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Friday, August 1, 2008

Print Like Ansel Adams


Tips and techniques from one of the experts at Nash Editions will help you make your best black-and-white prints ever

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Shadows/Highlights Shadows/Highlights is an adjustment tool that’s often overlooked, yet it’s an invaluable tool when you want to establish the full tonal range of an image. Shadows/Highlights is a recovery adjustment, used to recover information from the shadow and highlight.

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Figure 2

Shadows/Highlights isn’t an adjustment layer, and without utilizing smart objects, any application is a permanent change to your image. Thus, it’s a tool that should be used with an exit strategy in mind. A good workflow incorporates duplicating your layer for the Shadows/Highlights adjustment, therefore keeping your original layer unchanged.

Here’s a breakdown of the workflow. Duplicate your background layer and call it Shadows/Highlights. Go to Images > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights, ignore the built-in default settings and check the box Show More Options. Set everything in both sections labeled Shadows/Highlights to 0. Leave the setting in Adjustments at 20. We’ll set this as our default by clicking the Set As Default button. In the future, the Shadows/Highlights adjustment will come up, leaving your image visually unchanged until you make adjustments to it (Figure 2).


Figure 3
Now we’re ready to do some work on an image from Sedona, Ariz. (Figure 3). We want to open up the dark portions of the image, the areas of concern. To get started, in the Shadows section, use 40% for the Amount. It may start to look blotchy, but don’t worry about it; that’s what we want.

Pay attention to the concerned areas of your image; slide the Tonal Width over until you see these areas go flat in contrast or become blotchy. The Tonal Width slider controls the tones on which the adjustment will act. Moving it too far to the right will cause your midtones to open up along with your darker tones. If this happens, move your slider back to the left, reducing the effect in the lighter tones.

Figure 4

The Radius or magic slider brings it all back. Slide it to the right, and as you do so, look at your image. The contrast slowly comes back; at your discretion, stop when it looks good. The Radius brings back the contrast of the image. There’s a tendency for halos to develop during this process. You can reduce the halos by further adjusting the Radius amount. Fine-tune it at this point. Decrease the amount if the lightening is too strong.

To recover information in the light areas, repeat the steps above, this time under Highlights. Again, start with 40% for the Amount. Slide the Tonal Width to the right until it appears a little flat in the areas about which you’re concerned. Watch these areas, and slide the Radius slider to the right. When these areas clear up, stop. Increase or decrease the amount as needed (Figure 4).


Figure 5
Black And White Adjustment Layer
In CS3

Working in the digital world, it’s almost a given that your images will start out their lives in full-blown color. We want to take those color images into the elegant world of black-and-white. Photoshop CS3 gives us a brilliant tool that eases this transition: the Black and White adjustment layer. A visual and intuitive way of converting color images to black-and-white, this new adjustment allows us to interpolate the different colors of an image to a gray value. A common way to do this previously was to use the Channel Mixer, but a major drawback was that we quickly forgot what colors were in parts of our image without previewing it. Switching back and forth, constantly previewing the image, disrupts the creative process.

The target adjustment feature of the Black and White adjustment layer is a more intuitive way of adjusting the image. Pressing the mouse over the area of the image we want to adjust, CS3 selects the underlying color’s slider for us. We then can darken the area by moving the mouse to the left and lighten the area by moving the mouse to the right. The color slider in the Black and White adjustment layer changes according to the color on which you clicked. It’s as easy as point and click (Figure 5).

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