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Accurate color can be critical to a photographic image. We can adjust color of course in the RAW conversion, fine tuning the white balance adjustment. But we can also adjust color after the fact, when we're working on the image in Photoshop. And the primary tool for that would be the color balance adjustment. Let's take a look at how we can use color balance to fine tune the overall color appearance in a photo. I'll get started by adding a new adjustment layer for color balance. I'll click on the Create New Adjustment Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel and then choose Color Balance from the pop-up menu there. That will add a color balance adjustment layer to the Layers panel and it will also display our color balance controls on the Properties panel. The basic concept of color balance is actually pretty straight forward. We can shift every single pixel in the image toward or away from a particular color.
For example, we can shift every pixel in the image toward magenta or away from magenta which would be toward green. If we move this farther through the extremes, obviously we can see a very extreme adjustment and sometimes that can be helpful in terms of evaluating the color to get a better sense when we slide to one extreme we get an obviously bad result. When we slide to the other extreme you get an equally bad result, but as we shift back and forth, we can start to fine tune and figure out where that adjustment should be placed. So here for example, I've gotten my magenta slider shifted a little bit toward green, helping to remove some of the magenta that was being problematic in this image.
And notice by the way, that I didn't start with the first slider. In fact, I started with the second slider, the magenta green slider. And the reason I did that was not random. I actually felt that there was too much magenta in the image. I'll turn off the affect of the Adjustment Layer, so we can see the original. And you might notice in the rocks especialy we can see a little bit of a pinkish tint. When im workign on optimizing a photo I start with the most impoirtant adjustments and work my way down to the fine tuning adjustments. Well even within an individual adjustment ill start with the most important control, so here we can see a little bit too much magenta, and so I'm going to adjust the magenta first.
I want to try to balance out that color problem before moving on to the other sliders. However, I'll also want to make sure that I dabble with all three of these sliders. Here, for example, I think I've fixed my magenta problem. But I don't want to then just move on and ignore the other sliders. I might find a better result by adjusting some of the other colors in the image. For example, I might like to warm up the image just a little bit, shifting the yellow-blue slider toward yellow, and in this case, I think that actually improves things quite a bit. I'll also take a look at the cyan-red slider.
And I don't think I want too much red but maybe just a little bit of warming up for the image, a little bit of a shift toward red might actually work nicely. That looks to be a good improvement for this photo. You'll notice though that there are a couple of other controls available to us on the properties panel for the color balance adjustment. One is the preserve luminosity check box. As a general rule, I recommend leaving this option turned on. That will cause Photoshop to fine tune your adjustments while you're working, so that the overall perceived luminosity in the image is not changed. The only time I turn off preserve luminosity is if I have an image where I need to achieve a perfectly neutral gray value for a particular object in the image, for example.
In that case I'll turn off preserve luminosity so that adjusting an individual slider will only affect that particular color axis. With preserve luminosity turned on, if you adjust the yellow blue slider, for example Behind the scenes, Photoshop will still be adjusting the magenta green axis, and the cyan red axis. That won't be reflected in the values for that slider, but the change is happening, and that can make it tricky to achieve a perfectly neutral value. But for most photographers, that's not a typical scenario. We can also adjust which tone we're focusing our adjustments on. And this might lead you to believe that at the moment I'm only affecting mid tones.
That's not the case, I'm just focusing my adjustment on those mid tones and for most photographic images that's going to be your best approach. We can also choose shadows or highlights. I'll go ahead and choose the shadows option just to demonstrate the concept here. If I now shift from magenta to green back and forth you'll see that the image is being effected very similar to what we saw earlier. The difference is that we're focusing that adjustment on the darker values. In other words I can't for example remove magenta from the shadows but add magenta to the highlights and achieve a great result.
That's possible to some extent but really overall it's not going to be a great result. So the only time I tend to work with the shadows or highlights option is if I have an image that is really significantly dark or light. For example, a high key image would certainly call for working with the highlights option. But really, for most photographic images that mid tones adjustment is all you're going to need. So just move through all three of those sliders and then move through the three sliders again to fine tune. Trying to really achieve perfect color in the image before you call it good.
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