Quick Tip #1:
Use a Levels Adjustment Layer and Its Mask for Easy Local Exposure Control.
The image of the bison in the snow is very contrasty. The snow is too bright. If I globally darken the image to compensate for the snow's lightness, the bison will go dark. Use a Levels Adjustment Layer to darken the overall image and then paint away the correction on the accompanying layer mask to rectify the exposure on the bison.
Access the Levels Adjustment Layer in one of two ways:
a) At the bottom of the Layers Panel, click on the half black half white circle and drag to LEVELS.
b) On the ADJUSTMENTS PANEL, click the icon for Levels.
The Levels Properties Dialog box will appear. I darkened the mid tones by moving the slider to .51.
As you can see, the bison is now very dark. This fact can be ignored as it will be corrected using the Layer Mask.
Click on the Brush tool. In the Options Bar along the top of the PS workspace, be sure the Blend Mode is set to Normal. Set the Opacity to 40%. It's better to build up the effect in increments rather than set the opacity to 100% and try to perfect the desired effect with one swipe of the brush. Be sure the Foreground Color in the tool bar is set to black. Slowly paint over the bison and watch it get brighter. Continue to do this until it reaches the desired density.
The layers palette will reveal what you paint. The more times you pass over the bison with the brush, the darker the corresponding area in the layer mask appears. In that the area over the bison is black, I completely removed the Levels Adjustment effect from its head.
The end result is a properly balanced image that was very contrasty at the start.
Quick Tip #2:
Use Color Range to Make Complex Selections in Seconds.
The tool is found in the Options bar at the top of the PS workspace. Choose: Select>Color Range. I want to darken just the sky to make the snow goose stand out against a richer deeper blue. To create a selection of the bird using the lasso, magic wand, pen, or quick selection tool would require finessing the edges and take a long time. In that the sky is mostly uniform in color, the Color Range tool is perfect for this image.
Go to the Options Bar and choose SELECT > COLOR RANGE. The following dialog box will appear. In the Color Range Box, use the eyedropper to click on the color you want to select.
Chances are it won't acquire every pixel so click on the eyedropper with the plus sign and "drag" it over the areas not taken in on the first go round. Use the Fuzziness slider to control the tolerance. In the Selection Preview pull down window, choose the type of mask that reveals the way you want to view the selection. With the above adjustments made, the selection should look like this:
With the sky selected, I made a basic Levels Adjustment to darken and richen up the sky. Hit Command L on a Mac or Control L on a PC to bring up the Levels dialog box. Move the mid-tones slider to the right to darken the selection. Here's the end result:
(Depending on the subject, you may need to Refine the edge of the selection prior to applying the levels adjustment. If so, click on any Selection Tool to bring up the Refine Edge dialog box in the Options bar and Smooth or Feather the selection accordingly.)
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