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Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Advanced, the second part of the popular and comprehensive series, updated for CS5, follows internationally renowned Photoshop guru Deke McClelland as he dives into the workings of Photoshop. He explores such digital-age wonders as the Levels and Curves commands, edge-detection filters, advanced compositing techniques, vector-based text, the Liquify filter, and Camera Raw. Deke also teaches tried-and-true methods for sharpening details, smoothing over wrinkles and imperfections, and enhancing colors without harming the original image. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisite: Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
In this exercise we're going to see how our composition holds up to a little bit of sharpening, because it's when you sharpen the image, you really get a sense of whether you got rid of all the noise or not. We're going to apply our sharpening to an independent layer, that way we can make modifications to the other layers inside the composition in order to compensate. I've gone ahead and saved my changes as Better saturation.psd found inside the 16_smooth folder, and I am going to click on the top layer in the stack shadows down, and then I will press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E, Command+Shift+Option+E on the Mac in order to create that merged version of the entire visible stack of layers, and I am going to name this new layer High Pass, because that's the filter that we're going to use in order to sharpen the image.
The reason I'm using High Pass is because this image is analogous to a portrait shot. It has rounded contours; it doesn't have a lot of busy details with the exception of the details inside the wings of course. Also of course, I don't want to have to worry about clipping highlights and shadows, and then finally the High Pass filter is well suited to being applied to an independent layer. And as you'll see in just a couple of exercises here, it affords you a very easy option for painting away sharpening after you've applied it.
So get set for that, it's actually really great tip coming your way here, but anyway. in the meantime, go to the Filter menu, choose Other, and then choose High Pass or if you've loaded dekeKeys, you can press Shift+F10, and I want you to apply this Radius value right there, 4 pixels. So basically for one thing I'm anticipating that I'm preparing this image for output, so I'm going to print this butterfly let's say; also I want to amp up my Sharpening settings, so that I'm leaving no trace of noise unrevealed.
I want to be able to see everything that's wrong with this image so far. So I will go ahead and click OK, and then I will go to the Blend mode pop-up menu here in the upper-left corner of the Layers panel, click on it, and I could switch to Overlay if I wanted to, to apply a fairly moderate sharpening effect, but as I was saying, I really want to amp it up. I want to see everything that's wrong. So I'm going to switch to the biggest contrast blend mode there is, which is Linear Light in order to really burn this effect in, and right away, I'm starting to see problems.
So if I zoom-in right there on this leg in front of the animal's face, I can see a world of noise popping up at this location here, and I don't know whether the problem is that it's not quite shadow noise, that is some kind of mid-tone noise, that got ruled out by this layer mask, or what in the world is going on. But it is a real problem, because it's noise out there in another world; that is there is no detail to compete with it. Whereas, if I go ahead and zoom down into this rocky stuff, whatever it is, well, there's tons of detail along with the noise, so this noise doesn't really terribly concern me.
Meanwhile, if I go ahead and zoom out, I can see down here, this is the worst of it, down here in the lower-left corner of the image, in the shadow detail, so I thought I had corrected it using this layer right there, but if you were to examine what's going on, you would just find out that it isn't corrected enough. We still need to further smooth away the problems inside of this region of the image. This is just ghastly. Take a look at it up close, and you can see that it's almost as if we're looking through a piece of textured glass, or something like that, and that's not the case.
There is nothing going on in the background here; that is it's all out of focus. There is some detail there, but it's out of focus detail. I believe these are some shadows of some nearby people or something along those lines, but they shouldn't be noisy. So what do we do? We're going to approach this problem in a couple of passes here. The first thing that we're going to do is we're going to merge all these layers together and we're going to apply the fiercest blur filter there is to them, that's Lens Blur, and then we'll go ahead and mask that affect once we're done.
So turn off the high pass layer for now, because we're just going to set it aside for the moment. Click on shadows down once again, and again press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E, Command+Shift+Option+E on the Mac in order to create a merged version of all those layers down below; everything, but high pass, because it's turned off for the moment, and we will go ahead and call this guy Lens Blur. And then I'm going to go up to the Filter menu, choose Blur, and choose Lens Blur. Now, the idea behind Lens Blur is it's designed to simulate what images really look like when they're out of focus as opposed to Gaussian Blur, which is a different blurring technique entirely.
Gaussian Blur is a work for creating blurry drop shadows and glows and that kind of thing inside of Photoshop, whereas Lens Blur is designed to simulate the behavior of an out of focus lens. Not to mention by the way that Lens Blur is that same filtering mechanism that's used by Smart Sharpen, as you may recall from the previous chapter. When you set Remove to Lens Blur, you're using this filter in order to sharpen the image, for what it's worth. Anyway, go ahead and choose this command and you get this whopping big window up onscreen, most of which you can safely ignore.
So obviously I am not going to walk through all these options, but what I'm telling you, as someone who knows how every single one of these works is that you can safely ignore everything, but Radius, 99% of the time, there's just no reason to flit about these options; especially things like Blade Curvature and Rotation. That's how the aperture is configured, and it really boils down to who cares unless you're trying to match the behavior of an actual real-life out of focus lens. We're not, we're just trying to smooth away some of this noise. What we need to do is just go ahead and zoom-in to this lower left region of the image, so that we can see the noise in detail.
This is a real functioning preview by the way. It's currently set to faster as opposed to more accurate, but there's not a significant behavioral difference between these two settings. What I suggest you do is amp up this Radius value until all vestiges of the noise down here in the lower-left corner goes away. So I am going to raise this value to 30 pixels, which is what I figured out works best, where this image is concerned. So notice that we have managed to get rid of all that noise down they are least most of it, the overwhelming majority of the noise.
Now, don't be bothered for even a second, by the fact that the entire butterfly is now crazy out of focus. That's all right because after all we're going to mask this effect in using a layer mask. For right now just go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification, and this is the result right here, our very blurry butterfly, but good news, not a lot of noise going on anymore. In the next exercise I will show you how to mask this lens blur layer into place, and then how to turn around and use that very same information to adjust our high pass sharpening effect.
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