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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 Tone Curve function inside Camera Raw. I have just one image open, which is why we're not seeing the filmstrip along the left-hand side. That image is Ventura harbor.dng. It's found inside the 24_camera_raw folder. This is a night shot, I think fairly obviously, that I shot without a tripod. I just mounted the camera on the edge of a railing here for a four-second exposure, which provided me with a fair amount of light for such a dark evening. It was actually after midnight when I captured this image. There was a fog rolling in as well.
But while I have managed to blow a few highlights in the background, the ones associated with those lights across the harbor there, I don't have much in the way of highlight information going on. You can see that this histogram is balanced precipitously over to the left-hand side, so we have a ton of shadow detail, just a little bit in the way of dark midtones and no light midtones or highlight whatsoever. So, I am going to start things off by applying some basic modifications here, and then we'll see how we can gain control over our quarter tones, that is our very dark and light midtone information, using a tone curve.
So, for starters I am going to adjust the white balance and I am going to do that using the White Balance tool, this guy right there. However, I am going to take advantage of a trick I didn't mention earlier, which is that you can press and hold the Shift key. When you are using just about any other tool the Shift key gets you the White Balance tool. So, then I'll Shift+Click on the brow of his yacht right here, in order to isolate a nice light neutral color like where this image is concerned. That for me automatically changes the Temperature value to 2750, which is exactly what I want.
Notice this is a very low temperature value, so in other words, what light I had was very warm and we had to compensate by cooling down the image dramatically here. Now, I am going to change that Tint value to -12, tab down to Exposure, and I ended up Alt+Dragging or Option+Dragging this slider triangle once again, as I usually do. And at a point there, 1.20, I can see that I'm pretty well blowing out those lights in the background, but I need that much exposure in order to bring out the highlights inside the image.
Even so, this is still an extremely dark image thus far. Now, I could have modified the Recovery and Fill Light values. In fact, I might have had a fair amount of success with Fill Light. I could bring that guy up there and breathe all kinds of life into the shadow detail. The problem is because this is an Edge Detection function, I am going to add halos to the image. Because there's so much fog going on in this image in the first place, there are already natural halos. I didn't feel like it really made much sense to add some effect halos on top of those natural halos. It's a little bit misleading, and it didn't really achieve the effect I was looking for.
So, I left that Fill Light value at 0, then I took the Blacks value down to 3, tab down to Brightness, raise it to +80. I'll just go ahead and enter that guy, and that's it. That was my original basic adjustment. That's what I came up with the first time around. Now, the image is dramatically brighter, as you can see, as represented by this histogram here. So, this is the before version of the image. If I turn off the Preview check box, this is the after version. However, let's say I still want to breathe some life down here in these very dark shadows in the lower right corner of the image.
If you find yourself similarly needing this kind of control, and you don't want to rely on either Recovery or Fill Light, then you can switch over to the next panel, Tone Curve right here. We've got two different kinds of curves to work with. We've got the Parametric Curve. I'll show you how that works, because that's unique to Camera Raw. We've got the Point Curve, which is pretty much that exact same curve function that we see inside of Photoshop. So, for example, if you press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac, while the Point curve is active here, then your cursor changes to an eyedropper and you'll see the bouncing ball in that shadow details.
So, you are going to see it they're inside of the curve graph in the lower left-hand corner, watch that bouncing ball move along. So, that's pressing the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac. I'm not clicking or dragging with my cursor incidentally. I am just moving it around. If I Ctrl+Click at a certain point, then I will add a point to the graph, and that would be a Command+Click on the Mac. Then you can move these guys around. You can nudge them from the keyboard using the Arrow keys. You can press the Plus key to advance to the next point, the Minus key to go backward, all that jazz.
So, as I say it works just like the Curve adjustment inside of Photoshop. Now, what I'm going to do is I am going to get rid of this darn thing, because I want to apply a parametric adjustment instead, which actually is a little easier to use in my estimation. Now, I'll show you what I mean in just a moment, but I don't want to keep the parametric curve on top of a point curve. That just doesn't make any sense. You'd have two curves resting right on top of each other and they're both for all intents and purposes aftermarket curves. In other words, after the image has developed using the basic adjustments, you are heaping these options on top.
So, what I am going to do is I am going to flatten out the curve by choosing Linear. Notice just doing that already opens up the shadows quite a bit inside of this image, because that Medium contrast, the default Medium Contrast function that Camera Raw just goes ahead and throws on every single image that you open by default, adds a fair amount of contract and will go ahead and sink those shadows. When I say sink, I don't mean sync. I mean sink, make them darker. Anyway, I am going to lighten things by choosing Linear and then I'm going to switch over to Parametric.
Now, the great thing about the parametric curve here is that you can adjust it as opposed to using points, clicking and setting points inside the graph, you adjust the curvature of the line using these four sliders down here, Highlights, Lights, Darks and Shadow. So, Highlights are your lightest colors, Lights are your light midtones, Darks are your dark midtones and Shadows are your darkest colors. So, you're basically dividing the luminance inside your image into four quarter values. So four groups of quarter tones.
I'll show you exactly how you work with the parametric curve in the next exercise.
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