whole image, only on specific areas (Figure 9).

This technique works well with skies. Often, skies record weak compared to how we see them. In the first shot of Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior’s North Shore in Minnesota, the image is adjusted properly for how the camera interpreted what it saw. The sunset sky is a little weak, however.

Make It Just Right

I added an adjustment layer and chose the Multiply mode again. This made the whole image too dark, so I painted black across the bottom of the layer mask. The key to using a layer mask is to start with a large, soft brush, change its opacity as needed and then go back and forth between black and white to get the effect you need (Figure 10).

Make It  Just Right

Figure 10

Now the sky is much more evocative of what I saw at the scene. This is like using a graduated neutral-density filter, but it’s more flexible and it increases contrast. You still need the grad filter, though. You must capture some detail in the image file for Multiply to work. This is important to remember—you can’t add detail where none exists with this technique. If the contrast range of the light is too great, you need the grad filter to bring it down to a level that the sensor can handle.

ALL IMAGES:
Olympus EVOLT E-330, Olympus Digital Zuiko lenses, Gitzo 6x carbon-fiber tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

 

 


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