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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, I am going to introduce you to the Detail panel, which includes options that allow you to sharpen the detail inside of your image as well as apply Noise Reduction. Now, here is something to bear in mind about these options. Normally when you're working inside of Camera RAW, you're trying to do the work so you don't have to redo it inside Photoshop. So in other words, if you apply the proper Exposure and Brightness settings, you're not going to have to turn around and visit the Levels command inside Photoshop. And that holds true for Noise Reduction as well. If you apply the proper Noise Reduction settings, you won't have to further smooth over the noise inside Photoshop.
However, that doesn't apply to sharpening. Sharpening inside of Camera RAW is a very different creature than your Unsharp Mask, Smart Sharpen, and High Pass inside Photoshop. Those commands, the Photoshop commands, were originally designed to sharpen for output. So you wanted to sharpen your image so it looked great on the printed page. You can of course also sharpen for detail. You can sharpen for contrast. You can sharpen for effect. There's a lot of reasons to sharpen inside Photoshop. The sharpening in Camera RAW by contrast is designed to sharpen for input, Specifically, you're trying to correct for the softness that's applied during the demosaicing process.
That is, when you're converting that single channel of linear data to a three channel full-color image. So with that in mind, you want to work fairly subtly with these options. So you want to apply just a little bit of sharpening with the idea that you will further sharpen the image in Photoshop. All right, so I have open a couple of images, including this one, Roman theater.dng, found inside the 24_camera_ raw folder, and we're starting with this photo because it's a typically low noise image. That is, it's already exposed quite nicely.
We're not drawing a bunch of noise out of the shadows and the ISO is set to a low setting of just 100, so that helps us out. Now, I have applied a few corrections. This is the original uncorrected version of the image. I'm going to click on the flyout menu, choose Apply Snapshot, and notice I've gone ahead and saved out my default settings. I also have Basic Adjustments. I'll go ahead and choose that, and that would be the most Basic Adjustments applied from the Basic panel. Notice I have this little exclamation point down here and that tells me that I applied these adjustments in Camera RAW 5 or earlier, because those older versions of Camera RAW used this different noise reduction process known as Process 2003.
So the question becomes, what this exclamation point is asking, would you like to update to Process 2010, which is included with Camera RAW 6 and later? And the answer is yes, if you want to get any work done inside the Detail panel. So go ahead and click on that icon to update the process. You will gain access to more of the Noise Reduction functions here. And you may notice a slight shift in your image in the background. In my case, it didn't really make much in the way of a difference. Now, the thing is the adjustments I've applied so far don't really go far enough. For example, I didn't correct for the geometric distortion inside this image.
So I'm going to click on this flyout menu icon again, choose Apply Snapshot and choose Geometry. And in this case I'm going a lot farther with my color adjustments, as you can see. I've got a lot of clarity going on as well. And my philosophy here is that you want to push the image as far as you want to push it. I don't know any other way to put it than that. There's no reason in being tepid with your modifications. You might as well go all the way and make your image absolutely as good as it can be. Anyway, now I'm going to go ahead and zoom in and notice there's a reason for this.
You can see this message that says, for a more accurate preview, zoom the preview to 100% or larger. And back in the old days it would have said if you want to preview the effects at all, you have to zoom to 100%. But now you can see the effects of sharpening when you're zoomed out. It's just not going to be entirely accurate. You still can't see the effects of Noise Reduction at all, unless you are zoomed to 100% or greater. And that's a very important point, because you may look at your image and think, gosh, it's so noisy when you're zoomed out, even after you've applied Noise Reduction settings. You have got to be zoomed into 100% or the preview that you see will not represent the Noise Reduction at all.
So you'll see a noisier image than you'll really get. The other thing to bear in mind though is - and this is a positive - is that I'll switch over here to Lens Corrections for a moment. The Chromatic Aberration options, they didn't use to preview at zoom ratios below 100% either. Now they do. So there's some good news for you. Anyway, I'm going to switch back to Detail and I am going to press Ctrl+Alt+0 or Commaand+Option+0 in order to zoom into 100%, and then I'll scroll over to this portion of the image right here, let's say.
And what you're going to see if you're working along with me is that there's very little noise to work with inside this image in the first place. There is not really much in the way of noise showing up in the columns. You might see a little bit of noise along this wall, for example. So areas of, frankly, flat luminance might show a little noise. And then these very low contrast areas, such as in the clouds, you'll see noise there. All right, so let's visit these Noise Reduction options down here at the bottom of the panel. By default, Camera RAW goes ahead and applies a little bit of Color Noise Reduction, and remember that that is random variations in hue and saturation between neighboring pixels, and that's bound to happen.
Again, because of the demosaicing process, because you're basically making up color based on filtering information, why then, you are going to get some weird random color noise inside of every digital image. And so Camera RAW by default has that Color noise option cranked up to 25%. And then there's this Color Detail option there that is designed to counteract the smoothing, so that you don't oversmooth the color information. You keep the detail, that is the color edges inside your areas, the areas of rapid color transition.
Now, by default Luminance is set to 0, so you're not getting rid of any luminance noise, that is random variation between the brightness of neighboring pixels. In our case, we need some luminance noise reduction though, because you can see that we have a little noise inside the clouds. So I'm going to raise that Luminance value to 25% and you can see that that gets rid of some of the noise, not all of it, but it does smooth over some of the noise inside of the clouds. Now, we don't want to go too far of course with our modifications, because everything is going to look plasticky inside the image if we do.
Now, the idea behind this Luminance Detail option, which automatically sets to 50% once you raise the Luminance value there, the idea here is that you're trying to keep your edges. You're trying to keep your Luminance edges inside the image. It's a good idea to do so, especially inside of low noise images like this one. And then finally we've got this Luminance Contrast option, which is trying to keep radical contrast between neighboring pixels when necessary. And the idea is that there's different kinds of noise inside the image. There is good noise, and there is bad noise.
You want to smooth over the bad noise, but where just purely random noise is concerned, you might want to keep some of it and you can bring it back by increasing this Luminance Contrast value. Now, I find this to be a very subtle manipulation. Oftentimes you're not going to see any effect whatsoever, so just bear in mind, but it may come in handy on rare occasion. So that takes care of the Noise Reduction options. Those are the values that I recommend for this specific image. In the next exercise, I'm going to show you how to work with sharpening.
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