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Controlling lighting and contrast

From: Photoshop Elements 10 Essential Training

Video: Controlling lighting and contrast

Camera RAW has a series of sliders in the second section of the Basic panel that give you lots of control over the brightness and contrast in a RAW file as you process it. Before we start looking at these sliders, let's take a look at the histogram at the top of the screen. The histogram is a bar chart of the tones in the image, given the current processing settings. The left side of this chart represents the darkest possible tones, and the right side of the chart, the brightest possible tones, with tones of gray in between. This mound represents the actual tones in this image, given the current processing settings.

Controlling lighting and contrast

Camera RAW has a series of sliders in the second section of the Basic panel that give you lots of control over the brightness and contrast in a RAW file as you process it. Before we start looking at these sliders, let's take a look at the histogram at the top of the screen. The histogram is a bar chart of the tones in the image, given the current processing settings. The left side of this chart represents the darkest possible tones, and the right side of the chart, the brightest possible tones, with tones of gray in between. This mound represents the actual tones in this image, given the current processing settings.

As I move the sliders in the Basic panel, this mound will change shape, because I'll be redistributing the tones in the image. Although this may look like a mound, it's actually made up of vertical individual bars that are squeezed together. The height of a particular bar represents the relative frequency of the corresponding tone. So you can see that the highest bars here are in the light part of the histogram, and that makes sense, because there are lots of light pixels here in the snow. Notice that there are no bars above the brightest parts of the histogram, and that means that there are no bright whites in this image. That's why the whole image looks kind of dull.

So the first thing I want to do is to push some of the brightest tones in the image over to bright white. To do that, I'll go to the Exposure slider, controls the bright tones in the image. I'll drag the Exposure slider to the right, and as I do that, you can see the histogram moving over to the right. So how do I know how far to go here? Well, there are a couple of ways. One way is that I can hold down the Alt key -- that's the Option key on the Mac -- as I drag this slider. And as I drag to the right, notice that I start to see these areas of color or white on top of the black.

Those are the pixels that are being pushed to pure white, with no detail. Well, I do want to keep detail in most of the bright pixels in the image, so when I see this, I back off to the left until there are just a few pixels of bright white like this. I also can keep my eye on this highlight warning icon in the histogram. When that lights up, it means that I am pushing some pixels off the chart, so that they have no detail. So I can back off a little bit on the Exposure slider like this, until that highlight warning goes away.

You really can't judge the image yet, because I haven't set the black point. To do that, I'm going to move down to the Blacks slider here, and I'm going to drag that to the right. As I do, the left side of the histogram is going off to the left, pushing some of the darkest pixels to pure black. So now I have some pixels that are bright white, some that are dark black, and I've strung out the pixels in between across the histogram, so there are more tones of gray. Let's do a before and after by going up to the Preview checkbox. I'll turn that off to see how the image was when I started, and here's how it is now.

The next thing I want to do is come down and move the Brightness slider, which affects the overall brightness of the image. If I were to move the Brightness slider to the right, the whole image would get brighter. I think in this case, I want to move the Brightness slider to the left, to make the image a little darker, so that I can start to see some of the grays in the snow, because I don't want all of the snow to be plain white. There's also a Contrast slider that I'll sometimes use. Moving the Contrast slider to the right increases the contrast. In this case, that's making me lose some detail in the squirrel, so I'm going to move the Contrast slider the other way, bringing it down so that I see more different tones of gray in the squirrel, and in the snow.

And I always can go back and tweak a slider. So at this point, I might decide, gee, I want more brightness in the image, so I'll move the Brightness slider over to the right. I'm pretty happy with that. I'll do one more before and after, going up to the Preview box, and unchecking it. So that's where I started, and that's how the image is with the sliders that I've moved in the Basic panel. There are some other sliders that I probably would move with this image, like the Recovery slider, the Fill Light slider, the Clarity slider, and the Vibrance slider, but I have some other examples to show you those sliders.

So I'm going to move on, and open a different image in the document window; one that I have open over here in the column on the left. And I'd like to see the entire image on the screen, so I'm going to double-click the Hand tool in the toolbar. This image has some very bright areas in the clouds, and some pretty dark areas in the foreground. So let's see if we can bring back some detail in both the highlights, and the shadows in this image. The Recovery slider here in the second section of the Basic panel can sometimes bring back detail in highlights, like these in the clouds that are blown out.

In other words, that appear to be pure white, with no detail. By the way, this is something you can't do in a JPEG, so it's another advantage of shooting RAW. In the histogram, there is a spike on the right, and that spike represents the blown out pixels. So I'm going to keep my eye on that spike, as I go down and drag the Recovery slider to the right. And as I do this, I can see that I'm bringing back detail in the clouds. I'll do the same thing with the fill light to bring back some detail in the shadows, dragging the Fill Light slider slightly over to the right.

