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Of all of the types of color-correction methods there are in Photoshop, I think the least thought of may be Variations. Variations are not very well known, if they're even known at all, to the casual Photoshop user. It's just not something there's a lot of use for, that I can think of, unless you want to put a colorcast on or--in the case of restoration--take one off of an image. Everyone who does digital photo restoration should know where Variations can be found and should at least have a look at them when going through the other color-correction methods.
Begin by duplicating the original layer using Ctrl+J on a PC, Command+J on a Mac. Variations aren't an adjustment layer, so the adjustment will take place on the layer itself, and you want to keep your original intact. Now let's go to Image > Adjustments, and down to Variations. Let's have a quick look at the Variations dialog. At the top, to the left, is your original image, and the image on the right will reflect the changes as you make them. If at any time you want to go back to the original and delete all of the changes you've made, hold down the Alt or Option keys and the Cancel button will turn into a Reset button.
Here are the different settings you can make adjustments to. There are Shadows, Midtones, Highlights, and Saturation. Notice this very blue, turquoise area right here. That's called Clipping, and it represents areas in the image that are clipped, or rendered pure white or pure black by the adjustment. It doesn't mean that the areas will actually show up as black and white. It means that clipping can result in some unattractive color shifts. If you don't want to see where these areas might occur, you can uncheck the Show Clipping box here.
You can make some further adjustments with the Fine/Course adjustment slider here. Let's press Alt or Option and select the Reset button to work in the Midtones option. I end up working in Midtones probably 98% of the time; it's the default option and seems to work well most of the time. There are six Variation options: More Green, More Yellow, More Cyan, More Blue, More Magenta, and More Red. The results of these are cumulative.
So if you hit a Variation twice, you get twice the application of that color or the colors that you put on top of other colors. For instance, if we put More Green and then again More Green, it gets very green. You can put More Cyan and it just adds it on top, one after the other, so you want to keep that in mind. Again, we'll hit Alt or Option to reset. We want to cancel the red cast on this photo. And looking at all of the Variation options, cyan seems to be our best option.
So we'll go ahead and click that and then look again at the Variation options, and it looks like another shot of cyan might be just the thing. These show what the image will look like when you use the next color. So again, let's hit cyan and look, and maybe we'll put another layer of blue on top of that. Let's go up to the top. Here's the current pick, with our three layers of cyan and our layer of blue next to the original, and we can see it's a pretty dramatic difference that Variation has made.
When you've made all the adjustments you want, simply click OK to accept. Again, let's look at the before and the after. And it may not be perfect. We may need to go ahead and put our Curves or Levels Adjustment on it, but it's a really good start, and it definitely got the red out. Variations are a little-known, even less-used, feature of Photoshop, but every feature, even the underappreciated ones, can usually be useful for something, and Variations can be a wonderful color-correction tool.
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