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The elusive alpha channel remains one of the most misunderstood yet powerful tools in Photoshop. Alpha channels are collections of luminance data that control the transparency of an image, and they inform just about every aspect of Photoshop. As he builds transitional blended layers, fashions a depth map, makes edge adjustments, and takes on extreme channel mixing, Omni Award-winning expert Deke McClelland teaches Photoshop users that where there's a will, there's a way. Photoshop CS3 Channels and Masks: Advanced Techniques covers mapping texture on an image, turning flesh into stone, using vector masks, working with all different channels, creating a rustic edge effect, and much more. Exercise files accompany the tutorials.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts for Channels and Masks from the Exercise Files tab."
All right, now let's try out the best way to apply color modifications, and that is to actually edit this DNG image, that's how they started this raw digital photograph in Camera Raw, bring it in to Photoshop in the 16-bit per channel space and then, make any further modifications that we need to, inside of Photoshop in that high bit depth space. So we are basically taking the best advantage of Photoshop's tools essentially, and thereby limiting the risk of posterization, and banding, and other problems that may occur in a digital photograph.
All right, so I have got all three versions of the photo that I have modified so far, opened right here. There is the Max 8-bit edit.jpg file, there is the Max 16-bit edit.jpg file, and then, there is the new one that's called Opened directly in 16-bit.jpg, the one that we modified in the previous exercise. All three of these files exist in the color corrected Max sub-folder that's inside the 17_16bit_HDR folder. Anyway, let's go ahead and open the original DNG file inside Camera Raw by going to the Bridge. So I am going to click on the Bridge button here in the Options bar in Photoshop, and then, here I am inside the 17_16bit_HDR folder and there is the original raw photo.dng.
I want you to double-click on it once again, just as we did in the previous exercise, but this time around, instead of now clicking on the Open Image button, we are going to make some modifications here inside of the Basic panel. And we are only going to apply adjustments from the Basic panel just to show you how even just the Basic panel does a better job in Camera Raw than the elaborate commands that we have available to us inside of Photoshop Proper. All right, so I am going to go to Exposure for starters, and I am going to increase the Exposure value all the way over to 0.75 and you can see, that histogram move over to the right, right there, and we get much better highlights although of course, right now the image is totally washed out.
That's the function of having this Brightness value set too high, so I am going to go ahead and move it down to about 15; in the case of this image, it actually works pretty well. We have another problem which is the Contrast value is all the way down at -50, that's insane. So let's go ahead and take that up to +60. I did that in order to exaggerate the color modifications that we are applying inside of Photoshop of course, so that we can see the differences between editing an image in the 8-bit and 16-bit per channel modes inside Photoshop.
I am also going to go ahead and pop the Clarity a little, Clarity is like applying a high pass layer to an image, it adds a little bit of edge contrast to the image in order to basically heighten in the contrast in a way that contrast doesn't. Contrast is an across the board, Contrast adjusting function, and Clarity is specifically an edge tracing function. But it's a little different than Sharpening; it's like a high pass with the big radius value essentially. Then we've got Saturation, let's go ahead and take Saturation up to +10 in this case, and we've got the special option called Vibrance that exist only inside of Camera Raw, at least for Photoshop is concerned. And Vibrance adjust saturation values selectively inside of an image. So it focuses its attention on areas that requires saturation boosting, and then, keeps the area that are already highly saturated from becoming over-saturated and clipping essentially.
So I am going to take this Vibrance value up to 50 in this case. All right, and this is the effect we get now. I think the colors are a little bit off, so I am going to adjust the Temperature and Tint values. So I am going to warm this image up by taking the Temperature value up to 5250, for example here. And I am also going to take the Tint down just a little bit into green territory, like so. So we have a Tint value of 5. And this I think, is a pretty darn good adjustment. It's different than what I did inside of Photoshop, a little bit different as you will see. But I actually think, it's better. I come to think of it, and it was a heck of a lot easier to apply and I had more control, more selective control over what I am doing inside of Camera Raw.
You can use Camera Raw by the way, to edit JPEG and TIFF images as well. And you'll do very take a lot of advantage of it, quite frankly, it's a great tool. So now I am going to go ahead and click on the Open Image button in order to open the image inside Photoshop. And again it's going to take a few moments for this to process. We are opening directly into the 16-bit color space as you can see up here in the Title bar. You see it says RGB/16, and that's the function of having as Camera Raw to open images into Photoshop 16-bit per channel space in the previous exercise, if you are with me then.
All right, I am going to go ahead and zoom in on Max a little bit. First, let's check out the histogram. I am going to press Ctrl+L or Command+L on the Mac, smooth as silk, good look in histogram. Let's go ahead and actually increase the black point to 15 let's say, and I am going to take the white point down to 240 let's say. And that makes the image a little bit hard but actually I think it looks pretty good. I mean we are starting to have some very highly saturated colors, but I think it's going to work out very nicely. Now I'll go ahead and click OK in order to select accept that modification. All right, so first we started by modifying directly inside of that 10-bit per channel space inside Camera Raw and in fact, we where applying linear modification, so it was better than editing in 16-bit space inside Photoshop.
Then we bring the image over into Photoshop, and apply a further modification inside the 16-bit per channel space using the Levels command, like we just did. I am just narrating what we've just got done doing. Now, if I press Ctrl+L, or Command+L on the Mac, to bring up the Levels dialog box, a perfectly smooth histogram still, just something, little tiny jags in there, but the most subtle jags we've seen so far, and I am going to cancel out of there. Check out the actual visible appearance of the image here inside Photoshop. I am going to switch over to the image, it's called Opened directly in 16-bit.jpg, and I am going to zoom in. This is the one that we opened directly into 16-bit from Camera Raw, but we applied the modifications inside Photoshop, and if you look very closely, I might have to zoom in a little more, this is Max's back of course.
And it should be just smooth as silk. I mean the kid is just seven years old. I mean, he's got very smooth skin. And yet, we have some posterization going on here, as if we have some color modeling, and it's possible by now, he has a little sun burn or something like that going on, so we could have some sort of slap happy red skin going on, but we shouldn't have this kind of posterization. It should be nice and smooth. Whereas we take a look inside the image that we opened from Camera Raw, and we applied our modifications from Camera Raw as well, then you can see some bumps on his skin, like he is -- they are having a low level allergic reaction or something. I believe he was at the time actually. But we are not having any sort of posterization, everything is very, very smooth in terms of the color inside of this image.
So it gets better and better and better, throughout the last three exercises. I was demonstrating to you how we have fewer problems with color-banding and posterization, if we take our 8-bit per channel image, convert it over to 16 bit, apply our modifications, and then, convert the image back to 8-bits per channel. We have even fewer problems if we open the image directly into the 16-bit color space and apply our modifications there inside Photoshop, before converting back to 8-bit of course. And then, we have the fewest problems still, if we go ahead and apply our changes in Camera Raw to that original DNG file or whatever.
It could be CRW file from a Canon camera, it could be an NEF file from an Nikon camera, and so on. And then, open the image into the 16-bit color space and apply further modifications inside Photoshop. That's your best route of all, so just remember that. I am going to go ahead and zoom out here a little bit, fill the screen with the final corrected version of the image. Let's tab away the palettes as well, and I'll zoom out just a little bit so that we can take in the more or less the entire height of the photograph here and this is it. The color corrected version of my son Max's back. Here in Lake Powell with these beautiful reflections, thanks to a combination of Camera Raw and editing in Photoshop 16-bit per channel mode.
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