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In Photoshop Elements 9: Scanning and Restoring Photos, professional photo restorer Janine Smith shows how to bring new life to old photos. The course begins with a look at the types of photos that may require restoration, including slides, negatives, prints, and newspaper photos, and options for scanning them. She discusses the types of scanners that are available, from flatbed to film, and the best settings to use for originals. The course then delves into Photoshop Elements tools and techniques to help restore clarity to faded photos and fix problems such as dust, scratches, and tears. Exercise files are included with the course.
The QuickFix menu, in Photoshop Elements 9, gives you a number of options for making quick fixes to your photos. One of the choices, Lighting, is another way to adjust contrast and bring a faded photo back quickly and easily. It's not something you'll want to use on every photo, but it's certainly another option for you to try. Quick menu lighting is sort of like levels on the fly. You're using sliders to adjust; you're just not seeing the histogram or using the eyedroppers. Be aware that when you're adjusting the Quick menu, the adjustments happen on the layer itself, not on an adjustment layer, so you'll need to duplicate the original layer by using keyboard shortcut Ctrl+J or Command+J or by right-clicking on the original and selecting Duplicate layer.
Let's do that right now and let's name it something like Quick, click OK. The Edit menu, located at the top-right of the screen in Photoshop Elements 9, is broken up into three categories Full, Quick and Guided. Let's click on Quick. If your Project Bin is opened at the bottom of the window, double-click on the tab to hide it. You'll want to see your whole photo.
Something that's very helpful in the QuickFix menu is the option to change your view. At the lower left-hand corner over the Project Bin and under the photo, is a dropdown menu labeled View. Clicking on it, you'll see a number of view choices including some for Before & After. If you choose Before & After - Horizontal, you get a nice before and after shot next to each other. This allows you to see the changes you make side-by-side. On the right of the photo under Smart Fix is the Lighting dialog box.
At the top is Levels and next to Levels is the Auto button. Let's hit the button just to see what happens. The best way to learn is to try, so you should hit buttons and the adjust sliders all the time. You won't blow it up and you can always get back to where you started by pressing the Reset button here at the bottom. Let's do that now and then we'll try the next Auto button down, this one for Contrast. You may look out and find that one or both of the Auto buttons was the magic bullet after all and fixed everything up, well, automatically, but there are two reasons you shouldn't start and stop with hitting Auto; one, you may miss out finding something else that works better and makes the restoration look better and two, it will prevent you from being better both at learning your software and photo restoration.
Let's hit the Reset button again and look at the three sliders located under the Auto adjustment buttons, Shadows, Midtones and Highlights. The Shadow slider is set by default to the far left, representing the darkest areas in the photo. Moving the slider to the right will lighten the darks in the photo. Let's find a good point here at about 23. The Midtones slider is by default in the middle. We'll leave that there for right now and go to the Highlights slider and if you'll notice, it's also set by default to the far right, but the gradient is switched on this, having the lights on the left side moving over to the darks.
Let's move this over and see what happens. We'll keep that at about 7. You can move these around after you've done them all and see what happens if anything -- let's move the Midtones slider a bit and keep that about 26. That looks pretty good. It's pretty yellow, but it did a decent job. Something you'll want to keep in mind, when we move these sliders in Lighting, the Reset button doesn't automatically become selectable. You'll need to come over to your Project Bin and click on it and then you can hit your Reset button to get back to where you were. Let's do that now.
Basically, Quick Lighting is a very simple way of applying levels adjustments to your photograph using sliders instead of histograms and eyedroppers. As you can see, it can make quite a difference in a short amount of time. It shouldn't be the only tool you use when restoring your photos by any means, but it's definitely worth a look.
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