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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.
I have saved my changes as High-key portrait.psd found inside the 14_levels_curves folder. In this exercise, I am going to pass along a trick that works well if you photographed a gray card inside of an image and then because most photographs are captured without a gray card, I will show you how to fake a gray card that may or may not work for you. It is fairly analogous to the way that the Auto Color command works inside of Photoshop. So it is sort of a hit or miss proposition. Anyway, I am going to go ahead and collapse my Adjustments panel, turn off the Levels Adjustment, switch to the background layer as well.
I am also going to switch over here to the legitimate Eyedropper tool which you can get by pressing the I key. The reason is, because it is the king of the eyedropper. So any changes that you make to this tool also affect other eyedroppers inside of Photoshop including the three eyedroppers in the Levels panel. Notice currently, and by default, that Sample Size is set to Point Sample, and Sample is set to All layers. We need Sample set to All layers, so that we can see the composite color of the pixel. When sample size is set to Point Sample however, you are lifting the color of a single pixel at a time; so just that one pixel on which you click.
You are also making a determination when you're working with the black and gray and white eyedroppers inside the Levels panel, you are making a determination based on that one and only one pixel. Well, if you have a gray card, then you are going to have some noise inside of that gray card. So two neighboring pixels could be pretty different colors; one could be a little bit blue, another could be a little bit red. So you probably want to go ahead, and sample a merged version of those pixels. So in other words, make a determination as to the neutrality of that card based on many pixels at a time.
To do that, you would set Sample Size to something larger such as 5?5 or 11?11 or even 31?31 depending on resolution of your image, and the size of your card. Notice that every one of these measurements ends in one, because there is the pixel on which you click; that's the one pixel, and in the case of 31?31 you've got 15 pixels one direction, 15 pixels the other direction. All right! But in my case, I don't have a gray card, so I am going to leave this set to Point Sample, because the trick I am about to show you involves the creation of a noiseless card.
Here is how it works. I am going to go ahead and grab my Rectangular Marquee tool for starters. Then I am going to jump my image to a new layer just by pressing Ctrl+J or Command+J on the Mac. I don't care what the name of the layer is. It is fine if it is called background copy. Then I will go up to the Filter menu, I will choose Blur and I will choose Average which fills the entire layer with the average color of that image. In this case, the average color is kind of light rose as we're seeing here. Now, I am going to use this as my gray card.
In other words, I am going to click on this color with my gray eyedropper, and it is going to change to gray which is going to dramatically affect the other colors in the image; because if I have to turn something this saturated gray, then I'm really going to send the image as a whole into that blue green zone. So let's take a little bit of the saturation out of this layer by going up to the Image menu, choosing Adjustments, and then choosing Hue/Saturation or you could just press Ctrl+U, Command+U on the Mac. I am working in a static fashion at this point. I am going to take that Saturation value down by pressing Shift+Down-arrow few times in a row and let's say, maybe about here or maybe even here.
So let's take it down to -50. So we have got something of a real-world gray card going on. It should have some saturation. Obviously, if you take all the saturation out of it, then the gray eyedropper isn't going to do anything. It is just going to change gray to gray and you are not going to adjust the color cast at all. So let's go with -50, click OK in order to apply that setting. Now, armed with your Rectangle Marquee tool, let's draw a square. So Shift+Drag with the tool in order to make a card the size of your choosing; really doesn't matter how big it is.
Then press Ctrl+Alt+J or Command+Option+J on the Mac. So we are adding Alt or Option this time to bring up the New layer dialog box, and I will call this gray card because now we have a fake gray card, and I will click OK. The reason, the point sample is going to work fine for this card is because it is noiseless. There is no noise going on, each and every pixel is exactly the same color. Switch back to background copy, press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac to get rid of it. Then switch back to the gray card layer. Let's go ahead and move this card.
I am Ctrl or Command+Dragging on it to move it to a location that's not covering up her face, so that we can see what we are doing. Then I will turn on the Levels layer again and I will double-click on its thumbnail to bring up the Adjustments panel. Let's go ahead, and clear out our settings. So we don't have this High-key effect. I want a more natural correction this time. So I will click on the Reset button, I will grab my black eyedropper; I will click inside of her pupil in order to darken up the shadow details; that's fine. I am not going to do anything with white eyedropper, because I am already starting with clipped highlights inside of this image.
Then I will go to the gray eyedropper and I will click inside of my card, and that will go ahead and make the card neutral. In other words, it will rob it of all saturation by adjusting the midtones across the various color channels and it will change the color cast of the image as we see it here. All right! Now, let's go ahead and collapse the Adjustments panel again or at least I need to, because otherwise, I can't get to my layers and I will turn off the gray card, and this is the result that we get. So as I say it is analogous to the way that Auto Color works, because that's a kind of calculation that Photoshop is applying in the background when you choose Auto Color.
The big difference is we made a determination about the accuracy of that color card. So when it came up initially hyper-saturated with that rose color, we backed it off before applying the gray eyedropper; that's something that Photoshop is not smart enough to do. However, that said, well I think this is a halfway decent correction. It's not every bit as good as it could be. In the next exercise, we are going to roll up our sleeves and make custom modifications to the channel by channel histograms.
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