Now, I don't want to get too aggressive with the fill light, like this, because it can give you kind of a strange muted look in the gray tones, like this, so I usually just move the fill light slider a little bit. Now let's take a look at how the image was a moment ago, before moving these two sliders, by unchecking Preview. So that's where I started; a very contrasty image, with very little detail in the clouds, and dark shadows, and here's where I ended up, with detail in the highlights, and in the shadows.

So that covers all the sliders in the Lighting section of the Basic panel. As you can see, they have a huge effect on how the processed image looks. They really are the basic darkroom for a digital RAW file, and they let you be the artist. To recap, the Exposure slider sets a white point, and brightens light tones. The Blacks slider sets a black point, and darkens dark tones. The Brightness slider brightens or darkens the image overall. The Contrast slider increases or decreases the range of grays; the contrast.

And Recovery can bring back blown out highlights in some cases, which is a big benefit of working with a RAW file over a JPEG, while the Fill Light can bring back blocked up shadows.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop Elements 10 Essential Training
Photoshop Elements 10 Essential Training

140 video lessons · 9430 viewers

Jan Kabili
Author

 
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  1. 23m 48s
    1. Welcome
      58s
    2. Getting around Elements
      6m 9s
    3. Exploring the differences in Mac versions of Elements
      5m 41s
    4. Working with Organizer catalogs
      6m 16s
    5. Using the exercise files
      4m 44s
  2. 21m 39s
    1. Touring the Organizer
      5m 35s
    2. Importing photos from a camera
      4m 44s
    3. Importing photos from a computer
      3m 1s
    4. Importing photos from an iPhoto library
      5m 27s
    5. Importing photos from external drives
      2m 52s
  3. 31m 24s
    1. Working in Thumbnail view
      4m 10s
    2. Working in Folder Location view
      4m 33s
    3. Reviewing photos in Full Screen view
      4m 55s
    4. Editing and organizing in Full Screen view
      7m 20s
    5. Comparing photos in Side by Side view
      4m 10s
    6. Displaying photos in Date view
      2m 40s
    7. Viewing photo information
      3m 36s
  4. 47m 47s
    1. Using keyword tags to categorize photos
      6m 42s
    2. Organizing keyword tags
      4m 25s
    3. Finding photos by keyword tag
      3m 39s
    4. Automatically tagging people
      8m 21s
    5. Using automatic smart tagging
      5m 36s
    6. Assigning ratings to photos
      4m 9s
    7. Creating albums to organize photos
      5m 7s
    8. Creating smart albums
      5m 52s
    9. Stacking photos to reduce thumbnail clutter
      3m 56s
  5. 24m 35s
    1. Finding photos that are visually similar to each other
      4m 3s
    2. Searching for an object in a photo
      3m 45s
    3. Finding duplicate photos
      4m 50s
    4. Searching by text
      5m 59s
    5. Exploring the Find menu
      4m 27s
    6. Finding photos in the Timeline
      1m 31s
  6. 22m 41s
    1. Deleting photos
      4m 30s
    2. Renaming photos
      2m 24s
    3. Moving photos
      3m 58s
    4. Reconnecting missing files
      4m 37s
    5. Changing photo dates
      4m 29s
    6. Backing up
      2m 43s
  7. 16m 14s
    1. Choosing an editing workspace
      4m 37s
    2. Autocorrecting with the Organizer's Photo Fix options
      3m 47s
    3. Photo finishing with the Organizer's Photo Fix options
      4m 2s
    4. Changing a Photo Fix adjustment
      3m 48s
  8. 22m 10s
    1. Editing with assistance: the Guided Edit workspace
      6m 27s
    2. Retouching a photo the step-by-step way
      7m 55s
    3. Creating a dreamlike Orton effect
      1m 8s
    4. Simulating shallow depth of field
      4m 11s
    5. Creating a collage using Picture Stack
      2m 29s
  9. 29m 26s
    1. Quick improvements: introducing the Quick Edit workspace
      3m 28s
    2. Applying Quick Edit corrections
      4m 8s
    3. Adjusting lighting
      4m 0s
    4. Correcting color
      4m 20s
    5. Fixing red-eye, improving skies, and touching up photos
      6m 28s
    6. Sharpening images
      3m 10s
    7. Saving in Quick Edit
      3m 52s
  10. 41m 16s
    1. Full control: introducing the Full Edit workspace
      5m 19s
    2. Tips for using the editing tools
      3m 50s
    3. Customizing panels
      5m 10s
    4. Undoing your work
      6m 22s
    5. Zooming and navigating
