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We now have a couple of new auto color adjustment features, one of which is associated with the Brightness/Contrast command. You will find the other when using levels and curves. Now we've got this washed out photo here. And Adobe's research suggests that some of the most popular commands in the software, believe it or not, are these right here under the Image menu: Auto Tone, Auto Contrast, and Auto color. And I suppose it's because they are so darn easy to apply. So you just use Auto Tone and you look at the image and you say nope, that's not better.
Go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on a Mac. Then you go up to the Image menu, choose Auto Contrast and yeah that's actually quite a bit better. Then press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on a Mac and finally try out Auto Color, which in this case makes the image awfully blue and she looks fairly ghoulish. All right, I'm going to press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on a Mac, in order to undo that change. The great thing about these new auto functions is they serve as a wonderful jumping off point for your own adjustments.
So for starters, I will apply a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment layer by dropping down to the little black/ white icon at the bottom of Layers panel and I will choose the Brightness/Contrast command. And then rather than manually tweaking the Brightness/Contrast options I will click this new Auto button in order to tell Photoshop to automatically evaluate the image. And it's going to do a different job on every single image you open. And in this case it's chosen to set the Brightness value to -20 and the Contrast value to 67.
I might look at that and say well, you know that's a good place to start I suppose, but I disagree a little bit. I think I want to take that brightness value down to -30 and I'm going to reduce the contrast value as well. We don't need nearly that much contrast because we're losing a little bit of shadow and highlight detail, and then I'd come back up to the Brightness value and take it down a couple of notches as well, and I eventually arrive at an image that I like a lot better. So this is what the image looked like before without that Brightness/Contrast adjustment; this is what it looks like now.
Now Brightness/Contrast is a fantastic command for making very basic edits. It was updated and made much better in Photoshop CS3, but it's still by no means a power command. If you want full control over the luminance levels inside your image, then you want to switch over to either levels or curves, and let me show you what that looks like. I will turn off the Brightness/Contrast layer, drop down to the black/white icon once again, and this time I will choose the Levels command. You can see there we're missing shadow detail like crazy inside this image.
So I will go ahead and click on Auto, and the interesting thing here is the auto adjustment I applied is none of these. It's not Auto Tone, it's not Auto Contrast, it's not Auto Color; it's something new. And to get a sense of what's going on here, go ahead and Alt+Click or Option+Click on the Auto button and you'll see that we have a new option inside this dialog box that's called Enhance Brightness and Contrast. And it's applying the adjustment to the composite image. Which means if you look very carefully here, we have access to all of the values, so the black point value shows up as 25, I have got a gamma value of 0.95 and very slight adjustment to the white point value, it's 254.
Compare that to these other guys here. The first option is the same as Auto Contrast under the Image menu, the second option is the same as Auto Tone, and the third is the same as Auto Color. But notice if I select any of these, for example I will start with Auto Color, I'm not seeing the adjustments. It's 0, 1.0, 255, and with the next option up, same diff, same at that very first option as well. And that's because every single one of these adjustments is applied on a channel by channel basis which makes it very difficult to modify the adjustments after the fact, whereas if you stick with the default setting, which is Enhance Brightness and Contrast, click OK, then you have access to these composite values.
And for example, I could say "You know what? That black point values isn't nearly high enough. I'm going to take that guy up to something like maybe 65 actually." And then I'll tab over to the gamma value and take it down to 0.85, so that we get a much richer or more lustrous image. And I don't want to adjust the white point value, at all, so we'll take it up to 255 and hide the Properties panel for the moment. So this is the original version of the image, quite washed out by comparison. And this is my customized modification, based in part on Photoshop's automatic adjustment.
All right, let's see the same thing done with curves. I'll go ahead and turn off the Levels Adjustment layer, click on the black/white icon and choose the Curves command. That's going to bring up the Properties panel once again. I'll once again click on the Auto button. And again you can see the points on the curve so that you can apply your own custom modification. At the risk of belaboring things here, I'm going to show you the difference between the old way and the new way. If I Alt+Click or Option+Click on Auto, notice in any of these cases if I select any of the first three radio buttons, I do not have access to those points when modifying the composite image. Instead, they're buried.
So I have to access the points on a channel by channel basis instead, which makes for some cumbersome editing indeed. The same goes for the second radio button and the first radio button as well. All right, so, I'm going to stick with Enhanced Brightness and Contrast, click OK. Still not necessarily happy with what Photoshop has come up with, so I will take that black point value over to the right, and then I will go ahead and drop down that point on the curve in order to darken up the image like so, and then I will hide the Properties panel. And so this is what the image look in the first place and this is what the image looks like now.
So the fact of the matter is, even though we don't normally associate those auto adjustments with power features, the new Auto button included with brightness/contrast, levels and curves makes for a great jumping off point for even the most sophisticated color modifications.
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