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If you've chosen wisely, your cover image shouldn't require too much in the way of color or tonal adjustment. That said, you may want to warm up or cool down the mood of the image by adjusting its color temperature, or white balance. Or perhaps you want to make minor adjustments to the shadow and highlight detail. If you're the photographer, hopefully you've captured the image in the Camera RAW file format, or perhaps the image has been supplied to you in the JPEG or TIFF file format. Either way, you can make changes non-destructively using the Photoshop Camera RAW plug-in.
So here, I'm beginning with a JPEG, but if I want to do some minor editing to this in Camera RAW, I can come and click on this icon right here, or from the File menu I can choose Open in Camera RAW. Since this is a JPEG image, there isn't as much data as there would be had the image been a Camera RAW file format, but I still have the same tool set. I'm just going to make a few very minor adjustments here. I have my Highlight clipping turned on and my Shadow clipping turned on, and I see in the highlights we have some highlight clipping going on, and that's what those red splotches are.
So I'd like to get rid of those. So I'm going to get my Highlights slider, and I'm going to bring that slightly to the left. It's far to the left but no further so that those red splotches disappear, and you can see that the Histogram on the right-hand side has slightly moved in towards the center. On the other side of the Histogram in the Shadow area, we can see that the Histogram is not going all the way to the left, so I'm going to get my Black point slider and just move that slightly to the left, and you can see the histogram moving over to the left, introducing a bit more shadow detail. Let's zoom out.
Some other things that I might consider. Perhaps I would like to open up some of the shadow detail. Now I'm using a very light touch here, so the changes are not going to be that noticeable. This is a stock image from the Thinkstock Online Library, and it doesn't really require much in the way of me interfering with it, but I am just going to slightly open up the Shadows. I'm also going to add some Midtone sharpening with the Clarity slider.
Something else to consider is the Color Temperature. If I wanted to cool this down slightly, then I could move that to the left. Moving towards blue is going to cool it down. Moving it towards the right and yellow is going to warm it up. I'm going to cool it down ever so slightly, and then if I wanted to evaluate these changes, I could come up here to the Preview. That's going to turn them off. That's how it was when we came in. And there we are with the changes that I've made, very subtle.
I now can click Open Image. This is going to take me into Photoshop where I will have to then save the image, and because it's requiring me to save the image, I'm leaving my original intact. At that point I could save it as a TIFF file, a JPEG file with a different name so that I don't overwrite the original or as a PSD file. If any additional masking were required, then I would opt for the PSD or native Photoshop file format.
Since I don't anticipate any of that, I would probably save it as a JPEG but with a different file name. So those are just some of the things that you might want to consider using the Camera RAW plug-in. Just do some fine tweaks to the color and tone of your cover image.
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