      4m 41s
    6. Saving images and examining file formats
      4m 50s
    7. Working with multiple documents
      4m 0s
    8. Creating a file from scratch
      2m 57s
    9. Customizing Editor preferences
      4m 7s
  11. 25m 42s
    1. Understanding layers
      7m 3s
    2. Managing layers in the Layers panel
      7m 19s
    3. Tips for working with layers
      4m 25s
    4. Understanding layer masks
      6m 55s
  12. 29m 59s
    1. Understanding selections
      6m 49s
    2. Using manual selection tools
      4m 42s
    3. Modifying selections
      4m 20s
    4. Using the automatic selection tools
      7m 11s
    5. Refining selections
      4m 50s
    6. Saving selections
      2m 7s
  13. 23m 52s
    1. Retouching blemishes with the Spot Healing Brush tool
      2m 50s
    2. Retouching skin with the Healing Brush tool
      6m 7s
    3. Retouching with the Clone Stamp tool
      1m 58s
    4. Using the Content-Aware option in the Spot Healing Brush to remove content
      3m 13s
    5. Touching up photos with the Smart Brush tools
      7m 22s
    6. Using the Dodge, Burn, and Sponge tools
      2m 22s
  14. 1h 0m
    1. Understanding color management
      7m 23s
    2. Understanding adjustment layers
      6m 49s
    3. Adjusting part of a photo
      6m 16s
    4. Correcting contrast and brightness using Levels controls
      5m 6s
    5. Enhancing color with Hue/Saturation
      4m 32s
    6. Improving shadow and highlights using Shadow/Highlight
      2m 36s
    7. Adjusting lighting and color using Color Curves
      3m 53s
    8. Removing a color cast
      2m 11s
    9. Converting color to black and white
      3m 15s
    10. Reducing noise
      3m 53s
    11. Sharpening images
      6m 43s
    12. Processing multiple photos
      8m 19s
  15. 23m 6s
    1. Resizing and changing photo resolution
      7m 1s
    2. Cropping photos
      5m 35s
    3. Straightening photos
      2m 35s
    4. Adding canvas around photos
      2m 43s
    5. Changing a photos orientation using the Recompose tool
      5m 12s
  16. 23m 50s
    1. Combining photos using the Place command
      5m 21s
    2. Using a layer mask to hide a background
      6m 26s
    3. Blending images using a gradient
      8m 18s
    4. Blending images using Blend modes
      3m 45s
  17. 24m 2s
    1. Creating text
      6m 22s
    2. Editing text
      3m 49s
    3. Creating text on a selection
      6m 1s
    4. Creating text around a shape
      3m 51s
    5. Creating text on a custom path
      3m 59s
  18. 22m 43s
    1. Applying filters
      5m 24s
    2. Adding effects
      2m 6s
    3. Adding layer styles
      7m 38s
    4. Making shapes
      5m 17s
    5. Using the Cookie Cutter tool
      2m 18s
  19. 42m 14s
    1. Understanding Camera Raw
      3m 35s
    2. The Camera Raw interface
      5m 16s
    3. Adjusting color using the white balance controls
      4m 41s
    4. Controlling lighting and contrast
      6m 26s
    5. Enhancing photos with the Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation controls
      2m 39s
    6. Cropping and straightening
      2m 12s
    7. Reducing Noise
      2m 24s
    8. Sharpening
      6m 46s
    9. Outputting from Camera Raw
      4m 43s
    10. Processing multiple photos in Camera Raw
      3m 32s
  20. 56m 43s
    1. Creating a photo book
      6m 50s
    2. Completing the photo book
      10m 5s
    3. Creating a photo calendar
      8m 19s
    4. Creating a photo greeting card
      5m 17s
    5. Making other photo creations in the Create workspace
      2m 8s
    6. Outputting photo creations from the Create workspace
      2m 50s
    7. Creating a photo slideshow in Windows
      8m 45s
    8. Completing the photo slideshow
      3m 31s
    9. Making a scrapbook page from scratch in Full Edit
      8m 58s
  21. 41m 34s
    1. Printing photos
      8m 30s
    2. Printing contact sheets and picture packages in Windows
      5m 23s
    3. Printing contact sheets and picture packages on a Mac
      8m 33s
    4. Ordering prints from the Organizer
      4m 22s
    5. Sharing photos by email from the Organizer
      3m 46s
    6. Sharing photos with Photo Mail in Windows
      5m 3s
    7. Sharing photos on Facebook from the Organizer
      3m 42s
    8. Sharing photos on Flickr from the Organizer
      2m 15s
  22. 7m 34s
    1. Signing up for an Adobe ID
      2m 20s
    2. Sharing online albums from the Organizer to Photoshop.com
      5m 14s
  23. 40s
    1. Goodbye
      40s

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